Hamlet–Act I

jacobi-branagh-christie

That’s not a happy face.

To begin with the first line, “Who’s there?” (I.i.1), we open with the subtle fact that the way the Danes understand their identity and recognize one another is through the king. Later, Laertes states to Ophelia–regarding their relationship and how it can only be passing–“…his wil is not his own./For he himself is subject to his birth…for the choice depends/The sanity and health of this whole state” (I.iii.17-18, 20-21). The state of the kingship–and complete disarray  that is Hamlet’s family–is vital to the polis and its relation to itself.

So it’s no surprise to us that we open with watchmen who are awaiting the outbreak of war with Norway. Which brings me to my next point.

hamlet09-1-5a-1

The ghost of the old king is dressed as he was for war with Norway–the war that was won by the hands of Hamlet, when he slew the older Fortinbras–and he is asking Hamlet again  to intercede on his behalf and win a different kind of war. The war against Hamlet’s uncle, the new king, who poisoned not only the king, but the entire heir-system that this country is founded upon.

I’ll get back to the ghost after these messages.

  1. Notice that in scene three, the only characters are Ophelia, Laertes, and Polonius. Family.
  2. The word prodigal is used three times in reference to Hamlet’s emotions to Ophelia. Now, prodigal is an odd word to be used, and to be used three times in one scene. Shakespeare’s got binders full of words, and here he’s using one that brings to mind a little story called “The Prodigal Son.”
  3. Hamlet’s not allowed to go back to school because of his depression. Hmm.

One more thing, and I’ll get back to the ghost, I promise.

Claud_Gert_Hamlet2

Hamlet has a little monologue I want you to look at a little closer, in case you missed it in the sea of monologues that is this play:

So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
As, in their birth–wherein they are not guilty,
Since nature cannot choose his origin–
By the o’ergrowth of some complexion,
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,
Or by some habit that too much o’er-leavens
The form of plausive manners, that these men,
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature’s livery, or fortune’s star,–
Their virtues else–be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo–
Shall in the general censure take corruption
From that particular fault. (I.iv.23-36)

So, I have this theory. Many of you may not have been lit majors, doomed to only understand literature via Aristotle’s poetics (because a few of your teachers are philosophers only) and haven’t had the term FATAL FLAW shoved into every fiber of your being. My theory is–once Christianity hits the scene, Aristotle’s Poetics are nice, good, true, beautiful–but at this point they’re getting half the picture, because what Christianity does is erase the entire notion of a flaw in your character determining your fate. There is no Oedipus in a Christian world. What is Hamlet’s fatal flaw? Because I can’t find it. And here, Shakespeare is making the tragic figure himself outline what a fatal flaw is and how it operates. Shakespeare. You are too cool for school.

So. I lied. About talking about the ghost. Does he come from hell? I could argue that. Purgatory? I could argue that too. I said all I had to say about the ghost in the beginning. Ha! Fooled you.

Until tomorrow, kids.

 

Advertisements

Antony & Cleopatra–Act III

Sometimes life throws you punches and you have to sleep for a week to reconfigure your life.

3-2x5a4225-kim-cattrall-cleopatra-antony-and-cleopatra-photo-by-georgia-oetker

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. 

Antony & Cleopatra–Act II

safe_image

So, Antony gets married to Caesar’s sister to smooth over Caesar’s quarrel with Antony. Let me state the obvious. Or better yet, let’s let Enobarbus state it for me. “He will to his Egyptian dish again. Then shall the sighs of Octavia blow the fire up in Caesar, and, as I said before, that which is the strength of their amity shall prove the immediate author of their variance. Antony will use his affection where it is. He married but his occasion here” (II.vi.126-131).

I’m wondering what the greater message is here–for Antony marries Octavia out of duty, but it will be his undoing when he returns to the bed of Cleopatra. The Literature major in me says that perhaps there is a conflict in letting passions rule reason? The marriage to Octavia is purely rational, while the affair with Cleopatra stems from Antony’s passion.

antony_cleopatra2

 

And Menas. Quite the Machiavellian, killing everyone while they’re drunk on a ship? Or at least conspiring to. Pompey, thankfully, believes more in his honor than in his accomplishments.

I had more to say, but that was before I went to work. My apologies that this couldn’t be a better entry.

Until tomorrow.

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.

SS-Macbeth1

 

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.

image024

 

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?

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.

macbeth

 

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).

macbeth2

 

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 IV

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

still9s

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.

220px-Brutus_and_the_Ghost_of_Caesar_1802

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.

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.

muchposter

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.

muchado-denzel2

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.

much_ado_about_nothing_1993_489x600_637747

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.