Continuing with Allen Ginsberg’s August 1980 Shakespeare lectures.
This tape begins in media res, with Allen noting one of Shakespeare’s literary sources – Montaigne’s Essays [(Chapter 30) “Of The Caniballes”]
AG: Montaigne notes how one of his servants told him of a tribe of savages who followed the rules of nature. So this is an early Rousseau-ian utopian vision, which is echoed later by Gonzalo in one of his speeches:
“It is a nation, would I answer Plato, that hath no kinde of traffike, no knowledge of Letters, no intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate, nor of politike superioritie; no use of service, of riches or of povertie; no contracts, no successions, no partitions, no occupation but idle; no respect of kindred, but common, no apparell but naturall, no manuring of lands, no use of wine, corne, or mettle. The very words that import lying, falshood, treason, dissimulations, covetousnes, envie, detraction, and pardon, were never heard of amongst them. How dissonant would hee finde his imaginarie common-wealth from this perfection?”
So those are some of the historic background for The Tempesttext, which is also, as I said, relating to envy, jealousy, competition for power, but also, the arrangement of the state, and the nature of political wrangling for possession of the state, or for power over the state. So that we covered.. We covered, I think, up to Act 2, Scene 1, and.. what we had… I think we had got up to the point where (in Act 1, Scene 2, which is a long, long, long scene), Ferdinand and Miranda are brought together and fall in love, and..(for those who’ve read the play.. I’m assuming everybody.. I’m assuming some knowledge of the play), Ferdinand and Miranda have fallen in love, and Prospero is making problems for the advance of their amour, (mainly as a test to make sure they don’t get it too easy, although it seems a little shallow, it’s not quie motivated properly, you don’t know why he’s coming on so heavy on that point).
(to) Ferdinand: “One word/ more/ I charge thee/That thou attend me (to Miranda (no)) – “Thou dost here usurp..” (to Ferdinand – this is Prospero to Ferdinand, on page 50 of the Pelican text, Act 1, Scene 2, line 454) –
Thou dost usurp the name thou ow’st not, and has put thyself/Upon this island as a spy to win it/From me, the lord on’t” –
” – and Ferdinand says “No, as I am a man!”, “I haven’t done that”. So Miranda has previously said. “Why speaks my father so ungently? This/ Is the third man that e’er I saw, the first/ I sighed for Pity move my father/To be inclined my way”
Well, what Prospero is doing is testing out their love, and testing out Ferdinand’s sincerity at the same time, just trying to make it sort of a little obstacle in their way, so they have to go an obstacle course and do it right, (to) see how they’ll fare, see how their love will survive his contumely. And when I read it I noticed it seemed a bit thick, his behaviour. His idea was “..lest too light winning/ Make the prize light” – “..lest too light winning/Make the prize light”.
And (Samuel Taylor) Coleridge noticed that too, and Coleridge’s comment is:
“Prospero’s interruption of the courtship has often seemed to me to have no sufficient motive “ – (which, I think, that everybody’s reaction was – why’s he hassling them?) – “still”, says Coleridge, finding extenuating circumstances, “still, his alleged reason” (which (is) “lest too light winning/ Make the prize light”) is enough for the ethereal connections of the romantic imagination, tho it would not be so for the historical (imagination).”
Actually, what it does is, it makes Miranda disobey her father slightly. So it’s really a trick to sunder the authoritarian worship of Miranda for her father. It does serve the purpose of getting Miranda’s back up a little so that she has to separate from her father and go out to her lover, and that might be an intelligent calculation by Prospero. So it serves that little purpose, tho’.. (and) so it serves the purpose, I suppose, of thickening the plot. But it’s a…
it doesn’t make too much sense, and… Because that’s what I thought – (and I’m glad that Coleridge noticed it too, because I thought that that was just.. maybe I wasn’t getting the point, or something).
Then, in the second act, that, more or less brings that particular shot to the end, Act 2, Scene 1. we have Antonio, Gonzalo, Sebastian.. We have the King, Alonso, (as you all know, Prospero was.. let’s see, on our table – (the) “cast of characters” – Alonso, the King of Naples, Sebastian, his brother, Antonio, (who’s in this scene), is the brother of Prospero, who was the Duke of Milan, (and Antonio had cast Prospero on the ocean in a ship with his daughter). Gonzalo had been helpful in giving them provisions and made sure that they didn’t drown (Gonzalo, the counselor, or grand vizier).
