AD's English Literature : October 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lady Augusta Gregory's "The Rising of the Moon" as an Irish Play of Patriotism

 THE RISING OF THE MOON is a beautiful one-act little play, written in 1904 by Lady Augusta Gregory who is best known for irish theme and lifelike  characterization. In fact, Her characters who are specialized in realistic depictions of their native land are not at all romanticized, but are very realistic--one of her great talents was being able to catch the vocabulary, speech mannerisms and  rhythms of the Irish people, which she studied as she traveled throughout Ireland, seeking its rich oral tradition. In THE RISING OF THE MOON, one sees the deep conflict between the hearts of the Irish people, even those hired as policemen (who also longed secretly, in their heart of hearts, for freedom, as often as not), and their duty to maintain the status quo, with all the English gold and power and "good common sense" behind it.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Principal Features of Old English Language

Old English, a variant of West Germanic, was spoken by certain Germanic peoples (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes) of the regions comprising present-day southern Denmark and northern Germany who invaded Britain in the 5th century ad.  They gradually settle in England and regional dialects developed. Old English major dialects had four divisions– Northumbrain, dialect of  Northumberland, Mercian, subdivisions of the dialects spoken by the Angles, West Saxons , a branch of the dialect spoken by the Saxons; and Kentish, originally the dialect spoken by the Jutes;. West Saxon gradually gained ascendancy and the documents, which enable us to study Old English, are documents of West Saxon. By the 9th century, partly through the influence of Alfred, king of the West Saxons and the first ruler of all England, West Saxons became prevalent in prose literature. A Mercian mixed dialect, however, was primarily used for the greatest poetry, such as the anonymous 8th-century epic poem Beowulf and the contemporary elegiac poems.

An analysis of Bernard Shaw’s play "Arms and the Man" as an anti-romantic comedy

Bernard Shaw calls Arms and the Man, set during a war in the Balkans between the Bulgarians and the Serbians, an anti-romantic comedy. The main purpose of the dramatist is to satirize the romantic conception of life. Shaw has no faith in emotion and sentiment. Throughout the drama he denounces the idealism and insists on realism. He does it through humor of character and humor of situation at the same time.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Break, Break, Break : a sea elegy written by Lord Tennyson on the death of his university friend Arthur Henry Hallum

Lord Tennyson
Break, Break, Break is a sea elegy written by Lord Tennyson on the death of his university friend Arthur Henry Hallum. Here, the ever-breaking sea, the fisherman's boy, the stately ships, etc. all show the permanence of the world around and yet they remain unaffected by the poet's personal grief. However, the thoughts contained in this elegy are not so elaborate and high as in In Memorium but the Current of thoughts is not less pathetic.

Adonais by Percy Bysshe Shelley: Pastoral Elegy on the Death of John Keats.

Pastoral Elegy is a song of grief in which the poet in the guise of a Shepherd mourns the death of some dear and near ones who are also presented as a Shepherd. As it is already stated, pastoral elegists mourn a subject by representing the mourner and the subject as shepherds in a pastoral setting. Representing all these conventions, Adonais is a Pastoral Elegy. It has been criticized on the ground that the expression of grief in it is not sincere, for one who sincerely mourns expresses his grief directly and does not run after metaphors or figurative expression (the dreams and fancies of Adonais as his mourners, to bring in the mountain shepherds, and to personify the power of nature may be good poetry but it is urbanely artificial) But as a matter of fact, Adonais is not an expression of personal sorrow. Shelley never claimed it to be so. It is a lament on the loss of a valuable life as ‘Lycidas’. Also, Keats and Shelley had never been intimate friend, and Shelley did not think highly of any of his of …. than, ‘Hyperior”.

Critical Analysis of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “Where The Mind Is Without Fear”

RabindranathTagore's writing is highly imagistic, deeply religious and imbibed with his love of nature and his homeland. RabindranathTagore’s poem, ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear’ ,included in the volume called Naibedya, later published in English ‘Gitanjali’ is a prayer to a universal father-figure, presumably, God to elevate his country into a free land. Here Tagore defines Freedom as a fundamental system of reasoning of a sovereign state of mind, established or accepted as a guide for governing the man in a nutshell. A freedom fixes the limits and defines the relations of the moral, ethical and powers of the state of mind, thus setting up the basis for life.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Central Thought of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem: Have you not heard his silent steps? (Gitanjali Songs Offerings No.45)

Even a cursory reading of RabindranathTagore’s Gitanjali (Songs Offerings) shows its deeply religious and devotional character. The one hundred and three songs in this celebrated book are written in prayers to God and were intended by Tagore as his personal tribute to his maker. Gitanjali has therefore to be valued and cherished as a book of religious poems which undoubtedly lift the reader spiritually and transport him to an altogether different world from the one in which he lives. In numerous occasions in his songs Rabindranath assures many a time that he is absolutely certain that he has been nothing but hollow bamboos, and God has been singing through him. He has been flutes, but the song is not his. It has flowed through them, but it comes from some unknown source. He has not hindered – that’s all he has done. But he has not created it. The paradox! And, in fact it is the power of supreme father.

