Category Archives: Shakespeare (William)

Assertive Women Drive Lear, Trump Mad

Lear is driven mad by his assertive daughters. Are strong women like the San Juan mayor also sending Trump around the bend?

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Trump in Chaucer, Shakespeare & Conrad

When compared to people called “dotard” in Chaucer and Shakespeare, Trump fits the insult hurled at him by Kim Jong-un. His statement to African leaders, meanwhile, makes him sound like a “Heart of Darkness” ivory trader.

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Nazis and the Classics

Do the classics make us better people. F. R. Leavis thinks so while Terry Eagleton disagrees and cites as an example concentration camp commandants who read Goethe.

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Even Iago Should Not Be Tortured

Examining an upcoming trial by people who were tortured during the George W. Bush administration, Ariel Dorfman examines the face of Iago and the satisfaction we take at the tortures that await him.

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Lit Frees Us from Our Mental Ghettos

In a fine “New Yorker” article, Shakespearean Stephen Greenblatt argues that Shakespeare was incapable to showing anything less than the full humanity of his characters, even the villains. He thereby liberates us from our “mental ghettos.”

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Lincoln Transformed Depression thru Lit

Melancholy threatened to paralyze Abraham Lincoln in his early years. Literature helped him give voice to his depression and taught him how to turn it into an asset.

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Lit Comforts an ALS Sufferer

This past March an ALS sufferer spoke eloquently, shortly before her death, about how she turned to Sophocles, Kafka, and Shakespeare for comfort.

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WaPo’s Petri Plays Shakespearean Fool

Washington Post humorist Alexandra Petri has been having a lot of fun with Trump supporters’ attack on “Julius Caesar.” Here are some of her funniest barbs.

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Only Wimps Complain about Shakespeare

Preeminent Shakespearean Stephen Greenblatt calls out people for whining about the Shakespeare-in-the-Park production of “Julius Caesar.” After all, Queen Elizabeth I once had a Shakespeare play used against her in an attempted overthrow and just shrugged it off.

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Sly Marc Antony Resembles McConnell

The Shakespeare-in-the-Park production of “Julius Caesar” has the Right up in arms about the image of Donald Trump being assassinated. The timeliest lesson of the play, however, is the way that Marc Antony slyly slides in to take power. Think of him as Mitch McConnell quietly preparing to repeal Obamacare and deprive millions of healthcare while the nation focuses on Senate hearings.

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Trump’s Cabinet as Goneril and Regan

Everyday, it seems, Trump proves to us that he’s King Lear. The latest example is when he subjected his Cabinet to a love test.

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Will No One Rid Me of This Russia Probe?

When former FBI Director James Comey, in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, quoted Henry II–“Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest”–he brought to mind both T.S. Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral” and Shakespeare’s “Richard II.” He took the right lessons from history by not murdering the Russia investigation.

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Shakespeare for a Midsummer Wedding

A couple of years ago a former student opted for a “Midsummer Night’s Dream”-themed wedding. For many reasons, it was a perfect choice.

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Lear, Trump & the Tyrant’s Loneliness

Donald Trump is like Lear in that both are trapped in a loneliness of their own making and, in their despair, both make the lives around them miserable. Lear finds his soul again at the end of the play, however. It might take a similar adversity for Trump to do so as well.

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Will Trump, Like Lear, Take Us All Down?

“The Washington Post” recently found numerous parallels between Lear and our own president, with “his zigzagging proclamations, his grandiose promises, his spasmodic attachments.”

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Something Rotten in the States of America

There is something rotten in Denmark and something rotten in the White House. The parallels between “Hamlet” and Trumpism are considerable.

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A Literary History of the Insult “Cuck”

“Cuck” has become a favorite insult amongst alt-right types. In today’s post I trace literary references to cuckolds going back to Chaucer.

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Trump as Lear, Howling in the Storm

Donald Trump has a lot in common with King Lear. I suspect, however, that Lear has the happier ending.

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Resolving Shakespeare’s Shrew Problem

“The Taming of the Shrew” is one of Shakespeare’s problem plays because it seems to endorse Kate signing on to a male domination fantasy. Modern productions such as the Synetic Theater’s non-verbal version have to make adjustments to satisfy modern audiences.

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“Julius Caesar” Is Only Too Relevant

“Julius Caesar” has been showing up in the news recently, and for good reason. New York leads off with the play this summer in “Shakespeare in the Park” (the political parallels are overwhelming) and there is an “Ides of Trump” postcard writing campaign scheduled for March 15.

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Climate Change, Fairies Fighting

Some of the extreme climate events we are currently experiencing are described in “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” where they are the result of fairy infighting

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Shakespeare Would Support Transgenders

As Donald Trump rolls back transgender protections, it’s worth going back to Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” which honors the sense that many have (not just transgender individuals) that they have the other gender hidden away beneath their exteriors.

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The Ugliness of Racial Resentment

“The Merchant of Venice” is a story of resentment and thus is only too relevant in today’s political landscape of inflamed passion. Those who have been victimized–or who feel that they have been victimized–are only too ready to stick it to others when they are in power.

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After Surgery, World Is No Longer a Monet

My brain is still trying to adjust to my new eye following cataract surgery, which has me thinking of various passages about seeing in “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” My having an operation, I also opted for a different path than Claude Monet, at least according to this wonderful Lisa Mueller poem.

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My Cataract Surgery Recalls Oedipus, Lear

Recent cataract surgery had me recalling all those literary passages where sharp objects get poked into people’s eyes. The real drama, however, was renegotiating my professional identity.

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The President Who Loved Literature

In a remarkable interview with “The New York Times,” Barack Obama spoke about the importance of literature in his life. The range of his reading and the sensitivity of his responses is astounding.

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Aristotle Changed the Way Europe Thought

In “Aristotle’s Children,” Richard Rubenstein gets us to rethink the Faith-Reason and Religion-Science splits. When Aristotle revolutionized the High Middle Ages, Church leaders and thinkers tried to reconcile the tensions. Knowing this has me rethinking Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Donne.

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Decline & Fall of the American Republic?

Trump’s victory may signal the decline of the American republic, just as the rise of the Caesar signaled the end of the Roman republic. Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” is only too relevant to today’s politics.

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Can Trump Cast Off His Falstaffs?

Can Donald Trump, like Prince Hal in Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” plays, shift from irresponsible merrymaker to great leader? Can he say, “I know thee not old man” to his former companions? Dream on.

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Shakespeare Understood Trumpism

According to Adam Gopnik, Shakespeare would have understood the rise of Donald Trump better than we do today. Whereas we see him as a historical oddity, Shakespeare would have seen him as the kind of evil that has always resided within humankind.

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Favorite Lit of Our Presidents

What was the favorite literature of the American presidents? I look at works that drew them (up through Franklin Roosevelt–the rest will follow tomorrow) and speculate on why.

Also posted in Addison (Joseph), Bulwer-Lytton (Edward), Byron (Lord Gordon), Cooper (James Fenimore), Defoe (Daniel), Dickens (Charles), Goldsmith (Oliver), Irving (Washington), Pope (Alexander), Robinson (Edward Arlington), Scott (Sir Walter), Shelley (Percy), Swift (Jonathan) | Leave a comment

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