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Jul 12, 2019 in Literature

Shakespeare's Plays

Close Reading

Q#1. The Theme of Betrayal in Shakespeare’s Plays

The theme of betrayal is a common theme in Shakespeare’s plays. Usually, the whole plays are based on the idea of deceitful feelings and illusory nature of experience, which are symmetrically traced in three planes, forming a deep stylistic and ideological unity of comedy. Outwardly, the same dramatic admission serves this goal. It can be voluntary or involuntary eavesdropping or spying, which is psychologically and morally comprehended differently every time.

When examining the play Much Ado about Nothing, one can conclude that the first and the main theme of the play is based on the story slandered hero. His case is clearly dramatic. The admixture of the tragic element is inherent to a greater or lesser extent to almost all the comedies written by Shakespeare five years prior to the creation of his great tragedies (e.g., The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It and so on). However, none of them reveals betrayal as strongly and clearly as in the considered comedy. According to Asimov, “it seems like Shakespeare anticipates the gloomy outlook on life and the sense of inevitability of disasters, which will soon become dominant in his works.” (p. 126) Although, now he has saved the "comedic" sense of randomness and the volatility of what is happening, leaving the possibility of a surprised happy ending and the prevailing view of the inevitability of conflict, which ends disaster.

In particular, the situation in Much Ado about Nothing is common to the situation depicted in Othello. Claudio has a noble nature, but he is too trusting, as Othello, and also overly passionate. Outraged by the contrast between the apparent purity of the hero and imagined betrayal, he does not know the limit to this anger.  He not only rejects the bride, but also adds public humiliation to punishment the, which, incidentally, corresponds to the concepts and customs of the era) Don Juan, in addition to the natural resentment, has evil nature: as “beauty” of the existence of Cassio is unbearable for Iagois, so nobility and merit of Claudius are intolerable for the vile bastard. Moreover, the hero, like Desdemona, tends to be powerless and without discontent to undeserved punishment before fate. Finally, Margarita has some similarities with a careless and unthinking, submissive to her husband (or lover), Emilia. They both avoid moral concerns and active devotion. Otherwise this feeling would prompt them to warn the victim.

The theme of betrayal is brightly revealed in Hamlet. Here it is one of the most important and interesting topics, as it allows not only a more detailed approach to the disclosure of the artistic idea of the play, but also penetrates the mystery of human characters and fates. What concerns betrayal in Hamlet, Shakespeare not just calls it by name, but also tries to show the essence of the phenomenon. The whole play is infected with the betrayal virus, and, perhaps, it is easier to determine which characters have remained healthy than to list all the patients.

 
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Q#2. The Film Much Ado about Nothing by John Weedon (2013)

The famous comedy by William Shakespeare reveals the relevance of the issues described in it. Weedon has produced the black and white picture - a real rarity, which is even considered exotic nowadays. Most of the time strictly the original text of Shakespeare is followed, but it is all played out in wonderful contemporary settings and contexts. The film is very relevant to the customs of its time. As Nick Carraway said in the beginning of the film The Great Gatsby (2013), “All we then drank too much ...” (The Great Gatsby by Baz Luhrmann, 2013). In Weedon’s film, drinking and modern parties are arranged. The director gently envelops the original Shakespeare in an atmosphere of a party combining it with deliberation and sparkling humor.

It is surprising that the ancient  pronouns “thou”, “thee”, “thy” as well as appeals to “my lady”, “my lord” and “prince” are present in the dialogues, but this fact once again shows how carefully the director has treated the original work. Another fact is rather curious in this film, which is adaptation. Although it has been made in black and white colors, it does not looks less bright than the colorful screen version of Bran, which is based on the Shakespeare’s atmosphere. The images in the Bran’s film, despite its brilliance, seem somewhat feigned. Benedict by Kenneth is very narcissistic and pompous to a certain extent, though the actor himself has great charm and charisma. Beatrice, who is played by Emma Thompson, seems a little selfish while parrying and exchanging barbs with Benedict.

