Wednesday, October 31, 2012


After rereading my posts from this semester, I realized that the majority of my posts have been based on pretty general observations about the texts that we have read. They might pertain to specific characters or a situation among characters, but that is the extent of my analysis. The only post that seems to be a bit more specific is my first post which analyzes the beginning of the opening speech by Orsino in Twelfth Night. I think out of all of the posts that I have written so far, this is my best work. This post had the most specific analysis but I think that I could have elaborated further. Those few opening lines had a good amount of information that I could have looked into further. For example, I state in my post that the love that is being described is not true love but infatuation. I think it would have been better if I explained in more depth why I believed that this was infatuation and not real love before I continued in my analysis. This might have integrated my other points more efficiently and made the post as a whole more coherent and unified. I could have also continued with the rest of the speech or maybe in another post, continued with where I left off if it were possible. This topic of opening speeches in all of Shakespeare’s plays would make an interesting paper. I think that from here on in I will focus my posts on the importance or significance of the major speeches in the plays that we read. I will also use these speeches to better my close reading skills and analyze them for more insight on the characters and plot of the play.

Besides these findings which I have just explored, I don’t think that my writing as a whole has changed or evolved much over these past few months. I think what has changed is the content. I think I need to be more specific with what I want to discuss .I also need to find more concrete evidence backing up my claims. I did this in my posts but I only show a few examples. I think by adding a few more that I will be able to strengthen my arguments and make my posts better.

I think that it is important that we do these posts because it allows us to figure out what strikes us most about what we are reading. It also lets us sound off ideas that we might have about the characters and situations in the play. All these things are important in strengthening our close reading skills and helping us establish good ideas for possible essay and research topics.   


While examining my blogs I realized, two of the three blogs I primarily focus women and their roles in the plays for example Margaret in Richard III and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. I do not think this is very shocking for me to focus on the women of Shakespeare’s plays especially because it is something very contradictory from Shakepseare’s time.   I think this is where my interest really exists, and the way in which the women move the plays along and without them there would be probably be no play.  I probably should expand on my post topics in the future, since I do seem to be narrowing myself in doing this- there is so much more I can examine in the plays.  By reading other classmates posts I can see this perfectly that there is a lot more for me to interpret and reflect on.  I find this helpful to read other classmates also, because I begin to think about other material in the readings and different interpretations or views. 
In total, I also see I generally pick one primary character and discuss their relationship with another character or element.  For example, my first blog post is about Egeus and his relationship with the play within the play in A Midsummer Nights Dream and the possible effect the play had on him as a character.  My second blog post I focused primarily on Beatrice and her relationship with Benedick, and my third post with Margaret and her relations with Richard.  Of course I address other characters but I seem to find a focus on an individual character.  I did come across one issue I had with my blogs as a whole.
While reading my blogs I was a little confused by the way in which I get from one point to another, it seems like I sort of just jump to a related topic.  For example in my second post, “Why are there so many strong women in Shaskespeare’s works?” I discuss Beatrice and her strength but then I jump to a conversation between Don Pedro and Benedick and how it contradicts the expectations of a woman’s role after she is married.  These seems to be some disconnect in the organization of my ideas which at the time made sense but reflecting on them, no longer have smooth transitions.
I come to find that during my posts, I also have some sort of realization or probing question by the end.  I don’t know if this is my intention while writing or if this is the intention, but it seems that I start to write something and by the end I have an “A-ha” moment.   Sometimes I am able to answer my question based on what I just wrote or I am curious as to what other people may think.  I think this allows me somewhere to branch off or to look into after posting.  I still am trying to figure out as I read every play why Shakespeare makes such powerful women, and I even mentioned that in my second blog post about Much Ado About Nothing.  As to whether I will ever get an answer I do not know but I will keep trying with the help of the remaining three plays.
I don’t think that the nature or style of writing in my posts have changed in the course of the three posts.  I seem to take a conversational approach in my blogs and say what I am thinking.  I always reference the text in some way or another, not only because it is part of our grade but also because I think it helps me and whoever else reads my posts to know where my interpretations and analysis is coming from on the specific topic.  The one thing I could say about my quotations is I have progressively been using more, and I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing. I can sort of see that by the third post I have started to rely on my quotations from the text more than my own analysis.  Maybe I should focus more on my own views and not rely on the text as heavily.
One thing I actually value reading the comments people post on my blogs, although I do not comment back on them, maybe I should start doing that.  I have read the comments and often times my classmates post questions or other interesting things I may not have thought of.  For example Krystal on my most recent post about Margaret mentioned a connection to Darl in As I Lay Dying.  At first I didn’t even pick up on this connection of a person’s knowledge of truth and the ability of society to cast them off as a “mad” character.  I think these comments are really effective, and it is really great especially when other students read other students comments and mentions them.  There is a whole network of communication occurring in these blogs and it helps in the understanding and elaboration of our own thoughts.  Maybe I could improve my posts by commenting back and show my appreciation for the commentary on my posts to show I read them and do think about what my peers have to say about my work.