Critical Commentry on John Keats' ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’

‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ is one of the finest ballads of art in English poetry. This remarkable baIllad written by John Keats, narrates the fascinating story of a mortal’s love with fairy. It presents the strange way and manners of these enchantresses who use to make fool of men. t is a sad tale of love betrayed; of a knight who was bewitched by her when he was asleep leaving him to wonder in the cold, crazed with love for her. It is thus a tale of melancholy yearnings and unfulfilled desire.

Critical Appreciation of T. S. Eliot’s Preludes:The Rottenness, the Corruption and Decadence of Contemporary Society

T. S. Eliot’s Preludes , which is included in Prufrock and Other Observations, 1977, a collection of poems ,is frankly satirical of modern society, and the love – theme, when it appears, receives an ironic treatment. The rottenness, the corruption and decadence of contemporary society is exposed with a rare poignancy here. It is not unfair to say that the author has miserably failed here to notice anything positive in life .This, however, does not in anyway reduce the significance of his poems, which are excellent poetic manifestations of the themes through their use of imagery.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

‘Spring Offensive’ of Wilfred Owen: Offensive and Its Outcome

 Wilfred Owen Masters the group of war poets who have the first hand experienced of modern war fare. ‘Spring Offensive’ like other poems of Owen, is an eloquent protest against the cruelties and horror of war and it is drawn on Owens own experience of the Anglo French offensive launched in April 1917 to attack the Germans who took shelter behind the river Somme in France.

The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W. B. Yeats: Prompted by Home Sickness


W. B. Yeats was in London when he wrote The Lake Isle of Innisfree in 1890. The poem was prompted by a feeling of home sickness. Innisfree is an island in a lake near Sligo where as a young man Yeats had dreamed of a smooth life close to nature. He was standing on an actual London pavement (the pavements grey) when a jet of Walter in a chemist shop set him dreaming of this island.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Analysis of Lord Tennyson’s Tithonus : immortality consumes

Tennyson’s Tithonus  relates to the old Greek myth of Tithonus, a very handsome youth and the son of Laomendon, the king of Troy. The legend tells that Tithonus was loved by the dawn goddess, Eos, who bore him a son, the hero Memnon, king of Ethiopia.  As his beloved was beloved was immortal, he requested her for the gift of immortality, Eos requested Zeus, the king of Gods, to grant this boon to her lover. Though immortality was granted, perpetual youth was not bestowed upon him. Thus Tithonus in his old age withered away to a decrepit and shriveled old man. Thus gradually he became old, infirm and ugly so that he pleaded finally to be released from life. At this given situation, the Tennyson’s Tithonus opens with a long soliloquy by title hero.

How to Buy a House by Durrell: The Character of Sabri Tahir

 In Durrell’s story How to Buy a House Sabri Tahir appears as the central character with impressive characteristics. With the help of Sabri Tahir the author is able to purchase a house and it is the very story in a nutshell. It is Sabri whose practical ability as a businessman is a cardinal feature of his character and around him revolves the entire story. Now let us sum up his characteristics under the following heads.

"The Mark on the Wall" by Virginia Woolf : Narrated in ‘Stream of Consciousness’ Technique

With Dorothy Richardson, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Virginia Woolf also accepts the stream of consciousness technique in her writing. To record the flaw of consciousness this technique is brought into perfection by certain use of symbols and imagery where plots relegate into the second position. Her present essay The Mark on the Wall is well distinguished by a capacity for a deep and complex response to the experience of the moment, stressing the subtle to and fro activity of the mind.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Central Theme of Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 18 (shall I compare thee To a Summer’s Day)

According to Francis Meres, a contemporary of William Shakespeare, “mellifluous and honey-tongued” Bard of Avon who equals to the Roman Ovid, is a master artist of sonnet writing. Out of 154 of such Shakespearean sonnets, the first 126 sonnets are addressed to a handsome youth, his fair friend. The first 126 sonnets reveal “a story of brief intoxication by a friendship with a young aristocrat of quick disillusion; of a renewal of friendly relations on a quite different basis, when Shakespeare was economically independent of a gradual decay of the relationship”. Shall I compare Thee to a Summer’s Day (sonnet No. 18),” which ranks among the most famous love poems of all time can also be read from the above perspective.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Character of Diggory Venn (the reddleman) in Hardy’s Novel, The Return of the Native

A reddleman is one who sells a red ochre colour to the farmers for redding their sheep. Such a reddleman we find in Hardy’s Novel, The Return of the Native. In fact, Diggory Venn is the real name of the reddleman. He was a dairy farmer by his profession before he became a reddleman. He is now called the “reddleman” because he deals in reddle, a dye used by sheep farmers; as a result of handling it, his clothes, skin, and everything he owns are dyed red, giving him a devilish look. Such a character Venn functions as an image of the traditional rustics of Egdon heath with a philosophic essence of love, faith and natural proximity. According to Hardian precept of fate and morality, he is destined to win the race of life in ultimatum.

Joseph Conrad’s "The Lagoon" Relates Arsat’s Exile and Loneliness

Joseph Conrad holds a particular attraction for present-day readers for his extensive biographical and critical attention. In his works elements of fatalism and nihilism well establishes to postmodern literature and modern life. Citing that precept, here too, Joseph reworked his memories of his Malay trip into his  story The Lagoon, a highly symbolic work that explores the central character, Arsat’s living, learning, and realizing through the central metaphor of a journey to the stagnant lagoon.

