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…

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Measure for Measure–Act V

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So, the Duke orders everyone’s death. Ha! Death to self, everyone’s punishment is marriage!

So, today’s reflection is mostly abstract, Lit. major ramblings, because I don’t have much else to give you. But their punishment is also their reward, which sounds familiar to me. when Adam and Eve are thrown out of paradise, they are punished. Man must toil for all things to produce fruit, and woman must be subservient to man. Now, as Yeats says, “It’s certain there is no fine thing/Since Adam’s fall but needs much laboring.” Why would a man toil and why would a woman be subservient to her husband? Because they love. Their punishments purify their love, they have to really love each other, not merely lust after one another, to be willing to suffer for them.

Now, the Duke’s punishments is that all guilty are to be married to the ones they transgressed against. He is merciful. And one thing that a sinner has a hard time accepting and understanding is mercy. He craves it, but there is always the temptation of falling into despair, because it is something undeserved. Angelo, with his rooted sense of justice, has a difficult time understanding and accepting the Duke’s mercy, because he operates on a principle of “giving one his due.” And Angelo says, “I am sorry that such sorrow I procure,/And so deep sticks it in my penitent heart/That I crave death more willingly than mercy;/’Tis my deserving, and I do entreat it” (V.i.471-474). If you ever are surrounded by children long enough, you will come to understand that humanity has a natural propensity to desire justice. We choose hell, because when faced with the light of truth, knowing our transgressions against it, we desire the portion that is given to us.

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Yet, look at the mercy that is bestowed upon everyone in the illumination of truth in this play. Isabella forgives Angelo his trespasses, and kneels for his forgiveness. The Duke shows mercy, and allows all transgressors to live, while they must also forfeit themselves in love to their newly betrothed wives.

I could have more to say, but since this is already coming to you a day late, I will save it. I also need to get ready for work.

Measure for Measure–Act I

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Nuns!

The play begins with a temporary transfer of authority to Antonio, who, from his humble refusal at first, seems like a good dude. The first scene deals with Antonio’s good character, and I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. His harsh enforcement of the law stems from his adherence to justice. That’s not bad in and of itself. Now, the Duke reveals in scene three that he has failed to properly enforce the laws of his city, and to allow infractions against the law is not merely to allow evil, but to encourage it. “Sith ’twas my fault to give the people scope,/’Twould be my tyranny to strike and gall them/For what I bid them do: for we bid this be done,/When evil deeds have their permissive pass,/And not the punishment” (I.iii.35-39).

I find it interesting that the law which we see enforced–Juliet being with-child out of wedlock with Claudio–is the sin that earlier is joked about with Mistress Overdone. Claudio’s account of liberty reveals the nature of sin. “Our natures do pursue,/Like rats that ravin down their proper bane,/A thirsty evil; and when we drink we die” (I.ii.128-130). There’s a tension here, methinks, between the laws of the commonweal and the laws of God. But there’s a distinct difference; the laws of the commonweal are based upon justice, “Measure for Measure” to steal the plays name, while the laws of God rest upon the justice of God, based upon love which is revealed in mercy.

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With that said, I’m curious if this tension of laws might be revealed also in the opening of scene four–the ‘lack of strictness’ in the Order of Saint Clare. The Poor Clare’s are a Franciscan order, which poses itself against the decadence of the age–and if we look at what is going on in the city of the play, there is quite a bit of decadence. Isabella points out her understanding of the order is much more strict than the little nun reveals to her. An order against decadence is not strict, the duke of the city is not strict in using authority–these smell like they are of similar stuff, so to speak–perhaps these similarities reveal more than might appear.

Post. Script. Isabella means God’s promise or devoted to God. I’m assuming her name will reveal itself to mean both by the time this play is over.

Until tomorrow!