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The Hairy Ape Summary
The Hairy Ape, a play by Eugene O’Neill, is about the negative effects of industrialization. A crew of firemen are drinking on the forecastle of a ship. Though they seem happy, there is tension between them, as though they might erupt into a brawl at any moment. The men sing—sometimes about alcohol and sometimes about home; Yank verbally attacks the idea of home, women, and emotional involvement. Long lays the blame for their miserable lot in life on those in first-class, which he identifies as the capitalist class. Yank says the workers are better than them.

Paddy launches into a bout of nostalgia for the days before engines, when, according to him, the ship, the sea, and man united as one. Yank tells him he is crazy—and dead. He thinks of Paddy as a relic of an age gone by, and says that he is steel.

Meanwhile, on the promenade deck, Mildred Douglas endures her aunt’s chiding as they chat and recline in the deck chairs. Her aunt teases her about Mildred’s attempts to help the poor through her efforts in social service. Despite the fact that Mildred enjoys the comforts and benefits of her family’s fortune derived from their steel business, she wants to make her own positive impact on life.

Her aunt tells her that her efforts to improve the lives of the poor are anything but altruistic. Rather, she says they are poor attempts at boosting her own social credibility. Despite her aunt’s recriminations, Mildred is determined to visit the stokehole below decks in hopes of meeting the workers there. She wants to experience their lifestyle. The captain of the ship has granted her permission, but only because she claimed that her father, the chairman of the ship line, had given her a letter asking her to inspect the ship. When the second engineer questions her choice in wearing a white dress when she is about to go somewhere dirty, she replies that she will just throw it away because she has plenty of clothes.

In the stokehole, the men are dirty and sweating. Paddy is tired, so Yank makes fun of him and boasts his own ability to work at the furnace without suffering exhaustion. His bragging rallies the other firemen, and they work harder to continue stoking the fire. When Mildred arrives, all the men notice except for Yank, who keeps working. When he does see her, he shoots a hateful look her way. Scared, she nearly faints. She asks to be taken away and calls him a filthy beast. Yank is angered by her insult and chucks his shovel at the door after she exits.

After their shift ends, most of the firemen clean up—except for Yank. He is out of sorts, and the other men tease him, saying he has fallen in love with her. He assures them that all he feels for her is hatred. The firemen determine that the engineer showed them off to Mildred like animals at a zoo, and call Yank “hairy ape,” which he likes because it allows him to imagine that their encounter led to violence directed at her. His temper rises, and the other men have to hold him down to keep him from acting on his fantasy.

After the ship makes port in New York, Long and Yank are walking the streets of the city. Long provides more political viewpoints, while Yank is angered by the exorbitant price of furs. He tries to start a fight with some wealthy churchgoers, claiming that it is people like him, with physical prowess, who make the world work. Before he can engage in any physical violence though, the police restrain and arrest him.

While in jail, Yank feels like an animal caged at a zoo. Initially, the other prisoners make fun of him, but after he mentions Mildred’s last name, they tell him about her father, who is the president of the Steel Trust. One of them recommends that Yank join the Wobblies, a group of labor activists. Through them, Yank decides he will exact his revenge. As his temper continues to boil and he thinks of the steel bars restraining him, he manages to bend them so that the prison guards have to subdue him.

After he is let out of jail, Yank goes to the office of the Wobblies. Wobblies, he finds out, is a nickname for the labor union known as the International Workers of the World. He wants to join, but has to stop and think when he is asked for his legal name. At first, the labor union is excited to have Yank because they want to organize other workers on the ship line. But when they ask him whether he wants to achieve his goals through dynamite or legitimate direct action, he answers dynamite. They reject his application because they think he is dangerous. Outside, he repeats a complaint that he truly does not belong anywhere. Thinking he is a drunk, two policemen chastise him.

Yank decides to visit the zoo. There, he walks into the monkey house, where he tells the animals about his experiences in New York. When a gorilla pounds his chest, Yank decides they belong together and thinks of their “club” as the “Hairy Apes.” He opens the cage door, releasing the gorilla, which grabs him and pulls him into a bone-crushing hug. As he crumples to the ground and dies, Yank realizes that he does not belong with the Hairy Apes, either.


Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1602. Set in the Kingdom of Denmark, the play dramatizes the revengePrince Hamlet exacts on his uncle Claudiusfor murdering King Hamlet, who is Claudius's brother and Prince Hamlet's father, and then succeeding to the throne and taking as his wife Gertrude, the old king's widow and Prince Hamlet's mother.


