Helena; She Gives All For Love! All’s Well That Ends Well


“Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, which we ascribe to heaven.”

Helena is going to pursue the count Bertram, although it will be anything but easy. Helena cures the King and asks to be granted one request: the count’s hand in marriage. She accomplishes the King’s restoration with the remedies left her late deceased father who was a physician. She was lucky to have her father’s medicine at her disposal, but that alone doesn’t win her cause. After hazarding her own life against the success of her father’s medicines, she exemplifies a great example of unwavering persistance and courage, pursuing her desires after being scolded by the count for her less than opulent backround.  She is a hero that should inspire us to reach what seems impossible. She decides what she wants and sets out to get it. and finds a way to make it happen;  Helena jumps through some crazy hoops in order to fulfill Bertram’s demands: a child from him [after he has forsworn any association with her] & his invaluable family ring [one that he promises to never part with], yet All is Well That Ends Well, and this play certainly fulfills the suggestion of the title as Bertram agrees, after learning she has fulfilled his contingencies, if she, my liege, can make me know this clearly, I’ll love her dearly, ever ever dearly. It’s nice to know that Bertram plans being to his promise. We remember earlier when he agreed to marriage [just to appease the King] and then fled for war, planning to never return; it made our view of Bertram’s character less than stellar, but in the end, he finally realizes the full bent of Helena’s love & true devotion causeing him to relent; and although there is no official on-stage engagement, he will be her husband. He stays true to his word and presaged the motif from The Tempest echoing Prospero’s philosophy: this swift business I must uneasy make, lest too light winning make the prize light.

Was Bertram perfect, no; he said some very unkind things in Helena and the King’s prescence, yet Helena fancied him and that’s all that matters. Shakespeare sheds light on the notion that when you love someone, you don’t love them because they are perfect, but rather you love them because that’s what your heart feels. To borrow from Midsummer, “Things base and vile, holding no quantity, love can transpose to form and dignity. ” Yes, Bertram verbally agrees to marry Helena and then books it out of town, planning to never reunite, but putting our judgmental hat aside we can look at his character from a sympathetic perspective; he is commanded by the king to marry Helena, and with only one acceptable answer: yes. According to the King, she is young, wise and fair, but these words spoken are by a king just cured of being gravely ill. The King is here at least partially biased. Perhaps Bertram is accustomed to some idiosyncrasies of Helena’s which he just can’t stand; or maybe he just doesn’t like the idea of someone choosing for him. We may be reminded of Portia [in the Merchant of Venice] who laments, “O me, the word choose! I may neither choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike.” Bertram has no say; the The King puts him in a position where if he fully and absolutely rejected her, he would lose all the honor that he enjoys as a count by disobeying the King; consequentially he gives Helena an impossible quest. The fact that Helena goes through what she does; following him through dangerous war zones, and using the bed-trick to have his child clearly shows there’s more to her love for Bertram than meets the eye. She obviously loves some things about him that no one would be able to understand unless we were her. The fact that he is good-looking just isn’t enough to justify her persistent zeal to win his love. Perhaps Bertrams lesson to Helena was akin to Portia’s father’s counsel: who chooseth me must give and hazard all {she} hath. After the vicissitudes of all her endeavors, we can say with confidence Helena satisfied this.

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Macbeth And Time

The word ‘time’ is used frequently in the tragedy of Macbeth, and everything about timing seems to disfavor Macbeth. He himself seems to suspect that time is not on his side, “time thou anticipat’st my dread exploits.” Macbeth’s perspective is initially scewed when promised to become Thane of Cawdor, for it comes to fruition immediately. Macbeth’s expectations for becoming King become unrealistically ingrained within him from this precarious timing. The hint of promotion to The Thane of Cawdor materializing immediately, made him accustomed to instant gratification in matters most dangerously precarious: the subsequent prophecy of gaining the throne. The insidious Sisters knew if they could gain his trust, they could cause him to act without discretion. Because Macbeth ends up putting his faith in them, he seals his own fate. He shows how easily we can jump to a big conclusion with just a modicum of manipulation especially when we are at our most vulnerable.

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 a 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.

