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Book reviews for "Bloom,_Harold" sorted by average review score:

William Shakespeare's Henry IV (Bloom's Notes)
Published in Paperback by Chelsea House Publishing (May, 1996)
Authors: Harold Bloom and William Shakespeare
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Henry IV Part II - A Good Play In the Middle of 2 Great Ones
First off, I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed Part I and absolutely adored Henry V. Having said that, I found Part II to be enjoyable, yet perhaps leaving something to be desired - like more action. Falstaff and Prince Hal both come off as somewhat disingenuous and calculating Machiavellian individuals. Disappointingly, Falstaff speaks poorly of Prince Hal while unwittingly in his midst. Conversely, The Prince of Wales prematurely takes the crown before his King Henry IV's death as well as disassociating himself with Falstaff after he is crowned King. These instances, along with others throughout the play, show the self-serving tendencies of both characters.

However, we can proudly witness the maturation of the young King from wild & dissolute young Prince Hal into one of the most revered monarchs in English history, King Henry V. Part II remains an intriguing play due to its paradoxical nature, yet unfortunately rarely acted out today. Now that I have read Henry IV(I&II) for the first time, I gladly move on to one of my personal favorites, Henry V. I recommend both parts(Folger editions) for all Shakespeare enthusiasts - they have given me greater insight into the young Henry V - when he was more concerned with downing a pint of ale rather than downing the French at Agincourt.

2 Magnificent Quotes from Henry IV Part II -
"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." - King Henry IV
"He hath eaten me out of house and home." - Mistress Quickly

The single editions have much more background
This is the play where Henry IV squashes the Percy rebellion but himself becomes ill and dies. So, Price Hal becomes King Henry V and this leads to the next play of that name.

The wonderful Falstaff is also on glorious display. This is also the play with the famous tavern scene (Act II, Scene IV) that can be read endlessly with new enjoyment.

Everyone has his or her own take on Falstaff and his treatment at the hands of Henry V, but I dislike it even though I understand it. Prince Hal and his transformation into Henry V is not someone I admire a lot. Nor is Falstaff's manner of living, but his wit is so sharp and his intelligence so vast that it is easy to still delight in him.

But, you certainly don't need me to tell you anything about Shakespeare. Like millions of other folks, I am in love with the writing. However, as all of us who read Shakespeare know, it isn't a simple issue. Most of us need help in understanding the text. There are many plays on words, many words no longer current in English and, besides, Shakespeare's vocabulary is richer than almost everyone else's who ever lived. There is also the issue of historical context, and the variations of text since the plays were never published in their author's lifetime.

For those of us who need that help and want to dig a bit deeper, the Arden editions of Shakespeare are just wonderful.

-Before the text of the play we get very readable and helpful essays discussing the sources and themes and other important issues about the play.

-In the text of the play we get as authoritative a text as exists with helpful notes about textual variations in other sources. We also get many many footnotes explaining unusual words or word plays or thematic points that would likely not be known by us reading in the 21st century.

-After the text we get excerpts from likely source materials used by Shakespeare and more background material to help us enrich our understanding and enjoyment of the play.

However, these extras are only available in the individual editions. If you buy the "Complete Plays" you get text and notes, but not the before and after material which add so much! Plus, the individual editions are easier to read from and handier to carry around.

henry iv is misnamed since the play isn't really about king henry but about his son, prince hal, and his enemies, especially henry percy (aka 'hotspur') who is a rival to hal. hotspur is one of the leaders of the rebellion against the king and, at a tender age, is already an accomplished soldier. his story provides the drama of the play. hal, on the other hand, has fallen out of favor with the king, and is whiling away his days in the company of dissolute company, led by sir john falstaff, one of shakespeare's great characters. his adventures with sir john provide the comic relief. fortunately for the king, hal sheds his prodigal ways in time to save his father and his crown in the battle at shrewsbury, where, coincidentally, hal meets and slays his rival, hotspur.

this is one of shakespeare's best plays. the story of the rebellion is intriguing, and the adventures of hal and falstaff are laugh-out-loud hilarious. the culmination of the two stories in the final battle scene is wonderful. this is a fitting sequel to richard ii.

note that there are some historical inaccuracies and even outright inventions in this play. foremost is the character of falstaff who is pure invention (and genius). the story of hal's adventures stems from his reputation, enhanced by legend, as a playboy. falstaff was the perfect foil for a carousing prince. the biggest inaccuracy is hotspur's age. he was actually of the generation of henry iv, and not as young as he's depicted in the play. shakespeare made him younger to enhance, maybe even create, the rivalry with hal. there are other inaccuracies here, but better for the reader to consult 'shakespeare's kings', an excellent book by saccio that explains the history of the period and the discrepancies in the play.

Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey into Night (Modern Critical Interpretations)
Published in Library Binding by Chelsea House Pub (Library) (January, 2000)
Authors: Harold Bloom and Eugene O'Neill
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It's a gloom play with conversations full of anger, rage and sarcasm, grief and sorrow. It's the story of a family whose members have lost every connections between each other, four characters that desperately seek a last vestige of love to be confronted only with disappointment in the end. It's an autobiographical play, too. I read the book late at night, sometime after midnight had passed, along with a couple of cigarettes and some wine. And it really got me. The feeling of being detached from everything else, to be utterly alone with yourself and the thoughts of your mind, it crept more and more on me with every page I turned. These are genuine wounds that bloom before our eyes like the flowers of torment and sometimes I meant to even hear the echo of the cries of the hurt when my heart beat faster. But if one doesn't want to open up to the sinister and absolutely melancholic atmosphere of the book I can well understand that...