It seems as if I write about whatever strikes me in the scenes.  First, I wrote about Shakespeare’s way of writing that combines comedy and tragedy in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  It struck me that although this was meant to be a comedy, there were numerous tragic elements to the play and I enjoyed exploring that aspect of it.  Second, when I wrote about “Much Ado About Nothing,” I was much more interested in the roles of men and women during Shakespeare’s time, how it affects marriage and the anticipation of marriage and what it means.  Now we usually marry because we are in love with someone who shares our values not because the woman can have male children to inherit the land.  Women have voices both in the family, at work, and in politics.  As we now see how the Republican party is trying to press its patriarchal power over us, it is particularly important to identify that pressure when it happens and recognize it for what it is, male control over women.  Finally, when I wrote about “Richard III,” in Act 1, it seemed so obvious to me that Richard thought of himself as ugly (as did, apparently, everyone else) and yet his confidence was almost incredible to conceive.  This aspect of his personality struck me hard. It reminded me of a boy I went to high school with who was one of my lab partners.  He was dealing with nearly daily dialysis and seemed angry at the entire world.  When I showed up one day with stitches above my eye (from a skiing accident) he nastily told me that my fake eyelashes were falling off.  I remember being so struck by that because you would think that someone with a debilitating disease would have more compassion and empathy, not less, but it was not so with him and it certainly was not so with Richard, Duke of Gloucester. 

I think at the beginning of the semester my blog post was more focused and has become less so as the semester has gone on.  I think the reason that is because I am feeling worse as the semester has progressed and as my chemo is progressing. Not that this is an excuse, but I know I am having a harder time focusing. 

I don’t think that there is one broad theme that reoccurs in my writing. I am fascinated by history and by Shakespeare’s ability to write a great story and so many of his themes interest me. 

The aspect of weekly blogging that I value most is the close reading of the text. Every time I read and re-read, I find some new and interesting aspect to the writing. To analyze and think closely about what Shakespeare is saying lends textural interest to the play that I had not recognized before.


Well, to begin, I must note that these blog entries are certainly a beneficial exercise in analyzing, interpreting, and understanding the works of William Shakespeare. By putting myself to the test every other week, focusing on particular elements of Shakespeare’s rich plays, I have been learning more from this class than I would have ever imagined. Equally effective are the responses to our peer’s blogs. By reading others’ perspectives, I realize elements of the plays that I would have otherwise completely missed. Sometimes, one of my peers will expand on a notion that crossed my mind, and they see it in a different way or at least pay mind to something I would have discarded. Of course, commenting thoroughly and adequately requires analysis of the analysis, and often, even more new information is brought to the table.
I find my own blog posts to be quite insightful, especially the last two. I am becoming more consistent in using textual evidence to support my claims. I prefer, and enjoy, focusing my attention on a singular aspect of the text—a word, theme, motif, language—and “beating it to death,” so to speak. Elaborating on every conceivable nuance of a particular element can be exhausting but rewardingly revelatory, as our class discussions prove. I plan to continue focusing on very particular aspects of the plays we read in my future blog posts and hope that I can fascinate my audience and myself with what I discover.
Looking back at my first post, entitled “Why have a play within the play?” I see how I broadly described my reaction to reading the rude mechanicals’ “Pyramus and Thisbe” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I did not use any textual references and failed to make clear connections between the works I was comparing (The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, and Hamlet along with A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and, therefore, it resulted in a quite incomprehensive posting. As I wrote it, I remember feeling like I bit off more than I could chew, as the topic seemed better suited to an essay instead of a succinct blog. I was also nervous trying to figure out how to post on the PBworks site due to my confusion caused by Hawkmail’s incompatibility with everything. I was pressed for time and, therefore, hastily conceived the entry. Nevertheless, re-reading it, I found this particular post to raise some really insightful points, as well as a compelling essential question: why have a play within the play? Though I did not answer the query adequately myself, I would like to examine it further someday.
My second post, “When it comes to Shakespeare, nothing is unworthy of noting,” is an ideal entry and one I am quite proud of. I wrote it concisely and precisely, focusing simply on the play on the name Hero in Much Ado About Nothing. The post, noticeably shorter than my first, examined Shakespeare’s cleverness in naming Claudio’s beloved Hero of all names. The word itself connotes innumerable possibilities, and its usage in this particular play is especially remarkable. In my entry, I examine one particular scene, a pivotal one at that, where Shakespeare, in his writing, plays on the name, word, and concept of “hero.” I was trying to accomplish two things: highlighting Shakespeare’s wit in general and giving the audience and myself a deep understanding of the wordplay in this particular scene and how closely scrutinizing it gives us a better appreciation of little details in the text.
In my third and most recent post, “Iago’s true motive?” I wrote a nearly essay-length entry that delves into Iago’s motive for being so villainous. Though certainly not an original idea, I found the prospect of Iago harboring homosexual feelings for Othello which drive his evildoings a tantalizing subject to examine. Though it may be a very twenty-first century perspective, if one looks at Iago’s character as a frustrated gay man, his thought, words, and actions do seem to make more sense. I am not saying that I truly believe he is gay, but since we do not have a definitive answer to the question of Iago’s motives, we cannot rule out the possibility. Also, looking at Iago through such a lens gives his character an entirely new meaning to modern readers. I am not sure myself how homophobic Elizabethan society was (I know that some activity, to a degree, was accepted), but I would assume that if it was known to the play’s other characters that Iago was homosexual, they would not have a favorable opinion of him. From a modern perspective, that sort of negative, discriminatory judgment would make Iago seem more of a sympathetic character, one whose feelings we can understand a whole lot better, and so it changes the way we view him entirely. I found that possibility intriguing, so I built my post around the proposition, “well, what if?” Though I do not believe I found the answer to Iago’s villainy, I think I brought to attention something worth considering and definitely revisiting later in my studies, should the opportunity arise.
Overall, I find the experience of maintaining a weekly blog very rewarding for reasons that transcend our Shakespeare I class. As a Secondary Education major, I am always looking for ways to incorporate technology, namely the Internet, into the classroom, most importantly, in ways that benefit students and enhance their learning. This blog has inspired me to use a site like PBworks to engage my students in their studies. Its user-friendly format is appropriate for students of all ages, and it allows a forum for them to share perspectives which would otherwise be seen only by the instructor to evaluate with a grade. Each and every student’s perspective is rich and helpful, and a forum in which thoughts can be shared is truly helpful for all. On a more micro basis, prompting students to focus on a specific aspect of a work using textual evidence to support their claims is a useful exercise that can only improve their abilities as writers and critical thinkers. That is what this blog does for me, anyway. I believe I am becoming a better writer as I continue blogging, and hopefully, I can do the same for my students someday by making blogging an essential part of my teaching strategy.