On a dark winter night, a ghost walks the ramparts of Elsinore Castle in Denmark. Discovered first by a pair of watchmen, then by the scholar Horatio, the ghost resembles the recently deceased King Hamlet, whose brother Claudius has inherited the throne and married the king’s widow, Queen Gertrude. When Horatio and the watchmen bring Prince Hamlet, the son of Gertrude and the dead king, to see the ghost, it speaks to him, declaring ominously that it is indeed his father’s spirit, and that he was murdered by none other than Claudius. Ordering Hamlet to seek revenge on the man who usurped his throne and married his wife, the ghost disappears with the dawn.Prince Hamlet devotes himself to avenging his father’s death, but, because he is contemplative and thoughtful by nature, he delays, entering into a deep melancholy and even apparent madness. Claudius and Gertrude worry about the prince’s erratic behavior and attempt to discover its cause. They employ a pair of Hamlet’s friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to watch him. When Polonius, the pompous Lord Chamberlain, suggests that Hamlet may be mad with love for his daughter, Ophelia, Claudius agrees to spy on Hamlet in conversation with the girl. But though Hamlet certainly seems mad, he does not seem to love Ophelia: he orders her to enter a nunnery and declares that he wishes to ban marriages.A group of traveling actors comes to Elsinore, and Hamlet seizes upon an idea to test his uncle’s guilt. He will have the players perform a scene closely resembling the sequence by which Hamlet imagines his uncle to have murdered his father, so that if Claudius is guilty, he will surely react. When the moment of the murder arrives in the theater, Claudius leaps up and leaves the room. Hamlet and Horatio agree that this proves his guilt. Hamlet goes to kill Claudius but finds him praying. Since he believes that killing Claudius while in prayer would send Claudius’s soul to heaven, Hamlet considers that it would be an inadequate revenge and decides to wait. Claudius, now frightened of Hamlet’s madness and fearing for his own safety, orders that Hamlet be sent to England at once.Hamlet goes to confront his mother, in whose bedchamber Polonius has hidden behind a tapestry. Hearing a noise from behind the tapestry, Hamlet believes the king is hiding there. He draws his sword and stabs through the fabric, killing Polonius. For this crime, he is immediately dispatched to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. However, Claudius’s plan for Hamlet includes more than banishment, as he has given Rosencrantz and Guildenstern sealed orders for the King of England demanding that Hamlet be put to death.In the aftermath of her father’s death, Ophelia goes mad with grief and drowns in the river. Polonius’s son, Laertes, who has been staying in France, returns to Denmark in a rage. Claudius convinces him that Hamlet is to blame for his father’s and sister’s deaths. When Horatio and the king receive letters from Hamlet indicating that the prince has returned to Denmark after pirates attacked his ship en route to England, Claudius concocts a plan to use Laertes’ desire for revenge to secure Hamlet’s death. Laertes will fence with Hamlet in innocent sport, but Claudius will poison Laertes’ blade so that if he draws blood, Hamlet will die. As a backup plan, the king decides to poison a goblet, which he will give Hamlet to drink should Hamlet score the first or second hits of the match. Hamlet returns to the vicinity of Elsinore just as Ophelia’s funeral is taking place. Stricken with grief, he attacks Laertes and declares that he had in fact always loved Ophelia. Back at the castle, he tells Horatio that he believes one must be prepared to die, since death can come at any moment. A foolish courtier named Osric arrives on Claudius’s orders to arrange the fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes.The sword-fighting begins. Hamlet scores the first hit, but declines to drink from the king’s proffered goblet. Instead, Gertrude takes a drink from it and is swiftly killed by the poison. Laertes succeeds in wounding Hamlet, though Hamlet does not die of the poison immediately. First, Laertes is cut by his own sword’s blade, and, after revealing to Hamlet that Claudius is responsible for the queen’s death, he dies from the blade’s poison. Hamlet then stabs Claudius through with the poisoned sword and forces him to drink down the rest of the poisoned wine. Claudius dies, and Hamlet dies immediately after achieving his revenge.
At this moment, a Norwegian prince named Fortinbras, who has led an army to Denmark and attacked Poland earlier in the play, enters with ambassadors from England, who report that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Fortinbras is stunned by the gruesome sight of the entire royal family lying sprawled on the floor dead. He moves to take power of the kingdom. Horatio, fulfilling Hamlet’s last request, tells him Hamlet’s tragic story. Fortinbras orders that Hamlet be carried away in a manner befitting a fallen soldier.

Photos from English language and literature's post 08/11/2021

The Birthday Party Summary

Stanley Webber is the main visitor remaining in Meg and Petey Boles' lodging in a waterfront resort town in England, where he has been stayed for as long as year and has basically no contact with the rest of the world. One morning, Meg and Petey find a spot at the morning meal table and make casual discussion. As Petey peruses the paper, Meg over and again inquires as to whether he's partaking in his cornflakes and seared toast. In a little while, she comments that Stanley ought to be down the stairs at this point. She then, at that point, chooses to "get" him, at long last drawing him from his room and getting him to the morning meal table, where she gives him cornflakes and seared toast.

After Petey leaves for work, Stanley tells Meg she's a "awful spouse" for not providing her better half with a new cup of tea. This discussion in the end transforms into a to and fro in which Meg changes between behaving like Stanley's guardian and his darling. They switch among being a tease and contending until Meg makes reference to that two new visitors will show up soon. "What are you discussing?" Stanley asks, disrupted, and Meg lets him know that Petey experienced two men around the ocean the prior night. "Two refined men inquired as to whether they could come and remain for a few evenings. I'm anticipating them," she says, however Stanley claims he doesn't trust her, since nobody has at any point visited the motel the entire time he's been an inhabitant.

