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Essay on the Vengeful and the Virtuous in William Shakespeare

The Vengeful and the Virtuous in Shakespeare

Whether you hate your King, your Christian rival or a neighboring foe, if you’re in a Shakespeare play then you will be punished. In the first act of each play Shakespeare shows a conflict between two groups of people, one is vengeful the other virtuous. After the conflict is introduced, the malignant characters have important parts of their lives taken away and in the end the ultimate penalties of each are inflicted. All of the antagonists are left desolate in the end of the plays by either lost fortunes or their lives. Shakespeare takes good care to give the protagonists of the plays much reward for being on the right side of the spectrum. As the characters hate increases throughout the play they begin to loose what is precious to them, first in small amounts, but in the end, they are stripped of all they love and value.

The basis for the hate is introduced to the audience very early on in all three plays. The Capulets and the Montagues were neighboring feuding families. Shakespeare never states the reason for the dispute between the two but he does clearly show the hatred from the beginning. “Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean” (I i 1-4). These first few lines of the play clearly describe the hatred between the two families and at the same time foreshadow an unpleasant end. In “The Merchant of Venice”, Shylock more boldly states, “I hate him for he is a Christian” (I iii 39). This cry of hate is also early on in the play, which clearly helps show the reader that he is the antagonist of the play. In “Henry IV” it is revealed in the first scene that a young Hotspur has kept prisoners of war away from the King. He calls the King Bolingbroke behind his back out of disrespect. “All studies here I solemnly defy, save how to gall and pinch this Bolingbroke. And that same sword and buckler Prince of Wales (I iii 227-229). In Shakespearean plays, a character who hates or plots against the King is automatically the villain of the play. The first act in all three plays revealed the characters for the audience to root against throughout the play.

Role Playing in Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms

The Role of Role Playing in Farewell to Arms

Listening to the radio today, I heard a song written a couple years ago that reminded me a lot of the relationship between Catherine and Henry in Hemingway’s novel Farewell to Arms. In this song, a girl asks a guy if he will be strong enough to be her man. She asks this question many times, each time changing the scenario for the worse in which she places them. Plaintively she implores, “will you be strong enough to be my man?” She seeks reassurance of her man’s strength by inventing roles for them to play just as Catherine and Henry invent roles in order to protect themselves from the discovery of their insignificance and powerlessness in a world indifferent to their well being.

Role-playing by Henry and Catherine is their way to escape the realization of human mortality that is unveiled by war. Hemingway utilizes role-playing as a way to explore the strengths and weaknesses of his two characters. By placing Henry’s ordered life in opposition to Catherine’s upside-down one, and then letting each one assume a role that will bring them closer together, Hemingway shows the pair’s inability to accept the hard, gratuitous quality of life.

Hemingway’s characters revert to role-playing in order to escape or retreat from their lives. The ability to create characters that play roles, either to maintain self-esteem or to escape, is exploited extraordinarily well in A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway is quite blatant in letting us know that role-playing is what is occurring through the thought and actions of the main characters. During Henry and Catherine’s third encounter, Henry thought, “this was a game, like bridge, in which you said things instead of playing cards. Like bridge you had to pretend you were playing for money or playing for some stakes”(30). This meeting becomes a turning point in their relationship for afterwards the two become increasingly comfortable with their roles and easily adopt them whenever the other is nearby. This is apparent also in that they can only successfully play their roles when they are in private and any disturbance causes the game to be disrupted. The intrusion of the outside world in any form makes their role-playing difficult. Evidence of this difficulty is seen at the racetrack in Milan, where Catherine tells Henry “I can’t stand to see so many people”(131).

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