It appears that I am chiefly interested in relationships. These can include relationships between the characters (as with my posting about Midsummer), relationships between the words on the page and what is presented on the stage (as with my posting about Othello) and relationships between the characters and the power structures that they are bound to (see my posting about Twelfth Night). My comments tend to ask questions about the relationship between characters and power structures.
I think this is a fair assessment of what I am drawing out of these plays. It is very easy to consider Shakespeare in a vacuum, to see it as something existing outside of traditional societal situations, outside of a public audience with opinions, political influences, etc. My research has illustrated that these forces played an active part in the creation of the plays, and this gives them a very long lasting impact, allowing them to still be as rich and detailed as we consider them today.
Our most recent reading of Richard the 3rd offers a rich and fertile ground to study these topics. I knew little about the War of the Roses (other than that which gets passed off on “Game of Thrones”) prior to reading this play and it is interesting to watch Shakespeare craft the particular myth of the Tudors through characters on the stage. Richard provides plenty of interesting situations between himself and other characters, from seducing Lady Anne to feigning humility when the kingship is thrust upon him. We also have plenty of base/superstructure type of relationships, particularly focusing on the idea of succession and birth order. In order to attain kingship, Richard is forced to bump off his brother, wait for the present king to die, and then kill all potential heirs and marry off the women to men of lesser stature. This is all demanded by the system in which he lives, if he wants to rise to kingship. It’s interesting how social hierarchy motivates the action in many of these plays, and it is something I look forward to continuing to explore.
I think that idea, of how individuals fit into society at large, is what I am most interested in when I read these plays, as presented by my blog posts. Particularly with characters as big as the ones in “Othello” and “Richard the 3rd”, Shakespeare presents the critic with plenty of opportunities to ask these big questions. How far is too far to attain power? Why do men fail? Etc., etc., Shakespeare allows us to look into the minds of these characters, and perhaps divine an answer. I look forward to continuing to explore these themes as we continue to read.