Monday, October 29, 2012


After re-reading my previous blog posts I noticed an interesting pattern! The portrayal of women in Shakespeare's plays is a topic that I find crucial to the development of the plot. Beginning with my first post on Much Ado About Nothing, my first sentence included Benedick's harsh judgment of women, his hatred of marriage and refuses to become domesticated. Thinking back to the Amanda who wrote this blog, it makes sense that I would emphasize this because I almost take it personally. Why wouldn't Benedick want to fall in love? I wonder about the psychology behind Shakespeare's writing, the characters he created must represent a side of him or someone he knows. Something else I noticed in this first post was my confusion, Shakespeare filled this play with so many characters and I found myself not being able to enjoy the play. Also, not being use to the language really challenged my in depth understanding of Much Ado About Nothing. Fun fact... I thought the title of this play was hilarious!

I missed my second assigned blog post so I will move onto the next one I completed.

Richard or Iago was my post about the play Richard III. I commented on Shakespeare's initial description of Richard, but I mainly focused on the negative diction associated with women (i.e nymph, whore). Establishing Richard as a women hater and giving him deformed physical features were obviously interconnected. Referring back to my writing, I noticed a huge change in my writing style, I included more quotes to express my thoughts and I demonstrated a better understanding of the plot and language. Being able to compare two of Shakespeare's works in this blog post helped me establish my analysis skills. Examining the mannerisms of both villain's would make for a great essay topic and would really intrigue me. 

Reading deeper into this post, I talked about how Queen Margaret was the first female in our Shakespeare study to stand up for her beliefs. Although Richard replied with offensive language, it was a big step for a women in Shakespeare's time. 

Further suggestions I would give to myself would be to continue reading our assigned plays and developing a greater understanding of Shakespeare's writing style. While coming into this class I did not appreciate his plays but as we move forward I want to be able to recognize more of Shakespeare's style. A consistent theme in my blog posts is the portrayal of women and how they are treated/recognized by males. I am seeing a general progression but as I keep reading, I am hoping to pick up more knowledge of female recognition during this time period. 
A smaller theme in my blog posts consists of the villains Richard and Iago. I would like to begin noting more of the villainous actions Shakespeare assigns to his characters and figure out the psychology behind it. I really value my blog posts because it lets me revisit my reflections on previous work and keep a tab on important themes that interest me! 

Making Connections

I was intrigued when I read the “prompt” for this week’s blog post.  After I reviewed my old blogs, I realized that I seem to enjoy reflecting on Shakespeare’s use of characterization.   Furthermore, comparing my old blog posts to the more recent ones illustrates how I’ve grown as a critical thinker throughout this course so far.  I now do not only reflect on how I analyze Shakespeare’s pieces, but also consider how Shakespeare’s audience may have interpreted his work.  Thus, specific concerns in my writing relate to how his original spectators would have viewed his plays.  For instance, in my first post, I write, “Perhaps developing and emphasizing the child-like nature of his characters was one way that he intensified the comedic nature of the play.”  While I do make an insightful comment regarding Shakespeare’s creation of “foolish” characters, I fail to ponder how his original audience may have viewed these people in the play.  However, an examination of my two most recent reflections exhibits my ongoing maturity as a critical thinker.  I note in my October 1, 2012 post, “I am guessing that the women in the audience probably did not view her (Hero) as a feminine hero who rebels against patriarchal authority.  Nevertheless, perhaps women did view her as heroic because she is intelligent, and strong, since she keeps her mouth shut?  Since our society today is so different in terms of equality between men and women, it is hard to determine the reaction of Shakespeare’s female audience.”  Clearly, in this post, I make a much more judicious comparison regarding the way in which Shakespeare’s audience would have construed Hero’s behavior. 

While on the subject of Hero’s character, I would like to mention that one major topic that is present throughout all of my posts involves the characterization of different characters (especially females) throughout the plays.  I also make frequent comparisons between characters, and contemplate the role/status of women in Shakespeare’s society.  In particular, I found my evaluation of Hero and Desdemona extremely interesting.  In my October 13, 2012 entry, I ask, “Is Desdemona’s character intentionally a mirror of Hero?  What is Shakespeare trying to convey through his thoughtful, comparable characterizations of these females?”  After having a wonderful class discussion the following class, I came to the conclusion that Shakespeare probably did purposefully make both characters similar.  I think Shakespeare was interested in exploring the effects of a patriarchal society.  Additionally, I feel as though he may be questioning his society’s status quo in his plays.

Overall, I think that my blogging has tremendously helped me make connections and reflect on what I have read during this course.  It is a way in which I can explore a topic that interests me as I read Shakespeare.  Of course, it also facilitates the growth of my critical thinking skills.  As a future English teacher, I plan to have my students participate in some type of blogging activity, since I have experienced its positive effects.        

