Do you want to quote more Shakespeare in your life but never find opportunities to say “brevity is the soul of wit”? Do you rarely hang below balconies exchanging love vows with the daughter of your enemy? This is just the list for you.
“What an ass am I!” —Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2
“I am not a slut,” —As You Like It, Act 3, Scene 3 (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
“Hell is empty and all the devils are here,” —The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2
“Commit the oldest sins the newest kind of ways,” —Henry IV Part 2, Act 4, Scene 5
“This is the excellent foppery of the world,”
–King Lear, Act 1, Scene 2
“Making the beast with two backs,” —Othello, Act 1, Scene 1
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool,” —As You Like It, Act 5, Scene 1
“To tell thee plain, I aim to lie with thee,” —Henry VI Part 3, Act 3, Scene 2 (Works great for courting hot widows.)
“I would rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me,” —Much Ado About Nothing, Act 1, Scene 1
“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me,” —Richard II, Act 5, Scene 5
“Marry, sir, in her buttocks.” —A Comedy of Errors, Act 2, Scene 5 (No judgement here.)
“My horse is my mistress,” —Henry V, Act 3, Scene 7 (Uh, there might be something wrong with that.)
“Thou dost infect my eyes,” —Richard III, Act 1, Scene 2
“Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit,” —Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 5 (“Wit” is Shakespearean slang for penis.)
“[Wine] provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance,” —Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 3
“I had rather live with cheese and garlic in a windmill, far, than feed on cates and have him talk to me in any summer-house in Christendom,” —Henry IV Part 2, Act 4 Scene 1
“Now, gods, stand up for bastards!” —King Lear, Act 1, Scene 2
“Villain, I have done thy mother!” —Titus Andronicus, Act 4, Scene 2 (This means exactly what you think it does.)
“And thou unfit for any place but hell,” —Richard III, Act 1, Scene 2
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” —Henry VI Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2
“Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell.”
—Othello, Act4, Scene 2
There is a history in all men’s lives,
Figuring the nature of the times deceased;
The which observed, a man may prophesy,
With a near aim, of the main chance of things
As yet not come to life, which in their seeds
And weak beginnings lie intreasured.
Welcome Back to 100 Days of Trump where I try to explain WTF happened in 2016 in 100 recommendations and today lets talk William Shakespeare. Also Sargon of Akkad. Specifically the History Plays, his interpetations of the War of the Roses, which include
Henry IV Part 1
Henry IV Part 2
Henry VII Part 1, 2 and 3 (aka the weakest plays of the lot)
Actually I’m in this position where I wrote an actual full on paper on the political messages in these plays, so summing it up this briefly is a little difficult, but primarily they plays are about political power and its relationship to language, mostly how language can be used to get people to act against their own interests. For example you might be familiar with this speech from Henry V
One of the greatest inspirational speeches of all time right? Great war speech? Sargon of Akkad was praising this as a true sign of english culture in the youtube comments there (You can find me quoting actual Shakespeare at him and pointing out he obviously hasn’t read the plays) Here is the thing though, if you look at that speech in the context of all the plays you’d realize that…Henry the V is totally bullshitting. After all, this is a war which the very opening of the play makes a joke about how fucking pointless it is and how illogical the entire justification it is. I mean listen to the bullshit justification for war here, it makes WMDS in Iraq seem sane.
Yes, it being that needlessly confusing is suppose to be a joke.
Also literally the first scene in the play are a punch of people saying “hey look, it would be great if we had an invasion to help unify England after a civil war?” Henry V (Prince Hal to his Friends) is getting a punch of tavern boys and farmers to come to France to die in the mud and the only person who materially benefits is himself, they get glory and honor, but as Falstaff notes in Henry IV part I (which Sargon also hasn’t read) you can’t eat honor. Btw the one guy who says “Never have in the world have there been more loyal nobles than in England” this comes after literally three plays of nobles betraying their kings.
The plays are about how we understand our reality through fiction, which in is here personified in language. Again, Henry V opens with the narrator telling us how the imagined Battle of Aginicourt that Shakespeare is depicting is going to become more famous than the historical battle. He who masters fiction can make that fiction reality. If you want to talk Alternate Facts, Prince Hal makes an Alternate Reality, and unlike Trump, everybody else wants to live in it with him.
