Friday, May 20, 2011

The role of Prophecy in 'Macbeth'

A question i always find myself asking when presented with a story involving a prophecy is, 'Would the results have been the same had they not known about the prophecy?' In all such stories, the characters tend to base all if their actions on the knowledge of the prophecy and these particular actions often lead to the fulfillment of said prophecies. This seems to be the case even when the subject is trying to avoid the fulfillment of the prophecy. The story of Oedipus is a prime example of how prophecies are inevitable.

In regards to Macbeth, I actually find myself conflicted when it comes to the prophecy. Normally i feel sure that prophecies will always be carried out despite anyone's actions; but in this play, the carrying out of the prophecy seemed so dependent on the fact that both Macbeth and Lady Macbeth were aware of it. In the beginning of the play i got the impression that Macbeth was a dutiful and loyal subject to the king who expressed no particular desire to take the kings place. He is approached by the three witches after having had some success on the battlefield and is at that point told of the prophecy.

Upon hearing the prophecy of his future as King, Macbeth is initially stunned and skeptical. His doubt in my opinion is key. I see it as expressing the fact that this is something Macbeth had never aimed for or even imagined for himself. Once Lady Macbeth is made aware of the prophecy it is fulfilled almost immediately. Macbeth kills the king while the true heirs (the princes) decide to flee in fear of their own lives. I believe that had Macbeth not known of this prophecy, he would have simply been grateful for his 'promotion' as opposed to being slightly angered by the prince's promotion. He would have never even made an attempt at the kings life, and the prophecy would never have been fulfilled.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

King Lear: Act V (Make Up)

Another post that seemed to slip by was the one I had to do on King Lear: Act V. This should be a little fun because this play had such a ridiculously sweet ending. I want to focus on a piece of dialogue that reminds me of something I saw on The Daily Show with John Stewart the other day:

EDMUND: I pant for life. Some good I mean to do,

Despite of mine own nature. Quickkly send,

Be brief in it, to the castle; for my write

Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia:

Nay, send in time. (5.3.242-244)

The guest John Stewart had on was a man named Jon Ronson (author of The Men Who Stare at Goats). Ronson recently released his latest work, The Psychopath Test, in which he summarizes what he has found in pursuing interviews with psychopath's to get a more overarching view of their influence. Studies show, says Ronson, that 1 out of every 100 people in the world are socially integrated psychopaths, while 4 out of every 100 CEOs fall into this category. Now, he suggests, that the criteria for the psychopath is a recipe for ruthless success, in that some of the key characteristics include: lack of guilt; love of manipulation; ability to lie to peoples faces; bouts of bullying; superficial charm; unrealistic fantasies; and the list goes on and on. In reviewing King Lear, I would like to focus on Edmund's existence as a full blown psychopath, in that, he decides to walk the walk and talk the talk of a King (or at least one of significantly higher power than he—just or unjustly—deserves), regardless of what he was born into, and because he will do it by any means necessary, constantly. But I want to focus in that dialogue I quoted above on the line, “Some good I mean to do,” because this is where I see the most obvious parallel between Edmund and what Ronson sees as typical psychopathic behavior. Ronson states that a psychopath constantly constantly wants people to like them, is constantly in the business of manipulation, that Edmund, on his deathbed, proclaiming that he means to do good is a perfect example of this kind of action. I haven't read Ronson's book, but I mean to, and I also mean to revisit this idea with another reading of King Lear. This could turn into a really interesting paper for me in the future.

Midterm Blog Post: Make Up

One of the blogging assignments that I missed was the midterm one which was supposed to consists of looking back onto our posts and writing some sort of response. Well, I've just read through them and I find most of the time that my opinions are pretty interesting yet, that I'm usually intimidated by Shakespeare, especially when required to post before beginning class discussion. I found that to be the most difficult thing about posting; I mean, it's tough to just come up with your own opinions about an incomplete reading of a work, but I guess it's an important concept. You can only read something for the first time once, and that may be the only unbiased reading that you can ever truly have. But I found one of my blog posts in particular to be really funny, because I saw that professor Mulready was the only one to comment on it, and you know, of course he has read the play before (a million times), but there I am making this conjecture that turns out to be the primary plot of the story:

“I have a question though, would I be correct in suggesting Claudio's desire for his sister Isabella to flirtatiously insinuate sexual desire for Angelo? I mean, the tick-tack comment is explained to us by the Norton Anthology's footnotes, but does he wish her to do absolutely anything she must in order to keep him alive?”

I think it's pretty funny to look back and see myself wrestling with this idea that ends up being the main conflict of the rest of the work. But as for other observations, I'm pretty satisfied at least with my ability when not able to grasp a work, to still look to those things which I can understand by focusing on little things in the dialogue and such, showing that I'm not inept because of my inability to understand things (I think it proves that maybe being a little confused doesn't mean much). It's comforting, in retrospect, that I can still make decent observations even when I'm stuck. And that's encouraging.

Women are Evil in Macbeth

To me, Macbeth is a pretty misogynistic play. Most of the women characters motivate the male characters to do the evils they perform throughout. It all starts out when Macbeth and Banquo, after returning home victorious in separate wars, stumbling upon three witches in the midst of their rituals. They predict that Macbeth will become Thane of Cawdor, then King of Scotland, while Banquo's lineage will ascend to the throne after that. Macbeth tries to get information from the witches on how this will happen: “Say from whence / You owe this strange intelligence, or why / Upon this blasted heath you stop our way / With such prophetic greeting. Speak, I charge you” (2583). Despite this reasoning, the witches simply vanish, leaving the men in the dark about what this prophesy could've meant.

This presents a couple of problems, especially when King Duncan promotes Macbeth to Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth suddenly becomes fascinated by the prophesy and obsessed with the idea that he's becoming king. It's unclear of how the prophesy would have played out if the witches have never told it to Macbeth. Maybe King Duncan would've died of natural causes or something similar and somehow his son wouldn't be able to inherit the throne. Maybe it would've taken decades for Macbeth to ascend the throne. The witches leaving so suddenly seemed an evil act because it left Macbeth highly ambitious to become king.

Macbeth, of course, tells his wife about the prophesy, as a good man tells his wife everything. This however, leads to the revelation that the other major woman character, Lady Macbeth, is evil. In a monologue she claims Macbeth has too many feelings about the whole situation to act, acting would involve Macbeth murdering King Duncan. She says: “Yet I do fear thy nature. / It is too full o'th' milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way” (2587). She later tells Macbeth to just suck it up and kill the king when he stays over their estate for a night of dinner and drinking: “O never / Shall sun that morrow see.…To beguile the time, / Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye, / Your hand, your tongue; look like the innocent flower, / But be the serpent under't” (2588). So, even she is the convincing factor that leads to Macbeth stabbing King Duncan in the temple. He blames in on his Duncan's servants, and Duncan's sons Malcolm and Donalbain flee because they are afraid of being murdered as well. Their escape make the brothers an easy scapegoat in their father's death.