Changing the subject, Stanley says, "When you address yourself to me, do you at any point ask yourself who precisely you are conversing with?" Then he moans and places his head in his grasp, yet Meg neglects to comprehend his inquiry, rather inquiring as to whether he partook in his morning meal. She says she used to like watching him play piano when he used to play as an expert. Asking him to escape the house, she proposes that he find a new line of work playing at the wharf, and he unconvincingly demands that he's been extended to an employment opportunity playing at a club in Berlin. As he clarifies this possibility, he adds that he would really venture to the far corners of the planet. Discussing his previous existence as an expert performer, he says, "I've played the piano everywhere. All around the country." Then he portrays a show he played where celebrated for his exhibition and his "interesting touch," however when he went to give a subsequent show, the presentation lobby was locked. "They acted deceptively," he says.

A thump sounds on the entryway, and Meg goes offstage to respond to it, having a murmured discussion in which a voice says, "How will I manage it?" Without distinguishing what "it" is, Meg gives this individual guidelines and afterward goes coming. Now, the individual endeavors into the family room. She is Lulu, and she's conveying a bundle, which she puts down on the sideboard and lets Stanley know that he's "not to contact it." They then, at that point, have a discussion regarding how "stodgy" it is inside, and Lulu urges Stanley to head outside. Stanley lies and says that he went to the sea early that morning, however Lulu gives him a conservative mirror and brings up that he doesn't resemble a man who has been outside in quite a while. Checking out himself, Stanley is apparently blasted, unexpectedly pulling out from his appearance. He then, at that point, inquires as to whether she'd prefer to "disappear" with him, however when she asks where they'd go, he basically says, "No place," and when she inquires as to whether he'd prefer to take a walk, he says, "I can't right now." Lulu withdraws.

At the point when the two new visitors at last thump on the motel's entryway, Stanley flips off the light and rapidly exits before they come inside. Their names are Goldberg and McCann, and they talk about the "work" they need to do. Goldberg is unmistakably the chief, and he lets McCann know that their errand is "very particular" from their "past work." It all depends, he maintains, on the "disposition" of their "subject." At this point, Meg enters and presents herself, educating Goldberg and McCann regarding Stanley and saying that today is his birthday. Demanding that they abstain from referencing anything, she says that they will host a gathering this evening in Stanley's honor, and Goldberg communicates much obliged for being welcomed. She then, at that point, shows them to their room, and when she returns, Stanley is in the lounge.

Stanley gets some information about Goldberg and McCann, squeezing her for subtleties until she cuts him off and gives him his birthday present—the bundle Lulu set on the sideboard. It is a little drum. Throwing it around his neck, Stanley strolls around the lounge table thumping the drum, causing Meg a deep sense of's fulfillment. As he continues orbiting the table, however, his drumming turns out to be progressively inconsistent, until the beat is "savage and moved by."

That evening, Stanley meets McCann in the parlor. Dubious of this rookie, he attempts to perceive the reason why he's gone to the lodging and starts posing inquiries about Goldberg, whom he hasn't met at this point. "Has he let you know anything? Do you realize what you're not kidding?" he says, yet McCann rejects that he knows what Stanley's saying, rather zeroing in on Stanley's birthday celebration until Goldberg himself enters and presents himself. Frantic to hold Goldberg and McCann back from remaining in the house, Stanley imagines he's the supervisor and tells them there's no room, however they don't pay attention to him, rather demanding that he plunk down. At the point when they at last power him into a seat, they begin asking him unusual inquiries, which become progressively enigmatic. They inquire as to why he went to the lodging in any case, whether or not he appropriately mixes his migraine drug, and when he last cleaned up. They then, at that point, blame him for selling out "the association," however they never indicate what association they're alluding to. Later in the discussion, they inquire as to why he killed his better half, and he says that he doesn't have a spouse, however they scarcely tune in, continuing on to inquire as to whether he perceives "an outer power." "What?" Stanley answers, yet they don't get their point across, rather pushing on and asking him—in addition to other things—if the number 846 is "conceivable or vital." Finally, in light of whether or not the chicken or the egg started things out, Stanley shouts, and their discussion is hindered by the sound of a drumbeat as Meg enters wearing her evening dress and playing Stanley's drum.

In a little while, Lulu shows up and Stanley's party starts without Petey, who cannot join in. Pouring beverages, Goldberg recommends that Meg give an impromptu speech to Stanley. At the point when she does, Goldberg and McCann kill the lights and sparkle an electric lamp in Stanley's face. In her toast, Meg scarcely says anything regarding Stanley himself, rather zeroing in on the fact that she is so glad to host a get-together in her home. Regardless of the generic quality of this discourse, Goldberg maintains that he's very moved by Meg's words, and afterward he conveys his own toast. Next the gathering chooses to play a game, however Stanley himself presently can't seem to say a word, actually staggering from Goldberg and McCann's peculiar cross examination.

