Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark’d love,
And the continuance of their parents’ rage,
Which, but their children’s end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours’ traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.
Why lovest thou that which thou receivest not gladly,
Or else receivest with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,
Resembling sire and child and happy mother
Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee: ‘thou single wilt prove none.’
from The Works of William Shakespeare. Vol. 16.
Of Sir Toby himself — that most whimsical, madcap, frolicsome old toper, so full of antics and fond of sprees, with a plentiful stock of wit and an equal lack of money to keep it in motion — it is enough to say, with one of the best of Shakespearean critics, that “he certainly comes out of the same associations where the Poet saw Falstaff hold his revels”; and that though “not Sir John, nor a fainter sketch of him, yet he has an odd sort of a family likeness to him.”
Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the aspiring, lackadaisical, self-satisfied echo and sequel of Sir Toby, fitly serves the double purpose of butt and foil to the latter, at once drawing him out and setting him off. Ludicrously proud of the most petty childish irregularities, which, however, his natural fatuity keeps him from acting, and barely suffers him to affect, on this point he reminds us of that impressive imbecility, Abraham Slender; yet not in such sort as to encroach at all upon Slender’s province. There can scarce be found a richer piece of diversion than Sir Toby’s practice in dandling him out of his money, and paying him off with the odd hope of gaining Olivia’s hand. And the funniest of it is, that while Sir Toby thoroughly understands him, he has not himself the slightest suspicion what he is, being as confident of his own wit as others are of his want of it.
from Shakespeare Online
Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid;
Fly away, fly away breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O, prepare it!
My part of death, no one so true
Did share it.
Not a flower, not a flower sweet
On my black coffin let there be strown;
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown:
A thousand thousand sighs to save,
Lay me, O, where
Sad true lover never find my grave,
To weep there!
submitted by forgottenway
O me, what eyes hath Love put in my head,
Which have no correspondence with true sight!
Or, if they have, where is my judgment fled,
That censures falsely what they see aright?
If that be fair whereon my false eyes dote,
What means the world to say it is not so?
If it be not, then love doth well denote
Love’s eye is not so true as all men’s ‘No.’
How can it? O, how can Love’s eye be true,
That is so vex’d with watching and with tears?
No marvel then, though I mistake my view;
The sun itself sees not till heaven clears.
O cunning Love! with tears thou keep’st me blind,
Lest eyes well-seeing thy foul faults should find.
from Elizabethan Drama by Janet Spens, for Shakespeare Online
Of the three types of plays recognized in the Shakespeare First Folio — Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies — the last has been the most discussed annd is clearest in outline.
1. Tragedy must end in some tremendous catastrophe involving in Elizabethan practice the death of the principal character.
2. The catastrophe must not be the result of mere accident, but must be brought about by some essential trait in the character of the hero acting either directly or through its effect on other persons.
3. The hero must nevertheless have in him something which outweighs his defects and interests us in him so that we care for his fate more than for anything else in the play. The problem then is, why should a picture of the misfortunes of some one in whom we are thus interested afford us any satisfaction? No final answer has yet been found. Aristotle said that the spectacle by rousing in us pity and fear purges us of these emotions, and this remains the best explanation. Just as a great calamity sweeps from our minds the petty irritations of our common life, so the flood of aesthetic emotion lifts us above them.
Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint: now, ‘tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
by Henrietta Palmer for Shakespeare Online
At first it is the ingenuousness, the almost infantine simplicity, of Juliet’s character, which endears her to our hearts. Her extreme youth, her rare beauty, which has been perfected in jealous seclusion; her warm affections, repulsed by her austere parents, running to waste on her old nurse, — the only familiar object about which they may twine their eager tendrils; and finally, her love for Romeo, born of a glance, a sigh, a touch — yet, from the moment of its birth, a Titan which shakes to the centre her tender soul: all these constitute a picture, of which the interest and romance are almost too intense.
Yet it is not thus — in the first, happy delirium of her love — that Juliet engages our profoundest sympathy, our liveliest admiration. Not until Fate seems to have executed its most pitiless freaks upon her solitary heart; not until, her husband banished, she loses her sole friend and confidante, by the discovery of her time-serving baseness — the only mother, in familiar affection, she has ever known — and she, for the first time in her young life, asserts her own individuality, invincible through the force of her love, does she command that absorbing interest which would never have been awakened by mere self-abandonment to passion.
