Monday, June 17, 2019

Elizabeth on Tempest

Miranda Essay (Elizabeth Kirsch)

Jessica Watts, an Australian artist, released a gallery of floral, feminist themed pieces representing a woman’s connection with nature, her natural empowerment, and her beauty apart from male eyes. These paintings reflect Jessica Slights’s argument in her essay “Rape and the Romanticization of Shakespeare’s Miranda.” Slights reveals that many Shakespeare critics discard Miranda as a one-dimensional plot device and having no autonomy of her own under the shadow of her father. However, she provides evidence that Prospero’s daughter is anything but subservient through her directness toward Ferdinand and her loathing of Caliban’s actions. This lack of personality granted to Miranda also robs her human value for the sake of her own person rather than her father’s household. Slights uses analyses of Caliban’s attempted rape of the woman to demonstrate the case: examiners often acquit Caliban of the crime in light of his master’s cruel treatment, placing the blame instead on the victim or her father. Miranda’s virginity is portrayed as being an asset of her father’s economic and socio status rather than a virtue of her own keeping. Slights challenges future Shakespeare readers to read The Tempestconsidering Miranda as her own independent and headstrong woman.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Erick on Tempest

Hamlin, "A New World Interepretation for The Tempest" (Erick Mendoza)

The author William M. Hamlin suggests that Shakespeare’s play, particularly The Tempest, have various allusions to America or what was then known as The New World. As some of you may know, Shakespeare lived form around 1564-1616 which was a time when many explorations were underway. According to Hamlin, 20th century readers of the tempest will tend to interpret it with an ‘Americanist’ mind. There are three characters in particular named by Hamlin, which have resemblance to an American tale, Prospero who assumes leadership, Gonzalo who imagines he has a plantation, and Caliban who is a slave. Certain parallels exist between The Tempest and the narratives of sailors such as Sir Francis Drake and Ferdinand Magellan. One author suggests that we can gain insight to the thoughts and beliefs European people had about the New World during the 16th century by reading the accounts of sailors exploring the New World and The Tempest. The text talks extensively on the similarities between Caliban and the view of indigenous American people during that time. Such as a scene in which Caliban refers to Stephano’s drink as “celestial liquor,” which bears some similarity between the Native American’s attraction to alcohol. Caliban also confuses the men in The Tempest for gods, which is something that the Aztecs, Incas, and some ‘Native American’ tribes also did. The author of this article suggests that in order to better understand what Shakespeare’s purpose for the play, it is important to keep in mind the tales and ideas about The New World that were prevalent during this time. These ideas mostly revolve around Caliban and the European’s view of Native Americans.

Nathaniel on Tempest

Schneider, "Are We Being Historical Yet?" (Nathaniel Hess)

Image of John Bull England, published in 1888 in Punch magazine

Shakespeare’s play The Tempest spins a fanciful tale of magic, betrayal, and forgiveness. However, while the protagonist, Prospero, is shown as benevolent to his foes; there is a particular treatment of a certain character that shows a very problematic side of the hero. Not just of the wise magician, but of a European mindset. In the essay, “‘Are We Being Historical Yet’: Colonialist Interpretations of Shakespeare’s Tempest,” Ben Schneider uses critical theory to take a look at the play through a colonialist lens. Throughout the play, the treatment of Caliban, a native to the island where the play takes place, is usurped and used for the bidding of a supposedly benevolent Prospero. Schneider writes, “While his anger at the usurpers of his dukedom seems to know no bounds, he at the same time blames his overthrow on his inattention to duty” (Schneider 123). This shows a prevalent double standard between Caliban and Prospero. His intentions appear to have a noble cause, but a noble cause does not reflect an excuse for such actions. He stills rules with an iron fist, treating Caliban as a slave. Schneider argues, “Prospero rules not by manifest destiny but by force” (Schneider 123). Even worse, some critics would argue that Shakespeare’s play would be an excuse for the English imperialist mindset. It would be this same claim of “manifest destiny” that Thomas Cartelli, in Schneider’s essay, would argue, “That Shakespeare is to blame for the way in which British imperialists have justified colonial oppression on the model of Caliban’s apparent ineducability” (Schneider 121). To justify his overthrow of Caliban, Prospero, “Brings up the matter of the rape to divert attention from Caliban’s rightful claim to the island; and second, colonialists always excuse their barbarity by attributing sub-human characteristics to the native population” (Schneider 123). Schneider is not ignoring his actions, but instead connecting his actions to a common idea. Caliban perpetuates a stereotype of a savage who should be overthrown, because he is sub-human. By Shakespeare’s logic, it is acceptable to usurp people who are not part of European culture; as they are horrible sub-human savages. Especially if one’s purpose is that of some “manifest destiny.” While The Tempest is still a touching tale about forgiveness, its hypocritical stance of colonialism is one that is all too similar to English imperialism.  

