Monday, September 27, 2010


Name: In the Greek myth she is a priestess of Aphrodite who loses her virginity to her lover, Leander, who then goes on to drown in the Hellespont that runs between their two hometowns while swimming over to meet her. Hero throws herself in after him in her grief, committing suicide.
Definition: A name given (as in Homer) to men of superhuman strength, courage, or ability, favoured by the gods; at a later time regarded as intermediate between gods and men, and immortal.

Hero’s name is not the only aspect of her characterization that intrigued me: like Olivia from Twelfth Night, she is wooed indirectly. Claudio immediately recognizes that he “loves” her, but doesn’t address her. First he speaks to Benedick about her, who wants to know if he would “buy her” (1.1.145) which initiates a language of trade and exchange when speaking of her. He then agrees to let Don Pedro speak to her and then to Leonato before he ever even says a word to her himself. His pursuit of her is calculated: he is interested in her dowry (“Hath Leonato any son, my lord?”) and when Don Pedro goes off with Hero, it is an “open secret” as to what they will be speaking. Throughout the first act, everyone has been speaking of her marriage to Claudio without ever consulting her, illustrating that she has no privacy. Her marriage is a fact before she has even consented to it. She also doesn’t have much of a voice. In 2.1 her attendants have more lines than she does (8:5). When Antonio specifically addresses her at 2.1.42, it is Beatrice who answers. The same happens at 2.1.57 and 2.1.271. Finally, Hero’s seeming powerlessness is exemplified when Claudio says “I give away myself for you and dote upon the exchange.” Again she is referred to in a language of trade. While Claudio gives himself to her directly, she had to do so through the older men. Perhaps her treatment thus far points to the way she will be humiliated (which is a word that is related to mortification and debasement => objectification) later on in the play?

It is clear, then, that the other characters within the play objectify her. Not only do they use her as an object of pleasure in and of herself (as Claudio’s wife-to-be) but she serves as a tool with which to gain pleasure by using her name in the trick they play on Benedick and Beatrice (thereby attributing a consent to her which she never gave.) Hero is not present in 2.3, yet it is her name that is repeated by Claudio and Don Pedro when they say that Beatrice is in love with Benedick: in an act of ethos they are appealing to her credibility. Her truthfulness is so unquestioned that Benedick says “They have the truth of this from Hero.” He believes them because they say Hero told them of it. This is an appeal to authority, which, unlike ethos, is a rhetorical fallacy. This, I think, is why he seems so ridiculous to me at the close of the second act. In fact, when he says “There’s a double meaning in that,” he reminds me of Malvolio reading the letter that Sir Toby and Maria left for him. (Note that Benedick also says “I’ll be revenged.”) While Malvolio was filling in his own desires for things that were only suggested, Benedick is fabricating desires where none exist. He is delusional.

But does the play objectify Hero? Does she rebel against the constraints placed upon her by her society? Her lack of speech suggests that she doesn’t, but I would actually argue that she does. She doesn’t approach societal restrictions with the same brassy, sarcastic verbosity as Beatrice, but she does resist it. For example, when Don Pedro asks her if she’ll help him in deceiving Beatrice she answers, “I will do any modest office, my lord, to help my cousin to a good husband.” She does not say yes outright: she dodges the question and never explicitly puts herself at his disposal, as Leonato and Claudio do. It’s a passive resistance, but one nonetheless. She is also an agent of clarity amid a tangle of “open secrets.” In the first act it is she who explains Beatrice’s speech, and when she whispers to Claudio she is claiming a sense of privacy that she had hitherto been denied.

Speaking of Don Pedro, is he really very different from Don John? They both manipulate the people around them. They even use the same language: at 1.3.54 Don John wants to know if his companions will “assist” him in his deception, and at 2.1.321 Don Pedro asks for “assistance” with his own trickery.

Addendum: In class we compared Don Pedro to Don John. By way of extension, we could also compare Borrachio to Claudio. We know that Borrachio is helping D.John because of money; in the same way Claudio may be helping D. Pedro because Pedro helped him "get" Hero. Both are working within structures of trade/exchange, which is supported by the language used to describe Hero.

Lighthearted Pranks or Dark Deception?

In reading the first two acts of Much Ado About Nothing, it is clear that there is a recurring theme of the use of deception to get what you want. Whether it be for a positive or negative outcome, is trickery and dishonesty the way to get it? Seemingly, according to Shakespeare- Yes! And at times it may be difficult to distinguish between the two. If you take both deliberate and non-deliberate deception and the addition of eavesdropping and misunderstanding, you have a recipe for disaster, which comprises much of this play.
And the deception begins as early as Act I, Scene I when Don Pedro proposes his plan to disguise himself as Claudio and proclaim his love to Hero at the costume ball. While his intentions are good, one can't help to wonder why he insists on involving himself in their affairs. It would make more sense if he would just talk to Claudio to help boost his confidence and overcome his shyness. That way he could woo the woman he loves himself. However, it is this conversation which leads to the confusion in the following scene where Antonio's servant overhears and misunderstands what is being said and reports it back to Antonio. It is like the equivalent to a bad game of "telephone" which seems to carry throughout the play in one way or another. This same conversation is also overheard, but correctly, by Borachio who then takes the information to Don John where they use it plot against Claudio.
The lies continue that night at the ball when Don John, pretending not to recognize Claudio in his mask, makes the comment to him that Don Pedro is actually wooing Hero for himself and plans to marry her that very night. Beatrice also partakes in deception when she pretends not to notice that it is Benedick with whom she is dancing while she insults his wit and sense of humor. On a lighter note, it is the same night that Don Pedro decides to devise another plan to get Beatrice and Benedick to stop fighting and to fall in love with each other. Again, Don Pedro is meddling in others' personal affairs and using trickery in doing so. Even if his intentions do mean well, it is the right way to go about it?
This plan is then cleverly carried out when Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato are in the garden and are discussing Beatrices' fabricated love for Benedick, so that Benedick can hear. They go on to embellish the story even more by commenting on what a fool he would be for denying such a woman. They are very cunning and know how to tune into what Benedick wants and needs.
Then comes the ultimate deception of the two acts- Borachio's scheme to sabotage the relationship, and therefore marriage, of Claudio and Hero. He knows that by accusing and framing Hero in premarital relations, her chances at marriage with Claudio, and any other respectable man for that matter, would be over. This is the most serious case of deception, thus far and the consequences would be devastating if carried out successfully. And while we have only got as far as the first two acts, I have a feeling that based on the way things are going, it is safe to say that there is plenty more to come!

