Shakespeare Final Paper
Title: Shakespeare Final Paper
Natural and Artificial Fools
The fool is a character that recurs in Shakespeare’s various plays. Fools are jesters that are responsible for entertaining the members of the king’s court. Fools can be categorized as: natural fools and artificial fools.
Natural fools are the ones that are simple and by birth, foolish. Such people can be termed as disabled mentally due to different reasons like malnutrition, inadequate health care, etc. Although fools are simple, yet some of them are witty and clever enough to utilize their skills and be inducted for the role of the king’s jester. They start to make a living through their simplicity by entertaining people in different ways.
Such fools have no issues by birth. They deliberately act like something is wrong with them, to entertain the audience of the king’s court.
Fool in King Lear
The role of the fool in King Lear has been highlighted often throughout the play. The fool in the play is destined to be punished, however, King Lear has a special relationship with the fool. The fool is like King Lear’s friend and even ridicules him many times without being punished. The fool is very straightforward about his remarks. Normally King Lear does not allow anyone to behave like this but the fool gets away with his behavior.
Why, to keep one's eyes of either side's nose, that what aman cannot smell out, 'a may spy into.
(King Lear I,5,898)
The dialogue above represents the fool’s comic nature in King Lear. He tries to explain that the reason behind having two eyes on either side of the nose is to spy. That which cannot be smelt can be spied that is why there are eyes on both sides of the nose. It is a witty remark that shows the high level of intellect of the fool involved in giving an explanation regarding the human anatomy.
Ovid was a Roman poet who wrote a Latin poem called Metamorphoses. The poem narrative in nature. The poem is divided into multiple books. The 15 books are a combination of legends and stories related to mythology with a recurring theme of metamorphoses which means transformation. The books feature transformation in various forms whether big or little.
Ovid and Shakespeare
Ovid was considered the greatest poet of his time while Shakespeare admired Ovid’s work. His inspiration can be seen in Shakespeare’s work as his poem, metamorphoses is used in Shakespeare’s plays multiple times through different characters and scenes. The example of transformation can be seen in multiple ways in Taming of the Shrew. Two of these are described below.
Ovid’s Metamorphoses in Taming of the Shrew
Taming of the Shrew displays a link to the Ovid’s metamorphoses. The moment when Cambio gives Bianca a Latin lesson, lines from metamorphoses can also be seen.
While you, sweet dear, prove mistress of my heart!
(Taming of the Shrew IV,2,1835)
The above example is of direct reference to Ovid’s work as the lines quoted are also seen in the poem, Metamorphoses.
Another example of transformation can be seen in Katherine. Katherine is tamed by her husband which explains the name of the play. Slowly and carefully, Katherine’s aggressiveness eventualy subsides when her husband uses different means to slowly change her personality into a more sophisticated one. Such personality change is also displayed at the end of the play when Katherine is the only one to obey what her husband says despite her odd behavior. This leaves the play on a surprising note. This is an example of an indirect reference to Metamorphoses where it is depicted through the transformation of the personality of Katherine. She changes from aggressive to a more humble individual.
The beautiful use of transformation clearly explains the inspiration he holds for Ovid and his work. Stated above is just a small example of how Shakespeare introduces the work of other peers into his own
“You” (and “your”) “thou” (and “thy”)
“You”, “your”, “thou” and “thy” are Shakespeare’s pronouns that have been used in his plays. However, “thou”/”thy” are part of the older English and not used anymore.
“You” and “thou” are both pronouns that are used for second person reference. In modern English, only “you” is used but back in the old days, both were used but served a different purpose. “You” was used when someone would address someone of a higher stature or rank. It was used as a symbol of respect and politeness. As an example, a student talking to a teacher, or a slave talking to his maser would address him as “you”. On the other hand, “thou” was used when talking to someone of a lower stature or rank e.g a master to a slave or a teacher to students. Also, the word “thou” would be used when talking to someone intimate or close.
The words “your” and “thy” also serve a similar purpose as explained above. “Your” was used for someone out of respect e.g an inferior talking to a superior while “thy” was used when referencing to someone inferior or intimately close. In modern English, there is no usage of the word thy and only “your” is used.
Always obedient to your grace's will,I come to know your pleasure.
