Showing posts with label Shakespeare. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shakespeare. Show all posts

Monday, April 23, 2012

Some Interesting Facts about William Shakespeare

23rd April. It is the birthday of William Shakespeare. Happy Birthday, Mr. William Shakespeare!

Shakespeare is a big mystery even  four hundred years after his death.  We know little about the life of this great genius.  All we know is about his works. A person lives by his works, not by the years. Indeed!

I was thinking about how to celebrate the day this year . Last year we did it with a big yummy cake and  high-flying talks. As it is a hartal day, I have planned something that I can do sitting at my desk. Here I have tried to present some interesting facts about Shakespeare and his works.

All of the information has been taken from internet. I have just arranged them in a way I thought it would be interesting.

Facts about his birthdate and family

1. William Shakespeare was born in 1564, but his exact birthdate is unknown. He was baptized on April 26 of that year, so his birth would have been shortly before. But the interesting fact is that he was born under the old Julian calendar, not the current Gregorian calendar that was created in 1582 and adopted in England in 1751. What was April 23 during Shakespeare's life would be May 3 on today's calendar.

3. William's father, John Shakespeare was the Mayor of Stratford. But according to report John was a money lender! He was accused in the Exchequer Court of Usury for lending money at the inflated rate of 20% and 25% Interest!

5. Shakespeare's family were all illiterate!

6. Shakespeare's grandchildren all died - he had no descendents

7. Shakespeare did not go to college.

Mystery about his name

8.   Some of Shakespeare’s signatures have survived on original documents. In none of them does he spell his name in what has become the standard way. He spells it Shakespe; Shakspe; Shakspere and Shakespear, “Willm Shaksp,” “William Shakespe,” “Wm Shakspe,” “William Shakspere,” ”Willm Shakspere,” and “William Shakspeare”--but never “William Shakespeare.”

So, you can’t scold someone if he/she misspells his name!

About His Marriage

9. His wife Anne Hathaway was eight years older than Shakespeare and three months pregnant when they got married! Shakespeare was eighteen when he married Anne Hathaway in 1582. She was 26. Their first child was born six months after the wedding!

10. Shakespeare and Anne Hathawy had three children together – a son, Hamnet, who died in 1596, and two daughters, Susanna and Judith. His only granddaughter Elizabeth – daughter of Susanna – died childless in 1670. Shakespeare therefore has no descendants.

Facts about his Career

12. Sometime in the mid 1580′s, Shakespeare moved to London from his home in Stratford-upon-Avon.

13. Almost no information exists about Shakespeare’s activities from the time he moved to London to 1592, when he was described as an up-and-coming playwright in the London theater scene. Because of this, the years 1585 to 1592 are called “the lost years”.

14. During his life, Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets! This means an average 1.5 plays a year since he first started writing in 1589. His last play The Two Noble Kinsmen is reckoned to have been written in 1613 when he was 49 years old. While he was writing the plays at such a pace he was also conducting a family life, a social life and a full business life, running an acting company and a theatre!

15. Few people realise that apart from writing his numerous plays and sonnets, Shakespeare was also an actor who performed many of his own plays as well as those of other playwrights. During his life Shakespeare performed before Queen Elizabeth I and, later, before James I who was an enthusiastic patron of his work.

16. According to reports, Shakespeare wrote quickly and with ease; Fellow playwright Ben Jonson said “Whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line.”

17. Because of the plague outbreak in Europe, all London playhouses were closed between 1592 and 1594 because it was thought that crowded places helped facilitate the spread of the disease. During this period, because there was no demand for Shakespeare’s plays, he began to write poetry.

18. In 1594, Shakespeare became one of the founders of Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an acting/theater group that soon became the leading player’s company in London.

19. Shakespeare and his company built TWO Globe Theatres!

20. Shakespeare is always referred to as an Elizabethan playwright, but as most of his most popular plays were written after Elizabeth’s death he was actually more of a Jacobean writer. His later plays also show the distinct characteristics of Jacobean drama.

Facts about Publication

21. Though the printing press existed and books were being mass-produced all over Europe, Shakespeare had little interest in seeing his plays in print. He’d written them not to be read, but to be performed on stage.

22. Shakespeare never published any of his plays!

23. The majority of his plays were only published seven years after his death!

24. Many eminent Authors and Politicians do not believe that Shakespeare wrote his plays...

25. Shakespeare’s was said to have an extensive vocabular; his works contained more than 30,000 different words.

26. Many of Shakespeare's plays are based on others' earlier plays, histories, and poems. This was common practice at that time.

His innovations

27. The following commonly used phrases are thought to be originally coined by William Shakespeare:
All that glitters is not gold;All’s well that ends well;Dead as a doornail;Fancy-free;Fool’s paradise;For goodness’ sake;Good riddance;Heart of gold;In a pickle;Knock knock! Who’s there?;Laughing stock;Love is blind;Naked truth;Neither rhyme nor reason;One fell swoop;Star-crossed lovers;Pomp and circumstance;Pound of flesh;Primrose path;Too much of a good thing;Wear my heart upon my sleeve;What’s in a name?;Wild goose chase; The world’s my oyster  etc.


Yes, the following is about the scandals in his life!

28. Shakespeare is rumoured to be the father of an illegitimate son - William Davenant!

29. Scandalous Facts! Shakespeare's daughter, Judith married a man called Thomas Quiney - but failed to get a special license to marry and, on March 12th 1616, Judith and Thomas Quiney were both excommunicated!

30. More scandalous Shakespeare Family Facts! It transpired that Thomas Quiney had made another girl pregnant and was prosecuted for 'carnal copulation'

31. Based on textual evidence in the sonnets and some plays, some believe that Shakespeare was bisexual.


32. We do not really know what Shakespeare looked like! Not one portrait was painted of Shakespeare whilst he was still alive!

33. The American President Abraham Lincoln was a great lover of Shakespeare’s plays and frequently recited from them to his friends. His assassin, John Wilkes Booth was a famous Shakespearean actor.

His Death

34. Shakespeare returned to Stratford after he finished work on The Tempest, in 1611.

35. He lived to 52. It is known that he was born in April 1564 and that he died on 23rd April 1616. We know that he was born on April 23rd. He therefore died on his fifty-second birthday.

36. Shakespeare was buried in the Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. He put a curse on anyone daring to move his body from that final resting place. His epitaph was:
Good friend for Jesus’ sake forbear,
To dig the dust enclosed here:
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.

Though it was customary to dig up the bones from previous graves to make room for others, Shakespeare’s remains are still undisturbed.

Last but not the least (also coined by Shakespeare) almost four hundred years after Shakespeare’s death there are 157 million pages referring to him on Google. There are 132 million for God, 2.7 million for Elvis Presley! Of course excluding this page…

Friday, December 18, 2009

Treatment of Time in Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Shakespeare uses the word 'time' seventy-eight times in the sonnets 1-126. As we go through the sonnets it seems to us that the narrator is hauntingly preoccupied with the passing of time and everything that it entails, including mortality, memory, inevitability, and change. He is distressed over such things that he has no control over time ,but still he tries to conquer the time.At times it seems that the speaker is fighting a futile battle against time itself.

Time personified

Shakespeare often personifies time.It is said that Time is the fourth character in his sonnets.But the Time is the great villain in Shakespeare’s sonnets-drama.Shakespeare describes time as a "bloody tyrant" (Sonnet 16), "devouring" and "swift-footed" (Sonnet 19). Time is making Shakespeare old and near "hideous night" (Sonnet 12) or death. And time will eventually rob the beauty of the young man. This treatment of time is prevalent throughout the sonnets, and it takes many different forms, sometimes referring to the destructive power of time in general, other times focusing on the effects of time on a specific character in the sonnets such as the narrator or the fair lord.

In the first seventeen sonnets which are called the procreation sonnets Skakespeare makes an earnest plea to the fair lord, begging him to find a woman to bear his child so that his beauty might be preserved for posterity. In these 17 sonnets the treatment of time is almost. Through the imagery of military, winter, and the Sun the speaker tries to give the picture of the ravages of time. In sonnet 2, the poet writes, "When forty winters shall beseige thy brow / And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field ... Time is the great enemy, besieging the youth's brow, digging trenches — wrinkles — in his face, and ravaging his good looks. In the sonnet 5 he repeates the same theme and says that hours are tyrants that oppress him because he cannot escape time's grasp. Time might "frame / The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell," meaning that everyone notices the youth's beauty, but time's "never-resting" progress ensures that this beauty will eventually fade.Time is related with death .Sonnet 13 furthers the theme of time by stating that death will forever vanquish the young man's beauty.