Monday, October 17, 2011

George Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant" as a Colonial Writing or Criticism of Imperialism

“In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible."
George Orwell (1903 - 1950) British writer.
Shooting an Elephant, "Politics and the English Language"
From a first person narrative perspective of a British officer stationed at Moulmein, Burma, “shooting an Elephant” is an essay which conveys the wrongs of New Imperialism, the intense anti-European feelings in the East. In fact, George Orwell, the essayist, and critic, whose brilliant reporting and political conscience fashioned an impassioned picture of his life and times through his essay “Shooting an Elephant” the political and colonial themes counter the totalitarian tendencies that he felt threatened his age. Here our narrator imparts one very significant event in his career as an Imperial police, which was shooting an elephant for the sake of not seeming like a “fool.”

William Somerset Maugham’s ‘The Lotus Eater’ Paints Thomas Wilson as Lotophagi ("lotus-eaters")

   In Greek mythology, the Lotophagi ("lotus-eaters") were a race of people on an island dominated by lotus plants. The lotus flowers were the primary foodstuff of the island and it caused the people to sleep in peaceful apathy. When Odysseus and his men landed on the island of the lotus-eaters, they began doing as the natives did, eating the lotus flowers. This caused them to sleep and stop caring about ever going home. Finally, Odysseus managed to rescue himself from the apathy and set sail. symbolically lotus-eaters are the people who live in oblivion forgetting their hardship of life. Now we will discuss how William Somerset Maugham’s compelling short story The Lotus Eater’ paints Thomas Wilson as Lotophagi ("lotus-eaters").

Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Red-Headed League" as a Detective Story

"The Red-Headed League" is one of the 54 Sherlock Holmes short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle famous for its detective storyline and art of expression of the same. It first appeared in The Strand Magazine in August 1891, with illustrations by Sidney Paget. Conan Doyle ranked "The Red-Headed League" second in his list of his twelve favorite Holmes stories. It is also the second of the twelve stories in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which was published in 1892.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Shakespeare’s Tragic Protagonist Macbeth is a Study of the Evil that is in Every Human Heart: Ambition

What is true to the action of a tragedy is also true to the tragic protagonist for according to Aristotle, both must be ‘spondaious’: be brave, noble, and Solemn. The tragic protagonist has neither the unblemished goodness nor the unmitigated villainy. He is to Aristotle, the intermediate kind of personage, a man not preeminently virtuous of just, whose misfortune is brought upon him not by vice but by ‘some error of judgment’. Now we will judge Shakespeare’s Tragic Protagonist Macbeth's character in these perspectives. 

Critically Commentry on the Opening Scene of “Macbeth”.

The opening scene usually serves the purpose of an exposition and truly, what Coleridge pointed out, strikes a spiritual key-note. Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” is a tragedy of the triumph of evil: we are in a world of moral anarchy, symbolized by the withered beings, to whom " foul is fair ". In a drama, first impressions are lasting, and Shakespeare contrives to put the spectator in the right mood at once. The first scene, other than being expositional, establishes a mood or an atmosphere for the action of the play. The hostile weather featuring fog and filthy air’ and the loath some witches croaking out middles create a world of darkness and foulness in which are found the echoes of the sinister designs of Macbeth and his wife to be seen later. The gathering of the three witches or the weird sisters in a desolate place in heavy storm, thunder and lightning and their promise to meet after the storm of great Macbeth ‘upon the health’ before the sunset add to the drama’s great mystery and horror. Their decision to meet Macbeth keeps the audience with bated breath and it at once brings up a question in the minds –“what can this man called Macbeth have to do with these witches, rather the distasteful hags”?

Sleep-Walking Scene in Macbeth: A Masterpiece of Dramatic Art

The famous sleep walking scene (ACT: V, SC: I) in ‘Macbeth’ is, ‘a stroke of creative imagination’, there being no hint of it in Holinshed. For the first and the last time in literature sleep walking is used with great and terrible dramatic effect. Indeed the scene is a masterpiece of dramatic art.

Friday, October 7, 2011

How to Approach Short Story and Get A Comprehensive idea About It

What is Short Story

It is hard to define the short story because it is not a made thing, but a growing thing. It is an evolution. To get  a comprehensive idea about It We might try to define it. So to say simply,  a short story is the disentangling of a complicated situation, so that a single definite effect is made. It is a fictional work depicting one character’s inner conflict or conflict with others, usually having one thematic focus. Combining all these they generally produce a single, focused emotional and intellectual response in the reader. The story is built upon groundwork of incident, character, and setting. It was Stevenson who said that he could conceive of but three ways to approach a story in writing it: by means of (1) an incident about which characters group themselves; (2) a character that plays a significant part through incidents; and (3) a mood or feeling, which both incident and character reflect.  The earliest ancestors of short stories are ancient tales, simple stories dated back to golden ancient era. The folk tales from Persia, Arabia, India, and Egypt had its first grains.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Introduction to The Vision of William Concerning Piers the Plowman

The 14th-century poem The Vision of William Concerning Piers the Plowman, better known as Piers Plowman, is generally attributed to William Langland. Three distinct versions of it exist, the first c. 1362, the second c. 1377, and the third 1393 or 1398. It has been described as "a vision of Christ seen through the clouds of humanity."  A religious allegory, the work is written as a dream vision, a popular medieval form in which a story is presented as if the author had dreamed it. 

