At the height of the American Civil War, the debate on slavery raged in the American North and South. The North supported the abolition of slavery whereas the South wanted to keep the institution of slavery to sustain their plantation-centric economy. Where Shakespeare’s The Tempest enters the fray is with a political cartoon published at the midpoint of the war: January 24, 1863.
The last theater production I saw was in fact, the Shakespeare in the Park’s version of The Tempest. It was a boiling hot, incredibly humid June evening when we stumbled into the Delacorte theater in the middle of the park, ready for some culture. For a first viewing of Shakespeare’s debatably last play, it was a dramatic setting. The air, heavy with moisture made the audience feel as if they were truly sitting on a desert island. It was the best and worst part of the production.
Imagine the tempest… not Shakespeare’s play itself, but the actual storm described. Do you imagine a dark, chaotic scene filled with powerful, crashing waves? Do you see sailors scurrying around, trying to keep the ship from sinking?
The past debates around Isabella’s worth as a character perturb Marcia Riefer, author of “ ‘Instruments of Some More Mightier Member’ : The Constriction of Female Power in Measure for Measure.” Riefer, combatting past interpretations of Isabella as either an “angel” or a “vixen” develops a clear argument about the damaging effect of patriarchy in the play Measure for Measure, dividing her argument into six clearly articulated and logically flowing points. Continue reading
Many critics of Measure for Measure have focused on a sexual Isabella—not necessarily as overtly sexual, but perhaps sexually repressed, confused, naïve or, in some of the worst cases, provocative. I want to introduce the idea of an asexual Isabella.
Asexuality is a lack of sexual attraction to anyone, and while it still remains barely visible in both the straight and queer communities, it is as real and present as any other sexuality. But in a world that sexualises women in every situation, pushes sex on us at every moment, and tells us that romantic relationships are necessary to our happiness and wholeness, asexuals often remain unnoticed or misunderstood. Continue reading
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
“Engine” and “Engineer” are only used a total of three times throughout Troilus and Cressida. Yet each use enfolds layers of hidden meaning through which Shakespeare’s voice can be heard. Continue reading
In a play about a war between Trojans and Greeks, a word in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida seems a bit out of place: the Italian word capocchia. The notes in the text of The Complete Pelican Shakespeare edition of the play merely translate it to mean “simpleton” (508). However, Gretchen Minton and Paul B. Harvey Jr. suggest that it may have a more raunchy meaning that better fits with the character of Pandarus (who utters the word) and the word play so beloved by Shakespeare. Continue reading
1. b. fig. of a man of huge stature.
1609 Shakespeare Troilus and Cressida ii. iii. 2 Shall the Elephant Aiax carry it thus?
The elephant; noble, beautiful, and calm, gracefully shuffling forwards on four tree-stump legs that crush anything that may so unfortunately find itself beneath them—bugs, small mammals, human toes. It’s a fait that can’t be avoided because, as we know, elephants can’t bend their knees. Continue reading
Shakespeare often exploits the semantic range of a word to achieve crude humor; it has been said – all the world’s a dick joke. In most cases, there are many layers to the word or phrase in question, but the variable meaning is often brought to light at first by an underlying dirty joke. That was the case while reading As You Like It. “The horn, the horn, the lustful horn” (4.2.19) seemed clearly to be a pun on a male’s certain lusty horn. As with all things Shakespeare, there is more underlying than the two most obvious meanings. Continue reading