But the speaker also suggests the way how to comquer time. The poet argues that procreation ensures life after death; losing your identity in death does not necessarily mean the loss of life so long as you have procreated. The poet is lamenting the ravages of time and its detrimental effects on the fair lord's beauty, seeking to combat the inevitable by pushing the fair lord to bequeath his exquisiteness unto a child. In Sonnet 12 again the narrator speaks of the sterility of bachelorhood and recommends marriage and children as a means of immortality.

The destructive nature of time is shown again in the sonnet 18 ans 19.But here the speaker finds an alternative way to conquer the time namely his verse.In sonnet 18 Initially, the poet poses a question to his friend — "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" — and then reflects on it, remarking that the youth's beauty far surpasses summer's delights.But the poet admits the ravages of time again and we see it especially in line 7, where the poet speaks of the inevitable mortality of beauty: "And every fair from fair sometime declines." But the speaker is very confident and defies the time.The poem end with the concluding : "So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, / So long lives this, and this gives life to thee." The poet opines that his eternal verse will capture and mummify the friend’s beauty.
The same theme is repeated in the sonnet 19 in which the speaker pictures time with help of the animal imageries.The poet addresses Time and, using vivid animal imagery, comments on Time's normal effects on nature. The sonnet's first seven lines address the ravages of nature that "Devouring Time" can wreak.The poet then commands Time not to age the young man and ends by boldly asserting that the poet's own creative talent will make the youth permanently young and beautiful.However, nature's threatening the youth's beauty does not matter, for the poet confidently asserts that the youth will gain immortality as the subject of the sonnets. Because poetry, according to the poet, is eternal, it only stands to reason that his poetry about the young man will ensure the youth's immortality. The youth as the physical subject of the sonnets will age and eventually die, but in the sonnets themselves he will remain young and beautiful.

The sonnet 60 may best illustrate Shakespeare’s treatment of the ravages of time.Sonnet 60 is acknowledged as one of Shakespeare's greatest because it deals with the universal concerns of time and its passing. In the sonnet, time is symbolized by concrete images.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.

Each quatrain engages the theme in a unique way, with the destructive force of time redoubling with each successive line. In quatrain one the flow of time is compared with the incessant beating of the waves against a shore, each wave building in strength and then crashing down again only to be followed by another in its place. The second quatrain uses the sun as a metaphor for human life: it is born ("Nativity") and "crawls" (like a baby) until it reaches its highest point, whereupon it is "crown'd" (with maturity) and then proceeds to fall back into darkness, or death. Line 8 concludes the metaphor with the assertion that Time both gives the gift of life and takes it away again.Although the poet seems certain that Time's destruction is inevitable, he is nonetheless hopeful that his verse will get away with it in the end. The final couplet speaks of the poet's intention to outsmart Time himself, defying his "cruel hand" by eternalizing the fair lord in his verse.

In the sonnet 65 the poet also says that nothing withstands time's ravages. The hardest metals and stones, the vast earth and sea — all submit to time.The poet once again is reassured that his sonnets will provide the youth immortality — his verse is the only thing that can withstand time's decay. Returning to the power of poetry to bestow eternal life, the poet asserts "That in black ink my love may still shine bright." He believes that his love verse can preserve the youth's beauty.

Sometimes the poet thinks his attepmts to conquer the time as futile and without any result. In Sonnet 64, the poet is portrayed as a historian, philosopher, and antiquarian who dreams of time's relentless destruction of ancient glories. Monuments that reflect the noblest ideas of humankind — castles, churches, and cities — will one day be "confounded to decay."Whereas Sonnet 60's concluding couplet evokes feelings of high-spirited joy and confidence, Sonnet 64 ends in despair: The poet is now certain that death will "take my love away," but he no longer seems satisfied that his verse will ensure the youth's immortality. The sonnet's last two lines convey a grievous, depressing tone: "This thought is as a death, which cannot choose / But weep to have that which it fears to lose." The poet finally acknowledges the youth's — and his own — mortality.

Time,old age and death are inter-related.Sonnets 73 and 75 treat this aspect of time.Sonnet 73 as sonnet 60 in expresses the theme of the ravages of time. The sonnet focuses on the narrator's own anxiety over growing old. In the first quatrain, the narrator compares himself to the late autumn season, that time of year when the trees have begun to lose their leaves and the cold is setting in.Quatrain two makes life still shorter, going from the seasons of the year to the hours of the day. The narrator is at the twilight of his life: his sun has set, and Death is soon upon him.

The poet continues his obsessive concern with his own death in the sonnet 75. Although he emphasizes his own inadequacy as a person, he boldly asserts the greatness of his verse: "My life hath in this line some interest, / Which for memorial still with thee shall stay." He claims that his better part will survive his death in his poems. In keeping with his exaggerated mood, the poet alludes to the belief that his demise will be "Too base" for the youth to remember, but the best part of him will survive in his immortal verse.

The inevitable ravages of time is also shown in the sonnet 104.

True love can defy time

Like the children and the verse true love also can defy the time as mentioned in the sonnet 116. Unlike physical beauty true love is not "Time's fool." and subject to the ravages of time

"Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come."
Time's "hours and weeks" are "brief" compared to love's longevity.

The same view is repeated in the sonnet 123 ,in which the speaker directly addresses Time, and explains that he must defy it.

No! Time ,thau shalt not boast that I do change
Thy pyramids built up with newer might.

The narrator claims to be a man of steady and stable character ,not subject to the changes which Time brings about.He vows that he would never change towards his friend and that he would always remain true to him ,despite the scythe of Time.

This I do vow and this shall ever be,
I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.

Thus, the theme of time is built gradually through the first 126 sonnets and the poet comes to the conclusion tha inspite of the ravages of time love can shelter him.

Portrayal of the Fair Youth in Shakespeare's Sonnets

In Shakespeare’s Sonnets the 'Fair Youth' is an unnamed young man to whom sonnets 1-126 are addressed. The poet writes of the young man in romantic and loving language, a fact which has led several commentators to suggest a homosexual relationship between them, while others read it as platonic love. Though the name this young man is not mentioned,we can get a view of the mental and physical picture of him.

The thing that strikes our mind after we read the sonnets is that the speaker only pays the glowing tributes to the external features of his friend.But inwardly his friend lacks many qualities and the poet has to give advice to keep him on the right track.But the young man remains ever uninstructed.

Physically superb

Physically superb, radiantly youthful, politically ascendant, socially powerful, the fair youth represents nearly everything that Shakespeare's culture valued in external life accomplishments and courtly character. To highlight this idealization ,the fair youth's perceived virtues are explicitly contrasted with the poet's "too sullied" and demeaning real world existence.

This idealization treats lightly the youth's fundamental flaw, his selfishness in refusing to wed and procreate. But this initial idealization makes horrific the poet's gradual recognition and then public denunciation of the youth's vicious, shallow and selfish character. The poet's ideals become a pathetic illusion, and the poems describe a pervasive spiritual strangulation that goes far beyond amorous disappointment. It is this existential exhaustion that the poet struggles to overcome.

The sensual betrayal of the "dark lady" counterpoints the spiritual betrayal by the young man. With the woman (whose historical identity is unknown) the poet's "betrayal" is inward and visceral, as his lust turns into an addict's remorse.

Reluctant youth

In the opening 17 sonnets the friend is portrayed as a handsome young man who is very reluctant to get wed. In the opening sonnet the friend ,who ’contracted to thine own bright eyes’ and is interested only in his own selfish desires emerges as the embodiment of narcissism, a destructively excessive love of oneself. The poet makes clear that the youth's self-love is unhealthy, not only for himself but for the entire world.

From the Sonnet 7 we see that the friend’s youthful condition is compared with the sun's highest point in the sky,which resembles "strong youth in his middle age." However, after the sun reaches it apex, its only direction is down. This downward movement represents "feeble age" in the youth, and what is worse than mere physical appearance is that the people who looked in awe at the youth's beauty will "look another way" when he has become old. In death, he will not be remembered.
As usual, the poet argues that the only way for the youth to ensure that he is remembered after he dies is to have a child, making it clear that this child should be a son.