Utility of School Library for English Learning

 We all know that School libraries are the heart of the education system and are essential component of education. They play a key role in nurturing knowledge and wisdom. It also improves the quality of education. It is an intellectual space, where teachers, children and members of the community can expect to find the means to deepen their knowledge and imagination. It, to a great extend, builds their character and identity.

But before we proceed further, let’s look what is library itself. Library is a collection of books and other informational materials made available to people for reading, study, or reference. The word library comes from liber, the Latin word for “book.” However, library collections have almost always contained a variety of materials. Contemporary libraries maintain collections that include not only printed materials such as manuscripts, books, newspapers, and magazines, but also art reproductions, films, sound and video recordings, maps, photographs, CD-ROMs, computer software, online databases, and other media. In addition to maintaining collections within library buildings, modern libraries often feature telecommunications links that provide users with access to information at remote sites.

Having penned what Library is, we now proceed to consider the way in which its study may be most profitably pursued. In order to fully comprehend any English Literature or Language Learning, and to place it in its true position among its sphere of Knowledge , not only must the given text be studied with due care, but we must pay regard to its outward "environment" and to the circumstances of the times in which the topic lived. We better learn trees instead of the fruits only. Unless the students have not asked themselves a certain number of questions and answered them satisfactorily the pupils cannot be sure of thoroughly understanding the learning model. Such Questions and Answers are fully entertained by Library.

 Libraries at the high school level (Class V to Class XII) differ in several ways from those serving the lower grades. Because classes at the high school level require students to conduct more research, high school libraries usually have larger and more advanced collections than do libraries in the lower grades. The best-equipped high school libraries feature computer labs, professional reference resources for teachers, conference and group study areas, and classrooms within the library. Most high school libraries also include separate areas devoted to college or vocational preparation. These areas typically contain information on individual schools, examples of schools applications, vocational aptitude tests, and other materials designed to provide guidance for completing high school students. Acknowledging thus the importance of school libraries, schools have to take an initiative to bring the school library in its proper functions. First of all it has to be evaluated in terms of the trends, patterns and services.  And finally we can discuss about the implementation these following guidelines for betterment of its functionality in the fields of English Literature or Language Learning:  

  1. We have to enlist different literary books for multifarious reading because mere text book studies will not be sufficient. So we should try to enlarge the catalogue and it is to be updated regularly. Libraries must issue supplements to list new items that the library has acquired. Few modern libraries continue to publish book catalogs and the school should collect them for better utility. The teachers’ purpose throughout has to be twofold. Firstly, it can be sought to provide able students with definite facts and with help towards a personal appreciation of the texts they read. Our other intention has to be to interest and in some degree to satisfy those ''general readers" who have little or no knowledge of literature.
  2. It can also be decided to weekly opening of library even during vacations.
  3. The team work of parents, teachers and the librarian can be chalked out where it can be decided to supply books to the parents.  Being Anxious to learn their feedback, we rather implement an environment of studies. However, a minimum cost will be levied from them. The participation of guardians from different social strata on a single platform would empower the school libraries as well.
  4. Computer connectivity or internet if still is unavailable at the school and digital library can not be accessed there, the students should remain active through other media such as television and radio.  They should find interesting literary topics which will be integrated in their studies..
  5. I think all of my respected readers know the sardar poro (monitorial system) of study. It can be implemented in the Library section too. Elder students should recommend books for their junior students and sometimes they play the part of deputy for them.
  6. Library books rating can be another initiative. By this rating system we can measure up the taste and tendency of our young readers.
            To provide quality education at schools library is a great support to attract children towards school and literature studies. The rural schools though lack some facilities; teachers’ utmost zeal and beloved pupil’s limitless pursuit will bring down the wall of hurdles, I hope. 

John Keats' Ode To Autumn- All for Autumnal Beauty

Three things help to make the great lyric. These are- the author's feeling, or emotion; the theme; the form and style in which the author expresses both of these. Farther sincerity, intensity, and spontaneity characterize the feeling of the great lyric poem. Such an ode is typically a lyrical verse written in praise of, or dedicated to someone or something which captures the poet's interest or serves as an inspiration for the ode. The structure and rhyme scheme of Ode To Autumn are similar to those of typical odes. It is remarkable for its richness of imagery. It is a feast of sights and sounds. It shows Keats's speaker paying homage to a particular goddess-- the deified season of autumn. Autumn in Keats's ode is a time of warmth and plenty, but it is perched on the brink of winter's desolation.