So what Prospero’s done here is gathered all the plotters from the previous political imbroglio together on the island, because he’s going to reconcile all the problems. So he’s got the.. Alonso, the King of Naples, and Sebastian, his brother, and then he’s got Antonio, the guy who kicked Prospero out and tried to… and betrayed him, he’s got Gonzalo, the old honest counselor, and Adrian and Francisco, who are Lords. So what you have here is – the King’s been quarreling with the Court, and you have a good example of their behavior in the first scene. In the second scene, you have the monster(s) and the people, the quarreling drunk louts. So what Shakespeare is presenting is the two classes of society and their basic behavior and manners and motives… In Scene 1, the quarreling wits of the Court and contentious jealous envious brothers ready to commit murder to get to be King themselves (and so you have all the inter-politics of that, of their ambition). Then, in Act 2, Scene 2, you’ll have Stephano, “a drunken butler”, Trinculo “a jester”, meeting with Caliban, the brute human meat monster. And so, he’ll represent, see, the mob… They’ll represent the mob and the populace, and you’ll see them quarreling to assassinate Prospero, and quarreling over power also. And Caliban offering to lick Stephano’s shoe, offering to lick Stephano’s shoe if Stephano will murder Prospero.
So, actually, it could be.. I suppose it could be seen as a political parable. – [to Student(s)] Have you read enough of the play to remember that..those parallel passages?.. It’s built like a brick shit-house, in a way, as far as… really nicely and proportionately done. In other words, a whole display of the Court – the contradictions, conflicts, passion, aggression, ignorance, and envy of the Court – then contradictions, conflicts, passion, aggression, ignorance, and envy of the populace. So that you have, like, a slice of life of all stations of humanity, (both those in power and those out of power), the masters and the servants, both behaving very similar, both with murder in their mind, both attempting assassination (you see the manners of the assassination of the Court and the manners of the assassination of the mob pretty much parallel. I suppose, if you studied it, you could make it exact parallels, or some witty parallels (there must be some corresponding humor in the plots of the aristocrats and the plots of the mob). In any case, in both.. both sides, Court and mob, are ready to murder for power, which is interesting. The quarrels on both sides… In the Court, among the aristocrats and the wits, they’re quarreling among themselves, or they wind up quarreling among themselves, and their quarrels are obstacles to the gaining of power. With the louts and the monsters, they’re all loony and they all wind up quarreling among themselves and getting messed up in their plot also.
Something about the second act of The Tempest. We’re in Scene 1. The aristocrats are going to murder Alonso, the King and take over his power, and Scene 2, where the monsters and the butlers and the drunken jesters are also planning to kill Prospero and then getting into quarrels themselves. So it’s, like, mirror images of each other. As above , so below, in society. So these interesting parallel scenes work really well, (are) really well done. And then, structurally, what’s interesting is that in Act 3, in contrast to that, is presented the innocent love scene between Ferdinand and Miranda. So that, just in terms of the structure of the play, there’s an interesting logical development, that you get the political… The second act is an analysis of society, (or Man), from a political point-of-view, and then, the third act begins with the presentation of the idyllic love-scene – the meeting and the vowing – Miranda having revolted from her father, slightly. (Ferdinand) having ( become) attracted to Miranda, submitting to her father submitting to her father’s authority, and walking away, Miranda and Ferdinand meeting and digging each other and, having, actually, true human communication, in the the form of love, as compared with the monster mob or the aristocratic Court in the paranoiac set of schemes that are going to..wind up in murder (if they can have it). So, actually, it’s the murders of Macbeth..it’s Macbeth and Hamlet and Lear (those plays were also about envy of power, and power-grabbing, and murder for power, except the sting has been taken out of it in this play, because none of the plots to murder are going to take place, they’re going to be foiled by the imagination, they’re going to be foiled by Ariel, or the wizard, they’re going to be foiled by the wizard, (by) Prospero, and his helpful poetic imagination, which is going to use tinsel tricks or “spectral music” to, like, drop acid in everybody’s mind, to make.. reform the plot. It’s about on that level, that is the psychological or metaphysical weaponry of true power (like Gregory Corso’s power in his poem. “Power”) is poetical magic. So they don’t need swords, they don’t need blood, they don’t need armies. Prospero just needs his poetic imagination to resolve the problems.
