Month: September 2021

My steed, my steed, how do you plead? Richard III’s devolution

Horse, oh horses, the greatest steed to get people of the 1400’s from one side of town to the other. To go off into battle, the ally of man living aside him through strife and struggle. And a constant symbolic usage in Richard III. One of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, Richard III is not a tragic hero, but the destroyer of his own story.

As he crumbles, he crumbles that which exists in his sphere with him. Pitied for his deformities, and cast aside, forgotten as the last born often is. He did not have a human ally, like a horse to man. Anyone who has been the youngest sibling can attest to having to live in the shadow of their siblings sun.

“I am not shaped for sportive tricks… cheated of feature, disassembling nature, deformed, unfinished, sent before my time into this breathing world scarce half made up… that dogs bark at me as I halt…”

A stirring pot for insecurity. We are given insight as to why he may feel this way, how he views the world. He is surrounded by shame for existing, the peaceful world around him is the world that does not accept him. When met with the optimal state of the world, when even in that you are not accepted, and in the happiest state of the world, you’re life remains meager, what difference does hurting it make? To someone who feels as hopeless as Richard, where not even the sun shines on him.
“Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace, have no delight to pass away the time unless to spy my shadow in the sun and descant on mine own deformity.”
We are both forced to feel appalled, and a reluctant compassion for Richard’s slow devolution into madness. He is to be pitied, but he seems not to want the reader to pity him. He has not known a normal experience in upbringing, where he is loved naturally, by parents, brothers, or lovers. Achieving and obtaining the most basic needs and wants of humanity, are difficult, when he is at, in societies eyes, and his own, a disadvantage, someone lesser. He likely developed from an inferiority complex with the belief that he must manipulate. In which he proceeds to, we get the beginning inclinations that he wishes to manipulate Clarence and the King into killing each other.

“But yet I run before my horse to market.” [1.2, 158]

He means he is getting ahead of himself, again utilizing the horse metaphor. He is already thinking about marrying warricks youngest daughter. He has yet to set down all his puzzle pieces for power. There is foreshadowing for the end scene, where he has no horse and must fight on foot. The horse, perhaps represents his manipulation, hiding behind the use of murder rather then through honor and accepting his position in life.

“Clarence still breathes; edward still lives and reigns
When they are gone, then I must count my gains.” [1.2, 158-162]

A desperation at this point to achieve and obtain what he has always longed for. Jealously looking at from afar, power, superiority, just as his brothers where superior to him. He resorts to control, in his impulsive impatience. Deep down he likely feels he does not deserve basic human needs, that the only way to ever experience what is human is to grab it by force. Those needs revolving love, respect, understanding. Or at least, what he in his warped mind believes that should look like. Clarence and the king who have always been superior to him had always had those things, so why can’t he take it for himself?


“Instead of mounting barbed steeds to frighten the souls of adversaries…” [1.1 line 10-11]
We see the duality of Richard in the symbolism of the horse. Perhaps Richard prefers animals over humans, or perhaps the horse is a symbol of a crux he must depend on. If he rides upon the horse he depends on the horse for his power and momentum, but if he stands with his own two feet, he has only his own strength to guide him. The horse represents his imagination for the future, and what he can achieve if he only were to reach for it. Though, in Richards case, reaching for his dream of being respected and loved includes killing two boys, and his brother for the crown and the lady. Pretty extreme way to experience human acceptance you would think. I mean, I do not think of killing my family members in order to obtain acceptance.
But, think about it, he denied any love he had and chose to view the world in the worst way possible. He feels that he never will have love, so he acts out of hopelessness, and it is only because he is hopeless that he resorts to force and control. If there is no point anyway, why not act in the most extreme way to obtain the crown, to finally sit in superiority, it is the last resort before you die. It is here that he represents a dark side of ourselves.