Works Cited

Schneider, Ben Ross. "Are We Being Historical Yet": Colonialist Interpretations of
Shakespeare’s Tempest.

“Imperialism.” Political Cartoons, 6 Mar. 2013.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Michael on Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Michael Davison)

The thrice quoted words from Macbeth exemplify his mood at the time of the soliloquy, however the speech starts earlier on with him addressing the news of his wife’s death. His reaction to her death is essentially “if not today than someday soon so might as well be today” so it is understood that Macbeth is not in a sound place mentally.

The outlook on death (and the thin meaning of life as a whole) demonstrated here shows how little meaning he attributes to the human life. Despite humans having a sense of purpose, the reality is that life is empty and people are soon forgotten after their death regardless of the impact they had on the world. Macbeth’s days are dragging on and each is as miserable as the last. He is overcome with a sense of nihilism as he begins to question whether his life holds meaning any longer, or ever did to begin with. “Life’s but a walking shadow” there is a sense of emptiness in relation to what had originally been foretold by the witches. He draws comparisons of life to an actor who is never heard from on stage, and a story told by an idiot full of excitement and emotion but lacking meaning of any kind. After the witches let him in on the secret of his imminent kinghood, Macbeth is filled with a sense of expectation, anticipating how great he and lady Macbeth’s life will become. And not only is does he expect these things, he acts on them (often at the urging of Lady Macbeth) in such a way that he thinks will fulfill what he was told. This ultimately alters the course and leads to his downfall as his actions are counterintuitive to the desired outcome. This speech is the shining moment in which we see his sanity take full flight as he is reduced to an emotionless, hopeless, empty being who understands that his own actions caused his demise.

Ryan on Malcom's Epithet for the Macbeths

Malcolm's Epithet (Ryan Ramsey)

King Malcolm's epithet for the recently departed Lord and Lady Macbeth is wholly appropriate. The first time the audience hears of the erstwhile Thane of Glamis he is being lauded for his slaughtering skill by a bloody soldier. Macbeth is described as having, "Carved out his passage till he faced the slave,/ Which ne'er shook hands nor bade farewell to him/ Till he unseamed him from the nave to th' chops/ And fixed his head upon our battlements." (Mac 1.2.20-24) so clearly he has been a "butcher" from the very beginning. From then on the doomed Thane of Cawdor only shows further depths of his depravity.
The traitor kills his king, orders the assassination of his friend Banquo, and of Macduff's entire family including their servants. Malcolm's description of Lady Macbeth as fiend-like is equally accurate. She encourages her husband to murder their king as he sleeps, a guest in their home. Macbeth almost refuses to carry out the deed, but after intense persuasion from his wife he gives in. Had he not, perhaps medieval Scotland's most ambitious power couple could have had their tomorrow

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Megan on Lady's Soliloquy

Lady Macbeth's Soliloquy (Megan Stillwell)