So a burden must have dropped from Shakespeare’s mind and bag, because the blood and anxiety and nightmare of Macbeth, the resentment and irresolution about fighting and taking up “arms against a sea of troubles./And by opposing, end them” in Hamlet, is resolved, because Prospero’s active. The tearful, pitiful, complaining, resentment of (King) Lear , that having been robbed of his power and cursing, is over. I guess.. what?.. who was the one? was it Timon?, who gets to be really mean and mad and angry? – Like the total pitch of the hell realms of Timon – that’s passed over. What you have left is this light-hearted, light-handed, completely, compassionate, elevated, merciful, resolution at the end. So, if they did reflect the dfferent stages of Shakespeare’s relations with people, he, apparently, came to a relatively good safe harbor at the end.
(And yet), judging from the way that he deals with the problems here – having been unseated, he’s able to forgive it – but we’ll get to that later.
So , I guess what we might do with Act 2 is check out the “pretties”, check out the interesting intelligencies in the text (then we’ll get back to the philosophy and structure of the play for Act 3). So let’s go over the high-points of the text in Act 2. I want to do it so we have enough time to finish the whole play.
I like Alonso’s speech, Act 2, Scene 1, line 102 – “You cram these words into my ears against/ The stomach of my sense” – “against/ The stomach of my sense” – that’s a pretty funny way of laying it out – “Would that I had never/Married my daughter there, for coming thence/My son is lost“, etc – but “You cram these words into my ears against/ The stomach of my sense” (that’s the King speaking here). Then Gonzalo, Scene 1 of Act 2. (They’re being sort of witty at each others’ expense, and they’re bugging the King – that is to say, Sebastian and Francisco, talking about the loss of Ferdinand, Alonso’s son – It’s kind of a nice description. Francisco’s description, in line 113: “His bold head/’Bove the contentious waves he kept, and oared/Himself with his good arms in lusty stroke/To th’ shore that o’er his wave-worn basis bowed,/As stooping to relieve him. I not doubt he came alive to land” – and then Alonso, his father, says, “No no (no), he’s gone“. And then Sebastian sort of blames the King for the situation – “The fault’s your own”. Alonso, the King says, “(Oh), So is the dearest o’ the loss” – And Gonzalo, who’s basically the good guy, says, “My Lord Sebastian,/ The truth you speak doth lack some gentleness” – “The truth you speak” lacks in gentleness “And time to speak it in. You rub the sore/When you should bring the plaster”. And he replies, “Very well”.
And, Coleridge’s comment on this is interesting – “In this play are admirably sketched the vices generally accompanying a low degree of civilization, and in the first scene of the second act, Shakespeare has, as in many other places, shown the tendency in bad men to indulge in scorn and contemptuous expressions, as a mode of getting rid of their own uneasy feelings of an inferiority to the good, and also, by making the good ridiculous, of rendering the transition of others to wickedness easy”. Because in this scene, they’ll go from this bantering mutual accusation and “striking at the heart” and “rubbing the sore”, and speaking the truth in.. without “gentleness”, and speaking it the wrong time, they’ll go on to plotting against the King, later on, when he falls asleep.
“Shakespeare never puts habitual scorn into the mouths of other but bad men..”, Coleridge said. “The scene of the intended assassination of Alonzo and Gonzalo is an exact counterpart of the scene between Macbeth and his lady, only pitched in a lower key throughout, as designed to be frustrated and concealed, and exhibiting the same profound management in the manner of familiarizing a mind, not immediately recipient, to the suggestion of guilt, by associating a proposed crime with something ludicrous or out of place – something not habitually matter of reverence. By this kind of sophistry, the imagination and fancy are first bribed to contemplate the suggested act, and at length to become acquainted with it. Observe how the effect of this scene is heightened by contrast with another counterpoint of it in low life – that between the conspirators Stephano, Caliban, and Trinculo in the second scene of the third act, in which there are the same essential characteristics”
So, Coleridge continues, “In this play…” – (and his generalizations about the politics) – “In this play and in this scene of it are also shown the springs of the vulgar in politics – of that kind of politics which is inwoven in human nature” – “inwoven with human nature” – that kind of politics which is inwoven with human nature”/
So, actually, if you listen to
the Nixon tapes, or any of the Watergate matters, or any of the Billy Carter matter (sic – 1980), you get the same politics.. the kind of which is “inwoven”, that kind of politics which is “inwoven with human nature” also, ayou get very similar badgering and put-down. Like the great Shakespearean phrase of , “let ’em.. hey, let ‘em, slowly, slowly, twist in the wind” (from Watergate, when he’s talking about, I guess, (John) Mitchell or somebody, “twisting in the wind” in the public square – It’s almost Shakespearean in bantering, negative tone – “scorn and contemptuous expression”. And it is true that macho scorn and contemptuous expressions is one of the psychological means that high politicians, (even in American life), use as a sort of put-down weapon for accumulating power to themselves, challenging people psychologically.
