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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Julius Caesar–Act IV

Saw this coming. The beginning of the fall of Brutus.

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It starts with contention between Brutus and Cassius–caused by Brutus’ unflinching honor and love of Rome. “Must I budge?” (IV.ii.44). Truly, he’s already beginning to fall–his wife is dead. but, true to himself, Rome is on the verge of war, and Rome comes before Brutus’ love. During this discourse, however, we catch a glimpse of Brutus’ character in terms of how he sees friendship–

CASSIUS
You love me not.
BRUTUS
I do not like your faults.
CASSIUS
A friendly eye could never see such faults.
BRUTUS
A flatterer’s would not, though they do appear
As huge as high Olympus. (IV.ii.88-92)

To be a friend or flatterer. Let’s all take a moment to notice how Brutus is awesome. He’s no Cassius.

If we were to compare and contrast Cassius and Brutus, one other thing ought to be mentioned. Cassius delights not in music, while Brutus turns to it in his time of sorrow, his head heavy with deeds done and yet to be done.

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Lastly, I think it is evident at this point that the play is the tragedy of Brutus, because we are truly watching the fall of Brutus moreso than the fall of Julius Caesar. Why, then, is the play called “The Tragedy of Julius Caesar”? I’ll leave on that final note, something to chew on whilst we finish the play.

Measure for Measure–Acts III & IV

My apologies for yesterday. I had a terrible migraine for half the day.

I have a few odd feelings toward the Duke. I think he signifies something very wonderful in earthly terms–he is the leader of his people, and in order to make things turn out right, he humbles himself as a servant to do the works for the commonweal–while on the other hand, I have a problem with his masquerade as a priest–the ones to be executed, he offers council, but isn’t it more proper for the sake of their souls that they be offered their last confession? Which is an office he can’t perform. This probably is minor, but I think this play deals heavily with souls.

That said, the Duke comes up with the plan that is hoped to spare Claudio’s life and Isabella’s soul, but I’m again at a loss to justify the means of this disguise. Not that it really works, it requires another disguise to save Claudio’s life, since Angelo is not keen on keeping his word with Isabella. I saw that coming, actually–for if he were to have last minute spared Claudio, than his reputation for being the man of justice would be “ruined.”

(I have to make this entry short today, so my last point will be brief.)

What the Duke’s deception does allow is the revelation that Angelo is guilty of the crime he condemns to death and Claudio’s life as something miraculous.

Hopefully I will have more time tomorrow, but as for now, I must get to work, and I have a million other things to finish today.

Much Ado About Nothing–Act IV

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The first scene of this play has three parts: The Wedding/Shaming, the Friar’s counsel, and Benedick and Beatrice revealing their affections. Let’s begin!

I think the most important thing to note with Claudio and Don Pedro in this scene is that they make a petition that no one trust their eyes to Hero’s innocence. Yet, the ground on which they base their scorn is rooted in their sense of sight. Shakespeare often uses the image of poison when he sculpts the speeches of his Iago’s, and I think the image fits well here–they are poisoned by their sight to see the truth of the blushing and innocent Hero.

I’ve seen many renditions of this play, and I usually have one particular qualm with many of them–they cut out the Friar’s line by which we understand what his plan does. He states, “For strange sores strangely they strain the cure./Come, lady, die to live” (IV.i.251-252). Now, maybe some of you are not neurotic like me, but I stress myself out over the fact that the Friar cures a lie with lying. I’ve gotten better, mostly because of the aforementioned line, and the paradox of dying to live. Now, the scene began with Leonato not wishing the Friar to catechize the duties of being husband and wife prior to their actual wedding. What is a wedding but a death to self, two becoming one flesh? While I feel unable to reconcile the whole “lying” aspect of the Friar, I think back to the Catholic Church printing off fake baptismal records to Jews in WWII. It helps me sleep at night.

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Ah, and now for everyone’s favorite part. If it isn’t, it ought to be. And…I’m just going to quote my thesis again. Sorry folks!