To use the words of Hazlitt, Juliet is, indeed, “a pure effusion of Nature” — a woman whose emotions and manifestations are of primeval innocence and vigor — in whom Love is the outward expression of an instinct as beautiful and holy as it is vehement — who is “Love itself — the passion which is her state of being, and out of which she has no existence.” In nothing has Shakespeare proved his wondrous skill more clearly than in this creation of a human being in whom sense asserts itself paramount over reason — indeed, whose only manifestations of intellect are the inspirations of exalted sentiment, a sensuously excited eloquence; and yet who is endowed with such exquisite purity, as distinguished from the false teachings of a conventional modesty, that Eve herself is not more sacred from an imputation of grossness.
Love is too young to know what conscience is;
Yet who knows not conscience is born of love?
Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss,
Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove:
For, thou betraying me, I do betray
My nobler part to my gross body’s treason;
My soul doth tell my body that he may
Triumph in love; flesh stays no father reason;
But, rising at thy name, doth point out thee
As his triumphant prize. Proud of this pride,
He is contented thy poor drudge to be,
To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.
No want of conscience hold it that I call
Her ‘love’ for whose dear love I rise and fall.
…remember a certain speech in Henry V where he endorsed sexual assault, patricide and infanticide? Yeah, Bill writes like that sometimes.
I really feel, though, that with the whole play he’s either seriously condemning women to the fate of Katharina, or mocking anyone who would think she needs to be that way. Judging from the fates and actions of many of his other female characters, I cannot be certain that he really doesn’t believe this stuff, at least on some level, to really be true. And that bothers me.
Fie, fie! unknit that threatening unkind brow,
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes,
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor:
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads,
Confounds thy fame as whirlwinds shake fair buds,
And in no sense is meet or amiable.
A woman moved is like a fountain troubled,
Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty;
And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty
Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it.
Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper,
Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee,
And for thy maintenance commits his body
To painful labour both by sea and land,
To watch the night in storms, the day in cold,
Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe;
And craves no other tribute at thy hands
But love, fair looks and true obedience;
Too little payment for so great a debt.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince
Even such a woman oweth to her husband;
And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour,
And not obedient to his honest will,
What is she but a foul contending rebel
And graceless traitor to her loving lord?
I am ashamed that women are so simple
To offer war where they should kneel for peace;
Or seek for rule, supremacy and sway,
When they are bound to serve, love and obey.
Why are our bodies soft and weak and smooth,
Unapt to toil and trouble in the world,
But that our soft conditions and our hearts
Should well agree with our external parts?
Come, come, you froward and unable worms!
My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more,
To bandy word for word and frown for frown;
But now I see our lances are but straws,
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.
Then vail your stomachs, for it is no boot,
And place your hands below your husband’s foot:
In token of which duty, if he please,
My hand is ready; may it do him ease.
I hate this speech more than words can express.
Most scholars suggest that Shakespeare’s tongue is in his proverbial cheek when he writes this, but it’s really hard for me to see it that way.
Do any of you lovely followers have any thoughts on the genderist/sexist connotations of this speech?
I’m falling behind a bit, Groundlings, and I don’t want to see this blog fall to the wayside just because I can’t always keep up.
I know you wonderful Shakespeare fans have some awesome material and thoughts of your own to share, so please don’t hold back! Submit anything you have that is Shakespeare related, be it video, excerpts, references, term papers, drawings, or just your own thoughts on characters and plot points! This blog is meant to be interactive, and more anything, I want to see all of you lovely fans participate! With the exception of nudity and intentionally hurtful material (i.e. racism, sexism, etc,), anything is welcome, so please start submitting…NOW!
Also, if you’d like to take an even MORE active role in sharing on this blog, please contact me about becoming a member/moderator, so you can submit straight from the bloghead, and without my permission! Please send an ask post, a submission, or a direct email to me, nevermindthecamera, with your interest and your email address so I can invite you to the blog!
Please don’t let the Shakespeare light go out, Groundlings! Get involved! I NEED YOUR HELP! Please don’t let me (and the Bard!) down! Participate today! RIGHT NOW!
I hope to hear from many of you very soon.