(Measure for Measure I,1,31-32)
There is a kind of character in thy life,That to the observer doth thy history
(Measure for Measure I,1,34-35)
The above examples show the difference when using Shakespeare’s pronouns. When Angelo is talking to Duke Vincentio, he is conversing with someone of higher stature and rank that is why it can be seen that the pronoun “your” is used. On the contrary, Duke Vincento is conversing with Angelo as well but as Angelo is of lower status and rank, Duke Vincento uses the pronoun “thy”.
Quarto and Folio
Shakespeare used to write his plays for performances in theaters, rather than publishing. If the written material had been published, it could be easily copied by other people and the exclusivity of it would be gone. Many instances of people copying the script from the stage performance and then selling it occurred which led to many errors in the original work of Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s work was published in two kinds of format which are known as quarto and folio. The quarto page is 9.5 inches wide and 12 inches high while the folio page was considerably larger with the width and height measuring 12 and 19 inches respectively. The papers on which the text was printed would be folded so as to create 4 pages which would be joined together. The resultant would be sort of a book with the first paper being the first 2 and last 2 pages and so on.
Most of the scripts with the error were printed in the quarto format. As described above, such quarto format came into the light when people would copy the script and dialogues through actual stage performance which could be sold to other publishers to use. The followers of Shakespeare and his admirers also compiled his plays in a much more authentic form and printed in a 900-page folio format.
The play ‘Cymbeline’ is published in the form of a folio. Cymbeline’s first folio came into existence in the year 1623. As the play is in the form a folio, it means that it is one of the original scripts of Shakespeare.
The term Shakespearean is perceived from different aspects where each aspect is linked to Shakespeare in some way. A Shakespearean could be something that follows how a work resembles that of Shakespeare in terms of its characteristics or Shakespearean may point to the fact that the work is of really high quality as Shakespeare’s work is considered among the highest literary works. The term Shakespearean can also be used to describe those works where the theme and storyline resemble Shakespeare’s plays.
Comparing Shakespeare’s works, it is quite evident that there is always an element of tragedy involved. Shakespeare is famous for his tragic plays and his tragic style differs from others’. Shakespeare plays presents a tragic outlook where the main character might face a terrible loss or he might become scarred emotionally or physically for the rest of their life. Tragedy can be the main part of the play or it can even be a supportive one where the play is based on some topic with just elements of tragedy added. The plays containing elements of tragedy have certain similarities and characteristics. Some of these are:
A tragic hero
The lead character of the play that faces some sort of tragedy. The tragedy could be of any kind like losing someone special, facing pain, etc. The hero can either be a male or a female and the play follows the path and struggle of the hero from calamity till their demise. The hero in the plays is almost always an important personality with high stature around which the play revolves.
Fight Between Good or Bad
This is also another major component of Shakespeare’s tragic plays. There is a battle between good and evil. The battle can be a part of the play or it may revolve around the main character. The evil mostly prevails while the good is suppressed. Evil in the plays is depicted as something that is inevitable and bound to happen at any cost. The play may display the battle between good and evil through a direct conflict by having two characters, one on each side of good and evil, or through an internal conflict that might be arising in the Hero’s mind.
A tragice end means the end of the play with both sides i.e good, which is the hero and bad, which is the villain, being destroyed. There may be an unnecessary life lost at the end especially when the people on the positive side are involved.
An end that contains the demise of both good and evil is called a tragic waste. Shakespeare's tragic plays mostly conclude with the tragic waste of goodness i.e the good prevails but at the cost of the death of the most intellectual, noble and virtuous person of the play.
Outer conflict highlights the trouble that might be present in the hero’s life which may be due to the enemies or just due to the plot of the play. Every hero is confronted with an external conflict which also leads to an internal conflict. The villain or the negative characters may put seeds of doubt in the mind of the hero. From here, the internal conflict starts for the hero and the struggle against it.
Internal struggle is the trouble that the hero is facing from within himself. This could be a reason for the fatal flaw that might be present in his life. Shakespeare’s plays show the battle of the hero with the internal conflicts which may be taking place in the mind, something that troubles in decision making which in the end results in the downfall of the hero. Internal conflicts can be a part of an external conflict which gives mental anxiety to the hero thereby producing a lack of confidence.