Delivering a blindfold, the gathering chooses to play "blind man's buff," a game wherein one individual has a scarf tied over their eyes and attempts to track down different players, who are dissipated all through the room. As the game advances, Goldberg and Lulu caress each other while McCann and Meg tease and Stanley stands mental all alone. At the point when it's Stanley's chance to play the visually impaired man, McCann places the drum in his direction and his foot gets through it. Hauling the instrument on his foot, he falls over and Meg makes a commotion. At the point when he rises, he progresses toward her, and afterward the lights unexpectedly slice out and he starts to choke her. After extraordinary disturbance, the others separate him from her, however he gets away. Then, at that point, everybody hears Lulu shout and tumble to the floor, having swooned as Stanley draws near. Peacefully, Stanley lifts her onto the table, and when McCann at last tracks down the electric lamp, the crowd sees that Stanley is going to assault Lulu. Goldberg and McCann wrest him away and back him against the divider as he lets out a psychopathic giggle before the dr**ery closes.

At the point when the dr**e opens once more, it is the following morning and Meg and Petey are eating as though nothing has occurred. Meg professes to not recollect that anything about the party and spotlights on serving breakfast, however there aren't any cornflakes. Tracking down the wrecked drum on the floor, she hits it and says, "It actually makes a commotion." She comments that Stanley ought to be alert since he will miss breakfast, and Petey says, "There isn't any morning meal," to which she reacts, "Indeed, however he doesn't realize that." She tells Petey she went higher up to keep an eye on Stanley, yet McCann and Goldberg were in his room having an extreme discussion with him. She then, at that point, goes out to get nourishment for lunch, and Goldberg comes ground floor and discusses the party to Petey, who asks him "what came over" Stanley. "Mental meltdown," Goldberg says. He then, at that point, clarifies that these sorts of breakdowns in some cases mix "step by step" prior to ejecting, however for certain individuals there are no notice signs on the grounds that their spiraling emotional well-being is a "inevitable result."

At the point when Stanley at last comes first floor, he's totally unequipped for talking. As he heaves rubbish, Goldberg lets Petey know that he and McCann are taking him to a specialist, however it's obvious from his tone that this isn't true. Petey is dubious, yet he observes himself to not be able to do anything as they es**rt Stanley out the entryway. At the point when they go to go, Petey shouts toward them, saying, "Stan, don't allow them to listen for a minute to do!" When Meg returns, Petey tells her that Stanley is still sleeping higher up, and she says he'll be late for breakfast. She then, at that point, discusses how "wonderful" the party was the prior night, demanding that everybody told her she was "the beauty queen." "Gracious, it's valid," she says, however no one really told her this. After a slight respite, she says, "I know I was,�


On November 5, 1605, a plot to blow up the House of Parliament in
London was uncovered! The conspirators, opposed to the anti-Catholic
laws imposed by James I, had stored thirty-six barrels of gunpowder in
cellars beneath the building, enough to blow it sky-high. On that date
the king was to open and address Parliament. When the plotters burrowed
through the walls of the cellar, Guy Fawkes, a Roman Catholicconvert,
was caught in the act, and the other conspirators were rounded
The affair was named the Gunpowder Plot, and Fawkes was tried and
hanged on January 31, 1606. On every November 5 grotesque effigies of
Guy Fawkes were carried through the streets and burned to mark the
anniversary of the failed plot. From these odd-looking effigies came the
word guy. And, understandably, it has a pejorative sense in England.
In America a guy is simply a boy or a man. The term is usually dressed
up or down to make it complimentary ("a nice guy," "a regular guy") or
insulting ("a wise guy," "a tough guy").

Timeline photos 06/08/2020

Caliban's character in "The

Caliban is a product of nature, the offspring of the witch Sycorax and the devil. Prospero has made Caliban his servant or, more accurately, his slave. Throughout most of the play, Caliban is insolent and rebellious and is only controlled through the use of magic. Caliban claims the island as his own and maintains that Prospero has tricked him in the past.

Caliban represents the black magic of his mother and initially appears bad, especially when judged by conventional civilized standards. Because Prospero has conquered him, Caliban plots to murder Prospero in revenge. It is clear, though, that Caliban is a poor judge of character: He embraces Stefano as a god and trusts his two drunken conspirators to help him carry out a plot to murder Prospero. In many ways, Caliban is an innocent, reacting to emotional and physical needs without the ability to think through and fully understand the events and people who surround him. He is truly a child of nature, uneducated and reacting to his surroundings in much the same way that an animal does

Prospero’s dark, earthy slave, frequently referred to as a monster by the other characters, Caliban is the son of a witch-hag and the only real native of the island to appear in the play. He is an extremely complex figure, and he mirrors or parodies several other characters in the play. In his first speech to Prospero, Caliban insists that Prospero stole the island from him. Through this speech, Caliban suggests that his situation is much the same as Prospero’s, whose brother usurped his dukedom. On the other hand, Caliban’s desire for sovereignty of the island mirrors the lust for power that led Antonio to overthrow Prospero. Caliban’s conspiracy with Stephano and Trinculo to murder Prospero mirrors Antonio and Sebastian’s plot against Alonso, as well as Antonio and Alonso’s original conspiracy against Prospero.