In psychology there is a term called our shadow self, it is the part of us that we grew up being shamed over. When our parents told us that being upset was bad. We then, as adults, would feel annoyed at seeing someone expressing high volatility. Why can’t they be normal? Yet at the same time, when we repress our own anger, in some ways we are relieved when that friend with zero impulse control spills like an open cannister of worms every hidden angry thought we secretly were harvesting. We then pretend to be upset with that friend for going off the rattle, while secretly admiring the vulnerability that we are too afraid to replicate.

Having been in a position where he was expected to be more evil due to his appearance, was it that what was condemned was not his badness but his goodness? His love and compassion? Therefore, bringing what was evil to the forefront, because that was what was expected from him? What he was comfortable with showing? Hiding his weak feelings of being inferior, and incapable. True kindness a weakness that he cannot afford? Pride hiding his shadow.

“Five have I slain today instead of him,
A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”

Richard III’s horse had died during battle, he had sought for another horse when he met Richmond in battle, perishing at the sword. The horse that was alluded with the imagination of power, died after he obtained everything he had dreamed of. That dream dying as soon as the horse died. All the manipulation, falsehoods and lies, the allusion of the ‘horse’ the superiority in which he envisioned himself in his impulsive and cruel actions.
Perhaps, the horse was all that he loved, and all that truly loved him.

A Phenomenology of Sadness in Shakespeare’s Hamlet

[1]

“To be or not to be” might be the most well-known quote of Hamlet describing the contemplation about existence. Just in few words, this quote shows the hesitation, the insecurity, and even the complexity in emotions of the one saying it, the prince of Denmark, Hamlet. Seen as the most psychological and even philosophical play of Shakespeare’s[2], Hamlet reflects vividly and authentically the world of emotions, especially sadness. In this blog, I would like to have a brief review of the article “ ‘Oh That This Too, Too Solid Flesh Would Melt’: A Phenomenology of Sadness in Shakespeare’s Hamlet” by J. Keeping and how he addresses the phenomenology of sadness described in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

[3]

 

First, before going further to the article, I believe it is necessary to have some general knowledge about Hamlet as well as the subject material, sadness. For whom might not know this play at all or just have some ideas such as: “Hamlet is about a prince contemplating a scheme to revenge”, I can assure this play can do much more than that. The reason for my guarantee is because once one reads the play, he or she will be impressed with the variety in the emotion world, especially Hamlet’s, or at least its engaging plot. I still remember the first time I read Hamlet and am still able to reminisce that moment so vividly after more than a decade. As an eight or ten years old girl, I just read it as how I read many other dramatic novels. Despite not being aware of any implication or philosophical lesson, I still relatively enjoyed it. Now, after years since the first time, Hamlet is still one of my favorites although the way I feel it has varied significantly. To me, Shakespeare’s Hamlet becomes much deeper, darker, and most importantly much sadder.

 

 

[4]

 

According to Keeping, sadness is less straightforward than other feelings. In fact, he believes sadness is a “part of a spectrum of emotion words with associated meanings: unhappiness, grief, gloom, melancholy, sorrow, depression, despair” (2). Therefore, when one feels sad, it is rarely only about pure sadness. Besides, the way people consider this feeling is also quietly arbitrary. For some, sadness and depression share the same rank and come at the same time while for others, depression can be much stronger than sadness. “Emotions are dynamic, meaning that they cannot be relied upon to sit still for study: often they will pass or even transform into other emotions” claimed Keeping. To him, “emotions are dynamic” because of their transformation. They can change from change one to another. Therefore, that is why literary works, as Keeping mentioning in this article, need to be considered. Literary works in general and Shakespeare’s in specific can be “public object” and “intersubjectively accessible” give us a chance to enter the complicated world of emotion.

So why we should consider Shakespeare’s interpretation of sadness? The answer lies on his ability of sketching human’s emotion. Since “literary works are autobiographical”, each of them reflects very authentically writer’s experience as well as ideology . Shakespeare plays utterly succeed in depicting human world, both inside and outside. Moreover, Shakespeare’s play is not only for any particular period; they do reach the universal extent.

