Timidity Unbecomes A King

Henry VI being crowned King at only nine months of age was bred into a man with a deep disconnect between who he was and what he was. Being brought up with too many different people making decisions with differing interests sends England into chaos and civil war. By the time he is ready to act as monarch,  the kingdom is in disarray and any decision is bound to offend someone in his inner circle.  When Henry’s son asks him why he will not succeed as king he replies that The Earl of Warwick and the Duke enforced [him]. Seeing the ridiculousness of his response Henry’s Queen Margaret rages Enforced thee? Art thou King, and wilt be forc’t? I shame to hear thee speak. Being crowned as King before he had power to rule blinded him of an awareness of what it meant to be a ruler. What kind of king lets earls and dukes tell him what to do. What is a King without his scepter? Although Henry finally does receives it, he neglects to embrace what it really means. Shakespeare’s depiction of Henry VI shows the inherent complexity of someone entrusted with such a monumental title prior to proving earnest to receive it.

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A Harsh Truth From Coriolanus

One of the most monumental moments in Shakespeare’s tragedies comes in Act four of Coriolanus. After he has been banished from his native Rome, he travels to Antium and submits his life and service to his inveterate arch rival Tullus Aufidius, the military leader of the Volsces. This initially struck me as puzzling since Coriolanus’ very name was awarded from destroying the Volscian city of Corioles, and now he purposed to fight for the side that he had been fighting so tirelessly against for years on end. Coriolanus was truly a great warrior, yet he knew it all too well and condescended the common people of Rome. When he is awarded the title of Coriolanus and is informed, “The senate are well pleased to make [him] consul,” he is asked to speak to the people. He arrogantly replies with, “let me o’erleap that custom,” having nothing but contempt for them. This creates a fundamental problem since he is warrior dedicated to fighting the cities’ enemies, yet cares nothing for the people he’s fighting for. Shakespeare notes in the play, “The people are the city,” and I believe much of this play is a meditation on that one idea.

Despite this flaw in Coriolanus’ character, he still almost ends up winning the consulship; but two newly elected tribunes, Sicinius and Brutus revolt against him by reminding the people of how Coriolanus cares nothing for them, and how they believe his consulship would be a disaster for the people. The people turn against Coriolanus much like they turn against the conspirators in Julius Caesar and he is publicly denounced and extirpated into exile.

The problem here is obvious if we make the distinction that Coriolanus is more a warrior that fought against his enemies rather than for Rome; a warrior nonetheless at heart, he has to be in action somewhere, and naturally he picks a target that fuels him most; the country that thanked his years of life-risking service with humiliation and banishment. He goes to Aufidius and tells him that he will, “fight against his canker’d country with the spleen of all the underfiends.”

Where before Coriolanus fought against Aufidius because he was, “a lion that [he was] proud to hunt,” presumably because Aufidius was the only one that could actually rival him in battle and one of the only men he respected, his reason now turns to, “mere spite,” “revengeful services,” & “benefits for thee[Aufidius]”.

This moment in the play is a very interesting commentary on how great men can fall when they are acutely aware of their own greatness and feel obligated to put it to use whether for good or ill; yet exercised nonetheless.

Wisdom From A Problem Play

In Measure for Measure Claudio is condemned to die by Angelo, the man commissioned by the duke to take his place for an interim term. Claudio’s offense is particularly mild as he merely got his girlfriend Julia pregnant before they were officially solemnized. Claudio’s life goes from happy to dire overnight, and death pervades his every thought while he awaits to see if he will end up paying with his life at his young and inexperienced age.

The duke, disguised as a friar, goes to visit Claudio in prison. He asks him if he hopes for pardon from the acting deputy Angelo. He responds that he is prepared for death yet hopes to live. The disguised duke responds with one of the most magnificent speeches in all of Shakespeare which begins:

“Be absolute for death: either death or life shall thereby be the sweeter.” 3.1 5-6

Shakespeare is showing the vexing nature of having a divided mind, and how having an attitude of indifference makes bad haps seem worse and good ones seem unimportant; we therefore must be absolute. This actually makes sense applied to anything. If we set out to do and we are absolute, we are either going to achieve what we set out to accomplish, or fail knowing that we gave it our all, which is a win in itself. If we are not absolute our failures sting the more and our triumphs seem all the more as trivial.