Caliban both mirrors and contrasts with Prospero’s other servant, Ariel. While Ariel is “an airy spirit,” Caliban is of the earth, his speeches turning to “springs, brine pits” (I.ii.341), “bogs, fens, flats” (II.ii.2), or crabapples and pignuts (II.ii.159–160). While Ariel maintains his dignity and his freedom by serving Prospero willingly, Caliban achieves a different kind of dignity by refusing, if only sporadically, to bow before Prospero’s intimidation.

Surprisingly, Caliban also mirrors and contrasts with Ferdinand in certain ways. In Act II, scene ii Caliban enters “with a burden of wood,” and Ferdinand enters in Act III, scene i “bearing a log.” Both Caliban and Ferdinand profess an interest in untying Miranda’s “virgin knot.” Ferdinand plans to marry her, while Caliban has attempted to r**e her. The glorified, romantic, almost ethereal love of Ferdinand for Miranda starkly contrasts with Caliban’s desire to impregnate Miranda and people the island with Calibans.

Finally, and most tragically, Caliban becomes a parody of himself. In his first speech to Prospero, he regretfully reminds the magician of how he showed him all the ins and outs of the island when Prospero first arrived. Only a few scenes later, however, we see Caliban drunk and fawning before a new magical being in his life: Stephano and his bottle of liquor. Soon, Caliban begs to show Stephano the island and even asks to lick his shoe. Caliban repeats the mistakes he claims to curse. In his final act of rebellion, he is once more entirely subdued by Prospero in the most petty way—he is dunked in a stinking bog and ordered to clean up Prospero’s cell in preparation for dinner.

Despite his savage demeanor and grotesque appearance, however, Caliban has a nobler, more sensitive side that the audience is only allowed to glimpse briefly, and which Prospero and Miranda do not acknowledge at all. His beautiful speeches about his island home provide some of the most affecting imagery in the play, reminding the audience that Caliban really did occupy the island before Prospero came, and that he may be right in thinking his enslavement to be monstrously unjust. Caliban’s swarthy appearance, his forced servitude, and his native status on the island have led many readers to interpret him as a symbol of the native cultures occupied and suppressed by European colonial societies, which are represented by the power of Prospero. Whether or not one accepts this allegory, Caliban remains one of the most intriguing and ambiguous minor characters in all of Shakespeare, a sensitive monster who allows himself to be transformed into a fool.


