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Notes

These notes examine a variety of issues in some of the passages drawn from Shakespeare's works. Some notes reference multiple passages. All are searchable by keyword and other categories such as character, theme, etc.

Banishment: Romeo and Coriolanus

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For two of Shakespeare’s most passionate male characters, banishment holds passionately different meanings. Romeo, banished from Verona, is grief-stricken and in fear of never seeing Juliet again. For him, banishment is the equivalent of death. Coriolanus, banished from Rome, is enraged and contemptuous of the plebeians who he hopes he will never have to see again. For him, banishment is an opportunity for a new life.
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Iago and Ulysses on Order and Degree

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Ulysses and Iago express similar themes about order and degree. Iago speaks more specifically about seniority versus affections and recommendations.
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Lear Act One Scene One

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King Lear’s first scene is notable in its length and structure. At over 300 lines, with more characters on stage than in all but the last scene of the play, and being divided into three sub-scenes, this first scene is almost a play in itself.

It begins, as do so many of Shakespeare’s plays, with a few minor characters whose dialogue introduces some of the play’s central themes.
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Animal Imagery

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Animal imagery dominates Henry VI, Part 3, as in two passages here:

Margaret
And yet shalt thou be safe? Such safety finds

The trembling lamb environèd with wolves.
Had I been there, which am a silly woman,
The soldiers should have tossed me on their pikes
Before I would have granted to that act…
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Video: St. Crispin’s Day Speech, Mark Rylance at the Globe

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Mark Rylance at the Globe as Henry V

 
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The Snare of Vanity

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In Act 2, Scene 1 of Julius Caesar, Decius Brutus uses “betrayed” to mean fooled, tricked or misled. A person can escape a unicorn by hiding behind a tree; a bear can be misled by seeing itself in a mirror; an elephant can be tricked into falling into a hole; a lion caught in a trap; and men seduced by flatterers.
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Immigration in Tutor England

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Shakespeare’s contribution to the play Sir Thomas More, which may never have been produced, is noteworthy for More’s compassionate speech about immigrants. The scene recounts the events of Evil May Day in 1517, during Henry VIII’s reign when Londoners, after sporadic rioting, threatened to kill Flemish and other European immigrants who were thought to be taking Englishmen’s work.

From the British Library by Andrew Dickson and British Library curators:

… continue reading this noteManuscript of a portion the play Sir Thomas More in what is believed to be Shakespeare’s handwriting.

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You and Thee

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In Henry IV Part 1, in the exchange between Hotspur and Owen Glendower, about calling up devils from the vasty deep, Hotspur deliberately shifts from the word you to thee when he addresses Glendower. You was often used to convey respect while thee was used when speaking to someone of inferior rank,
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Epilogues and Genders

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Rosalind in As You Like It, the arch-feminist of Shakespeare’s plays, is the only female character to deliver an epilogue. But for the final laugh, she steps out of character and, as the boy actor who played her, says, —If I were a woman, would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me–
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Wives and Troubled Husbands

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Lady Percy’s plea to Hotspur in Henry IV, Part 1, is similar to Portia’s plea to Brutus in Julius Caesar. In both a wife is pleading with her husband to disclose the thoughts that seem to trouble him deeply. A difference, however, is that some psychologists consider Lady Percy’s speech a clinical description of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
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