All’s Well That Ends Well–Act I

Thanks for you patience, guys! That was s long unintentional hiatus.

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If I were asked to summarize what this play is “about” from only reading the first act, I would tell you, among other things:

  1. The playing out of the next generation
  2. Inherited rank versus inherited merit
  3. How virtues imbued in birth are ramified by good action

Insofar as I am concerned about the first point, the very first line of the play revolves around the death of the head of household of the first generation, “In delivering my son from me, I bury a second husband” (I.i.1). Not to mention, love of Bertram replaces the love that Helena had for her father after his death. And, well, the rest of my point is made with the last two.

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The cause of Helena’s despair over Bertram revolves heavily in my second point. She loves a man that outranks her in birth. Clearly she’s a pretty feisty, smart, rad lady, and she’s the main heroine of a Shakespeare comedy, which means that she’s one of those ladies you marry the instant you meet her. And we have evidence of that by the countess’ comment, “…her education promises her dispositions she inherits which makes fair gifts fairer; for where an unclean mind carries virtuous qualities, there commendations go with pity; they are virtues and traitors too” (I.i.39-42).

Sadly, I’m pressed for time, as per usual, but I wanted to get back on schedule, at least a little bit.

I’ll leave you with this last line from Helena (I’m not getting into the roots of her name–Helen–and what I think it says about her):  “Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie,/Which we ascribe to heaven” (I.i.216).  Natural disposition cultivated in action?

We’ll see tomorrow.

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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.

Antony & Cleopatra–Act III

Sometimes life throws you punches and you have to sleep for a week to reconfigure your life.

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Enobarbus. He’s calling all of Antony’s bluffs and faults, mainly, “that would make his will/Lord of his reason” (III.xiii.3-4). The whole theme of the play, kids. Make your will or pleasures the master of your reason, you’ll make a few political mistakes, war against Caesar by sea (which obviously isn’t your strong suit) and flee the minute your buttercup leaves the fight. I’m a little obsessed with Enobarbus (despite the fact that it takes me a few tries to type his name correctly), because he’s incredibly aware of everything. And awareness is sexy.

I’ve been thinking about this line of his, “I see men’s judgments are/A parcel of their fortunes, and things outward/Do draw the inward quality after them/To suffer all alike” (III.xiii.31-34). And I actually have to think about it more before I can say anything about it. It’s too cool for school, and right now my thoughts are a-jumble with “negative capability” and “outward manifestations of internal truths” and I can’t put them together quite yet.

REPUTATIONS: RICHARD BURTON, TAYLOR MADE FOR STARDOM

That said, I have a feeling certain loves are not reciprocated by other loves. And the in-continuity of Antony no longer being himself with Cleopatra, and Cleopatra’s identification that she is only herself with Antony…things are going to get a little interesting on the “who is who in relation to who” front here soon. Love, that which makes us not ourselves…but this one doesn’t seem to…fit. 

Antony & Cleopatra–Act II

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So, Antony gets married to Caesar’s sister to smooth over Caesar’s quarrel with Antony. Let me state the obvious. Or better yet, let’s let Enobarbus state it for me. “He will to his Egyptian dish again. Then shall the sighs of Octavia blow the fire up in Caesar, and, as I said before, that which is the strength of their amity shall prove the immediate author of their variance. Antony will use his affection where it is. He married but his occasion here” (II.vi.126-131).

I’m wondering what the greater message is here–for Antony marries Octavia out of duty, but it will be his undoing when he returns to the bed of Cleopatra. The Literature major in me says that perhaps there is a conflict in letting passions rule reason? The marriage to Octavia is purely rational, while the affair with Cleopatra stems from Antony’s passion.

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And Menas. Quite the Machiavellian, killing everyone while they’re drunk on a ship? Or at least conspiring to. Pompey, thankfully, believes more in his honor than in his accomplishments.

I had more to say, but that was before I went to work. My apologies that this couldn’t be a better entry.

Until tomorrow.

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.

Comedy of Errors–Acts IV &V

The past few days have been a whirlwind.

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My biggest complaint, or perhaps confusion, deals with the relationship of Antipholis S. and Luciana–it doesn’t make sense to me that there’s a big to-do about his affection for her in the middle of the play, and yet there’s not a mentioning of their getting together in the end. But perhaps this is done on purpose–the reuniting of the two brothers and their parents is more important than trifles of love. But I’m not set on that, because unless they’re going to get together, why spur Adriana into a fit of jealousy? It would have been just as confusing, and just as easy for her to think Antipholis E. crazy without it interrupting their marriage as considerably as it did. Perhaps it shows Adriana’s good character and dedication to her husband?

I…don’t really have much more to say, actually. This play, despite some character confusion and complication, is actually pretty straight forward. I’ve read it was one of his earlier plays (with so many a rhyming couplet) and perhaps there’s more here than I can see, or perhaps the Bard revised his work later in his life.

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The next few days are going to be hectic for me–I’m going home Tuesday to see my family, so I’m going to try to at least do what I did this week–keep on top of the readings and do big cluster posts. Thank you, my dear followers, who remain patient with me as my life gets so busy!

The Tempest–Acts IV & V

Sorry about that brief hiatus yesterday.

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Scenes in which gods come out of the sky will probably always strike me as a “what…the…” moment. In Cymbaline, I was just like, “What do I do with this.” But at least in Cymbaline, it was some kind of representation of fate, or something–no, Isis, Juno, Ceres, the big three ladies of mythology–but here, they are under the control of Prospero. Perhaps all things are under the power of fortune? If we are to go by this airy, head-in-the-clouds thinking, that Prospero is a physical manifestation of fortune, than what does it mean when fortune acts so forgiving and kindly to his enemies? That doesn’t sound like the fortune I know…

Or, does it?

Tangent aside, there’s more things to say about Prospero’s actions and words than I have the time or ability to say or even think. While reading the last two acts, I’ve been trying to think of a clear way of articulating what his character operates as in the story, because he is the driving principle of every action within it. But I haven’t thought of a way of clearly putting him into a mold of driving characters.

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I just want to end on a final note about the epilogue. It’s spoken by Prospero as a petition to the audience to allow him to be free. Ariel servant to Prospero, having done all he wanted, he was allowed his freedom. Now, here we have the driving design behind the whole play making the same petition to the audience. I would say this is because he has been under our power, his power goes only as far as our suspension of disbelief will allow, and now the play is over, and it is time to leave this crazy island and return.