[5]

 

When it comes to the first soliloquy of Hamlet found in Act I, Scene 2, the desire of Hamlet about ending his life comes out greatly in the first sentence. To Keeping,  “Oh that this too, too solid flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew!” begins the soliloquy, and rarely do we hear sadness expressed so vividly in so few words. This line is too often read as a longing for oblivion, a poetically expressed desire for suicide” ( Keeping, 2008). It is obvious to catch that the root of Hamlet’s broken heart lays on the death of his father. However, if we consider the whole soliloquy, Hamlet mentions constantly his mother’s disloyalty and the inferiority of the one she married. His sadness in this soliloquy is a combination of despair, disappointment, and even frustration. He cannot believe in what is happening in his own house when he is back.

Moving to the rest of the soliloquy, Hamlet keeps expressing his despair and his instability in emotion. For example, when Hamlet cries: “Heaven and earth, must I remember?”, reader can see the despair, but right after this one is a couple of other sentences which are full of anger: “O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason would have mourn’d longer!” Because of the unbearable circumstance, Hamlet’s emotions are extremely unstable. Sadness causes anger and also diminishment in Hamlet. “It seems that in sadness we sink, we shrink, we are diminished. More specifically, we shrink into ourselves. Sadness is a diminishment, but it is also a retreat from the world”[6]

To conclude, as Ophelia said in Act 4, scene 5, “we know what we are, but know not what we may be”. What we may be can be affected by many factors and one of them is the alteration of our feelings. They are dynamic, and Shakespeare’s Hamlet will always be an evidence for that.


 

[1] Quotefancy, 10 September 2021.

https://quotefancy.com/quote/53296/William-Shakespeare-To-be-or-not-to-be-that-is-the-question

[2] J. Keeping, “‘ Oh That This Too, Too Solid Flesh Would Melt'”: A Phenomenology of Sadness in SHakespeare’s Hamlet”, ProQuest, 10 September 2021.

centralauth.uco.edu/cas/login?service=https%3A%2F%2Fuconnect.uco.edu%2Fc%2Fportal%2Flogin

[3] WallpaperCave, 10 September 2021. https://wallpapercave.com/hamlet-wallpapers

[4] Hanaan Haddad, “Emotional regulation: Emotions as indicators and not dictators”, RWA Psychology, 10 September 2021.

Emotional regulation: Emotions as indicators and not dictators

[5] The Center at West Park, “Hamlet by William Shakespeare”, 10 September 2021.

https://www.centeratwestpark.org/events/2019/3/28/hamlet-by-william-shakespeare-9xl8p-b3a6j-aew4w-da39w-x5kn8

[6] J. Keeping, “ ‘Oh That this Too, Too Solid Flesh Would Melt’”: A Phenomenology of Sadness in Shakespeare’s Hamlet”, ProQuest, 10 September 2021.

centralauth.uco.edu/cas/login service=https%3A%2F%2Fuconnect.uco.edu%2Fc%2Fportal%2Flogin

Hamlet: Incel in the Making

Just kidding. Kind of.

I beg the reader to implore a modern concept to an amberized character by asking, was the Prince of Denmark a Nice Guy? Possibly dabbled in incel territory? What do all these words even mean? By speed running Feminism 101 via history as well as taking a close look at Hamlet’s dialogue towards his mom Mrs. Hamlet, and ex-girlfriend Ophelia, we can gain insight as to how to conceptualize Nice-Guyism within Hamlet with relative ease.

Before we begin,

We can conceptualize this concept via the Angel in the House. Despite being coined in the Victorian age, the idea of the Angel in the House exemplifies the domino effects of gender roles placed well since Shakesphere’s time as patriarchal values hardly change in subject. 