O Neal is ruthlessly honest in this sordid, beautiful play
I read the play when I was 19. I stumbled upon it on a dime rack at the library. One day, I was moving and had some time on my hands until the movers arrived to haul away my stuff. I pulled out my copy and was never the same again. I sat on the floor and read from the late morning to dusk--when the light was no longer sufficient to read by. I hadn't noticed that my shoulder had begun to ache or that my throat was screaming for water, I was absorbed in the play as if I was receiving a vision. Anyone who claims that the play is not well-written doesn't understand literature, nor have they seen the staged production. (I'd highly recommend the movie with Katherine Hepburn). The honesty of the playwright will put you through an emotional ringer that is difficult to detach yourself from long after the reading is done. The fog horn, the deception, the cutting words of the players all haunt your dreams. This is a masterpiece.

Depresessing, Enthralling...Beautiful.
If one needs the ultimate example of a classic American play, I would have to say the play about the most un-classic, untypical (or is it?) American family...Eugene O'Neill's "Long Days Journey Into Night." Set in the chlostrophobic New England summer house of the Tyrone's, and spanning over the course of one day, the Tyrone family--the stingy, retired actor James, the lonely opium addicted wife Mary, drunken Jamie, and sensitive, ill Edmund--avoids, denys, confronts and retreats from all their demons, until it is finally night, and they no longer can.

Depressing, huh? Well, of course it is...but within it is something so powerful, so strangely beautiful, that the reader (or viewer) is enthralled. One sees seemingly strong James, ashamed of himself for selling out his acting abilities for financial security. Mary, lonely from James' years of touring, has turned to an opium addiction that she can not seem to confront. Jamie, from hate of his father's stinginess and his own self-blame, loses himself in alcohol and whores. And sweet, artistic, tubulcular Edmund (O'Neill's alter ego) plays witness in the deteration of his family's web of pain, denial and lies. All they want is for morning to come, another day to let the fog come in around them so they can forget again.

In a way, isn't that what we all want to do sometimes? Just forget what's going on around us, even for a while. I would recommend this play as absolutly essential to read--for the fan of the theatre, literature, or a layman. Anyone can relate to the pure, raw emotion and guilt O'Neill conveys. Buy it now, you'll thank me later.

Homer's Odyssey: Bloom's Notes (Contemporary Literary Views)
Published in Library Binding by Chelsea House Pub (Library) (January, 1996)
Author: Harold Bloom
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The wanderings and adventures of Odysseus.
This epic were required reading in the humanities course I took at U.C.L.A. in the mid-1960s. And, I've reread it a number of times since then. The prose translation I read was by Rieu (if you are interested in the verse translation, see the volume provided by Robert Fagles). "The Odyssey" is the epic poem of the wanderings of Odysseus trying to return to his home in Ithaca following the end of the siege of Troy. There are three basic threads in this epic: Telemachus' search for his father, Odysseus (Books II-IV); the wanderings of Odysseus (Books I and V-XIII); and, Penelope's struggles with her suitors (Books XIV-XXIV). All of these come together in the conclusion. "The Odyssey" begins in the middle of the tale (in medias res) when Odysseus request to leave Calypso on the island of Ogygia. Much of his wanderings are told as recaptulations of earlier events. Telemachus sets out from Ithaca to find his father; but he searches in vain at Pylos and Sparta. Odysseus has many adventures in his travels: battle with the warlike Cicones; an encounter with the Lotus-Eaters; the famous fight with the cyclops Polyphemus; a near shipwreak following the release of winds from a bag; a visit with the enchantress Circe who turns Odysseus' men into swine; talks with the spirits of the dead; escape from the Sirens; eluding Scylla and Charybdis, two sea-monsters lying between Italy and Sicily; the killing of the sacred oxen of the Sun; seven years with Calypso; another shipwreak; rescue by King Alcinous; and the final arrival on Ithaca. This is one of the great classics of literature and evry college student should be required to read it. I've always felt that until recently when I discovered that, at a local Middle School, it was required reading for eighth graders! Now, I think that all High School graduates should have read it.

A Story that Truly Deserves the Title "Classic"
This epic tale proves that the best stories and the most perilous adventures know no time period. "The Odyssey" is as compelling today as it was when it was written. Many of the adventures from Odysseus' journey have become stories all their own (the Cyclops, the Sirens, etc.) Fitzgerald's translation of this poem is masterful. He makes it easy to read but takes none of the magic away from Homer's spellbinding words. Children today who love action and adventure in books and in the movies should not overlook this classic simply because of its length and age. By any standard, this is quite possibly the greatest adventure story ever told.

Read the Odyssey!!
I'm 14, live in England and I'm studying the Odyssey for my GCSE in Classical Civilisation, and its a fantastic book. It's amazing to think that this whole story was once MEMORISED by Homer, and because it was so wonderful it was finally written down and has survived for years and years! The Odyssey is a great story because: although it's a mythical tale, Homer tells it with such reality and vivid description that you almost believe it's real, it's filled with excitement, twists and turns, with Odysseus always just about managing to escape from trouble! The intriging mythical creatures are fascinating, full of character and personality - i particularly like Polyphemus the Cyclops and also Athena, the wise goddess. that's another cool thing about the Odyssey - all of the ancient Greek names!! Although the Odyssey is a challenging book to read, due to the complicated people and place names, the long family histories and references to Greek mythology, and the repetitive narration, I would recommend it to anyone. Whether or not you want to analyse it in detail (as I have to for my exam!) or just read it and it enjoy it, everyone should read the Odyssey at least once! I find that each time I read it, I pick up something new, and it gets easier to understand and quicker to read. Just give it a try, it is a classics book, and well worth the effort, although it is challenging. I'm sure that anyone who is interested in mythology, or just adventure stories in general, something in the Odyssey will appeal to you. So read it!!!

