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 the King; 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.

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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 hearts, 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 wherewith we abide, 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.

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 firm dominance 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, yet 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 Proteus’ inconstancy to Julia and to his best friend, Valentine; exposing the plot of his friend running away with Silvia and tells this to her strict 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.


 

Bassanio’s Insight

222 “So may the outward shows be least themselves, the world is still deceived with ornament.”

Says Bassanio—Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t assume one is brave just because they wear upon their chin, “The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars.” Portia’s father designed the test of the three caskets to prove a point: sometimes what is prized—silver and gold, prove dangerous commodities to possess. Whereas lead, although less valuable, can carry hidden value (lead caskets preserve well) and are more secure in the realm of eternal riches. To draw a corollary, what can’t be filched so easily by others should be valued dearer; such as health, friends, love & peace of mind. Money is a secondary necessity; despite its obvious importance, too much emphasis is put on it in society; not to mention it oftentimes just masks the debased quality of the thing it mingles upon.

Coriolanus


“We had rather be the oppressor than the oppressed.”—William Hazlitt

A pot of boiling water will only boil for so long until it spills over. People only withstand being abused for so long until they take a stand. “There’s no more to be said but he [Coriolanus] is banish’d, as enemy to the people and his country. It shall be so.” Coriolanus was a brilliant warrior and defended his country wholeheartedly, but he had no respect for the common people. He possessed much pride in himself and to an extent rightly so; but Coriolanus took it too far. He saw the people as weak fickle minds and not as citizens of his country he loved and fought for; he didn’t understand or appreciate the value of offering even the slightest sense of cordiality; this is what engendered his abundance of strife. He failed to realize that Pride is an ugly canker that eats up all the rosy joys of Victory. Brutus and Sicinius, two tribunes who were fed up with Coriolanus’ condescending attitude, incite Coriolanus into a tirade which ultimately results in his banishment; a cautionary tale in regards to the importance of the virtue Temperance. Coriolanus offers a poignant remark in solitude that reads, “I shall be loved when I am lacked.” Something that we all hope rings true when we all make our final departure. Although Coriolanus isn’t humble in any sense of the word, I do admire that Coriolanus is genuine with himself. He doesn’t disguise how he truly feels; he puts his true sentiments out there for everyone to discern, and that takes courage. He wasn’t a tyrant trying to make everyone else his pawns; he fought bravely on the front lines and defended his country successfully at Corioli. He may have talked the talk but he had the battle scars and accolades to back it up. He was a cocky soldier that fell victim to prideful anger; the tribunes knew his disposition and exactly how to push his buttons, and they did. It was the tribunes dirty politics of manipulating the already frustrated multitude for their own agenda, and that’s what makes this play so tragic. Rome would have been in a world of hurt if a mediocre soldier that spoke nice to the people replaced our tragic hero. Part of the tragedy in this play is that even after Coriolanus is banished and briefly turns against his own native land, he ultimately presents a strong case for Redemption by signing an official Truce, preventing the ruin of his homeland, and saving the very people that turned their back on him. Coriolanus is murdered as Aufidius deemed his course of action humiliating to his army. The people of Rome turned their back on Coriolanus, but he, in the end, refused to turn his back on them.

Lady Macbeth’s Poison

In Shakespeare’s Tragedy Macbeth, Lady Macbeth is the strongest force of evil. Although Macbeth carries out the regicide and subsequent bloodshed, we are reminded of his stern reluctance when he asserts I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent but only vaulting ambition which o’er-leaps itself and falls on the other. He possessed grandiose aspirations but harbored No Intent on committing acts of treachery in order to achieve them. It was Lady Macbeth that coalesced Macbeth’s imagination into a harrowing and damning reality. Macbeth would have proved most noble [just like Hamlet would have] had Certain Things Gone Differently, [but that’s a debate of Fate Vs. Self-Will]. Lady Macbeth manipulates Macbeth to the hilt. When she ridicules his lack of masculinity [after coming back bravely from battle with heaps of honors: go figure] Lady Macbeth makes the utterly shockingly mind-boggling comment about how she would dash the brains out of her own child before she would act as emasculated as Macbeth was in showing hesitation in going through with the killing of King Duncan {I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this}. Henceforth, we get a sense that this woman harbors a malevolent and dangerously determined sense of ambition all her own. Lady Macbeth corrupts “the noblest [not Roman] of them all.” Think back in the beginning; when the sergeant lauds Macbeth’s bravery in battle: “Brave Macbeth, well he deserves that name.” Macbeth was doing great; Macbeth was doing wonderfully, but two major things went awry; 1, meeting the weird sisters & 2, writing that infamous prophetic letter to Lady Macbeth which consequently fed her already gormandized thirst for the crown. The “weird sisters” were certainly a legitimate force of evil, but Macbeth had the sense to put regicide into perspective; even after his mind roamed to regal aspirations he reasoned: “If chance will have me king why chance may crown me without my stir.” He even sternly commands Lady Macbeth that he has decided not to go through with the bloody deed. e.g. We will proceed no further in this business. He just wants to enjoy his new title that he rightfully earned, basking in his new honors; but Lady Macbeth is resolute in her wickedness to pollute his mind with her plethoras of perniciousness. Macbeth knows no way to defend Lady Macbeth’s derision and mockery. She knows how Macbeth’s mind operates “to the ‘T’” and knows exactly which buttons to push. He is helpless against her upbraidings and falls victim to her cunningly persuasive rhetoric {who dares receive it other as we shall make our griefs and clamour roar upon his death}, and she knows it full well {just as Eve tempted Adam and caused the fall of man}. She is the Serpent hidden under Macbeth’s very nose, and once bitten; there is no antidote.

