Antony & Cleopatra–Acts IV and V

I decided to do these acts together, because I predicted that both would involve at least one of the same thing: The deaths of Antony and Cleopatra.

 

Three things about their suicides:

  1. The idea that this is the only way to be the master of oneself. Antony’s lost everything and will have to submit his life, but if he kills himself, he submits only to himself–same goes for Cleo. What I think is interesting about this in lieu of the past references to being oneself and not being oneself in relation to the other lover–this seems the only way they rectify “oneselfness” again.
  2. The servant dies first. For Antony, he “learns” his option through Eros’ suicide (also, Eros is Antony’s servant? Antony begs his servant Eros to kill him? Eros…love, erotic love…WHAT’S SHAKESPEARE DOING WITH THESE NAMES…I CAN’T HANDLE HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS). Ahem. And Iras dies from…ehh…She just kind of, dies.
  3. Antony dies by the sword, Cleo by poison. Notice this is the opposite of what happens in Romeo and Juliet–And while that tale ends on the sound of woe, this one rings of pity.

One other note: there’s been a war in the last half of this play, and they only bodies we see are from suicides or people who have lost the will to live–non from the war.

Sorry this is late, I’m on a time crunch even as we speak. I’m seeking new employment with better more manageable hours–and one that doesn’t keep me there until one and leaving me so exhausted that I can’t wake up in time to post.

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Comedy of Errors–Act I

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I generally don’t think plays with the word “Comedy” in their title begin with impending death, but here Shakespeare proves me wrong again. Also, I’ve never been more confused while reading a Dramatis Personae.

Most of the act is story-telling, giving us the background of poor Egeon and the fate of his wife and sons. He states, “…the my end/Was wrought by nature, not by vile offence” (I.i.33-34), which I think may be a setting up of the main theme of the play–fate versus our actions. 

Side note: he was saved by fishermen of Corinth. Which smells a little familiar to me…

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Antipholus of Syracuse–I can’t find a definition of Antipholus or Pholus or…anything, though I came across the word Centaur among some astrology pages. I do enjoy his plan to lose himself for the sake of his mission, self-giving for the sake of something other. Which, since we’re already getting to see a little confusion with the twin brothers, I won’t be surprised if there is quite a bit of losing oneself. 

Macbeth–Act V

So, as it turns out, I didn’t actually get the extra time to do a good entry like I had wanted, and since I’m working almost every day next week, I’ve got to get back on track, or I’m going to lose it! When you’re a bartender in Louisville on Derby week, you don’t have time for extra Shakespeare, I guess.

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One brief thing I noticed about Lady Macbeth. “You mar with all this starting” (V.i.45-46) struck me, particularly because once Macbeth started down this line, he’s fallen to the point that, “what’s been done cannot be undone” (V.i.69). And after Lady Macbeth’s suicide, or I’ve always assumed it was suicide, perhaps there is another dozen interpretations, Macbeth falls into despair. To Macbeth, her death is a result of the great chain of being that we are all a part of–we will all die–and it seems he doesn’t see, or chooses not to see, his role within her death.

Oo, now that we’re talking about death, a side note to point out lines that made me say aloud, “That’s so cool!” Macduff states, “Make our trumpets speak; give them all breath,/Those clamorous harbingers of blood and death” (9-10). The reason this strikes me as being so wicked awesome, lies in the image of breath. To give another one’s breath or blood, in any ancient understanding, signifies the giving of ones life. Breath=life. But here, it is a signifier of war, death, the end of life–but the giving of ones life too.

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Which brings me to my last point. Death. In this play, those that die are innocent, some are even the descendants of generations that will never live on. What Macbeth has done results in the destruction of the generation under him. He is truly a tyrant, in that sense. But, did not Caesar do the same? He completely destroyed the Republican consciousness of the Roman people by elevating himself to the point of king. There are a few allusions to Caesar in this play, made by Macbeth mostly, and I wonder what Shakespeare is saying about these two men and their tragedy. How they affect the generations after them, what types of men are they? Caesar did not listen to the oracles–Macbeth did. Who turns out the better?

Macbeth–Act II

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“I have done the deed” (II.ii.14). Woo, intense is the act that ends with a body count of three.

Macbeth’s monologue in the first act interests me, insofar as it deals with trusting in the sense of sight. “or art thou but/A dagger of the mid, a false creation”(II.i.38-39) and then, “Mine eyes are made the fools o’ th’ other senses,/Or else worth all the rest” I see thee still”(II.i.44-45). Which contrasts with the next scene, “Didst thou not hear the noise?”(II.ii.14). And Macbeth hears two prayers, a blessing from God on his deed and a mere, “Amen.” Amen, the word means “it is so” or it is a simple “yes.” Smells like the deed is done…

Musings on the trustworthiness of the senses. I find in tragedies, I don’t know what or who to trust. And that may be the point.