Cerantes's Don Quixote (Modern Critical Interpretations)
Published in Library Binding by Chelsea House Pub (Library) (January, 2001)
Authors: Harold Bloom and Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra
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Conflict between Reality and Fantasy
In the adventure novel of "Don Quixote", a man named Alanso Quixano, dreams of becoming a knight. The only problem is that there haven't been any knights around for many years. Into the mind of Alanso comes the character named Don Quixote of La Mancha, a knight. Along with his squire Sancho Panza, and his trusty horse Rocinante, he sets out on an adventure, honoring and telling of Don Quixote's love, Dolcinea del Toboso. Along his way, Don Quixote mistakes fantasy for reality. Don Quixote fights for the honor of his love, Dolcinea. Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra establishes a great deal of honor throughout book. Don Quixote, is honoring his love for Dolcinea del Toboso by fighing every battle for her honor.

Cervantes establishes the theme of differences between reality and fantasy throughout the book. In Alanso's mind what is happening to him is happening to Don Quixote. Alasno can't decipher the difference between reality and fantasy. All the other characters in the book know the difference between reality and fantasy and know Alanso is living a fantasy. Through this contrast between reality and fantasy we discover that sometimes we have to fight no matter what the consequence.

A Knight to Remember
I recently read the first part of Don Quixote, and I have to say that I was expecting a real snoozer. And I have to admit that, yes, Cervantes does drag on a bit. But critics of the novel's length are doing the work a misservice. We must remember that this book was written well over four centuries ago, when the very concept of a linked narrative must have been more than enough to hold the reader's interest. Cervantes's energy sizzles off the page at times, and you can tell he's really having fun with the work. I loved almost everything about this book, and while I might have liked to see it trimmed a bit, I still think Cervantes did a bang up job. Oh. One more thing. I lot of people seem to like Sancho more than Quixote. I'm totally the opposite. Quixote is the dreamer, the one who dares to look at things that never were and say " They might be giants ". I for one think thats boss.

Quite humorous
What Monte Python did for the King Arthur legend in their movie "The Search for the Holy Grail", Cervantes did four hundred years ealier with the entire medieval knighthood tradition of chivalry and fighting. If you read some of the original stories about "knights errant", such as Le Morte d'Arthur, you can appreciate to a greater degree Cervantes fine parody. If you can read Spanish (and I can't) you will also enjoy Cervantes puns throughout the text. I laughed myself silly while reading this. Don Quixote is as ridiculous in the adventures he undertakes while looking for his fair lady, Dulcinea, as his shrewd squire Sancho Panza is comically pragmatic. Together they make an interesting pair. It's true this is a rather long novel, but the rewards of humor (and occasional wise comments from Sancho) are well worth the time.

Julius Caesar (Major Literary Characters)
Published in Library Binding by Chelsea House Pub (Library) (January, 1994)
Authors: Harold Bloom and William Shakespeare
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Once again, morality vs. politics
This superb play by Shakespeare somehow reminded me of Antigona, the first play which directly examined the always complex interplay and usual confrontation between political reason and moral reason. This play is an excellent account of the immediately previous and subsequent days of Julius Caesar's assasination by Brutus, his best friend, and other conspirators. Brutus is persuaded by the resentful Cassius that Caesar has betrayed Rome by abandoning the Republic and turning to Dictatorship. Brutus gets to be convinced that, in order to save the Republic, Caesar must be killed. This puts him in a great dilemma, for he loves Caesar and he's his closest friend. Here we see in an acute form the way in which political power gets in conflict with morality and feelings. Friendship, power and betrayal are the basic subjects of this excellent piece of work.

This is certainly one of Shakespeare's greatest works. Every individual character has been perfectly planned before the play was written, and each has his/her own unique characteristics. The plot is well-known, but Shakespeare adds the themes of betrayal, love, and distrust into the mix, making it a nonforgetable story. This is definately a masterpiece to be reread over and over again. LONG LIVE JULIUS CAESAR! GO SM!! WE ARE HIS #1 FANS!!!

Friends, Romans, Web Surfers...
A while back, a friend of mine and I decided to pick a Shakespeare play every couple months, read it, then get together and discuss it.

It worked with pretty good results for ROMEO AND JULIET, but then we ran out of gas somewhere in the middle of our next selection, JULIUS CAESAR.

Now that I've finally finished reading the play long after our allotted "couple months," I have to say that the fault (the mutual disinterest that effectively brought our little Shakespeare club to a halt) doesn't lie in the play itself, but rather in my preconceptions of what the play was about.

I can't speak for my friend, but since I took the Cliff Notes route in high school when we were supposed to be reading about Caesar and Brutus and the rest of the treacherous Roman senate (and didn't do a very thorough job at that) I always assumed the play's action revolved around the plot to kill Caesar and culminated with his death scene. I wasn't prepared to find Caesar dead halfway through the play, with two-plus acts remaining. I think I just lost interest once Caesar blurted, "Et tu, Brute?" and slouched over lifeless on the cold marble.