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Week 5 (Much Ado/Acts 1-3)

I think that one of the most impressive aspects of Shakespeare’s writing is his ability to create a fully developed character. In addition, he uses his supporting characters to effectively further develop and reveal more about each of the other characters. In Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare uses the other characters’ understanding of Beatrice and Benedick in order to allow insight into their motivations. When their friends try to convince Beatrice and Benedick that the other is in love with them, they use character-specific methods that are affective and also revealing about the characters. Beatrice’s friends appeal to her combative and spiteful nature; they allow her to overhear a conversation about Benedick and challenge Beatrice to love him. Her friends question whether or not Beatrice is stupid enough to turn him down, but ultimately conclude that she is too harsh and would make fun of Benedick. Because of Beatrice’s nature, she decides to fall in love with Benedick out of spite, in an effort to prove her friends’ assumptions about her wrong. Shakespeare uses this scene in order to reveal more about Beatrice’s character; not only does it show her motivations for loving Benedick, but it also uses the supporting characters, who know Beatrice better than the audience does, in order to show more about her character. Benedick’s friends use a similar tactic to convince him that Beatrice loves him. They allow him to overhear their discussion about her love for him; however, they implore him to take pity on her. These scenes give the reader an additional insight into Beatrice and Benedick’s character, while also commenting on the gender roles and relations of the time. Beatrice is basically shamed into giving him a chance- her friends challenge her femininity based on her strong opposition to Benedick and she gives in out of spite and to prove them wrong. It was easier to convince Benedick because he was already so full of himself that it wasn’t difficult to lead him to think that Beatrice was desperately in love with him. Because he’s a big, strong man he found it in his heart to take pity on poor, little love-stricken Beatrice. Shakespeare uses the supporting characters to reveal not only gender relations, but also the motivations and a deeper understanding of the characters. 

Exploring Shakespeare's Themes and Characters: A Reflection on My Blog Posts

Throughout my blog posts, I tend to focus in on one character and the way they function within the given play. I find Shakespeare's attention to characterization to be brilliant and highly developed. For this reason, understanding the characters of the play is a crucial component to understanding how the play works as either a tragedy or a comedy. In other posts, I have also explored how a minor thematic element of the play applies to the whole work. Through exploring the way Shakespeare uses these themes and characters, I found myself writing the answers to many of the questions I myself had about the plays we've read.  So far, blogging has been a way for me to explore my raw thoughts on the plays and see how these thoughts develop further.

My first blog post was titled "The Imaginative and Mysterious Mind of the Dreamer." This post was about the ambiguous nature of reality and the dream world, and how the two realms appear to collide in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." As I revisited this post, I realized that it was surprisingly my favorite one. While the other two posts focus more on characters, this post is much more focused on theme and philosophy in the play. I took the time to do some outside research in this post, and then related it specifically to how the subconscious world  functions in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." I recall finishing this blog post, and thinking "I'm starting to understand what Shakespeare was really trying to do here." I believe part of what made this post successful was how I did not simply try to define the play as a tidy little comedy. Instead, I aimed to explore what was unsettling about the play-- the way in which we never know what is and what is not reality.

My second blog post was titled "War and Masculinity: A Look into Claudio's Character."  This post explores how a character (Claudio) associated with masculinity and war victory, becomes a figure of vulnerability in "Much Ado About Nothing." In blog this post, I aimed to show how Claudio's wartime success does not give him the proper sense to succeed in everyday life. When I revisited this post, I really liked that it exposed the weaknesses in Claudio's character and showed the irony behind his association with strength and honor. This post therefore shows how the reality of Claudio's character does not pair up with the initial expectations of a war hero character.

My third post was titled, "Understanding the Motivation behind Richard's Villainy." I must admit that this post was less focused, and did not have a specific angle as the other posts did. This post clearly shows that I had a very undeveloped understanding of Richard's character after only one act. The post is therefore more driven by contemplation and assumption than actual supported analysis. When I went to reread this post, I was slightly shocked that I would post something so unfocused. I think I could have made this a much stronger post by reading ahead and exploring Richard's incredible power to use heartless manipulation to get what he truly desires. This post only touched on the surface of Richard's character, and what really cause him to resort to villainous behavior.

I really enjoy having this blog assignment as part of our class. This assignment allows me to write to a point, and therefore better understand they way aspects of the play function. While class discussion is extremely helpful, the blog assignment challenges me to explore what I find significant in the play. I therefore see this blogging assignment as a means to reflect on the text in a very constructive manner. When I went back to read my blog posts, I realized that the most successful posts were those which had a sense of structure and specific focus. I value that this assignment helps to strengthen my close reading abilities, and ultimately find what is  particularly significant within the text.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Another character in the play...?

Another character in the play…?
We touched on the subject of morality very briefly in class in regards to the
murderers and Clarence, but I think that a bit more attention needs to be paid
to it, and, more importantly, to the concept of the conscience. After reading
the conversation between the murderers and Clarence, I feel like Conscience
(yes, in capitals) should be considered another character, at least in Act I.
The two murderers are sent to kill Clarence, and are specifically warned by
Richard not to speak with Clarence, because he could convince them not to kill
him. Richard knows that Clarence will play up to their inner morality (which he
does). But before Clarence even has a chance, the two murderers become
enthralled in a conversation discussing how Conscience has interrupted their
nefarious duties. Here, Conscience is personified, and painted it as a meddling