Student: ..Like in family-life too.
AG: Well, I think they do it here too
Student: (Probably true for him)…
AG: Yes, I know, but he’s interested in how does it affect the height of society (and the low of society) – But I like Coleridge’s insight there, that “scorn and contemptuous expression” is a means of power, the ‘put-down” is a means of power, cutting people down is a means of power,..
AG: Intimidation, psychological intimidation, also, is a prelude to crime, getting people to take on crime, too. So it’s just a real.. So, actually, there’s kind of an accurate model of our lives in Shakespeare’s shot.
Now with that, it makes it more poignant for Shakespeare to be presenting that, at the same time that he’s presenting, through the mouth of Gonzalo, in the same theme, a vision of utopia (which comes from that Montaigne passage I just read before, that passage on Montaigne’s essay on cannibals)
Gonzalo’s speech, page 57 here – or Act 2, Scene 1, line 143 – (We’ll have a little banter first, say, start at line 136): ”You rub the sore/When you should bring the plaster” Sebastian: “Very well” – Antonio: “And most chirurgeonly” – Gonzalo (to Alonso), “It is foul weather in us all good sir,/ When you are cloudy” – Sebastian; “Foul weather?” – Antonio: “Very foul” – Gonzalo: “Had I plantation o’ the isle, my lord…” – (Now he wants to make a big speech about goodness) –Antonio: “He’d sow’t with nettle seed” – (“that’s that “contemptuous banter”) – Sebastian: “Or docks or mallows” – Gonzalo: “And were the king on’t, what would I do?” – Sebastian: “Scape being drunk,for want of wine” – (You wouldn’t be able to get drunk on a bottle of wine!) – And Gonzalo still persists, confronting them with his utopian vision – “I’ the commonwealth, I would by contraries/Execute all things” – (I’d do everything by opposites) – “..no kind of traffic/ Would I admit, no name of magistrate/Letters should not be known, riches, poverty./And use of service. none, contract, succession,/Bourn,bound of land, tilth, vineyard, none,/ No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil/No occupation, all men idle, all,/And women too, but innocent and pure, No sovereignty..” Sebastian, cutting through his idealism, says – he wants to be the king of it, I suppose– “No sovreignty”, “Yet he would be king on’t” – Antonio: “The latter end of his commonwealth forgets/the beginning of it” (because he began, “If I were king, this is the way I’d have..”).
So I’ll go back to the Montaigne essay (for those who came in late) – on the cannibal, Montaigne “notes how one of his servants told him of a group of savages that followed the rules of nature” (it’s essay number 30 in his Essays.): “It is a nation, would I answer Plato, that hath no kinde of traffike, no knowledge of Letters, no intelligence of numbers, no name of magistrate, nor of politike superioritie; no use of service, of riches or of povertie; no contracts, no successions, no partitions, no occupation but idle
So Shakespeare’s , actually, right on there, appropriating Montaigne’s language (which is nice, to see Shakespeare appreciates a good mouth other than his.
Student: Well, he does it all along.
AG: Yes – “no respect of kindred, but common” – even to the syntactical parallels, parallelism – he takes over Montaigne’s syntactical tricks
[Allen calls off as an aside -“You off, Andy? – We’re relating this speech in Act 2, Scene 1, line 143 to a passage in Montaigne.”):
– “ …no respect of kindred, but common, no apparell but naturall, no manuring of lands, no use of wine, corne, or mettle. The very words that import lying, falshood, treason, dissimulations, covetousnes, envie, detraction..” – (detraction, that’s nice, he’s including that “contemptuous banter” – “…detraction” ) “…and pardon, were never heard of amongst them. How dissonant would hee – (Plato) – finde his imaginarie common-wealth from this perfection?”
