Antony & Cleopatra–Act I

Sorry. I needed the week off last week.

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Onwards and upwards–Let’s look at the name: “Antony & Cleopatra.” I had a professor that liked to point out that in tragedies that involve lovers, their names are always separated, only joined by an “and.” This is important, especially to this play–we have two lovers that are having an affair. Unlike lovers that are married–thus making two one flesh–they are separated despite being together. Which is probably going to lead to most of the tragedy.

We open with the changed nature of Antony–He has gone from warrior to lover, and it seems that these two tensions within him play upon his character throughout the rest of the play. “[Y]ou shall see in him/The triple pillar of the world transformed/Into a strumpet’s fool” (I.i.11-13). I like this line, because it shows the gravity of Antony’s change–he’s one of the pillars of the world, but now, melted into the embraces of Cleopatra, he ceases to uphold his end. What happens when pillars melt? Probably what ensues in the rest of this play.

Oh, and then the next line Cleopatra is asking for a measure of love. I don’t think these two understand love at all. Love as a boundless thing has a measure? King Lear made the same mistake, and look what happened to him.

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One more note on the lover’s notions about love. “Here is my space!/Kingdoms are clay! Our dungy earth alike/Feeds beast as man. The nobleness of life/Is to do thus, when such a mutual pair/And such a twain can do’t” (I.i.35-39), states Antony. Yes, what makes man as man is love. Kingdoms will crumble, but man’s ability to love separates him from beasts. But their love is based solely upon pleasures, did I mention that they’re having affairs?

Which is shown to us by the way Cleopatra regards Antony’s lack of mourning his wife’s death–will he act this way when I die? But if he were to mourn Fulvia, she would also throw a fit equal to the one she throws at his lack of weeping. Women. Anna Karenina acts the same way.

Side note: Cleopatra=queen of Egypt. So why is she always referencing Greek gods? Is there an historical reason for this, or is Shakespeare showing us the state of disorder we find ourselves in during this play? The understanding of man toward the gods, the understanding of Antony’s role in the polis, Rome coming into war–all linked and expressed by small mentions of gods from another area of the map entirely.

Until tomorrow, kids.

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The Tempest–Act I

You may be aware that I didn’t make a post for the final act of Julius Caesar. I basically didn’t feel like repeating myself, so I didn’t find it necessary to post.

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Now, I must admit something. Whenever I read a storm in a Shakespeare play, I instinctively categorize it as one of the following–My criticism sometimes is from habit. So, when the act opened, I thought one of the three things:

  1. The storm is the external manifestation of a disposition of one of the most important characters
  2. It is symbolic of the indomitable forces of nature, that pass and continue despite human life and death that takes place within it’s workings.
  3. It symbolizes Divine nature.

The act that follows, however, reveals that this tempest doesn’t fit my usual criteria. It’s all three of the aforementioned, and it’s also none of the above. I don’t know what I’d do if I were given a multiple choice exam question in regard to the tempest.

The storm sets up the revenge of Prospero. And, let’s take a minute to look at that name. Prospero means fortunate, from the Latin “Prosper” which takes a modern English meaning as prosperous. Now, given that his dukedom was usurped and he wound up on an island, Prospero doesn’t seem that fortunate. However, he was usurped because he took no interest in affairs of the state, but rather devoted himself to study, and even cast away onto an island, he continues learning. Pretty cool, if I do say so myself. Oh, and he’s constantly speaking of how fortune has fallen upon him in regards to the storm–for which he is responsible–and he’s also a magician? I’m looking forward to this unfolding. I love when Shakespeare gives me a great name and an interesting character. It’s like a little gift for people who like words.

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I have a rant at hand, and I’m debating whether or not to go on for a long time, or making a bullet point of things that I’ve notices in the second scene. Hmm. Decisions.

Let’s just make a list for the sake of easy reading and easy writing.