The second murderer begins to have second thoughts, letting his conscience
interfere. But once he is reminded of his reward, he realizes just how
troublesome Conscience is. "'Tis a blushing, shamefaced spirit that mutinies in
a man's bosom. It fills a man full of obstacles." He feels that ,"every man that
means to live well endeavors to trust himself and live without." The play takes
the personification even further when Conscience is seen as almost corporeal as
the first murderer, now almost consumed with morality, exclaims that, "Zounds,
'tis even now at my elbow, persuading me not to kill the duke."  His counterpart
reminds him not to let Conscience take over his thoughts lest it make him sad.
Both murderers take this time to consider Conscience as a formidable foe in the
process of deciding one's actions, though both are able to prevail, inevitably
killing Clarence.
When Clarence wakes up and begins begging for his life, Conscience makes another appearance, this time with heavy religious undertones. The murderers admit to Clarence that they are commanded to do what they are about to do, and that the king is who commands it. Clarence responds that they are wrong because, “the great King of Kings hath in the tables of his law commanded that thou shalt do no murder.” God is King here, and his commandments should take precedent over King Edward’s. Clarence warns that revenge will be a consequence of this sin. It seems that the consequence is Conscience taking its toll. After the murderers kill the duke, the second murderer is once again stricken with his morality. He laments that it was a bloody and ill-dispatched deed, and confesses that, “like Pilate, would I wash my hands of this most grievous murder.” He likens himself to Pontius Pilate, who after sentencing Jesus to his crucifixion, publicly washes his hands as if trying to rid himself of guilt. Though the murderers do indeed kill Clarence, Conscience weeds its way into the deed, interrupting the reverie of a completed task, and hearkens back to the murderer’s earlier conversation about how Conscience is a like a meddling adversary.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Manipulative Language in Richard III

With "Richard III," Shakespeare gives us another play about deception and manipulation. Throughout the play, language is used to deceive others and to gain what one wants.
The largest examples of this of course come from Richard himself. Richard's plan is to become king, which is going to take some manipulation and work on his part, as right now his eldest brother holds that role. He decides that it would benefit him to court and marry Lady Anne, because it would make him an even better canidate for the throne in the event of his older brother's death. Lady Anne had been married to the kind of the previous king, but he was recently killed by Richard and his family. This obviously would make convincing her to marry him more challenging, but because of his skills in manipulative language, it seems that Richard actually finds joy in the challenge. Through his interaction with her, he uses his words to actually make her take some of the blame for her husbands death, saying that her beauty is what caused him to kill her husband in the first place. His speech is so effective that she actually takes his ring and agrees to speak with him later!
Another example of manipulative language comes from Richard's brother, Clarence. Unfortunately, his manipulation does not ultimately save his life, but it does make his murderers second guess themselves and hesitate for a while while he speaks. He pleads for his life in a way that evokes pity from the murderers, and earlier in the play, Richard actually warned them that this may happen as a result of Clarence's skill with language.
I enjoyed comparing these ideas with the ideas of deception in "Othello." Iago's genius in deceit came from his ability to appear so sincere, and make people over-think his subtle suggestions. However, the characters in Richard are using deception in a different way. Their skill comes from manipulation, using their language to actively make people believe something that they did not believe before in order to work to their own benefit. As I read on, it will be interesting to see what type of deceit within the two plays seems most effective.

Richard III- Another one of Shakespeare's two-faced Assholes

As we enter into another one of Shakespeare's plays "Richard III," we immediately get this deceitful and sneaky tone as Richard III opens the play with a powerful and straightforward speech about his unhappiness and his plans to change the way he feels and is perceived. He explains to the audience that he is a terrible lover and is very unhappy, forcing him to ruin the happiness of others. If he can't be happy than no one else can be either, especially his two brothers Clarence and King Edward. Right off the bat Richard tells the audience exactly how he feels and what he plans to do to others: “Therefore since I cannot prove a lover / To entertain these fair well-spoken days, / I am determined to prove a villain / And hate the idle pleasures of these days” (I.i.28–31). He also tells us of his desire to become King and to ruin his brothers lives in the process of obtaining this power. As I started to try and understand Richard and the forces behind his deceitful actions towards his brothers, I wondered what really made him so bitter about the power his brother holds. I understand he is the youngest and therefore is the last of the brothers to receive a powerful position in the House of York, but to plan to murder his brothers seemed a little intense and harsh for such a reason. Although he gives the audience an opening speech explaining his intentions and plans, it seems like there is much more where this pain and resent is coming from. Why is Richard as bitter as he is?

Just as we saw in Iago's character, Richard III also is successful in his evil doings with the help of his two-faced personality. As he speaks the "truth" to the audience he completely changes his attitude and personality as the other actors step onto the stage. Richard's dual personality assists him as he successfully begins to get his way in the play. His language is believable and interesting as he is constantly changing his personality, depending on who is around him and who he is talking to. Act one sets us up with a foreshadowing a play full of drama, schemes, alliances and deceitfulness.

