Blog 4: ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’
I love Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet, and can appreciate certain scenes from Hamlet. I think Shakespeare deserves a place in the canon because he was an excellent playwright, and he knew how to captivate an audience with his words. His plays are timeless, and as we all know, have been adapted into modern movies, and continue to be performed. His plays can be performed in so many different ways, depending on the interpretation of the actors and director. Shakespeare’s plays are captivating because he creates these unique characters, whose lives we can relate to in some way; he makes them human, with flaws and virtues that reflect the human nature.
(I’ve heard that Shakespeare copied/borrowed some of the material for his plays from other playwrights, but I can’t remember if that’s actually true. Can anyone enlighten me on this matter please?)
In Macbeth and Hamlet, Shakespeare is able to create sympathy, or at least some empathy for his tragic heroes. While I know a lot of my fellow English classmates in high school were glad when Hamlet died, most of us could agree that the poor character did go through a lot, and didn’t really deserve to die. Yes, he was responsible for Polonius’ death (though Hamlet had thought Polonius was Claudius), and by extension, Ophelia’s. But he also lost his father, had to watch his mother marry his uncle shortly after, was accused of pretending to grieve for his father and told to basically move on from this tragedy. And then, on top of all that, he encountered his father’s ghost and discovered that his uncle had murdered his beloved father. Death of a loved one is never easy, and Hamlet idolized his father, so much so that he was willing to do whatever it took to avenge his murder – which was at the request of the ghost.
For those of us who love our parents dearly and would do anything for them, Hamlet’s decision to avenge his father does, on some level, seem justified. It could be argued that the desire to get even with people who have hurt us or our loved ones – though we all know it isn’t morally right – is a part of basic, primal human nature. When someone wrongs us, I think most of us want to get even, though we probably don’t act upon that desire. Hamlet does though, and so he is not a cold-blooded murderer, but a distraught son who lost his beloved father and hero. Hamlet is, perhaps in a way, the manifestation of Freud’s id – that basic, primal part of our unconsciousness, where our desires and vices lie. Hamlet also represents the rebellion of teenagers against their parents, who truly don’t understand them – another aspect of his character which many can definitely relate to.
Shakespeare creates these deep characters, and though some of his main characters might not be the most likeable, they are realistic, and they reflect humanity at its worst and its best. For these reasons, I believe he deserves a place in the canon.
Some of my favourite Shakespearean quotes come from Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet.
I’m a romantic, so Romeo and Juliet’s dialogue appeals to me. My favourite quote from the play is Juliet’s soliloquy in the second act, when she’s on her balcony and reflecting on her meeting with Romeo and her discovery that he’s a member of the Montague family, who are the enemy of her family, the Capulets.
‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
What’s Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot,
Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
And for that name which is no part of thee
Take all myself (2.2.40-51).
Juliet here is very sensible, and clearly more intelligent and mature than her parents. Her first few lines could be applied to prejudice/bias against any group, because things like ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, and religion, for example, are elements of a person, but they don’t define them – just like Romeo’s surname and family does not define him. We really are all equal as far as we are all born with equal rights to respect, dignity, acceptance, and compassion from other people.
So, while Juliet and Romeo are hormonal teenagers (Juliet is coming up to her 14th birthday) and act very impulsively, there is something beautiful and pure about their love for each other, and what their love represents on a broader level. And yes, I’m aware that in their time period, they were considered to be of marriageable age, but that still doesn’t mean they were any less reckless in rushing into a marriage after having only known each other for a few hours. But I digress :)
Twelfth Night is my favourite Shakespearean play because of its humour, love triangles, and the wonderfully delightful characters within the play.
These quotes are my favourite because of the dramatic irony, the humour, and the scenes in which we all can relate to one way or another, such as being in Viola’s position and loving someone and having them be completely oblivious and blind to your affections and feelings.
Your lord does know my mind; I cannot love him:
Yet I suppose him virtuous, know him noble,
Of great estate, of fresh and stainless youth;
In voices well divulged, free, learn’d and valiant;
And in dimension and the shape of nature
A gracious person: but yet I cannot love him;
He might have took his answer long ago (1.5.272-278).
Those of us who’ve ever been pestered by another person, who just can’t seem to understand that we can’t return their feelings, can completely relate to Olivia’s frustration. Shakespeare does a wonderful job of showing us both sides of Olivia and Orsino’s feelings and how they both are suffering as a result of this.
I left no ring with her: what means this lady?
Fortune forbid my outside have not charm’d her!
She made good view of me; indeed, so much,
That sure methought her eyes had lost her tongue,
For she did speak in starts distractedly.
She loves me, sure; the cunning of her passion
Invites me in this churlish messenger.
None of my lord’s ring! why, he sent her none.
I am the man: if it be so, as ’tis,
Poor lady, she were better love a dream.
Disguise, I see, thou art a wickedness,
Wherein the pregnant enemy does much.
How easy is it for the proper-false
In women’s waxen hearts to set their forms!
Alas, our frailty is the cause, not we!
For such as we are made of, such we be.
How will this fadge? my master loves her dearly;
And I, poor monster, fond as much on him;
And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me.
What will become of this? As I am man,
My state is desperate for my master’s love;
As I am woman,–now alas the day!–
What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe!
O time! thou must untangle this, not I;
It is too hard a knot for me to untie! (2.2.16-42).
This basically summarizes the major love triangle of Twelfth Night: Viola (pretending to be a man named Cesario) is in love with Orsino; Orsino is in love with Olivia; and Olivia is in love with Cesario (who’s really Viola), but Olivia doesn’t know that Cesario is actually a woman – until the end of the play. This only adds to the confusion and mayhem throughout the play, which is made even more funny due to the dramatic irony present.
Thou dost speak masterly:
My life upon’t, young though thou art, thine eye
Hath stay’d upon some favour that it loves:
Hath it not, boy?
A little, by your favour.
What kind of woman is’t?
Of your complexion.
She is not worth thee, then. What years, i’ faith?
About your years, my lord.
Too old by heaven: let still the woman take
An elder than herself: so wears she to him,
So sways she level in her husband’s heart:
For, boy, however we do praise ourselves,
Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,
Than women’s are (2.4.21-36).
Here we see some more of the dramatic irony occurring – Viola is in love with her master, is trying to help him win the women he loves, and all the while Orsino believes she’s a man and in love with some other woman. And Orsino is frustratingly unaware of Viola’s feelings and her attempts at hinting of her love for him – which is something that everyone, who’s ever been the victim of unrequited love, can relate to.
Your master quits you; and for your service done him,
So much against the mettle of your sex,
So far beneath your soft and tender breeding,
And since you call’d me master for so long,
Here is my hand: you shall from this time be
Your master’s mistress (5.1.328-333).
And I love this quote because it’s the fulfillment of the happy ending that comedy promises us – all the chaos is resolved, and everyone is happy and with the people they love.
I found two pictures, and thought you all might enjoy them. The first is the Hamlet Facebook News Feed Edition (http://www.angelfire.com/art2/antwerplettuce/hamlet.html). You can click on the picture, and then it’ll open up in another window, and you can make it bigger so that it’s easier to read the text.
The one below is Romeo and Juliet summarized visually and quite accurately (http://aqua-taco.deviantart.com/art/Romeo-and-Juliet-53069911).