  • The pity of Caliban is manifested in teaching his words, to name things, and to know things. He’s far from something human, we could say he bares the mark of Cain, but we may be stretching it, but he’s given the gift and duty of man–words and naming.
  • It is through words and language that Ferdinand recognizes Prospero and Miranda as human.
  • Music brings Ferdinand to seeing the lovely Miranda
  • Ariel–actually, I have nothing to say to this, other than I really like him. Looking forward to seeing him free. And why he wants freedom and what he plans to do with his freedom.

It’s probably apparent I was going to go on a long-winded tangent concerning words. But, the points are made, and I am exhausted on thoughts.

Measure for Measure–Act V

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So, the Duke orders everyone’s death. Ha! Death to self, everyone’s punishment is marriage!

So, today’s reflection is mostly abstract, Lit. major ramblings, because I don’t have much else to give you. But their punishment is also their reward, which sounds familiar to me. when Adam and Eve are thrown out of paradise, they are punished. Man must toil for all things to produce fruit, and woman must be subservient to man. Now, as Yeats says, “It’s certain there is no fine thing/Since Adam’s fall but needs much laboring.” Why would a man toil and why would a woman be subservient to her husband? Because they love. Their punishments purify their love, they have to really love each other, not merely lust after one another, to be willing to suffer for them.

Now, the Duke’s punishments is that all guilty are to be married to the ones they transgressed against. He is merciful. And one thing that a sinner has a hard time accepting and understanding is mercy. He craves it, but there is always the temptation of falling into despair, because it is something undeserved. Angelo, with his rooted sense of justice, has a difficult time understanding and accepting the Duke’s mercy, because he operates on a principle of “giving one his due.” And Angelo says, “I am sorry that such sorrow I procure,/And so deep sticks it in my penitent heart/That I crave death more willingly than mercy;/’Tis my deserving, and I do entreat it” (V.i.471-474). If you ever are surrounded by children long enough, you will come to understand that humanity has a natural propensity to desire justice. We choose hell, because when faced with the light of truth, knowing our transgressions against it, we desire the portion that is given to us.

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Yet, look at the mercy that is bestowed upon everyone in the illumination of truth in this play. Isabella forgives Angelo his trespasses, and kneels for his forgiveness. The Duke shows mercy, and allows all transgressors to live, while they must also forfeit themselves in love to their newly betrothed wives.

I could have more to say, but since this is already coming to you a day late, I will save it. I also need to get ready for work.

Much Ado About Nothing–Act III

My hiatus is over! I am officially settled in to my new town, new room, new life! And, without further ado…Let’s continue.

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Firstly, there is a common thread between Benedick and Beatrice’s reactions (and the deceiver’s). Firstly, the deceiver’s make a point in outlining Ben and Bea’s flaws–particularly how proud and scornful they are–because it is the only way they will hear such flaws and be open to transforming themselves to the truth. Their personal flaws are the first thing they reject in their monologues (also note that there is no other time in this play where we find someone alone reciting a monologue, and note that we don’t really see monologues happening in Shakespeare’s comedy). They first deny themselves before confessing their love for the other. Does this not ring true with how we love?

It is the scene directly after that sets up Don Pedro and Claudio. Now, Claudio reacts as his rash, young, self. However, depending on the control the actor has in this scene, there is an explanation for Claudio’s reaction aside from his rashness. He’s hurt. And so is Don Pedro, who, as a good prince, wants the good for his men. We don’t see the reactions of Don Pedro and Claudio to the “evidence” that Don John shows them (we do in most portrayals on stage of the play, but not directly in the text itself) unlike the deceiving of Benedick and Beatrice. I would say this is an illustration of the nature of truth and falsehood. The second scene takes place at night–and where else does falsehood lead one, except into darkness.

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Dogberry. The man who mixes phrases. Yet, he’s clearly able to see what is true, his timing is actually perfect, but because he has an inability to communicate, his goodness falls on deaf ears. Notice how much of this play relies on communication  overhearing, reporting, gossip and hearsay. The cruel deception of Don John doesn’t happen by hearing–it necessitates sight.