Lady Macbeth’s mind is going after reading the letter from her husband in act 1 scene 5. She thinks he is a coward of a man and she will have to put her female responsibilities aside and do his “dirty work”. This echoes throughout the play as she constantly puts her husband and his manhood down. In act V scene 1 everything begins to shift for Lady Macbeth though. She has officially gone mad as she sleepwalks and the doctor and gentlewoman observe. She believes there is blood on her hands and it will never wash off, which echoes back to act 1 scene 5 when she says she will have to do all her husbands dirty work. She also puts her husband down again like we have constantly observed throughout the play. She is reenacting the night they set out to kill Banquo, except she does not know she is and she also does not know she has an audience watching her. She puts on a fearless face and act, but she is obviously feeling some sort of guilt unlike the person we thought she was in her speech. It is also significant to point out that this all happens in act V scene 1 because her speech was previously in act 1 scene 5 which is just simply reversed numbers.

Tara on Macduff's Castle

Macduff''s Castle (Tara Stockert)

At this point in the play, Macbeth has gone completely mad and orders for Macduff’s family to be killed for no reason. Prior to the killing, Lady MacDuff and her son have a conversation, she tries to convince her son that his father is dead to them because he is traitor and that all traitors must die by the honest men. MacDuff’s son refuses to believe that his father is dead, no matter what his mother says. He goes on to say that traitors would be fools because there are far more traitors in the world than honest men, and that they should kill the honest men in order to save themselves. During their conversation a messenger comes to tell them to leave but they don’t leave quickly enough. The murders find them a kill his son just like Macbeth ordered. This goes to show that traitors, like Macbeth, are not fools and are killing the honest men first, in order to save themselves and that her son is an honest person. But it isn’t clear whether Lady Macduff is murdered or not. So, is she a traitor or an honest woman?

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Jen on Banquo's Ghost

Banquo's Ghost (Jen South)

In regards to the question of why only Macbeth being able to see Banquo, there are several things to consider. First, it is the beginning of Macbeth's fall into madness, and fall out of favor with the lords surrounding him. That the killing of Banquo and the subsequent reporting of the death occur before Banquo is seen in ghost form by Macbeth, it can also point to regret on the part of Macbeth for having his good friend, who heard thr weird sisters telling of three futures, killed. The regret manifests in the blood seen on the ghost of Banquo.
At the same time part of me wonders (if there had not been a scene with Banquo), he was already a ghost when Macbeth is approached by the sisters three. Not much evidence to back this thought but kind of interesting to consider since the one class period when l spent talking of ghosts that were originally viewable to all, but eventually haunt one person in particular.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

James on the Porter scene in Macbeth

Macbeth and the Porter (2.3)  (James Dreyer)

From Westminster Abbey,  King Henry the Third
                In this part of the play, King Duncan has just been murdered by Macbeth and we open to a drunken Porter talking about being a porter for hell.  This scene is not meant to be comical in of itself, but how one reads the play and the interpretation of the part in the play can be comical.  For example, MacDuff could perform his lines to be relatively serious and anxious, or he could be played to be obnoxiously dramatic, along with supporting characters such as Lady Macbeth.  Regardless of how the play is performed, the purpose is not to include comic relief, but instead shows the repercussions of the king’s death, and the events surrounding it, thus sending off the rest of the play.  As mentioned before, the scene opens on a drunk porter hearing a knock at the door and discussing three situations in which consist of him letting these people into the gates of hell.  This part of the play begins to show, if the reader has not picked up on it before, that Macbeth is not of the highest moral character.  This scene seems to say that with this previous deed, Macbeth has descended into the pits of hall and was readily accepted.  This is also supported by earlier text when Macbeth says “We’d jump the life to come. “(MACBETH 1.7.7 ) as if to say that he is willing to risk his time in hell for this act of murdering the king.  The quote becomes figuratively, and maybe literally fulfilled in this scene.  Due to the time the play was written, people were very influenced by nature, and many believed that everything had a double meaning.  So, when the king died, because he was a good king, nature around responded to the action by it being an unruly night, as was described by Lennox in line 50 through 57.  The events described in 2.3, then also in 2.4, seem to also resemble Christ’s death on the cross with the earth shaking and the sky going dark, furthering the fact that King Duncan was a very good and Christ like King.  After this, franticness runs through the house like wildfire.  When reading, one can feel the tension and anxiety of the household, it almost seems that the text reads faster and much more nervous.  Then of course you have the obvious irony of Macbeth expressing his love and deep devotion for the king.  This scene is very important, it starts begins the ball rolling for prophecies being fulfilled, the storyline coming together, and characters developing throughout the play.  The prophecies that Macbeth will be king is about to be fulfilled and he is clearly to be king, considering the two sons are on the run, and no one will suspect Macbeth.  The previous scenes were in many ways almost developing this scene and the death of the king, this sets the rest of the storyline in motion.  Finally, Macbeth is being developed into someone that was once deeply ashamed of what he did, but now seems to not care as much for what he did as he builds a very believable lie surrounding the guard’s deaths in lines 103 and 105-114.  The previous scenes seem to be building up to this part of the play, and then sends off to the rest of the play.  Also, don’t ever kill your King, unless you want earthquakes, owl, whispering chimney, and of course a panic-stricken household.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Sarah on Macbeth's "If it were done" soliloquy