These actions lead to a chain reaction where more killings must take place: Banquo becomes murdered under Macbeth's order, and so does Macduff's family. Macduff being a character proclaimed to be an enemy of Macbeth through the witches. Macduff's wife is the only character who isn't evil in the play, and she dies before there's any real chance of character development.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Difficult Scene: Gloucester's Eye Gouging

Fast foward to 4:39 in this video to see the good stuff. I found that this clips takes stage direction high level. I was particularly fascinated in the eye gouging scene in King Lear not because it was gruesome, but because that sounds like a very difficult scene to portray well. This clip presents the scene as a dialogue-less flashback, but still work well to show the amount of horror meant to go into the scene. This makes me think of how more major productions of the play handle this particular moment, one of Shakespeare's most brutal.

Final Part II - "Don't Mention Macbeth"

This clip titled "Don't Mention Macbeth" is taken from the BBC comedy Blackadder. It focuses on the belief that there is a curse on the name Macbeth. The two characters that are playing as two 'actors' speak in rhyme and take part in a seemingly silly ritual in order to avoid the curse of mentioning the name 'Macbeth.' I find that these 2 characters closely resemble the fools seen among various plays from Shakespeare's collection. The costume and presentation of the characters in this show closely resemble the styles of Shakespeare's time as well. I chose the clip for it's comedic display of the curse of Macbeth as well as for it's portrayal of Shakepeare's time.

An Insider Video look into a 1st Rehearsal of Shakespeare

I have wanted to share this video all semester. It's an insider look into the first rehearsal of Cymbeline staged by Fiasco Theater and presented at Theatre for the New Audience in the city. I had an opportunity to see this production in January and let me just say that it greatly affected my ideas about ensemble theater, Shakespeare and dyamnic-actor driven performance.

I love how the first rehearsal is all about opening up a dialogue between the acting ensemble (which also includes the play's co-directors, designers, and the TFNA artistic director and staff.

They're just shooting the shit, and I love it. I hope you do too.

Merchant of Venice Video

A guy named Dallas Bill discussing The Merchant of Venice. I think it's pretty interesting, he recites a few lines. Gives a little history surrounding the play. Plus I think it's always nice to see a guy in a cowboy hat talking about Shakespeare. He has a few of these videos where he addresses different plays by Shakespeare.

There is a little fault in his discussion--he refers to Portia as Shylock's daughter, but he apologizes in the little information box thing below the video.

Macbeth Video

This link is a link to The Shakespeare Video's Society Production of Macbeth. As much as I enjoyed the movie we saw clips of in class of Macbeth when I had to watch the whole thing in a different class it put me to sleep. So this is a more theatrical version of the play. It is more colorful, sexualized, and a little over the top in some parts. I chose this video because I think that it is more entertaining, it's what one would see if they actually went to see a production of the play on stage. This particular production however, portrays Lady Macbeth to be more sexual than she seems in other productions and in the reading of the play, so maybe not appropriate for some high school levels if anyone was thinking of using this in the future for teaching. This clip illustrates the major themes in Macbeth and it also addresses the role of Lady Macbeth and depicts her in a different light. This video would be good to use in the classroom because it's not old and stuffy but at the same time it still follows the traditional Shakespearean language and doesn't go into modern realms that take away from the essence of the plot and storyline.

Kurosawa's Ran

This is a link to a pretty silly trailer for Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, which is based on King Lear. The trailer doesn’t do the film justice, but I couldn’t find any short clip that was better. I chose this film because I think Kurosawa offers an interesting take on the story of King Lear and perhaps gives credence to Ben Johnson’s claim that Shakespeare is for all time (as the film is set feudal Japan). The visuals are quite striking and Kurosawa maintains a raw dramatic energy throughout. For anyone who is interested in Shakespeare and Japanese cinema, Kurosawa’s a good director to look at. He also adapted Macbeth in Throne of Blood (and has adapted other works by western authors, like Maxim Gorky’s Lower Depths). For those of you who are interested, here’s a link to a pretty good quality (and free) streaming of the full length film:


I chose this video because I thought a cartoon version of Macbeth would be fun to watch. It actually turned out to be pretty great. I think turning Macbeth into a cartoon is a fabulous was to entice young people, especially those in middle school or high school. The simple fact that it's animated makes it more intriguing. I remember being in high school and seeing an old film that the teacher would put on and saying to myself "ugggggh not again". This is a version that will make younger crowd more apt to wanting to read Shakespeare. I'm going to continue looking to see if there are any other Shakespeare plays that have been animated in this way.

Akira Kurosawa's RAN (King Lear)

First of all, you should all go watch Ran by Akira Kurosawa because not only is it an adaptation of King Lear, it's a fantastic and historically significant film. Also see Rashomon, The Idiot (Dostoevsky adaptation), Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood (Macbeth), Yojimbo, High and Low... what is this post about again?

I saw this film before I ever read King Lear, so a lot of these characters and settings looked like this film when I imagined them reading it. More than anything, the actor who plays "Lord Ichimonji" (King Lear) does a fantastic job of portraying his insanity. In this scene, we see as he sits in silence while being shot at it and while the building he is in begins to burn to the ground. At about the 3 minute point, he suddenly erupts into a fury, desperate to grab a hold of anything and escape the inferno, eventually sinking back down into his sitting position. This actor's portrayal is what I had in mind while reading King Lear, and I think it does well to add some depth to Lear's insanity that doesn't necessarily come through on the page.

Shakespeare for the illiterate!

I chose this resource because I wanted to find something out of the ordinary that might help someone who is Shakespeare "illiterate." This source is a decent starting block for those who find Shakespearean plots and/or language overly convoluted. This video in particular breaks down King Lear for us in manageable chunks, although it at times becomes unmanageably annoying. The major questions it raises for me are ones of Shakespeare's complexity versus his accessibility. Are Shakespeare's plots simple but portrayed in a convoluted way or are they convoluted inherently in the amount of levels they operate on? At least this puts the plot in terms that those of us who find the Elizabethan wordplay a bit much to start with. Is it best to understand the plot first and then dive into the text or is it better to derive the plot from the text to better understand it? I tend to believe the prior, or else Shakespeare would not give us all this exposition in the form of asides and soliloquy. This is a pretty useful resource for those just starting on reading King Lear, but becomes obsolete when one needs to consider deeper meanings in the text.

Two videos: One for awareness, one for fun

I decided to post two videos. This assignment has made me aware of the wealth of videos out on the web that are related to Shakespeare - from educational, to satire, to documentary, to modern versions, and so forth - the possibilities are endless!

I was particularly intrigued by our reading of King Lear, however, so I chose two videos that relate to this play in very different ways. The first is a montage video of a woman dubbed "The Shakespeare Lady." The footage was taken by a woman named Ronnie Neuhauser, who was interested in The Shakespeare Lady (named Margaret Holloway), and chose to follow her. Ronnie states, "This is a video I created for Margaret Holloway, a homeless woman who prior to being stricken with schizophrenia had attained a BA from Bennington College and an MA from Yale University. She now performs classical literature on the streets of New Haven, CT, for survival. When I met her I was so touched I knew I had to create a composition about her...Half the proceeds go directly to her. I hope this touches you and make you think about how such a problem exists in such a powerful economic country."

The first several minutes of the video are very similar, but if you skip to the end, you will see a bit more of Ronnie's message. I thought this video was an important look into how deeply Shakespeare's words can effect someone, even after being stricken with mental illness. It was also ironic to me when thinking about King Lear, and its theme of mental illness. I wonder what led this woman to the mental state that she is currently in, and why she finds solace in speaking Shakespeare's words. Does his language have a therapeutic quality?