Oh, speaking of Dogberry, let me go on a side-note and say how excited I am to see Nathan Fillion (Captain Mal to us Firefly fans) play Dogberry in Joss Whedon’s film adaptation of this play. (And how excited I am that Joss Whedon, if he follows Shakespeare and doesn’t take liberties, can’t kill off characters that I love for once in his bloody career).

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I want to speak of Borachio’s confession in a later scene. I think I have made my basic points for this act. I’m going to follow the old schedule and post through the rest of the week. Then I’ll be back on track to continue the project every weekday.

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

Much Ado About Nothing–Act I

Anyone who knows me, knows I love this play. I’ve seen the Kenneth Branaugh movie a million times, my latest favortie past-time is watching the David Tennant and Catherine Tate version, I’ve watched the BBC movie edition at least twice. I’ve read the play a thousand times. I wrote my thesis on it. And yes, I never, ever get sick of it. I think this play is the catalyst for my adoration of Shakespeare.

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The play begins after a war–a war that is undisclosed in time and place–we only hear of in the beginning of the play. I think this is key to the play, really. It doesn’t set our mind thinking, “Oh, this is after the crusades” or “I wonder if this is a reference to this historic war.” It rips us out of our neo-scholarly thoughts and launches us into a different kind of warfare. Ah, yes, the warfare of love!

For example–the “merry war” of Benedick and Beatrice. Which, I honestly don’t want to talk about them until we get more into the play. Yet, I will say, they are delightful to watch.

I want to get more at the root of the relationship between Don Pedro and Claudio. When I’ve discussed this play in the past, I’ve noticed there is a tendency to see Claudio as an extremely weak character–I mean, really, he can’t even talk to the girl he digs to woo her himself? What a twit. But I would like to point out the dialogue between the two of them, because I think the problem is not in Claudio’s weakness, but in his lack of experience doing anything aside from acting as a soldier. How do soldier’s woo women? Claudio certainly hasn’t the faintest idea. And Don Pedro’s the guy who wants to make sure his men are taken care of after the war–so he’s going to match ’em up.

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Moving on to scene two. The main “thing” to this whole play is the overhearing or overseeing by the characters, some are mislead, some are placed to mis-lead, either way–it’s kind of a play about gossip.

Finally, Don John. Essentially, he’s a straight out villain–mustache-twirling and all. I would like to propose a reason for his horrid disposition lies in the fact that he chooses to be run by his passions and chooses not to quell such a thing with reason. Boom.

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Sadly, I have to get going to a going away party for some Dutch men, otherwise I’d spend all day on this entry.

Until tomorrow.

King Henry IV, Part I–Act III

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Opening on the bridge of civil war. It’s almost sad to think that the king began this play talking about unification through the one thing that everyone agrees on (Christ). If you can’t agree on who should be king, at least everyone wants to participate in a crusade.

Moving on. Let’s make a list of all the things Hotspur hates:

  1. Poetry
  2. Myth
  3. His wife
  4. Glendower
  5. Mystery
  6. Superstition
  7. “Signs”
  8. Anyone who likes the aforementioned list.

But hey, at least he can appreciate music. If not only for the sake of chiding his wife.

Also, I think it is quite apparent that Mortimer loves his wife, despite that fact that he literally can’t understand her. I’ve long railed against the ending of Henry V, that Henry couldn’t actually love Kathrine because they can’t speak to each other. Yet, I think this particular scene reveals Mortimer’s character. He loves her beauty, her music, and I don’t think that his love is shallow, either. I’m just looking at these two marriages on the eve of war, thinking, “Well, it won’t last long.” Love and war never do mix well.

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Now, I’m particularly interested in Hal’s comment that he will take on Hotspur’s glory by killing him. I’ve been thinking about the idea of transferring glory and deeds through facing off with another person. I don’t have anything solid to say about what I’ve been thinking about, but I will put it here when I have my thoughts flowing freely, and not super garbled as they’ve been…all week.

To end, Falstaff often speaks in biblical turn-of-phrase, or direct quote, or alluding to it. The word of God through the mouth of a sinner? And his treatment of the poor Hostess…I don’t know what to make of him.