Shakespeare cautions us to be grateful in any case:

“Happy thou art not; for what thou hast not, still thou striv’st to get, and what thou hast, forgetest.” 3.1 21-23

10 Tragedies; 10 Dangers

Titus Andronicus; the Dangers of Revenge.

Romeo and Juliet; the Dangers of Forbidden Love.

Julius Caesar; the Dangers of Persuasion.

Hamlet; the Dangers of Doubt.

Othello; the Dangers of Jealousy.

Macbeth; the Dangers of Superstition.

King Lear; the Dangers of Wrath.

Antony and Cleopatra; the Dangers of Lust.

Coriolanus; the Dangers of Pride.

Timon of Athens; the Dangers of Money.

Macbeth: an Embellished History! Part 1

If someone were to ask you if you knew the story of Macbeth, you might think someone was insulting your intelligence, but the real story has been obscured by the riveting rendition by the Bard. Historically Macbeth’s wife actually had a reasonable claim to the throne as her grandfather had been King. Her grandfather, King Kenneth III, was killed by King Duncan’s grandfather in battle, and the Moray’s {Macbeth’s family line} had an inveterate rivalry with the Scottish Kings. Historically, King Duncan was not killed during an overnight sojourn with Macbeth but at the Battle of Pitgaveny. Shakespeare may have borrowed the idea of a lavish banquet coupled with an impending act of treachery from a legend regarding a golden apple and the Scottish King Kenneth II. It goes something like this: a highborn woman’s son had been sentenced to death by this King Kenneth the second; and because her son had justly deserved this punishment, the King didn’t suspect she would seek retaliation on him. But this was a malicious and vindictive woman who had in fact helped her son commit the murder which he was being sentenced for; moreover, the King didn’t suspect any retribution on the mother’s part was because the crime was actually committed against this woman’s own father. After the King carries out this sentence on her son, she then invites this King to visit her own dwelling for an extremely lavish banquet [perhaps flattering him for his Virtuous Justice]. Knowing the King’s taste for magnificence, after the end of this great feast, she leads him to an adjoining room glazed in copper, with flowers, marvelous imported furniture, rich tapestries interwoven with gold, and also a majestic bronze statue of the very King himself holding a glimmering gem-laden golden apple. They stood in front of the statue admiring all of its intricate detail until she told him that the golden apple was a gift for him. She walks away at this point pretending to admire a tapestry in the corner; and he, brimming with joy and gloating over his lavish gift, takes the glimmering apple into his hand…and BOOM! It sets off a hidden contraption she had built into the statue, imparting multiple lethal wounds all over his body. Her retribution for her son is satisfied. Shakespeare chooses to make the Macbeths’ motive for murder ambition rather than revenge, yet by incorporating the device of offering hospitality as an accomplice to one’s odious intentions, he emphasizes the theme of deception, a recurring theme in the tragedies. After Macbeth’s death in 1057, it was actually his wife’s son Lulach {his stepson} that inherited the crown, but because he was ambushed shortly thereafter by Malcolm, who was then coronated and reigned for over thirty years, Shakespeare chose to excise that detail. Although Shakespeare paints Macbeth’s reign as brief and full of strife, his time as King was primarily stable, and the lengthy seventeen year reign he enjoyed should not be abridged out of his life’s story. Reserved for Kings held in high regard, he was buried in the anointed ground of Iona.

Hamlet is a Complex Character; jeeze looeeze

When you peel the layers of Hamlet’s character, you find flashes of genius intertwined with indifference, madness, and ruinous rashness. His advice to the players is dead on. The moment where he confides in his close friend Horatio, give me that man that is not passions slave and I will wear him in my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart, as I do thee gives us wonderful insight into the virtues of friendship and temperance. He sheds light on the fact that we as humans are led by our passions which very oft lead us down dangerous paths. Hamlet asserts, there’s a divinity that shapes our ends; rough-hew them how we will. So God guides our destiny, with us having an equal share of power, and we mortals oft act carelessly with monumental decisions. This carelessness we [often unconsciously] perform can often make us feel powerless and indifferent to our existence. Hamlet feels crippled by the lack of influence he feels that he has on his very life. He loses all his mirth and refers to Denmark as a prison; as loathing our own station in life, yet being too complacent to change. Such a soul is Hamlet. He simply refuses to leave. When he escapes execution on his way to England, he chooses to come back to his prison. His mind is infatuated with revenge; revenge for his father’s tragic death. He is in love with the idea of killing King Claudius, but not actually doing it. He makes an excuse even when having the perfect opportunity; Claudius on his knees praying. Hamlet was not resolute. Hamlet promises to the Ghost, “thy commandment all alone shall live within the book and volume of my brain unmix’d with baser matter,” yet this conflicts with his very own paradigm,conscience doth make cowards of us all.”

