William Shakespeare 

The Wizard of Stratford!

Sweet Swan of Avon!


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 shows the idea here that with some people we just can’t win. Saying the truth, they consider it not our place to speak. Lying, we’re a lowlife, and saying nothing we’re somehow a co-conspirator just as guilty as the culprits. That’s why before making a decision to argue, we can ask ourselves if this person is going to make us wrong no matter what. When settling disputes, we can put pride and blame aside and work towards an actual solution. The fool notices how people have an insatiable desire to always be right; however being right doesn’t really prove beneficial, unless it leads to reconciliation. 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.

Macbeth’s Mistake

“We have scorched the snake, not killed it: she’ll close, and be herself; whilst our poor malice remains in danger of her former tooth.”

These words uttered by Macbeth intimate that although King Duncan is “in his grave” his adversary has not been blotted out but reinvigorated by being slashed yet not terminated. Remember both Duncan’s sons remained alive and neither Macbeth nor Lady Macbeth ever considered to dispose of them with the King. In Robert Greene’s book concerning the Laws of Power he advises to, “crush your enemy totally.” He elaborates that, “a viper crushed beneath your foot but left alive, will rear up and bite you with a double dose of venom. An enemy that is left around is like a half-dead viper that you nurse back to health. Time makes the venom grow stronger.” Time is one of the chief things that disquiet Macbeth’s mind. He confesses, “Time, thou anticipat’st my dread exploits.” If time would stop, Macbeth could be King perpetual and the scorpions in his mind exchanged for a “vessel of…peace.” He even plays with this idea when he posits, “better be with the dead, whom we to gain our peace, have sent to peace, than on the torture of the mind to lie in restless ecstasy.” But Macbeth can no more stop time than he could dissuade Lady Macbeth from her relentlessly evil persuasions which compromised all that Macbeth stood for; the bloodshed consequently continues until, unfortunately  for Macbeth, Malcolm and his loyal subjects breed the coalescence of King Duncan’s spirit; as Shakespeare teaches us, “in the spirit of men there is no blood.”

Bassanio’s Insight

222 “So may the outward shows be least themselves, the world is still deceived with ornament.”

Says Bassanio—Don’t judge a book by its cover. Don’t assume one is brave just because they wear upon their chin, “The beards of Hercules and frowning Mars.” Portia’s father designed the test of the three caskets to prove a point: sometimes what is prized—silver and gold, prove dangerous commodities to possess. Whereas lead, although less valuable, can carry hidden value (lead caskets preserve well) and are more secure in the realm of eternal riches. To draw a corollary, what can’t be filched so easily by others should be valued dearer; such as health, friends, love & peace of mind. Money is a secondary necessity; despite its obvious importance, too much emphasis is put on it in society; not to mention it oftentimes just masks the debased quality of the thing it mingles upon.

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 from remedies left by her father. She was fortunate to know her father’s cures, but that alone does not win her cause. After hazarding her own life against the success of her father’s medicines, she exemplifies a great example of persistance and courage, pursuing her heart’s desire even after being harshly scolded by the count for her simple backround.  She is a hero that inspires us to attain the impossible. Helena jumps through hoops in order to fulfill Bertram’s two impracticle requests; {getting} a child by him (after he had foregone all association with her) and procuring off his very finger the treasured and invaluable family ring that he promises to never part withal, yet All’s Well That Ends Well in this story of intrepidity. Bertam affirms the hint of an engagement and promises to love her dearly, ever ever dearly. In spite of our reservation’s about him, Bertram does stay true to himself. Yet after agreeing to marriage and appeasing the King, he skips town altogether becoming a soldier and tarnishing our view of the constancy of his character, yet ultimately he redeems himself and shows he was simply presaging a motif from The Tempest; Prospero’s philosophy of…

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 at the King and Helena’s attendance, 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’re perfect, but rather 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, yet putting our judgmental hat aside we can look at his character from a sympathetic perspective. He is pressured by the King to marry Helena with yes being the only acceptable answer. According to the King, she is young, wise, [and] fair, but these words spoken are from the King just cured of being gravely ill. The King is here at least partially biased. Bertram doesn’t like the idea of someone choosing for him; we may be reminded of Portia [Merchant] who laments, “O me, the word choose! I may neither choose who I would, nor refuse who I dislike.” Maybe he is accustomed to some idiosyncrasies of Helena’s which he just can’t stand. In any case, Bertram has no say; the King puts him in a position where if he absolutely rejected her, he would lose all the honor he enjoys as a count. Bertram’s having none of that and consequentially gives Helena a seemingly impossible task. The fact that Helena endures what she does; following him through dangerous war zones and using the bed-trick in order to have his child, clearly shows there’s more to her love than meets the eye. She obviously loves some things about him that no one would understand unless they were her. The fact that he is good-looking [his arched brows…his curls…his sweet favour] isn’t enough to justify her undying zeal to win his love. Perhaps Bertram’s lesson to Helena was akin to Portia’s father’s counsel: who chooseth me must give and hazard all (s)he hath. After the vicissitudes of her journey, we can say with confidence that Helena satisfied this.

Pericles Journey!

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

The Queen Thaisa bears Pericles’ daughter, Marina, at sea and is consequently presumed lifeless following childbirth (as was common in Shakespeare’s day). Pericles laments, “O you gods! Why do you make us love your goodly gifts, and snatch them straight away?” The storming waters cause the sailors to panic and demand that the Queen’s body go overboard; they are superstitious and believe the turburlent waters will refuse to abate; Pericles immediately calls them out on their illogical thinking, yet the sailors are headstrong and not-to-be-changed; Pericles has no choice but to relent. He offers a farewell to Thaisa that is simply 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

he then requests three items to give her the most dignified burial he can; spices, to give pleasant aroma to her casket, ink and paper, to facilitate a solemn appeal for her burial, [should the casket be retrieved from the waters] and jewels, to fund the dignified burial that she so deserves. 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 after the sailors put Thaisa overboard, Pericles reserved a modicum of hope that she might be found and revived.

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

Pericles and Thaisa are ultimately reunited almost twenty years later, and Pericles thanks the gods most robustly:

“You gods, your present kindness makes my past miseries sports.”

In a moment of overwhelming joy he bids her, “Come, be buried a second time within these arms.” 

Shakespeare is teaching us the magnitude and power the force of hope can hold. 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 beautiful into the gift of a miracle.

Macbeth And Time

The word ‘time’ is used frequently in the tragedy of Macbeth, and everything about timing seems to disfavor Macbeth. He suspects that time is not on his side, “time thou anticipat’st my dread exploits.” Macbeth’s perspective is initially scewed when becoming Thane of Cawdor after being told first-hand the Sisters’ Prophecy. Macbeth’s expectations for becoming King become unrealistically ingrained within him because of precarious timing. The hint of promotion to The Thane of Cawdor materializing immediately, made him accustomed to instant gratification in matters most dangerous; gaining the throne. The insidious Sisters knew if they could gain his trust, they could cause him to act without discretion. Because Macbeth ends up putting his faith in them, he seals his own fate. He shows how easily we can jump wrongly to a big conclusion when just a modicum of manipulation is excercised; especially when we are at our most vulnerable.

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 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.”