The sonnets open in a public, ceremonial tone. They graciously entreat a noble and beautiful young man (the "fair youth") to sire a child who will preserve his physical virtues after he is old or dead. (Conception implies the contract of marriage, which is never mentioned explicitly.) Most of the important themes or key images in the sonnet cycle are first expressed here in stylized terms: beauty's passing, the human desire to preserve beauty against time and decay, the deferential relationship between the fair youth and the poet who speaks the sonnets, the connections among people that the desire to preserve beauty motivates, the power of verse to persuade and memorialize, and (gently expressed) the narcissism and selfishness that underlies the youth's indifference to the poet's requests. 

The sonnets from 18 to 25 we find another picture of the youth.This time the poet is obsessessed with the physical charms of the young man.In the sonnet 18,for example ,the speaker says

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

Thus the speaker here has glorified the physical charms of the young man,whose beauty far surpasses summer's delights. The poet's use of extremes in the phrases "more lovely," "all too short," and "too hot" emphasizes the young man's beauty.

The sonnet 20 gives another picture of the friend. In this crucial, sensual sonnet, the young man becomes the "master-mistress" of the poet's passion.

A woman’s face with nature’s own hand painted
Hast thou the master mistress of my passion.

As a man with the beauty of a woman, the youth is designed to be partnered with women but attracts men as well, being unsurpassed in looks and more faithful than any woman. Although to the poet he possesses a woman's gentleness and charm, the youth bears the genitalia ("one thing") of a man, and despite having a woman's physical attractiveness, the young man has none of a woman's fickle and flirtatious character.

Self-centred and unable to exercise good friendship

But from the sonnet 25 onwards we find another picture of the friend. Here the self-centred nature of the young man is clearly portrayed.The poet is devoted to his friend ,the latter is unmindful to the poet.As stated in the sonnet 34 the young man is not capable of a mutual,warm friendship.

Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak,
To let base clouds o'ertake me in my way,
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke?

The speaker is puzzled and painfully disappointed by the youth, whose callousness dashes any hope of his enjoying a dependable friendship. The opening complaint, again based on the metaphor of the young man as the sun, shows how much the poet's perceptions have changed. He has been wounded by the youth, and apologies notwithstanding, the scar remains: "For no man well of such a salve can speak / That heals the wound, and cures not the disgrace."

He is indocurous

In the following sonnets we also notice some indocurous behaviours of the young man.He is selfish and of loose morality as is portrayed in sonnets 40 and 42.From these sonnets it becomes apparent that the young friend has developed a secrete relation with the speaker’s mistress. Though the poet does not openly condemn his friend,he wavers between anger at and forgiveness of the young man. Line 7 begins, "But yet be blamed," and we expect the poet to rant in extreme hostility at the youth, but this mood then shifts to the forgiveness contained in lines 9 and 10: "I do forgive thy robb'ry, gentle thief, / Although thou steal thee all my poverty." In lines 11 and 12, the mood shifts again, but now the poet waxes philosophically about the contrasts between love and hate: ". . . it is a greater grief / To bear love's wrong than hate's known injury." And finally, even while angry over the affair, the poet forgives the youth's lecherous nature: "Lascivious grace, in whom all ill well shows, / Kill me with spites; yet we must not be foes."

In the sonnet 42 the speaker also expresses his suppressed anger for his friend and also finds consolotion from the syllogistic argument that he and his friend are one and the same person and that his mistress therefore loves only him even if she has become his friend’s mistress.

The friend can be faithless but the poet remains ever faithful to him which earns good admiration to our eyes.Amid his suffering, the poet's dignity emerges in his high minded endurance, in the strength of his love, his forgiveness, his dry humor, and his powerful verse. The "fair youth" sonnets conclude with an awed realization of the power of genuine love to triumph over any suffering. Love is precious not because the youth is worthy or because the erotic impulse is sweet to fulfill, but because love alone can overcome life's unrelenting waste and futility:

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

Whatever is the source of the strength the poet finds, it is this immortal truth and beauty that the sonnets magnificently celebrate.

Thus, though the poet’s emotion ,which originally is that of admiration ,develops until it becomes adoration.But the young man emerges as a selfish man of dual personality.He belongs to the aristocratic family but his moral taste is coarse and immoral.

Dramatic Elements or Elements of Drama in Shakespeare's Sonnets

Mordern criticism of Shakespeare’s sonnets tends to give more and more emphasis on the dramatic qualities that the sonnets share than on the autobiographical issues.In fact, it seems plausible to suggest that it is Shakespeare’s dramatic talent that must shine throughout his 154 sonnets.These 154 sonnets show Shakespeare’s dramatic talent clearly.The main dramatic qualities of his sonnets are that of the abrupt beginning,the conversational style,the dramatic tension,plot and the themes of loyalty and disloyalty.

Many of Shakespeare’s sonnets begin abruptly in the middle of an action.A drama usually breaks into the middle of an action.The sonnet 2, for example, also begins abruptly in the middle of an action.

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,

The way speaker starts the conversation makes us that his argument has a link with his previous arguments. The sonnet 131 also begins abruptly

Thou art as tyrannous, so as thou art,
As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel.

Here the speaker calls the lady tyrannous without refering to her past misdeeds. Many of Skakespeare’s sonnets begin in such a abrupt way.
A drama has dialogue and arguments.In this respect Shakespeare’s sonnets are very dramatic.Reference can be made to such sonnets as sonnets 18,34 and 149.The sonnet 18 begins with these following two lines.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

The whole poem is based on a conversation between the speaker and his friend.This conversational style makes the sonnets lively and interesting too.


In his essay The Dramatic techniques of Shakespeare’s Sonnets G. k Hunter points out that the sonnets of Shakespeare have ’plots’.He is of the view that the Elizabethan sonnets had the plot like a drama,but Shaespeare’s sonnets have better plot that the other sonnets of the age.In fact how his sonnets are supreme in dramatic effectiveness will be seen ,if we consider the plots he developed through the sonnets.In his 154 sonnets he mainly talks about his male friend and the dark lady.The two sets of sonnets concerning these two persons make two suspensful tragi-comediesor problem plays.

Plot concerning the young friend

The first sequence bigins with the good advice to his friend.First 17 sonnets are devoted to asking his friend to marry fro procreation and give permanance to his beauty. Then the narrator abandons it in favor of an alternative plan to eternalize the fair lord's beauty in his verse. The narrator grows increasingly enamored with the fair lord, eventually becoming emotionally dependent upon him and plagued by the inability to win his heart. After that the speaker becomes so close and entimate with his friend and feels contenment.But then suddenly comes the separation between them.The poet misses his friend greatly.But this suddenly turns to a bitter cold war between him and his friend over a woman. The narrator's emotions fluctuate between love and anger, envy and greed. We find poignant examples of the narrator's jealousy in the rival poet sonnets (79-86), where the fair lord's attention has been caught by another. The narrator's fragile psyche collapses in bouts of self-deprecation as he agonizes over the thought of forever losing the object of his affection. In sonnet 87, the narrator bids the fair lord farewell - but his heartache long persists. Finally, in sonnet 126, his love matured and yet still beautiful, the narrator points out that the fair lord too will one day meet his doom.

Plot concerning the dark lady

The second sequence namely the sonnets from 127-152 give us another plot concerning a dark lady. The following sonnet begins the dark lady sequence, the group of sonnets dealing with the narrator's irresistible attraction to a dark and beautiful woman. Here the allure is not of love but of lust, and the narrator is torn between his hunger for the woman and his disgust at the sinfulness of carnal desire.
The dark lady is described as freely promiscuous, the epitome of lustful endeavor. Drawn by and at the same time repelled by her darkness, the narrator once again reverts to meditative mind-wandering to cope with his situation. In the end, the narrator's lust is expressed as an incurable disease, a burning sensation that can only be quenched, if temporarily, by the eyes of the dark lady.

Dramatic tension

One of the most important elements in creating the “soul” of a drama is dramatic tension. “Tension” essentially means that something or someone is being pulled in opposite directions with fairly equal force.In drama, tension is used to keep the audience engaged in the story that is unfolding. The audience keeps up with what is being presented, wondering which side will eventually pull with greater force: good or evil? hope or despair? jealousy or faith? The critic Michael Cameron Andrews maintains that many of Shakespeare’s sonnets are dramatic in the sense that they are profoundly dynamic depictions of a mind at war with itself. In fact there is a lot of conflict in many of the sonnets and the conflict takes place in Sjakespeare’s own mind.The conflict is seen between his love and admiration for his friend and his grievance against his friend and similarly , a conflict is seen between his passion for the dark lady and his resentment against her for her deceitfulness and disloaylty.