First demonstrated in Coventry Patmore’s poem, the Angel represents the woman within this public sphere being that of angel: “passive and powerless, meek, charming, graceful, sympathetic, self-sacrificing, pious, and above all–pure,” (“The Angel in the House”). Opposite to the public sphere, we can see the dynamic between the oppressor vs the oppressee taking on the role of parent and child, (Hello, Yellow Wallpaper, anyone?) in which one instructs the other and the Other obeys. 

Applying these ideas rooted in misogyny, whose sole purpose is to maintain control and power over women, we may turn our attention to Ophelia.

We can very much apply some of these concepts to Ophelia who is infantallized and chastised for her beauty and relationship to Hamlet throughout the play. She is instructed by her brother, Laertes, not to have sex with Hamlet otherwise compromise herself to being ruined for marriage, had Hamlet deceive her. Her father disregards Ophelia as a person and optimizes to use her as a tool in his own scheme to uncover Hamlet’s madness. And Hamlet straight up tells her to save herself for God, otherwise to live in a brothel to bore more sinners born from her inherent sin as a woman.

I suppose it’s true that Shakesphere’s writing reflected human construction  so accurately that it has survived in one piece and can still be applied to us today, as Hamlet’s line of thinking towards Ophelia very much reflects the same kind of entitlement and projection of issues we see from incel and nice guy communities. 

    Incel, short for involuntary celibate, first originated in the 90s within a website called Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy Project. The project led by Alana, a bisexual woman, had created the page in order to create.a space for people who were not lucky in romance or intimacy due to sexuality or gender. The term, now reclaimed by the complete opposite of Alana’s goal (often far-right, straight cis-men) have since weaponized the identity through the online community of people stuck in an echo chamber expressing their hatred of women due to their undesirability based on the inability to perform peak masculinity (Kassam). 

    Incels, thus perform on a self-obstructing paradox in which they want a woman to have sex with, but at the same time hating women for not having sex with them; one aspect ultimately prohibiting the other. Nice-guyism puts this concept in motion as someone will identify themselves as a Nice Guy to a potential sex prospect, only to find out that most women don’t appreciate negging, dick pics, or sexually-charged comments. 

    Back to Hamlet. 

Upon Ophelia attempting to give back Hamlet’s gifts to her, he puts on his Misogyny costume and gets to work, questioning Ophelia if she is honest, or “chaste.” He states, “That if you were honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty,” implying that one cannot be beautiful and chaste, but rather beautiful and unfaithful. Here, Hamlet sets up the main tenets of incel mentality, “Creating false or unsubstantiated ideas about sexuality,” i.e. if she has a pretty face she is capable of promiscuity. He goes on to angrily yell at Ophelia, “Get thee to a nunnery,” essentially both calling her a whore and to not… be a whore (?). According to Hamlet, Ophelia can save herself from contributing to the world’s issues by doing everyone a favor and never have children or else she’d just bring sinners into the world born from her own sin. This concept relates back to the overall theme of misogyny previously mentioned in incel and nice guy online groups in which one is quick to jump to slut-shaming in an attempt to exert power and dominance over the other. 

Hamlet goes on to discuss the evil that is cosmetics, an issue that has seemingly persisted up to now by many men who simply want a “real” woman. He states, “I have heard of your paintings too…God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another. You jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nickname God’s creatures, and make your wantoness your ignorance…” This idea of beauty being deceiving shows up once again and this time seemingly with the thought that women actively use their sexuality to manipulate men for their own interest. Ophelia, whose beauty is her central attribute it seems, is to take this as a great insult from Hamlet.

However it is here that I posit the question to you, reader, was Hamlet an incel? If we consider the context of the plot as a whole rather than these instances of dialogue, there is the notion that Hamlet is performing madness, believing him to be watched in his exchange with Ophelia. We can extend this line of thinking to conceptualizing Shakesphere as a feminist (by today’s standard) by thinking of his portrayal of Hamlet’s dialogue being that of a madman. Through this line of thinking we can consider Hamlet not to actually believe these things, but instead is only acting as such in order to deceive Claudius.