Hamlet can’t prove to anyone that Claudius killed his father, yet Hamlet still vexes the King’s conscience to such a fever-pitch that the King feels like he has no choice but to kill Hamlet off himself. But, even when he gets back from being held captive at sea, he still delays. It’s not till Hamlet realizes that he’s going to die from the poisoned foil, and that it’s now or never, that he then does what we thought he could never do; act. Hamlet’s madness was fueled by nervous energy incited as a result of being privy to the truth of his father’s murder. He couldn’t act normal knowing what he knew. It weighed on his mind to the point of paralyzation. He often over thought or didn’t think at all but rarely a happy medium.

Banquo

The modern philosopher, Robert Greene cautions to, “be wary of friends, they will betray you more quickly, for they are easier aroused to envy…you have more to fear from friends than from enemies.” Banquo is envious of Macbeth and wants his fair share of the Witches’ prophecy. After Macbeth is crown’d, Banquo says, “Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all, as the Weird Women promised; and, I fear, thou play’dst most foully for’t; yet it was said, It should not stand in thy posterity; but that myself should be the root and father of many kings…may they not be my oracles as well, and set me up in hope?” Banquo shows concern over Macbeth’s ethics in attaining the crown, yet his focus shifts to himself; he becomes more concerned whether Macbeth’s coronation will aid in the fulfillment of his own desires, such as his posterity becoming regal merchandise. Banquo takes no action to expose Macbeth and thinks in terms of future gain for his heirs. It isn’t surprising that Banquo is happy that the prophecy has taken shape, for it favors his gain. He stays silent as he fears altering the fate of the part of the Witches’ prophecy concerning him.

Banquo puts too much trust in Macbeth. His lack of concern over his own safety considering Macbeth murder’d the virtuous Duncan seems slightly credulous, and he leaves his trust in the regicidal Macbeth. Robert Greene writes to, “never put too much trust in friends…” Banquo putting any level of trust in Macbeth proves a monumental blunder as Macbeth becomes envious of Banquo being set up in hope, and begins to feel fearfully suspicious of Banquo’s motives. Every king wishes for a son to succeed their throne after they reign; Macbeth can’t stand the thought of sacrificing the “vessel of his peace” to make “the seeds of Banquo Kings.” This illustrates how one foul crime leads to another. “Blood will have blood.” Because Macbeth murder’d the King foully and has no hope of lineal succession, he feels proclivitous to prevent others from enjoying what he never will. Banquo seems to ignore obvious inferences in the Witches’ prophecy; e.g. if his issue become King, and yet he never does, shouldn’t that tell him to be vigilant of anyone who might want to cut him off. Who else than Banquo, who, other than Lady Macbeth, is exclusively privy to Macbeth’s own regal ambitions. Banquo puts too much trust into this fleeting despot King of Scotland and fails to use the Witches’ insight. If he would have distanced himself from Macbeth, maybe the fates would have been more kind. This misplaced trust Banquo bestows on Macbeth and the overconfidence [or pride] he has in himself procures his demise.

Character Analysis! Proteus from “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”

In the Two Gentlemen of Verona, Proteus proves true to his namesake. Mythologically he is the god of changeability, being likened to water which can easily change its shape. Initially Proteus is smitten with Julia, then, after visiting Milan, he becomes infatuated with Silvia, which makes me wonder whether if he were to travel more during his time abroad, would he forget about her too? Proteus seems confused and doesn’t understand why his strong feelings for Julia have changed so much so fast. He reasons: one nail by strength drives out another so the remembrance of my former love is by a newer object quite forgotten. Proteus’ grasp on the complexities of love appears painfully primitive, yet corresponds with his youthful  naiveté & immaturity. When he says that eating love, inhabits in the finest wits of all, I can’t help but think of the obvious vulgarity that could be interpreted. Proteus is exploring not only love but sexuality as well. The latter takes a predominance in the priorities of youth. If I was going to explain to Proteus why his feelings for Julia have faded into a shade of lack-lustre hueI might tell him something along the lines of…when you’re in different places, there’s one obvious thing that’s difficult to perform; need I say more.