One beautiful example is sonnet 29.The drama builds throughout the poem. The first stanza shows the speaker’s self-worth under attack. The second has him floundering around, trying to regain his self-esteem with wishes and anger, doing whatever it takes to consider himself a worthy human. The poem reaches a climax with the ninth line, with the speaker almost despising himself — this is the high point of the poem’s tension, where the forces pulling in opposite directions have stretched him as far as they can. Something has to give. In the tenth line, there is relief: the thought of that special other person comes flooding into the speaker’s mind. The struggle between two conflicting ideas had been closely balanced up to this point, but once he has added the influx of self-worth that comes from this “sweet love remembered,” the competition is not even close.

Dramatic situation

In his essay The Dramatic techniques of Shakespeare’s Sonnets G. k Hunter talks about another dramatic quality.It is the quality to create a dramatic situation.One should be able to find a dramatic situation in many of Shakespeare’s sonnets.Dramas have scenes: they involve characters in a place where they can voice their emotions. It is not enough to have an inner life. That inner life must be put in a place where it can be played out for the entire audience to understand and appreciate. In most of the sonnets one person is talking and the other is listening silently.Though the sonnets are not as dramatic as Donne’s poems or Browning’s dramatic monologues ,but still we can imagine a dramatic situation around the speaker.Hunter says that Skakespeare describes a series of emotional situations between persons in a series of separate short poems.

Major themes

But it is not only the style that makes the sonnets dramatic but their themes also have great similarities with the themes of Skakespeare’s major dramas.So,the sonnets are also dramatic as per as the central themes are concerned.In his essay Love’s Confined Doom M. M Mahood draws our attention to the themes of bitrayal and loyalty.Most of Shakespeare’s dramas are about bitrayal and loyalty.Such plays as Hamlet,Macbeth,King Lear,Othello,The Tempest etc are about the themes of betrayal and loyalty.Like Shakespeare’s dramas the Shakespearean sonnets also develop the thems of betrayal and loyalty.Most of the case the speaker is loyal both to the male friend and also to the dark lady.On the other hand both of them are disloyal to the speaker.In this way we can say that his sonnets are dramatic as per as the central tensions are concerned.

William Shakespeare is often recognized as the greatest dramatist who ever lived. His talent for drama can also be found in the dramatic qualities of his sonnets.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

How Shakespeare is anti-Petrarchan and Unconventional in his Sonnets

Like other Elizabethan singing birds, William Shakespeare also wrote sonnets. During the Elizabethan age sonnet writing became highly fashionable following the publication of Sir Philip Sydney’s sonnet sequence Astrophel and Stella, published in 1591. Sonnet sequences were widely read and admired at this time, circulated about the court, and read among friends and writers. Shakespeare took up this trend, adapting his considerable talent to the prevailing literary mode while writing for the theater. He specifically followed the form of the sonnet as adopted from the Italian into English by the Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt. Though he followed the trend of his age , as a sonneteer Shakespeare was different from his contemporaries in many respects. Shakespeare is different in respects of sonnet structure, style, vocabulary and characterization.

Let us at first see what are the similarities between Shakespeare and his other contemporary sonneteers.

The themes are similar

Bound by the conventions of the sonnet, Shakespeare used the form to explore the same themes as early Latin, Italian, and French verse. He treated the themes of the transient nature of youth and physical beauty, the fallibility of love, and the nature of friendship. Even the dominating conceit of Shakespeare’s sequence — the poet’s claim that his poems will confer immortality on his subject — is one that goes back to Ovid and Petrarch. In Shakespeare’s hands, however, the full potentiality of the sonnet form emerged, earning for it the poet’s name.

Similar in problem solving method

The Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnet are similar in that they both present and then solve a problem. The Petrarchan sonnet does it through an octave which presents a problem and a sestet which provides the resolution. A different rhyme scheme and thus a different convention of logical and rhetorical organization determines the differences between the two sonnet forms. In the Petrarchian sonnet the problem is solved by reasoned perception or a meditative process.

The Shakespearean sonnet maintains the basic two-part structure of conflict and resolution, now presented in fourteen lines of three quatrains and a concluding rhyming couplet. Each quatrain presents a further aspect of a problem, conflict, or idea. The resolution occurs in the last two of a rhyming couplet, achieved through logical cleverness that summarizes or ties together what has been expressed in the three quatrains.

Except these elements, Shakespeare is very different from the contemporary sonneteers. A t first he is different in respect of style. A Petrarchan sonnet was divided into two units: octave and sestet. The rhyme scheme of a petrarchan sonnet was abba,abba ,cdc,cdc. But a Shakespearean sonnet is divided into four units: three quatrains and one couplet. The rhyme scheme of a Shakespearean sonnet is abab,cdcd,efef,gg. Thus Shakespeare is different as per as the structure is related.

Next comes the treatment of the subject and the language used in his sonnets. He did not follow the courtly tradition.

Courtly tradition

The theme of a Petrarchan sonnet was usually courtly love. The Elizabethan poets also used the courtly theme in their sonnets. In courtly love poems the lover is always dutiful,anxious,adoring and full of praises of his mistress, who was portrayed as proud, unreceptive ,pure and innocent. A particular type of vocabulary was used in the poems written in the courtly tradition.
But Shakespeare did not follow this courtly tradition and here lies the main difference between Shakespeare and his contemporary followers of Petrarchan tradition.

Shakespeare’s ridicule of the courtly tradition is best illustrated in his sonnet 130. This sonnet plays an elaborate joke on the conventions of love poetry common to Shakespeare's day, and it is so well-conceived that the joke remains funny today.

Most sonnet sequences in Elizabethan England were modeled after that of Petrarch. Petrarch's famous sonnet sequence was written as a series of love poems to an idealized and idolized mistress named Laura. In the sonnets, Petrarch praises her beauty, her worth, and her perfection using an extraordinary variety of metaphors based largely on natural beauties.

In Shakespeare's day, these metaphors had already become cliche (as, indeed, they still are today), but they were still the accepted technique for writing love poetry. The result was that poems tended to make highly idealizing comparisons between nature and the poets' lover that were, if taken literally, completely ridiculous. My mistress' eyes are like the sun; her lips are red as coral; her cheeks are like roses, her breasts are white as snow, her voice is like music, she is a goddess.

In many ways, Shakespeare's sonnets subvert and reverse the conventions of the Petrarchan love sequence: the idealizing love poems, for instance, are written not to a perfect woman but to an admittedly imperfect man, and the love poems to the dark lady are anything but idealizing ("My love is as a fever, longing still / For that which longer nurseth the disease" is hardly a Petrarchan conceit.) Sonnet 130 mocks the typical Petrarchan metaphors by presenting a speaker who seems to take them at face value, and somewhat bemusedly, decides to tell the truth. Your mistress' eyes are like the sun? That's strange--my mistress' eyes aren't at all like the sun. Your mistress' breath smells like perfume? My mistress' breath reeks compared to perfume. In the couplet, then, the speaker shows his full intent, which is to insist that love does not need these conceits in order to be real; and women do not need to look like flowers or the sun in order to be beautiful.

The rhetorical structure of Sonnet 130 is important to its effect. In the first quatrain, the speaker spends one line on each comparison between his mistress and something else (the sun, coral, snow, and wires--the one positive thing in the whole poem some part of his mistress is like. In the second and third quatrains, he expands the descriptions to occupy two lines each, so that roses/cheeks, perfume/breath, music/voice, and goddess/mistress each receive a pair of unrhymed lines. This creates the effect of an expanding and developing argument, and neatly prevents the poem--which does, after all, rely on a single kind of joke for its first twelve lines--from becoming stagnant.


In the realistic portrayal of human emotion Shakespeare is also different from the Petrarchan sonneteers. The love expressed in the courtly love poems in elaborate language was considered artificial and unrealistic. Shakespeare’s distaste towards this conventional Patrarchan treatment of love is first seen in the sonnet 21.The sonnet, which is written for his young friend, tells us that Shakespeare would not like to describe the beauty of his friend in the manner in which many poets describe beauty. Disclaiming kinship with the inconstant poetry of "painted beauty," he announces his only standard in the plea: "O let me, true in love, but truly write."

