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The Merchant Of Venice is probably my third favorite after Hamlet and MacBeth. I like Richard III as well, but agree with you about A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Titus Andronicus, which discussion of makes a few Shakespeare fans uncomfortable.

Richard II is a play that's grown on me recently. Didn't initially like the fact that it was entirely written in verse, but it does have one of the greatest speeches in the history of literature.

Act II-Scene I

JOHN OF GAUNT

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear'd by their breed and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home,
For Christian service and true chivalry,
As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son,
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!

So, Patriotic and Catholic both.

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A professor of mine suggested that Titus Andronicus was written to take the genre out of commission, a reductio ad absurdum against the various playwrights who had plays which had drawn on such violence before.

It is not just the violence, but the pointlessness of the violence which gets me. There is a lot of violence in Hamlet, but without that violence the audience may be left wondering why it all matters. I think the opposite happens with Titus Andronicus. So much violence takes places the audience is left wondering why the play was staged in the first place.

Terry

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In response to the initial post...

Oh, yeah, big fan o' the Bard. I actually studied abroad - Shakespearean histories and English Revolutionary writers - at Oxford as part of my undergraduate education.

I must admit that I'm pretty fond of Henry IV 1&2 and Richard III. The RSC Richard III at Stratford with Antony Scher was magnificant. He was playing the part during the same season that Kenneth Branagh was doing Henry V.

I'm actually as much a fan of Marlowe (the gritty stuff). Eddie II was a nasty, nasty play.

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Actually, to comment on what Deacon El wrote: my favorite part of Henry V is the whole "upon the king" speech and the discussion with the three common soldiers about whether or not the king is to blame if a man meets a bad end. That's the one with the famous line: "Every subject's duty is the king's; but every subject's soul is his own." There is a lot about responsibility and atonement in that play.

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Christopher Marlowe was quite an interesting character, but I've only read his "Jew Of Malta". Alot of wild speculation regarding his murder and his being an Elizabethan secret agent.

Has anyone read any of the books or articles that touch on Shakespeare's secret Catholicism ? I read "Shadowplay" by Clare Asquith, a couple of years ago, and while it was interesting, some of the arguments that Shakespeare continually encrypted Catholic messages in his play, weren't always compelling.

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I haven't read the books but I am familiar with the arguments. One problem I have is how some scholars define Shakespeare through a tight reading. From what can be known about Shakespeare the person from his work was that he was an artist whose patron was his paying audience.

Having a familiarity with Catholic images, projecting these images in a play, is not proof that he was a Catholic who would communicate to other Catholics through his plays. The interpretations Clare Asquith and others construct do not, in my opinion, approach the text very differently than a Marxist reading of "King Lear" or a queer reading of "Twelfth Night".

If the conclusions about an interpretation is narrowly solidified, then any means of quoting will be wedged into a premise's place.

All that leads to an interesting, but indefinite, paper.

Terry

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While not going as far as Asquith, (unless of course I suddenly become a Shakespeare scholar and am swayed by her arguments) I'm still impressed by Shakespeare's Catholic imagery during times of religious persecution. In addition to John of Gaunts reference in Richard II to " blessed Mary's son" we also have in the same play, Richard II's lines in Act III Scene III

I'll give my jewels for a set of beads,
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,
My gay apparel for an almsman's gown,
My figured goblets for a dish of wood,
My sceptre for a palmer's walking staff,
My subjects for a pair of carved saints

And of course the ghost of Hamlet's father.

My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.

Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house

Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatch'd:
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel'd(not receiving the sacrament), disappointed, unanel'd (without extreme unction),
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:

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Lawrence,

Yes, I too was interested in the scene concerning the ghost of Hamlet's father.

Whom do you recommend for a critical analysis of Hamlet? I am reading him once again this semester in an elective course I am taking.

Thanks,
Elizabeth


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Ah, but have you read Queen Elizabeth's poetry? Throughout her poetry and her published prayers she inserts Marian imagery. She marks herself as God’s handmaid. She had a very high opinion of herself and was keen to flattery. I would recommend browsing through her poetry to gain a slight sense of her court and her public image.

Another note: Spencer devoted a very long and arduous work, "Faerie Queen", to Queen Elizabeth which could in other contexts be interpreted to represent a devoted to a love to Mary, Queen of Heaven. I haven’t read that work in full. I read the first book and then I decided to skim the rest and read portions of the next books. His allegorical depiction of his Queen lifts her to a virtue unsurpassed by sublunary ambitions and temptations. I would not recommend reading “Faerie Queen” unless you have to, but it could be read to be Catholic I’m sure.

It took some time before the Catholic worldview was shed by the educated class. Martin Luther had a love for Mary which would not have been shared by many of those who had followed in the Protestant church (not that I mean to link Luther to the specific founding of Lutheranism).

It would not surprise me if Shakespeare were Catholic or if he were a proud member of King Henry VIII’s church. He lived in volatile times were religious allegiance was aligned to political interests and a misaligning could leave one’s head jumping.

I would be very careful to venture to come to conclusions about such biography. The sources are skim. That skimness also gives ammo to those who dismiss genius and believe that Shakespeare was actually Marlowe under a pseudonym, or that he was another who would have intimate understanding of the court and have mastery of all the subjects at play.

Terry

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Elizabeth Maria

I'll be at my local library which is quite large, in about a week looking for that very thing. Since I'm really interested in the Catholic angle, I'll probably pick up Stephen Greenblatt's "Hamlet In Purgatory" I've read some negative reviews, but I'll jusge for myself. Who knows I may break down and get it tommorow.

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Lawrence,

I checked my university library and they did not have it. Since purgatory was in the title, I am not surprised. Sounds too Catholic.

However, I went to Amazon.com and picked up a "new" hardcover edition through the marketplace for only $4.50 + shipping. Not bad.

Thanks for that reference.

Elizabeth Maria

Last edited by Elizabeth Maria; 08/21/08 12:49 AM.
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That could contribute to a good paper. Is this for a Master's level literature class?

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Nah, it is an undergraduate course that I need for my secondary credentials, since I need to take a few more courses in literature.

However, I am getting my Masters in Linguistics this December if I pass those comprehensive exams. They call it the eight weeks of h .. or purgatory. Pray for me.

Last edited by Elizabeth Maria; 08/21/08 12:56 AM.
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I hope they don't make you exchange papers with a freshman.

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It is an upperdivision course requirement, so Freshmen will not be part of that class unless they are honor students in their second semester.

There are prerequisites for this class, thank goodness.

Last edited by Elizabeth Maria; 08/21/08 02:15 AM.
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