Richard the Dissembler

    Some preliminary thoughts on Richard: there’s this question of dissembling nature, which Richard blames for his hideous outward form--but in Richard’s case outward in a sense does reflect inward, although his words and promises, appearances in language, gesture (a form of acting, Iago’s in kind) dissembles what is written even in the lines of his face, and in the lines of Margaret the prophetess and the images of Clarence's portending dreams. So he dissembles, but is a kind of known dissembler--as opposed to unsuspected, honest Iago. Richard is already embroiled in murder and usurpation, and yet with blood on his hands, he woos the wife of he whom he has murdered. And because of the “G” prophesy, his brother (George Duke of) Clarence is brought to jail, his name falsely suggesting a guilt which really belongs to his brother Gloucester. But Clarence believes he is to be delivered from prison by the hand of his brother, for the promise has reached him out of Richard’s very mouth, “I will deliver or lie for you,” (1.1 116) or lie to you, what you will. Richard will “urge his,” that is, the King’s “hatred more to Clarence,/ With lies well steeled with weighty arguments,” (1.1 147) and deliver him “From this earth’s thraldom to the joys of heaven” (1.4 236). But “Clarence still breathes,” while Richard is “Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time/ Into this breathing world scarce half made up” and has “no delight to pass away the time,/ Unless to spy my shadow in the sun/ And descant on mine own deformity” (1.1 25-27). (So let’s get this straight in a tangental word association: Deformity brings about the delivery of one of his own blood (perhaps of the same livery?) so that Richard is a devilish deity “whose all not equals Edward’s moiety,” (1.3 236) that is, he is half the son of York whose emblem is the sun, so that Richard is a half-sun shaped like a D, as in    D(evil), D(eliverer), D(issembler), D(isinheritor), D(iffused) and so on). Once Richard has turned his brother to the grave he will buy himself a looking-glass so that he may gaze upon his outward deformity fashionably adorned, but until that time he hopes the sun will shine so he “may see my shadow as I pass” (1.2 250). He “turns the sun to shade,” (1.3 264) a shifting shadow which easily dissembles the figure that casts it, like to the shades of Hades who visit Clarence in his prophetic dream from which he awoke trembling (mysterium tremendum) having passed into the other world, a hellish world from which Richard seems to spring, twisting words and appearances to his favor, so that when he’s suspected in the least of treachery,
    ...then I sigh, and with a piece of scripture/ Tell them that God bids us do good for     evil;/ And thus I clothe my naked villainy/ With odd old ends, stol’n of Holy Writ,/     And seem a saint when most I play the devil. (1.3 332-336)

Richard III: Accepted Murderer

Richard kills people left and right and gets away with it it seems. And he doesn’t kill just anyone, but people in high places. He is never imprisoned or punished by any judicial or political means either. It’s not even like he hides his murderous acts. He does lie about them on occasion but for the most part people know who he has killed and he even confesses to it. It is interesting, however, that he never really comes out and says he committed the murders he did clearly; he always uses third person, says it in some other clever way, or just blatantly lies. He blatantly lies about not killing Anne’s husband in Act 1, scene 2 when he says, when speaking to Anne, “I did not kill your husband” (1.ii.93). Then he proceeds to blame Edward, saying “Nay, he is dead, and slain by Edward’s hands” (1.ii.95). Anne wisely counters him, knowing full well that he is lying yet again.
Richard tries to rationalize murdering the king shortly after, when he admits to Anne that he killed him. Anne says, “[The king] is in heaven, where thou shalt never come” and Richard cleverly responds, “Let him thank me, that help to send him thither, / For he was fitter for that place than earth” (1.ii.110-12). He is persistently twisting words around, trying to make himself look good and to justify his heinous acts.
Perhaps it is his wit that keeps him out of trouble with the law, or maybe his incessant lying does the trick. Does he talk his way out of punishment? Or does everyone just know that he has killed men and not seriously punish him because of his place in society? Maybe the laws were different in Shakespeare’s time, particularly concerning royalty. Would he be punished for his murderous acts if he were a peasant or a person of the lower class? Does he get away with murder because people feel bad for him? That surely doesn’t seem to be the case as many greatly detest him and are not afraid to tell him.
Also, the fact that people seem to know about Richard’s wrong-doings and still consider him next in line to be king, or protector in this case, is baffling to me. They are essentially condoning murder, even as a method to get to the throne.


Psychological Hate          
Many of Shakespeare’s villains, from the plays that our class has read, are just plain bitter about the lack of opportunity in their lives. Iago and his want to destroy Othello because of the stall in his upward mobility over Cassio, and the suspicion of a cheating wife. Don John’s jealousy over his brother and the praise and recognition that he gets because Don Pedro is a legitimate heir; all points towards the notion that the lack of recognition and upward mobility causes a rage so powerful that these characters try to ruin lives. But in Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of King Richard the III, the villain, Richard Duke of Gloucester, is not bitter about the lack of mobility or recognition; instead he is bitter towards love and physical disability. This is one of the first villains in which we have encountered that is not bitter about the lack of status and prestige, but the lack of having a lover and most importantly a suitable appearance. Richard is bitter of being deformed and because of this deformity deems himself, “unlovable.” The quote,
                “Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to spy my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.”
 (Shakespeare 1.1.1)
exemplifies his reason for being a villain is part of his nature due to the fact that he is not physically aesthetic. But another insight that this passage from his soliloquy also exposes is a psychological look more into the character.
Compared to the other villains such as Iago and Don John, who both exhibit some part of their inner psychological reasoning for hating Othello or Don Pedro, Richard is a full blown-psychological induced hate towards people that have deemed him unlovable, but more importantly a hate towards himself because of the lack of opportunity to obtain that love. Furthermore we see a lot of hate directed towards Richard and his deformity through other characters, unlike Iago and Don John. Richard has to work harder to seduce and make people believe him due to his deformity. The quote from Lady Anne,
“Foul devil, for God's sake, hence, and trouble us not;
For thou hast made the happy earth thy hell,
Fill'd it with cursing cries and deep exclaims.
If thou delight to view thy heinous deeds,
Behold this pattern of thy butcheries.
O, gentlemen, see, see! dead Henry's wounds
Open their congeal'd mouths and bleed afresh!
Blush, Blush, thou lump of foul deformity;”
                                                                                (Shakespeare 1.1.3)
demonstrates a deeper hate and disgust towards Richard, who through the psychological damage from other characters, has developed this deep reason of being a villain. He is similar to the character to Frankenstein. Both characters have a deformity because they were, “born” with deformities, and both being shunned by society and given the mind-set that because they are ugly they cannot be loved, decided that they are to be villains instead because of the lack of love. Richard, unlike all of the villains, has a richer and more plausible reason towards hating individuals and the want to ruin their lives, because without love for yourself and from others, what other choice does one have, but to hate and plot the demise of the ones that had hurt you the most. 