According to Shakespeare too much hyperbole and artificiality indicate insincerity and false sentiment. Lack of sincerity is considered here an aspect of bad art. The poet criticizes his rival poet, using the method of pretended understatement as a rhetorical device that contrasts the rival's superficial poetic style. At any rate, the point of Sonnet 21 is that the poet speaks truth and the rival poet hyperbolizes.

In his The Defense of Poetry Philip Sidney also criticized the sixteenth century love poets who used fanciful, far-fetched metaphors and extravagant terms of praise in describing the lady who was the supposed object of their affections.

Mutual love

Another anti-petrarchan theme is shown the way Shakespeare gives emphasis on the mutuality of love. According to him love is the marriage two true minds. This theme is developed in the sonnet 116. The essence of love and friendship for the poet, apparently, is reciprocity, or mutuality. In Sonnet 116, for example, the ideal relationship is referred to as "the marriage of true minds," a union that can be realized by the dedicated and faithful: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments." The definition of love that it provides is among the most often quoted and anthologized in the poetic canon. Essentially, true love never changes, never fades, outlasts death and admits no flaw.

Though beauty fades in time as rosy lips and cheeks come within "his bending sickle's compass," love does not change with hours and weeks: instead, it "bears it out ev'n to the edge of doom." In the concluding couplet, the speaker attests to his certainty that love is as he says: if his statements can be proved to be error, he declares, he must never have written a word, and no man can ever have been in love.

Different in subject matters

Shakespeare is also different as per subject matter is related. Throughout his 154 sonnets Shakespeare mainly writes on two subject matters: the unnamed male friend and the dark lady.

The beloved must be fair-complexioned according to the courtly tradition. So, the introduction of a dark lady instead of a fair woman as the subject matter of his amorous poems is certainly a different initiative taken by Shakespeare. The sonnet 127,the first sonnet concerning the dark lady begins with a repulsive note towards the conventional view of beautiful women. The narrator defends the poet's unfashionable taste in brunettes. In Elizabethan days, so the poet tells us, black was not considered beautiful: "In the old age black was not counted fair, / Or, if it were, it bore not beauty's name." However, what is considered beautiful — at least to the poet — has changed; "now is black beauty's successive heir." This change in what is considered beautiful is the poet's main concern here in Sonnet 127 and in succeeding sonnets. The dark lady is not physically attractive to the poet, for all her erotic appeal. However, her black eyes become her so well "That every tongue says beauty should look so."

Introduction of a male friend instead of a lady is even more surprising which Shakespeare did in his first 126 sonnets. To substitute a male friend like the Earl of Southampton for a Stella or Elizabethan Boyle is certainly unconventional. Moreover, he uses erotic language for his male friend. The poet speaks of his ‘love’s fair brow’, and describes him as being more lovely than a summer’s day. To him the youth is his sovereign and his lord of love. It is as if the poet were describing the features and countenance of a woman. So, this treatment of male friend like a mistress is a deviation from the Petrarchan tradition.

Thus, we see Shakespeare followed the contemporary trend of writing sonnet, but he followed in a very different, in his individual way.

The Plot Construction of The Tempest

There is really very little plot in The Tempest. There is the love story, and then there is the story of two younger brothers who covet their older brothers' titles and possessions. And finally, there is the story of Caliban's plot to murder Prospero. But none of these plots are given much attention or substance; instead, the play is about the complexities of human nature and about reminding the audience that the division between happiness and tragedy is always fragile and must be carefully maintained.

Although The Tempest ends with the promise of a wedding, it could just as easily have ended with tragedy. In this play, there are two murder plots and a betrayal to resolve. In a tragedy, these might have ended with the stage awash in blood, as in Hamlet, but in The Tempest, Prospero's careful manipulation of all the characters and their plans also controls the direction of the action. Prospero's avoidance of tragedy reveals his character's decency and contradicts some critics' arguments that he is an amoral demigod exploiting the natural inhabitants of this island.
The Tempest is unique in its adherence to the three unities. In his Poetics, Aristotle argued that unity of action was essential for dramatic structure. This meant that a dramatic work should have a clear beginning, middle, and end. The unity of time is derived from Aristotle's argument that all the action should occur within one revolution of the sun — one day. The unity of place developed later and is a Renaissance idea, which held that the location of the play should be limited to one place. These unities added verisimilitude to the work and made it easier for the audience to believe the events unfolding on stage.

Shakespeare rarely used the three unities, but he uses them in this play, something he has only done in one other play, The Comedy of Errors. All the events occur on the island and within one brief three-hour period. Shakespeare needed the three unities, especially that of time, to counter the incredulity of the magic and to add coherence to the plot.

The Tempest, although it is one of Shakespeare's shortest plays, still maintains the integrity of the five-act structure. In fact, most Elizabethan theatre adheres to the five-act structure, which corresponds to divisions in the action. The first act is the Exposition, in which the playwright sets forth the problem and introduces the main characters. In The Tempest, the first act establishes the nature of Antonio's betrayal of Prospero, and it explains how Prospero and Miranda came to live on the island. This first act also opens with a violent storm, which establishes the extent of Prospero's power. Most of the play's remaining characters also make an appearance in this act.

The second act is the Complication, in which the entanglement or conflict is developed. In The Tempest, the conspiracy to murder Alonso is developed, which establishes that Antonio is still an unsavory character. In addition, the audience learns more about Caliban, and Stefano and Trinculo appear, allowing the groundwork for a second conspiracy to be formed.

The third act is the Climax; and as the name suggests, this is when the action takes a turning point and the crisis occurs. In a romance, this is the point at which the young lovers assert their love, although there may be complications. It is important that the way to love not be too easy, and so in The Tempest, Prospero has forbidden contact between Miranda and Ferdinand, although the audience knows this is only a pretense. In this act, the conspiracy to murder Prospero is developed, although the audience knows that Ariel is listening, and so there is no real danger. And finally, the essential climactic moment occurs in this act when Prospero confronts his enemies at the ghostly banquet.

The fourth act is called the Falling Action, which signals the beginning of the play's resolution. In this act, the romance between Ferdinand and Miranda is acknowledged and celebrated with a masque, and Prospero deals with the conspiracy to murder him by punishing Caliban, Stefano, and Trinculo.

The fifth act is called the Catastrophe, wherein the conclusion occurs. As the name suggests, this act brings closure to the play, a resolution to the conflict, and the plans for a wedding. As the play draws to a close, Prospero is victorious over his enemies, Ferdinand is reunited with his father, Antonio and Sebastian are vanquished, and Caliban regrets his plotting.

Discord and harmony are the major contesting values in The Tempest

Discord, harmony and reconciliation seem to be the central themes of the play The Tempest. Discord and moral chaos predominate the first half of the play. Bitterness, hatred and suspicion are always close to the surface. The discord exists between the boatswain and the royal party, between the Prospero and Antonio and his accomplices. The discord also exists between Prospero and Ariel and Cali ban. But at the end of the play all discords are resolved. And it is Prospero who masterfully resolves all disorders and gives the drama a happy ending.

Discord followed by harmony

In fact, the entire plot of The Tempest is an elaborate scheme designed by Prospero to bring his rivals to a state of regret so that he can pardon them and restore the rightful order of things to his dukedom of Milan. Since Prospero is seen as being all-powerful over the island, he could easily destroy or punish his enemies in the royal party by any method or means. Instead, he brings the past conspirators face-to- face with the sins of their past, which causes them to be repentant. In a god-like way, Prospero forgives each of them, allowing them to live and return to Italy. In appreciation, they promise to faithfully serve Prospero. It is a picture of full reconciliation, with the exception of Antonio. To add to the beauty of the reconciled image, Prospero masterfully brings Miranda and Ferdinand together as symbols of a new generation standing for hope and re- generation.

The opening is full of confusion

The Tempest opens with total confusion: action, sounds, and the elements produce a sense of discord in the universe. The opening confrontation between Gonzalo and the boatswain reveals one of the most important themes in The Tempest: class conflict, the discord between those who seize and hold power and those who are often the unwilling victims of power. When confronted by members of the royal party, the boatswain orders that they return below deck. He is performing his job, and to stop in response to Alonso's request for the master would be foolish. The boatswain cares little for Alonso's rank as king and asks, "What cares these roarers for the name of king?" (15 — 16). The king has no protection from the storm simply because of his rank, because the storm has little care for a man's social or political position.