Secondly, this video is by a group called the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre, and is purely for absurd fun. It condenses the story of King Lear into 8 minutes, super-simplifying the plot with plain English language. Characters names are substituted, such as "Gonorrhea," "Ronald Regan," and "Edgar Allen Poe." However, it is not all nonsense. It pokes fun at the play in a way that is clearly aware of its themes and caricatures the characters by whittling them down to their essences. For example, Edmund the Bastard's puppet constantly mentions that he is a bastard, thus undermining the actual serious tone of Edmund's situation in the play. This video is silly, yet smart. It is made in jest, yet the man performing it appears to know his Shakespeare well. It is not necessarily kid friendly, just because it is done with sock puppets; there is adult language, and grown ups will appreciate the humor more than children.

I think both of these videos illustrate that Shakespeare's work is eternally relevant, and can manifest itself in people's lives in many ways. Some people may not know how much it has affected them, while others choose to use their knowledge to bring both joy and education to others. Long live Shakespeare!

Final Post

This video presents a very strange rendition of Measure For Measure in a stop motion picture. What was most interesting to me was the way that they were able introduce the main ideas of the play, but in a contemporary dialogue. This helped to show the way language has evolved, but there is nothing new that can be shown for it. The same words, phrases, and depictions are there, but there are only new ways of expressing it. These types of changes occur everyday, but it will be interesting to see how dated Shakespeare's language will seem in the future. If it does not already seem foreign, just wait.

Shakespeare: The Fun and Funny

This video displays most crucially what can be done with the mode of Shakespearean interpretation. We can take his language, meld it with our own culture, make it relevant and funny, and interest those who may have been otherwise disinterested. Perhaps this isn't brilliant, but it's examples like these which add to Shakespeare's influence, importance, and fun. Why not praise it and enjoy the show? We can ask if such an interpretation misses the point of Shakespeare, as there doesn't seem to be much depth here, but the essence of Comedy, as we spoke about in class, consists of cheating death (focusing our attention rather upon life). And laughter accomplishes this, as it can press the depressed in all the right ways. That concept of laughter's satisfactions are what inspired Shakespeare's Comedic form, making this video appurtenant by default.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Beatles are more connected to Shakespeare than we thought! (You know, besides both being English)

Ever wonder what the dialogue was at the very end of “I Am the Walrus” by The Beatles? If you’re a Beatles fan, then of course you have because this song (album: Magical Mystery Tour) was released in the midst of their drug-induced heyday; which means that many things they did made absolutely no sense and us fans are left to be confused and wondering. However, the answer “they were just on drugs, this literally means nothing and holds no significance” is not good enough for a lot of people. Therefore, many devote much time and effort to try and analyze what the heck the Fab Four were thinking/doing during this phase. This of course leads to many foolish conclusions and far-fetched conspiracies, but here is one that is actually successful:

At the very end of “I Am the Walrus” (starting at 3:30) there is a chorus of people loudly chanting in high pitched voices “smoke pot, smoke pot, everybody smoke pot…everybody smoke pot, everybody smoke pot!”. At 3:52, the chant decreases in volume and we hear voices that are slightly muffled. These voices are actually dialogue from the BBC broadcast of King Lear!

Here’s the exact part:

Act 4, Scene 6, lines 249-259:

Oswald: Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse.
If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body
And give the letters which you find’st about me
To Edmund, Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out
Upon the English party. O, untimely death!
Death! [He dies]

Edgar: I know thee well: a serviceable villain,
As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
As badness would desire.

Gloucester: What, is he dead?

Edgar: Sit you down, father. Rest you.

Link to Youtube Video:

Why did The Beatles do this?
No one will ever know, but I believe that since the song is about death, this excerpt would be appropriate to include. Furthermore, this of course contributed to the whole “Paul is dead” rumor/scandal/conspiracy (many people started pulling out ridiculous evidence and claiming that Paul was dead. Instead of the Beatles stifling this bizarre rumor, they decided to have fun with it and do things to go along with it/screw with people’s minds). Or perhaps they were paying homage to their homeland’s most famous playwright. But above all, they used King Lear as a tool to demonstrate a point, and that’s pretty significant.

Why else does this matter?
It shows how Shakespeare is prevalent in popular culture, no matter what era. It’s interesting to see how his work has been incorporated in various forms of entertainment such as movies, literature, and music. His work has shown to be flexible: from basic adaptations, to videos like “Sassy Gay Friend”. If you don’t like Shakespeare, you’re S.O.L. because this man’s legacy has proven to never fade.

Even Sesame Street does Shakespeare

Sesame Street does Monsters of Venice

It has been said that the work of Shakespeare is "for all time." I was skeptical of the accuracy of this statement until taking this Shakespeare course. In this course, I have learned that even now, thousands of years after Shakespeare's death, he is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language! I believe this to be the reason why Shakespeare is still so widely studied and the reason why adaptations of many of his most famous plays can be found in different forms of media like television and film. For this reason, I wanted to share with all of you a modern adaptation of a play that we read during our coursework. I found, on youtube, a video of a parody that Sesame Street did of The Merchant of Venice.

This video, while filled with humor, also teaches us another very valuable lesson. That is, that Shakespeare is still relevant in our lives today and his works have truly transcended from his time into ours. I am very confident that this will continue to happen far into our future, and even the future of our children and grandchildren. It is amazing to me that through the vast language that Shakespeare used in his works, we turn to him for entertainment and to learn valuable lessons about our past that can be carried through to our present and our future!

Signed Shakespeare

Translating Shakespeare, into a different language is always a challenge, that challenge becomes multiplied when that language is not even spoken. American Sign Language is a beautiful, kinetic and literal language how does Shakespeare's language so ripe figurative language translate?
American Sign Language is not just English codified into a manual form. It has its own grammar, vocabulary an anything else a language may have. Unlike English grammar, ASL grammar is loose and flexible. A simple example of an American Sign Language sentence is MORNING FINISH SEE I DOG BROWN RUN . Although to us it reads like caveman speak when really it translates to This morning I saw a brown dog run. In english this sentence would seem, elementary but the fantastic thing in ASL the descriptions can be worked in by playing with rhythm, fluidity, and hand shapes. It is due to this flexibility that while it is impossible to fully capture all the magnificence of Shakespeare's language, some of the poetry can still be translated!

Shakespeare's villians

What can I say, I'm a sucker for Kenneth Branagh. I know we didn't read Othello this semester, but it was stated that we can post a clip that has effected our readings of Shakespeare on a whole and this bit from Kenneth Branagh has influenced me more then any other I've seen. The way he turns from jovial and flippant to totally sinister amazes me every time I see it and the suble change in the music score always gives me chills. It was this speech that made me so enthralled with Shankespeare's villians and has influenced the way I've read them ever since. Out of the all characters we've read this semester it was Edmond of "King Lear" I found most compelling and I have no doubt that it was this version of "Othello" and it's portrayal of Iago that influenced me to appreciate the chess master villains like those two in Shakespeare and many other fictional works.

