Shakespeare's Plays: Henry the IV Part I, Hamlet, a Midsummer Night's Dream
Henry the IV, Part I
Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 78-90.
KING HENRY IV: Yea, there thou makest me sad and makest me sin In envy that my Lord Northumberland Should be the father to so blest a son, A son who is the theme of honour's tongue; Amongst a grove, the very straightest plant; Who is sweet Fortune's minion and her pride: Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him, See riot and dishonour stain the brow Of my young Harry. O that it could be proved That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged In cradle-clothes our children where they lay, And call'd mine Percy, his Plantagenet! Then would I have his Harry, and he mine.
This scene sets delineates the conflict between father and son. The King has found Henry to be enough of a disappointment that he wishes his son was another. The theme of honor surfaces here for the first time. In many ways this is a play about redemption. Henry is a rabble-rouser who keeps company with John Falstaff, a drunkard of questionable integrity. Henry knows his public antics are an embarrassment to his father, but has plans to prove his worth one day, "So when this loose behavior I throw off / And pay the debt I never promised, / By how much better than my word I am, / By so much shall I falsify men's hopes; / And like bright metal on a sullen ground, / My reformation, glittering o'er my fault, / Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes / Than that which hath no foil to set off. / I'll so offend, to make offence a skill; / Redeeming time when men think least will" (Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 166-175). With these lines Shakespeare foreshadows the Prince's coming redemption.
Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 85-93.
KING HENRY: As cloudy men use to their adversaries, Being with his presence glutted, gorged and full. And in that very line, Harry, standest thou; For thou has lost thy princely privilege With vile participation: not an eye But is a-weary of thy common sight, Save mine, which hath desired to see thee more; Which now doth that I would not have it do, Make blind itself with foolish tenderness. PRINCE HENRY: I shall hereafter, my thrice gracious lord, Be more myself.
This scene signals a turning point for the Prince. His father has confronted his about the company he keeps and registered his disappointment. Henry affirms he will behave and the King proceeds to tell him about the impending revolt. Henry responds "Percy is but my factor, good my lord, / To engross up glorious deeds on my behalf; / And I will call him to so strict account,
That he shall render every glory up, / Yea, even the slightest worship of his time, / Or I will tear the reckoning from his heart. / This, in the name of God, I promise here: / The which if He be pleased I shall perform, / I do beseech your majesty may salve
The long-grown wounds of my intemperance: / If not, the end of life cancels all bands; / And I will die a hundred thousand deaths Ere break the smallest parcel of this vow" (Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 148-159). These lines reveal the true character of the Prince, he vows to redeem himself and stand up for his father. This is later carried out in the final act when Henry kills Hotspur.
Act 1, Scene 5, Lines 92-113.
HAMLET: O. all you host of heaven! O. earth! what else? And shall I couple hell? O, fie! Hold, hold, my heart; And you, my sinews, grow not instant old, But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee! Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat In this distracted globe. Remember thee! Yea, from the table of my memory I'll wipe away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, That youth and observation copied there; And thy commandment all alone shall live Within the book and volume of my brain, Unmix'd with baser matter: yes, by heaven! O. most pernicious woman! O. villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! My tables, -- meet it is I set it down, That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain; At least I'm sure it may be so in Denmark: Writing So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word; It is 'Adieu, adieu! remember me.' I have sworn't.
This soliloquy sets the stage for the entire of the play. It comes immediately after Hamlet has spoken to his father's ghost and learned that his uncle had assassinated his father by putting poison in his ear while he slept. His uncle then married his mother. To further Hamlet's pain his father was killed without having received communion. This soliloquy develops let's motivation, his desire to avenge his father's death. I like how his father's ghost and Hamlet both end their speeches with "Adieu, adieu, adieu! Remember me." Lines 92 and 112, and then Hamlet punctuates this sentiment with "I have sworn't." Hamlet howls to heaven, earth and hell that he will not forget the injustice suffered by his father. Line 103 "And thy commandment all alone shall live" allows the audience to feel the depth of his outrage and believe and understand the actions of other key characters in the play such as the King and Queen.
Act 3, Scene 4, Lines 8-25.
HAMLET: Now, mother, what's the matter? QUEEN GERTRUDE: Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended. HAMLET: Mother, you have my father much offended. QUEEN GERTRUDE: Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue. HAMLET: Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue. QUEEN GERTRUDE: Why, how now, Hamlet! HAMLET: What's the matter now? QUEEN GERTRUDE: Have you forgot me? HAMLET: No, by the rood, not so: You are the queen, your husband's brother's wife; And -- would it were not so! -- you are my mother. QUEEN GERTRUDE: Nay, then, I'll set those to you that can speak. HAMLET: Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge; You go not till I set you up a glass Where you may see the inmost part of you. QUEEN GERTRUDE: What wilt thou do? thou wilt not murder me? Help, help, ho! LORD POLONIUS: [Behind] What, ho! help, help, help! HAMLET: [Drawing] How now! A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!
In this scene Hamlet confronts his mother about the death of his father and her marriage to her father's brother. It is important to note that in this scene Hamlet takes action to avenge his father's death and that action results in the death of Ophelia's father Polonius. The relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude is complex. In the scenes with Gertrude, the Queen appears to be love Hamlet, but seems unable to accept that her being with Claudius is improper. She cannot accept that Claudius killed her husband. This may be a defense mechanism. I think Hamlet loves his mother as well, but he is profoundly repulsed by the thought of Claudius being with his mother. There is a tension created by the presents of Claudius. In general Hamlet seems to have a rather low opinion of women; these feelings may be a manifestation of what he perceives as his mother's betrayal of his father, and Ophelia's rejection of his overtures.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 234-239.
HELENA: Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind: Nor hath Love's mind of any judgment taste; Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste: And therefore is Love said to be a child, Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.
How love alters perception is an important theme in this play. Shakespeare poses the question what is reality? A Midsummer Night's Dream addresses the disparity between reality and what one perceives to be real. Most can agree that love can alter one's perception of things. Shakespeare shows this in the incident between Titania and Nick Bottom. The reality of the situation is that Nick was not a highly attractive man to begin with, and has now been given an ass' head. However, Oberon has Titania drugged to believe that she is madly in love him despite his appearance. By doing this Shakespeare is saying that love is nothing but a feeling, and feelings are difficult to ground in physical reality. One cannot say that Titania's love is fake, even though her reality was altered by Oberon. Indeed the very flower used to fill the fairy queen with this love was supposed to have been hit with one of Cupid's arrows, the arrows which cause true love. Is true love not true if it is not of her free will? Does this make the love unreal? Titania perceives it to be…