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. 

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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.

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.

The Merchant of Venice–Act I

Word game time. Top five things that come to mind seeing the words, “The Merchant of Venice.” Exotic, ships, money, sea-side, misers. Create your own!

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Onto the first scene, Oh, glum Antonio, why art thou sad? Of course, it must be either money or women. Only it isn’t. Only, the resat of the play pivots around these two poles. Only, Antonio is sad that his own self is a mystery? I’m a little confused, but nevertheless, The play is set on a tone of mysterious sadness.

Moving on to Portia. I love the way she lists her suitors–and their failings–because when I read a list, I think of the expanse of things, if that makes sense. When I see a list, it is an attempt to categorize everything, and when you start, you begin to realize the “muchness” of things. And for Portia’s list of suitors, it’s the expanse of the known world that is vying for her hand. I figure her father’s strange will and the three chests ordeal will play a bigger picture later, so I shan’t bother with it now. My only other comment on Portia’s suitors is: are these depictions of stereo-typical men of these lands? Because we get pretty stereotypical in the third scene…

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Which brings me down to business. The interaction with Shylock is far more than merely making Jews look like money-grubbers (though Shylock never gives us an impression to trust). Let’s look back at what Venice is and what kind of man we’re talking about from the title. Venice, port town, every kind of man from every walk of life is here to trade, sell, bargain, etc. We have Antonio, who is quite a generous merchant, literally risking all that he has to give money to his best friend to help him win a pretty lady. When his entire fortune is at sea. At sea. Does anything about the image of the sea make you feel like investing into it? Like, a totally stable place to base an economic market. What’s that? Right. No. It isn’t.

We’re set up right at the beginning with a pluralistic society, which only can have a “common good” based upon money and wealth. The two things that this money is invested in are two of the least stable things you could put your money on (casino’s excluded from the realm of Shakespeare’s time), these of course being the ocean and the love of a woman.

It’s going to be a good ride. Until tomorrow.

Two Gentlemen of Verona–Act I

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When I begin a play, and the first two characters are named “Proteus” and “Valentine,” my inner love for allusions gets so excited. Firstly, I love that the two friends that open the play have names that derive from two different Mediterranean languages and mythologies–Proteus, like the old man in the sea of Greek mythology versus Valentine, Latin root and the name of a well known saint in the Roman Church–because I love the rubbing up of ancient Greek and Christendom Rome.

Secondly, when you hear “Proteus” you think of something being protean–ever changing. Yet, he seems, from this first act, to be a fairly rooted character, since he doesn’t desire to leave his homeland because of his love for Julia. Julia resembles more of a protean character, judging by her interactions with her maid.

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I have never read the play before, but I’m venturing to guess that Proteus does actually leave, given by the genitive in the title “of Verona.”

Twelfth Night–Act III

I have something to say today! However, I’ve been reading the play on my Kindle (ah, gadgets! The devil’s kin) and I do not have my Arden to accurately cite lines, I will do my best for now, until I can get it and properly cite my sources.

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We open with the conversation between Feste and Viola, where the emphasis on Feste being a “churchman” has more to do with his location and place, rather than his lifestyle. In a similar vein, they discuss how “they that dally nicely with words may quickly make them wanton” (III.i.) which has helped this reader understand the undertones of the play better. There are three ways in which things are communicated (both truthfully and falsely) in the play.

  1. One on one meetings and private conversations–I have yet to see a scene where more than six characters are actually on stage at the same time
  2. The writing of letter. This is the main way Maria tricks Malvolio, and how Sir Andrew wishes to challenge Viola. Sir Andrew’s letter to Viola, of course, is not given to her, but communicated in a one on one conversation with Sir Toby
  3. Music. And it is only a slight indication of Olivia’s temperament (which I think she’s just ghastly) when she states, “I had rather hear you to solicit/Than music from the spheres” (III.i).

To finish my word tangent, I love Feste’s answer to Viola, “I can yield you none without words; and words are grown so false I am loath to prove reason with them” (III.i.). Which rings well with Olivia’s claim to him earlier that he has grown false–nevermind that Feste is by far the most honest of the characters in this play. Not to mention the fact that Feste and Viola are the only two who travel between both Olivia’s dwelling and Orsino’s.

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My last point deals with the nature of playing. As Viola says, “This fellow’s wise enough to play the fool” (III.i.), which is probably my favorite line in the universe of English literature. The nature of Feste’s playing continues,

And to do that well craves a kind of wit:
He must observe their mood on whom he jests,
The quality of persons, and the time,
And, like the haggard, cheque at every feather
That comes before his eye. This is a practise
As full of labour as a wise man’s art
For folly that he wisely shows is fit;
But wise men, folly-fall’n, quite taint their wit.

The art of the fool is his ability to read his audience, comparable to the art of wise men–maybe the art of a playwright or actor?–and that in his fooling he must need be more wise. How true of comedy, that which is humorous or comedic shows us more ourselves than a tragedy or perhaps even a sonnet.

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Lastly, we have the quip that Fabian states, “If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbably fiction” (III.iv.), in response to Malvolio’s absurd actions. Which stems from Maria’s letter, which he follows to the letter like it is its own law.

Until tomorrow.

As You Like It–Act IV

As You Like It

Rosalind’s interaction with Jaques struck me as one of the most pertinent in relation to “what the whole play” means. Or what plays mean in general. Shakespeare comments on what plays are within his plays often. This opening scene, I believe, is one of them.

To begin with, we learn a little more about Jaques. His melancholy, so he claims, comes from his life as a traveler–meaning, he has no sense of “place” and an overabundance of experience (the virtues of the college lifestyle). Rosalind’s responds, “I had rather have a fool to make me merry than experience to make me sad” (IV.i.26-27). I’m curious about her response–mainly because I instantly liked it–and the truth that it seems to imply deal with the nature of court versus travel. Second hand related experience versus personal experience. Which is better? Let’s look at Rosalind and Orlando.

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NB: I love to see what Shakespeare is saying when his characters are deceiving each other. You’ve been warned.

So, Rosalind is pretending to be a boy, pretending to be herself. In pretending to be what she’s pretending to be, she is herself. I love it. Every reference where she refers to her male-self as false, she’s being true. She is one step removed from actually being courted by Orlando. That one step being that she is a he pretending to be she. Through this one “step back” from being herself, she can actually see the truth of Orlando’s love. Score one for second hand experience. That’s also a bit first hand.

Does this look like a court? No.

But, also, look at the characters we’re all looking at. They are all outside of their home, their court, their sense of place, running around in the woods where, frankly, they don’t belong. The sense of place has been removed, and what happens? Look at scene three. Everyone’s falling in love, lust, what have you. But I don’t want to go too far in this direction. Just want to remark that it is happening and how it relates with first-hand, second-hand experience. Because we must consider, we’re all second hand in relation to this play.

Lastly, Oliver. Is he lying? Is he honest? What is at stake if this conversion is true–Duke Freddy will destroy the entire estate if Oliver doesn’t hand him Orlando’s head on a platter. I can’t see the last Act boding well, and I think I’ll be mildly let down if he is honest. I can’t see it in his character to love Orlando. This act won’t make sense to me until I read the last.

Until tomorrow.