Shakespeare’s Overarching Subtext Part Two

Spread love not a lack thereof.


King Lear; Lessons Taught and Learned

Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth. I love you according to my bond no more, nor less. In the conclusion of the Tragedy of King Lear, Edgar offers some wise words about how we should Speak what we feel not what we ought to say. We may feel confused as to who Edgar is talking about as Cordelia was frank about her feelings; but the dishonesty sprung from the sisters’ covert flattery, filching the land into their pockets. Their corruption prompted Cordelia to be stingingly curt & short with Lear cuz she was so frustrated with what she knew was going on; odious manipulation. This lavish flattery was beyond hyperbolic. Everything in this world is action and reaction; one thing affects another thing. When in the realm of Shakespeare’s canon, this truth is magnified exponentially. Cordelia after witnessing her sisters’ evil, attempts to teach her father a harmless lesson in credulity, possibly and more than likely comingled with a touch of pride; her honesty was greater than theirs [a gross understatement but a paradox as well]. Cordelia eventually realizes King Lear is in dire straits (and by dire straights I mean wandering around the hills of Dover naked) with flowers around his head. 

However, it is too late; the enemy has grown too strong; King Lear and Cordelia are now at the mercy of their captors which only relent till after Cordelia is hanged. King Lear is reminded of his folly with his dearest Cordelia grasped betwixt his arms and dies fast as the scene is just too much for him to take.

Antony’s Speech Delivery

In the Tragedy of Julius Caesar, the power of persuasion works spectacularly in the eulogy oration performed by Marc Antony. In Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power, Law 12 reads: “Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim.” The victim in this case would be the citizens of Rome; they lost their well-beloved leader. Greene also mentions: “One sincere and honest move will cover dozens of dishonest ones/ open-hearted gestures of honesty and generosity bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people/ once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can deceive and manipulate them at will.” Antony opens with one of the most warm and kind-hearted commencements in the English language promulagating to the Universe, “Friends Romans Countrymen, lend me your ears.” After his resounding greeting to the People, Marc Anthony proclaims, “I come to bury Caesar NOT to praise Him.” In reality he is being crafty. He has all intentions of praising Caesar, just not conspicuously. He uses covertly persuasive rhetorical tactics to convert the multitude to mutunity. When Anthony says, ‘He was my friend faithful and just to me,’ he is praising Caesar, but he follows it up with a clever circumvention by saying, “But Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man.” Think back to when Brutus told Antony, “You shall not in your funeral speech blame us but speak all good you can devise of Caesar.” Marc Antony’s speech starts out by promising not to praise Caesar, but he does not fulfill that request. He tells Brutus he would not blame the conspirators, yet he does by saying the words ‘honorable man’ repeatedly and sarcastically. Antony speaks his words that when taken at face value denote him ethical in keeping his promise of speaking the conspirators blameless, but the manner in which he extravagantly lauds Caesar with a rhetorical dexterity that might even make Aristotle jealous impugns Brutus’ integrity and makes Brutus look absolutely terrible to the people [remember he dealt the fatal blow to Caesar]. This makes any malicious motive on Antony’s behalf seemingly ridiculous to even consider. His rhetorical prowess is his secret weapon. As he’s getting the people to side against the conspirators he exclaims, “You all did love him once not without cause, what cause withholds you then to mourn for him.” Back to Robert Greene now, I want to mention the 13th Law and that is to, “Appeal to people’s self-interest.” Note the verbiage ‘appeal to’ not “satisfy” their self-interest. Anthony mentions that Caesar left a will for the people. He waits to disclose the will till the end of his dissertation in order to hold the people’s attention. In order to cement his place in the assemblie’s high esteem, he promises them an inheritance (one that Brutus neglected to mention *implying possibly he was hiding it from them); he reads Caesar’s will which renders to every several citizen seventy-five drachmas. This certainly appeals to everyone as it is an extremely generous gesture, and this completely wins even the hesitant crowd to Antony’s side. But just because the will says that the people will get that money, doesn’t mean that it will in good faith be executed. This is how he manipulates the throng of people. He never does render the people their seventy-five drachmas after making a definite declaration of their entitlement to it, but by promising it, he appealed to their self-interest, and because thereunto the people were so galvanized from Antony’s riveting delivery, they looted and burned the house of Brutus and the conspirators. The money wasn’t even on their mind; havoc was. In reality Antony satisfied his own self-interests; not only by keeping the money [with the other two trimvirs] but in turning the people against the conspirators causing them to flee and eventually conquer a war against them. In conclusion he uses selective honesty in his speech by making not so much his words incendiary but his delivery. 