Weedon adds a little humanity to his characters while he tries to reveal their character as much as possible. He succeeded in fitting the film to the modern time. At times, the film makes the viewer feel like in a psychological drama, though the comic effects are more prevalent. Moreover, casting played an important role, since Weedon involved his friends into the lead roles. Alexis Denisof (Benedict) and Amy Acker (Beatrice) look good next to each other, sometimes causing a sincere smile when shown separately. Eavesdropping scenes were brilliantly played by actors. The second pair of Julian Morgis (Hero) and Fran Kranz (Claudio) also looks harmonious.

Much Ado about Nothing is not just a film about the problems that are relevant to all times. It is also a very soulful product of leisurely dynamic developments with well-prescribed tragicomic characters and memorable actors. Having minimum available means, Joss Weedon made the picture pleasing to the eye from almost nothing. The film is of high quality and is greatly supported by the viewers.

Interpretation

Q#4. Analysis and Interpretation of Taming of the Shrew. 

Can Taming of the Shrew be named a comedy? Can a play in which the main character is tortured by sleep deprivation, starvation, humiliation, mockery of the logic and common sense be called a comedy?

Certainly, Catherine is not an angel. She is quite rude in conversations, as she ties her sister’s hands and extorts her lover’s name and puts a lute on the teacher’s head. However, none of the victims does not directly depend on Catherine and can easily avoid contact with her. Often, it is the way it comes: everybody runs away leaving her alone. Donna’a words are relevant: “You scream, because the world cannot hear you” (Shakespeare, 2013, p. 345). What else should the girl who is going to be married to the richer merchant and whose price is discussed shamelessly do?

Trading value of Catherine, of course, is not high, because nobody needs a quarrelsome wife. In addition, Catherine is hurt by constant comparisons to her younger sister - clever, beautiful, decent and humble. The true face of sisters will be revealed later. 

Surprisingly, Catherine desires to get married. She is not like Beatrice who can proudly announce that she will remain a spinster with no care. Catherine is driven into a corner: she is alienated in her father’s house, nobody likes her and everyone laughs at her. Moreover, one can get an impression that Catherine snaps at the limit of strength: her wit is not as easy as Beatrice’s. However, she is not clever or artistic enough to pretend and bargain for an appropriate husband, as her sister will do later. 

Therefore, she approaches the first comer - Petruchio who is a rascal. He has money, but his spiritual qualities are lacking. With his first appearance on the stage, the audience learns that Petruchio, first of all, can easy dismiss his hands with those who are weaker than him (the servants), that, secondly, he hunts for a wealthy bride, and, thirdly, that he is able to manipulate people. Thus, this is what Catherine’s husband looks like. He quickly negotiates with her father and begins the “taming”, which was already described briefly. It passes clearly according to the rules of breaking the will of a man. In addition to physical torture, the apotheosis of this action is the scene when Petruchio forces Katherine to call the sun the moon, and then immediately changes his mind and rebukes, calling her blind.

In the play the “taming” is fast, as it lasts a week, but going beyond the conventions of the theater, one can imagine how it would be held in reality: day after day, hour after hour. Naturally, as a result, Catherine suffers something similar to the Stockholm Syndrome as the consequence of such violence. She loses orientation due to the fact that she has been repeatedly denied her own opinion. She is afraid of the new sentence and is ready to do anything to prevent it. She has only one landmark - her husband, just because she has been systematically deprived of all other support. It can even be supposed that she has feelings towards her torturer.

It is curious to compare how other women behave in the situation of total control over the individual. Catherine’s younger sister Bianca, is probably smarter than her sister, because she is able to pretend to be skillfully choosing a compliant husband from a number of admirers, and after the wedding she is starting to reveal her character. Another heroine, “the widow”, gets remarried. She appears at the end of the play and also demonstrates the same “feminine wiles” in a compressed form. Both Bianca and the widow do not concede in the sharpness of language to Catherine as it suddenly appears in the last scene. Moreover, Catherine cannot understand the widow’s hints.