Of course, and that’s what’s interesting, as has been pointed out, by (some of the) c ritics, after all, this play was written for James the first. So really it’s a “Mirror for the Magistrate”, it’s a.. sort of… instructions for the King, in some respects, a deliberate last chance by Shakespeare to teach the King how to govern, and to set a model for behavior and psyche for the Court, and to satirize, or parallel, the conspiracy of the Court, to make a political statement, which is basically a put-down of the mob, too. Coleridge has something to say about that..
Student: Apparently, Malcolm X (and I don’t know if it’s the whole Black Muslim trip), but they say.. (they) think.. Shakespeare was a pseudonym. for the King, you ever heard that?
AG: Might have been. No, but it was supposed to be a pseudonym for lots of people.
James the first did write poetry, didn’t he?
Student: Maybe he did some of the Biblical translations..?
AG: That’s right.The King James Bible – Is that it?
AG: Maybe. I forgot about that. Malcolm X thought that…?
Student Malcolm X thought that Shakespeare was really King James.
AG: Because he expressed sort of aristocratic views?
Student: Yeah, and sort of.. Biblical language.
Student (2): Of course, The King James Bible is a lot of people..
Student (2): You know, he didn’t do it all himself.
Student: Right, yes (it’s a theory).
AG: But I suppose, this is also Shakespeare’s utopia? Gonzalo being sort of like a middle bourgeois character, but, nonetheless, he’s a good guy, and, at the end of the play, Prospero weeps (at the reconciliation scene with Gonzalo). So Shakespeare’s, basically, expressing a basic human liking for Gonzalo. Although it’s utopia, they (it) probably wouldn’t work. As he says, “...I would by contraries/Execute all things” (that is, just the opposite of the way the world is running – by contrary). Still, this is Shakespeare’s, like, last stand, in a sense of proposing, or projecting, what might be a utopia. So it’s interesting for analysis. If you want to go through it, one could extend and write a whole blue-print on the basis of no contracts, what would happen if there were no succession in inheritance of property, much less boundaries or vineyards (no vineyards! – he wouldn’t have wine – he wouldn’t have corn either, I wonder what.. certainly not metal). So it’s an equivalent to an American Indian don’t-bring-the-metal-up-out-of-the-ground – “No occupation, all men idle..” (huh? – how he would do it, I don’t know?, except on the basis of that magical island that was described before where “ripe apples drop on my head” – “Stumbling on melons as I pass / Ensnar’d with flowers, I fall on grass” – What is it? (Andrew) Marvell’s poem about the Bermudas – Marvell’s “The Garden ” (and the poem’s about the Bermudas) that paint a picture of magical enchanted isles full of ripe apples and “luscious clusters of the vine/Upon my mouth who crush their wine” (I don’t know if you remember Marvell’s
“(The) Garden”, Andrew Marvell’s poem, “(The) Garden”- which has the line “What wond’rous love in this I lead!/Ripe apples drop about my head/The luscious clusters of the vine/Upon my mouth do crush their wine/The nectarines and curious peach/Into my hands themselves do reach,/Stumbling on melons as I pass,/Ensnar’d with flowers, I fall on grass”
So it’s a whole utopia where the fruit presses itself inside his mouth! “where you need that for “..all men idle all,/And women too”. Still, it’s a nice thing to know that Shakespeare did have a little idea as to what he would like…
Then, “All things in common nature should produce/Without sweat or endeavor, treason, felony/Sword, pike, knife, gun, or need of any engine/Would I not have, but nature should bring forth by /Of it’s own kind all foison” (which is abundance), “all abundance,/ To feed my innocent people”
Sebastian: – “No marrying ‘mongst his subjects?” – ((Now) they’re making fun of him) – Antonio: “None,man, all idle, whores and knaves” (they don’t get married, they’re all whores!)
Then: ” (So) I would with such perfection govern, sir,/To excel the golden age” – and Antonio says , “Long live Gonzalo!” – (So they’re making fun of him)
Student: Maybe it’s just, like, the rule of the mind? – that’s how Gonzalo would rule in his mind, if it were up to him.