William Shakespeare (1564–1616) lived during a
period in England’s history that people have generally
referred to as the English Renaissance. The term
renaissance, meaning rebirth, was applied to this
period of English history as a way of celebrating what
was perceived as the rapid development of art, literature,
science, and politics: in many ways, the rebirth
of classical Rome.
Recently, scholars have challenged the name
“English Renaissance” on two grounds. First, some
scholars argue that the term should not be used
because women did not share in the advancements
of English culture during this time period; their legal
status was still below that of men. Second, other
scholars have challenged the basic notion that this
She was literally “out of order,” an expression that
still exists in our society.) Though the concept of this
hierarchy is a useful one when beginning to study
Shakespeare, keep in mind that distinctions in this
hierarchical view were not always clear and that we
should not reduce all Early Modern thinking to a
simple chain.
Elements and humors
The belief in a hierarchical scheme of existence created
a comforting sense of order and balance that
carried over into science as well. Shakespeare’s contemporaries
generally accepted that four different
elements composed everything in the universe: earth,
air, water, and fire. People associated these four
elements with four qualities of being. These qualities
— hot, cold, moist, and dry — appeared in different
combinations in the elements. For example,
air was hot and moist; water was cold and moist;
earth was cold and dry; and fire was hot and dry.
In addition, people believed that the human
body contained all four elements in the form of
humors — blood, phlegm, yellow bile, and black
bile — each of which corresponded to an element.
Blood corresponded to air (hot and moist), phlegm
to water (cold and moist), yellow bile to fire (hot and
dry), and black bile to earth (cold and dry). When
someone was sick, physicians generally believed that
the patient’s humors were not in the proper balance.
For example, if someone were diagnosed with an
abundance of blood, the physician would bleed the
patient (using leeches or cutting the skin) in order
to restore the balance.
Shakespeare’s contemporaries also believed that
the humors determined personality and temperament.
If a person’s dominant humor was blood, he
was considered light-hearted. If dominated by yellow
bile (or choler), that person was irritable. The
dominance of phlegm led a person to be dull and
kind. And if black bile prevailed, he was melancholy
or sad. Thus, people of Early Modern England often
used the humors to explain behavior and emotional
outbursts. Throughout Shakespeare’s plays, he uses
the concept of the humors to define and explain various
Yet Twelfth Night, or What You Will, never adheres
to a simple notion of the humors. In fact, it has been
argued that, in Twelfth Night, Shakespeare is satirizing
the playwright Ben Jonson’s “comedy of humors.” In
Jonson’s plays, the characters — their actions and
behaviors — are defined by their humors alone. As in
popular psychology today, humors reduced the complexities
of human behavior to a few overly simplified
concepts, which were to be applied to almost any situation.
Shakespeare scorns this reductive view; he presents
life. He captures and reveals human behavior in
more complex terms, allowing his characters to
embody contradictions. A person may behave rationally
in certain situations and choleric in others within
a play by Shakespeare. With Jonson, this dynamic is
never the case; his characters are created to exemplify
one specific humor. Many critics believe that the practical
joke played upon the choleric Malvolio in Twelfth
Night mirrors Shakespeare’s own sanguine joke upon
the choleric Ben Jonson. In effect, Twelfth Night is
Shakespeare mocking Jonson as a playwright for being
overtly moralizing (and self-satisfied, in the manner
of Malvolio), as well as reductive in his rendering of
the human condition.
Religious context
Shakespeare lived in an England full of religious
uncertainty and dispute. From the Protestant Reformation
to the translation of the Bible into English,
the Early Modern era is punctuated with events that
have greatly influenced modern religious beliefs.
The Reformation
Until the Protestant Reformation, the only Christian
church was the Catholic, or “universal,” church.
Beginning in Europe in the early sixteenth century,
religious thinkers such as Martin Luther and John
Calvin, who claimed that the Roman Catholic
Church had become corrupt
and was no longer
following the word of
God, began what has
become known as the
Protestant Reformation.
The Protestants (“protestors”)
believed in salvation
by faith rather than
works. They also believed
in the primacy of the
Bible and advocated giving
all people access to
reading the Bible.
Many English people
initially resisted Protestant
ideas. However, the
Reformation in England
began in 1527 during the
reign of Henry VIII, prior
to Shakespeare’s birth. In
that year, Henry VIII
decided to divorce his
wife, Catherine of
Aragon, for her failure to produce a male heir. (Only
one of their children, Mary, survived past infancy.)
Rome denied Henry’s petitions for a divorce, forcing
him to divorce Catherine without the Church’s
approval, which he did in 1533.
The Act of Supremacy
The following year, the Pope excommunicated
Henry VIII while Parliament confirmed his divorce
and the legitimacy of his new marriage through the
Act of Succession. Later in 1534, Parliament passed
the Act of Supremacy, naming Henry the “Supreme
Head of the Church in England.” Henry continued
to persecute both radical Protestant reformers and
Catholics who remained loyal to Rome.
Henry VIII’s death in 1547 brought Edward VI,
his 10-year-old son by Jane Seymour (the king’s third
wife), to the throne. This succession gave Protestant
reformers the chance to
solidify their break with
the Catholic Church.
During Edward’s reign,
Archbishop Thomas
Cranmer established the
foundation for the Anglican
Church through his
42 articles of religion. He
also wrote the first Book of
Common Prayer, adopted
in 1549, which was the
official text for worship
services in England.
Bloody Mary
Catholics continued to be
persecuted until 1553,
when the sickly Edward
VI died and was succeeded
by Mary, his halfsister
and the Catholic
daughter of Catherine of
Aragon. The reign of
Mary witnessed the reversal of religion in England
through the restoration of Catholic authority and
obedience to Rome. Protestants were executed in
large numbers, which earned the monarch the nickname
Bloody Mary. Many Protestants fled to Europe
to escape persecution.
Elizabeth, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne
Boleyn, outwardly complied with the mandated
Catholicism during her half-sister Mary’s reign, but
she restored Protestantism when she took the throne
in 1558 after Mary’s death. Thus, in the space of a
single decade, England’s throne passed from Protestant
to Catholic to Protestant, with each change carrying
serious and deadly consequences.
Though Elizabeth reigned in relative peace from
