Hamlet–Act III

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There’s been oodles of scholarship done on the “To be or not to be” speech, so I’m only going to reference it. And later.

Notice we open, again, with a staged meeting–only this isn’t for Laertes and the discovering of virtues and vices, but it’s a staging to figure out what in the dickins in going on with our main man Hamlet. Which reveals nothing, so the King wants to send him to England.

Now, the speech I am interested in is Hamlet’s conversation with the players (told you, I’m not going to let them go for awhile), because it is a reflection on what a play does and how it operates. I’m going to block quote it now, and let it speak for itself.

                            …Suit the action to the word, the
word to the action; with this special o’erstep not
the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is
from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the
first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the
mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,
scorn her own image, and the very age and body of
the time his form and pressure.(III.ii.19-25)

Earlier, Hamlet also has a line about the players being, “the abstract and brief chronicles of the time” (II.ii.524-525). It’s been awhile since I read Claire Asquith‘s book Shadowplaybut I highly recommend it if you want the “chronicle” of the time, which is much better than I will even try to do here. But there is a rant I want to go on about what this means…

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Onto Claudius’ desire for repentance. There’s a play between inherent character traits and actions going on here–he still has the same vices that brought him to the heinous act of killing his brother, so he cannot be allowed forgiveness for his action. Now, having a vice doesn’t make a person unforgivable–it’s to act upon that vice that makes an action good or bad. I’m not even going to get into the fact that Hamlet won’t kill him because there’s a risk Claudius might go to heaven.

Onto my last point which relates to the players a little bit as well. In the course of conversation with his mother, Hamlet states, “…but heaven hath pleased it so,/To punish me with this and this with me,/That I must be their scourge and minister” (III.iv.175-177). I’m thinking, and this might be over shooting here, that Hamlet might not be in control of his actions as the other characters in this play. The rest are showing “virtue her own feature” primarily by choices made that show the privation of virtue. I spoke earlier about there not being an Oedipus in a Christian understanding of man, but I think I may have been wrong. While the rest of the characters have choice, it seems that Hamlet is operating from something other than himself–he’s fated to commit his actions. They have flaws they can choose to act upon–he has an action he must do.

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I think this explanation may be the cause of Hamlet’s constant rumination on suicide. It’s the only thing that is his choice, if that makes sense. I don’t know how clear my argument is, so I’ll have to think on it a little more.

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Much Ado About Nothing–Act II

Doing a schedule change. I’m still doing an act each day, but it may be spread over the course of these two weeks. It is the only thing that can work conveniently enough for my schedule right now.

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The opening of this act holds some of my favorite lines of Beatrice’s, albeit they reveal her over-bearing pride. I’m much more interested in the three different mistakes in identity that happen throughout. For one, when Claudio affirms that he is Benedick, I kept thinking, “Now, what of his character would make him do that.” It seems out of place to me. However, he’s also a fish-out-of-water when it comes to the whole “interacting with women” aspect of life, so I find myself attributing his actions that are seemingly against his nature to relate to that.

I want to make a brief point about Claudio’s rashness. If we hold Aristotle to be true, in that virtue is a “mean between two extremes” than I would dare to say that what served him well on the battlefield (bravery) is transformed to the quick-to-anger Claudio that we see now. Also, notice that Don John’s first attempt to hurt is brother is completely foiled by the honesty of his brother. Which is why the plot has to contain contrived evidence for Don John to get his way.

The difference between the brothers lies in the fact that Don Pedro is honest and his actions come from his love, while Don John is the exact opposite and his actions are spurned from hatred.

Now for Benedick. The scene opens in an orchard, with music. Hmm. These to me set up all my ideas of “world set apart” from the ordinary.

And…Now I am just going to quote my thesis to make the point I want to make about Don Pedro and his deception on Benedick. Because when I wrote this, I was more qualified and better with words than I am to try to recapture what I mean….

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“The initial reaction to Don Pedro’s contrived deception takes place on stage, for the audience to see (which differs completely from the deception of Don John). When Benedick comes forward, the initial words of his monologue reveal his conviction that the conversation he has just overheard cannot be a trick, because of the tone of the conversation and the way in which they sympathize with Beatrice.[1] Moving from recognition of their sympathy, he responds openly to their critiques and acknowledges his pride. He states, “I must not seem proud: happy are they that hear their detractions and can put them to mending.”[2] His statement reveals two things about the effect of the deception played upon him. Firstly, he acknowledges and rejects his pride, which he is happy to do—through hearing his critics; and secondly, his use of the passive periphrastic, “must,” in the rejection of his pride, corresponds with the imperative he uses previously—“Love me? Why, it must be requited.”[3] His rejection of pride and the requiting of her love are two things that must be done, since one cannot love another if one is exceedingly proud. As his monologue continues, he recognizes that Beatrice meets all of his previous expectations of a woman, rejecting his previous disdainful notions of marriage, and resigns himself to “be horribly in love with her.”[4] The fact that the audience is able to witness the success of Don Pedro’s trick—that it has not led Benedick away from truth, but to truth and humility—shows that the deception itself is not founded upon a lie, like Don John’s. Rather, it is rooted in something that is true, but must be carried out in a deceptive-like manner, because of the circumstances and the disposition of the characters involved.”


[1] II.iii.230-234 This can be no trick. The conference was sadly borne. They have the truth of this from Hero. They seem to pity the lady. It seems her affections have their full bent.

[2] II.iii.239-241

[3] II.iii.234

[4] II.iii.246

King Henry IV, Part II–Act III

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And we witness the declining health of King Henry at the opening of this scene Unable to sleep with the weight of the country on his shoulders, he’s making himself worse. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the amount of things that a king must have to do, all the while keeping a composure worthy of royalty. He still wants to go on the Crusade–the unifying war that he wanted in the beginning of part one. But, we can see that Henry here is starting to lose it, seeing that Richard had foretold all his misfortunes. I love Warwick’s response (I’m not even quite sure completely why) so much so, that I’m going to block quote it!

There is a history in all men’s lives,
Figuring the nature of the times deceased;
The which observed, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life, which in their seeds
And weak beginnings lie intreasured.
Such things become the hatch and brood of time;
And by the necessary form of this
King Richard might create a perfect guess
That great Northumberland, then false to him,
Would of that seed grow to a greater falseness;
Which should not find a ground to root upon,
Unless on you. (III.i.)

I guess I’m interested in the necessity that actions take from other actions, playing themselves out from the root and core of the character. Northumberland was going to rebel from Henry, because he acted against Richard. Actions are like seeds that take root.

I don’t have much to say about this short act, and I honestly have no idea what an earth to do with the second scene of this act. I enjoyed the really in depth conversation about the certainty of death being smack dab in the middle of a load of gossip which I couldn’t make heads or tails.

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As far as I can tell, Falstaff is being Falstaff, and I still don’t know what to do with his character, and I refuse to see him as solely comic relief, because fools are the heart of every Shakespeare play I’ve ever read. So, someone help. What do I do with this man?