“Mischief, thou art afoot, take thou what course thou wilt!”


Today’s selected Shakespeare word is providence.

The most famous usage of this word comes from Hamlet. “There’s special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” Interestingly enough, we understand what that means; [even if we’re not exactly sure what providence means].By definition it refers to something’s higher purpose, usually making reference back to God in some form. When Miranda asks Prospero, “How came we ashore?” He tells her, “By Providence Divine.” A semi-redundant clause; a modern day equivalent of that might be something like, “God was with us.” The thing I love most about this word is that it’s not biased to what has happened [good or bad] in the past or prudent to our own selfish desires, but commeddled with an understanding for the common good that all that happenx, triumphs and trials alike, was willed to be so by a force greater than ourselves.

In loving memory of Hamnet; January 30, 1585-August 8, 1596.

Shakespeare I’m sorry you had to die at the innocent age of only 11 years old, but know your spirit never died and neither did your father’s. This article is my Father’s day present to your dad. God Bless you, and may God Bless England and its allies.

Sonnet no. 18 & related material

But thy eternal summer shall not fade…

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see

So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Then happy I, that love and am beloved

Where I may not remove nor be removed.”

Love is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wand’ring bark,

Love is not Time’s fool,

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.”

William Shakespeare

Twelfth Night Memories From Long Ago!

One of the things I love about Shakespeare is that every presentation of any given play is unique in its own way. Directors make choices how the given narrative will unfold based on the actors involved and a creative vision which will they feel will connect with their audience. Along those same lines, I love the fact that with each and every person, different things stick out in their mind when describing what they feel is the essence of the story. This gives the potential for every retelling to be an exciting adventure that feels as fresh and unpredictable as the first time we discovered it. This was one of the first Shakespeare shows I ever saw, I was around 14 or 15 when my dad took me to Shakespeare Santa Cruz in California, so it has a special place in my heart. I remember reading the act and scene summaries to dad, quizzing him on who loved who, as he was a self-proclaimed Shakespeare virgin. Sitting at the kitchen table for hours , we went round and round, laughing at our inability to get the story right; it seemed to him like an unsolvable riddle trying to figure out the storyline: something like, “the Duke loves Olivia, Olivia loves Cesario, the Duke sends Cesario, who is really Viola, to woo Olivia, but feels bad because he, who is really a she, loves the Duke herself.” After we realized that we had understood the story as much as we could, we finally put the printed notes off the internet aside and drove off to see the play. Although I remember being overjoyed seeing this play for the first time, the memory with dad stuck with me even more and left me with holding this play very near my heart. My dad has remained supportive of my efforts with this blog and has been a prominent source of inspiration for many of my posts. Love you Dad!

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or is it possible that Shakespeare went to Naples, and Marlowe disguised himself as Shakespeare and with his mastery at dissembling played as if he was Shakespeare and Marlowe acted “his part” until he revealed himself in the epilogue of The Tempest to ask forgiveness for his years of deceit;  he confesses he has become a Christian [just as Shylock was sentenced to do in The Merchant of Venice]. To say the least, Mercury may have been a busy entity.

Delusional Richard!

When King Richard III falls off from his horse fighting Richmond, Richmond being the man who defeated him at Bosworth Field and consequently established the Tudor dynasty, Richard shouts out in disbelief, “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” He is quite delusional for blaming his unfortunate predicament on an indifferent mare, yet this supports a theory of human psychology that people prove creative rationalizers in order to deflect personal responsibility; however this only works for so long. Eventually we must take an honest inventory of ourselves impartial to our intrinsic pride. Richard from the outset embarks on a self-destructive path, yet he still believed he could pull it off with something I like to refer to as: psychotic optimism. When this mindset takes hold of someone, regardless of whether or not their actions are self-destructive: they believe things will work out for the best, but as Billy Joel says, “When the fun falls through and the rent comes due…it surely will catch up to [you], somewhere along the line.”