End of Week 3: Shakespeare’s Madness



Is Shakespeare really as pessimistic as he seems to be when describing the nature of “love”? When Lysander says (1.1.142) about true love -if and when it is eventually found- that “War, death, or sickness did lay seige to it/ Making it momentary as a sound”, I really did have some students clawing up the wall shouting “let me out of this depressive place!” It certainly does seem that Shakespeare is not altogether hopeful about “the course of true love”, which- he says in almost the same breath- “never did run smooth”!


Maybe this is a true observation about human life, or maybe it is a cautionary tale… certainly by the end of the play everyone is married and presumably lives happily for ever after…. ????

I suppose this does raise the important question of what is Shakespeare’s view of human life, its possibilities and difficulties. In one way this is the question that Shakespeare is trying to answer in all his plays. Next week in Romeo and Juliet we are going to see the classic example of “true love” that certainly “never did run smooth”. What can we learn from this? Are we supposed to learn anything? Or do we just sit back and cry our eyes out at the human condition??

What do I think? I think Shakespeare wants us to see. To see what? To see our human condition, its frailty, but also its moments of humour and joy. It is not all bleak, and there are strengths to be drawn from situations. In the face of Lysander’s bleak forecast there are strong, stoic outcomes; there is joy in the face of obstacles overcome; in Romeo and Juliet there is of course sadness, but there is joy in the power and strength that these two young lovers have in a world of hostility between families and against their young, true love.

I certainly hope that you all get a chance to read the play Romeo and Juliet carefully before we go and see it at Bell Shakespeare next week. Please note that in this last link there is a full program of the performance available for FREE. 

Blog Topics for this week (the week in which your first peer reviews are also due): (remember peer reviews are an opportunity to engage with each other’s ideas as well as making thoughtful, supportive and creative suggestions for improvement/ development- use these reviews as a real opportunity to develop your own capacity for creative interaction with your peers). 

1/ “The course of true love never did run smooth”: tell your own story about this statement of fact! (you can of course – and MUST- fictionalise the names of the people involved.

2/ Write a Shakespearean sonnet in which you celebrate a key moment in your life. Try to stick to iambic pentameter and try to find a rhyming couplet for your last two lines. Remember also that a sonnet must have 14 lines!

3/ What aspect of Shakespeare have you found most interesting so far in this unit? Is it the colourful language? the creation of character? the story line? the philosophy? the observations of human nature? the magic?

4/ My hounds are bred out of the Spartan kind,/ So flewed, so sanded; and their heads are hung/ With ears that sweep away the morning dew,/ Crook-kneed, and dewlapped like Thessalian bulls,/ Slow in pursuit, but matched in mouth like bells,/ Each under each.

Describe one of your pets with the vividness of imagery that Shakespeare is teaching us to consider.

5/ As usual, create a topic of your own, building on your reading of Shakespeare so far and weaving in aspects of your own personal experience.




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