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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 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 There are many plays on words, many words no longer current in English and, besides, Shakespeare's vocabulary is richer than almost everyone else's who ever lived.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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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...
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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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.
GRADE : B-
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.
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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.
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.