There are different interpretations of the final speech, in which Catherine urges wives to obey their husbands. Catherine pretends to be really staying true to her principles. Personally, I read the text without seeing other people’s interpretations and believe that in fact her will is broken by Petruchio and she at least repeats his words. Perhaps she has not reached such understanding of her own role and the role of a woman in general, as too little time has been devoted to her in a play for global rethinking of reality. However, it is a speech without any hints crossed fingers behind the back. Thus, “taming” which occurs in the play is a totally broken will of a living person. 

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Metadrama and the Theater

Q#5. The Tragic Conscious Duality in Shakespeare’s Plays

In Shakespeare’s plays, the tragic conscious duality has only one source, which is the earthly life with the clash of interests of people in pursuit of goals, which correspond to the personal desires of each character. The heroes discover that evil can be rooted in their own souls and manifested in different ways. People can be evil by nature, like Iago, while others, like Lear, Macbeth, became evil due to the distortion of an initially healthy nature. Shakespeare’s tragic conscious duality appears due to the realization of evil and mental anguish caused by consciousness. Of course, duality is inherent to Shakespeare’s characters to a certain extent. It can be revealed as a certain mismatch of naive poetic worldview bequeathed by ancestors with new attitude to reality, which does not fit this worldview. The scales of good and evil of the Christian religion are not applicable to them, because life is filled with Shakespeare’s unfathomable mysteries. It is impossible to look at some unambiguous moral maxims and junctions offering the only answer to all questions asked by the characters of Shakespearean tragedies in given circumstances. According to Rosen, “it is a natural consequence of the state of consciousness that is the foundation of the tragic perception of Shakespearean world. The roots of the conflict are social, but the tragedies of Shakespeare are humanistic. In other words, the interpretation of the human nature is what matters.” (pp. 26-27) Shakespeare’s heroes dare to argue with destiny, to oppose it. Shakespeare knew that the man has great power, which can be turned into evil. However, the good has hidden and limitless possibilities. This is the main essence of his tragic conscious duality. It is important to mention that the tragic duality of Shakespeare’s heroes can be noted in the plays, where the madness of heroes is caused by their inability to perceive the true nature of the beloved. Thus, looking at Ophelia, Hamlet sees his mother in bed with his uncle; looking at Cordelia, Lear sees Regana and Goneril; looking at Desdemona, Othello sees Cassio’s lover.

What concerns conscious duality, Hamlet should be mentioned, first of all. Psychological duality of Hamlet’s consciousness is historical. Its cause is the dual status of the contemporary time. Hamlet is an advanced man of his time. He is a student at the Wittenberg University, which is the best university in the of Shakespeare’s era. Hamlet’s progressive outlook is manifested in his philosophical views. He is a man of his age who bears his duality. On the one hand, Hamlet realizes that the man is the crown of all living things. On the other hand, he is sure that people are not far away from the animals, they are the ordinary “dust” and “clay”. Hamlet is simultaneously convinced of the opposite views: that the afterlife does not exist and that ghosts are real. Hamlet is able to act, but he is torn by conscience and doubt. He is ready for revenge, but dos not do anything; he cannot decide to commit one murder, and his behavior involves the death of those people who would not have to be punished.

Not surprisingly, the concept of Hamletism has appeared. It can be explained as a state of mind, a symbol of an internal fracture, an embodiment of dual and uneasy relations with the outside world, a specific mental organization, the fragility of the face that separates normality from insanity. Shakespeare was one of the first writers in world literature who indicated not only the blur of faces, but also the possibility of the great insights that come to the person who is “beyond the norms”.  

What is more, the character of Macbeth has a dual nature. It reveals the duality inherent to many Shakespearean heroes who have strong, bright personalities, but are forced to commit the crime of self-incarnation. It can be concluded that even higher dualism, which bears authentic existential character, is inherent to them. The man is forced to break law, conscience, and morality in the name of self- incarnation, for the sake of fulfilling his life purpose. Therefore, Shakespeare’s Macbeth in is not just a bloody tyrant and usurper of the throne who eventually gets well-deserved retribution, but in the full sense a tragic character torn by contradictions, which create the essence of the human nature.

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