Well, despite his incel performance possibly being a ruse on his own part, we can certainly refer to Hamlet’s perception of women by his speech towards his mother, Queen Gertrude. To which I argue he does showcase true attributes of incel mentality by means of misogyny.

Hamlet’s issue at the core of the play is anger and bitterness of his father’s murder and his mother’s lack of proper grieving. In this situation, much of Hamlet’s “incel” behavior toward Gertrude stems first from her betrayal towards his father. Thinking of this idea purely in feminist gender theory, Hamlet may feel the need to avenge and or assert his father’s authority over his mother. In my presented article I mention that the authors take special note that only Hamlet and the Ghost refer to Claudius and Gertrude’s marriage as incestous. Hamlet uses this aspect as a form of shame (or slut-shaming in today’s context) by constantly disparaging Gertrude for relishing in her incestous marriage (does she?). And while these marriages were often illegal in Shakesphere’s time, the idea of incest is inherently connected as an immoral and repulsive (despite Gertrude not being of blood relation to Claudius, still weird, but you know) and is thus weaponized against Gertrude as a form of shame from Hamlet.

Hamlet’s disparaging of Gertrude in Act 3.4 provides evidence to these seeds of incel-like mentality as he mentions again the hopelessness of marriage when his mother, “…makes a blister there, makes marriage vows as false as dicers’ oaths…” and in saying so very much argues for Hamlet’s own bitterness lying in the origin of his mother’s betrayal. From this Hamlet projects his perceived wickedness of Gertrude to that of all women. All women have the intention of lying with another man. 

There is much to say about Hamlet’s own Oedipus complex, but also just as much to say about Hamlet’s mommy issues being the main contribution to his lack of faith in women as people rather than potential cheaters. In this sense, when deciding whether or not Hamlet is an incel, take into consideration that Gertrude could not see the Ghost in the room with them. Is Hamlet possessed by his father’s own desire for revenge, so much so that Hamlet takes on the role of a revengeful husband rather than mourning son? Consider what information was given about incels and how Hamlet treats his mother and in extension, Ophelia, in terms of misogyny, sexism, and hatred. Ask, is Hamlet and Incel, Nice Guy, or just possessed by his mom’s ex-dead-husband?

Works Cited

“The Angel in the House.” William Makepeace Thackery, 2 March 2011, http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/novel_19c/thackeray/angel.html

Kassam, Ashifa. “Woman behind ‘incel’ says angry men hijacked her word ‘as a weapon of war.’” The Guardian, 25 April 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/apr/25/woman-who-invented-incel-movement-interview-toronto-attack

 

 

 

To be or Not to be…

That is Hamlet’s famous question, and my question to you, dear reader, is whether you think Hamlet has lost his mind since the death of his father. 


Okay, I’ll backtrack. Most of us know Shakespeare, and most of us know that he wrote Hamlet, but not everyone will have had the privilege of reading Hamlet in high school. 

So, what is Hamlet about? To put it vaguely, because Hamlet is long, the play follows a man after the murder of his father while he contemplates revenge. The start of the play introduces the ghost of Hamlet’s father, who is also called Hamlet, who wishes for Hamlet to avenge him by killing Claudius, who poisoned Hamlet’s father to become the king. To add insult to injury, Claudius then marries Hamlet’s mother after murdering her previous husband. Also, Claudius is Hamlet’s uncle, the brother of Hamlet senior. 

My plan is this: walk through the play, and use Hamlet’s own words and interactions with the other characters to show that maybe Hamlet has had a significant mental break due to the death of his father. 

Right off the bat in Act I Scene 2, we see Hamlet discuss how depressed he is over his father’s death. At this point, Hamlet just thinks his father was bitten by a snake, and he is still completely grief-stricken. Hamlet then says that he is upset that God made suicide a sin because he wishes he could simply be dead. The one and only time I will ever agree with Claudius is when he tells Hamlet that sons lose their fathers- that is the nature of things. Hamlet (obviously) has every right to be upset. Still, I think him jumping to wanting to kill himself after his father dies shows that Hamlet is not in the best state of mind, to begin with. Be it that he has a sensitive psyche or he already had suffered from some sort of mental illness, I think this is the main reason why he is so affected by learning that his father was murdered. 

