Macbeth–Act IV

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So, rather than fix his problems by, oh, not killing more people, Macbeth goes to the witches for more knowledge about the future. They conjure three apparitions for him:

  1. A disembodied head with a helmet–Look out, MacDuff is going for you, bro.
  2. A child covered in blood (symbol of all the innocent people he’s killed?)–Don’t worry, no man that was born of a woman is going to hurt you. You’d think that’d be comforting.
  3. Child, not bloody, crowned–When this entire forest is raised, that’s when you’ll be defeated.

By all means, it seems like Macbeth is going to be okay, all in all. But then why is the next apparition show eight kings from Banquo’s line? Well, I know the outcome, but it hasn’t been revealed just yet.

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I realized today why Macbeth begins to come down this path–he’s following that which is unnatural. He’s led by the witches and his wife (who has a propensity for things unnatural, like wanting to be more manly and over-ruling her husband) in this entire affair–which is displacing the natural line of kings. I was saying that the witches were supernatural before, but I’m going to take it back, because they aren’t above the natural order of things, but they use the base and disgusting parts of nature to contort nature herself. They’re unnatural. There isn’t really a supernatural thing in the whole play.

Also, Macbeth, I think you made a really bad move killing Macduff’s wife and kids. All you’re going to do there is spurn a load of revenge. And let’s not forget your inability to kill Fleance, who watched his father get murdered.

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Macbeth–Act III

Sorry to make the hiatus so long! I was going to try and cram the rest of the play in the weekend, but found I was to busy to do so, so I figured I’d start on Wednesday and finish out the week like normal.

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Ahh, guilt. How wonderfully Shakespeare illustrates the nature that guilt weighs upon our conscious in times of grave sin. Macbeth is now dragging himself into a mire–to relieve feeling guilty, he hires the murder of Banquo, in order to stop the witches prophecy (uhh, wait, the same prophecy that spurred him into killing the king? That sounds a little discordant…), but he fails at the escape of Fleance. He wants to relieve his guilt of spilling blood by spilling more blood, which seems to be the nature of sin–to correct sin with more sin. “Blood will have blood” (III.iv.121).

A quick note about the prophecy–Hecate belittles the sisters in telling Macbeth and Banquo the future–but it seems if they had not intruded and let this “fate” be known, it would not have happened. The supernatural enters the world, allows men to know the future, but it’s only a future that exists because of that supernatural intrusion. If that sounds confusing, I think it’s because I’m a little confused about the role of the supernatural in this play (other than it is a bane on the lives of everyone here, yet it sometimes reveals the true nature of things, such as Banquo’s ghost revealing Macbeth’s guilt).

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One last thing: Macbeth hires two murderers. Where the heck does this third come from? He says “Macbeth,” but we haven’t seen that interaction. What is Shakespeare showing us in not showing us the hire of this third murderer? He’s also the one who points out the error of striking out the light and allowing Fleance to escape. Maybe I’m making a mountain out of a mole-hill, but murderer number three, I’ve got my eye on you…

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.

King Henry IV, Part I–Act II

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My apologies that this is going to be another shorter entry. Few main points:

  1. No one ever seems to know the time. Yet, the play is a history, set at a particular time. But, seriously, no one knows what bloody time it is.
  2. The trick they play on Falstaff to, well, in a certain sense, humble him, does the opposite. What kind of man are we dealing with? I daresay, he’s referred to by Prince Hal as a sort of…Socrates? “That villainous abominable misleader of youth,” (II.iv.46), which, if I remember correctly, is the exact same slander that Socrates was tried and executed under.
  3. Hotspur’s denial of Kate’s love. Can a man only thinking of war be capable of love? Doesn’t look like it.
  4. The scene with the common folk that opens this act–to me, I always think of the “commoner” scenes as a deeper reflection of the world at large that we tend to be pre-occupied with in the rest of the play.

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Sadly, I again am lacking in the time department this evening. With Valentines Day and my mother’s birthday approaching, I’ve been lacking time to do other things.

Until tomorrow.

King Henry IV, Part I–Act I

We open at the end of civil war, and the beginning of England joining the crusades. Oh, wait, nope. End of civil war, but, it’s flaring up again.

I have quite a bit to say about Prince Hal, but I simply don’t have the time. I will leave tonight on a simple note: What if the Machiavellian Prince didn’t turn out to be a big jerk like Richard III? Can you follow the outline of The Prince without being a moustache-twirling villain?

My apologies for this evening. But, at least I posted! Happy Monday!

Richard III–Act IV

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Body count: 8

When the scene starts off, we have all the ladies gathered, none at this time know that the princes have been slain, Richard is King or that Anne is about to be made his wife. It is from a slip by Brakenbury that they learn what fate holds for them.

I find it interesting that there is not a set scene for the coronation. We merely see Richard as king–the audience misses out on the pomp and circumstance. I think this is actually quite fitting. Ceremony is the physical embodiment (in action) that expresses an idea. Graduations represent endings. Weddings represent two becoming one flesh. Coronations represent someone coming into the throne to properly guide a country. Too bad this is a country soaked in blood–it’s all too fitting there is no ceremony.

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At the end of scene two, Buckingham realizes that he’s really of nothing to Richard, and gets ready to take off.

The Literature in me wants to turn the topic to the idea of conversation at the end of this scene. Comedies tend to hold everything in conversation, tragedies tend to be the long monologue that is never conductive to conversation. Buckingham realizes his relation to the king in the king’s complete lack of conversation–he’s basically talking to himself.

With the entrance of Margaret, we have the full list of the dead–lists show an expanse of something, this one shows how much blood England’s royalty is standing in. Everyone’s crying for revenge.

The act ends on the eve of war, and that is how I leave you.

Until tomorrow.

Richard III–Act III

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Act III–Body count: 6 and Richard is to be crowned.

Woof.

I want to address a few things (in the form I love most, lists!) briefly.

  1. The opening scene with Prince Edward. He’s brilliant, that’s a given, but he speaks of two things, primarily. Julius Caesar and the distinction of how wit and fame lead to immortality. Just to throw it out there–he’s famous for the ‘Princes in the Tower’ story and the play itself is named after an infamous king. Perhaps a little relevant?
  2. Religious looks vs. Actions. (the inner heart vs. outward actions is almost the key theme in this play, but this is the easiest pin-point example I can find in a brief time-frame…also, most of the language regarding actions are religious in this play–some food for thought) Look at Hastings. What does he say when he’s about to face death? His reconciliation. Yet, you never hear him stating “By Saint Paul” or “Mother of our Lord.” That comes from two men–ol’ Dick and Buckingham.
  3. Scene VI: Just the Scrivener! Now, I love a good scrivener, who doesn’t? His last words sound alike in pitch to the scene in the previous act with the citizens–“Bad is the world, and all will come to naught/When such ill-dealing must be seen in thought.” (III.vi.13-14)–What, do you suppose, does it mean to see in thought? (I’m thinking the entire action of this play may be the answer)
  4. Notice there are no women in this act.
  5. Everyone who’s about to die reference good ol’ Margaret

Until tomorrow, folks.