Shakespeare incorporates supernatural elements as well in his play which may include magic, witchcraft, and others. Such elements create a different atmosphere that represents imagination, awe, and fear. These elements can be the starting point of conflicts within the hero.
Lack of Justice
At the end of tragic plays, Shakespeare mostly ends on an injustice note where good guys are not provided with what they deserve. Justice is when the good prevails and evil falls but such is not the case in Shakespeare’s plays and the end is an injustice.
The plays contain a certain element of comic behavior through different characters that are intended to lighten the mood of the audience. Usually, tragic plays may result in a depressed finale. That is why to please the crowd during the play certain elements of comic relief are added. Such are the unique components of Shakespeare’s plays that set it apart.
Each of the four plays studied contains some elements of tragedy in different forms. King Lear is the most prominent example as it is termed as Shakespeare’s tragedy play.
The tragedy is depicted clearly in the play King Lear at various steps. Lear disowns his most beloved daughter. Lear’s other two daughters betray him. In the end, Lear and his beloved daughter Cordelia die in the end. Cordelia is executed and Lear dies in the grief of his daughter’s death. The play ends with Edgar winning but there is an air of sadness regarding the loss of the other main characters. The role of the fool in the play is for comic purposes.
These dreadful summoners grace. I am a man
More sinn'd against than sinning.
(King Lear III,2,1736-1737)
The above quote is uttered by Lear when he has been abandoned by his daughter, to whom he had entrusted his Kingdom with. These words come when Lear is in a field and the storm comes. He says to God to punish the ones that have committed sins and crimes. He knows that he himself has sinned as well but greater sins have been done to him as well.
Taming of the shrew
Taming of the shrew also contains shades of tragedy as the character “Lucentio” who falls in love with “Bianca” is unable to get to her immediately as she already has two suitors. It shows Lucentio’s struggle to get to Bianca by disguising himself as her Latin tutor. Also at the ending of the play when there is competition regarding whose wife will obey their husband, Bianca refuses to obey Lucentio. Although Taming of the Shrew is not a tragic play yet the moments described above depict some forms of sadness and despair.
Then God be blessed, it is the blessed sun,But sun it is not when you say it is not,And the moon changes even as your mind.What you will have it named, even that it is,And so it shall be still for Katherine. (Taming of the Shrew IV,6,19–23)
The above exchange of dialog takes place when Katherine is forced to obey what her husband tells her. She goes against her will and starts to call the sun as the moon.
Measure for Measure
This play revolves around the character Claudio that has been captured by Lord Angelo for impregnating his girlfriend before marriage. Claudio’s sister tries to help her brother but she is put to the test when she has to make a difficult decision. Initially, there is a lack of justice for Claudio. These elements form the play show how beautifully Shakespeare depicts forms of tragedy in his plays
Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall. (Measure for measure II, 1, 41-42)
The above quote depicts a tragic reality that has been shown in the Shakespeare play measure for measure. The line holds the meaning that many people In the world commit sins while others are there as well that are virtuous and always on the right path. But sadly many people rise and get what they want by committing sins yet many people fall by staying on the path of virtue.
Cymbeline is the King and his daughter Imogen goes against the will of her father to marry someone she likes. Cymbeline’s wife is villainous and her son Cloten also plans to take revenge from Imogen because she refused to marry him. While on the other hand Imogen’s lover Posthumus is also tricked into believing that Imogen is betraying him as all women are the same. Posthumus is falsely aggravated and thus he vows to take revenge on Imogen by getting her
Is there no way for men to be, but womenMust be half-workers?"
(Cymbeline 2, 4, 153-54)
The above quote displays Posthumus’ anger when he finds out that his lover is unfaithful. He wonders that could there be any life without women where there would be no need for them. In his anger, he thinks that there should be no need for women at all.
Ryan, Kiernan, ed. King Lear, William Shakespeare. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1993.
Oliver, Harold James, ed. The taming of the shrew. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.
Shakespeare, William, and Grace Ioppolo. Measure For Measure: The Folio of 1623. Routledge, 2017.
Shakespeare, William. Cymbeline: Third Series. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017.
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