Final Blog Post: Part II

I chose this video because I thoroughly enjoyed this monologue. I feel this speech is really rateable to real life, and as it was an issue back in Shakespearean times I feel that some still find it in issue today. What Macbeth is saying here is that life isn't always a bed of roses, and his case he is finally realizing he is no exception and never will be. And rather than living a miserable life, unable to escape hell he would rather but an end to his misery. The major theme being demonstrated here is that no matter who you are, you will always have struggles in life. As Shakespeare clearly illustrates, to be a king or a person in power is no exception to this rule. In fact, I feel as though Shakespearean works illustrate quite the opposite; meaning if you are a king or are in a higher power your life struggles tend to be that much more challenging than the norm.

Missing Blog

During my confusion I missed a blog post for the course, and Professor Mulready was kind enough to let me post it before the final. For the fifth act of King Lear I am particularly taken with the confusion over the death of the Fool, and how it can be incorporated with the death of Cordelia.....was she ultimately Lear's fool? When one thinks of a stereotypical fool in Shakespearean literature Cordelia does not fit the part: she is not there for the king's amusement, and is not at the king's every beck and call. However Cordelia and the Fool have one great similarity, and that is their frankness with the aging king. Cordelia would not give into then naive nature of the king by refusing to fawn over him; unlike her sisters, Cordelia told Lear blatantly that she loved him like a daughter should love her father, no more and no less. The Fool also is blunt with Lear, telling the king that HE was the fool, more of a fool with the proper name, for believing his other daughters Goneril and Regan with their manipulative ways of flattery.

Another attribute that could suggest the Fool and Cordelia are one in the same is because the Fool vanishes from the play, and during the death of Cordelia, Lear holds her body and cries that his fool is dead: notes from the Norton Shakespeare suggest that Lear was speaking about Cordelia. Cordelia and the Fool have commented on the other, however, with each one calling the other a fool, respectively. It was common in Shakespeare's time for actors to play more than one role simultaneously, and since the Fool and Cordelia never had any time together on the stage it could be implied they may have been the same character.

A Modern Macbeth Restauranteur

Set in a high class restaurant owned by celebrity chef Duncan Docherty, with Joe Macbeth as the sous chef and his wife Ella as the hostess. Joe and his fellow chef Billy Banquo are annoyed that Duncan takes credit for Joe's work, and that Duncan's son Malcolm has understanding of the business. Then they encounter three supernatural binmen who prophesied that Macbeth will get ownership of the restaurant and so will Billy's children. Joe and Ella desire to kill Duncan, but the binmen warn that Macbeth should be concern of the head waiter, Peter Macduff.

I chose this video because it is a modern day take on the story of Macbeth and how ambition can ruin lives. I like when Shakespeare is performed with a refreshing modern take. I would have never thought to set this story in a restaurant but upon review of this video I think it works great. I think that Shakespeare stories are transcendental which is what we enjoy discussing a lot in class. A fresh spin on something that can usually be done so stale and classic. It raises the question of whether or not it is appropriate to call something the story of Macbeth when they are using new language. I wonder if this show could have worked if they did use Shakespeare's language. Even if it is slightly modified.

Here's another video that is just for pure satire's sake.

The Beatles' Take on Shakespeare: Final Part 2

Need I say more? The Beatles effortlessly perform a Shakespearean skit from A Midsummer Night's Dream in this video clip from 1964.

If you want to read along, this is Act V, Scene 1.

From the costumes, to the props, to the acting and the animals, this rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream makes me wish that the Beatles performed every play we read for this course. Not to say that reading the plays or watching the more modern film versions weren't enjoyable, but I think watching the Beatles take on Shakespeare adds a whole new dimension to the play.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Final Blog Part II

I had a hard time finding just one video clip for this assignment. I ended up choosing 2 clips that interested me, and the third is just for a good laugh. I hope to become a teacher one day and I thought this first clip, BBC Shakespeare Animated Tales, was great for teaching Macbeth to children. Children love cartoons, and they are more engaged in animations rather than just reading a book. I have never watched a cartoon of Macbeth, but this 9 min video does a good job telling the story. Some parts are too gruesome for children to watch, such as when Macbeth kills Duncan, so this may not be good for younger children. This is also great for anyone that has a hard time understanding Shakespeare.
I also chose BBC’s Blackadder “Don’t mention Macbeth” because I found it hilarious and Macbeth is one of my favorite plays we read. Blackadder is a historical sitcom on the British Comedy Channel. I remember watching this in another class and I thought it was hilarious. Saying “Macbeth” is considered by those involved in acting to be very bad luck. This legend started with the death of a boy playing Lady Macbeth backstage on opening night in 1606. In this episode, every time Blackadder mentions “Macbeth,” the two gentlemen scream: “Aahhh how potato, orchestra stalls, puck will make amends.” The men tell Blackadder that he is “exercising evil spirits” by mentioning the name of the Scottish play.

Understanding Shakespeare

So for my blog post I surfed the internet tirelessly and couldn't pick something. So I went back into my scribe notes and decided to reuse a video from there. Aside from it being hilarious and straight to the point, "How to Understand Macbeth in 96 Seconds" shows us that Shakespeare's plays are easily broken down into major themes and actions. This is why Shakespeare is so popular even to this day. His stories are easy to relate to and completely adaptable to modern day. As we discussed on our first day of class Shakespeare has proven to be a master at showing his readers an exciting story. And so my clip just shows how even with the bare essentials of a Shakespeare play, we as readers can still get some meaning from it and understand the larger themes of the play. So enjoy!

Stephanie Wexler

Out Darn Spotlight

All right, no laughing (out loud anyway, because you don't want to hurt my feelings) at my pick for this final post.

This is a selection from one of my favorite children's shows, Jimmy Neutron. And, specifically, Jimmy Neutron's "Out Darn Spotlight" which is a Riff on Shakespeare's Macbeth. I say riff because it doesn't really include much from Macbeth, the episode is really about a school production of Macbeth called "Macbeth in Space," that includes some lines from Macbeth, but which really includes a number of other iconic Shakespearian lines from a number of other Shakespeare plays, including lines taken from Richard III and Romeo and Juliet. (It also includes a few Shakespearian sounding lines from Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz for flavor.)

For me this shows just how pervasive Shakespeare's works are in our society, especially when you consider that this is a kid's show and yet it uses so many well known lines from Shakespeare's plays.

Plus, I just love Jimmy Neutron.

Part 1

Part 2

Final Part II: Isabella's plea...through metal?

I've always felt that Measure for Measure's Act II scene ii was pretty romantic. Isabella begs Angelo for help in the plea to save her brother's life. When searching for an adaptation of the scene, I stumbled upon an unexpected video, "The Ballad of Isabella" performed by the Metal Shakespeare Company. After watching this video and a few others, I realized that not only is this band outright ridiculous, they are also innovative and intriguing in some weird way. They adapt this scene using some of the lines while also changing it up a little bit. It is extremely strange to watch a "metal" band perform Shakespearean lines, but they do it in such a fashion that I highly recommend watching. I think clips likes this are oddly beneficial to Shakespeare readers because they add that modern viewpoint, but also show how universal Shakespeare is. The audience, in this live version, are definitely into the song, the band, and the overall act.

Also, one of the best parts is toward the end when the keyboardist begins to solo and the metal really "comes in" with the King.