Everybody Plays the Fool!

My favorite character in Twelfth Night is definitely Feste, the “fool” because his brilliance is awesome! I imagine if he lived today he could be a very successful greeting card writer or maybe even a famous psychologist (more wise than Ann Landers herself). Even though his occupation is to be a clown or fool I think he is actually extremely wise.

Throughout the play he provides insightful commentaries with lines like “Better a witty fool than a foolish wit” (1.5.31) and “Pleasure will be paid, one time or another” (2.4.69). His interactions with the characters also serve as a way to highlight the insanity of the more “normal” characters. He also can mock the audience. As we discussed in class, in the beginning of 3.1 he talks with Viola about how he “live(s) by the church” (5) totally pointing out how foolish our language can be when used in correctly, and how easily it is to interpret something wrong.
He is even able to use his mind to help and manipulate Malvolio, someone who was of higher ranking. Feste’s role of Sir Topas can be comical for anyone impartial to Malvolio and Feste puts on a great show by switching characters quickly and further upsetting the tortured Malvolio. The themes of disguise, power and manipulation are all upped by Feste.
Therefore Feste is not a fool, actually just the opposite. Could the other characters in the play that are ridiculous and silly, like Sir Toby and his band of friends, Sir Andrew and Fabian be considered the true fools? They share the plan for manipulating Malvolio but differ in their observations of the court. Who then are the real fools in the play? Maybe they are the people who jump to conclusions, are constantly drunk (from alcohol or their own large egos) and those who judge people only based on outward appearances. In that case I would classify Olivia, Sebastian, Viola, and Orsino, Malvolio, Sir Toby and Sir Andrew as the true fools.
My apologies for this link but it’s pretty funny to think about in the context of the four lovers (Olivia, Sebastian, Viola, and Orsino). At the conclusion of the play these four people cast aside all normal reasoning and accept the “magical” gender transformations of the people they love.

Also just to share a laugh with everyone, here is the preview for that old Amanda Bynes movie “She’s The Man”, a semi-modern day adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night:

Additionally, for anyone that is interested here is the FB event invite for the Twelfth Night:

Language in Much Ado About Nothing

I remember reading Much Ado About Nothing in the 8th grade. I don't recall what activities I did to supplement the reading, or even the name of my English teacher. I do, however, reminisce about the story because it has an important theme that all 12-13 year olds could probably take a cue from: an element of civility, decorum and over all good manners. It also shows the binary between more complex or more simplistic speech, and how our preconceived good manners can channel the correct use of language.

Throughout the play, I feel that Benedick, Claudio and even Don Pedro use their words and language in a way that, although it may make the young women blush and it is extremely intricate, it still invokes the proper etiquette of the time. I was thinking of the transformation of Claudio as a prime case in how a person can change their language for whatever situation they're in. For example, Benedick says of Claudio: "He was wont to speak plain and to the purpose, like an honest man and a soldier, and now he has turned to orthography. His words are a very fantastical banquet, just so many strange dishes." (II.iii.16-19) Claudio used to choose a more direct approach in his speech, but after falling in love Hero he takes on a flowery tone. (Benedick even calls Claudio "Monsieur Love".) (II.iii.31)

Isn't this something that many adolescents can relate to? They are learning their society's social graces, and are more capable of manipulating their spoken and written words than when they were younger. Of course, they are going to make mistakes, but they learn to differentiate their speech when they are speaking to friends, to loved ones, and to adults. I think that they can channel themselves into these characters, and can relate to both the bickering and the calm conversations.

Silly Love Games.

Usually in books, plays, or movies I don’t like characters like Benedick, but there is something about him in “Much Ado about Nothing” that I really like. His back and forth banter with Beatrice was really great, they seem like high school kids with their dialogue. You can really see that it’s almost like an angsty teasing when, in line 109, Benedick is telling Beatrice she’s going to end up scratching someone’s face and Beatrice replies that if she ended up scratching Benedicks face it wouldn’t make it any worse than it already is. It’s lines like that that kind of show they aren’t really heavy duty enemies, there’s some weird flirting going on between the two. What makes it even more apparent is when Claudio admits he has a crush on Hero and this really ticks Benedick off. Benedick makes it sound like his life’s mission is doing his job, there is no room for women and he openly states that in his speech in line 195, he says “I will do myself the right and trust none. And the fine is-for which I may go the finer-I will live a bachelor.” Basically in that speech he pointed out he was thankful that a woman gave birth to him, but other than that he didn’t have any plans on chasing after them or giving in for love. He is content with being a bachelor, and he says he will be able to live a more lavish life style because of it.
Beatrice seems to be his female counterpart, she has no desire whatsoever for a husband. I’m sure there might be more meaning behind it but in her short speech in the beginning of act two she says “I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face. I had rather lie in the woolen.” I got a real kick out of that. I can picture this taking place in modern times and a group of girls sitting around a table talking about their “ideal man” and one saying “there is no way I could date a guy with a beard, I’d rather sleep on sand paper.” Or something along those lines, I found that pretty funny. In the same speech she points out that if God never sends a man to be her husband she would thank him every morning and every night, she even says that would be a blessing. I can feel some kind of foreshadowing about love involving Beatrice and Benedick coming up in the play. These two characters have pretty strict views about a significant other and their ideas seem to be playing a big part in the play so far, I think things are going to take an ironic turn for these two.
The other situation that led me to believe this is the masquerade dancing scene. The girls can’t see the guy’s faces and Benedick, who seemed so aggressive towards Beatrice, ends up dancing with her. Benedick keeps his indentify secret and leads Beatrice to believe he is someone else. Then he asks her what she thinks of him, this seems kind of shady considering our first impressions of his views of relationships. Benedick is like the kid in school who was rotten to a girl but he had a candle-lit shrine for her in the back of closet, always hoping no one would ever find it. I’m just not sure how Beatrice will come around, she more adamant about her feelings toward Benedick.

