Titus’ Greatest Speech

Although Titus Andronicus is not considered one of Shakespeare’s best tragedies, it is not without its compelling speeches. This I believe applies to all thirty-seven plays in the standard canon. Act Three in this tragedy of Titus Andronicus, contains a speech that leaves me breathless in its profundity. In Act Three, Titus bemoans his, “heart’s deep languor,” over two of his son’s shameful and soon-to-be-carried-out executions. Titus has in the past lost, “two and twenty sons,” but he notes, “I never wept because they died in honor’s lofty bed.” The two sons implicated were framed for murder maliciously by Tamora’s lover, Aaron, by being led into a pit disguised with leaves and branches where the stabbed and murdered Bassianus lay. At the outset Tamora’s eldest son was sacrificed by Titus Andronicus himself, which adds an element of karmic irony since Tamora wasn’t directly privy to Aaron’s conspiracy but certainly would invite any harm that would spite Titus. Shakespeare is certainly making an observation that revenge creates a cycle of injuries that results in exponentially increasing bloodshed. In any case, after Titus has pleaded incessantly for his two sons’ lives and is ignored by the tribunes passing by, a brother to the doomed pair, Lucius, chides Titus sternly:

Lucius. O noble father, you lament in vain,

The tribunes hear you not, no man is by,

And you recount your sorrows to a stone.

Titus. Ah, Lucius, for thy brothers let me plead.

Grave tribunes, once more I entreat of you.

Lucius. My gracious lord, no tribune hears you speak.

And then comes Titus’ poignant explanation that he is in fact not speaking to the tribunes at all.

Why, ’tis no matter, man, if they did hear

They would not mark me, if they did mark

They would not pity me, yet plead I must, 

And bootless, unto them.

Therefore I tell my sorrows to the stones,

Who though they cannot answer my distress,

Yet in some sort they are better than the tribunes,

For that they will not intercept my tale:

When I do weep they humbly at my feet

Receive my tears and seem to weep with me…

A stone is soft as wax, tribunes more hard than stones:

A stone is silent and offendeth not,

And tribunes with their tongues doom men to death.

Shakespeare is here showing his appreciation of being able to speak freely, without fear of derision or retribution. We all know the things we say to others have consequences, but there is a satisfaction in speaking what we truly feel to someone who will sympathize with our sorrows and rest indifferent to our misconceptions. The fear of criticism is one of our biggest dreads, as the desire for expression is one of our chiefest needs, and to avoid the former and fulfill the latter Titus boldly decrees his solution and without hesitation:

I tell my sorrows to the stones…

Pericles and Thaisa’s Miracle

The essence of Pericles is hope, miracle, and devotion. In the first scene of act three, a strong tempest rages at sea. After giving birth to Marina at sea, Thaisa is presumed dead . Pericles shows his simple humanity and doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind. He laments, “O you gods! Why do you make us love your goodly gifts, and snatch them straight away?” Thenceforth, the sailors demand that because of the strong storm at sea, that the Queen must overboard, or they believe the sea will refuse to wax calm. Pericles immediately dismisses this as their superstition but the sailors are steadfast and Pericles has no choice but to relent. He offers an emotional tribute to Thaisa that rings painfully heartwreching:

[3.1 lines 56 -64] A terrible childbed hast thou had my dear

No light, no fire, Th’ unfriendly elements

Forgot thee utterly! Nor have a time

To give the hallowed to thy grave, but straight

Must cast thee, scarcely coffin’d, in the ooze;

Where, for a monument upon thy bones

And e’er remaining lamps, the belching whale

And humming water must o’erwhelm thy corpse,

Lying with simple shells.

After Pericles offers his apology for not being able to offer her the proper burial he so firmly believes that she deserves, he asks for some items to assist him in giving her the best burial he can given the circumstances: spices; to preserve a pleasant aroma to her casket, ink and paper; to compose a hand-written petition to bury her, (should the casket be retrieved) and jewels; to afford her burial. Pericles writes thus:

Here I give to understand,

If e’er this coffin drives-land,

I, King Pericles, have lost

This queen, worth all our mundane cost.

Who finds her, give her burying;

She was the daughter of a king.

Besides this treasure for a fee,

The gods requite his charity!

 He also procures a water-sealed casket to preserve her body. His devotion and love is as boundless as the sea, and it is beautiful to witness. It is obvious from our observation in this scene, that he had no reasonable expectation of ever seeing her again, but because the sailors wanted her overboard straightaway after presuming her dead, we cannot be sure if or if not Pericles had any modicum of hope that she might be able to be revived, but he had no time, the sailors were firm in their demand, yet the meticulous way he handled her conveyance overboard may intimate a sliver of hope for her survival somewhere deep in his psyche. 

Miraculously, her case washes ashore and even more miraculously, she is revived. 

Many years later, ultimately, Pericles and Thaisa are reunited, Pericles thanks the gods most robustly, “You gods, your present kindness makes my past miseries sports.” 