I'm not exactly sure how Shakespeare would react to this. Would he be insulted? Or think it's somewhat clever and humorous? To me, it's just another way to look at the play and appreciate the timeless work.

Final Part 2 video clip

I picked this video because I feel Shakespeare should be introduced to a younger age. This may be slightly too scary and raunchy for elementary school kids, but middle school kids would enjoy this. I thought it would be cool to share this video since a lot of us in the class are majoring in education. This cartoon video of Macbeth shows some main points to bring up in a class discussion. They take a lot of the language out and narrate it in modern english, but the words they leave in are important like "double trust." Bringing up these parts of the play can strike up different conversations and engage the students more into a Shakespeare play.These days a lot of poeple look over Shakespeare and don't appreciate the art he created for us. Some of us don't understand it and choose to give up before trying. Videos like these can help a person grasp a concept a little better. A lot of students are visual learners, so instead of shoving a written play in their face, they can watch it in a video. How would an animated film be more appropriate for a classroom? I think it gives a bigger picture in a students mind and helps them understand the play better. I think this video touches on a lot of great points about the play and is a good example of how a tragedy is played out.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Final Blog Post: Sparknotes Summarizes King Lear

This is a brief (ten minutes) summary of King Lear that was created by Sparknotes. I chose this video because it is somewhat informative, and depicts the overall plot line of King Lear. That being said, I also chose it because I felt that it did not adequately do the play justice at all. To me, it is more an example of condensing a great work of literature into a brief and very boring segment. The video is dull, and the man narrating it speaks in a monotone. I never thought that death, betrayal, and the downward spiral of a king's sanity could be so BORING. I enjoyed the play immensely while reading it, but actually found myself drifting off while I watched this video. Shakespeare can be wonderfully entertaining and exciting when done properly, but this video is definitely an example of what not to do when trying to engage students.

When studying Shakespeare, it is so important to utilize several different interpretations. Although this is clearly a valuable source, it must be used in accordance with studying the text and at least one other visual interpretation of the play. For me, this video brings to light how important it is to look at Shakespeare's plays from as many different angles as possible to garner the full experience, and draw your own conclusions.

Final Exam: Part II

I picked this video simply because it is hilarious. I also love Hugh Laurie, he's a very funny actor and plays this skit well. The video is funny, but at the same time is exemplifying a possible editing strategy that Shakespeare had. The skit also pokes fun at some of Shakespeare's plays like King Lear and Hamlet, saying how long they are and how long the soliloquy's are. The editor also is making fun of the theater and how people do not want to sit for 5 hours on wooden seats with no bathroom. This video, even though mostly poking fun at Shakespeare's plays has us questioning whether Shakespeare actually had editors giving him this kind of advice about pleasing the King and the run time being too long. I, myself also question what Shakespeare actually liked people to call him because in this skit he is "Bill," sometimes he is "Will" and other times William. So which is it? Or maybe all three? This video most importantly somewhat helps us understand the reason for Shakespeare's writing and his strategy to it, which is something we have discussed in class. Just as the description says, this is a bit of comic relief which Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson play out very well.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Final Blog

This is a performance of Macbeth done by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. What they do is they take an entire Shakespeare play and they condense it down into one small sketch. They also pay it out for comedic effects. I first learned of these people when I was a freshman in college and they were hilarious.

What makes this video, and this company, important is the fact that to all the people who are afraid of Shakespeare or they just are not into him, will be able to still learn about him and his plays through this company. By re-performing the plays in a small amount of time, they are making his plays easier to understand or more approachable for many people. When many people hear Shakespeare they might think difficult to understand language and bad clothes/costumes. They will completely miss the point of his plays and just how universal they are.

By performing these short scenes to comedic effects, the people that were once put off by Shakespeare, will find it funny and they may begin to notice the universal themes that many people can relate to - love, betrayal, comedy, lust, revenge, guilt, murder...etc. They will be more enticed to read his plays and they may find Shakespeare much more approachable because of this company.

Interview with Sir Ian McKellen on playing emKing Lear/em

Interview with Sir Ian McKellen on playing emKing Lear/em

Featuring Ian McKellen speaking about his experience playing King Lear with the Royal Shakespeare Company for Trevor Nunn's film adaptation of the play, this clip includes McKellen's valuable insights about King Lear which are supplemented by carefully chosen excerpts from related scenes. Here, McKellen emphasizes King Lear's relationship to the gods that changes from from full faith to a loss of faith in the final scene where after hearing of Cordelia's death, he compares the human state to that of the lesser animals. By analyzing this progression of the ultimate devaluation of King Lear's faith, McKellen comments upon how we, the audience, must also notice the the advancing of Lear's aged state that his daughters Goneril and Regan take advantage of. In pondering upon King Lear's age, McKellen also imagines what he believes to be the "backstory" of Lear's life. While he understands that Shakespeare intentionally did not mention King Lear's past, since he is not creating a retrospective but a play that takes place in the present and causes the audience to accept Lear for who he is at this stage in his life, McKellen's interesting analysis as an actor needing to imagine a "backstory" in order to more successfully play his part, offers valuable insights into understanding King Lear's reactions to his daughters' actions. By imagining Lear as a man who has been widowed three times, with his last wife, the mother of Cordelia, being his true love, McKellen attempts to understand how Cordelia's refusal to publicly speak her love for her father could be taken as such an offense, considering that Lear would be metaphorically looking into the face of his wife, presumably the same age and image as her daughter when she died, as making her inability to express her love all the more burdensome for his aging heart. By finally describing his playing of this role as reaching the "Everest of Shakespeare" McKellen emphasizes the importance of the King Lear as a character, and King Lear as a whole, which gives great gravity to our reading of the play and our as both students and audience members either reading or viewing this monumental play.

Final Blog Post (Video)

I am posting this video because it is simply hilarious, but also and mainly because I think it shows the collaboration that must have went into the work of each of Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare the man has become a legend that no other author has been able to supersede. What most of us forget is that he did not reach this status alone. He worked with an entire company of actors who during the process of performing must have discussed the changing of lines or speeches that are now immortalized in Shakespeare’s folio. It’s crazy to think that some of the most famous words ever written could have been someone else’s ideas but it does sound more realistic. After all, a whole troop of actors and writers are better than one. If nothing else it is ridiculously funny to think about a group of actors drunk in some pub in London fighting over lines.

The other issue that is brought up in the video is the fact that Shakespeare was a successful play write that was out to make money. In order to make money he had to appeal to his audience and sometimes pander to the will of the masses. While there is nothing wrong with this, it does take some of the romance out of the myth that is Shakespeare. I am not trying to say that the man didn’t have integrity, but it is always interesting to think if there are other motives for writing. We have already seen this pandering when it came to impressing King James when Shakespeare presented his lineage in Macbeth. We also know that Shakespeare wrote an entire play for his popular character Falstaff mainly because his presence would fill the Globe. I’m not trying to portray Shakespeare as a bad guy, after all the man was just trying to make a living. I just think that there are more realistic views of him. He was brilliant and along with his acting troop made some of the most profound works to ever grace the written page. That being said it is still important to remember that Shakespeare was a man, a human being with faults.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

David Tennant as Angelo in Measure for Measure

I have never watched the show Dr. Who, but I have seen David Tennant in other films and while searching for them came across this little jewel:

It's Act two scene four of Measure for Measure, done using a hand-held movie camera. It's shot to look like the actors are just people in a private area, unaware that someone is watching them (sounds like an actual movie, I know; you will understand when you watch the clip).

