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 reluctance when he asserts, “If chance will have me King, why chance may crown me without my stir.”

Macbeth possessed grandiose delusions yet harbored little organic intent of committing acts of Treason to achieve it.

It was Lady Macbeth that coalesced Macbeth’s imagination into a harrowing and damning reality.

Macbeth would have proved most royal [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. She ridicules his lack of masculinity [after coming back bravely from battle with heaps of honors: go figure].

Lady Macbeth makes the utterly shocking mind-boggling comment how she would dash the brains out of her own child before she would act as emasculated as she deemed Macbeth to be in showing hesitation with the murder 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 to the outset; when the sergeant lauds Macbeth’s bravery in battle: “Brave Macbeth, well he deserves that name.” Macbeth was doing great; everything was peachy, but two major things went awry:

One; meeting the, “weird sisters.”

Two; writing his infamous & prophetic letter to Lady Macbeth which consequently fed her 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 roams to regal aspirations he concedes, “I have no spur to prick the sides of my intent.”

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 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 against Lady Macbeth’s derision and mockery. She knows how Macbeth’s mind operates “to the ‘T’” and she knows exactly which buttons to push; he is utterly helpless against her stinging 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}.

Lady Macbeth knows her power over him full well and shakes his resolve like the consummate temptress she is {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.

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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 brilliantly, yet he had no respect for the common people. He had 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 the country he loved and fought for; Rome. He didn’t understand or appreciate the value of offering even the slightest sense of cordiality; this is what engendered his 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’ pride, incite Coriolanus into a tirade which ultimately results in his banishment; a cautionary tale in regards to the importance of the virtue temperance.

In reflective solitude, Coriolanus offers the poignant remark, “I shall be loved when I am lacked.” A sentiment that we all hope rings true when we make our final departure.

Although Coriolanus isn’t humble in any sense of the word, I do admire that Coriolanus is genuine with us. He doesn’t disguise how he truly feels; he puts his philosophy out there for each to discern, and that takes courage.

He was not a tyrant trying to make others his pawns; he fought bravely on the front lines and defended his country successfully at Corioli; earning the magnanimous title of Coriolanus. He may have talked the talk but he had the battle scars and accolades to back it up, yet he was cocky and fell victim to pride.

The tribunes knew Coriolanus’ and the peoples’ disposition to the letter; exactly which buttons to push, and they manipulate the way to their objective with a masterly prowess all their own.

It is the tribunes’ politics of manipulating the already frustrated commonalty for their own partisan agenda that makes Coriolanus’ world so ripe for tragedy.

Rome would have been in a world of hurt if a mediocre soldier, that, [contrarily to Coriolanus], flattered the people, replaced our tragic hero.

Part of the tragedy of this play lies in that even after Coriolanus is banished and afterwards defects to the Volsces, he ultimately presents a strong case for redemption by signing an official Truce, preventing the ruin & destruction of his native homeland, saving the very people that turned their back on him.

Coriolanus is murdered as Aufidius deemed this [Truce] humiliating to his army and all that he stood for.

Why is Coriolanus our tragic hero?

The people of Rome turned their back on Coriolanus, but he, in the end, refused to turn his back on them.

Romeo and Juliet


Norman Holland writes in his classic The Shakespearean Imagination:

“When this tragedy puts love and fighting side by side, it touches the oldest and deepest part of our minds.”

Both love and violence go back to the very start of humanity. In Romeo and Juliet the lovers have to struggle for their love because of the bitter enmity of the households of the Montagues and the Capulets. If their was no struggle, there would be no play.

To draw an interesting parallel, in the Tempest, when Miranda and Ferdinand are courting each other, Prospero reveals an interesting strategy:

They are both in either’s powers; but this swift business I must uneasy make, lest too light winning make the prize light.”

  • Shakespeare uses this profound mentality from the Tempest in Romeo and Juliet.
  • No struggle; no reward.
  • The profoundness of Romeo and Juliet’s love resides in the hurdles they go through that demonstrate the authenticity of their love.
  • Romeo and Juliet never give up on each other, even through to their deaths.
  • Shakespeare was trying to tell us that when love is present, nothing can stand in its way.