Opposites Attract

Hero, Beatrice, Don Pedro, Don John, Claudio, and Benedick are just a few of the characters we are quickly introduced to in the first act of Much Ado About Nothing. William Shakespeare is not one to draw out an introduction or provide us with a much of back story for any of his characters. Instead, he quickly thrusts his audience right into the meat of a plot. Therefore, when reading Much Ado About Nothing, I realized right away that I would need to employ a method by which to keep track of the various new characters and their complicated relationships. In searching for a method, I came across a pattern, or perhaps a literary device, by which Shakespeare makes use of opposites, where one character, or pair of characters, is the antithesis of another, in order to emphasize each character’s attributes.

Take for example the glaring juxtaposing of the characters Beatrice, Benedick, Claudio, and Hero. Beatrice and Benedick, as many have stated, seem to hate each other but it is obvious that they are truly kindred spirits who take joy in teasing and tormenting each other whenever they meet. Claudio and Hero however, are the antithesis of them. Claudio and Hero have never met, and Claudio expresses his feelings about Hero before they have even uttered a word to each other. In the very first act, when Benedick and Beatrice are reunited, Benedick wonders “What, my dear Lady Disdain! / Are you yet living,” to which Beatrice responds, “Is it possible disdain should die while she hath / such meet food to feed it as Signor Benedick? /Courtesy itself must convert to disdain / if you come in her presence” (1.1.95-98). This hilarious exchange not only depicts how much Beatrice and Benedick enjoy teasing and tormenting each other but also that they are smart, quick-witted, and talkative. We can also infer that not only is this not their first meeting but that they have been closely acquainted for some time. Claudio on the other hand states that “In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on,” an excellent choice of words, considering Claudio and Hero have never spoken. Later when confusion has been quelled and Claudio is set to marry Hero, he states that “Silence is the perfectest herald of joy!” and Hero herself is completely speechless (1.1.146-7). They have never met before, but both Claudio and Hero are immediately drawn to each other, and when they are free to marry and when words of love should be overflowing, they are silent. The juxtaposition of Beatrice, Benedick, Claudio, and Hero amplifies the opposing characteristics of each relationship. At times Beatrice and Benedick seem like rambling, angry cynics, but would we feel this way if Claudio and Hero didn’t seem like innocent, obliging children, or vice versa?

Similarly, Don Pedro and Don John behave in ways that force the audience to view them as the antithesis of the other, further engorging Don Pedro’s positive qualities and Don John’s negative ones. From the time of his arrival, Don Pedro is depicted as the jovial apex of the current Messina hierarchy, while his brother Don John is known as the gloomy “ bastard” brother who only recently re-entered his brother’s good graces. Don Pedro, despite his high rank and influence, is extremely generous with his friends. When Claudio requests Don Pedro’s help in wooing Hero, Don Pedro responds by saying “My love is thine to teach. Teach it but how, / And thou shalt see how apt it is to learn / Any hard lesson that may do thee good” (1.1.229-31). He is known as “Prince,” yet he is quick to do whatever he can to help his friends, without the slightest consideration as to how it could help or hurt him. Don Pedro is the absolute antithesis of Don John. Don John specifically takes on tasks in order to bring about pain or heartbreak in another, even in situations where he has nothing significant to gain. When Borachio claims to have information about an intended marriage, Don John perks up his moody ears and asks, “Will it serve for any model to build mischief on?” (1.3.37). Don John’s first and foremost thoughts surround creating problems for other people, this is where he finds personal joy, while Don Pedro’s personal joy lies in selfless acts for others. Still, the question remains, would Don Pedro appear so saintly and virtuous if he was not placed next to the antithesis of himself, his brother? Would Don John be more humorous rather than villainous if not placed next to his pious brother?

This is just the start of the play, but you can’t help but wonder if these perceptions will persist. Will more opposing characters or relationships come up, or will they fade? Did Shakespeare knowingly create characters that possessed directly opposing traits as other characters? How will these opposing relationships play out in the rest of the play? Will it help or hurt these characters?

Much Ado about Dancing

In Much Ado about Nothing, Shakespeare uses dance as a way to help describe the relationships in this play. This is a play of action and movement. Don John attempts to fumble the steps of his brothers consorts, Beatrice and Benedick moving against each other, and all other characters attempting to choreograph them into a duet. His words in this play are words of action and movement. Choices in diction reflect this with words like “ flight” ( 1.1.32), “halting” ( 1.1.52), “run” ( 1.1.74) all within the first moments of play.

Verbal jest seem to create a floor pattern worthy of Fred and Ginger. (See Youtube video at the end of blogpost) Shakespeare uses the rhetorical device like anadiplosis, which takes the last word previously said and knits into the beginning of the present line. Making for seamless verbal choreography as seen between Beatrice and Benedick in the following exchange.


A dear happiness to women: they would else have

been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God

and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that: I

had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man

swear he loves me.


God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some

gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate

scratched face.


Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere such

a face as yours were.


Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.


A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours. “

Act 1. Sc.1. lines 105-114

Not, only does the language create a dance like pattern but the literal references to dance and music are numerous within the text. A highlighted example would be Beatrice’s steamy salsa of a speech to her cousin Hero in 2.1


The fault will be in the music, cousin, if you be

not wooed in good time: if the prince be too

important, tell him there is measure in every thing

and so dance out the answer. For, hear me, Hero:

wooing, wedding, and repenting, is as a Scotch jig,

a measure, and a cinque pace: the first suit is hot

and hasty, like a Scotch jig, and full as

fantastical; the wedding, mannerly-modest, as a

measure, full of state and ancientry; and then comes

repentance and, with his bad legs, falls into the

cinque pace faster and faster, till he sink into his grave.”

