Oh So Shakespeare

And so, today marks the day I finish reading through my third Shakespeare play, The Merchant of Venice. Yay me! I just sat and read through the whole thing straight because I was too lazy to find the movie this time. I’d actually watched an adapted version of this play at one of those Shakespeare in the Park things which I thoroughly enjoyed. I had been doing a short stint as a relief teacher some time earlier this year and the students were out to see the play for their Literature class. One of the perks of being a teacher was that I got to go along to watch. It was an experience to sit on the mats and eat and watch the play along with hundreds of students from all across the country. Shakespeare under the stars. It was fun.

Picked this Shakespeare out of many because it’s different from the conventional ones we see. He is actually looking towards the right. I’m such a rebel.

So yes, today I finished the play and I dog-eared a few of my favourite lines from the play along with those from Hamlet and The Tempest.

I’d finished Hamlet two weeks back for class.

It was truly a tragedy.

I realized I never posted my achievement of making it through Hamlet. I’ll do a quick run through on it. I watched the Glenn Close, Helena Bonham Carter version for Hamlet. It annoyingly didn’t have every line in the play but I made it through somehow. It was tragic indeed because so many people died.

In a nutshell, Hamlet’s father has just died and his mother, Queen Gertrude, has already remarried Hamlet’s uncle/the dead king’s brother, Claudius. So while Hamlet is still in mourning, he meets his father’s ghost who tells him that Claudius poisoned him. Hamlet subsequently pretends to be a bit mad with grief to try and avenge his father by killing Claudius. I only have to say it was a terrible way to avenge his father because there were too many casualties. Who died? Everybody save for his best friend, Horatio. Hamlet’s love interest, Ophelia died. Her father died. Her brother died. Two of Hamlet’s ‘friends’ died. Claudius and Gertrude and Hamlet all died. So. I liked the parts where Hamlet put on a play of the poisoning of his father to watch Claudius’ guilty reaction, the fight scene at the end and the possible Oedipal Complex (in love with his mother) Hamlet might have had.

I had to admit I was very distracted throughout the whole movie because of the lookalikes I saw in Hamlet. And I got very distressed by not being able to put my finger on who the lookalike was. But then I found out:

Glenn Close as Gertrude from Hamlet (1990)   

Queen Gertrude (Glenn Close) looked like and was Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmations.

Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmations

I knew she looked familiar!!!

Hamlet played by Mel Gibson…

Mel Gibson as Hamlet

…looked like Captain Haddock from Tintin.

And Helena Bonham Carter who played Ophelia…

Helena Bonham Carter as Ophelia in Hamlet

…resembled Emma Watson.

Emma Watson from Noah

Ok maybe they don’t so lookalike here but Helena really does look like Emma in Hamlet! Go watch it! She resembles Emma in some angles more than others haha.

Now, guess which is my favourite quote from Hamlet. Guess guess. NO IT IS NOT ‘TO BE OR NOT TO BE’ muhahaha. Gotcha hohoho. No, my favourite quote is this:

Hamlet

HAMLET

I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is
southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.

(2.2.351)

Because I can totally relate to that. I am but mad north-north-west, just a little off-sane. And I may not actually know a hawk from a handsaw when the wind is southerly hohoho.

For the Merchant, I really liked the court scene and the choosing the casket scenes.

The Merchant is about this feud between the Christians and the Jews. So Antonio is a Christian who offers himself as bond to get his friend, Bassanio, a loan from the Jewish moneylender, Shylock. Since Shylock doesn’t like Antonio the Christian, he strikes a deal with Antonio saying that if he is not paid back by a certain day, the forfeit will be a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Antonio agrees because he is a pretty wealthy merchant and sure that he’ll be able to pay back. Bassanio takes the money to win the hand of a Lady Portia. She has three caskets of gold, silver and lead whereby her suitors will have to pick one after reading the inscriptions on them. If the casket he pick has her portrait, she will marry him. He picks rightly and all is well until they hear that Antonio’s ships have met with trouble and he is unable to pay Shylock back. Portia gives Bassanio a lot of money, at least double of what he owes, to return to Shylock. A lengthy court trial ensues with everyone trying to convince Shylock to show mercy on Antonio and accept the money Bassanio brings back but Shylock wants justice and what was written on the deal. In the end, Portia, as a lawyer, beats Shylock at his game by pointing out that should Shylock cut out more or less than the one pound and allow even one drop of blood to fall from Antonio, he would have broken the law of the agreement and must be punished.