Conflict between the colonized and the colonizer

Apart from this conflict, there are many tempests to be explored during the course of The Tempest. In addition to class conflict, there are also explorations into colonialism (English explorers had been colonizing the Americas) and a desire to find or create a utopian society. Other tempests will be revealed in subsequent scenes, such as the emotional tempests that familial conflict creates (consider the conflict between Antonio and Prospero, and the coming conflict between Sebastian and Alonso); the tempests of discord (consider Caliban's dissatisfaction and desire for revenge) and of forbidden love (consider the romance between Miranda and Ferdinand). Finally, there are the tempests caused by the inherent conflict between generations. So, although The Tempest might correctly be called a romantic comedy, the title and the opening scene portend an exploration of conflicts more complex than romantic.

Familial conflict

This theme of discord is farther developed in the second scene. Here in order to satisfy Miranda’s query Prospero reveals to Miranda that Antonio is his brother, and that he was once the rightful Duke of Milan, a position Antonio now holds. Antonio usurped Prospero's estate and wealth while Prospero became increasingly "rapt in secret studies" and oblivious to his brother's machinations; and in order to take Prospero's title as well, Antonio arranged to have his brother Prospero and Prospero's daughter Miranda killed secretly. But Prospero is widely known to be a good man, so those charged with his death decide not to kill him, Instead, Prospero and Miranda were set adrift on the open sea in a decayed vessel, and were able to survive off the supplies that the honest councilor Gonzalo arranged for them to have; thus, they landed on the island where they now live.

Discord between human and the supernatural

The discord is seen also between human and the supernatural beings.Prospero’s initial interaction with Ariel and Caliban gives us an impression that they are both little more than slaves to Prospero's wishes, and their relation with him is not harmonious. Prospero has clearly promised Ariel freedom and then denied it, and he treats Caliban as little more than an animal. The audience needs to understand that cruel circumstance and the machinations of men have turned Prospero into a different man than he might otherwise have been. But Prospero's character is more complex than this scene reveals, and the relationship between these characters more intricate also.

Any initial concern that the audience might have because of Caliban's enslavement evaporates at the news that he attempted to rape Miranda. His subsequent behavior will further prove his character, but he can be redeemed, and his redemption is necessary if the play is to succeed. Furthermore, Caliban, who is initially bad and represents the black magic of his mother, serves as a contrast to the goodness of Ferdinand and Miranda. The young lovers are instantly attracted to one another, each one a mirror image of the other's goodness. It is their goodness that facilitates the reconciliation between Prospero and his enemies. In this reconciliation lies Ariel's freedom and Caliban's redemption.

Beginning of harmony

But there is a suggestion of harmony with the entry of Fardinand at the end of Act 1 ,Scene 2.Ariel, playing music and singing, enters and leads in Ferdinand. Prospero tells Miranda to look upon Ferdinand, and Miranda, who has seen no humans in her life other than Prospero and Caliban, immediately falls in love. Ferdinand is similarly smitten and reveals his identity as the prince of Naples. Prospero is pleased that they are so taken with each other but decides that the two must not fall in love too quickly, and so he accuses Ferdinand of merely pretending to be the prince of Naples. When he tells Ferdinand he is going to imprison him, Ferdinand draws his sword, but Prospero charms him so that he cannot move. Miranda attempts to persuade her father to have mercy, but he silences her harshly. This man, he tells her, is a mere Caliban compared to other men. He explains that she simply doesn’t know any better because she has never seen any others. Prospero leads the charmed and helpless Ferdinand to his imprisonment. Secretly, he thanks the invisible Ariel for his help, sends him on another mysterious errand, and promises to free him soon.

Act II: Scene 1

Once again we see the glimpse of disorder and disloayalty.This scene exposes the wicked nature of Prospero's rivals. Antonio is pictured as the most vile amongst the royal party. Once he stole Prospero's dukedom and set him assail to die; now he persuades Sebastian to kill his brother Alonso, the King of Naples, and steal his kingdom. The hunger for power is shown by Shakespeare to be strong and corrupting.

Act II: Scene 2

Caliban drunkenly watches the happy reunion of Stefano and Trinculo and decides that Stefano is a god, dropped from heaven. Caliban swears devotion to this new "god," and the three leave together, amid Caliban's promises to find Stefano the best food on the island.

Act III: Scene 3

Here the major symbol the feast appears. The feast usually symbolizes harmony.
The weary members of the royal party are exhausted, hungry, and tired of searching for the "lost" prince Ferdinand. At Prospero’s command some island spirits on the island prepare a feast for the tired royalty. Ariel then appears in the form of a harpy, a bird- like beast with a woman's face, and sits on the table, making the food disappear. The amazed members of the royal party are stunned. Ariel, still disguised, begins to address the men who once tried to destroy Prospero. He recounts all of the events that led to Prospero's fall, blaming Antonio for conspiring, and Alonso and his brother Sebastian for helping. Alonso is completely awestruck and filled with remorse for his past actions. When he gets up and runs away, Antonio and Sebastian follow him. These two are angry, not repentant.

Final scene

This final scene indicates the extent of Prospero's forgiveness and provides an example of humanity toward one's enemies. Before he confronts his enemies, Prospero tells Ariel that "The rarer action is / In virtue than in vengeance" (27–28). That is, it is better to forgive than to hate one's enemies. This is the example that Prospero provides in reuniting everyone in this final scene.

All the major characters, except Prospero and Miranda, find themselves unexpectedly thrown together after adventures and a long journey. Prospero is the contriver and agent of this reunion. In a gesture of reconciliation, Prospero embraces Alonso, who is filled with remorse and immediately gives up Prospero's dukedom. Gonzalo is also embraced in turn, and then Prospero turns to Sebastian and Antonio. Prospero tells them that he will not charge them as traitors, at this time. Antonio is forgiven and required to renounce his claims on Prospero's dukedom.

Those thought dead are discovered to be alive. A lost son is restored to a joyous parent. Those who have committed offenses repent and are forgiven. The one character who does not seem to be penitent is Antonio. A generous Prospero singles him out for pardon, but Antonio gives no reply.

Except for Antonio, the other members of the royal entourage respond to Prospero's forgiveness. Alonso and Gonzalo react most affirmatively, pledging themselves to the restored Duke of Milan. Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo respond with proper humility; they cannot be expected to participate in the general happiness on a higher level since most of their antics were more of a comic nature. Ariel, the long-standing servant to Prospero, is delighted to be set free at last.

Ariel enters with the master of the boat and boatswain. Although the ship lay in harbor and in perfect shape, the puzzled men cannot explain how any of this has occurred.

In the end, Prospero leaves Caliban to his island and to the natural world that he craves. The conclusion is about redemption, the personal redemption that so many of the participants reach. Caliban's regret during this final scene indicates he, too, has found the way to reconciliation.

Shakespeare's The Tempest as a critique of colonialism

In this post-colonial age the readers tend to give a revisionist reading to any literary text written during the colonial age.In this respect Shakespeare’s The Tempest is a suitable text for the post-colonial study. The play,which reflects a "colonial ethos",can easily fall into the mould of Colonialist literature.Prospero’s attitude to the island, to Caliban and also his usurption of power all can be interpreted from the post-colonial view.The time of the composition of the play also favors the investigation of colonial interests of The Tempest. Shakespeare’s The Tempest premiered two short years after England first colonized Virginia in 1609. The misfortune of one colonial ship, The Sea adventure, separated from its fleet and then wrecked upon the island of Bermuda served as a starting point for Shakespeare to base his shipwreck on in The Tempest.

At first Prospero’s attitude to the island is similar to the attitude of a colonizer who goes to the colonies.It is true that Prospero’s coming to the island is accidental not intentional.He did not come to the island to better his condition.He was made an exile against his will.But as soon as he lands on the island his conduct does not differ much from that of a colonist.He subjescts the two inhabitants of the island and demands unwavering loyalty from them.He uses the island as a colony and very much like a colonist discards it as soon as his use for it is over.

Prospero’s conduct in The Tempest as an exile reflests the colonial mentality.A colonist can never think the colony he goes to as his true home.He alawys remains allegiance to the center,his mother country.Here Prospero also shows little love for the new world and remains a protagonist from the old world.His thoughts and attitudes are so strongly determined by his old-world allegiance that his conduct bears strong resemblances to that of a typical colonist,who explores and exploits an alien country for selfish ends and then abandons it.