A lesson from Hamlet

Ermete Zacconi - Hamlet.JPG

After reading the To Be Or Not To Be Speech many times, I have concluded that thesis of the soliloquoy is, conscience doth make cowards of us all. Although I firmly oppose suicide, this observation made by the melancholy Dane can certainly be interpreted as an explanation to why we often fail to take action in any other matters. When a good opportunity arrives, we often give ourself over to mulling in a dizzying perpetual motion, crumbling our resolve and none the wiser. Claudius proclaims, that we would dowe should do when wouldfor this ‘would’ changes… We all remember when he vows to the Ghost, thy commandment all alone shall live within the book and volume of my brain; unmix’d with baser matter. What was the Ghost’s command? To revenge his…murder.We know Hamlet isn’t exclusively focused on the Ghost’s command, for he grows grossly skepticical and dillydallies till it’s much too late. When telling Horatio to observe how Claudius reacts to the Mousetrap, the play arranged to catch the conscience of the King, Hamlet claimed to have doubts about the Ghost:

if his occulted guilt do not itself unkennel in one speech, it is a damned ghost that we have seen.”

Hamlet feared that if he killed a blameless King, his own demise was sealed; yet the quality of fear would fall into the index of baser matter; a category the young prince vehemently denounced; consequently we can deduce rather that Hamlet suffered from vivid fantasies of the undiscover’d country from whose bourn no traveller returns which indeed [puzzles the will] and dissuaded him from action. Hamlet obsessed over the mystery of death, and we can learn from Hamlet’s words that venturing anything in unfamiliar territory can equally puzzle the will; last time I checked no one knows exactly what tomorrow will bring, adding a compelling significance to his words; for if we can learn something from Hamlet, even if it is an inferred message; why not? 

Reject suffering; reject taking arms:

vivet. cogita nihil ultra

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.

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, another reason the King didn’t suspect any complicity on the mother’s part was because the crime was actually the murder of this woman’s own father (the young man’s grandfather). 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 from his life’s story. Reserved for Kings held in high regard, he was buried in the anointed ground of Iona.

Hamlet’s Infamous Question


Hamlet shows his skill for contemplation as this whole speech is concerned with a single question; which is more noble? We get a good glimpse of Hamlet’s pessimism. He goes through an exhaustive seven-fold laundry list of life’s troubles which paint the human existence into a most dark expanse of bleakness. It is no wonder that Hamlet earned the title of The Melancholy Dane. By virtue of his word choice in this most famous soliloquy, he concludes that we either suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or end themNothing in between. But we can keep in mind that Hamlet’s perspective is negatively biased. Just like Shakespeare’s other tragic heroes, he too is fortune’s fool {Romeo}. He has remarkably tough circumstances that distort the way he sees the world. This furnishes his mind to drift most pessimistically; in this most momentous speech, he proffers his deepest darkest & most personal cogitations aloud; ones that haunt us; that after our natural lives there there could be an undiscovered country [that would make us] rather bear those [insufferable] ills we have [rather] than fly to others that we know not of. It’s a trick question that Hamlet poses, for there is no definitive answer. It’s a paradoxical conundrum that has puzzled actors, readers and audiences alike for over four centuries. Perhaps what makes you noble is merely considering the question.

To be or not to be that is the question:

Whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end 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 his intent 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!!

Lady Macbeth’s Advice


Lady Macbeth’s advice to Macbeth when he starts having doubts about committing his heinous crime is well paraphrased with the following quote:

“Think as you like, but behave like others.”–Robert Greene

Lady Macbeth advises her husband, “Only look up clear, to alter favor ever is to fear.” The word ‘fear’ in the aforementioned quote is used to mean causing others to feel suspicion; synonymous with afear. When we start acting differently, people try to figure out what it is that is bothering our conscience. When Macbeth acts so unnatural and exaggerates his reply when he is told the King is slain, he stands out suspiciously. His proclamation of had I but died an hour before this chance, I had lived a blessed time sounds painfully rehearsed and insincere. Malcolm even categorizes musings of this kind as an unfelt sorrow…which the false man does easy. Although we often try to rise above commonness, sometimes standing out is a bad thing, especially when people are on the lookout for the rotten egg.