Category Archives: Keywords

On Shakespeare’s own translations

Shakespeare offers us all manners of translation in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, from translating Bottom’s head into an ass, to Helena wishing to be translated into her best friend Hermia. But even more interestingly, Shakespeare himself is actively involved in the act of translation, and perhaps the modes of translation and the difficulties in doing so are reflective of Shakespeare’s hand and his own difficulties at work.

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The Lonely Female and Her Nonexistent Agency

There is a glaring lack of women with agency (or women at all for that matter) in The Tempest. The romance as a whole is oddly reminiscent of something out of Disney – there’s certainly no doubt Disney has adopted this story line in some aspect of a Princess film – but even more so than the romantic happy ending plotline, the protective, paternalistic figure controlling the destiny of his daughter narrative is one that has been told and retold in all aspects of entertainment. Although considered a “heroine,” Miranda evidently lacks the confidence or power to be considered a strong woman or a symbol of feminism by any means. Certainly, she is young and her innocence informs her emotional reactions, the first of which is to the shipwreck. In her very first lines, Miranda sympathizes to an almost depressive level, claiming “I have suffered/ With those that I suffer: a brave vessel,/ Who had, no doubt, some noble creature in her/ Dashed all to pieces!” (1.2.5-8). A melancholy, emotional girl of little direction, Miranda looks to her one and only companion and superior, her father, for any and all answers. Continue reading

“The birds and the bees” is a sexual euphemism that underlines the connection between sex and pregnancy, and the pollination and fertilization of plants. Indeed, there is something erotic about plants and their growth.

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Paradise and Plantation

All play, no work, all day, an idealized world with no one above the other. These are not images that readily come to mind when I hear the word “plantation”. More readily images of work, whipping, and toil come to mind at the mention of that term. Yet, in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest an old honorable councilor named Gonzalo states “Had I plantation of this isle, my lord-/… All things in common nature should produce/ Without sweat or endeavor” (2.1.138, 155-156).     So what does Shakespeare mean when he employs the term “plantation”?

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The Bed Trick: An Uncomfortable Ploy

Among the elements of comedy that ultimately are placed under uncomfortable strain in the eyes of the audience, the bed trick in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure is an particularly palpable one. Although an element of romantic comedy, the bed trick has long represented a problem of both morality and realism in its usage.

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Comic “Mystery”

The brief exchange between Pompey the clown and Abhorson the hangman, though primarily intended for comic relief, actually speaks to the serious issues that permeate Measure for Measure. Shakespeare uses their argument over Abhorson’s claim that hanging is a “mystery” to mirror the central issue of Angelo’s presumed stance as a moral authority figure. Continue reading

Common House: A Not-So-Common Phrase

As we all know, Shakespeare was a fantastic wordsmith, utilizing countless puns and inventing new words that we still use today. Because of these feats, when a peculiar word pops up in one of his plays, scholars jump at the chance to figure out what it means. I talked about one such Italian word from Troilus and Cressida last week, and it turns out that seemingly out of place words are a trend in many of Shakespeare’s plays. Continue reading

When Fair Ain’t Fair

The prologue, addressed to “you, fair beholders,” literally sets the stage for Shakespeare’s categorically ambiguous Troilus and Cressida (Prologue, 26). Provoking a meta- analysis (I see a trend), Shakespeare establishes the Trojan war and its hegemony among mythic tradition as outside fixed moral definition — for as the introduction tells it, “Like or find fault; do as your pleasures are;/ Now good or bad, ’tis but the chance of war” (Prologue, 30-31, italics mine).

Employed sixty times throughout the play, the word “fair” and its variable character and contextual usage punctures the canonized epic story with a dramatic instability that comes to define the entire play. Continue reading