Macbeth’s Impatience and The Witches Goading

Macbeth is a man who wants something he cannot properly have.

If he was ever to become King legitimately, (had he refrained from his crime), maybe his “grapes would have ripened.” But as it stood in this story, they turned out to be as sour as his reign.

If grapes can stand as a metaphor for attaining the crown, the mischievous witches were dangling sour grapes in front of a starving foxe’s face to mislead him into thinking there was a satisfying snack in store; unfortunately the fox couldn’t distinguish between ripe and unripe ones; still jumping for them, he ate them and was shown that they were nasty, sour & unsatisfying.

As he was distracted trying to swallow these gross grapes which struggled to go down his throat, he fell into a trap and eventually starved.

Figuratively speaking, this is what happened to Macbeth; what Macbeth saw looked like tasty fruit; it just didn’t turn out to be. He might have become a great king and certainly had hope of that, but it wasn’t his time yet. Macbeth embraced enthusiastically his future as King but ultimately failed to acknowledge the fact that he was abundantly lost in delusion and in a state of utter “unripeness.”

After falling for the witches deceitful promises, Macbeth embraces the idea of attaining something he cannot properly have. He was tricked into procuring his own downfall through the stimulation of ambition for something out of his reach; The Weird Sisters knew his credulity for matters superstitious as a “foregone conclusion,” & from this he wasn’t level-headed enough to eschew it.

Naive and subsequently evil; just plain evil.

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The Speech That Sums It All Up In “The Two Noble Kinsmen”

If the epilogue to the Tempest is Shakespeare’s official farewell to the theatre, then the last speech of TTNK (not including the epilogue strongly presumed to be authored by Fletcher) is Shakespeare’s ultimate farewell of farewells; it is likely that, other than his will, it is the last thing he wrote. It is a speech that ranks as one of the most momentous in the canon as it summarizes one of the most profound and ultimate truths life:  the inherennt uncertainty & vicissitudinousness of fortune. It is render’d in poetic terms unmatch’d by any:

[5.4 lines 123-136] A day or two

Let us look sadly, and give grace unto

The funeral of Arcite, in whose end

The visages of bridegrooms we’ll put on

And smile with Palamon; for whom an hour,

But one hour since, I was as dearly sorry

As glad of Arcite; and am now as glad

As for him sorry. O you heavenly charmers,

What things you make of us! For what we lack,

We laugh, for what we have, are sorry; still

Are children in some kind. Let us be thankful

For that which is, and with you, leave dispute

That are above our question. Let’s go off,

And bear us like the time.

I think it’s heartwarming to note that the last speech Shakespeare ever wrote leaves us with the Bard’s impression of what it means to be truly grateful for our lives. Shakespeare certainly realized that he had lived an incredible life and here two years before his death, he promulgates his gratitude: “Let us be thankful for that which is, and,…leave dispute that are above our question.”

What a beautiful paradigm for us to live by as we navigate through this crazy adventure we call life; continuing to discover and re-discover what it means to be human. We thank you so very much, William Shakespeare, Sweet Swan of Avon!

Hamlet and Ourselves

Melancholy possesses Hamlet in a way that makes us feel he must have been very close with his father; although he doesn’t mention any specifics regarding their time together, he does give us a glimpse into how hard this loss hits him:

“I have that within which passes show, these but the trappings and the suits of woe.”

Hamlet is telling us that what he feels is something beyond what can be demonstrated. Perhaps he is bitter because he never got to say a final goodbye, or maybe he is struck by the thought of never seeing his father’s living face again:

“I shall not look upon his like again.”

Whatever it is, the young Hamlet we meet in this play is a much different one than the one we might have met in Wittenberg.

Hamlet shuts down; he gives up school, [forgoes] “all customs of exercises,”& becomes a murderer.

If by chance Hamlet were to survive the action of the play and be tried for the murder of Claudius and Polonius, his defense would be laughable.

This play serves as a cautionary tale that when we suffer “outrageous fortune” we need to pause and consider our next course of action, before we become a version of ourselves that we don’t recognize.

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.

Iago’s Manipulation Of Othello

Iago uses countless tactics to make Othello believe that Desdemona is unfaithful. Such a tactic is described in Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power. Law 32 is to play to people’s fantasies; Iago does this with a brilliance all his own, and in 3:3 Iago puts his skills to work. When Othello asks for an example of how Desdemona is unfaithful, he contrives a quite convoluted response. I urge you to read it over as a cautionary tale to the notion that not everything that sounds true is true.

I lay with Cassio lately

And being troubled with a raging tooth

I could not sleep. There are a kind of men

So loose of soul that in their sleeps will mutter 

Their affairs — one of this kind is Cassio.

In sleep I heard him say ‘Sweet Desdemona,

Let us be wary, let us hide our loves.’

And then, sir, would he gripe and wring my hand,

Cry ‘O sweet creature!’ and then kiss me hard

As if he plucked up kisses by the roots

That grew upon my lips, lay his leg o’er my thigh,

And sigh, and kiss, and then cry ‘Cursed fated

That gave thee to the Moor!’

The notable thing about this speech is that it completely fabricated. Nothing in this speech actually took place; it is all injuriously contrived. He takes a blameless Cassio and paints him as a double-crossing monster. What makes this speech effective though is that it leaves room for Othello’s imagination to run rampant. We can imagine Othello conjuring up images in his mind of Cassio vividly dreaming that he is plucking up kisses by the roots with Desdemona; a vision that doubtless tortures the moor. We can imagine Othello envisioning Cassio and Desdemona exchanging sensual words & poses most graphically in {his}mind’s eye. Iago desription is crafted with consummate rhetorical prowess. He fuels the jealousy of his master Othello, and by making his narrative so vividly explicit, he sparks his master’s most incessantly self-vexing fantastical imagination.

A wise man {Alexander Chase} once said:

“The most imaginative people are the most credulous, for them EVERYTHING is possible.”

Unluckily for Othello the man he trusted most knew this all too well and consequently adulterated the Moor’s sanity piece-meal to a murderous madness.

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.