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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Pericles Journey!

The essence of Pericles is hope and miracle. At the outset of Act Three, a strong tempest rages at sea. 

The Queen gives birth to Pericles’ daughter, Marina, at sea; and the mother is presumed dead. Pericles laments, “O you gods! Why do you make us love your goodly gifts, and snatch them straight away?” Because of the strong storm at sea, the sailors demand that the Queen’s body must go overboard, or they believe the turburlent waters will refuse to abate. Pericles immediately dismisses this as their superstition, yet the sailors are steadfast and Pericles has no choice but to cooperate. He offers a sincere tribute to Thaisa that is painfully heartbreaking:

A terrible childbed hast thou had my dear

No light, no fire, The unfriendly elements

Forgot thee utterly! Nor have I time

To give the hallowed to thy grave, but straight

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

Lying with simple shells.

After offering his apologetic farewell for his inability to provide her the proper burial he so firmly believes that she deserves, he requests some items to give her the most dignified burial he can under the circumstances: spices, to produce a pleasant aroma in her casket, ink and paper, to facilitate the composition of his solemn appeal to bury her, [should the casket be retrieved] and jewels, to fund a burial fitting the virtuous woman born a princess. 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!

Although he had no expectation of ever seeing her again, because the sailors wanted her overboard straightaway merely after presuming her dead, Pericles likely had a modicum of hope that she might be found and revived.

Miraculously, her case does indeed washe ashore; and even more miraculously, she manages to cling on to life through the tempestuous waters.

Pericles and Thaisa are ultimately reunited almost twenty years later, Pericles thanks the gods most robustly, “You gods, your present kindness makes my past miseries sports,” and in a moment of overwhelming joy he bids her, “Come, be buried a second time within these arms.” 

Shakespeare is teaching us how powerful a force hope can be. Pericles had every reason to resign to what appeared to be a foregone conclusion, but with what hope he kept, close within his heart, it grew most beautifully into the gift of a miracle.

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 with, “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 she so dearly loves, “O speak to me no more; these words like daggers enter in my ears. No more, sweet Hamlet.”

 I think we are all as varied within ourselves as the snowflakes that in winter fall. Hamlet is a man of contradictions, 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.”

Love’s Labour’s Won, not lost after all? You decide.

It has been generally accepted that Love’s Labour’s Won is The Bard’s lost comedy. Although I acknowledge this theory as a reasonable possibilty, I do not believe it to be the case. Love’s Labour’s Won was first mentioned by the minister Francis Meres in his Palladis Tamia pamphlet published in 1598, subtitled: Wits Treasury. He lists twelve plays in total, five of which, for relevance sake, I will name; listed in this order they are: The Comedy Of Errors, Love’s Labours Lost, Love’s Labour’s Won, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Merchant Of Venice. The only play out of these five unfamiliar to Shakespeare’s canon is Love’s Labour’s Won. If we look at the plot of its companion, Love’s Labour’s Lost, we understand how its title is appropriate; at its conclusion, all of the gentlemen’s efforts, including The King Of Navarre, to woo and win their ladies do in fact fail, and their Labour has been Lost

Concerning the supposed lost play, my opinion, which is shared by others, including Gregory Dolan of the RSC, is that Love’s Labour’s Won & Much Ado About Nothing are the same play. In 2:1 of Much Ado, carefully scan what Don PedroThe Prince Of Arragon declares to his companions. He says, “I will in the interim undertake one of Hercules Labours, which is, to bring Signior Benedick and Lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection the one with the other.” Not only is the actual word Labours used but it’s used in the context of pursuing the goal of causing two people to fall in Love; which in the end, if we read Much Ado, we find out ends up being Won. Add to that the fact that the most famous part of the Hercules Legend, especially in Shakespeare’s time, was the triumph of his twelve Grueling Labour’s; which to draw another parallel, the Love between Benedick and Lady Beatrice isn’t achieved with ease, but with persistent effort.

The quarto copy of Much Ado, printed in 1600, mentions on the title page to have been acted many times before. If we take this into consideration and compare it to other quartos such as King Lear, published in 1608 and generally accepted to have been written in 1605, we get a three year window, putting a likely composition date for the potential LLW as 1597. LLL first recorded performance was at Court on Christmas in 1597 for Queen Elizabeth. The two comedies likely being written together, the “sequel” being performed subsequently forthwith, is reasonable evidence that Francis Meres would have been acquainted enough with the play we know as Much Ado in time to list it in his Wits Treasury when published in 1598 and catalogued with the Stationer’s Register September 7th.