Act 2 Sc. 1 lines 57- 66

Here Beatrice takes the metaphor of dance and applies it to the whole scheme of courting, marriage and life is befitting to life in the upper crusts of Elizabethan society. The separate societies of men and women would converge in the dance hall in ways that was atypical from day to day interactions. Beatrice describes the “cinque a pace” which was dance also known as a galliard. And was known to be the favorite of Queen Elizabeth herself. ( Below is a link to an example of a galliard dance.

Meant for Each Other?

In Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing we learn right off the bat about Beatrice and Benedick's rivalry between each other. The question that arises is Is it rivalry or love? They seem to be two of a kind. Beatrice is just as witty as Benedick and they continuously battle it out. Leonato explains to the messenger regarding Beatrice's encounter that "You must not, sir, mistake my niece, There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her. They never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between them" (1.1, 49-51). Beatrice more or less refers to Benedick as a dummy. She claims that every battle they have she comes out of victoriously. She knows that he is a fickle man, but yet she seems entrigued.

Benedick displays the same feelings toward Beatrice. He claims "It is certain that I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted. And I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none" (1.1, 101-104). He seems to demonstrate the same affection toward her yet he continues to rise to the occassion of her wittyness. He claims that he loves no woman, but yet we haven't heard of his actions, such as the one's displayed toward Beatrice with any other woman. He doesn't seem to trust women at all, which could be the very reason he hides his true feelings for Beatrice.

The funny thing about Beatrice and Benedick is that they both claim that they will never marry. Beatrice's reply to Leonato when he tells her he'd like to see her with a husband was, "Not till God make men of some other mettle than earth" (2.1, 50-51). Benedick claims, "I would not marry her though she were endowed with all that Adam left him before he transgressed" (2.1, 218-220). Their views on marriage are so similar that it's scary. They seem to be two of a kind in this sense. Neither one of them want to be played for a fool.

The ironic thing about Benedick is that when he becomes convinced that Beatrice is in love with him after overhearing a trick conversation between Claudio, Don Pedro and Leonato, he decides that he will return the love for her. He then changes his attitude toward women, or at least Beatrice. He doesn't want to upset her. In his speech he says, "It seems her affections have their full bent. Love me! Why it must be requited" (2.3, 198-199). He also recognizes her beauty. This lets us know that he must have had feelings for her prior to the news and that his battles of trying to outwit her were totally out of love. The question that comes to mind is, Are they meant for each other or is this just another one of Shakespeare's ridicules on love?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

When a boy picks on you, its because he likes you..

When reading the first act of Much Ado About Nothing I couldn't help but pick up on the intense interactions between Beatrice and Benedick. They proclaim to despise one another but I cant help but sense some sexual tension. Perhaps deep down, Benedick is much like Olivia in Twelfth Night. He claims to have an undeniable effect on women;
"Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of
all ladies, only you excepted. And I would I could find in
my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none."
But claims to love none in return, perhaps like Olivia he desires that one woman who is willing to put him in his place and boss him around a bit, similar to how Olivia fell for Cesario.
Perhaps Benedick needs a strong woman- like Beatrice to tell him how it is and what is what. Throughout the first act it is obvious they have a long history of quarreling and fighting, but like the old school saying goes "a boy picks on you because he likes you".

Benedick seems to be a character with a lot of unresolved inner dilemma, masked by his arrogance. He seems to give off the notion that he loves himself way too much to love anybody else- or is trying to hide his inner self esteem issues- with the fear of being hurt by real love.

The opening act also makes the audience wonder which love is more real of a love? A love at first sight which Claudio feels for Hero (real or not?) .. or a cautious approach to love like Benedick where he hides all emotion approaching with caution and a fear of getting hurt. Or do these different approaches to love change with the time period? Does one make sense more than the other for their time period vs present day?

Heartless Shakespeare

Happy endings, as an American society we love them. We love feeling content and reassured that the characters we have so adamantly watched or read are now happy and can move on with their lives. However, what happens when we do not receive that pleasure, or worse the characters do not have a happy ending? At the end of Twelfth Night seemingly everyone runs off happy with the person of their choice and can move on in their perfect worlds. Throughout the play a sense of pleasure or the need to be pleased is noted in many of the characters. At its conclusion, many of these men and women have obtained some form of satisfaction and are moving on. However, Shakespeare leaves some of his characters unresolved and without this contentment. Malvolio and Antonio are both left unsatisfied and unresolved. As an audience we may seem happy, but after concerning ourselves with these two characters, we are left disappointed.

At the end of Twelfth Night Viola and Orsino find happiness with one another, Olivia and Sebastian are married, Viola and Sebastian are reunited and everyone is radiating this sense of ease. However, at the plays closing, Malvolio is left running away saddened and embarrassed. After having been made a fool of, locked away and, tortured no one seems to have any remorse or sympathy for him. Upon entering he states to Lady Olivia, (who is has thought to be in love with him) “Madam, you have done me wrong” (1844). This is a very different Malvolio, than the one we last saw pleading for Lady Olivia’s heart. In response to hearing how he has been tricked Olivia responds, “Alas, poor fool, how have you baffled thee!” (1845). The embarrassment of his actions is not even recognized and the one person which he thinks will have remorse for him, laughs at his saying he was made a fool. Malvolio proceeds to run from the room claiming to have revenge and disappears. It is clear that Malvolio is left with absolutely no pleasure of comfort in any form. He is made a joke and everyone around him joins in with the fun.

Similar to Malvolio, Antonio is left unsatisfied as well. At the end of the play, Antonio confesses his love or feelings for Sebastian. However, these emotions are left unreturned and most importantly unrecognized. Like Malvolio, Antonio is disregarded by the other characters and at the plays end, there is no real ending for him. As an audience we never see Antonio’s resolution and his confession unreciprocated. Both Malvolio and Antonia do not receive pleasure, and in this sense the play does not have a happy ending. To have such happiness, all characters would have to be pleased and satisfied. Shakespeare however leaves the audience with the uneasiness and compassion towards these forgotten men.