Macbeth 1.7.1-28 (Sarah Rasher)

This is perhaps the most important speech in the whole of the play, as it encapsulates the moral dilemma that Macbeth is facing and foreshadows Macbeth’s ultimate downfall. Macbeth launches into this soliloquy with the following statement: “If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were done quickly” (I.vii.1-2). Here Macbeth reasons that if he truly must murder Duncan, then it would be best if he did it quickly. This shows reluctance on Macbeth’s part—that he wishes to get the terrible deed over and done with and he lacks any sort of bloodlust. It does, however, also suggest that he is willing to commit the murder. This is perhaps the last time we see Macbeth as a free man, still capable of choice between moral and immoral acts.
Macbeth then expresses concerns about what comes after the murder; he admits that he wouldn’t have such a problem with the murder if the deeds did not often result in a chain of events which could very easily spiral out of his control. Macbeth is not afraid of punishment in the afterlife, but the possibility of facing the consequences of murder in life unsettles him. Macbeth gives very a convincing argument for not killing the King: he states that 1) evil begets evil, and such evil will “return / to plague th’ inventor,” a line of thought which has a shockingly karmic underpinning; 2) Macbeth is “his kinsman and his subject” and he therefore should be against the deed instead of perpetrating the crime (I.vii.9-10, 13). He even goes so far as to admit that Duncan is an excellent king—virtuous and uncorrupt—and that his great legacy will speak for him when he dies, so much so that the angels will be “trumpet-tongued…against / the deep damnation” of the King’s demise (I.vii.19-20). All of this is reinforced by Macbeth’s admission that his “vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself / And falls on th’ other” is the only “spur/ to prick the sides” of this plan to not kill the King  (I.vii.27-8, 25-6). He recognizes, again, that his own ambition will be his undoing as the “other,” here, refers of course the depths of disaster and despair. By the end of the soliloquy, Macbeth has convinced himself that he has no justifiable cause to kill the king, and instead seems to be inclined to deny his own ambitious nature. Lady Macbeth, however, has other plans…

Natalie on Macbeth 1.1

Macbeth 1.1 (Natalie Erwin)

The opening scene of Macbeth sets the tone for the overall play filled with deceit, madness, and confusion between what is real and what is fantasy. Eerie and ominous, the weird sisters discuss the plans of when to meet again, “When the hurly-burly’s done, When the battle’s lost and won” (1.1.3-4). This foreshadows following events in the play, but leaves the audience to later wonder if the battle was one of nobility or sanity.
The first scene can be overlooked considering the whole of the play, however, it should be paid close attention. Shakespeare is an intentional writer, by introducing the three witches first he is truly introducing the plays main character. While the piece may be titled Macbeth the true catalysts are the witches. The weird sisters are the propellant for Macbeth’s heinous behavior by enticing him with the idea of power and providing explicit details as to achieving his goal. The scene may seem out of place and unfinished but Shakespeare is deliberately showing the audience that the world of Macbeth is never as it seems.