That Prospero at heart is a colonist is seen by the fact that he hates the island inspite of his passing twelve years there.The island geve him shelter,provided him sustenance and created opportunity to accomplish his final mission.But in the play he seldom speaks about the island.He rarely mentions it and on the few occasions when he refers to his own abode onthe island he calls it ’a poor cell’, ’a poor court’.It is true that the island is poor and bare compared with Milan,Prospero’s home country.But the other characters in the play do not such a dislike to the island. Gonzalo,Ferdinand,Stephano and Trinculo don’t hide their likeness to the island.Their likeness contrasts Prospero’s disliking of the island.Thus the main difference between responses of Prospero and others is that while Prospero is openly critical of the island ,others do not profess any hatred for it.Prospero is keen on returning to his home Milan ,leaving the bare island behind while others are not driven by any hatred for the island.Milan or Naples does not appeal to them as it does to Prospero.Thus considering his negative attitude to the island which served him as a home for twelve years it can be assumed that at heart he always remains a colonist.

For Prospero there is always a fixed home and a well defined logos.All his thoughts and actions are governed by a deep tie to his old home and logos.They failed him in the past ,but he believes the lost order can be recovered if his restorative plan succeds.He lived on the island as an exile and happy to leave it.It does not feature in his future thought. For him Milan is home and logos.

Like a typical colonist Prospero lives in a bi-polar world,neatly divided into home and physically distant colony.Home stands for the values he cherishes and belongs to ,where the island symbolizes the other with which he has the least common.
Now let us turn to Prospero’s relation with Caliban.The relation between them is obviously the master servant relation.Caliban represents the native population of a country newly discovered by the white explorers and which is then colonized by them.When the white people conquered a country they considered themselves as the masters and the native people as slaves.Of course ,in settleing down the colonizers conferred many benefits upon the native populations.But at the same time they treated the natives as the slaves and servants.From this point of view Caliban acquires great importance as a representative of the dispossessed natives of a newly discovered country.From Caliban’s speech at the beginning of the play we find Prospero’s treatment of Caliban and the island.

I must eat my dinner
This island is mine ,by Sycorax my mother
Which thou tak’st from me.

Caliban is conscious of his claim over the island ,but powerful Prospero rules over him and the island.Prospero’s attitude is the hegemonic attitude of a colonizer.
Thus Prospero emerges as dictorial colonial governor-general,whise presence on the island demands that Caliban,its native inhabitant,complies with his wishes and standards.Caliban’s lust and his primitive religion are regarded as evil,but ironically,Prospero depends on Caliban’s service for servival.Prospero also exacts constant and loyal service from Ariel as a payment for his having rescued him fromm Sycorax’s imprisonment.The original act of kindness and humanity is rapidly exploited by Prospero once he recognizes what a powerful agent Ariel can be.

Thus Prospero’s conduct on the island is governed by his colonial and utilitarian motives which deny any love ,gratitude,recognition of a place culturally and morally alien to him.He has exploited the island and as soon as its function ends ,he decides to leave it.He is like a selfish and ungrateful guest who is most glad when he can disown his poor host.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Interpretation of the Temptation Scene (Act 3, Scene 3) in Othello

The Act 3, Scene 3 in Othello, in which honest Othello is tempted by the ‘serpent’ Iago to the damnation emotion of jealousy, constitutes the central scene of the play. This very long scene is mainly a long study in temptation and damnation. Here Iago, the master villain is in his best and tempts Othello and leads him,bit by bit , to the damnation. Here Iago speaks carefully with Othello and plants the seeds of suspicion and jealousy which eventually bring about the tragic events of the play.

It covers perhaps the widest range of feelings from happiness, innocence, and trust to torment and revenge. It begins with Desdemona’s well meaning assurances to Cassio and ends with Othello’s determination to swiftly kill "the fair devil". It is the most important scene in the play, for it brings out the jealousy, the fatal flaw, of Othello, which will lead to his undoing and the tragic end of the play.

But apart from the theme of the sexual jealousy ,the scene draws our attention to other things such as the pressure group complicity, the chance happenings ,the prevailing notion about women etc which helped Iago have his job done. The scene is also an excellent example of Shakespeare’s use of imagery.

Sometimes the villainy gives us pleasure .It is nowhere more true than in the scene. It is interesting as well as pathetic to see the master villainy of Iago. Iago anticipates and manipulates the other characters so skillfully that they seem to be acting simultaneously of their own free will and as Iago’s puppets. Now let us see how Iago makes Othello a fallen man and what are the things that precipitated the tragedy are.

The scene is divided into seven parts.

Sub-scene 1

The temptation scene opens in the loveliest scene in the entire play: the garden of the Cyprian castle. Desdemona is talking with Cassio and tells him that she is sure that she can influence her husband in Cassio's behalf. Emilia also hopes that Desdemona will be successful. Desdemona is most reassuring and jests to Cassio saying: As Cassio's solicitor, she would "rather die / Than give [his] cause away" (27–28).These last word with Cassio will ultimately prove to be prophetic.

Sub-scene 2

Emilia then notes that Othello and Iago are approaching. When the Moor and Iago enter, Cassio excuses himself hurriedly, saying that he is too ill at ease to speak with the general at this time. And it is at this point that Iago, who is ready to make the most of every incident and occasion, begins to taint Othello's belief in Desdemona's fidelity.

Iago: Ha, I like not that.
Othello: What dost thou say?
Iago: Nothing ,my lord or if – I know not what.
Othello: Was not that Cassio parted from my wife?
Iago: Cassioo,my lord?,sure ,I cannot think it,
That he would sneak away so guilty-like,
Seeing you coming.

Iago represents himself as an honest, but reluctant, witness. His "Ha! I like not that!" (35) is a blatant lie; this fraudulent tsk-tsking hides Iago's true delight; nothing could satisfy his perversity more. But because Othello sees nothing amiss, Iago must make a show of not wanting to speak of it, or of Cassio, while all the time insinuating that Cassio was not just leaving, but that he was "steal[ing] away so guilty-like" (39). Iago's words here are filled with forceful innuendo, and as he pretends to be a man who cannot believe what he sees, he introduces jealousy into Othello's subconscious.By pretending to be reluctant to articulate his suspicions ,Iago encourages Othello to question what he has observed.

Sub-scene 3

Desdemona greets her husband and, without guilt, introduces Cassio's name into their conversation. Here, fate plays a major role in this tragedy; not even Iago wholly arranged this swift, coincidental confrontation of Othello, Desdemona, and Cassio, and certainly the pathos of Desdemona's position here is largely due to no other factor than fate. Desdemona could not purposely have chosen a worse time to mention Cassio's name to her husband. In addition, she innocently refers to Cassio as a "suitor." All these coincidences will fester later in Othello's subconscious as Iago continues to fire the Moor's jealousy. But for now, Othello is without suspicion and seems to be concerned with other matters. Obviously, he will do what his wife asks, but his thoughts are on other things. He does not wish to call Cassio back at the moment, but Desdemona is insistent. Even though she did promise Cassio not to delay speaking to Othello about the matter, such annoying insistence seems unnecessary, and it leads to Othello's becoming mildly vexed with his wife's childish pestering: "Prithee, no more; let him come when he will, / I will deny thee nothing" (74–75).

Desdemona realizes that Othello's answer is curt, and she emphasizes that this is an important matter and not a trifle that she is asking. To this, Othello stresses again that he will deny her nothing, but, in return, he asks for a bit of time so that he can be alone; he will join her shortly.

Sub-scene 4

As Desdemona leaves, Othello chides himself for being irritated by his wife. Lovingly he sighs, "Excellent wretch! Perdition catch my soul, / But I do love thee! and when I love thee not, / Chaos is come again" (90–92). Othello seems far more comfortable expressing his love for Desdemona when she is absent. Perhaps this is because her presence makes him conscious of her claim upon him and of his obligation to honor her requests, or perhaps this is because he is more in love with some idea or image of Desdemona than he is with Desdemona herself. The lines just quoted indicate how much his image of her means to him: if he stops loving her, the entire universe stops making sense for him, and the world is reduced to “Chaos.”

There is an element of prophecy here not only in Desdemona's and Othello's farewells to one another, but also in their lines and in the remainder of the Moor's first speech after Desdemona leaves. In a metaphorical sense, perdition will soon catch Othello's soul, and chaos will soon replace order in his life.

When Iago is alone with Othello, he resumes his attack on his general's soul. Out of seemingly idle curiosity, he asks if Desdemona was correct when she referred to the days when Othello was courting her; did Cassio indeed "know of your love?" (95). Here he prods Othello's memory to recall that Desdemona and Cassio have known each other for some time. Then again playing the reluctant confidant, he begs, as it were, not to be pressed about certain of his dark thoughts. One can see how skillfully Iago makes use of his public reputation for honesty.

