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?

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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.

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…

Julius Caesar–Act II

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I don’t know why, but when I read a stage direction of someone entering into an orchard, I get really exited. It’s the Literature major in me, I think. My brain yells, “Allusions!” Which today’s entry is mainly focused on allusions (and the allusions within the allusions. It’s like Inception for English nerds.)

Brutus opens us with a debate within himself–the question of whether or not Caesar will abuse his power and become a tyrant. In this monologue, he reveals something extremely telling about the type of man Caesar is–which Aristotle would declare makes him a good king–a man ruled by reason. “To speak truth of Caesar/I have not known when his affections swayed/More than his reason” (II.i.19-21). This is Brutus’ inner turmoil–the possibility of Caesar’s tyranny, by which his nature changes (due to power’s ability to corrupt) is a giant risk on his beloved city of Rome, but he loves Caesar. Rome and honor come first–the risk is too great.

Next–death.

To cut the head off and then hack the limbs,
Like wrath in death and envy afterwards;
For Antony is but a limb of Caesar:
Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius.
We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar;
And in the spirit of men there is no blood:
O, that we then could come by Caesar’s spirit,
And not dismember Caesar! But, alas,
Caesar must bleed for it!

They wish to kill the spirit of Caesar by killing the body of Caesar. However, in the killing of Caesar’s body, don’t the conspirators actually keep the spirit of Caesar alive in Rome (and the rest of the entire Western World) for an eternity?

Which brings me to my final point. The allusions to Christ and the allusions that Caesar is not Christ. There are lines in the last scene that are almost verbatim/follow the same events of Christ’s betrayal in the garden–alluding to Caesar as Christ. But! Woven into them are direct correlations to Christ that are Caesar’s opposite, showing that Caesar’s betrayal differs IMMENSELY from Jesus of Nazareth. I’m now going to point these out, because I can’t help but read these passages in this light. Please, if you have another interpretation of them, I would be glad to hear it. Sometimes I get on this train and I don’t get off for a long while.

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Firstly, Decius’ interpretation of Calphurnia’s dream. “Signifies that from you great Rome shall suck/Reviving blood, and that great men shall press/For tinctures, stains, relics and cognizance” (II.ii.87-89). Sounds like the teaching of the Last Supper. Sounds like what happens in the Church years upon years later at the Eucharist and with relics. But there’s a big ol’ distinction here. It’s spoken by a man who is flattering him to get him out of the house. It isn’t spoken in truth or love. It’s spoken as a down right lie. I think the allusion is there, but then the allusion falls a part. It’s not the last time we are thrown an allusion to Maundy Thursday, only to realize something doesn’t quite smell right about it…

CAESAR
Bid them prepare within:
I am to blame to be thus waited for.
Now, Cinna: now, Metellus: what, Trebonius!
I have an hour’s talk in store for you;
Remember that you call on me to-day:
Be near me, that I may remember you.
TREBONIUS
Caesar, I will: 
[Aside] and so near will I be,
That your best friends shall wish I had been further.

CAESAR
Good friends, go in, and taste some wine with me;
And we, like friends, will straightway go together.
BRUTUS
[Aside] That every like is not the same, O Caesar
 (II.ii.118-128)

That last line. “That every like is not the same.” I think Shakespeare is coming a little into the audience. He’s saying, “Yes, I have made these similes and allusions…but these things are not the same thing. There is a difference. Keep that difference in mind as you listen, and as you watch these events unfold.”

That’s it for me today. I’ve practically written a thesis for today’s entry, and I’m not the least bit sorry.

Julius Caesar–Act I

Sadly, today is another day that I must make my comments brief. That whole needing to work to eat thing.

Opening notes on the title–The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. Now, we already know he’s going to die, everyone knows the story of the “Ides of March.” Tragedies involve a man’s fall…Now, Julius died, but…did he fall? Did he fail? The question to keep in mind in Shakespeare’s retelling is: Who’s tragedy is it, really?

And let’s not forget the comment, “for always I am Caesar” (I.ii.211), stated by the man himself. Always? Has a kind of eternal ring to it.

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We open with the question of identity. The common folk are acting as if on holiday, not wearing the tools which mark which trade they bear. They all seem the same. No definition of trade. And they are gathering for the sake of seeing Caesar. Hmm. All the common men become similar for the sake of seeing their soon-to-be-king.

This ties into the later comments made by Cassius–Caesar is no god, but a man prone to the same sicknesses and trials of men. He is to be elected king, though he is no better than the men of the republic. The men of Rome have ceased to be true Romans, they are willing to let themselves be ruled by an ambitious tyrant. A man who has made himself a god. Cassius makes a very clear point to rebuke fate, because all men are in charge of their own fate. Cassius, the voice of equality. The voice of choice.

That’s most of what I have time for (and most of what I have to say regarding my opening remarks). Until tomorrow, let’s watch the tragedy unfold.

King John–Acts III & IV

My apologies, I have been rigorously working on getting my life together and make myself a career in something a little more academic than bar-tending. Prayers, if you can!

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So, Act III satisfied my “the war ended to quickly” proposition, thanks to the entrance of a bishop. Rome visits, excommunicates, and causes a huge complication of which fundamental religious honoring to take–the alliance between England and France that has at it’s foundation the Church’s Sacrament of marriage VERSUS the authority figure from the Vatican directly telling King Phillip that he’ll be excommunicated with King John. Poor Blanch.

So, we have these two poles that the audience gets to swing between: France and England. France’s leader concerns himself primarily with matters of the soul above the matters of state, both in his breaking of the alliance and with Louis’ trust in the bishop’s prophecy that England will fall. Ol’ John is excommunicated for putting his own matters of state above the Church and he has no concern for his soul, so long as he has looked out for his body and reputation (the assigning of Arthur’s assassination).

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Act IV reads like a tragedy–the too late realization that killing an innocent kid might be a mistake. King John, on the cusp of losing his allies, states, “They burn in indignation. I repent:/There is no sure foundation set on blood;/No certain life achiev’d by others’ death (IV.ii.105-107). Arthur’s alive and let go! Then he’s actually dead. And no one saw him fall. So, obviously, King John was up to mischief, setting himself on a foundation of blood that he only too late realized was not in his best interests.

Oh, and the whole thing is taking place during late, very close to the feast day of the Ascension. I’m wondering if Blanch’s lamenting her wedding feast turning into a blood bath has more to it than meets the eye….

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.