But thankfully I eventually kept going, and discovered what the play is really about: the manipulation of the public that goes on after Caesar's death. The speeches in JULIUS CAESAR, given by those who would take his place, are full of the damage-control, image-making spin that happens everday on our "all news" channels. It's an interesting play, maybe not Shakespeare's best, but one that has certainly has some modern relevance and is worth examining.

Now if my friend and I can just get our club back on its feet. Maybe a comedy next time...

Macbeth (Major Literary Characters)
Published in Library Binding by Chelsea House Pub (Library) (December, 1991)
Author: Harold Bloom
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Powerful, beyond words, lives forever in your mind
This play is great! I've always liked Shakespearean comedy and tragic romance, and I didn't want to read this play at first, but when I did--it got me.

For those who want to read a play full of word play, appearance and reality in the world and for you, irony and Christian innuendoes, Macbeth is for you. The word play, especially the surprising comparison of murder with "Tarquin's ravishing", and the really effective ones like ambition with drunkeness, will make you read it again and again. There is a haunting soliloquy in Act 5 that Macbeth gives about life--it's famous and most would have heard of it, but nothing beats reading it together with the play.

Behind every successful man there is a woman, and behind every tragic hero there should be a tragic heroine. Lady Macbeth will repulse you and gain your pity. Don't despise her, folks, she just squashed her femininity thinking it was the best thing to do. She wouldn't have to ask evil forces to take away her human compassion if she didn't have any to begin with.

A must-read, and must-savour.

A gripping exploration of "black and deep desires"
"Macbeth," the play by William Shakespeare, is definitely one literary classic that still holds its own as a vital and engaging piece of art. Despite being a stage play, it also works superbly as a reader's text apart from a theatrical setting.

The plot begins thus: Scottish warrior Macbeth is told by three witches that he is destined to ascend the throne. This fateful prophecy sets in motion a plot full of murder, deceit, warfare, and psychological drama.

Despite being a lean play, "Macbeth" is densely layered and offers the careful reader rewards on many levels. Woven into the violent and suspenseful story are a host of compelling issues: gender identity, the paranormal, leadership, guilt, etc. In one sense, the play is all about reading and misreading (i.e. with regard to Macbeth's "reading" of the witches' prophecies), so at this level the play has a rich metatextual aspect.

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's most unforgettable tragic characters. His story is told using some of English literature's richest and most stunning language.

Lay on, Macduff!
While I was basically familiar with Shakespeare's Tragedy of Macbeth, I have only recently actually read the bard's brilliant play. The drama is quite dark and moody, but this atmosphere serves Shakespeare's purposes well. In Macbeth, we delve deeply into the heart of a true fiend, a man who would betray the king, who showers honors upon him, in a vainglorious snatch at power. Yet Macbeth is not 100% evil, nor is he a truly brave soul. He waxes and wanes over the execution of his nefarious plans, and he thereafter finds himself haunted by the blood on his own hands and by the ethereal spirits of the innocent men he has had murdered. On his own, Macbeth is much too cowardly to act so traitorously to his kind and his country. The source of true evil in these pages is the cold and calculating Lady Macbeth; it is she who plots the ultimate betrayal, forcefully pushes her husband to perform the dreadful acts, and cleans up after him when he loses his nerve. This extraordinary woman is the lynchpin of man's eternal fascination with this drama. I find her behavior a little hard to account for in the closing act, but she looms over every single male character we meet here, be he king, loyalist, nobleman, courtier, or soldier. Lady Macbeth is one of the most complicated, fascinating, unforgettable female characters in all of literature.

The plot does not seem to move along as well as Shakespeare's other most popular dramas, but I believe this is a result of the writer's intense focus on the human heart rather than the secondary activity that surrounds the related royal events. It is fascinating if sometimes rather disjointed reading. One problem I had with this play in particular was one of keeping up with each of the many characters that appear in the tale; the English of Shakespeare's time makes it difficult for me to form lasting impressions of the secondary characters, of whom there are many. Overall, though, Macbeth has just about everything a great drama needs: evil deeds, betrayal, murder, fighting, ghosts, omens, cowardice, heroism, love, and, as a delightful bonus, mysterious witches. Very many of Shakespeare's more famous quotes are also to be found in these pages, making it an important cultural resource for literary types. The play doesn't grab your attention and absorb you into its world the way Hamlet or Romeo and Juliet does, but this voyage deep into the heart of evil, jealousy, selfishness, and pride forces you to consider the state of your own deep-seated wishes and dreams, and for that reason there are as many interpretations of the essence of the tragedy as there are readers of this Shakespearean masterpiece. No man's fall can rival that of Macbeth's, and there is a great object lesson to be found in this drama. You cannot analyze Macbeth without analyzing yourself to some degree, and that goes a long way toward accounting for the Tragedy of Macbeth's literary importance and longevity.

William Shakespeare's Othello
Published in Paperback by Chelsea House Publishing (January, 1999)
Authors: Harold Bloom and William Shakespeare
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The ultimate tale of jealousy
Jealousy is perhaps the ugliest of emotions, an acid that corrodes the heart, a poison with which man harms his fellow man. Fortunately for us, Shakespeare specializes in ugly emotions, writing plays that exhibit man at his most shameful so we can elevate ourselves above the depths of human folly and watch the carnage with pleasure and awe.