I think this is a good video to share with people because this scene is crucial in Measure for Measure. This is a turning point for both characters -Angelo has to admit that he has sexual feelings (feelings at all) for a woman, and Isabella must confront her values over saving her brother's life. I think this take on the act is perfect: Tennant plays this slightly awkward but intelligent Angelo, and the actress who plays Isabella (can't find her name) is so strong and yet naive. It's important to see different actors and actresses playing these roles: every person brings something new to the character.

My question for the video in general is this: How exact can any actor be in portraying a character of Shakespeare's plays? He doesn't give much description or stage directions within his plays; are the characters not one fluid person? Is everyone's portrayal of the characters correct?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

For my final blog post, I chose the video "The Histories", performed by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. In this clip, the performers act out all of Shakespeare's history plays combined into a football game of a few minutes.

Not only is this clip comical, but it is a great representation of the major plot occurrences in the history plays. All of the overthrows of power are depicted, as well as the constant changes in familial rule that are the basis for Shakespeare's history plays. It supplements the family tree "A Shakespeare Genealogy" that is located in the beginning of The Norton Shakespeare. In just about two minutes, the fast speaking and "rattling-off" of names emphasizes the inconsistency and ever-changing nature of the throne. Of course, the characters we all now know so well--Richard II, King Henry IV, and King Lear--are all referenced.

Lady Macbeth Meets Sassy Gay Friend!

When I heard about this part of the final, I immediately thought of Sassy Gay Friend. He is absolutely hilarious (aside from the shameless product placement which is not included in his older videos). For those who have never heard of Sassy Gay Friend, he is basically a character that visits many female characters of literature (mostly Shakespeare) in order to steer them away from their imminent doom. I chose this video of the Sassy Gay Friend because it had to be about a play we read this semester, but I prefer the Hamlet, Othello, and Romeo and Juliet editions.

I know this series of videos is more for entertainment than education, and I would sound ridiculous trying to seriously analyze these videos. However, I will say that the satire that Sassy Gay Friend brings to Shakespeare is important. For one thing, it is another way of making Shakespeare accessible to a larger audience. Satire sometimes helps in our understanding of a play and forces us to question it. But also, in all of his videos, he asks the questions that I always ask while reading Shakespeare; I know that part of theater is always about the suspension of disbelief, but sometimes I can't help but wonder how/why characters in Shakespeare's plays do what they do. Yes, Shakespeare's work is amazing, but really, it's also sometimes ridiculous and over-dramatic. I think a lot of Shakespeare's characters would benefit from a Sassy Gay Friend.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Final Exam Part II

I mentioned this video in my last post about Lady Macbeth. Judi Dench plays an amazing role here. It shows just how creepy it really was to have Lady Macbeth up walking around, in her sleep, talking and spilling the beans about everything.

I like this because this is the scene where Shylock gives his famous speech. Shylock ends the speech with a tone of revenge: "if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" Those who see the speech as sympathetic point out that Shylock says he learned the desire for revenge from the Christian characters: "If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction."
I feel like this is one of the strongest parts in many of Shakespeare’s plays because it shows true humanity and it confronts all of the criticism he has ever received, especially for being a Jew.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Re: The Problem of the Witches' Powers

I was going to simply respond to Steven Wagner's post, however it became pretty long and I figured I should post it instead. Here's the thing. . .the more I read Shakespeare, the more I see that sometimes his narratives have little holes which we always find ourselves debating over exactly what to fill them in with. I believe we have to forget that there may be these flaws, and look to what each of these instances represents holistically (dealing in absolutes). Every interpretation of the witches' existence deals with a single idea: Fate. Whether we can change it or not is a circularly unanswerable debate, because in Macbeth, like in life, we can never know the truth. So then, along these specific lines, what then do the witches absolutely represent? I think they are symbols singularly of the question of Fate, not possible answers. Moreover, I find them representing the reason why the concept of Fate exists. You see, there is a cause and effect here regarding Fate: we are conscious of our deaths, therefore we can question how it will come to be and why. I think the witches' existences create a parallel progression.

To me, Shakespeare is creating a universe and imposing a question upon it by creating these characters in the same way our own minds create Fate by being conscious. It reminds me of Marquez's "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings," where the entire narration is fun and crazy and pointless, however the point may just simply be, "look at me, I can create something fun and crazy, and who cares if it's pointless." Marquez is not telling us to write pointless fiction or anything like that (offering answers), he's just saying, look at us, we are humans, this is what we do, we tell stories, you can think about it or not, but neither changes anything (I am only a creator). In my opinion, Shakespeare says something similar: who cares if Fate exists or not, we are conscious and we're all going to die, we are humans, this is what we do, we can think about it or not, but neither changes anything (I am only a creator).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Final Exam Blog: Shakespeare Meets Sesame Street

Call it being a bit immature, but while searching youtube for a video to post for the final exam, I could not refrain from posting a clip from Monsterpiece Theater. Aptly title "The Monsters of Venice", it's a Sesame Street spoof on the play. As you will see from the video (only 3:20, a bit shorter than stated on the requirements), Grover delivers a moderately similar version of Shylock's "Hath not a Jew eyes..." speech.

Of course being from a syndicated children's show, there's a happy ending, and instead of a pound of flesh the focus is on cake and balloons, but what made me submit this video for my final blog is because it shows that The Merchant of Venice (and Shakespeare's plays in general) can be adaptable throughout different age ranges and issues from the play can still be addressed in current times, such as prejudice and naivety. And finally, I wanted to submit this video because it was a different portrayal of the play than those we have seen in class (and because it's from Sesame Street, a favorite show of mine when I was a child). Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fall Of the Lady

Lady Macbeth has finally lost her senses. After being the strong one in Shakespeare’s play, or at least the strongest woman, Lady Macbeth has lost her mind over the deaths. In Act 5, she is seen talking to her self and sleepwalking. While rubbing her hands, she says “Yet here's a spot. . . Out, damned spot; out I say” (27-30) “What, will these hands ne'er be clean. . . All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand" (37-43). The two men watching her are witnessing her recounting the events that took place at the time of Duncan’s death. She has the feeling that her hands are covered in blood and how she can’t wash them clean. She begins to hear sounds like Macbeth, the knocking at her door. A doctor visits Lady Macbeth and says that she needs a priest’s help as if she has be consumed with some type of evil and needs an exorcism instead of sleep or a slight of memory. In Act 5 Scene 8, King Malcolm III exploits that Lady Macbeth killed herself. Judi Dench conveys the overwhelming guilt and horror of Lady Macbeth. Here is the sleepwalking scene and I think Judi Dench does a great job or really taking on the character of Lady Macbeth.

YouTube - Shakespeare: "Macbeth" Sleepwalking Scene from Shakespeare's Work" (1847) by Gulian Crommelin Verplanck. Dir. Gulian C. Verplanck. Perf. Judi Dench and Denyse Alexander. YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 01 June 2007. Web.