1558 to her death in 1603, religion was still a serious
concern for her subjects. During Shakespeare’s life, a
great deal of religious dissent existed in England.
Many Catholics, who remained loyal to Rome and
their church, were persecuted for their beliefs. At the
other end of the spectrum, the Puritans were persecuted
for their belief that the Reformation was not
complete. (The English pejoratively applied the term
Puritan to religious groups that wanted to continue
purifying the English church by such measures as
removing the episcopacy, or the structure of bishops.)
The Great Bible
One thing agreed upon by both the Anglicans and
Puritans was the importance of a Bible written in
English. Translated by William Tyndale in 1525, the
first authorized Bible in English, published in 1539,
was known as the Great Bible. This Bible was later
revised during Elizabeth’s reign into what was known
as the Bishop’s Bible. As Stephen Greenblatt points
out in his introduction to the Norton Shakespeare,
Shakespeare would probably have been familiar with
both the Bishop’s Bible, heard aloud in Mass, and the
Geneva Bible, which was written by English exiles in
Geneva. The last authorized Bible produced during
Shakespeare’s lifetime came within the last decade of
his life when James I’s commissioned edition, known
as the King James Bible, appeared in 1611.
Political context
Politics and religion were closely related in Shakespeare’s
England. Both of the monarchs under whom
Shakespeare lived had to deal with religious and
political dissenters.
Elizabeth I
Despite being a Protestant, Elizabeth I tried to take
a middle road on the religious question. She allowed
Catholics to practice their religion in private as long
as they outwardly appeared Anglican and remained
loyal to the throne.
Elizabeth’s monarchy was one of absolute
supremacy. Believing in the divine right of kings, she
styled herself as being appointed by God to rule
England. To oppose the Queen’s will was the equivalent
of opposing God’s will. Known as passive obedience,
this doctrine did not allow any opposition
even to a tyrannical monarch because God had
appointed the king or queen for reasons unknown
to His subjects on earth. However, as Bevington
notes, Elizabeth’s power was not as absolute as her
rhetoric suggested. Parliament, already well established
in England, reserved some power, such as the
authority to levy taxes, for itself.
Elizabeth I lived in a society that restricted
women from possessing any political or personal
autonomy and power. As queen, Elizabeth violated
and called into question many of the prejudices and
practices against women. In a way, her society forced
her to “overcome” her s*x in order to rule effectively.
However, her position did nothing to increase the
status of women in England.
laws dictated that only the aristocracy could wear certain
articles of clothing, colors, and materials.
Though enforcement was a difficult task, the Early
Modern aristocracy considered dressing above one’s
station a moral and ethical violation.
The status of women
The legal status of women did not allow them much
public or private autonomy. English society functioned
on a system of patriarchy and hierarchy (see
“The Chain of Being” earlier in this introduction),
which means that men controlled society beginning
with the individual family. In fact, the family
metaphorically corresponded to the state. For example,
the husband was the king of his family. His
authority to control his family was absolute and
based on divine right, similar to that of the country’s
king. People also saw the family itself differently than
today, considering apprentices and servants part of
the whole family.
The practice of primogeniture — a system of
inheritance that passed all of a family’s wealth
through the first male child — accompanied this system
of patriarchy Thus women did not generally
inherit their family’s wealth and titles. In the absence
of a male heir, some women, such as Queen Elizabeth,
did. But after women married, they lost almost
all of their already limited legal rights, such as the
right to inherit, to own property, and to sign contracts.
In all likelihood, Elizabeth I would have lost
much of her power and authority if she married.
Furthermore, women did not generally receive
an education and could not enter certain professions,
including acting. Instead, society relegated women
to the domestic sphere of the home.
In Twelfth Night, however, we see such gender
stereotypes challenged in many ways. The strongest
character in the play, Viola, is sympathetically portrayed
as adopting a male disguise in order to transcend
the typical gender restrictions of her time. It
is perhaps more than a mere coincidence that this
play, like the other comedies in which women dress
as men to achieve power over, or at least parity with,
men, was written while England was ruled by a
Queen. When Elizabeth died, and James became
king, Shakespeare largely eschewed such plays that
celebrated a largely untamed feminine spirit.
There are other ways in which traditional gender
roles are inverted in Twelfth Night. Olivia, who
like Queen Elizabeth, is head of her household, is in
a position of authority throughout the play, trying
to maintain peace between the choleric Malvolio and
the sanguineous Toby. We see her controlling her
household, while Orsino, by contrast, is somewhat
less authoritative: He would rather lounge about his
house passively and recite poetry than go hunting,
either for deer or for Olivia.
Daily life
Daily life in Early Modern England began before
sun-up — exactly how early depended on one’s station
in life. A servant’s responsibilities usually
included preparing the house for the day. Families
usually possessed limited living space, and even
among wealthy families multiple family members
tended to share a small number of rooms, suggesting
that privacy may not have been important or
Working through the morning, Elizabethans usually
had lunch about noon. This midday meal was the
primary meal of the day, much like dinner is for modern
families. The workday usually ended around sundown
or 5 p.m., depending on the season. Before an
early bedtime, Elizabethans usually ate a light repast
and then settled in for a couple of hours of reading
(if the family members were literate and could bear
the high cost of books) or socializing.
Mortality rates
Mortality rates in Early Modern England were high
compared to our standards, especially among infants.
Infection and disease ran rampant because physicians
did not realize the need for antiseptics and sterile
equipment. As a result, communicable diseases often
spread very rapidly in cities, particularly London.
In addition, the bubonic plague frequently ravaged
England, with two major outbreaks — from
1592–1594 and in 1603 — occurring during Shakespeare’s
lifetime. People did not understand the
plague and generally perceived it as God’s punishment.
(We now know that the plague was spread by
fleas and could not be spread directly from human
to human.) Without a cure or an understanding of
what transmitted the disease, physicians could do
nothing to stop the thousands of deaths that resulted