Richard the Wizard

While reading the first act of Richard the III , the most prominent aspect is how Shakespeare uses language.  The word choice affects the imagery, alters the meaning and can make the ugliest sentiments an auditory delight.  
            In Richard’s speech in the opening act he refers to his deformity, “Unless to spy my shadow in the sun” (1.1.26). The use of the words “spy” and “shadow” resonates the darkness of his deformity but the last word, “sun” seems hopeful. Although he goes on to say in the next line, “And Decant on my own deformity” (1.1.27) which renders the sun at fault because it shows him his deformed shadow and provides him with opportunity to be miserable about his condition.  
            The exchange between Lady Anne and Richard is significant.  Her words toward him are harsh and her emotions are raw yet by the end, she has seemingly softens towards him. She repeatedly refers to him as a “devil” and he refutes her allegation that he not a beast because he does not pity anyone.  Richard blames his brother for her losses, than admits guilt to win her favor and blames her beauty as his motive. While the vibrant insults Lady Anne hurls at Richard are notable more importantly is that way Richard flips her accusations of him into some sort of compliment towards her. She wants revenge on him because he killed her husband but he tells her that he killed her husband to get her a better one, himself (1.2137-139)!  She refers to him as a “black magician” (1.2.34), in this conversation he seems to be a magician because he gets her from wanting him dead, to accepting a ring and agreeing to meet up with him at his estate.  As not having read the rest of the play, I am hoping she is in fact using him, not being used by him.
            Queen Margaret’s anger drives her sharply delivered wit.   Although, Richard flips her curse onto herself by getting her to say her own name afterwards.  It is another example of how Richard manipulates language/conversation to suit himself. Queen Margaret unleashes her rage on Queen Elizabeth, “Die, neither mother, wife, nor England’s queen.---“ (1.3.206).   The words of this line should way heavy on Queen Elizabeth because it represents a potentially huge void but she doesn’t speak until after Margaret leaves. She responds by saying she has never done her any wrong.   I wonder if this is representative of what kind of character Queen Elizabeth is as the play progresses. In the following passage Queen Margaret warns Queen Elizabeth:

Poor painted Queen, vain flourish of my fortune,

Why shrew’st thou sugar on that bottled spider

Whose deadly web ensnareth thee about?

The alliterative of “poor painted” followed by “queen” is moving. The association of queens with being poor and painted is not atypical.  The other dissimilarity between sugar and a spider is also effective tool of imagery.  
            Act 1 is constructed in such a way that I look forward to discovering more beautiful lines of imagery as the play progresses. I also want to know if Lady Anne truly falls for the evil wizard, Richard.  I am interested to learn if Queen Elizabeth it clueless, and the outcome of Queen Margaret’s prophesies.  




Language as Richard's Weapon

In many literary works, language can be very important. In Richard III, I believe language can be considered Richard's weapon or tool in getting ahead. The very first person to speak in the play is Richard, and he opens with quite the speech. He begins by giving some information about his family’s recent victory. More interestingly, though, is what he talks about toward the end of the speech. He tells of how he was cheated out of a pleasant looking body and face. He calls himself “Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time into this breathing world, scarce half made up, and that so lamely and unfashionable that dogs bark at me as I halt by them” (Shakespeare 20-23).  He goes on to say, “since I cannot prove a lover to entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determined to prove a villain and hate the idle pleasures of these days” (28-31).His bad looks are his excuse for becoming a villain and setting dangerous and villainous plans in motion.

To make up for his lack of good-looks, Richard seems to use his language to get what he wants. He has a way with words that allows him to manipulate and control those around him.  His way of hurting those around him and creating problems is by using his skill with words to trick and lie. The best place to examine this happen within Act One is definitely Richard’s dialogue with Lady Anne.  At the end of Scene One, Richard has another speech. Toward the end of it, he says that he will marry Lady Anne, even though he is responsible for the death of her husband and his father (154-155). He states that there is no better way to make amends than to become those things for her (156-157). He goes on to state that he will not do this for love, but because there is something for him to get out of it (158-160). In Scene Two, Lady Anne is obviously extremely angry over the death of her husband and father in law. Her anger comes out in every word she speaks.  She is especially angry with Richard for being responsible. She states, “More direful hap betide that hated wretch that makes us wretched by the death of thee than I can wish to wolves, to spiders, toads, or any creeping venomed thing that lives. If ever he have child, abortive be it, prodigious, and untimely brought to light, whose ugly and unnatural aspect may fright the hopeful mother at the view, and that be heir to his unhappiness” (18-26). When Richard comes into the scene and begins to speak with her, she initially expresses all of her hatred of him. She does not hold back. By the end though, something I thought unexpected begins to happen. She seems to tone down the anger and actually may even be somewhat wooed by Richard. Even with all of the terrible feelings she had toward him, his skill with words somehow manipulates her and turns her against herself. Richard’s use of language, even where he is not sincere,  gets him very far in this scene for he is able to persuade even the one person who despised him so. 

I am very curious to see how Richard's word play and use of language will influence the rest of the play.

Richard III and Anne

This play has a lot going on in this first act. It is a little difficult to keep straight, but there is quite a bit of it that I recognize from other plays that we have read. One of the first things that I wanted to point out was the magic/curse/spell reference. We saw this in our last play Othello and in A Midsummer Nights Dream. I also noticed that this play has a villain that we are going to get to know quite well, much like we get to know Iago well in Othello. The one difference about this play however is that the title is Richard III so we are going to get to know a villain better than we are the hero, as we do in the other plays we have read.