Act 5.5, Seyton tells of the death of Lady Macbeth. Macbeth doesn’t seem to have a reaction other than she was supposed to die later. Lady Macbeth’s character ends when Macbeth gives a short excerpt about life:

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (23-27)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Banquo come across as the most influential character in terms of defining Macbeth’s evil intentions. If there is to be a friendship between the two, then it would cruel to play along believing that a bond does in fact exist. However, Banquo presents a calm side to the play, especially since his character is full of poise and rationality. When Banquo says, “new honours come upon him, / Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mould / but with aid of use” there is a definitive trust that he feels toward Macbeth. He knows that in a righteous time such as this for what could be the new king, there needs to be an understanding and appreciation from his subjects, but there is still this question of as to why he would support Macbeth. As I continue to read there is not a single reason for Banquo’s devotion and support, and I even try to read his lines in a cynical perspective that maybe he could have been trying to plot against him, or that he even uses the slightest bit of sarcasm and wit, but he does not. The only section that I could find that might have the slightest hint of this attitude would be in 3.1, which states, “Let your highness / Command upon me, to the which my duties / Are with most indissoluble tie / For ever knit” (3.1.15-18). I want to think that he is not allowing Macbeth the satisfaction of have so much control over his actions. Macbeth follows these lines by saying, “We should have else desired your good advice, / Which still hath been both grave and prosperous, / In this day’s council; but we’ll talk tomorrow. / Is’t far you ride?” (3.1.21-4). It is Macbeth that is demonstrating his power over Banquo and there is nothing that can be done for him fight back, especially in the presence of Lady Macbeth who is also present throughout the scene. Regardless of the play that we read, there is always a character that is taken advantage of in one way or other. Two of the best examples of this type of treatment would be Edgar and Falstaff. I think Falstaff resembles this position more because there was a connection between him and Harry, which was destroyed by his new found power. By carrying on the way he does, it is only a matter of time before Banquo is gone.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Problem of the Witches' Powers

After the first reading of Macbeth, I was extremely skeptical as to whether or not the witches had any actual power. Were the witches actually able to see the future? Or were they simply able to effectively plant ideas in the heads of their victims that make their prophecies come true? For instance, it's clear that Macbeth, before meeting with the witches, had no intentions of killing Duncan. In fact, it seems that he had never even considered the possibility of being King. So could it be that there was not actually a determined future in which Macbeth became King, but that the prophecy merely fulfilled itself simply by its being suggested? This seems perfectly reasonable in this one case, but how does it hold up for the rest of their prophecies? It would be very hard to set up a self-fulfilling prophecy where both Macbeth becomes king and Banquo's line inherits the throne. While it could be foreseeable on the part of the witches that Macbeth would kill Duncan when presented with the prophecy, and they could even have predicted that Banquo and his family would be Macbeth's next target as a result of the prophecy, but how could they have known that Fleance would get away? Even less plausible, how could the witches have known that "Great Birnam Wood" would move to Dunsinane Hill? Those with the branches haven't even heard their prophecy. The only answer is that they actually do have supernatural powers of foresight. My problem then is this: What does this say of the free will of the characters? If the witches can see everything that will happen in the future, and these things are determined to happen, how could they even go on, knowing not only that their fate is destined but what they are destined to do? And to what extent is Macbeth responsible for the death of Duncan? He was destined to do so, and as an agent who is merely thrust into existence to endure his deterministic sentence, who exactly are we blaming when we say Macbeth is responsible for Duncan's death? It seems more likely to me that the witches don't simply have foresight of all events of the future, but rather that they are able to curse specific victims to fates which they can't avoid.

The Transmutation of Macdeath

Macbeth is riddled with language of transmutation. From the series of murders that transform the organization of the state (not to mention the state of Macbeth’s soul) to the sing-song rhyming of the weird sisters, the play deals with the processes by which fate unfolds. Even the etymology of “weird”--from the Old English “wyrd” meaning fate--which is of course closely associated with witchcraft, points to the transmutation of supernatural forces into fate in the human realm. The weird sisters call upon dark beings to transmute the world of man. Indeed Macbeth comes under the spell of devilish powers which enter his soul and drive him deeper and deeper into damnation. As he descends he begins to perceive, through the chaos of his soul, the supersensible beings which have taken him prisoner. In this way, his consciousness is also transmuted into a twofold personality after the “deed that’s done” to Duncan (the done king). Macbeth double-crosses Duncan, who’s with him in “double trust,” (echoing the refrain “double, double toil and trouble”) which results in uncontrolled, spontaneous insights into other planes of reality. In other words, he’s being transmuted into a fiend of the lower worlds where his higher nature has scarcely any influence. He has stripped away the curative properties of sleep, “the death of each day’s life,” so that he’s left in a state of perpetual decay (2.2.35). The false face which must hide the false heart is eventually transmuted by its falseness so that fair becomes foul. Death perfects the imperfect words of the weird sisters, or rather Macbeth (or should I say Macdeath) interprets them to justify the macabre deaths that he unleashes. Like King Lear, this play also questions the nature of free-will and destiny. I don’t think these two things are mutually exclusive. There are certain events which through an act of fate present themselves to Macbeth, but he always has the freedom to decide how to relate himself to these events, how to interpret them and create meaning out of them. Of course, Macbeth’s will-power cannot stand up against the evil forces that take hold of his soul and spur him on to his doom. Once he begins to act in accordance with the fiendish greed that arises in him it becomes increasingly difficult for him to master the impulses that transmute his soul into a vessel for destructive demonic powers.

Lady Macbeth and Iago

In our discussion in Friday's class, the question of Lady Macbeth's real power and control arose. Is she really the bad-ass that she claims to be, or is she just as insecure as poor Macbeth? While I can see how people could see her instability (ie: her descent into madness as seen in her "Out, out damned spot" speech), I don't think this character trait hinders the control she has over her husband. In fact, I can't help but notice a comparison between  evil Iago in Shakespeare's Othello. Sure, these are my two favorite plays so I may be inclined to find similarities between the two, but the comparison is obvious: Both characters serve as the "little birdie" in the ears of the respective main characters; both characters feed on the emotional weaknesses of others and convince them to murder.

In both cases, the schemer's whispers are the driving force behind the action. While the source of manipulation is obvious in Othello, in Macbeth, one could argue that the witches' prophecies are what really inspires Macbeth to murder the king; after all, without this prophecy Macbeth would never suspect he could become Thane or King. However, in 1.7, we see Macbeth having second thoughts about following through with the act. First, he recognizes that he has the King's "double trust" and that he should "against his murderer shut the door,/Not bear the knife myself" (1.7.12-16). He also refers to Duncan as "meek" and "clear" (blameless), and describes him as a "new-borne babe" and "heaven's cherubim." It is clear that he is still clinging onto his conscience, while Lady Macbeth is ready to take this new-borne babe and "have plucked his nipple from his boneless gums/And dashed the brains out" (1.7.57-58). After this conversation with Lady Macbeth, Macbeth says, "I am settled." Whatever shred of humanity Macbeth had prior to this conversation has been lost. 

Both Iago and Lady Macbeth use careful manipulation in order to achieve their hold over Othello and Macbeth, respectively. In the first interaction between husband and wife, Lady Macbeth addresses Macbeth as "Great Glamis, worthy Cawdor,/Greater than both by the all-hail hereafter." This doting address is obviously ironic to the audience, for it immediately followed her entire speech about how she wishes she could take over for Macbeth, have the spirits "unsex" her and "make thick [her] blood" (1.5.39-41). She also suggests how unmanly her husband is, and how unsuited he is to have such power because he lacks "the illness should attend it" (1.5.18).

