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.”

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

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

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

Reject suffering; reject taking arms:

vivet. cogita nihil ultra

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!”

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.