Their moment alone goes well, until Beatrice calls Benedick to prove his love in action, by killing Claudio. Benedick’s initial response is no, because she is asking him to forsake his previous office under the service of the Prince Don Pedro and to forsake his friendship for Claudio. The action she calls him to is a renunciation of self. She is enraged by his response, because his profession of love for her is not to be demonstrated by himself and his own interests for the sake of his love for Beatrice and her request. Then he relents and obeys her call to action, using his hand as a testimony of his promise to challenge Claudio for the dignity of Hero’s honor. He states, “Enough, I am engaged: I will challenge him. I will kiss your hand, and so I leave you. By this hand, Claudio shall render me a dear account. As you hear of me, so think of me”(IV.i.329-332). In their first conversation, not only do they profess their feelings for one another, but Beatrice submits to her role as a woman, while Benedick submits to her call for him to act. In the time allotted by the Friar for the truth about Hero to be revealed, the fruition of Don Pedro’s intentions behind his deception for Benedick and Beatrice’s good comes to be—they communicate and humble themselves in “a mountain of affection the one with the other.””

Much Ado Michael Keaton Ben Elton

 

Finally, I leave you with this…

Oh that he were here to write me down an ass! But masters, remember that I am an ass: though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass. (IV.ii.74-77)

King Henry IV, Part I–Act IV

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During this act, I sometimes imagined Hotspur like a snarling bull-dog, anxious and foaming at the mouth for a fight. After his long-winded speech to Blunt, I can only think that his real purpose in the rebellion is simply to fight. I may be wrong, and I welcome being wrong.

And, let’s just look at the obvious, Vernon’s description of Hal is exactly what Harry was seeking in the long speech he made in the first act. “I saw young Harry with his beaver on,/His cushes on his thighs, gallantly arm’d,/Rise from the ground like feather’d Mercury,/And vaulted with such ease into his seat/As if an angel dropp’d down from the clouds/To turn and wind fiery Pegasus,/And witch the world with noble horsemanship,” (IV.i.104-110). Now, I think there may be a particular reason that Hal’s transformation is described in ancient pagan allusions. There seems to be an interesting tension with the allusions made about Hal, and the turn of speech of Falstaff. Neither is totally pagan or totally Christian. What I said yesterday about Hal’s overcoming Hotspur and “taking on” his honor now strikes me as a very classical idea in terms of war and glory. This idea is broadened by the very beginning of the play–instead of going on crusade, they must fight a civil war. Not only are they in civil war, but it becomes apparent that not everyone follows the same idea about God within the country (which makes the country more fit for crusade), at least when we look at Glendower’s comments in Act III.

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My last note is more just a fleetingly thought, it really may not have anything to do with what’s really going on. The last scene with the Archbishop. Sending his letters through a messenger, named Micheal. Letters that pertain to war. St. Micheal, defend us in battle. It smells like more is going on here. I mean, what is the purpose of that last scene?

Until tomorrow.

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….

Two Gentlemen of Verona–Acts IV and V

Sorry I dropped the ball yesterday. I had half an entry written when I realized, “I’m going to be late for work.” That’s not a fun feeling.

Guthrie Theater Two Gentlemen of Verona

Regardless, I wasn’t expecting Valentine to become Robin Hood. I assumed he would meet Julia in the woods, or something to that effect, and they would somehow get back at Proteus. Remember, kids, don’t assume–or do, and you will always find yourself surprised.

After the dialogue between Julia-as-boy and Silvia, I would also like to recant my statement about the women in this play being weak. Silvia takes no malarkey from anyone, especially Proteus, so his plan falls to utter pieces right in front of him. I also love that Silvia has a large amount of sympathy for Julia, despite never meeting her. (None of this is actually insightful, but I want to make sure I’ve stated that I was wrong and why.)

So, we have a comedy, where everything gets tied up nicely into a little pink bow at the end. And this happens by way of Proteus’ penance–which at first, I was super skeptical if he was actual repentant, but after reading over the last scene again, I realized he was suffering from his own actions. “My shame and guilt confounds me./Forgive me, Valentine: if hearty sorrow/Be sufficient ransom for offence,/I tender’s here; I do as truly suffer,/As e’er I did commit” (V.iv.73-77). Proteus’ actions are the cause of his suffering now, and Valentine–what a hunk–is quick to forgive his offences, taking delight in the forgiving. A play about forgiveness and love? Hmmm…

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The final point I would like to make regards the contrast between the court and the woods. Take two gentlemen into the woods, and their true colors are revealed. Proteus almost violates Silvia when he enters the woods, repents, and is forgiven. The Duke is able to see the true color of Thurio and the valor of Valentine when the decorum is shed and they’re in a world outside their own. The love of Valentine and Silvia are reunited. Proteus sees Julia for what she is, a constant and steadfast lover. The forest reveals all.