Conclusively, Pericles’ towering love and devotion to Thaisa undoubtedly deserved his reward, and in a moment of overwhelming joy he bids her to, “Come, be buried a second time within these arms.”

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; as it is likely, other than his will, it is the last thing he wrote. It is a speech that to me ranks as one of the most momentous in the canon as it summarizes one of the most profound and ultimate truths:  uncertainty & the vicissitudes 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 the last speech Shakespeare ever wrote leaves us with the bard’s impression of what it means to appreciate our lives. Shakespeare certainly realized he had lived an incredible life and here two years before his death he writes his thanks: “Let us be thankful for that which is, andleave dispute that are above our question.” What a beautiful motto for us to live by as we navigate through life and continue to discover what it means to be human. We thank you, William Shakespeare.

Macbeth and The Golden Nugget

After meeting the Weird Sisters and being told the prophecy of becoming King, Macbeth is caught in a quandary, he speculates that, “This supernatural soliciting cannot be ill, cannot be good.” He doesn’t know what to make of what has been promised him, yet he is in love with the idea of becoming king, as he coyishly reminds himself, “Glamis and Thane of Cawdor, the greatest is behind.” He mentions that he has, “Learned by the perfectest report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge.” The Weird Sisters hailed him Thane of Cawdor prior to his official gaining of that second title. Recollecting that the Weird Sisters had acknowledged both his titles, Macbeth boastfully proclaims, “Two truths are told as happy prologues to the swelling act of the imperial theme.” He subsequently writes home to his wife, Lady Macbeth, to tell her that the Weird Sisters saluted him with, “Hail King that shalt be.” But immediately upon reading his letter, she begins to doubt his resolve, “Yet do I fear thy nature, it is too full o’th’ milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way.” She then adds the chilling invocation to, “Hie thee hither, that I may pour my spirits in thine ear and chastise with the valor of my tongue.” She is not about to let the opportunity to be Queen slip through her fingers.

Moving on to the subject of superstition; Merriam Webster defines the word as: a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, trust in magic or chance, or a false conception of causation. Macbeth suffers from a most dangerous form of superstition: a firm faith in regal destiny (originating from the divination of “witches”) coupled with an insatiable lust for instant power from the cunningly calculating Lady Macbeth. Chaucer’s maxim, “Haste maketh waste,” will never ring more true. After Lady Macbeth has received the letter detailing the prophecy of her husband becoming king, and Macbeth henceforth returns home, she wants the assassination of the King carried out literally that same night. Macbeth is so conspicuously bewildered by this that it gets Lady Macbeth to deride him thus: “Your face, my thane, is as a book, where men may read strange matters.” The thought of murder does actually occur to Macbeth before he speaks with his wife, “My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, shakes so my single state of man that function is smothered in surmise and nothing is but what is not,” But it sickens Macbeth so deeply that the very next thing that comes out of his mouth is, “If chance will have me King, why chance may crown me without my stir.” Unfortunately Macbeth’s thoughts are so monopolized by his wife’s ambition, that he has no chance to acquaint her with his philosophy. Although Macbeth is a murderer, for he commits the crime of murder and more than once, he is not a completely self-made one. It is Lady Macbeth’s unrelenting persuasion and Macbeth’s sincere belief in her love and devotion of him as well as his credulity concerning the supernatural that ultimately spell his doom. In the end he does finally reject the Weird Sisters, “And be these juggling fiends no more believed that palter with us in a double sense, that keep the word of promise to our ear and break it to our hope.” Unfortunately for Macbeth this realization comes too late, much too late. His tragedy is one of DELUSIONAL HOPE, like many drifters walking around downtown by the Golden Nugget. Something that I honestly see too much of; being that I live in Las Vegas, Nevada: the Gambling capital of the world!

write like Shakespeare; attempt #1

You seem honest and forthright, but do not

Call me friend now and quarantine anon

Upon some slight excuse of feeling blue

When belike you reject conversation

For that it plainly shows your fractured wit.

written by Justin Gray;

i started a project where i practise writing in the Shakespearean style; any comments or constructive criticism of this 5 line blank verse is greatly appreciated. 

Remember to make it a Bardtastic Day!!

Thoughts Inspired By The Bard, Sweet Swan Of Avon, William Shakespeare; Happy Birthday!!

“Where they feared the death they have borne life away, and where they would be safe they perish.” Henry V tells an interesting truth here. Many things in life are counter-intuitive. When we feel uneasy often we have no reason to be. When we are carefree and feeling happy, sometimes trouble lurks. I think a lesson we can take from this regal anecdote is to shun both fear and invincibility and to live in a state of harmony with our soul, “wash every mote out of [our] conscience.” “In brief, sir, study [or do] what you most affect.” “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.” Don’t delude yourself that “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” are in endless supply; nor let fear or anxiety paralyze you. Don’t confuse a general contentment with carnal immortality. “That we would do, we should do when we would, for this would changes.” We only get one life to make our mark, and we do not know, despite on how intuitive we think we are, when our candle will out. Embrace the best of life, “unmix’d with baser matter.”

