Category

Seventeenth-century

Bird Imagery in Shakespeare

Shakespeare acted as an augur when using bird imagery to foreshadow upcoming events. The augur was a priest and official in ancient Rome. His main role was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds: whether they are flying in groups or seen alone, what noises they make as they fly, the direction of flight, and what kind of birds they were. This evaluation was known as "taking the auspices.”

Shakespeare, Jack, and the Beanstalk

In the child’s story "Jack and the Beanstalk", the giant living at the top of the beanstalk says, “Fee-fi-fo-fum!” In Shakespeare's "King Lear," the character of King Lear cries, “Fie, fie, fie; pah, pah!” Shakespeare uses many “oaths” and exclamations throughout his work.

Never the Twain shall Meet

In Act III, Scene I of William Shakespeare’s "The Tragedy of Macbeth," Banquo tells Macbeth that he will ride as far as he can before supper. The word “twain” derives from the Old English word twegen, simply meaning “the number two (2).” Essentially, Banquo states that he will be riding in the dark an hour or two if his horse is slow. (Poets frequently use “twain” instead of “two” at the ends of lines for rhyming purposes.)

Epicures and God in “Macbeth”

Composed probably in 1606, Shakespeare’s use of the word “epicure” in "Macbeth" is particularly interesting because at that time, “epicure” was considered “archaic” that is, rare in the early 1600s present-day usage. The meaning of Shakespeare’s “epicure” is taken from the philosophy of an ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus (341–270 B.C.E.) An “epicure” is a person that disbelieves in God (the divine government of the world,) and in an afterlife spent in either Heaven or Hell; this is also a person who recognizes no religious motives for conduct.

Perfume in “Macbeth”

Elizabethans didn’t bathe often, but the wealthy used a lot of perfumes, which they purchased from merchants who traded with Arabia. Arabia (included in the countries that now consist of what we call the Middle East) would have seemed exotic and faraway to Shakespeare’s audience.

His Knell is Knolled in “Macbeth”

In Act V, Scene XI of "Macbeth," Siward learns of his son’s death from Ross. Siward tells Ross and Maclcolm that he was glad that his son died the honorable death of a soldier saying: “And so his knell is knolled.” Shakespeare is using complex figurative language here to express reverence surrounding Malcolm’s son’s death.

Fighting to the Death in “Macbeth”

“The Tragedy of Macbeth” (a.k.a. The Scottish Tragedy) is a story about one man’s guilt – a story about one man’s journey into madness. The real horror is what we don’t see. Try reading Macbeth in this light and perhaps you will have a keener understanding of the real horror which ideally should be in the reader’s imagination.

Malcolm’s “Angels” in “Macbeth”

In Act IV, Scene III of Shakespeare’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Malcolm tells Macduff that even someone who has morals and integrity may cave under the pressure of a demand from their king. Malcolm is referring to Lucifer (the Devil.) In most religious traditions, Lucifer is considered the most intelligent (the brightest as in genius) and the most outstanding (the brightest or best) of God’s angels. In addition, Malcolm is saying that Macbeth was once the brightest and best and now he acts a lot like Lucifer.

O Romeo, Wherefore art thou Romeo?

A famous passage from Shakespeare’s play "The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet" uses the word “wherefore” and its meaning is often misunderstand: in Act II, Scene I, Juliet says, “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?”

Shakespeare Behind Bars and Meta-theatricality

Because Shakespeare’s works reflect the humanity of individuals and show the singular events in life that can take one on a new and different path, who better to stage his works than Matt Wallace, director of Shakespeare Behind Bars, who works with inmates that interpret the events in life demonstrated by Shakespeare? This is in of itself a case of meta-theatricality; inmates are playing parts that encompass moral dilemmas and crime – perhaps even issues that they have directly faced – giving them the opportunity to explore their feelings unlike any typical therapy program could offer.
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