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The Character of Moth in Love’s Labor’s Lost

The Character of Moth in Love’s Labor’s Lost

Like much of Love’s Labor’s Lost, the young character Moth is full of paradox. When Shakespeare has little Moth play great Hercules in the “Nine Worthies,” the playwright offers humor in contrasting the physiques of the actor with his role, or as Armado puts it, Moth “is not quantity enough” (5.2.130) to play the Greek god. However, Shakespeare may also be using this contradiction to compare physical strength with mental. Although physical ability doesn’t carry significance in Love’s Labor’s Lost, mental ability does, and Moth (mentally superior to his contemporaries) proves himself worthy of a high status. Using Moth as a Herculean figure is one of the most obvious paradoxes in the play, but there are others. Moth relies on rhetoric and integrity to show how true intellect comes from understanding people and not through scholarly displays.

Moth, for the most part, gets the better of his fellow characters, especially the educated ones. In the initial conversation between Moth and his boss, Armado, the page’s first reply to Armado’s question shows common sense. Moth responds that a “great sign” (1.2.3) of melancholy is sadness. This statement, too simple for Armado to understand, both mocks and uses rhetoric. Moth defines a sad face as a great sign, implying that the greatness of the sign lies in its obviousness. By claiming that something as common as a sad face is “great,” Moth treats rhetoric like a joke by giving an overly simplistic answer to a difficult and eloquent question. But at the same time, Moth uses rhetoric by shifting the definitions of words to make his point. Because a sad face is so visible, it is great in its degree. Like any rhetorician, Moth h…

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… is more. Moth, with integrity intact, passes through the “Nine Worthies” unscathed. The same can also be said for his role in Love’s Labor’s Lost.

Moth successfully gets though the play without looking like a fool. He does this by relying on two things: integrity and common sense. Moth has learned to balance these two qualities, not through studying books, but through social interaction. Shakespeare uses Moth as an example of how true intellect works. True intellect is not the ability to speak Latin or write stylized poetry, but as Moth states, true intellect “is the way to make an offense gracious” (5.1.140). And whenever Moth deals with offensive characters, he always maintains his grace.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Love’s Labor’s Lost. The Riverside Shakespeare. Ed. G. Blakemore Evans. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997. 208-46.

Essay on Stagnant Lives in Streetcar Named Desire and Glass Menagerie

Stagnant Lives in Streetcar Named Desire and Glass Menagerie

The Stagnant Lives of Blanche DuBois and Amanda Wingfield “All of Williams’ significant characters are pathetic victims–of time, of their own passions, of immutable circumstance” (Gantz 110). This assessment of Tennessee Williams’ plays proves true when one looks closely at the characters of Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire and Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie. Their lives run closely parallel to one another in their respective dramas. They reject their present lives, yet their methods of escape are dissimilar. Both women have lost someone they cared for, and so seek to hold, and unintentionally suffocate, those they have left.

A major problem that both Blanche and Amanda face is their misconception of reality and the “New South.” “The predominant theme of these plays is Southern womanhood helpless in the grip of the new world, while its old world of social position and financial security is a paradise lost (Gassner 78). They are victims of a society that taught them that virtue, attractiveness, and gentility all led to happiness. When tragedy strikes, Blanche and Amanda are unable to adjust to modem society and eventually withdraw into the securities of the past. “For Blanche and Amanda, the South forms an image of youth, love, purity and all of the ideals that have crumbled along with mansions and family fortunes” (Tischier 319).

Tragedy after tragedy has struck the character of Blanche DuBois of Streetcar until nothing is left except her tenuous grasp on sanity. Her young homosexual husband, Allan, kills himself, leaving her racked with guilt with which she cannot deal. It s as if the “Grim Reaper set up his tent,” taking the…

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… New York: Chelsea Publishers, 1987. 99-112.

Gassner, John. “Theatre at the Crossroads.New York,” Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960. pp. 77-91, 218-231.

Howell, Elmo. “The Function of Gentlemen Callers: A Note on Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie.” Tennessee

Williams’s The Glass Menagerie: Modern Critical Interpretations. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea, 1988.

Contemporary Literary Criticism 11 (1979): 575-576.

Nelson, Benjamin. Tennessee Williams: The Man and His Work. New York: Ivan Obolensky, 1961.

Tischler, Nancy M. “The Glass Menagerie: From Story to Play.” Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie:

Modern Critical Interpretations. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea Publishers, 1988.

Williams, Tennessee. A Streetcar Named Desire. New York: Viking Penguin, 1976.

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