Lecture 6: Shakespeare – Part III

– Shakespeare- Part III
– Shakespeare’s major tragedies are “Hamlet”, “Othello”, “King Lear”, and “Macbeth”.
– They are tragedies of revenge, jealousy, family, and ambition.
– They touch upon subjects as modern thought, racism, ???
– They have in common the fact that man tries to achieve perfection and harmony.
– And thus he constantly tries to go beyond the limits on human being.
– Since mankind itself is not perfect, he must fail in these attempts.
– At the end of “Macbeth”, who killed the King to be King, he realized all his murders have been useless.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,…
Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

– Many tragedies end in pessimism and despair, where life loses its meaning.
– But usually there is some hope for the future—a new king in “Hamlet” and “Macbeth”.
– Of all the tragedies, “King Lear” is the most pessimistic.
– King Lear gives his land and power to two of his daughters, Goneril and Regan.
– His daughter, Cordelian, who loves him truly was disowned because she refuses to lie.
– At the end, his misunderstood daughter lies dead in his arms as he laments:
No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!

– “Timon of Athens” is a tragedy that shows Shakespeare’s hatred for mankind.
– In “Othello”, harmony is lost, as Othello says “Chaos is come again”.
– “Othello” is a play about racism.
– Iago hates Othello wholeheartedly because of his origin/colour and wants to stop him.
– His last plays hope would be restored at the end.
– This hope of a better future takes the form of the younger generation.

Shakespeare Comedies:

– In the comedies, the world is threatened and shaken but a comedy always ends happily.
– The themes/issues of a comedy are as serious as those of some tragedies.
– Major subjects are: mistaken identity, the role of women, jealously, race etc.
– “The Merchant of Venice” is a comedy about race, racism, and deceit
To bait fish withal: if it will feed nothing else,?it will feed my revenge. He hath disgraced me, and?hindered me half a million; laughed at my losses,?mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my?bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine?enemies; and what’s his reason? I am a Jew. Hath?not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,?dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with?the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject?to the same diseases, healed by the same means,?warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as?a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed??if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison?us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not?revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will?resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,?what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian?wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by?Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you?teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I?will better the instruction.

– There is this concern with shared humanity in Shakespeare’s works.
– Shakespeare’s characters as the main question of the time “What is a man?”.
– In “The Merchant of Venice” the answer is very complex.
– Antonio borrows many from the Jewish money-lender Shylock to help his friend Bassanio marry Portia.
– Shylock agrees and if Antonio does not pay back, he will cut a “pound of flesh”.
– When Antonio can’t pay, Shylock wants his ‘pound of flesh’.
– However, Portia, who disguises as a male lawyer, tricks everyone and Shylock.
– She said Shylock cannot have the flesh if ‘one drop of blood is lost’.
– The play questions issues of race (anti-Semitism) and roles of women.
– The play seems to end happily but only for the white Christians.
– Shylock loses his daughter, much of his money, and his religion.
– Therefore, “The Merchant of Venice” is considered a serious comedy.
– Shakespeare’s comedies still appeal to wide audiences even today.
– Mistaken identity, very funny jokes, memorable characters, and comic action.
– Sometimes we cannot see the comic action on the page, but it come to life wonderfully on the stage.
– That’s because Shakespeare composes his plays for performance.