Romeo has an uneasy feeling before he meets Juliet. And rightly so; he is entering into the house of the Capulets and was not invited to begin with. But how did he know something was amiss?

He ponders:

“My mind misgives, some consequence, yet hanging in the stars, shall bitterly begin his fearful date with this night’s revels.”

None of us can control our fates. Our destinies‘ are directed by something much bigger than ourselves.

Romeos trespassing  on this momentous festivity of the Capulets, gives him trepidation as to what’s to come; Romeo knows that he himself shouldn’t be there and he hates violence.

He makes this character trait very clear to his best friend and close confidante Benvolio early in the play:

Yet tell me not, for I have heard it all. Here’s much to with love but more with hate. Why then, O brawling love, O loving hate, O anything of nothing first create.

Juliet echoes what Romeo touches on (his ominous sense of doubt); I repeat it for convenience:

“My mind misgives, some consequence, yet hanging in the stars, shall bitterly begin his fearful date with this night’s revels.”

And here is Juliet’s inauspicious premonition which, in hindsight, appears almost as a self-fulfilling prophecy:

Although I joy in thee,

I have no joy of this contract tonight.

It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;

Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be

Ere one can say ‘It lightens.’

Despite their Love, this initial mutual sense of semi-superstitious lingering mistrust greatly contributes to their tragic ends.

After Romeo and Juliet consummate their nuptials, doubt seemingly departing, the currency of love has made a hefty deposit, and we sense the story ill-fated.

There are always things in life that are beyond our control; contrarily, there are always things in life which are in our control. We can always choose to show love; and that love we choose to show to others can multiply exponentially and make a monumental difference in just one or multitudinous lives; the funny thing is you never know exactly which quantitative category you’re affecting; the butterfly effect is always at play.

Be bold; be resolute; go after your hearts desires.

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”

*Measure for Measure

In loving memory of Mr. Strasser, my 8th grade math teacher:

Say what you mean, mean what you say.”

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.

Thoughts Vs. Action in Hamlet’s Character

The idea that thought prompts action is pretty simplistic and universal, but it hinges on the assumption that your thoughts are aligned with your psyche.

When thoughts and inclinations collide we oft take the most comfortable route neglecting the consideration of consequences and make less than optimal decisions.

In order to execute perfect [biblical] revenge, there has to be the paradigm of An Eye For An Eye; A Tooth For A Tooth in operative motion.

Hamlets thoughts concerning retaliation require an element of self-righteous equivocation in order to coalesce into Action.

When a simple & plain man thinks, he uses his reason and understands & acknowledges the consequences of his behavior:

Hamlet is the opposite; he doesn’t give weight to consequences. He lusts for revenge in his mind but little in action.

When he stabs through the arras, he, {apparently}, does so without knowing whom was behind it; perhaps to diminish the chances of a [possible] Treason charge, {if it were King Claudius hiding behind that curtain}; or perhaps to prevent an escape by [the] surmised spy & eavesdropper.

Whatever the case may be, what Hamlet fails to realize:

even if it turned out to be a man other than The King behind the arras, that man’s son would want to avenge that murder just as much as he wants to avenge his fathers.

This rashness of Hamlet’s was his downfall.

Hamlet had the intention of killing The King, yet failed to understand the inherent complexities of stabbing through a concealed barrier; consequently, Laertes gets his revenge.

As Horatio says when all is said and done:

Purposes Mistook Fallen On The Inventors’ Heads.

Childishness and Foolishness in King Lear

When we look at the play King Lear, it includes much childishness and foolishness. 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 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 free reign against their most venerable father. 

As the play wears on we see King Lear consumed 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 young 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 (offering his guidance and support along the old man’s heartbreaking journey) [ironically it is almost certain that 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 Three.