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Now, for the last scene, Rosse’s conversation with the old man–addressed as “Father,” so I am assuming he’s a priest, because I like to assume things–regarding the internal nature of man’s actions correlating with the outer nature of the heavens. I made a point of this in The Tempest, that storms in Shakespeare plays have a tendency to be symbolic of workings of the character’s soul or the state of souls in the commonweal. (I may not have actually said this, but I think I meant to if I didn’t.) If the heavens are representing an individual, who? Macbeth? Duncan? Banquo? Lady Macbeth? Or is it representing what is about to happen to the entire foundation of the Scottish Monarchy? Take your pick, send me a message.

 

Macbeth–Act I

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I’ve read Macbeth before, when I was a Junior in High School. This is what I remember:

  1. “Out, out, damn spot” and a lot of guilt.
  2. Someone was born a really crazy way, and it fulfills a prophecy.
  3. There are witches and they speak in rhyme.

Now that I’ve made one of many obligatory lists, let’s begin.

“Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (I.i.11), is delivered right before Macbeth comments, “so foul and fair a day I have not seen”(I.iii.38). When words repeat themselves (post.script. the word “selfsame” is used a bagillion times as well), I get into my little obsessive dictionary mode. Fair: free from dishonesty-ample-promising-favorable. Foul: offensive to the senses (how shall the witches appear? thunder, lightning, rain–that which is sensible)-filthy-unfairly-vilely. That which is promising and favorable–Macbeth’s kingship–is about to be sought by vile, dishonest means. Two things strike me about Macbeth that makes this prophecy–deriving from evil sources–work upon his mind in such a way.

Numero uno: His disposition to chance and fortune. We learn a little about his character in the second scene. “For brave Macbeth (well he deserves the name),/Disdaining Fortune…”(I.ii.16-17). Perhaps it is minor, but here we see–through the account of another–that there is a characteristic in Macbeth that draws him to rise above fortune. This is contradicted (all I can see in this play are contradictions) in his own later statement, “If Chance will have me King, why,/Chance may crown me” (I.iii.144). Which is later contradicted by…

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Numero dose: Macbeth’s lovely wife.

From unnatural news derives the desire for the unnatural. Lady Macbeth, upon learning the prophecy of the old witches, desires that nature itself be overrode for the ambitious desires. I mean, her whole speech about killing a child that she’s nursing is one of the most disgustingly -foul- things I’ve read in a Shakespeare play thus far.

So, disruption of nature, prophecy, truth from evil sources, ambition…what brilliant themes we have at the outset!

Until tomorrow.

Julius Caesar–Act IV

Saw this coming. The beginning of the fall of Brutus.

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It starts with contention between Brutus and Cassius–caused by Brutus’ unflinching honor and love of Rome. “Must I budge?” (IV.ii.44). Truly, he’s already beginning to fall–his wife is dead. but, true to himself, Rome is on the verge of war, and Rome comes before Brutus’ love. During this discourse, however, we catch a glimpse of Brutus’ character in terms of how he sees friendship–

CASSIUS
You love me not.
BRUTUS
I do not like your faults.
CASSIUS
A friendly eye could never see such faults.
BRUTUS
A flatterer’s would not, though they do appear
As huge as high Olympus. (IV.ii.88-92)

To be a friend or flatterer. Let’s all take a moment to notice how Brutus is awesome. He’s no Cassius.

If we were to compare and contrast Cassius and Brutus, one other thing ought to be mentioned. Cassius delights not in music, while Brutus turns to it in his time of sorrow, his head heavy with deeds done and yet to be done.

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Lastly, I think it is evident at this point that the play is the tragedy of Brutus, because we are truly watching the fall of Brutus moreso than the fall of Julius Caesar. Why, then, is the play called “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar”? I’ll leave on that final note, something to chew on whilst we finish the play.

Julius Caesar–Act III

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So, given that I like rules and guidelines, isn’t Shakespeare breaking a few here? Aren’t you supposed to kill off the title character at the end of the play, when tragedy befalls them? This is what I’ve been alluding (let’s not be coy, I’ve been saying it pretty bluntly) to when I keep saying that the spirit of Caesar lives. The tragedy of the play is not Julius’ tragedy–but I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say it’s Brutus’ fall that we are being called to witness.

And what is it that stirs the people to see Caesar as a loving king and not a tyrant? His will. What Caesar wills. Hmm…what did Caesar say when Decius implored him to come to the Senate? “The cause is in my will, I will not come,/That is enough to satisfy the Senate” (II.ii.71-72). Oh, and right before he died, “Hence! Wilt thou lift up Olympus?” (III.i.74). His will (as in, last will) is for the people. In all the things he wills, in his constancy, he embodies the will of the people in one form. The exact will that the conspirators were trying to uphold. They have failed Rome in trying to save it.

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That’s it for today, kids. Until tomorrow.