I want to take a closer look at this villain and particularly his wooing and relationship with Anne. At the end of 1.1, we see Richard saying that he is going to woo over Anne but not because he loves her but rather because of what he will get out of it, “The which will I, not all so much for love as for another secret close intent by marrying her which I must reach unto” 1.1.158-160. Richard has killed Anne’s father and husband, but he says, “What though I killed her husband and her father?” 1.1.155. He really does not care all that much that he will use a woman in grief to get what he wants, something to benefit from. Right in Act 1 we see our main character as a sick, twisted man (twisted appropriate considering his physical appearance).  

Act 1.2 opens with Anne morning over her father at some sort of ceremony, like a funeral. Richard could care less that he has just killed this man and has the audacity to show up and try and woo this woman. Anne makes reference to a “black magician” who has sent him to the place at that time (1.2.34-35). Anne is so angry that he is there, and he calls her an angry angel, and continuously compliments her beauty. Anne does put up a good verbal fight for quite some time, but at the end of the scene Richard gives her a ring to wear, and she seems to be playing a little hard to get, and seems flirtatious in a way, but wears it anyway. She is not the strongest female character we have seen in our plays thus far that is for sure! This is a great play so far, but I am hoping our class discussion will help “smooth out the wrinkles” in the story!

The Fate of Richard III

In the reading questions for act 1 of Richard III, Professor Mulready posted an interactive video of Ian McKellan explaining his interpretation of Richard’s famous introductory speech at the beginning of the play. One of the things that struck me as I listened was his explanation of how Richard feels during this time. McKellan states that Richard feels as if things have changed, but that they are not better. Though “the clouds that loured upon [his] house [are] in the deep bosom of the ocean buried” (3-4) his own clouds are still over head. First of all, he is the third brother, which means he is nothing of importance in a family whose first son inherits the throne. Second, he is physically deformed and claims that he is not “fashionable” and that he is in fact “lamely” (22). He feels less important because of this but more than that, he feels left out because he is not attractive to women or even “dogs” who “bark” at him as he walks by (23). Overall, he feels that although everyone else is happy, that he is still not, and this upsets him more than anything. Because of this Richard decides to plot his way to happiness by making others unhappy with each other, as he is unhappy with everyone else for how he has been left by the wayside.

After discovering this feeling and plan of Richards through the video of Ian McKellan, I began to wonder if his plan would actually work. Will Richard III really be happy after he “prove[s] a villain” (30)? Personally, I believe that he will not. Not only do I believe this because this is The Tragedy of King Richard the Third but because of one of the major themes in the play:  the power of language.

Richard III is a Master of manipulation. I mean, He uses language to seduce Lady Anne in front of the corpse of her husband, who he himself murdered! He plans on using this skill with language to create believable versions of “prophesies, libels and dreams” in order to move himself higher in society (33).

Though through our introduction to Richards’s skill, we see that it is almost unmatchable, we do find that his brother George is a match for his talent. Richard even says so himself. He states that “Clarence is well spoken” when talking to the murderers he sends to kill George and that he “may move [their] hearts to pity”, just as he has moved Anne’s heart to love (346, 347). When Clarence is confronted by these murderers and he is not in control, when he needs his language to save him most, it does not. The murderers loyalty to Richard is stronger than George’s skill and he is in the end defeated.

Because it is plain that there is a connection between Richard’s skill with language and that of his brother George, I think that it is probable that there is also a connection between the fate of George and the fate of Richard himself. It seems that George’s failure to use language to get himself out of trouble when he did not have the upper hand, will foreshadow  Richard’s fall, when he does not have the upper hand psychologically or physically, as he often has in this first act.  Therefore, going back to my original question, I predict that Richard’s plots, driven by his skill with language, will ultimately fail in making him happy.


What does everyone else think?

Foolish Anne Falls For Richard's Fake Flattery

The opening statements made by Richard were quite shocking but at the same time refreshing. He openly admits to being the evil villain that we should hate throughout the play. He gives his motives clearly, stating that he has no choice but to be evil because he was born so hideous. His murderous ambitions allow him to match his ugly exterior in a twisted sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. 

“I, that am curtailed of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them” (1.1.18-23)

His description of himself is completely self-loathing and pathetic enough that it allowed me to feel a certain amount of pity, until I read to the point where he plots murder on two of his brothers and openly admits to murdering Lady Anne’s husband and his father to her face. Richard’s main goal is to be king and within the first act he makes it painfully clear that he will literally kill everyone he needs to in order to achieve what he wants.
I found the easy acceptance that Lady Anne has of Richard’s homicidal admissions to be extremely odd. She badgers him mercilessly until he admits to murdering her husband but once he finally does give her the confession she wants, Anne seemingly backs off and allows him to state his reasons for murdering her husband which gives him the perfect opportunity to flatter her to the point of nausea. The worst part for me was that Anne actually seemed to believe what he said. Anne’s changing opinion of Richard characterizes her as a weak woman who will easily fall into Richard’s trap because of the over-the-top flattering he constantly throws at her. I had high hopes in the beginning of the interaction between Anne and Richard because of the outright way in which she insulted him and accused him of his wicked ways but she quickly disappointed me by actually believing that,  

“My manly eyes did scorn an humble tear;
And what these sorrows could not thence exhale
Thy beauty hath, and made them blind with weeping” (1.2.169-171).

She falls for his insistence that he wants to take care of the burial of Edward and she believes that he is sincere in actually feeling remorse for his actions, when he makes it clear that he would supposedly kill someone for something as vain as beauty.