I liked the court scene because there was a lot on justice and mercy and I liked how Portia turned the thing around very cleverly on Shylock. I felt a bit sad for Shylock though. As far as I know, Jews were very much discriminated against by the Christians such that they were only allowed to take on jobs as moneylenders because they could not own their own property and so on. Shylock quoted a lot about how badly Antonio used to treat him and is amazed at how he could come to him to ask for a loan. So while he plays the bad guy in court, it seems like we are missing out the whole picture of how Shylock was treated to have reacted as he did in court, preferring to cut Antonio rather than have his money returned.

I also liked the casket scenes and the scene where Portia and her maid Nerissa were discussing about her past suitors and how everyone of them were just not Portia’s type. Could imagine a very modern, almost bitchy, Hollywood montage of that. I actually began the Merchant reading everything out loud so went I got to that scene, I was trying to use my most mean-girl voice as possible. I kind of died out at about Act 2 towards the end of Scene 1 though.

Favourite quotes!

The Merchant of Venice

ARRAGON

I will not choose what many men desire,
Because I will not jump with common spirits
And rank me with the barbarous multitudes

(2.9.30)

Even at the play where I hadn’t yet read the book, this line just jumped out at me. Arragon was one of the suitors to pick from the caskets and he picked wrong anyway but I did like this pompously, almost-arrogant line. It’s a bit ‘Trust thyself’ (Emerson reference from Self-Reliance hoho).

I thought this next one was funny:

CLERK

I beseech you, let his lack of
years be no impediment to let him lack a reverend
estimation; for I never knew so young a body with so
old a head.

(4.1.158)

This is from a letter sent to the judge of the trial to allow Portia disguised as a lawyer to speak in court which the clerk read aloud. I just liked the last bit, ‘for I never knew so young a body with so old a head’. Hahahahhahahahahhaha. Old head.

These last few from Portia are just lovely.

PORTIA

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes

But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.

(4.1.180 and 193)

Here, she is pleading with Shylock to reconsider and to choose mercy because it is the better, holier choice. Mercy, she says, blesses both the giver and the receiver and is the one virtue of Man that exhibits God. Oh, if only it could be so easy to give mercy so freely.

PORTIA

That light we see is burning in my hall.
How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

NERISSA

When the moon shone, we did not see the candle.

PORTIA

So doth the greater glory dim the less:
A substitute shines brightly as a king
Unto the king be by, and then his state
Empties itself, as doth an inland brook
Into the main of waters.

(5.1.89-97)

I liked this one because it’s very humbling. I actually only recently wrote in short hand a very very short story to the theme ‘Hidden’ whereby everyone was trying to find this invisible something by shining their own lights as they search. The twist was that every light had to be off so that the invisible thing could give off its glow and thus be found. It was in a very very shorthand and not at all in fine writing so I kind of just…dumped it somewhere in one of my document folders.

But yes I did like this whole candle moon thing. It just reminds me that even though we are just a little candle, our light travels in darkness to guide. And even though we may think we are awesome candles and we shine so brightly, we are nothing compared to the moon. The word ‘humility’ just screams out at me.

That rounds up my two new Shakespeare experiences with a whole lot of my favourite quotes. I think people’s favourite quotes do tell a lot about a person haha. And let’s not forget the quote from The Tempest which I liked and posted way back when I first read it: (Read it here if you missed it! https://straightfromtheattic.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/first-taste-of-the-bards-tempest/)

The Tempest

ALONSO

You cram these words into mine ears against
The stomach of my sense.
(2.1.82)
I just like this one. It has such a ‘hahaha’ quality, much like the old head in Merchant. Hahahaha.
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