Why is it that these two men are left unresolved? Throughout the play it seems as though there will be some conclusion which leaves the audience with an understanding as to where each character goes. Malvolio and Antonio do not receive this and in a sense, Shakespeare seems heartless and unconcerned for either man’s feelings. Both leave unloved by the person of their choice and must undergo the consequences. While this question may remain unresolved, it does not alleviate the sense of sadness the audience may feel towards these two men. Malvolio and Antonio leave never having their love reciprocated and that leaves Twelfth Night without a happy ending.

Signior Benedick

Out of all the characters who appear throughout Shakespeare's comedies, I find Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing to be one of the funnier and interesting ones. As the play starts off, we find that the man's reputation proceeds him; Leonato and the Messenger speak well of him, but Beatrice has other thoughts: "In our last conflict, four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man governed with one, so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse, for it is all the wealth that he hath left to be known a reasonable creature." (lines 63-69). When Benedick makes his entrance it does not take long for the two to go at it. Benedick mocks her, crowning her "Lady Disdain! Are you yet living?" (line 116), as she retorts "Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain if you come in her presence." (lines 118-121). Benedick sees himself as a life long bachelor and mocks Claudio when he expresses his liking for Hero. The Prince sums him up pretty well in saying he is "an obstinate heretic in despite of beauty." (line 230). Benedick does not hate woman, as he recognizes that one conceived and raised him, but claims that he will never trust to give his heart away to one. The impression we first receive from Benedick is that of what we might come to expect from a macho soldier, but he is not even the favored amongst the ranks; it is Claudio. Having earned great renown in the war for his heroic actions at such a young age, Claudio makes Benedick pale in comparison, as he is obviously a more compassionate person. It seems Benedick may merely just be jealous of his good friend.
Beatrice is presented in a similar fashion, as she claims she will never marry either, for no one can be fit for her: "Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered by a piece of valiant dust? To make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl? No, uncle, I'll none. Adam's sons are my brethren, and truly I hold it a sin to match in my kindred." (Act2,sc1 59-64). The harsh view of love from these two seems to be for no reason, other than a negative disposition, but in lines 273-277 we are given some insight. When the Prince says that she has lost the heart of Benedick, Beatrice says "Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile, and I gave him use for it, a double heart for his single one. Marry, once before he won it of me with false dice. Therefore your grace may well say I have lost it." It seems that these two had at one point had a relationship, but things did not turn out well, which would explain the conflicts and hatred for one another. The other characters, in a festive mood for the announced wedding of Hero and Claudio, feel that to re-pair these two would be a good way to pass the week before the nuptial and they feel that it will be a success, for they believe both Beatrice and Benedick are a great match. They devise a plan to convince both parties that the other is madly in love with the other, but that they would never declare it for fear of letting it be known. Don John does not take part in the joy of the others and wants to put an end to all of the happiness and his cronies and him devise plans to ruin both. As we enter the third act its obvious that we are in for an interesting time.

Who're the True Servants?

The servants cause the mischief in comedies it seems. Like in Twelfth Night, where Maria thought up a merry plan to cause things to go a little bit crazy, Antonio’s man and Borachio seem to be the catalysts for chaos this time around. The trouble starts with Antonio’s man. He overhears Claudio and the Prince discussing how Claudio has fallen for Hero…and takes it entirely the wrong way. The Prince has decided to approach Hero at the masked ball later on and pretend to be Claudio to hear of her feelings for him…but the servant seems to think it’s the Prince who has a think for Hero! Leonato then says he’ll have Hero have an answer ready for just in case…for the wrong man! It seems all matter of craziness can spring from this, it seems another case of who loves who. It’s another case of clothing making the man, considering the Prince is disguising himself and as we learned from Viola, no good can come of that in Shakespeare’s plays!

Borachio, on the other hand, hears the full story and knows it’s Claudio who likes Hero. He also knows that the Prince will be dressed up like him to get her feelings. He tells this to his lord Don John who, we learn, doesn’t like Claudio. As it turns out, Claudio was the one who kept John from over throwing his brother. “If I can cross him any way I bless myself every way.” He seems to have every intention of causing chaos for poor Claudio. And thus the stage is set for very wacky things happening, as they are wont to do in Shakespeare’s work.

And this is all just in Act one. Shakespeare shows his skill at setting the stage and immediately getting the reader, or the audience seeing as it is a play, sucked right in. This was of course necessary for the time when the people on the floor could be easily bored and walk out, or throw rotten food. It was always best to keep the action moving and keep them entertained, but I digress! The point is that…it seems the servants start all the mischief.

If it wasn’t for the two eavesdroppers, Borachio and Leonato’s man, could this possibly have happened? Most likely not. It may have all gone according to plan otherwise. The Prince may have simply learned of Hero’s feelings for Claudio and set them up to be married. But that wouldn’t be much of a comedy, would it? No, the chaos must insue and all chaos needs catalysts, for which servants provide a wonderful source of such. We see it in Midsummer’s Night Dream with the way Oberon sends Puck to use the potion and he botches it up. Its also seen in Midsummer with the way all the fighting between Oberon and Titania starts with a servant boy that they both want. We see it in Twelfth night with Cesario being Orsino’s servant, which starts all the chaos in that play. It is also seen there with Maria and the way she, along with Sir Toby and Andrew, tricks Malvolio. Servants are what starts all the fun in these comedies. It makes you wonder who are the true servants, and who are the true masters!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Do the Clothes make the man?