For example, you all know the story of Henry V, the young and foolish Prince Hal who drinks and parties but when he becomes king he becomes the responsible and dutiful king Henry? Except in his first scene, Hal turns to the audience and says directly to them “I’m faking, I am pretending to be young and foolish but it is just to make my look good later, everything I do is being done for my own benefit, and despite being a totally selfish bastard, everybody who I take advantage of will love me for it. Including you audience.” And three plays later when he is making the St. Crispian Day speech, guess what? Almost everybody in the audience is cheering. That is the power of language, creating a reality we wish to live in, and then making it reality.
Richard II is a master of language but his flowery ornate formal speech of the court prevails him nothing when confronted with the sword of Henry IV the usurper. But when Richard II is forced to abdicate the crown, he makes a speech in which he effectively strips the crown of its power, making it only a hat.
Henry IV keeps his throne but lacking the mastery of language, he has to fight for it every day of his life. Later RIchard III can use language to disguise his true twisted nature (Seriously I can and have written whole essays comparing Richard III to Henry V)
Henry V’s ability is to use people’s sentimentality and trap them in a web of word, so that they die for his causes, and…
Look just watch the damn plays, its bloody Shakespeare. And remember, when a man tells you to obey him out of honor, ask yourself what is Honor anyways?
Also Sargon knows about as much about Shakespeare as he knows about the Akkadian Empire
me: *can't find rachel in a crowd* me: this calls for desperate measures *shouts* NED POINS IS DEFINITELY HETEROSEXUAL rachel, loudly: WHAT THE FRICK DID YOU JUST SAY me: there she is
listen, i’m pretty sure i’ve had this exact exchange before with at least one person. you can tell me ALL YOU WANT that ned poins has never even thought about what hal plantagenet would be like in bed, but honestly, i’ll just laugh in your face. he’s been in love with that man for years.
boy, you don’t know what you want: a modern henry bolingbroke fanmix (8tracks link to follow shortly)
bastille - durban skies || gerard way - action cat || belle & sebastian - enter sylvia plath || marina and the diamonds - mowgli’s road || sia - the girl you lost to cocaine || franz ferdinand - fresh strawberries || beyonce - haunted (pop remix)|| st. vincent - severed crossed fingers || florence and the machine - third eye (demo) || ms mr - all the things lost
I recently saw a post saying that it doesn't matter what order one reads shakespeare, and I was wondering if this holds up for the histories. Some of them seem interesting to me, but I don't want to have to have read all the preceding plays before I can get to the more interesting ones. That being said, I want to be able to understand what's going on. Do I need to read the earlier histories to get context for ones that come after?
There are two sorts of contexts that can enrich one’s experience of history plays: historical, and fictional. It helps to know the history the plays are based on, because it gives you the context of the tensions in the play, and it helps to watch or read the history plays in order because there are certain continuities of character and of factions, etc.
But most of the histories are perfectly entertaining on their own. The exceptions are the sequel plays like Henry IV Part 2, and Henry VI Part 3 (You can actually read Henry VIParts 2 and 3 without reading Part 1, which was probably written as a prequel). Many of the histories weren’t even written in historical chronological order so it’s very unlikely the audiences of the time watched them in order either (a bit like Star Wars, come to think of it). But then again, Shakespeare’s audience would most likely have had a little more knowledge of their recent history than people have of the Wars of the Roses today, so that would have helped.
Basically, there are some references and recurring characters that you won’t get if you don’t know the history and haven’t read all of the plays, but it’s not like you won’t understand the plays on their own. Hardly anyone actually reads the plays in order when they first start on the histories. It’s more like it can make the plays more enjoyable if you happen to get the references. It’s like watching all of the Marvel films: it will help you understand the references and who all the characters are (including their backstories), but each film is generally enjoyable on its own as well.
So go ahead and read the plays you’re interested in!
There is a good order to read them in if you do decide to read the plays in historical sequence though.
Henry V. We had been told in the promo pic it was coming:
It features one of the most famous Shakespearean speeches, delivered in beautifully mad ranting glory by Sherlock in TLD as he waves a gun, surrounded by a truly astonishing array photos and articles of Culverton Smith, aka our dark!John mirror. The speech contains the classic Sherlockian line, “The game’s afoot!” but there is much more to the use of this speech in this context than just a canon reference.
Shakespeare first introduces the character of Henry V in the play Henry IV Part 1, where the to-be king is still just Prince Harry, aka “Hal”, who spends his time faffing about with his pal Sir John Falstaff, a disreputable knight, and generally acting like a lawless, wild juvenile brat. Sound familiar?