Othello is alarmed by Iago's hesitations and "pursed brow".Othello is convinced that Iago is withholding something and asks for his ruminations, the "worst of thoughts / The worst of words" (132–133). What Iago is doing, of course, is making Othello believe that Iago's honor is at stake if he confesses his fears. Thus he lies to Othello again, saying that he is unwilling to speak further because he may be "vicious in [his] guess" (145).

One should never doubt that Iago will speak the "worst of thoughts" (132), although at first he does not answer directly. First, he speaks only the word "jealousy" aloud, fixing it in Othello's imagination; then, sanctimoniously, he warns his general against this evil, this "green ey'd monster" (166), and refers to the "wisdom" of Othello, implying that the general is not one to be trapped by his emotions.Iago urges his master not be jealous,without telling him directly why he should be jealous.Othello insists that he is not given to jealousy ,but we see that his mind is clearly moving in the very direction Iago intended.

Iago knows he has ensnared his victim.Then in order to drve home the advantage he has gained, Iago uses the cultural prejudice against women to further fuel Othello’s suspicion.He reminds Othello that Desdemona is a Venetian lady and "in Venice they [wives] do not let [even God] see the pranks / They dare not show their husbands" (202–203). In other words, the faithless wife is a well-known member of Venetian society.Iago also urges Othello to recall that Desdemona deceived her own father by marrying Othello. To Brabantio, Desdemona pretended to be afraid of Othello's dark looks; she pretended to shake and tremble at Othello's exotic demeanor, yet "she lov'd them [Othello's features] most" (207). The implication is clear; Iago does not have to state it: If Desdemona deceived her own flesh and blood, she might just as naturally deceive her husband.The logic of these lines is forceful, and Iago is astute enough to pause now and then, begging his superior's forgiveness, and, at the same time, attributing his own frankness to his devotion and regard for Othello. When we hear the Moor say, "I am bound to thee for ever" (213), we feel that indeed he has been irrevocably trapped. Apart from the cultural prejudice against women,Iago also subtly instills the inferiority complex into Othello’s mind for his low racial identity.

Sub-scene 5

Now we hear Othello in a soliloquy (258–277), and the range of the imagery he uses underscores the appalling change in his character.He suffers from the infriority complex for his identity as well as for his age. Othello's mind and soul are torn with irrational images of Desdemona's infidelity and of his own unworthiness. Othello is deeply insecure about his personal qualities and his marriage, as insecurity becomes a theme that weakens his resolve not to doubt Desdemona. Othello uses his black skin as a symbol for how poorly spoken and unattractive he thinks he is. All of his claims are very much beside the point; his words are actually more complex and beautiful than those spoken by any other character in the play. Othello doubts that Desdemona could love him, because of his misconception of himself as being uncouth, poorly spoken, and old; and because he begins to believe that Desdemona cannot love him, he starts to believe her guilty of infidelity. The leap is great, but it is all a product of Othello's own insecurities and his incorrect conception of himself, another theme of the play. How Othello sees himself directly influences how he views Desdemona's love, though there should be a disconnection between these two things.

Othello begins to use the black/ white imagery found throughout the play, to express his grief and rage at Desdemona's alleged treachery. "My name, that was as fresh as Dian's visage, is now begrimed and black as mine own face," Othello says. Thus we see how much Iago is successful in instilling the self-hatred into Othello’s mind.
When Desdemona returns to her husband, her beauty immediately softens his heart, but he is still out of sorts. Desdemona notices that he is not himself and innocently asks what is wrong. He complains of a pain in his head, so she strokes his brow with her handkerchief. Othello, however, cannot relax and pushes her hand away, causing the fateful handkerchief to drop. Here Othello’s rejection of Desdemona’s offer of her handkerchief is an emphatic rejection of Desdemona herself.

Sub-scene 6

In the fifth episode, Iago takes the handkerchief from Emilia, who seems to be completely dominated by her husband. Iago knows that he can use the handkerchief as proof against Desdemona and Cassio. In fact, he has wooed his wife "a hundred times" to steal it from her mistress, for he can "plant" the handkerchief on Cassio as proof of the affair. It is to be noted that the innocent Emilia neither knows nor cares why Iago has an interest in the handkerchief.

After Emilia leaves, he reveals the next step in his plan: he will go to Cassio's lodgings, leave the handkerchief there, and let Cassio find it. Cassio will keep it and then Othello will see it in the ex-lieutenant's possession. Othello will then conclude that Desdemona either gave the handkerchief to Cassio as a token of their love or left it at Cassio's lodgings after a rendezvous.

Sub-scene 7

The third sub-scene brings Iago to Othello, and he continues to make his wretched insinuations. He reminds the general how Cassio has slipped away from Desdemona as they approached; he also reminds Othello how Cassio has appeared to play a part in Othello’s wooing of Desdemona, giving the two of them time together. Othello is forced to listen to this evil man, for he has a reputation for he is "full of love and honesty." After some general remarks on "good name", "jealousy", and the sophistication of Venetian women, Iago refers to Desdemona’s deception of her own father, implying she is also capable of deceiving a husband. Iago succeeds in raising Othello’s jealousy, which Iago appropriately calls "the green-eyed monster." Othello thanks the wretched man and says, "I am bound to thee forever."

In the fourth part of the scene, Othello is at first alone, delivering a soliloquy. He states his trust in the "exceeding honesty" of Iago and his appreciation for his revelations. He then discusses his need for proof about his wife; he does not want to believe her infidelity is true, but he will accept it if there is proof. Thirdly, he chastises himself for his black skin, his lack of social knowledge, and his advanced years; he feels it is these things that have turned his wife against him. This is a total contrast to the proud and self-confident general that has been seen throughout the play.

In the last and sixth sub-scene, a totally distraught Othello returns; it is obvious that he has succumbed to Iago’s machinations and is a jealous, "fallen" man. All he needs now is proof; Iago is eager to oblige. He wickedly and basely describes Cassio’s dream of Desdemona, which is totally invented by Iago. But Othello accepts it as the proof he needs and cries, "O monstrous! monstrous.!" Like a raging maniac, he declares he will destroy his wife. Iago is still worried that Othello may relent, so he manufactures one more important lie. He tells of Cassio using Desdemona’s handkerchief, Othello’s first gift to his wife, to wipe his beard. Othello is totally enraged.

Iago urges Othello to be patient, arguing that he may change his mind, and there follows the well-known Pontic Sea (i.e., the Black Sea) simile, in which Othello compares his "bloody thoughts" (447) to the sea's compulsive current, one which never ebbs but keeps on its course until it reaches its destination, the junction of the Propontic and the Hellespont (453–460). In this simile, Othello stresses his high status (as we might expect a tragic hero to do), identifying himself with large and mighty elements of nature. Equally important, this simile makes clear the absoluteness in Othello's character; once he has decided which course to take, he cannot turn back, and this decision does much to make plausible the almost incredible actions that follow.

Othello falls to his knees and promises to have revenge on evil. He uses such words as heaven, reverence, and sacred, and it is as though he sees himself as a rightful scourge of evil, as executing public justice and not merely doing personal revenge. He ends the scene by stating his intention to kill Desdemona; Iago promises to take care of Cassio. For his efforts, Iago is promoted to the coveted position of lieutenant.

By the end of Act III, Scene 3, Iago has secured a shaky dominance over Othello. He is within reach of his original objective of driving Othello to despair, but his victory is not secure, as Othello may yet think to blame Iago again for his suffering and turn against him. While Cassio and Desdemona live, Iago has gained only a little time in which to secure his position.

The end of Act III, scene iii, is the climax of Othello. Convinced of his wife’s corruption, Othello makes a sacred oath never to change his mind about her or to soften his feelings toward her until he enacts a violent revenge. At this point, Othello is fixed in his course, and the disastrous ending of the play is unavoidable. Othello engages Iago in a perverse marriage ceremony, in which each kneels and solemnly pledges to the other to take vengeance on Desdemona and Cassio. Just as the play replaces the security of peace with the anxiety of domestic strife, Othello replaces the security of his marriage with the hateful paranoia of an alliance with Iago. Iago’s final words in this scene chillingly mock the language of love and marriage: “I am your own forever” (III.iii.482).