Recently within William Shakespeare’s plays I have been paying close attention to the importance of identity (physical appearance affecting that) for his characters and how one’s identity change affects those around them. Twelfth Night was the first play that seriously had me thinking about identity when Orsino could not see Viola until she changed her clothing, he even still called her Cesario after he figured out that he was a she. This theme has spilled over into “Much Ado About Nothing” and I have to wonder how important this idea of identity (mainly physical identity) is for Shakespeare’s characters.
The main focus of the question lies within Act 2 scene one when the masquerade plan takes full affect. The first example that I found against the idea that physical appearance has much importance was when Antonio and Ursula have the small aside. Ursula is 100% certain that she is talking to Signor Antonio but Antonio is desperate to convince her otherwise. She then has the very interesting line “Can virtue hide itself?”(line 104) and as the reader that makes me understand that no matter what mask one could wear they cannot truly hide their true selves. This in itself would go against the idea that was presented in a Twelfth Night when Viola easily hid her “true self”. Also when Don John knows it is Claudio he speaks to, Claudio is sure that he has tricked Don John with just a simple mask. How can masks truly hide someone from who they are? This brings us back to our childhood when we would read the comic books when the superhero would put on a mask and then no one could possibly identify them. Just a simple plastic covering over his/her eyes was able to keep their true identity secrete, but no within “Much Ado about Nothing”. And yet a change in wardrobe and a beard can do the same thing as a plastic mask for a superhero in “Twelfth Night”. These changes in idea about physical appearance and how that can easily change who see’s that person for who he/she really is becomes quite confusing.
Does Shakespeare believe it is so easy to play these switches on his characters? Or more importantly does he think that the people within his time would see this and believe that they could either pretend to be a man if they were a woman or wouldn’t be able to hide behind a mask at the next party?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Noticing Systems of Class in Act V of A Midsummer Night's Dream

In Act V of A Midsummer Night's Dream, I thought that the details having to do with class structure seemed interesting. When the artisans put on their performance for the upper class, it seemed like the upper class took pity on them in a belittling fashion. The upper class didn't expect the lower class to be anything more than what they were. They saw them almost like children who were not capable of achieving certain things. Hippolyta even says, “Indeed, he hath played on this prologue like a child on a recorder...” in lines 122-123. The artisans are neither insulting due to their terrible performance, nor are they thought of as people who might benefit from an education in order to give a better performance in the future. Instead, they are laughed at or thought of as cute because they might now know any better. Everyone seems to be strictly bound to one level of the class structure with barely any room to change one's rank in society. The upper class maintains a certain amount of distance between themselves and the lower class, as well as a level of control by being more educated. In a similar way, the fairies maintain a certain amount of distance from the humans and a certain amount of control over their lives by having a distinct knowledge of love potions and magical powers that they feel completely fine about using on the humans without their knowledge.

I thought it was comical and interesting that in the Epilogue, Puck casually glosses over all of the ways in which the fairies may have truly interrupted and abused the lives of the humans by expressing a kind/politically correct apology, in a very professional or cocksure fashion, to anyone who may have been offended by the play. This just seems so hilarious! While I absolutely loved the fairies, it's interesting to see how issues of class were used for comedic purposes and what the characters got away with!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Should Act V Have Gone The Route of "Die, die die, die, die"?

Should Act V Have Gone The Route of "Die, die die, die, die"?
Blog Post #1 By Morgan Smith

A question some Shakespeare scholars pose in response to A Midsummer Night's Dream Act V is, "Was that really necessary?". When we last left our couples and characters in Act IV, most of the problems that initiated this whimsical play were resolved; the youths were paired off with their rightful mates, Oberon and Titania's feud produced Oberon victor, Bottom restored, and Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding is underway.

Don't roll down the curtains just yet- there are a number of subtle and significant themes continued in Act V that are worth your observation.

Echoing the title, dreams play an importance throughout the play and Act V served as a cincher to this motif. Puck wrapped up the theme of dreams by heralding Hippolyta and Theseus' later conversation of the lovers' "dreams" with this Epilogue, 'If we shadows have offended,/Think but this, and all is mended;That you have but slumbered here." (895, Lines 1-4) At this point, many of the characters presume that the proceedings of the night before were merely reverie and Puck's address to the audience fashions the play into a whimsical dream the crowd has enjoyed.

But besides repeating pre-existing themes, Act V gave a unique and silent version of AMND's leading ladies, Hermia and Helena. For the first time, these otherwise opinionated women have nothing to say in Act V. The previously unstoppable Helena and outspoken Hermia who defied "the ancient privilege of Athens" (850) seem to have nothing to say now that they have acquired the objects of their affection. This change in character insinuates marriage as the ultimate social achievement for women in this society, while the males can expect to go on to other things (and provide commentary to crude plays).

Act V served as a vehicle to tie the loose ends of themes, such as gender. Hippolyta, the symbolically conquered Amazon queen, is finally married to Theseus in this Act preceded by the play the "rude mechanicals" so laboriously put together. Compared to where we saw them last stating their wishes to rise up from their blue-collar post, their production of 'Pyramus and Thisbe' does not live up to their expectations and they unknowingly suffer harsh critique from their audience, "Hard-handed men that work Athens here, Which never laboured in their minds till now", is what Egeus refers to the players as. They bumble through the tragic love story- which eerily echoed the plot of Romeo and Juliet, though I've heard forbidden romances that end with everyone dying is a classic story arc (Tristan and Isolde, anyone?).

At first I thought such a play was an odd choice to entertain wedding guests with, but the theme of hardships and love seemed to shadow the trials faced by everyone in the woods prior. This reflection in 'Pyramus and Thisbe' to me added to the dreamlike mystique of the Acts that took place in the forest.

Overall, I do not feel AMND would be the same without Act V to really nail all those motifs on the head once and for all.

I would also like to add the pleasure I took in Theseus' reaction to Bottom offering an epilogue or rustic bergamask dance at the conclusion of the play, "No epilogue, I pray you; for your play needs no excuse...Marry, if he that writ it had played Pyramus and hanged himself in Thisbe's garter it would have been a fine tragedy...But come, your bergamask. Let the epilogue alone." (893)

It made me laugh. That is the best and most disparaging rejection to a shabby play!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

In the Bedford Companion to Shakespeare we are told that “marriage was part of a system of inheritance and economics so ingrained and pervasive that the emotional affections or physical desires of a man and woman diminished in importance” (266). Families owning property in sixteenth century England arranged marriages that met certain basic ideals for financial and political security. Children were considered property that could be used as bargaining tools to meet these goals.
It is clear that Shakespeare is making a statement against this system of marriage in
A Midsummer Night's Dream. In doing so, he creates female characters who defy the roles assigned to women during his time. Hermia, for example, refuses to act as a bargaining chip in her Father's marriage dealings by refusing to marry Demetrius, believing marriage should be based upon love.

