Critic Harold Bloom shows much frustration that “everything is amiss in the Two Gentlemen” and that “Shakespeare could not of cared less” about this comedy. I attribute this sentiment not to Shakespeare’s writing but to Bloom’s superficial interpretation of it. The most colossal mistakes of interpretation come at the end of the play. Two lines which baffle most critics are spoken by Valentine to Proteus. “And that my love may appear plain and free, all that was mine in Silvia I give thee.” Most take this to mean Valentine is offering his lover Silvia to Proteus. If I look at the lines closer while keeping Shakespeare’s typical bawdy undertones in mind, I see that Valentine isn’t offering Silvia to Proteus; he’s offering himself to Proteus! After all wouldn’t he consider his mentula something that certainly belonged to himself…which was “IN” Silvia, that he could “GIVE” to Proteus. And what would make Julia swoon more than her Proteus perhaps looking into Valentine’s eyes, sharing a moment of homo-erotic desire!
Some critics also have a problem with a line that Proteus says. It reads, “what is in Silvia ‘s face but I may spy more fresh in Julia’s, with a constant eye?” Bloom refers to this as “Proteus’ Pragmatism,” drawing a shallow conclusion that Proteus feels like, “any woman will do as well as another.” This is the exact opposite of Proteus’ meaning. Proteus sees that beauty is amplified by faithfulness and mitigated in its absence, expressing this in a kind of epiphany, intimating a kind of metamorphosis from fickleness to loyalty.
Today’s selected Shakespeare word is ‘nakedness.’
Now although this is a state of being in which we aim to enjoy while accompanied by someone in that same condition, in Shakespeare, specifically the tragedies, the word is used in less jovial vein. In King Lear, Edgar, the Duke of Gloucester’s wrongly accused son, strips off his clothes and covers himself in dirt in order to disguise himself as a madman and avoid being recognized and apprehended. He mentions that he will, “with presented nakedness outface the winds and persecutions of the sky.” In Timon of Athens we hear the title character offer one of the most bitter tirades in all of Shakespeare. One the most emotional moments from this speech is when he completely disrobes and determines to seek perpetual refuge from society in the woods. He rants with unmitigated rage, “Nothing I’ll bear from thee but nakedness, thou detestable town!”
Although we might chuckle if we ever got the opportunity to use this word conversationally nowadays: like, “I’m gonna go home and take a shower after I metamorphose into a state of nakedness,” Shakespeare used this word with a natural skill all his own. In addition to Lear and Timon, he uses it in Much Ado about Nothing, “to cover with excuse that which appears in proper nakedness,” and Henry the Fifth, “in his nakedness, he appears but a man.”
My challenge to my readers!
Write a sentence using the word ‘nakedness’ with the intention of not having that word stick out like a sore thumb.
My brain shivers in nakedness when exposed to gusts of stupidity.
Today’s Shakespeare Quote:
“Delays have dangerous ends.” ~Henry VI Part 1
Question for my readers! What are some things that you feel, if delayed, could prove to have “dangerous ends?” ( feel free to offer a humorous response)
A couple of my answers:
1.) Getting stuck on empty because the gas station you drove by didn’t offer your favorite cafe’ latte.
2.) Waiting till you’re completely out of toilet paper before you realize that it doesn’t magically replace itself!
“Give me that man that is not passion’s slave and I will wear him in my heart’s core.” Aristotle describes virtue as something formed by habit of doing what is right without suffering internally; for if we suffer internally, we are bound to prove self-indulgent. Ovid states, “There is nothing stronger than habit.” It is not enough to do things singularly for the improvement of our life, we must find ways of enjoying what we’re doing or that activity will prove unsustainable in our life and be abandoned soon after. In The Merchant of Venice, we hear Portia saying, “If to do were as easy as to know what were good to do, chapels had been churches and poor man’s cottages prince’s palaces.” Prosperity isn’t unattainable for anyone, if enthusiasm [love for something] ignites within that person. Shakespeare understood that humans are motivated by what and who they love. Consequently, we must stay steadfast when we do something that’s going to improve our life but takes time and faces us with challenges that can be only be faced with Diligence and Patience; we need a more comprehensive perspective and must avoid looking at life like a fool who might stare at a blade of grass in the ground and conclude after five minutes of scrupulous observation that it was certainly not going to grow. Hamlet notices that it is rare for someone to be guided by anything other than what is immediately gratifying in any given moment, or as he puts it: being passion’s slave. Living with a freedom that propels us towards only the best destinations in life makes our own reality so marvelous that happiness abides and sorrow takes his leave: for good! It then becomes effortless to spread that happiness to others. When we have achieved making both ourselves and everyone around us full of contentment, I think we have then attained [some sense of] virtue.
“Thou, nature, art my goddess. To thy law my services are bound.” Although the word ‘human’ is omitted to describe nature here, that is the exact kind of nature Shakespeare’s villain Edmund is referring to; human nature. One of the things that strikes me about his statement is the malevolence in his tone, which becomes apparent if we read the entire speech. He elucidates the idea that the human species has an innate weakness of credulity only needing the slightest bit of evidence to be o’erswayed in the wrong direction. We see this theme in Macbeth with his trust in the supernatural, Othello with his jealousy of Cassio prompted by the machinations of the evil Iago, and Polonius’ know-it-all over-confidence in knowing the cause of Hamlet’s madness which prompts him to promulgate to the King that Hamlet could be altered such from no other thing besides the “neglected love” of his daughter Ophelia. He’s so confident in his assessment that he is willing to put his life on it. “Take this from this, if this be otherwise,” he boastfully proclaims. Ironically we know Hamlet’s madness was actually contrived to hide his foreknowledge of his uncle’s guilt; so in essence it WAS OTHERWISE than Polonius thought (HE WAS DEAD WRONG-PUN INTENDED) as THIS WAS TAKEN FROM THIS when Polonius is offed behind the arras. In Gloucester’s character, his fault is a blameless one as it is simply his old age and weakening discretion that leads him to his tragic fate. Edmund’s overt surreptitiousness and reluctance to show his forged and incendiary letter against his brother completely persuades his father that his other son, Edgar, was plotting his death to get his inheritance. To defame his innocent brother is horrible, but to incite his elderly father against his own guiltless son is cruel. Edmund uses tactics based on human psychology to convince Gloucester of a lie. The ease with which we all can fall into false conclusions paints a picture of a most precarious existence, and Shakespeare capitalizes on this motif in all of the tragedies. Most of the time if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck; but if we are wrong, even but once, we can fall victim to vicious birds of prey, and be left destitute and feeling remorseful that despite our linear and logical assessments of the world, we are endowed with a thought process susceptible to wrong conclusions. Not everything is as it seems; but most things are, yet when we are wrong, we pay a hefty price.
“To be or not to be, that is the question.”
Does Hamlet pose this question as someone who is sincerely curious for an answer; or a former optimist metamorphosed towards an existential ideology harboring an ever-increasing discontent at the world. He had very strong convictions about revenging his father’s death, so much so much so that he ultimately forgoes regard for his own life. It could be argued he decides neither for nor against his infamous enigma, but rather the surrendering to circumstances in which he has no control. A good lesson to take from this tragedy is that it’s not feasible for one person to right the wrongs of everyone else. We have to use discretion and understand that although some have done us injury, attempting to get even could start a chain-reaction that leads to a dismal end. “Let be.”