It’s also important to point out that The Merchant Of Venice [mentioned among the five plays I named as listed in the Palladis Tamia] was published in quarto the same year as Much Ado [1600], making it reasonable to deduce that Much Ado was extant in performance around the same time as Merchant; taking this liklihood into account, because both Merchant and LLW are specified on the same list and there is no mentioning of a Much Ado About Nothing leaves the possibility that Meres’ reference to LLW was the play we know as Much Ado.

Given the tremendous success of Much Ado, as well as its popularity and critical acclaim, it seems inconceivable Meres would excise the play from his list of The Bard’s best, leaving us to deduce that he did in fact include it in his list but recorded it under an alternate title.

It’s important to note that this wouldn’t be the only time an alternate title would be used for one of Shakespeare’s plays. Henry VIII was also known as All Is True, Twelfth Night as What You Will, not to mention that the quarto of King Henry VI Part II, published in 1594, was titled without even mentioning King Henry, being labeled as The First Part Of The Contention.

Now I want to call your attention to The First Folio of 1623; if we suppose that The Much Ado About Nothing we know today is, in fact, Love’s Labour’s Won, and if we take the 5 plays in the Palladis Tamia that I initially mentioned, beginning with The Comedy Of Errors and ending with The Merchant Of Venice, The SAME FIVE plays are grouped ALL TOGETHER in The FF of 1623; almost in the Exact Same OrderErrors is first on page 85, then Much Ado/LLW on page 101, then LLL on page 122, then Midsummer on page 145, and then finally Merchant on page 163. If Much Ado/LLW was printed successive to LLL instead of Errors, the order would be identical. If we consider them two plays written together primarily to complement their contrasting conclusions, and we don’t dwell on which one is sequel to the other, they basically, for all practical purposes, are printed in the same order found in Francis Meres’ Palladis Tamia.

Lost play? OR… Have we had it all along?! What do YALL think?! Maybe sleep on it? Anyways, that’s all I have for now. Thanks for reading, and HAVE A BARDTASTIC DAY!

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.

How could a stone be soft? Titus tells us why.

Although Titus Andronicus is not considered one of Shakespeare’s best tragedies, it is not without its compelling speeches. Act Three of this tragedy, Titus Andronicus, contains a speech that I believe deserves a closer reading. 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 notes that he “never wept because they died in honor’s lofty bed.” Conversely, these two of Titus’ sons were framed for murder by the vengeful Queen Tamora and her extra-marital lover Aaron in a most harrowing fashion: being duped into dropping down into a pit where the murdered body of Lavinia’s lover, Bassianus lay; implicating the two sons for his murder. At the outset Tamora’s eldest son was sacrificed by Titus Andronicus himself, which adds an ironical shade to Titus’ plight since Tamora is clearly blameworthy in her role for framing Titus’ two sons. After Titus has pleaded desperately for his two sons’ lives, Lucius, brother to the doomed pair, firmly chides his father thus:

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 is persistant in his supplications and answers back with a most fervent anguish:

“Ah, Lucius, for thy brothers let me plead!

Grave tribunes, once more I entreat of you.”

Lucius then proceeds to remind his father of the absence of an audience:

“My gracious lord, NO tribune hears you speak!”

Now comes Titus clarification that he is, in fact, not speaking to the tribunes at all, but rather to something else:

“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 interupt my tale:

When I do weep they [the stones] 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 an appreciation of being able to speak without censure, a theme that would have certainly hit close to home as Shakespeare had to submit any play for the public stage to the the official censure. Things said will elicit others’ opinions, consequently there is a satisfaction in speaking how we truly feel to someone who will rest mute to our misconceptions, yet genuinely sympathize with our sorrows.  When Titus informs his son, Lucius, that:

I tell my sorrows to the stones…

and after explaining why he is doing so, he is submitting to the doctrine that although stones are hard things when hewn, when thought of as a proxy for a sympathizer to our heart’s deepest anguish, a stone’s inability to mock or condemn or chide or interject and offer discourtesy, coupled with a stone’s ability to simulate compassion; crying just like us from our falling tears comingling thereunto; renders it “softer” than any simple mind could ever imagine a stone to be.

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.”