Although Lear’s initial mistake was indeed foolishness, yet his downfall is indeed prompted by utmost childishness. When Lear is reunited with Cordelia at the end of Act Four, King Lear speaks like a helpless child, “You must bear with me; pray you now, forget and forgive: I am…foolish.” He pleads in the name of forgiveness & second chances [a basic principle of teaching our children] for he realizes that he has her so much wrong:

“For, as I am a man, I think this lady

To be my child, Cordelia.”

consequently Cordelia in turn speaks, just like a mother, with tenderest consolation:

“And so I am; I am.”

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}

Wisdom from the Fool

“I marvel what kin thou and thy daughters are. They’ll have me whipped for speaking true, thou’lt have me whipped for lying, and sometimes I am whipped for holding my peace.”

The fool illuminates the truth here that with some people we are always the bad guy:

Saying the truth; they consider it not our place to speak.

Lying; we’re a lowlife.

Saying nothing; we’re somehow a co-conspirator as guilty as the culprit!

Before making the decision to argue, we needs must ask whether we will be made wrong no matter what, and considering that observation; avoidance may prove best; putting pride and blame aside helps work towards a lasting solution.

The fool notices how people have an insatiable desire to always be right; however being right doesn’t prove beneficial, unless it leads to reconciliation; and the rub of all this is, that, when someone actually is in the right, they tend to flout this with an egotistical scorn engendering hate and resentment. This in turn sabatoges any chance of moving forward; heating animosity and spite which can only be relieved with humility, understanding, forgiveness & love.

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!

How Hamlet Defines What it Means to be Human Part. 2

Shakespeare’s contemporary Montaigne writes, in his essay, “Of The Inconsistency Of Our Actions,” that, “Whoever will look narrowly into his own bosom will hardly find himself twice in the same condition. I give to my soul sometimes one face and sometimes another, according to the side I turn her to. If I speak variously of myself, it is because I consider myself variously; all the contraries are there to be found in one corner or another; after one fashion or another: bashful, insolent; chaste, lustful; prating, silent; laborious, delicate; ingenious, heavy; melancholic, pleasant, lying, true; knowing, ignorant; liberal, covetous, and prodigal: I find all this in myself, more or less, according as I turn myself about; and whoever will sift him to the bottom, will find in himself, and even in his own judgement, this volubility and discordance.” These contraries are most prevalent in our title character throughout Shakespeare’s monumental tragedy. So much so, in fact, that more is written on Hamlet than almost any other subject in existence.

We witness Hamlet’s melancholic side when he says of his mourning black attire, “I have that indeed which passes show, these but the trappings and the suits of woe.”

We see his creative side when he contrives a scheme to expose the king’s treachery, boldly resolving, “The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”

We see his charming and affable side when he greets the players come to town, jovially remarking, “You are welcomemasters; welcome, allI am glad to see thee wellWelcome, good friends.”

His abusive side is made evident through Ophelia’s confiding to her father that Hamlet, “took me by the wrists and held me hard.”

His conflictive nature is apparent when he denies loving Ophelia, scolding her and claiming, “not I, I never gave you aught,” then later professes, “I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum.”

We see a satirical side to Hamlet with Polonius in the “words, words, words” scene, when he conjures the sarcastic response, “Yourself, sir, shall grow old as I am, if like a crab you could go backward.”

We also see a gentle and kind side to Hamlet. In his private conversation with his loyal friend Horatio; he eloquently confides his admiration, “Give me that man that is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him in my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of hearts, as I do THEE.”

We even see his cruel side; as in the closet scene with Gertrude. He rails at her with a hateful ferocity that vexes her so deeply, she desperately pleads to the son that she so dearly loves, “O speak to me no more; these words like daggers enter in my ears. No more, sweet Hamlet.”

We are as varied within ourselves as the snowflakes that in winter fall. Hamlet is a man of contraries, and so are all of us; some more than others. He exemplifies the multi-faceted nature of humankind, showing our inherently dynamic essence.

We know what we are but not what we may be.”

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.