When Hamlet sees his father’s ghost for the first time, and the ghost beckons him to follow, his friend Horatio does not seem to believe that Hamlet should follow. When Hamlet is held back, he draws his sword on his friend. This is one of the first moments we see Hamlet make a rash and honestly quite an insane move- why does he pull a sword on a friend who is just trying to help him. Hamlet even said it himself, that the ghost could actually be a demon or the devil, playing tricks on him. It is not a far jump to imagine that Horatio could also feel the same way and that the ghost could be dangerous. 

In act one, Hamlet’s mental state is rocky, but it seems to rapidly deteriorate in act two. 

In Act II Scene one, Ophelia speaks with her father about Hamlet and stating all of the strange things he has been doing. She said that Hamlet went into her room practically naked save for his undergarments (Scandalous!), looking as though he had just been through hell. She said he then jerked his head up and down three times, heaved what sounded like a dying breath, and left the room with his head still turned toward her. 

Hamlet’s behavior toward Ophelia when they are alone, I think, is the most significant indicator of his sanity. Some argue that Hamlet is acting this way to make it seem like he is insane while planning all of it. I say that the ways he has acted around people who are not directly involved with his uncle show his actual mentality.

I also argue that what would be the point of drawing all this attention to himself if he was contemplating killing his uncle? Would it not be better to just act sane and act as if nothing were wrong and quietly enact revenge? Would the best revenge not be served by robbing Claudius of his life and throne, as he did to Hamlet senior? 

In act III, scene two, Hamlet speaks with Ophelia, and Hamlet says that his mother seems awfully cheerful when his father died just two hours ago. Ophelia says that his father has been dead for four months, and Hamlet seems shocked at that information. He is confused as to why he was still wearing his mourning clothes, as if he had not been aware of how much time has passed between his father’s death and the current time. 

Later in act III, in scene four, Hamlet speaks to his mother, hears Polonius behind a tapestry, and kills him. A sane person, when faced with accidentally murdering an innocent person, would feel bad. Still, Hamlet instead just gets mad that Polonius was eavesdropping. Why does Hamlet feel no remorse for killing Polonius here? I think this further proves that Hamlet has lost his sanity because he should feel sadness and regret over killing Polonius, his girlfriend’s father. But he does not, and he even goes so far as to start berating his mother. 

Later in this same scene, the ghost appears to Hamlet, and his mother cannot see the ghost, which I think is a signifier of just how lost Hamlet has become. First, we see that Hamlet coolly kills an innocent man and then sees a ghost that no one else can see. This hallucination is just another break-in Hamlet’s psyche, and one I posit that he never comes back from. 

After that, Hamlet becomes all consumed with his revenge, and he goes as far as to say – entirely to himself, mind you – that if his thoughts are not about revenge, they are worthless. 

In act V, scene one, Laertes and Hamlet fight in what would soon be the grave for Ophelia, both men, I think, completely stricken and mad with grief. Later, when apologizing for fighting, Hamlet starts going on about insanity and speaking of himself in the third person, which I think shows he has some sense of himself back, but not nearly enough to matter in the end. 

At the end of the play, all of the main characters have died, and Hamlet is the one who killed Claudius by making him drink the poison he made for Gertrude.

The ending was a culmination of events, most of which were brought forth by Hamlet’s lack of judgment and lack of sanity. If he had not been so careless as to kill Polonius and feel no remorse, Hamlet himself would not be dead. All of the evidence provided from the play suggests that Hamlet’s own lack of sanity caused by his father’s death brought on his own demise. 

From looking at the play from this perspective, I hope to have shown that there is a possibility that Hamlet was not faking his insanity but was really indeed suffering after his father’s death.