A lesson from Hamlet

Ermete Zacconi - Hamlet.JPG

After reading the “to be or not to be speech” many times, I have concluded that the most important idea he is trying to get across is that, “conscience does make cowards of us all.” Although I disagree with the act of suicide, this observation made by the melancholy Dane can certainly be interpreted as an explanation to why we don’t do something we clearly should. How many times is there something that is the absolute right thing to do, but when we give our self to mulling it over, our resolve crumbles and we don’t do it. Claudius proclaims, “that, we would do, we should do when would, for this ‘would’ changes…” When you make up your mind, DO IT! For your mind will change, and is as dynamic as the wind. Hamlet suffers greatly from the ignoring of this wisdom. 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 foul and most unnatural murder.” Now we already know Hamlet disobeys his promise of being exclusively focused on the revenge demanded by the Ghost for he begins to show skepticism and delays till it’s too late. When telling Horatio to observe how Claudius reacts to the Mousetrap, the play designed to catch the conscience of the King, Hamlet reveals that he doubts the Ghost, “if his occulted guilt do not itself unkennel in one speech, it is a damned ghost that we have seen.” Perhaps Hamlet realizes that if he kills the King, his own demise is sealed, but that shouldn’t be an issue since Hamlet vowed that the Ghost’s command of revenge was his only concern. Hamlet suffers from his fear of the “undiscover’d country” which indeed [puzzles his will] and dissuades himself from suicide. It wasn’t the fear of an unfulfilled mission of revenge that plagued him, further proof of the mind’s dynamic nature. What Hamlet feared was the mystery of death, and we may learn from Hamlet’s speech that the fear of venturing to anything unfamiliar equally “puzzles the will.” Which adds a compelling significance to Hamlet’s words. For if we can learn something from Hamlet here, even if it is an inferred secondary meaning, why not? If we are to reject both “[suffering] the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” and relinquishing our own life, then we should make “[taking]arms against a sea of troubles” to compel us, to rather boldly [embrace] the name of ‘action’ with enterprises of great pith and moment that transmute our wretched state from a “sea of troubles” to an ocean of fortune.

Some Thoughts on All’s Well that End’s Well


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

Helena is going to pursue 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 her apothecaries which were from her late deceased father who was a physician. She was lucky enough to have her father’s medicine at her disposal, but she had to be most persistant & optimistic for it to actually help her cause. She even hazards her own life against the success of her father’s remedies. The non-pareil of courage & dauntlessness, she is one of Shakespeare’s ultimate examples of fearlessness and bravery. She couldn’t of asked the King for Bertram’s hand in marriage unless she had nursed the King back to health with her father’s physic, and don’t forget she set her own life on the pass line. She discovers what she wants and pursues it with a boldness all her own. She is the paragon of courage in Shakespeare’s comedies, and it inspires us deeply. She is a role-model to anyone that has goals which seem unreachable but in fact are within grasp if we believe & stay the course. She wants Bertram and finds a way to make it happen; this is what makes me so fond of Helena as our heroic protagonist. Although Helena goes through some creative action in order to fulfill Bertram’s two demands: a child by him & his invaluable family ring [one that he promises to never part with], All is Well That Ends Well, and this play certainly does end Well as Bertram promises 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 comforting to know that Bertram plans on sticking around this time. We remember earlier when he agreed to marriage [just to appease the King] and then fled for war, planning to never reunite; 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; which in turn causes him to relent from his stubbornness; he promises that if in fact she has fulfilled his seemingly impossible conditions, he will be her husband. He turns out to be a man of his word. Perhaps he was presaging a motif from The Tempest echoing Prospero’s idea of: this swift business I must uneasy make, lest too light winning make the prize light. What’s earned with toil has a lot more meaning than what is freely gained. Was Bertram a worthy bachelor? It doesn’t really matter that his character was less than perfect [he said some very unkind words in Helena’s prescence], because we don’t know all his motives. 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 cuz that’s what your heart feels. Things base and vile, holding no quantity, love can transpose to form and dignity. Yes, Bertram marries Helena and then flees, planning to never reunite, but let’s put our judgmental hat aside and try and look at his character with a dram of sympathy. He is told by the king to marry her as a command and with only one acceptable answer: yes. According to the King, she is young, wise and fair, but these words are spoken by a king just cured of being gravely ill by this very same woman. It would seem that the King is at least in part a bit 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 all know how frustrating it would be for someone else to choose with whom we were to be with. That is a personal decision that, I think every person has the right to make. 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; so is the will of a living daughter curb’d by the will of a dead father.” We can replace the words ‘dead father’ with “newly cured King” and ‘living daughter’ with “most eligible bachelor”, and it is the same idea. Bertram has no say in his mate. The King takes away his say in the matter and puts him in a position where if he ultimately refused her, he would lose all honor. The fact that Helena goes through what she does; following him afar amidst dangerous war zones, and employing the bed-trick to have his child shows us that there’s more to her love for Bertram than meets the eye. She obviously loves some things about him that we wouldn’t be able to understand unless we were her. The fact that he is good-looking just isn’t enough to justify her persistent and wholehearted love. There are almost certainly other things she loves about him that we can only imagine what they are; and belike there were things Bertram liked about Helena and perhaps multitudinous yet hidden in his heart; belike Bertrams lesson to Helena was akin to Portia’s father’s remembrance: who chooseth me must give and hazard all {she} hath. After the vicissitudes of her adventure, we can say with confidence Helena satisfied this requirement.

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.

An Ode To Timothy


Prospero intends to amend his wrongers’ evil ways through his magical commands mostly performed by his faithful sprite Ariel. Through the harmless shipwreck, Prospero is able to summon all his chief wrongers upon a special island to vex and mind-menace them with visions, sounds and doctrines that turn out to be insubstantial, distorted, or mere half-truths [of course they don’t know that]. These unnerving mirages and contortions of reality lead them to self-reflection & Reformation. Although it’s not specifically quoted in the play, they’re basically taught what measure ye mete, it shall be measured back to you again. So Ariel and his master reform the evil-doers and teach them the Wonder of Forgiveness. Prospero’s mission is complete.

Samantha R. Literature Blog

While reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest all I continued to wonder is what is Prospero trying to acomplish? Is he seeking revenge on his brother, Antonio? At first glance, Prospero seems to be hatching up an evil plan, Shipwrecking a king, his prince, and their men (including Antonio) when he instructs his enslaved spirit, Ariel: “Hast thou, spirit,Performed to point the tempest that I bade thee?” (1.2.194-195). Ariel informs Prosporo that he carried out all Prospero’s orders as ordered to. What I could’t help to notice was that Prospero is concerned with their well being when he asks Ariel, ” But are they, Ariel, safe?” (1.2.217). Evil characters are not concerned with their victims’ safety, so why is Prospero? What are his intentions?

Prospero even seems evil in his treatment of Ferdinand, the prince of Naples, who has fallen in love with Prospero’s daughter, Miranda. Prospero threatens:” Come, I’ll manacle thy neck and feet…

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Socrates, Mark Antony, Brutus & Truth

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 truth. But as 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 perception. Well that, for obvious reasons, is not possible. If we can’t perceive anything we are merely shrouded in void. So it has to be  be that we must look at things from every perspective. That’s the only way we can get anywhere near the truth from a human context. That’s why there’s no such thing as error, only lessons in humanity, for there’s a divinity that shapes our ends; rough-hew them how we will.

to err is human. forgive; Divine.