In "Othello," the "green-eyed monster" has afflicted Iago, a Venetian military officer, and the grand irony of the play is that he intentionally infects his commanding general, Othello, with it precisely by warning him against it (Act 3, Scene 3). Iago has two grievances against Othello: He was passed over for promotion to lieutenant in favor of the inexperienced Cassio, and he can't understand why the Senator's lily-white daughter Desdemona would fall for the black Moor. Not one to roll with the punches, he decides to take revenge, using his obsequious sidekick Roderigo and his ingenuous wife Emilia as gears in his transmission of hatred.

The scheme Iago develops is clever in its design to destroy Othello and Cassio and cruel in its inclusion of the innocent Desdemona. He arranges (the normally temperate) Cassio to be caught by Othello in a drunken brawl and discharged from his office, and using a handkerchief that Othello had given Desdemona as a gift, he creates the incriminating illusion that she and Cassio are having an affair. Othello falls for it all, and the tragedy of the play is not that he acts on his jealous impulses but that he discovers his error after it's too late.

It is a characteristic of Shakespeare that his villains are much more interesting and entertaining than his heroes; Iago is proof of this. He's the only character in the play who does any real thinking; the others are practically his puppets, responding unknowingly but obediently to his every little pull of a string. In this respect, this is Iago's play, but Othello claims the title because he -- his nobility -- is the target.

The Ocular Proof
As a play, "Othello" encompasses many things but more than anything else it is a study of pure evil. Although Othello is an accomplished professional soldier and a hero of sorts, he is also a minority and an outcast in many ways. As a Black man and a Moor (which means he's a Moslem), Othello has at least two qualities, which make him stand out in the Elizabethan world. He is also married to a Caucasian woman named Desdemona, which creates an undercurrent of hostility as evidenced by the derogatory remark "the ram hath topped the ewe".

Othello's problems begin when he promotes one of his soldiers, Michael Cassio as his lieutenant. This arouses the jealousy and hatred of one of his other soldiers, Iago who hatches a plot to destroy Othello and Michael Cassio. When Cassio injures an opponent in a fight he is rebuked, punished, and subsequently ignored by Othello who must discipline him and teach him a lesson. Iago convinces Desdemona to intervene on Cassio's behalf and then begins to convince Othello that Desdemona is in love with Cassio.

This is actually one of the most difficult Shakespeare plays to watch because the audience sees the plot begin to unfold and is tormented by Othello's gradual decent into Iago's trap. As with other Shakespeare plays, the critical components of this one are revealed by language. When Othello is eventually convinced of Cassio's treachery, he condemns him and promotes Iago in his place. When Othello tells Iago that he has made him his lieutenant, Iago responds with the chilling line, "I am thine forever". To Othello this is a simple affirmation of loyalty, but to the audience, this phrase contains a double meaning. With these words, Iago indicates that the promotion does not provide him with sufficient satisfaction and that he will continue to torment and destroy Othello. It is his murderous intentions, not his loyal service that will be with Othello forever.

Iago's promotion provides him with closer proximity to Othello and provides him with more of his victim's trust. From here Iago is easily able to persuade Othello of Desdemona's purported infidelity. Soon Othello begins to confront Desdemona who naturally protests her innocence. In another revealing statement, Othello demands that Desdemona give him "the ocular proof". Like Iago's earlier statement, this one contains a double meaning that is not apparent to the recipient but that is very clear to the audience who understands the true origin of Othello's jealousy. Othello's jealousy is an invisible enemy and it is also based on events that never took place. How can Desdemona give Othello visual evidence of her innocence if her guilt is predicated on accusations that have no true shape or form? She can't. Othello is asking Desdemona to do the impossible, which means that her subsequent murder is only a matter of course.

I know that to a lot of young people this play must seem dreadfully boring and meaningless. One thing you can keep in mind is that the audience in Shakespeare's time did not have the benefit of cool things such as movies, and videos. The downside of this is that Shakespeare's plays are not visually stimulating to an audience accustomed to today's entertainment media. But the upside is that since Shakespeare had to tell a complex story with simple tools, he relied heavily on an imaginative use of language and symbols. Think of what it meant to an all White audience in a very prejudiced time to have a Black man at the center of a play. That character really stood out-almost like an island. He was vulnerable and exposed to attitudes that he could not perceive directly but which he must have sensed in some way.

Shakespeare set this play in two locations, Italy and Cypress. To an Elizabethan audience, Italy represented an exotic place that was the crossroads of many different civilizations. It was the one place where a Black man could conceivably hold a position of authority. Remember that Othello is a mercenary leader. He doesn't command a standing army and doesn't belong to any country. He is referred to as "the Moor" which means he could be from any part of the Arab world from Southern Spain to Indonesia. He has no institutional or national identity but is almost referred to as a phenomenon. (For all the criticism he has received in this department, Shakespeare was extrordinarlily attuned to racism and in this sense he was well ahead of his time.) Othello's subsequent commission as the Military Governor of Cypress dispatches him to an even more remote and isolated location. The man who stands out like an island is sent to an island. His exposure and vulnerability are doubled just as a jealous and murderous psychopath decides to destroy him.

