Tag Archives: OED

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

The virtue in “If”

Nothing makes for a motivational quote quite like a good conditional.

“If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

“If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” -Marilyn Monroe (?)

“If you can’t get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you’d best teach it to dance.”  -Bernard Shaw

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Mr. Melancholy

Shakespeare’s As You Like It is a comedy with much cause for melancholy. Orlando rightly resents the problems he incurs because of primogeniture. Despite being born into nobility, Orlando is left penniless and uneducated as he is not the eldest son of his father, Sir Rowland de Boys. Duke Senior, who shows no signs of distress at his situation throughout the play, has been banished by his younger brother who usurped Senior’s birthright to the family wealth, land, and power. Rosalind, as Duke Senior’s daughter, is also banished from her home and left hapless. These characters all have due reason to lament their fortunes, however, none are quite so melancholy as Jacques. Continue reading

The Economics of Redemption

In his play Henry IV Part I, Shakespeare juxtaposes a sample of Henry IV’s time as king against the economic and social tensions during his reign. These tensions, for Henry, run particularly high given his questionable rise to power. Because Henry claimed the throne by waging war against Richard III, his rule could in many ways be viewed as illegitimate. As such, he finds himself racing against time to unite the people whom he divided when stealing the country from Richard. Henry plans to achieve this end by shifting attention away from his questionable ascent and onto a Crusade. It seems as though his expectation is that waging a Holy War will redeem himself to his people and so secure his rule. His idea introduces redemption as having religious roots. However, when tracking the word redeem, this sacred concept is revealed to have a far more secular meaning than initially implied. Continue reading