Casually speaking, Keats was not a thinker; his poetry is not a vehicle for ideas, but a record of acutely felt sensations. It is sometimes affirmed that his messages are contained in his enigmatic lines of verses. Thus his Ode To Autumn is his sojourn at emotions and feelings for autumnal beauty.  
  The poem has three stanzas, each of eleven lines (ababcdecdde), that describe the tastes, sights, and sounds of autumn. Much of the third stanza, however,   describes the end of the day and the end of autumn. Ode To Autumn includes an emphasis on images of motion, growth, and maturation.                                                                                                                                            
The first stanza of the poem describes natural processes, unlike the following which deal more with sensual observations, as it presents a harvest in its final stages.The Stanza provides a union of maturation and growth, two oppositional forces within the work, and this union instills an idea within nature that the season will not end.The plants and fruits which were born in spring attain maturity in autumn with the fullness of mists and mellow fruitfulness. The rays of the maturing sun help the fruit ripen. The poet imagines that autumn and the sun act together to supply the vines with grapes round the thatch-eves. The moss'd cottage-trees bend over the load of apples red with ripeness to the core. The same is the case with the gourd, the hazel shells or other fruits. In autumn when the late flowers are still in bloom, the bees go on collecting honey in spite of the fact that during summer they had collected enough honey. They mistake autumn for summer and think that the summer will never end while their cells are overflowed with honey:
“…to set budding more,
    And still more, later flowers for the bees,
  Until they think warm days will never cease,
          For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.”

 Here in the second stanza, Keats has presented autumn in its four striking aspects of the seasonal activities personified as country peasants. First, autumn is seen as the harvester, seated careless on the granary floor with the gentle winnowing wind playing with her hair:
“Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
      Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
  Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
      Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;”
 Secondly, autumn is personified as a tired reaper who falls asleep drugged by the fragrance of poppy:
“Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
      Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
          Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:”
Thirdly, autumn is imagined as a gleaner on her way home across a brook with load of corns on her head: 
 “And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
      Steady thy laden head across a brook;”
Fourthly, autumn is seen as a cider-presser who, seated beside a vat, watches the apple-juice oozing out:
“ Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
          Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.”

In the final stanza of the poem the poet reaches the understanding that with the attainment of maturity of everything in nature, the resourcefulness in nature is on the verge of giving way to bareness and scarcity of the winter. So nature is visibly taking the shape towards the direction. This makes the poet mourn while comparing the vitality and vibrancy of spring with those of autumn. But he is also conscious of the fact that autumn has its own beauty and music. The numerous sounds produced by the gnats, swallows, lambs, crickets and Robin Red Breast collectively produce the autumnal symphony:
“ Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
      Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—“
The insects and animals instinctively understand this and that is why the sounds made by them are marked by apprehension and sadness. The migratory swallows twitter in the skies and telling it plain that winter is heralding in near future.

As it is already told, the poet Keats is a Romantic creator. His powerful autumnal imagination constructs lively scene and character and situation. His intense faculty of observation gives to this vividness of Natural beauty. His tendency to reflect, to look within the confines of his own heart, gives moral weight- A compact relation between man and nature. His downright sincerity rings true. His intense emotional power is a flashlight upon the picture of life. Add to these qualities human interest and he gives to the poem a strength that makes for permanency. Despite of being the whole poem fantastic, the great thing about first and last stanza is that we can still see these things all around us every autumn. The second stanza is just a romantic vision of the glorious autumn.

References: Arnold: Essay in Criticism
                     Coleridge: Biographia Literaria
                      'Encyclopaedia Britannica: Article on Poetry

Monday, October 3, 2011

William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice - A General Introduction to the Play and the Character of Shylock

The Merchant of Venice, comedy by English playwright William Shakespeare, written around 1596 is regarded by some scholars as the strongest and most successful of Shakespeare's early comedies. It well illustrates author’s custom of going back to old tales for his plots. Some of the medieval manuscripts, like the Gesta Roman orum (Deeds of the Romans) were storehouses of literary material to thousands of writers who followed. There is also a historical basis for the play in the high feeling toward the Jew as a race. This feeling was particularly strong from the fourteenth century until the middle of the Seventeenth. It was unjust, but it is a historical fact.

The original title given by Shakespeare was A Jew of Venice. The change to The Merchant of Venice is indicative of the fact that the author wished to throw to the front the other character. Technically, Antonio is the main character; dramatically, Shylock is. The play is a comedy, for the main character is extricated from his difficulties. Recognizing that the action rests upon the tragic, various critics have termed The Merchant of Venice a tragicomedy. The play, which is set partly in Venice, Italy, features three main characters: Antonio, Shylock, and Portia. Antonio represents the best class of Venice. He is protected by law; he has a host of friends, among whom is Bassanio. Shylock, on the other hand, is a resident of the Jewish Ghetto, hounded by law, hated by Christians, yet a power on the Rialto. Portia, a rich heiress, is in love with Bassanio, and he with her. Unable to present his suit according to custom, Bassanio appeals to Antonio, with the result that his friend insists upon borrowing money to equip a retinue to accompany Bassanio to Belmont on his wooing. Antonio borrows the money from the Jew, Shylock. So sure is he that his ships will be import inside of three months, that he signs a bond, pledging a pound of his own flesh if the debt is not paid when due. Shylock prosecutes the merchant Antonio for failure to repay a loan that Antonio had contracted on behalf of his friend Bassanio. Shylock threatens to cut off a pound of Antonio's flesh, a penalty originally inserted in the contract as a jest. The two must resolve their situation in court. Meanwhile, Portia has proposed a riddle, stating that she can be won in marriage only if a suitor is able to guess the one chest of three in which her portrait is hidden. Her lover, Bassanio, chooses correctly. For his sake, Portia goes to the courtroom disguised as a lawyer to defend Antonio from Shylock’s demands. She defeats Shylock by pointing out that although he has a right to a pound of Antonio's flesh, he is not entitled to a single drop of his blood. The plot that centers in the bond has its roots in the beautiful example of what one friend will do for another.