This dual behavior is reminiscent of Iago's speech to Roderigo in 1.1 of Othello, when he disparages Othello's choice of Cassio over Iago for second-in-command: "But he (as loving his own pride and purposes)/Evades them with a bombast circumstance/Horribly stuffed with epithets of war,/And in conclusion/Nonsuits my mediators" (1.1.13-17). However hateful Iago is towards Othello, he constantly reassures Othello that he has his best interest at heart when suggesting Desdemona's infidelity.

Furthermore, I find it really interesting that, unlike Othello which focuses on the influence of bonds between men, Macbeth explores the control that a wife can have on her husband; that the female character in one play can be compared to an evil male in the other. I always find Shakespeare's evil characters - especially when they are female - to be the most interesting.

Shakespeare Defying Gender Roles

Until recently it was very uncommon to hear of a woman controlling a relationships let alone a marital relationship. Yet, somehow Shakespeare got away with this way before his time. Lady Macbeth is the quintessential "new woman" which doesn't come about until the end of the Victorian Era and even when this new woman does begin to come about in society it takes several decades until the term or idea is no longer considered taboo or to be a foreign concept. Shakespeare however, had realized the power of the female centuries before the modern/ new woman had even been thought up. Lady Macbeth is portrayed as a wife however, at the same time she happens to be the more masculine one in the relationship at least when it comes to the unsavory and cruel tasks of murdering the king and his guards. A woman's intuition is definitely what gives Lady Macbeth the knowledge that her husband is too weak to kill the king in order to advance his own career yet it his this masculine "willing to get dirty" in order to benefit oneselves mentality that gives Lady Macbeth the strength she needs to kill Duncan. While at the same time Macbeth himself is almost skirmish about killing the king; he is reluctant and when he finally gives in and is stabbing the king is cries out and yells. In traditional genders roles the woman is seen as the fragile, skirmish, nurturing and docile one who never wants to get her hands dirty while the male is seen as the provider and the one who is willing to do anything at any cost; the sacrificial one of the two. Even today it is more unheard for a woman to kill someone, you usually hear about men committing crimes and murdering people but hardly ever do you hear about a woman doing these things. A woman is suppose to the voice of reason to their unruly and rash counterparts but in this case Lady Macbeth is encouraging her husband to do the wrong thing.
Give him tending.
He brings great news.





The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood.
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murd'ring ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature’s mischief. Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark
To cry “Hold, hold!”

She is just as rash if not more rash and unbeliveable because when Macbeth begins to have doubts it is she who re-convinces him that killing the king is a good idea, she is also the one who comes up with the plan of how to kill the king. Women during this time period aren't supposed to be sneaky and manipulative. Having finished reading the play and knowing from the last time I read Macbeth it begs the question if the conclusion of Lady Macbeth at the end of the play is Shakespeare saying that women can try and act like men all they want but in the end they don't have the stomach for the consequences of their actions like a man might. Shakespeare is saying that women can't play with the big boys, they can try all they want but in the end they just won't be able to handle it.

A Play where the Women Rule

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a play where the women overpower the men. In most of his plays the women are either background characters or are relegated to rather weak women that are only there to die, be good wives, or to backstab. With Macbeth, Shakespeare gives us some of his most developed female characters and gives them each a bunch of layers to make them real.
Who starts Macbeth’s need for power? The witches and his wife. If it were not for the witches then he would never even have the thought of kingship in his head. They are what put everything into motion. They are ambiguous in the play – are they good, bad, or neither? If they did not exist, would Macbeth still go on a conquest to become king? That is a question that is never answered.
More so than the witches, Lady Macbeth is the driving force of the play. She is the one who puts the idea into Macbeth’s head to kill the current king. She is not afraid to call him out on his actions and she is a rather tough woman. After Macbeth kills the king, he cannot take anymore and forgets to place the evidence on the servants. Lady Macbeth speaks to her husband:
Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures. ‘Tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted devil. If he do bleed
I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal,
For it must seem their guilt (2.2.50-55).
She seems to be disappointed in her husband and instead of making him do it, she decides that she will plant the evidence instead. She talks to her husband as if he is weak and is not worth her time. She seems to be angry and when she is done she states, “My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white,” (2.2.62-63). That is such a matter-of-the-fact thing to stay after planning a terrible murder of the king. She does not care at the deed she forced her husband to do. It is her fault that Macbeth becomes an evil and despicable human being.
I would say that Lady Macbeth is Shakespeare’s most developed and layered female character he ever wrote. I’ve read the entire play before and as it goes on she falls into insanity. She goes crazy because of her own actions and selfishness. She is the reason that Macbeth becomes who he is and she is the reason that the king is dead. Lady Macbeth is the catalyst of this entire play.

Who has the power here?

What I enjoy most about Macbeth is the dynamic of the relationships. The relationship between Macbeth and his Lady is unlike any couple I have encountered in Shakespeare’s plays. Lady Macbeth is a powerful woman, one who is dominant over her husband publicly and privately. The third act reveals this truth nicely.

At first, it seems that Macbeth has control over himself, acting mournful about the deaths of the king and his son and planning the execution of his friend, Banquo. However, when he talks to himself about the reasons behind the need to kill Banquo, his speech implies that perhaps Macbeth is a little more shaken about the situation than he lets on (for now). His fear of dying because of the witches’ prophecy reveals the lack of power Macbeth truly has over the entire situation. He states in scene one,

“For Banquo’s issue have I filed my mind, / For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered, / Put rancours in the vessel of my peace / Only for them, and mine eternal jewel / Given to the common enemy of man / To make them kings, the seeds of Banquo kings” (3.1.66-71)

In this moment, Macbeth seems to be blaming these men for the things he has done. There is a repeated use of the term ‘for them’ –“Only for them…” –implies that Macbeth considers himself a martyr of sorts: he is acting out this way for their benefit, and he is willing to sacrifice his “eternal jewel” to the common man for his purpose. There seems to be a resignation within Macbeth even before the sightings of Banquo’s ghost makes him a little crazy.

Lady Macbeth, however, is a different story. Though unfortunately we don’t get any speeches from her in act three, we do have moments alone with her, moments that reveal her true self moreso than the moments with her husband. “Naught’s had, all’s spent, / Where our desire is got without content. / ‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy / Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy” (3.2.6-9): here Lady Macbeth takes on a realistic view of the situation she created with her husband. She knows that the way to power is not pretty, and she knows better than to think that she and her husband are safe because he is king. In four lines, Lady Macbeth has more power than her husband.

Her power over the situation is most obvious when Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo and makes a scene. Immediately, she gives excuses for Macbeth’s odd behavior, asking them to ignore it, because the king goes into attacks. She then turns to her husband and manipulates him by questioning his status as a man. “Are you a man?” she asks him in scene four, “What, unmanned in folly?” She belittles him for his fear in ghosts, and she verbally attacks him about it until Macbeth settles down, frazzled. By the end of the scene it is she, not Macbeth, the king, who convinces the lords to leave. Her power and strength as a woman in this play is outstanding.