[Work: The Winter’s Tale, William Shakespeare, 1611]
But Your Kind Hostess:

Rhetoric, Meter, and Tone in Act I Scene ii of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

 

Introduction:

William Shakespeare Sanders Portrait - The Winter's Tale - Act 1 Scene 2 - rhetoric, meter, tone, dialogue, analysis

Sanders Portrait of William Shakespeare

In accordance with the heightened complexity in the structure of Shakespeare’s later plays, the rhetoric and verse forms grow more dense. The intertwining thematic and formal constructions visible throughout his body of work become knotted and subtly layered.

One such instance of this mode of high-wrought writing meeting structural experimentation in the later works of Shakespeare is The Winter’s Tale. Its narrative twists (and, indeed, genre twists) set the stage for dialogue pregnant with verbal and dramatic irony.

Careful attention to a particular passage and to the relationship between that passage and the entire play can yield a vivid portrait of how the play’s thematic concerns are woven into every moment. The passage near the beginning of The Winter’s Tale wherein Hermione convinces Polixenes to stay in Sicily is a potent example of this. In this scene, the play’s concerns with authoritative testimony and with gendered power structures belie the facade of courtly playfulness. These areas of interest, though never explicitly confronted, are present in the passage’s musicality, rhythm, diction, and rhetoric.

There is a confluence in the dialogue formed by the rhetorical flux of femininity, power, youth, and virtue and the ironic metrical disharmony of the dialogue’s participants which situates the scene as an introduction to The Winter’s Tale‘s comedy with hints of its imminent tragedy.

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[Work: The Winter’s Tale, William Shakespeare, 1611]
But Your Kind Hostess:

Rhetoric, Meter, and Tone in Act I Scene ii of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale

was last modified: August 3rd, 2018 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: King Lear, William Shakespeare, 1606]
Music be the Food of Madness:

Repetition, Rhythm, and Passion in Act II Scene iv of Shakespeare’s King Lear

 

William Shakespeare Sketch by M.R.P. - King Lear Act II Scene iv - Act 2 Scene 4 - repetition, meter, speech, analysis

Caricature Sketch by M.R.P.

Introduction:

The mental disintegration of Lear in Shakespeare’s King Lear is marked, in much of Lear’s dialogue from the play’s latter three acts, by madness interspersed with moments of lucidity. Yet, just before that madness becomes dominant, one can see a pivotal moment in the dramatic action at once figuring and presaging Lear’s breakdown by examining the final scene of the play’s second act.

More particularly, this pivot can be witnessed by paying close attention to the portion of Act II Scene iv which features Lear’s last speech prior to his passionate invocation of the storm on the heath. This speech, delivered in response to the final stripping of his attendant knights by Goneril and Regan, showcases a Lear concerned with dignity, identity, and sanity.

Rather than madness interspersed with lucidity, this speech comes across instead as lucidity tinged with madness. A motion can be traced from logic toward passion and from sanity toward madness via attention to the speech’s employment of poetic techniques.

While grief encroaches on the logical concerns and addresses of the speech’s content, the precise metrical and musical constructions of Shakespeare (much like the constructions of Robert Browning that I have previously covered in this series) reflect the motion of the content—both in the moments when Lear is in total control of his faculties, as well as when he feels his mental control slipping.

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[Work: King Lear, William Shakespeare, 1606]
Music be the Food of Madness:

Repetition, Rhythm, and Passion in Act II Scene iv of Shakespeare’s King Lear

was last modified: August 3rd, 2018 by Daniel Podgorski

[Work: Othello, William Shakespeare, 1603]
Antagonism in Othello:

Subversive and Progressive Racial Attitudes in the Characters of Shakepeare’s Othello

 

Introduction:

The development of interpreting William Shakespeare’s plays for their progressive capabilities has been increasingly common in the modern era; Shylock, the Jewish character in The Merchant of Venice, portrayed on-stage for hundreds of years as a remorseless villain, is today played as a sympathetic and often ironic character whose persecuting is often shown to be more-or-less on-par with his persecution.

Similarly, the Othello seen in modern productions of OthelloOthello - William Shakespeare - Race, Iago is a sympathetic tragic hero, rather than a dangerous, violent, and easily manipulated caricature. Yet, while some ambiguity about the nature of the character of Othello is inherent to the text, and even in keeping with the academic sentiment that the interpretation of art is more reflective of the morality of the reader than of any ‘opinions’ one may find in the work, Othello seems to contain a far more progressive element than The Merchant of Venice—in its antagonist, who in Othello is (of course) not the racialized character, but Iago.

The character of Iago is unambiguously the antagonist of the play, and, beyond this, serves as both the catalyst to the events of the play and as the detractor or destroyer, either directly or by extension, of every character who falls in the play. Indeed, in Othello, the character of Iago does more to challenge racial stereotypes contemporary with Shakespeare’s writing thereof than does the character of Othello to affirm them.

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[Work: Othello, William Shakespeare, 1603]
Antagonism in Othello:

Subversive and Progressive Racial Attitudes in the Characters of Shakepeare’s Othello

was last modified: April 12th, 2016 by Daniel Podgorski

[Film: The Merchant of Venice, Michael Radford, 2004]
Remakes are Not your Enemy:

Analyzing a Scene from Michael Radford’s Film Version of The Merchant of Venice

 

Introduction:

Antonio Reproaching Shylock - The Merchant of Venice - Michael Radford, William Shakespeare - 2004 court scene analysisIn an era when we lament the fact that the remake, the sequel, and the reboot have come to dominate the media landscape, it can be easy to forget that older forms of art (in particular, theatre) used to survive exclusively through their continual reinterpretation and re-presenetation. Since his death, William Shakespeare has arguably garnered more of such ‘remakes’ and ‘reboots’ than any other artist, yet there are still great, interesting, and even somehow new versions of his works every year, on the stage and on the screen.

It is worth pointing out, then, that a remake or reboot is only bad if it adds nothing new to the original work and does not present an interesting version of the original work. And if that seems like a tired point to you, then I would like to make that case in a new way (a remake of my own, as it were) by zeroing in on one of Al Pacino’s scenes from Michael Radford’s film version of The Merchant of Venice, and discussing why it works so well as a new presentation of older material.

The nature of this article is such that it requires spoiling basic plot details of The Merchant of Venice, so you should only continue reading after this paragraph if you either do not mind spoilers or have already seen the film (or read the play, or seen a staging, etc.).

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[Film: The Merchant of Venice, Michael Radford, 2004]
Remakes are Not your Enemy:

Analyzing a Scene from Michael Radford’s Film Version of The Merchant of Venice

was last modified: July 26th, 2018 by Daniel Podgorski