AG: Yes. Because he’s talking to the King about politics, they’re on a magic island and -they’ve lost their… they think that they’re marooned, and the King thinks he’s lost his son so that actually he’s open to..well, what is the ultimate.. what is the ultimate prize, you know? Alonso, however, he’s worried about his kid, and he’s sick of the banter. He says, “Prithee, no more, Thou dost talk nothing to me” – That’s another nice Shakespeare phrase – “Thou dost talk nothing to me” – You’re not making any sense. You’re not saying anything, man” – “Thou dost talk nothing..” I mean, we would say, “You’re not saying anything new”. He says, “Thou dost talk nothing to me” – That’s a good one. I ought to use that. Somebody says something stupid in a classroom, say – “Thou dost talk nothing to me” – It’s just a good put-down. And then Gonzalo, who’s pissed off at the bantering wit, says, “I do well believe your Highness and did it to/minister occasion to these gentlemen, who are of/such sensible and nimble lungs that they always use/to laugh at nothing” – (That’s why I’m talking now, these guys laugh at nothing, so I was “ministering” to them!) – So they say, ““Twas you we laughed at”. So, actually, Gonzalo, for all his being a middle-class bourgeois, muddle-headed, utopian good guy, is also pretty smart, because he replies, “Who in this kind of merry foooling am/nothing to you. So you may continue and laugh at/nothing still.” – (So actually he’ s the smartest wit of the wits even though he’s an old plod) – But then, Antonio’s “Oh boy, what a funny thing”, he says, “What a blow was there given!” (because it’s something like, it’s really like, the Hells Angels, sort of! In a sense, It’s the same thing, like, you’ve just got constant put-down.
And then it gets rather fanciful – “You are gentlemen of brave mettle. You/ would lift the moon out of her sphere if she would/ continue in it five weeks without changing.”
And then, meanwhile… it gets just too much, and then, finally, imagination, supernal imagination, enters, “playing solemn music” – Gonzalo: – “Will you laugh me asleep?/For I am very heavy” – (It’s kind of interesting, that there are these constant things about sleep, being “heavy”) – So they get heavy and all go to sleep, except the meanie conspiritors, the bantering wits, (quarreling wits too, you know), except Sebastian and Antonio
Then Antonio says to Alonso “We two, my lord,/Will guard your person while you take your rest,/And watch your safety“! – So, “Thank you. Wondrous heavy.“, says the King.
So he falls asleep.
So, the first thing that Antonio says is “We’re going to guard you”. Then, when everybody’s asleep, envy creeps forth between the conversation, in(to) the conversation, between Antonio and Sebstian, and Antonio says (in line 198, or so) – “They fell together all, as by consent/They dropp’d, as by a thunder-stroke. What might,/Worthy Sebastian? O, what might? – No more -/And yet me thinks I see it in thy face,/What thou shouldst be, the occasion speaks thee, and/My strong imagination sees a crown/Dropping upon thy head”.
So – Sebastian – “What, art thou waking?” – “What are you talking about?”– And then you get into this heavy paranoid conversation about murdering the King while he’s asleep – And “the crown/ Dropping upon thy head”, we’ll find later on, where crowns of .. crowns of bliss dropping on the heads of lovers , at the end, I seem to remember that, a little line like that. So they go on and they discuss the murder.
There’s a nice phrasing a couple of pages later (Act 2, Scene 1, line 242) – “The man i’ th’ moon’s too slow – till newborn chins/ Be rough and razorable..” – I like that – He’s saying.. they were talking about.. if we actually killed this king, then, won’t his daughter in Tunis hear about it and take revenge? and (Antonio) says, “No, she won’t take revenge, she wouldn’t know about it, “unless the sun were post“, the postman of this occasion, “the sun were post”, lest the sun were to notify her. The man in the moon’s too slow to tell her – The man in the moon’s too slow to tell her ”, “till newborn chins/ Be rough and razorable” .
– till babies would be born with beards, with rough beards and needing to shave – There’s just a sort of funny fancy there – “The man i’ th’ moon’s too slow – till new-born chins/ Be rough and razorable..”
So then we go on. I like Act 2, Scene 1, line 258
“…I myself could make/ a chough of as deep chat” – A chough is the jackdaw, a bird sometimes taught to speak. I like the sound – “I myself could make/ a chough of as deep chat” – The contumely and insults gets to a really murderous pitch at this point – “Say this were death/ That now hath seiz’d them, why they were no worse/ than now they are” – (there they are, sleeping- as long as they are dead, they’d be no worse than sleeping – the King – “There be that can rule Naples/As well as he that sleeps, lords that can prate/As amply and unnecessarily/As this Gonzalo, I myself could make/a chough of as deep chat
– “I, myself could make a jackdaw of as deep gossip, or chatting”, “I, myself could be a chatterer”, “I, myself could be a deeper chattering jackdaw as this Gonzalo”. ..I myself could make/ a chough of as deep chat”
No, “I myself could make a chough of deep chat” – How would you say it if you were an actor? – “I myself could make a chough of deep chat “ – I guess that would be the way – “I myself could make a cough of deep chat “ – I, myself could make out as a jackdaw, chatting as deep as that – “I, myself could make a chough of deep chat”- “I myself could make a chough of deep chat “ – It’s just a funny piece of mouthing that Shakespeare presents for an actor, because it does mean something if you get it.