There is excellent opportunity in this play to study characterization and Shylock's character is an abiding interest for us who provides myriad opportunities for deeply examining character and motivation. Few other pieces of literature hold such complex characters that appear as infrequently as Shylock, who surfaces only in four scenes, but whose mark is indelible. Because of the complexity of the themes and characters, issues involving stereotypes and racism, as well as heavy sexual innuendo, The Merchant of Venice are recommended for mature readers. An important element of Shylock's character is his literal-mindedness. In his mind, a contract is a contract, and if it is broken the letter of the law must be carried out. Mercy cannot be permitted to soften justice. In his insistence on a pound of flesh, Shylock believes he is holding Antonio to the truth. However, Shylock’s literalness also forces him to concede to Portia’s argument that he has no claim to Antonio’s blood.

For the character of Shylock, Shakespeare drew from a long tradition of folktales that relate the story of a creditor who tries and fails to extract a pound of human flesh as payment of a debt. Like the hero-villain Barabas in English dramatist Christopher Marlowe's Jew of Malta (1589?), Shylock is a Jew. He is portrayed in striking contrast with the other characters, who are Christians. Shylock is frugal and preoccupied with making and keeping money; he hoards it and treasures it above his personal relationships. He views the Christians’ attitude toward money as frivolous and irresponsible. In contrast to Shylock, Bassanio uses money for love and beauty instead of for the accumulation of wealth. The chest he chooses in answer to Portia’s riddle is neither the one made of silver nor the one of gold, but the one made of lead. His rejection of the gold and silver containers in favor of a lead one, within whose dull exterior lie the riches of Portia's portrait, symbolizes the fact that, for him, 'all that glisters (glistens) is not gold.'

Shakespeare’s portrayal of Shylock has long been fodder for debate among scholars. By Shakespeare’s time, Jews had been officially banned from England for centuries. Because of this, they had come to represent to many citizens of the time a sinister unknown. Shylock’s inability to grant mercy to Antonio and his tendency to value the letter of the law over benevolence are generally abhorrent to modern audiences. However, Shakespeare was too intelligent and too much of an artist to make his Shylock purely one dimensional; the character is complex and justifiably cautious in a world that does not welcome him. Much of the interest and tension of the play lies in the fact that he is simultaneously villainous and sympathetic.

Reference:1.Hazlitt, Characters of Shakespeare's Plays
                     2.Hawkins, The Life of Edmund Kean
                     3.T. Lelyveld, The Shylock on the Stage

Figure of Speech -Figures of Resemblance or Similarity

A Figure of Speech, word or group of words used to give particular emphasis to an idea or sentiment, is any deviation for increased effect from the plain and ordinary method of speaking. The special emphasis is typically accomplished by the user's conscious deviation from the strict literal sense of a word, or from the more commonly used form of word order or sentence construction. From ancient times to the present, such figurative locutions have been extensively employed by orators and writers to strengthen and embellish their styles of speech and composition. Broadly speaking rhetoric is the art of speaking in which we can locate dressing or ornamentation. But it is always to be remembered that it is not the essence of the poem rather one of the essentials.

Figures of Speech are usually classified as

I. Figures of Resemblance or Similarity.
II. Contrast.
III. Association or Contiguity.
IV. Miscellaneous Figures.

I. Figures of resemblance.

A Simile (Lat. similis, like), specific comparison by means of the words “like” or “as”, is a comparison of two unlike things or ideas to show their similarity of relation.

Examples: (1).William Wordsworth: “But, like a thirsty wind, to roam about.”
(2). The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne, burned on the water.–Shakespeare.
(3) He was a lion in the fight.
(4) Ye are the salt of the earth.
(5) He is fond of blowing his own trumpet.
(6) My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose
(7) But, like a thirsty wind, to roam about.
(8) Christianity shone like a beacon in the black night of paganism

    Note. The simile must be clearer and better known than the original ideas, and should be strictly relevant. The Epic Simile, however, in Homer, Virgil, Milton, etc., is often expanded for its own intrinsic beauty, and then irrelevant but picturesque details are added.

Metaphor (Gr. metapherein, to carry over, transfer) that does not use the terms “like” or “as”, identifies two unlike things on account of their implied similarity of relation. Unlike simile here is no use of  like, as or than.

 (1) The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve.–Shakespeare. (The striker or clapper of the bell is being compared to the tongue of a speaking human being.)
(2) The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
 Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled. - Matthew Arnold (The Sea of Faith is compared to the Christianity)
(3) Life is but a walking shadow.
(4) He uttered a volley of oaths
(5) The man tore through the building.
Notes. 1. Metaphor is compressed simile. It transfers the name and properties of one thing to another, while simile keeps them distinct. They may be expanded into similes e.g.
As a lion (fights bravely) (known ideas).
He fought bravely (unknown ideas).
2. All language is full of metaphors, which are no longer felt as unusual or figurative modes of speech. For instance, all words relating to invisible things have been formed by transference from the material world on the assumption that there is an analogy between the two e.g. integrity, courage, eminence, a sharp voice, a dull mind, etc.
3. Metaphors, if kept distinct, may succeed each other without fault. Mixed Metaphors occur when metaphors from different sources are combined in one phrase or clause, or in others depending on it e.g.