Iago is probably the only one of Shakespeare's villains who is evil in a clinical sense rather than a human one. In Kind Lear, Edmund the bastard hatches a murderous plot out of jealousy that is similar to Iago's. But unlike Iago, he expresses remorse and attempts some form of restitution at the end of the play. In the Histories, characters like Richard III behave in a murderous fashion, but within the extreme, political environment in which they operate, we can understand their motives even if we don't agree with them. Iago, however, is a different animal. His motives are understandable up to the point in which he destroys Michael Cassio but then they spin off into an inexplicable orbit of their own. Some have suggested that Iago is sexually attracted to Othello, which (if its true) adds another meaning to the phrase "I am thine forever". But even if we buy the argument that Iago is a murderous homosexual, this still doesn't explain why he must destroy Othello. Oscar Wilde once wrote very beautifully of the destructive impact a person can willfully or unwittingly have on a lover ("for each man kills the things he loves") but this is not born out in the play. Instead, Shakespeare introduces us to a new literary character-a person motivated by inexplicable evil that is an entity in itself. One of the great ironies of this play is that Othello is a character of tragically visible proportions while Iago is one with lethally invisible ones.

Othello relects the true meaning of a tragedy both in its content and its structure.Tragedy is 'a story of exceptional calamity produced by human actions, leading to the death of a man in high estate.'The downfall of Othello is caused by his own actions, rather than by his character, or rather the two work in unison to create the stage for his downfall.
This is what captured my attention when I read this play.It is very profound to realize the fact that Shakespeare uses Iago to set this stage on which Othello is a mere player.
I love the character of Iago. His total confidence, the superiority that he feels when psychoanalysing human nature, his rational thinking and intellectualism sways the reader to think: 'Wow, this is a compelling and sophisticated man we're dealing with here!'
However, my admiration of Iago does not in anyway undermine my love of Othello. His poetic and calm demeanor makes the reader feel the pity and terror for him when he falls from grace (catharsis). Yet, we are made to understand that the reason why he is made to appear a gullible and ignorant fool to some readers is that he does not have any knowledge of a delicate, domesticated life. Venetian women were foreign to him. This tragic flaw in Othello added to the circumstances used by Iago to destroy him.
The meaning, and hence the tragedy of the play is conveyed through the use of Shakespeare's language, style, literary devices and imagery. Without these dramatic effects, readers would never be able to enjoy the play as much, although the dialogue is at times difficult to decipher.
I thoroughly enjoyed Othello and it is my hope that more people find it enticing as I have. I would be delighted to contribute more of my reviews to that effect.

King Lear (Major Literary Characters)
Published in Library Binding by Chelsea House Pub (Library) (September, 1999)
Authors: Harold Bloom and William Golding
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but what's it all mean ?
One of the things you can assume when you write about Shakespeare--given the hundreds of thousands of pages that have already been written about him in countless books, essays, theses and term papers--is that whatever you say will have been said before, and then denounced, defended , revised and denounced again, ad infinitum. So I'm certain I'm not breaking any new ground here. King Lear, though many, including David Denby (see Orrin's review of Great Books) and Harold Bloom consider it the pinnacle of English Literature, has just never done much for me. I appreciate the power of the basic plot--an aging King divides his realm among his ungrateful children with disastrous results--which has resurfaced in works as varied as Jane Smiley's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Thousand Acres (see Orrin's review), and Akira Kurosawa's last great film, Ran. But I've always found the play to be too busy, the characters to be too unsympathetic, the speeches to be unmemorable and the tragedy to be too shallow. By shallow, I mean that by the time we meet Lear he is already a petulant old man, we have to accept his greatness from the word of others. Then his first action in the play, the division of the kingdom, is so boneheaded and his reaction to Cordelia so selfishly blind, that we're unwilling to credit their word.

Then there's the fact that Shakespeare essentially uses the action of the play as a springboard for an examination of madness. The play was written during the period when Shakespeare was experimenting with obscure meanings anyway; add in the demented babble of several of the central characters, including Lear, and you've got a drama whose language is just about impossible to follow. Plus you've got seemingly random occurrences like the disappearance of the Fool and Edgar's pretending to help his father commit suicide. I am as enamored of the Bard as anyone, but it's just too much work for an author to ask of his audience trying to figure out what the heck they are all saying and what their actions are supposed to convey. So I long ago gave up trying to decipher the whole thing and I simply group it with the series of non-tragic tragedies (along with MacBeth, Hamlet, Julius Caesar), which I think taken together can be considered to make a unified political statement about the importance of the regular transfer of power in a state. Think about it for a moment; there's no real tragedy in what happens to Caesar, MacBeth, Hamlet or Lear; they've all proven themselves unfit for rule. Nor are the fates of those who usurp power from Caesar, Hamlet and Lear at all tragic, with the possible exception of Brutus, they pretty much get what they have coming to them. Instead, the real tragedy lies in the bloody chain of events that each illegitimate claiming of power unleashes. The implied message of these works, when considered as a unified whole, is that deviance from the orderly transfer of power leads to disaster for all concerned. (Of particular significance to this analysis in regards to King Lear is the fact that it was written in 1605, the year of the Gunpowder Plot.)

In fact, looking at Lear from this perspective offers some potential insight into several aspects of the play that have always bothered me. For instance, take the rapidity with which Lear slides into insanity. This transition has never made much sense to me. But now suppose that Lear is insane before the action of the play begins and that the clearest expression of his loss of reason is his decision to shatter his own kingdom. Seen in this light, there is no precipitous decline into madness; the very act of splitting up the central authority of his throne, of transferring power improperly, is shown to be a sign of craziness.