Well, so, “What a sleep is this/ For your advancement!” – “Are we going to kill him or not?” – And Sebastian goes on “ ..for your conscience?” – Then they’re discussing conscience, and Antonio says, “Ay, sir where lies that? If t’were a kibe,/’Twould put me to my slipper” – if it were a chilblain… If conscience were something real, like a pain, a chilblain “’Twould put me to my slipper” (that’s on line 270-271)
Student: I just don’t know what “chilblain” is.
AG: “Kibe“? Chilblain, you know, rheumatism? – like chilblain? rheumatism?
Student 2: Twinge
AG: A neural twingle and a chilblain..
Student : “Kibe” is where it’s chapped on the heel.
AG: Pardon me?
Student: “Kibe”, it says, is a chafed spot on the heel…
AG: Chafed spot on the heel? Okay…Chilblain?…maybe? ..”kibe”..let’s see, I’ve got another book. Which Shakespeare do you have?
Student: I have the…
AG : Harrison?
AG: Let me check my note here. I’ve got another book.. Act 2, Scene 1 line 271? – It should say.. oh, actually, my note says, “A chough of as deep chat” (“I myself could make/a chough of as deep chat”) – I could make a jackdaw talk as profoundly as he does” -“Kibe”, a chilblain, maybe worse..but we don’t have a.. we don’t have any special footnotes – “Kibe”
Student: But it feels right. if you have a spot on your heel that pricks you, that would be like your conscience.
AG: Right. Yes. Yes, it would make sense that way..However, he’s saying the conscience is not a physical thing, like a chilblain, or a kibe, or rough spot, so therefore, if it were, then I’d have to get to the fire with the slippers – but, “I feel not/ This deity/in my bosom”. So he doesn’t feel any physical or physiological or can’t locate any conscience, particularly.
That’s a pretty good line, tho’ – If it were.. if it were real, if conscience were chaffing sore then, “’Twould put me to my slipper”, but it ain’t so .. – that’s very Burroughs-ian – “put me to my slipper” – very witty – “Twenty consciences,/ which stand twixt me and Milan, candied be they,/And melt ere they molest! “
One thing I was thinking when I was reading this.. It is probably possible to read this. It
is possible to read Shakespeare at one sitting, with a little bit of footnotes, and understand every single word in the play. I didn’t realize that when I was in high school. I thought that there were mysteries-beyond-mysteries in the language that would make it actually impossible to read Shakespeare clearly, but, mainly, it was my laziness in just looking up words. That it is actually possible just to read through – (or one should) – as a thing one could teach – like here and now – is.. that you can actually read through any play of Shakespeare and understand every word (at least every word that scholars have deciphered). Because there are sufficient footnotes, it’s generally laziness in examining passages that makes one feel that it’s impermeable. Because I tried.. I did last night, and every time I’d find a little blank spot in my mind that I could recognize, I checked it out in the footnotes..or re-read the passage, and I found that there was nothing impenetrable at any point, even in this advanced play, that everything wasopen, there was no need to feel intimidated by the complexity of the language, or the wit of the language, or the odd syntax (tho’ it might take a bit of examination, but no more than that, to figure out any sentence)
[to Students] – Was that your experience? Or has anybody found that, you know, it’s too hard. I did when I was in college and high-school, I thought it was too hard, but it isn’t r eally. I didn’t realize it was possible so I didn’t pursue the point of many of the sentences through a moment’s reflection.