Sonnet no.116 teaches us to stay the course, Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom. In other words, true love is not Protean in nature. We witness his cruel betrayal of his best friend, Valentine, as he exposes his and Sylvia’s plot of eloping to her stern and disciplinary father. According to Proteus, winning Silvia outweighs losing Valentine; romantic love at the expense of friendship is a sacrifice he is willing to make. This tells us a lot about Proteus’ character & maturity; Aiming at Silvia as a sweeter friend. Quid pro quo, this for that. What Proteus finally realizes is that the disloyalty he showed {to both his best friend and Julia back home} was an unattractive quality which would repel any desirable mate. Also, to assume that, when showing interest in someone, that person will without fail return those same sentiments back, seems to me to suggest either extreme credulity or superfluous vanity. Silvia’s disgust at his incessant and uninvited pursuit of her, incites him to threaten to woo her like a soldier. Thankfully Valentine steps forward and prevents this from happening, but nonetheless the sophomoric solutions to Proteus’ seemingly never-ending obstacles he creates for himself throughout this crazy adventure leaves me feeling confident that Proteus has much to learn: about the world; about himself.

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Socrates, Mark Antony and Brutus 

444 “I shall prove indeed that I am not a clever speaker in any way at all–unless, indeed, by a clever speaker they mean a man who speaks the truth.”–Socrates

Mark Antony: “I am no orator…I only speak right on. I tell you that which you yourselves do know.” [truth]

Every man has his own truth. As intellectual beings that is the paradoxical nature of the meaning of truth. Reason, as a rule, is the fundamental path on how we attain our truth. But every man has a different perception of the world. How do we attain the Truth as opposed to a truth allied to a man’s partialities? Perception is where truth meets roadblocks, and the only way to avoid those roadblocks are to look at things without bias. Well that, for many reasons isn’t possible, yet if we aim to not differentiate between things we are merely shrouded in ignorance. So it has to be that we must look at things from every perspective and cross-reference our observations; it seems a more reasonable route to obtaining what we are looking for; yet our inherently fallible nature prevents us from seeing Truth absolute. That’s why there’s no such thing as error, only lessons in humanity:

there’s a divinity that shapes our ends; rough-hew them how we will.

Foremost we must learn to forgive ourselves.

to err is human. forgive; Divine.


 

Another Mistake of Macbeth’s

In Macbeth one of the recurring themes is the relationship between what is perceived and what is real. Macbeth is duped into believing he can get away with murder. Macbeth doesn’t kill the King over any animosity towards him, but rather because of mounting pressure heaped on him by his wife, Lady Macbeth. She relentlessly goads her husband to act, chastising his manhood. Macbeth can’t handle having his manhood called into question by the woman who shares his bed. Consequently this pride of his vexes him much. He’s in limbo; either backing out [impugning his valor] or having his conscience tormented into a state of fear and paranoia. Shakespeare penned the maxim, “conscience does make cowards of us all.” Although Hamlet was written four years prior, Macbeth got that memo a day late and a dollar short. Remembering back to when Macbeth ponders, “if chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me without my stir,” here he actually makes a very intuitive revelation that could of saved him; but not long after this, he writes home with regal aspirations without realizing that such a promise was made to someone whose modus operandi dangerously lingers, “to catch the nearest way.” Lady Macbeth is an ultimate distorter of reality to Macbeth. She corrupts everything that is noble in him. She is unlike her husband who “would’st thou holily.” She makes Macbeth perceive that killing the meek and virtuous King Duncan is a good idea. Shakespeare was teaching the lesson that even if you are able to carry out the perfect crime, you cannot preserve a perfect conscience after the act. Macbeth laments how his mind has become “full of scorpions” and Lady Macbeth ends up abandoning her husband in suicide. Macbeth’s kingship was at no point secure, and the weird sisters had even indicated that after Macbeth’s reign no issue of his would ever rule Scotland; a point that Macbeth should have certainly considered much more thoroughly beforehand. Macbeth realizes too late indeed that, “to be thus is nothing,” and he became both: thus [King] and then nothing.