Next, consider the significance of Edgar's pretense of insanity and of Lear's genuine dementia. What is the possible meaning of their wanderings and their reduction to the status of common fools, stripped of luxury and station? And what does it tell us that it is after they are so reduced that Lear's reason (i.e. his fitness to rule) is restored and that Edgar ultimately takes the throne. It is probably too much to impute this meaning to Shakespeare, but the text will certainly bear the interpretation that they are made fit to rule by gaining an understanding of the lives of common folk. This is too democratic a reading for the time, but I like it, and it is emblematic of Shakespeare's genius that his plays will withstand even such idiosyncratic interpretations.

To me, the real saving grace of the play lies not in the portrayal of the fathers, Lear and Gloucester, nor of the daughters, but rather in that of the sons. First, Edmund, who ranks with Richard III and Iago in sheer joyous malevolence. Second, Edgar, whose ultimate ascent to the throne makes all that has gone before worthwhile. He strikes me as one of the truly heroic characters in all of Shakespeare, as exemplified by his loyalty to his father and to the King. I've said I don't consider the play to be particularly tragic; in good part this is because it seems the nation is better off with Edgar on the throne than with Lear or one of his vile daughters.

Even a disappointing, and often bewildering, tragedy by Shakespeare is better than the best of many other authors (though I'd not say the same of his comedies.) So of course I recommend it, but I don't think as highly of it as do many of the critics.


A king brings tragedy unto himself
This star-rating system has one important flaw: you have to rank books only in relation to its peers, its genre. So you must put five stars in a great light-humor book, as compared to other ones of those. Well, I am giving this book four stars in relation to other Shakespeare's works and similar great books.

Of course, it's all in the writing. Shakespeare has this genius to come up with magnificent, superb sentences as well as wise utterings even if the plot is not that good.

This is the case with Lear. I would read it again only to recreate the pleasure of simply reading it, but quite frankly the story is very strange. It is hard to call it a tragedy when you foolishly bring it about on yourself. Here, Lear stupidly and unnecessarily divides his kingdom among his three daughters, at least two of them spectacularly treacherous and mean, and then behaves exactly in the way that will make them mad and give them an excuse to dispose of him. What follows is, of course, a mess, with people showing their worst, except for poor Edgar, who suffers a lot while being innocent.

Don't get me wrong: the play is excellent and the literary quality of Shakespeare is well beyond praise. If you have never read him, do it and you'll see that people do not praise him only because everybody else does, but because he was truly good.

The plot is well known: Lear divides the kingdom, then puts up a stupid contest to see which one of his daughters expresses more love for him, and when Cordelia refuses to play the game, a set of horrible treasons and violent acts begins, until in the end bad guys die and good guys get some prize, at a terrible cost.

As a reading experience, it's one of the strongest you may find, and the plot is just an excuse for great writing.

What is nature?
This book is a profound study of nature. Characters such as Lear, Gloucester, and Edmund voice their opinions and questions on the subject of fate, the gods, human nature, and relationships between parents and children. I personally love Edgar, and think that he made this play great. He's as loyal to his father and Lear as Kent and Cordelia, but more creative and effective in his action. I believe that he was Shakespeare's favorite character too, because of his talent as an actor (as evidenced by his mad act and the cliff scene) and because he survives in the end! Shakespeare poses many questions of human, parental, and divine nature in this play, and some are resolved, but not all. Are we to the gods or nature as flies to wanton boys? We must all decide which opinion is right.

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five (Modern Critical Interpretations)
Published in Library Binding by Chelsea House Pub (Library) (January, 2001)
Authors: Harold Bloom and Kurt, Jr. Vonnegut
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A great and unique anti-war classic
Kurt Vonnegut's book Slaughterhouse Five is a unique and interesting anti-war book.There has never been a book written quite like this one. The story doesn't unfold like most other stories. It takes place in a series of different times and places. The places are Dresden, Iliam New York, and an alien planet to mention a few. The main theme of the book is very clear even if the time and places that it takes place in isn't. That theme is war is pointless and so is life sometimes. The constant changing of time and place give the reader a very exciting and adventurous ride through the life of Billy Pilgrim. The story is told in a new way giving it a fresh life. If you ever find the time to read a Kurt Vonnegut book this should be the one. It is truly original and creative with a dark sense of humor that appeals to almost anyone.

challenging, but that's why it rocks
Slaughterhouse-Five is not simply an "anti-war novel," but an intricate masterpiece that not only shows the horrors of war and its effects, but is also a reflection of reality on its various levels. In order to fully grasp every detail's significance this novel should be read various times. It's fun to re-read a book and get something new out of it that first time readers would inevitably miss, due to the book's complex nature. Although it seems to be a collage of random paragraphs at first, if you read closely enough you can pick out completely logical associations that a man like Billy would make. It's a quick read packed with Vonnegut's dry humor and war memories. I loved it!!!

Wonderful book about Life,Death and Inner Courage
I was amazed by the effect that this book had on me,when I read it in order to take an exam on Contemporary American Fiction. At first I thought that this would be another boring book of the Uni's library,but I was pleasantly shocked by this excellent book.It refers to matters of life and death allegorically,but the main message is clearly exposed: PEOPLE SHOULD NEVER STAY "STUCK IN TIME",stuck in their misery and desperation by the tragic events they had to go through,BUT ALWAYS SEARCH FOR THE "PLANET TRALFAMADORE" INSIDE THEIR HEARTS.This means that an inner "revolution" has to take place,so as for people to be free from the nightmares that torment them after the experience of a war or a major destruction,such as the conflagration of Dresden. LIFE GOES ON AND PEOPLE SHOULD FIND THE PLEASURE THEY DESERVE IN IT.

Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (Bloom's Notes)
Published in Paperback by Chelsea House Publishing (June, 1996)
Authors: Harold Bloom and Jonathan Swift
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Swift's famous satire
Jonathan Swift's 18th century satire, Gulliver's Travels, is an extraordinary tale of the adventures of an English ship surgeon. The ship surgeon, Gulliver, by a series of unfortunate events on each of his four voyages at sea, receives the chance to explore the cultures of the countries of Lilliput, Brobdingnag, Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdrib, Luggnagg and the land of the Houyhnhnms. Each land is considerably different from the others, and creates quite an entertaining read.

While the story itself is particularly unusual, the satirical element which Swift applied to it adds another level of comprehension. If understood, one could have a nice chuckle at the way Swift mockingly portrays ideas and people through the various cultures which Gulliver encounters. Some similes, however, are intended to get a more serious meaning across. For example, in his first journey of the book, Gulliver finds himself in the country of Lilliput where the people are only six inches tall, save the king who is seven. In this land there are two groups which were distinguished by which side a person breaks their eggs on. One king published an edict commanding all his subjects to break their eggs on the small side, but many would've picked death over breaking their eggs on the 'wrong' side, so many did. By this, Swift meant to throw contempt on the exaggerated importance that people place on their differences, as on which side one breaks an egg is a very trivial thing. The two groups mentioned represent the Catholic and Protestant religions, between which were many wars and massacres during the 1500's when the Protestants first appeared.

Gulliver's Travels takes the reader to many lands, all different and unique ' each adding another perspective on traditional beliefs and ways of thinking. Gulliver changes as much as the scenery around him, and after each voyage he has changed dramatically. At the end he has transformed so much that I feel really sorry for his family ' although it's only love that could allow them to put up with his strange behaviors.

I would recommend this book to anyone with an appetite for literature, as Gulliver's Travels is an excellent satire of the ways of the thinking in the early 1700's. Also, the author does a good job in describing the lands which Gulliver visits in great detail. Although Swift may not have written this book with intense action scenes and steamy romance, it is definitely a work worthy of the people of today.

Not just for kids!
It's amazing how our perspective changes as we age. What we thought was important as children may now seem completely insignificant, replaced by entirely new priorities, priorities children wouldn't even understand. At the same time, things we used to take for granted, like having dinner on the table, being taken care of when we're ill, or getting toys fixed when they are broken, have become items on adult worry lists.

Your perspective on literature can change, too. Reading a story for a second time can give you a completely different view of it. "Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain, which I enjoyed as a sort of an adventure story when I was a kid, now reads as a harsh criticism of society in general and the institution of slavery in particular.

The same thing is true of "Gulliver's Travels" by Jonathan Swift. The first thing I realized upon opening the cover of this book as a college student was that I probably had never really read it before.

I knew the basic plot of Lemuel Gulliver's first two voyages to Lilliput and Brobdingnag, home of the tiny and giant people, respectively, but he had two other voyages of which I was not even aware: to a land of philosophers who are so lost in thought they can't see the simplest practical details, Laputa, and to a land ruled by wise and gentle horses or Houyhnhnms and peopled by wild, beastly human-like creatures called Yahoos.

While this book has become famous and even beloved by children, Jonathan Swift was certainly not trying to write a children's book.

Swift was well known for his sharp, biting wit, and his bitter criticism of 18th century England and all her ills. This is the man who, to point out how ridiculous English prejudices had become, wrote "A Modest Proposal" which suggested that the Irish raise their children as cattle, to be eaten as meat, and thereby solve the problems of poverty and starvation faced in that country. As horrible as that proposal is, it was only an extension of the kinds of solutions being proposed at the time.

So, although "Gulliver's Travels" is entertaining, entertainment was not Swift's primary purpose. Swift used this tale of a guillable traveler exploring strange lands to point out some of the inane and ridiculous elements of his own society.

For example, in describing the government of Lilliput, Swift explains that officials are selected based on how well they can play two games, Rope-Dancing and Leaping and Creeping. These two games required great skill in balance, entertained the watching public, and placed the politicians in rather ridiculous positions, perhaps not so differently from elections of leaders in the 18th century and even in modern times.

Give this book a look again, or for the first time. Even in cases in which the exact object of Swift's satire has been forgotten, his sweeping social commentary still rings true. Sometimes it really does seem that we are all a bunch of Yahoos.

The greatest satirical novel ever
Gulliver's Travels is an excellent book. In it Swift satirizes what he thought were the foibles of his time, in politics, religion, science, and society. In Part One Lemuel Gulliver is shipwrecked on Lilliput where the inhabitants are only 6 inches tall. The rivalry between Britain and France is there satirized. In Part Two he is marooned on the subcontinent of Brobdingnag where the inhabitants are giants. The insignificance of many of mankind's achievements are there satirized. Next in Part Three Gulliver is taken aboard the floating island of Laputa, where Swift takes the opportunity to satirize medicine and science altogether - incredibly Swift did not make up the crazy experiments he describes; all were sponsored at one time or another by the Royal Society. Finally in Part Four Gulliver is marooned by mutineers on the island of the Houyhnhynms, in which Swift takes his parting shot at human society - presenting them in degraded form as the Yahoos. Most people read no further in the book than Brobdingnag - I urge you to read the rest.

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