(a) Even from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
Even in our ashes live their wonted fires.
(b) I bridle in my struggling Muse in vain.
That longs to launch into a bolder strain.
(c) To take arms against a sea of troubles.
(d) I smell a rat ; I see him floating in the air ; but, mark me,
I shall nip him in the bud.
(e) Eobert Boyle was the Father of Chemistry, and brother of
the Earl of Cork.

Personification (Latin, persona, a mask, person) is the attributing of life and personal qualities to feelings, abstract ideas, or things without life.  The use of human characteristics to describe animals, things, or ideas. Carl Sandburg’s poem “Chicago” describes the city as “Stormy, husky, brawling / City of the Big Shoulders.” It is a representation of inanimate objects or abstract ideas as living beings, as in the sentences “Necessity is the mother of invention,””Lean famine stalked the land,” and “Night enfolded the town in its ebon wings.”

Antony and Cleopatra Makes No Attempt to Rival the Four Great Tragedies – Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, and Othello

The question whether Antony and Cleopatra is a close compeer or rival of the four great tragedies (Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, and Othello) is born of one page of Coleridgean general criticism where the great critic recorded his highest praise for the play by expressing his doubt as to whether the astonishing play was a formidable rival to the four great Shakespearean tragedies. A. C. Bradley, another great Shakespearean critic has construed Coleridge’s remarks as amounting to an assertion of great tragedies. Assuming this to be true, Bradley states that this is an error of judgment and evaluation on the part of Coleridge and proceeds to note the features which mark out Antony and Cleopatra as decidedly different from the famous four tragedies known as great in Shakespeare.

The peculiar marks of Antony and Cleopatra which discriminate it from the four great tragedies and put it in a different class are found both its form and substance. It is a presentable play generally, although not suited for children. It is defective in construction particularly in the third and fourth acts. It was felt on the Elizabethan stage and it is felt much more so on the modern stage. These forty-two scenes could not possibly be acted even on the Elizabethan stage where pause between scenes was unknown. This partly explains the absence of popularity of the play among the regular play goers. However, the main difference lies not in the plays form or construction; it lacks some very vital thing in its matter, that something which is associated with the four great tragedies.

In substance the difference with the great tragedies is grater. These tragedies are dramatic in both the special and general sense of the word. In them not only an exciting but an impressive story moves through a conflict of contending forces to a terrible issue appealing powerfully to the dramatic feelings – “scenes of actions or passion which agitate the audience with alarm, horror, painful expectation, or absorbing sympathies or antipathies”. Normally these scenes of action or passion are found in the first three acts of the tragedies. The street-fights in Romeo and Juliet, the killing of Mercutio and Tybalt or the rapture and despair of lovers are examples. The ghost-scenes are placed in the first act of Hamlet whose other early acts include the soliloquies of passion, the scene between Hamelt and Ophelia, the play scene and the killing of Polonius. We observe similar scenes of action or passion in the early acts of Macbeth and Othello.

There is nothing resembling these in Antony and Cleopatra in the first three acts. And above all “for a tragedy, it is not painful”, although it is a wonderful achievement. In the earlier and greater part of the play, to quote Bradley, “people converse, discuss, accuse one another, excuse themselves, mock, describe, drink together, arrange a marriage, meet and part; but they do not kill, do not even tremble or weep”. There is neither violent movement nor vehement passion till the battle of Actium. The conversation we hear is wonderful but breath-taking as between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth or between Othello and Iago. The play in its first half has only one scene of psychologically explosive or physically exciting character – the scene where Cleopatra storms at and strikes the messenger. And that scene again according to Bradley “is not essential to it all”.

“The first half of the play, though it forebodes tragedy, is not decisively tragic in tone”, says Bradley and he adds, “certainly the Cleopatra scenes are not so”. We have nothing to quarrel. And then, “Enobarbus, in this part of the play is always humorous”, and “even later, Enobarbus, when he dies, simply dies; he does not kill himself”. Even where the tragic tone begins to deepen incidents like whipping of Thyreus move mirth generally, despite Autony’s rage. “A play of which all this can be truly said” may be masterly and astonishing and may be even more delightful than Macbeth or Othello but it fails its main course to rouse the tragic passions. In fact, as Bradley says, Shakespeare makes no such attempt in Antony and Cleopatra and “to regard it as though it made this attempt is to miss its specific character and the intention of its author”. That intention was to present a different type of play “as wonderful as achievement as the greatest of Shakespeare’s plays” but not having an equal value. The character of the play only partly depended on Shakespeare’s fidelity to his historical authority. It has been pleaded in this respect that the loose dramatic effect and absence of deep tragic tone in the early part of the play are attributable to the intractability of the historical materials which Shakespeare had to handle and which he could not alter. This is not a very tenable thesis as his fidelity to historical authority “is often greatly exaggerated”. If he could not alter the events and situations in so famous a part of history, he could well have heightened the tone and tension of the play from the very beginning by devices well known to and practiced by him as a consummate tragic artist. Shakespeare ,in fact, did nothing to develop the inward struggle in his hero until the catastrophe enveloped Antony. “Antony breaks away from Cleopatra without any serious conflict. No serious doubt of his return is allowed to agitate us”. Thus says Bradley and very rightly, about the lack of sufficient inward conflict in a tragic hero. The downward movement itself is not exhibited but simply reported and not a single line depicts the preceding inner struggle. This is markedly in contrast with the four great tragedies where the development of the inner struggle gets a clear depiction and treatment. In fact, the play makes no attempt to rival the four great tragedies on this point, its peculiar character being to show Antony’s passion as a force that he refuses to resist. And here as nowhere else the scheme of the play differs from the scheme of the tragedies. Its external scale also fails to uplift or expand our imagination. A sense of emptiness oppresses us as we observe the world shares busy in their selfish ends proving that the splendid world is really false and petty. Against this hollow background, the fall of the hero from prosperity blunts our sense of greatness when this feeling of fall in the tragedies is so very acute. This leads naturally to a second effect in the presentation of the outward conflict. The world of love that the imperial pair conquers, after losing the hollow, selfish world of splendour, makes the positive element of reconciliation strongly emphasized. Although the final impression of these tragedies is not of despair but generally of reconciliation, this felling is no where stronger in the end than in Antony and Cleopatra.