Shakespeare shines light on the issue of marriage in money at the beginning of the play, but he seems to lose interest in the topic by Act IV. He mainly leaves it up to “magic” to solve the quarrels of the four lovers, and as luck would have it, Theseus has a change of heart and decides to over rule Egeus's decision and let Hermia marry Lysander, the man of her desires. Egeus does not argue with him and exits from the scene immediately after Theseus states his new decision.

It is not completely clear why Theseus has a change of heart, perhaps because Demetrius has fallen in love with Helena, or because he wishes to please his bride Hippolyta by not condemning Hermia to a life of celibacy or “disposing” of her. It is also not clear why Egeus is insistent on Hermia marrying Demetrius as opposed to Lysander for all four of the lovers seem to come from a similar social background. Shakespeare never introduces us to Helena's father, “Nedar” to get his opinion on her “unnatural” longing for Demetrius.
I wonder if Shakespeare realized he was making a statement against the traditions of Elizabethan marriages or if he intentionally wanted to make Hermia an empowering female character. From what we learned in class the beginning of this semester, Shakespeare was a playwright whose primary focus was to provide the public with entertainment and to make money off of them. I doubt he was concerned with making social statements against the institutions of Elizabethan society or was an advocate for women's rights. Nonetheless, it is still interesting to see these issues addressed in
A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Although A Midsummer Night's Dream is recognized as a comedy, one of the major themes within this play is love. Does love intertwine with comedy or is it more associated with tragedy? As human beings, do we dream the impossible dream? I think everyone does in some way and we see this in the play as well. Although the women get what they want in the end, is it really what they wanted? Their rights are taken away and they have become silent. Bottom, Snug, Snout, Quince and Flute all decide to put on a play, and are all comedic characters. These are actors who rarely have used knowledge, but at the same time are hard working individuals. One major reason they put on the play is because they think they will get paid for it. They didn’t agree to be in the play because they want to make a career out of it. They feel that this will enable them to move up in society and become a higher class.

A moral within this play is if you dare to dream your dream, it MIGHT come true; and if it doesn't then hopefully it will still be fun and entertaining. Dreams are something we always wish to be true but they might be hard to fulfill. The course of true love is not an easy thing and in the play Lysander assures Hermia of this. No matter what there will always be difficulties and obstacles that people must face. Hermia does everything she can to remain positive and thinks that after overcoming and facing the difficulties of love that it will all soon come together. This is the price that lovers must pay. The exploration of love is at the heart of the play, although it is recognized to be a comedy. In this play we see that it is a male dominated society. Gender is one of the big issues, does it ever really get resolved? As far as gender roles go, Hippolyta is the most traditional feminine woman because the other female characters don’t listen to the men. This may show us that they are strong willed and will fight for what they want despite what others say.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Is it really pity, or is actually jealousy?

So far in the play A Midsummer Night's Dream we've met the characters Oberon and Titania. As we know these two lovers have a feud about loyalty and the ownership of the little indian boy.
Titania bestows more love on this boy (as well as on Theseus) than she does on Oberon, her husband and King.

From the start Oberon says he wants the child to become a hunter. Now we can look at this in three ways: him being concerned with the boy's upbringing, him seeing some kind of advantage to the boy being a hunter, or (and i think this is more so the reason) just plain ol' jealousy.

Oberon's wife bestows all her love on this child and not on him and she refuses to yield him or her love to Oberon. So as we know Oberon bewitched her (with the help of Puck) to fall in love with Bottom, who now has an ass's head.

In 4.1 Oberon says:
"Her dotage now i do begin to pity,
for meeting her of late behind the wood,
Seeking sweet favours for this hateful fool,
I did upbraid her and fall out with her,
For she his hairy temples then had rounded
With coronet of fresh fragrant flowers,"

Oberon watches as his wife loves yet another, Bottom, someone as hideous and stupid as they come. She loves Bottom with all of her heart (even though she doesnt' know it is because she is bewitched). She has now loved three people more than she loves Oberon and though he says he pities her for her choice of love, it sounds like to me that he tragically longs to be the ones loved. He wants to be desirous, and yet with all his powers and hierarchy he is not.

Oberon in this story is the only one who really isn't loved. Yes, he gets what he wants, which includes spiting his wife and putting her back in her "rightful place," blessing Hippolyta's bed, bewitching Demetrius to love Helena, and receiving ownership of the little indian boy, yet no one at all says that they love him. Not even Titania when she wakes from her sleep doe she say that she loves him. She does call him her lord though, its sort of like Oberon tamed her.

So for all he has he still never gets love. Which sort of makes him all alone.

We also never learn of Titania's reaction, in her normal, sober self, when she learns she has given up the child to Oberon. Perhaps they just continue to feud because of it. They just go off and bless the bride bed and there's no talk of their affairs afterwards...

In a way, I feel like although the story ends because we get closure for all the Athenians, i wish we knew what happens to the fairies. Since their story is built up but it never really solidly ends. The closest we get to a solid ending is that their story might just be a dream, that is if you find that the idea of fairies runs with witchcraft and offends the Christian religion (Shakespeare's own way of pardoning his own choice of characters). We never find out if Oberon has told Titania of what has happened... my guess is that she hasn't a clue of what Oberon did to her until after the wedding. He probably was saving it so they could get through the nuptials without problem, and then he could scoot out the next day with the indian boy and never face her until a long time from now. To me it almost sounds like there should be a part 2 to their story: Titania's Revenge. It would be quite like Clytemnestra in the Agamemnon.

I personally found Act 5 to be the most boring of the play, until the fairies return. I guess thats because its mainly the play Pyramus and Thisbe... but i guess its meant to feel like that. As we know Theseus doesn't even want to stay for the epilogue. I find it interesting though that there is a play within a sounds kind of strange. Shakespeare has done that before. Speaking of which, many of Shakespeare's plays share very common links to each other, their plots, the word choice used, the things within the plays...i guess that is expected.

Hermia and Helena, Best Friends or Frenemies?