So, we get onto..more of this conscience thing. We’re on that speech of Antonio’s, there’s another nice phrase, “…whiles you, doing thus,/ To the perpetual wink for aye might put/This ancient morsel, this Sir Prudence, who/Should not upbraid our course” This is Gonzalo who he’s talking about, about killing Gonzalo, and his phrase for killing Gonzalo is “might put/This ancient morsel”, “To the perpetual wink for aye” – that’s a nice way of saying, “kill him” – “put him to the perpetual wink for aye”
And then, and then he’s saying, as far as the other people, whether they be… So, Gonzalo’s the only one who has any kind of integrity, so they have to kill him. As for the rest of the courtiers – For the rest, “They’ll take suggestion as a cat laps milk” – That’s a funny, fast, exact, smoothie. I mean, there”s.. to indicate the smoothness with which they’d accept the transition to a usurper –They’ll take suggestion as a cat laps milk“– That’s really true Shakespeare. I mean, it’s like totally simple – They’ll take the hint, like the suggestion,
“as a cat laps milk” – It’s also a good sound –“cat laps milk” – “the cat laps milk” –
For an actor, it must be great – “Thou…”, you know, because you can really lay a trip on… – “They’ll take suggestion as a cat laps milk“. It’s easy words…”cat laps milk”.
So you could actually mouth it with any suggestion of contempt – “cat laps milk” – or humor – with any humor you want, you could put into that, (depending on the genius of the actor and how he wants to deliver that line), you’ve really got something to work, something nice to work with.
“They’ll tell the clock to any business that/ we say befits the hour”“Tell the clock”? What is that “tell the clock?” – this is an example of what I meant – you can figure out Shakespeare – “They’ll tell the clock to” – “tell” means – “read the clock, or count the clock, or read the hour, or, you know, they are not telling the clock something, they are figuring out the time, counting to figure out the time, or “tell the clock” (they say here (in the notes) “answer appropriately”) – “They’ll tell the clock to any business that/ we say befits the hour”
So we have brothers’ envy here, again . Sebastian is convinced, in the next speech, “Thy case, dear friend/Shall be my president – as thou got’st Milan/I’ll come by Naples. Draw thy sword. One stroke/Shall free thee from the tribute which thou payest./And I the King shall love thee” – Antonio – “Draw together,/And when I rear my hand do you the like,/To fall it on Gonzalo.” – They draw, but then Ariel comes in and wakes Gonzalo with a song, which is an interesting song, actually, rhythmically,so I’d like to examine that briefly
“While you here do snoring lie./Open-ey’d conspiracy/His time doth take/If of life you keep a care,/Shake off slumber, and beware./Awake, awake!” – (so it’s trochee trochee” “While you-here do-snoring-lie” – trochee trochee trochee . So, Trochee-trochee-trochee- trochee-– iamb-iamb – Trochee-trochee-trochee trochee, Trochee-trochee-trochee trochee, iamb iamb . “If-of life-you keep-a care – Trochee-trochee-trochee-trochee – “Shake-off-slumber, and beware – Trochee-trochee-trochee-trochee – iamb-iamb – Awake awake! – Da-da da-da da-da da, – Da-da da-da da-da da-da da-da – Da-da da-da da-da da – da-da da-da – So, proper for waking. It’s going contrary (the beat) The refrain (“His time doth take“, “Awake awake!” (iambic) – runs counter to the trochaic meter of the other lines – and it’s a nice combo. If you want to… I mean, it just shows you how exact and subtle Shakespeare’s consciousness of rhythm is, Shakespeare’s consciousness of rhythm is really exquisite here. And it’s very exact, you know. It isn’t, as if it fell out that way by accident, he really… he apparently knows‘ “His time” “Awake awake!” is different from “While you here do snoring lie/Open-ey’d conspiracy/His time doth take/If of life you keep a care,/Shake off slumber, and beware” – Is that clear? – So that’s nice, It’s a little gem, rhythmically, it’s a little gem of reversed cadence, so to speak.
Student: The theme of waking up is going on through, in the whole play, constantly.
AG: Yeah, yeah, well, being put into an enchanted sleep and then (to be) woken up (they’re already sleeping , already sleeping in a sort of middle death and then he puts them into a magical sleep, like a shock treatment or something, and then wakes them up out of it. Well lets see. We have. Well that’s the end of the kings and the quarrels of the wits at that point. Then we have the beginning of the louts and the quarrel of the low-born fools in Scene 2 of the same act
& I had gone for this in the first.. (Scene 2 of the second act). I think I read you from the original Folio to show the difference between the punctuation in the Folio and the punctuation in here – not that the Folio’s punctuation is accurate either, to the original playscripts..<
Then we’ve got really funny… Trinculo’s got some very funny lines…
to be continued
[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at the beginning of the tape, and concluding at approximately fifty-and-a-half minutes in]