A Conjecture


In 1593 Marlowe escaped to Naples to avoid charges of Treason from the High Court. Was Marlowe Shakespeare’s ghost-writer? Could it be that they worked as a team? Just like Rosalind and Celia in As You Like It, they were close to each other—being born the same year and working in the same profession. Note Celia’s lines to her father Duke Frederick; if she be a traitor, why so am I. We still have slept together, rose at an instant, learn’d, play’ed, eat together, and whereso’er we went, like Juno’s swans, still we went coupled and inseperable. Keep in mind that these roles would be played by males in their mid teens (a time when we can infer Shakespeare and Marlowe were especially close). Being reminded of days past with his famous friend Kit Marlowe, I can only imagine the nostalgia Shakespeare felt watching an afternoon performance of As You Like It at the brand new Globe. Fast forward twelve years; the final performance of Shakespeare’s tenure was arriving; Marlowe planned a return, and it was to be made a grand one. Did Marlowe play Prospero? In the epilogue, this Prospero announces that he is hanging up his hat for good; he pleads forgiveness for his misdeeds & deception, because his {life’s} project...was to please.  This is more of an epilogue to Shakespeare’s career than it is for The Tempest. It was certainly a risk for Shakespeare to consort with Marlowe given his less than spotless history & reputation; yet I am reminded of a poignant scripture from the King James Bible which was published the same year as The Tempest, 1611. The following is from the epistle of James, Jesus’ brother:

Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

Prospero, in this same epilogue, asks the audience to play a game; he tells them that they can show that they forgive him by virtue of their applause; as you from crimes would pardoned be, let your indulgence set me free! The audience applauses and little by little he undissembles himself. As the applause culminates into an insurrmountable roar, he is left with looking just like himself; a miracle, someting that the bystanders almost couldn’t believe. What they thought could only happen in a play is now happening in real life right before their very eyes. KIT MARLOWE IS ALIVE?! The audience goes wild as their modern day Pop Superstar is back and I mean undeparted boldly and with style. The transgressor has surely been reformed and all is well. As to Shakespeare’s last dramatic words, we have these ten; enjoy!

Then to the elements be free, and fare thou well!!

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.

Childishness and Foolishness in King Lear

When we look at the play King Lear, it includes much foolishness and childishness. The two terms at first glance seem to be the same thing, and although they are similar, they are not the same. Childishness is concerned with relying on a maternal figure; a lack of independence coupled with a self-conciousness towards mistakes when consequences appear. Foolishness {as defined by dictionary.com} is, “lacking forethought or [lacking] caution.” At the outset, King Lear acts with a consummate foolishness by disinheriting the only daughter who truly loves him and leaving the rest to the odious pair hight Goneril and Regan. Cordelia also acts foolishly when she refuses to tell her father how much she truly loves him. It loses her share of the kingdom and sends the whole land into havoc giving her malevolent sisters full reign against their most vulnerable father. As the play wears on we see King Lear comsumed by a destructive kind of childishness. He has lost his independence and seems to be searching for some kind of consolement for his mistake against his youngest and True daughter Cordelia; this has consequently left him out in the cold raging against a terrible tempest of the elements. The fool in a certain sense takes on a maternal role to Lear as he is always there to offer his guidance and support along the old man’s heartbreaking journey [coincidentally it is almost certain the role of Cordelia was doubled by the Fool]. Just like a mother, the Fool is never afraid to tell it like it is. He never leaves Lear’s side till his mysterious departure at the end of act 3. King Lear’s initial mistake was indeed foolishness, but his downfall is indeed prompted by utmost childishness. When he is reunited with Cordlia at the conclusion of Act 4, King Lear speaks like a helpless child; he pleads in the name of forgivness [a basic principle of teaching our children] for doing her so much wrong, and Cordelia in turn speaks just like a mother with tenderest consolation. King Lear shows what can happen when we live so long; our minds can make children out of old men.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote:

I think, right there and then, she realized none of us is perfect forever

{Cordelia}