The relationship that Hermia and Helena have is not one that I would wish to have with my childhood best friend. I say this because once a man was thrown into the mix, there was immediate disruption in their relationship. Another reason I wouldn’t want this relationship with my childhood friend is because of the love triangle, if you can call it a triangle you may want to call it a square that is going on. Hermia is in love with Lysander, Helena is in love with Demetrius they were also once engaged but Demetrius is in love with Hermia and Hermia’s father wants them to be married. So as you can see not the ideal situation to be in. Once under the spell than both of the men are in love with Helena, which complicates things even more because she thinks they are mocking her. If I was her I would think they same thing because one minute your chasing one guy and you wake up the next day and that same guy and the guy that is in love with your best friend are chasing you, I wouldn’t know what to think either.

They way in which Helena describes the relationship between herself and Hermia we can see that they were very close and had a strong bond or a homosocial relationship. For example, “ We, Hermia, like two artificial gods/Have with our needles created one flower,/Both on one sampler sitting on one cushion, Both warbling of one song, both in one key,/As if our hands, our sides, voices, and minds/Had been incorporate. So we grew together,/Like to a double cherry: seeming parted,/But yet an union in partition,/Two lovely berries moulded on one stem./So, with two seeming bodies but one heart.”(3.2.204-213). If you notice in her description on their friendship , she uses repetition of the word “one” which really emphasizes the closeness of their relationship and the immensity of their bond. In the conclusion of her speech she asks Hermia how she could join the men and scorn her , “To join with men in scorning your poor friend?”(3.2.17). Even though that is not what is really going on I would think the same exact thing if I were Helena, I mean in this situation how could you not. At the same time I feel as though she is a little hypocritical because earlier in the play in Act I she wasn’t hesitant to tell Demetrius about Hermia and Lyslander’s plan to escape and a true friend wouldn’t do that, or at least I hope my friend wouldn’t , “I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight./Then to the wood will he tomorrow night/Pursue her, and for this intelligence/If I have thanks it is dear expense./But herein mean to enrich my pain,/To have his sight thither and back again.”(1.1.246-251). Here she wasn’t afraid to throw her friend under the bus to better herself. She thought this would help her win Demetrius over.

Love Stories Wrapped in a Comedy

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a meditation on love hidden within the trappings of a comedy. Shakespeare cast the play with the highest of the aristocracy to the lowest of artisans in ancient Athens as well as taking his audience to the world of the Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the fairies. But this lively cast of characters cannot distract from Shakespeare true message of the play spoken by the nobleman Lysander who says, “The course of true love never did run smooth (1.1.134).”

The many manifestations of love are apparent from the opening of the play where we meet Theseus, the Duke of Athens who will marry Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Marriage is the final act in the play of love. We are not privy to their courtship. The only hint that Shakespeare gives is when Theseus says to Hippolyta, “I wooed thee with my sword,/And won thy love doing thee injuries./But I will wed thee in another key-/ With pomp, with triumph, and with reveling (1.1.16-19).” We feel Theseus’ pride and honor in his bride but Hippolyta’s feelings about her groom are unclear.

As a captured queen, subjugated by war, Hippolyta would be resigned to her fate. There is acceptance and resignation. Her words are tinged with duty not desire. Theseus is anxious to consummate the marriage but Hippolyta refers to this as the night “of our solemnities (1.1.11).” In Theseus and Hipployta, we have love based on conquest and subjugation.

Demetrius and Helena represent unbalanced love. The play begins and we find Demetrius vying with Lysander for the hand of Hermia. Demetrius before deciding to wed Hermia had given his love to Helena. Lysander tells Theseus that Demetrius, “Made love to Nedar’s daughter, Helena,/ And won her soul, and she, sweet lady, dotes,/ Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry/ Upon this spotted and inconstant man (1.1.107-110).”

We do not know what happened between Demetrius and Helena but we are certain that Demetrius does not love Helena. He tells her, “I love thee not, therefore pursue me not (2.1.188).” He goes even farther confessing that he is sick when he looks at her (2.1.212). At this point, one wants Helena to pick up her self-respect and flee as far away from Demetrius. Perhaps she can visit a distant aunt to free her from her addiction.

The more Demetrius tells her he does not love her, Helena loves him more deeply. She declares to Demetrius in one of the more pitiful monologues in literature that, “The more you beat me I will fawn on you./ Use me but as your spaniel: spurn me, strike me,/ Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,/ Unworthy as I am, to follow you (2.1.204-207).” What earthly possibility can Helena possibly have in her quest?

It is only through the instigation of Oberon and Puck that Helena finally has the love of Demetrius. Oberon’s magic potion causes Demetrius to love Helena as much as she loves him. He is ready to be her spaniel. Helena should be overjoyed but she fears she is the butt of a practical joke by Lysander, Demetrius and Hermia. Once Lysander is no longer under the spell of Oberon’s magic potion and again in love with Hermia and she is in full possession of Demetrius’ love, Helena is not satisfied, “And I have found Demetrius like a jewel,/ Mine own and not my own (4.1.188-189).” Helena will have Demetrius but their love will always be mismatched. Demetrius loves her as long as Oberon’s potion stays strong. Helena is left to wonder if that love truly belongs to her.

Titania and Oberon offer love as competition. Their passion is about the game. When Titania accuses Oberon of loving Hippolyta, Oberon is ready to accuse her, “How canst thou thus for shame, Titania,/Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,/ Knowing I know thy love to Theseus? (2.1.74-76)” From the moment they appear on stage, Shakespeare has them competing over the young Indian boy. Unfortunately, their competition has ramifications on the world by affecting the seasons and the growing of crops. Once the competition comes to an end and they are able to metaphorically shake hands and call it even, life can go on smoothly again, until the next challenge.

Lysander and Hermia are Shakespeare’s purest form of love for they give of themselves willing to each other. There is no reason that there course should not run smooth as they point out, they are not from different ranks, they are not mismatched by age, nor have they been chosen by someone else (1.1.135-140). In the end Lysander and Hermia are the epitome of true love as Theseus says to them, “Fair lovers, you are fortunately met (4.1.174).”