Coleridge’s opinion that Antony and Cleopatra is an astonishing drama, by far the most wonderful among Shakespeare’s historical – and why historical, we may say all plays, will be echoed by all lovers of Shakespeare. “But”, as Dr. S. C. Sengupta remarks in his Aspect of Shakespearean Tragedy, “no one classes it with the four famous tragedies to which it is looked upon as somewhat inferior on account of its theme – sexual infatuation rather than love – which cannot have the seriousness or depth we demand from tragedy”.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Important Short Questions & Answers from William Shakespeare's Macbeth : Act II

Act – II

Scene – I

The belief in evil spirits, and in the power of witches to do harm by their aid, was wide-spread both amongst Catholics and Protestants in the i6th and 17th centuries England.

1. Who is Hecate?

           Hecate, in Greek mythology, goddess of darkness, and the daughter of the Titans Perses and Asteria. Unlike Artemis, who represented the moonlight and splendor of the night, Hecate represented its darkness and its terrors. On moonless nights she was believed to roam the earth with a pack of ghostly, howling dogs. She was the goddess of sorcery and witchcraft and was especially worshiped by magicians and witches. However, The introduction of Hecate is only but a superfluous character who takes no real part in the action of the play.

2. Was the dagger seen by Macbeth is real?

            No, the dagger was a creation of his heat oppressed brain.

3. Who is ‘Tarquin’?

            Tarquin was the last king of Rome, expelled from Rome for high disposition.

Try To Answer these Questions:  What opinion have you formed of Banquo in this scene? What are the cursed thoughts? Would you have the dagger visible to the audience? Why not let the audience see Macbeth in the act of murdering the king?

Scene – II

5. What is the importance of the Act II – Scene II?

 This scene revolves around the murder of King Duncan and it is accompanied by a bell tolling, and the shrieking of an owl.  Both these add to the suspense and tension regarding this evil deed.

6. Who is called the ‘fatal bellman’ by Lady Macbeth?

            The owl that shrieked on the night of Duncan’s murder is called the ‘fatal bell-man’.

7. What is Neptune?

            Neptune is the God of the sea.

8. What is the meaning of multitudinous sea?

            It means (i) the entire seas toxin together.
                        (ii) The many waves of the sea.

Try To Answer these Questions:  What is the Purpose of presenting Lady Macbeth alone at the beginning of the scene? How are the words My husband spoken—should they express affection, surprise, inquiry, terror? How does the knocking at the gate affect Macbeth?

Scene – III

There is an ominous knocking at the castle gate symbolizing the outside world seeking justice or vengeance for the evil murder of the King. Speaking of Macbeth, act ii. sc. 3, Coleridge says: "This low soliloquy of the Porter and his few speeches afterwards I believe to have been written for the mob by some other hand, perhaps with Shakespeare's consent.

9. Who is the ‘other devil’?

            The other devil is Satan.

10. Who is the equivocator?

            Equivocator means (i) Jesuit perjurvor of law court, (ii) one who equivocates i.e. one who speak vaguely or ambiguously, especially in order to mislead

11. What is the meaning of the ‘second coex’?

            ‘The second Coex’ means 3’o clock at night.

12. Where did Malcolm and Donalbain flu after Duncan’s murder?

            Malcolm fled to England, and Donalbain to Ireland.

Try To Answer these Questions:  What fancy has seized the drunken porter, and what suggested it? In the lines beginning Had I but died, is Macbeth acting a part, or speaking unguardedly? What is the reason for closing the scene with the dialogue between Malcolm and Donalbain?

Scene –IV

This scene takes place in complete darkness except for the lantern held by the murderers of Banquo. During the struggle, the light is extinguished, and one of the murderers says, “Who did strike out the lights?”   This symbolizes the life of Banquo being struck out, and in the darkness Fleance escapes.

13. Who said “It is said they ‘ate each other’ –
       Who are they?

            Old man said this to Ross.
            Here they refer to Duncan’s horses.

14. Where was Duncan’s body carried?

            Duncan’s body was carried to Colmekill, the ancient cemetery the Scottish kings.

Try To Answer these Questions:  What difference do you note between Macduff's
character and the character of Ross? Does Macduff reveal his mind to the old man?

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