Some Brief Thoughts On King Richard II

Richard the Second makes a decision that proves to be a most disastrous mistake at the outset of his story. When Henry Hereford and the Duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray, are on the brink of their dueling match to settle their dispute of treason, King Richard intervenes and decides to banish both men. He claims this was in order to avoid “civil wounds ploughed up with neighbor’s sword” but I feel he feared an outcome where the victor proved dangerous to his crown. Shakespeare teaches us “striving to better, oft we mar what’s well,” and this does ring true for Richard. He banishes Norfolk indefinitely and Hereford for ten years but then changes it to six. Here he has not only been too harsh , but he has shown that he doubts his own decision by abridging Hereford’s sentence to six years, four years shorter than what was originally pronounced. He then makes the two men take an oath which even when taken doesn’t protect him. He makes them swear to “never by advised purpose MEET to plot…any ill ‘gainst…our state…or our land.” What he fails to realize is that it only takes one of them to create a faction against him, and now by mentioning his fear he has plainly shown his vulnerability. By reducing Hereford’s sentence he shows hesitancy, lack of leadership, weakness, and fear of retribution which proves a self-fulfilling prophecy. As we see in the story Hereford deposes Richard. Norfolk, the one with the permanent sentence, is never heard of again. Perhaps he should have done the same to Hereford. He has “scotch’d the snake, not killed it.” When Richard commandeers Hereford’s inheritance after the death of his father, John of Gaunt, “[Richard’s] poor malice [remain’d] in danger of [Hereford’s] former tooth.”

This was the beginning of the end for King Richard of Bordeaux.

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.

Who is Othello?

edmund_kean_as_othello

In Marvin Rosenberg’s “The Masks Of Othello” he writes, “First, the problem of Othello. Basically, it is this: how can he be both noble and a murderer? What kind of sympathy, what empathy, can he evoke?” One of the most heartbreaking moments of the play for me comes in the last scene when Emilia, Desdemona’s waiting-woman, is banging on the door to speak to Othello. He has just smothered Desdemona and he exclaims, “If she come in, she’ll sure speak to my wife–My wife, my wife! What wife? I have no wife. O insupportable!” This moment should strike us deeply as it is the first time Othello shows that he is capable of showing remorse; and might I add that it is noteworthy that Shakespeare writes this monumental moment into the text immediately following the smothering of Desdemona leaving no doubt in his audience’s mind as to Othello’s extreme anguish once he has ended his beloved’s life for what he terms, “the cause; [his] soul.” It gets much worse for Othello when the truth about Iago’s villainy and Desdemona’s innocence comes to light. I think it is an error to conclude that he is arouses no pity in us the audience; especially when he ruefully laments not long before taking his own life, “Then must you speak of one that loved not wisely, but too well.” I believe this one statement casts off any feelings of indifference to Othello’s fate. Another doctrine critics have maintained that I believe an inaccuracy is that Othello is a jealous person. Although Iago conjures a deep mistrust in Desdemona, I do not believe this accurately represents jealousy in Othello’s true nature. When Shakespeare gives us a glimpse into Othello’s motive for murder he tells us, “She must die, else she’ll betray more men.” This seems like a much more utilitarian cause than a jealous one. Othello even states, “Think’st thou I’d make a life of jealousy, to follow still the changes of the moon with fresh suspicions?” If Othello is in any way a jealous person, he is certainly aware of the fact that it is a torturous way to live and intends to absolve himself of any trace of the emotion. Once Othello starts to believe Iago’s blatant lie of Desdemona’s infidelity, jealous is not quite the best term. Othello claims that he, “had been happy if the general camp, pioneers and all had tasted her sweet body,” provided that, “[He] had nothing known.” Another way of putting it is that he is sorry he has to know. He feels regret for having to bid, “Farewell [to] [his] traquil mind,” and, “farewell [to] content.”  Othello wants to know the truth, but he simply can’t handle what Iago tells him. Like Macbeth his mind is, “Full of scorpions.” His statement of, “I’ll see before I doubt; when I doubt, prove,” tells us he is not interested in the cat and mouse game of suspicion but merely the truth. At one point he even acknowledges how tortured his suspicious feelings are making him feel, “By the world, I think my wife be honest, and think she is not; I think that thou art just, and think thou art not: I’ll have some proof!”. Not any proof but, “The ocular proof!” Othello further promulgates that love and jealousy cannot coexist, “There is no more but this: away at once with love or jealousy!” Or in other words: end intimacy, or end jealousy. At the conclusion Othello explains that he was not one to be “easily jealous, but being wrought, perplexed in the extreme.” He was not wrought upon by and large as a result of his own faulty reasoning but by the nefarious deceit carried out by the evil Iago. What this hellish villain Iago actually intended when he said his most famous words was, “Beware my lord of [Iago] [I] am the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat [I] feed on!”

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.