from each outbreak. These outbreaks had a direct
effect on Shakespeare’s career, because the government
often closed the theatres in an effort to impede
the spread of the disease.
London life
In the sixteenth century, London, though small compared
to modern cities, was the largest city of
Europe, with a population of about 200,000 inhabitants
in the city and surrounding suburbs. London
was a crowded city without a sewer system, which
facilitated epidemics such as the plague. In addition,
crime rates were high in the city due to inefficient
law enforcement and the lack of street lighting.
Despite these drawbacks, London was the cultural,
political, and social heart of England. As the
home of the monarch and most of England’s trade,
London was a bustling metropolis. Not surprisingly,
a young Shakespeare moved to London to begin his
professional career.
The theatre
Most theatres were not actually located within the
city of London. Rather, theatre owners built them
on the South bank of the Thames River (in Southwark)
across from the city in order to avoid the strict
regulations that applied within the city’s walls. These
restrictions stemmed from a mistrust of public performances
as locations of plague and riotous behavior.
Furthermore, because theatre performances took
place during the day, they took laborers away from
their jobs. Opposition to the theatres also came from
Puritans who believed that they fostered immorality.
Therefore, theatres moved out of the city, to areas
near other sites of restricted activities, such as dog
fighting, bear- and bull-baiting, and prostitution.
Despite the move, the theatre was not free from
censorship or regulation. In fact, a branch of the government
known as the Office of the Revels
attempted to ensure that plays did not present politically
or socially sensitive material. Prior to each performance,
the Master of the Revels would read a
complete text of each play, cutting out offending sections
or, in some cases, not approving the play for
public performance.
Performance spaces
Theatres in Early Modern England were quite different
from our modern facilities. They were usually
open-air, relying heavily on natural light and good
weather. The rectangular stage extended out into an
area that people called the pit — a circular, uncovered
area about 70 feet in diameter. Audience members
had two choices when purchasing admission to
a theatre. Admission to the pit, where the lower
classes (or groundlings) stood for the performances,
Though historians have managed to reconstruct
the appearance of the early modern theatre, such as
the recent construction of the Globe in London,
much of the information regarding how plays were
performed during this era has been lost. Scholars of
Early Modern theatre have turned to the scant external
and internal stage directions in manuscripts in
an effort to find these answers. While a hindrance
for modern critics and scholars, the lack of detail
about Early Modern performances has allowed modern
directors and actors a great deal of flexibility and
room to be creative.
Ultimately, there is no one “correct” way for
Twelfth Night to be performed. It is possible that
Shakespeare went out of his way to purposely “erase”
statements of how his plays were performed in order
to allow more room for interpretation. In directing
Twelfth Night and other Shakespeare plays, as in writing
about them, we are in some ways co-authoring
it, just as each harpsichordist who interprets a Bach
concerto, although reading the music note for note,
achieves a unique effect. The bare stage puts a greater
emphasis not only on the actors’ costume, but also
on their ability to use words. Accustomed as we are,
in the early twenty-first century, to special effects, in
the theatre as well as in movies (which have, in many
ways, more in common with the Shakespearean theatre
than contemporary theatre does), we may initially
downplay the importance of words in
Shakespeare. For Shakespeare, language was not only
the means by which characters communicate to each
other but also served a function that today is largely
served by so-called special effects.
The printing press
If not for the printing press, many Early Modern
plays may not have survived until today. In Shakespeare’s
time, printers produced all books by sheet—
a single large piece of paper that the printer would
fold in order to produce the desired book size. For
example, a folio required folding the sheet once, a
quarto four times, an octavo eight, and so on. Sheets
would be printed one side at a time; thus, printers
had to simultaneously print multiple nonconsecutive
In order to estimate what section of the text
would be on each page, the printer would cast off
copy. After the printer made these estimates, compositors
would set the type upside down, letter by letter.
This process of setting type produced textual
errors, some of which a proofreader would catch.
When a proofreader found an error, the compositors
would fix the piece or pieces of type. Printers called
corrections made after printing began stop-press corrections
because they literally had to stop the press
to fix the error. Because of the high cost of paper,
printers would still sell the sheets printed before they
made the correction.
Printers placed frames of text in the bed of the
printing press and used them to imprint the paper.
They then folded and grouped the sheets of paper
into gatherings, after which the pages were ready for
sale. The buyer had the option of getting the new
play bound.
The printing process was crucial to the preservation
of Shakespeare’s works, but the printing of
drama in Early Modern England was not a standardized
practice. Many of the first editions of
Shakespeare’s plays appear in quarto format and,
until recently, scholars regarded them as “corrupt.”
In fact, scholars still debate how close a relationship
exists between what appeared on the stage in the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries and what appears
on the printed page. The inconsistent and scant
appearance of stage directions, for example, makes it
difficult to determine how close this relationship was.
We know that the practice of the theatre allowed
the alteration of plays by a variety of hands other
than the author’s, further complicating any efforts to
extract what a playwright wrote and what was
changed by either the players, the printers, or the
government censors. Theatre was a collaborative
environment. Rather than lament our inability to
determine authorship and what exactly Shakespeare
wrote, we should work to understand this collaborative
nature and learn from it.
Unlike many other plays that appeared in a
bootlegged quarto form while he was still alive,
Twelfth Night did not appear in print until 1623 in
the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays compiled by his
friends, Heminges and Condell. (Shakespeare discouraged
publication of his plays while he was alive
because publication would allow rival acting troupes
to perform the plays and thus threaten his economic
livelihood.) While this fact means that much of the
textual debate that surrounds other Shakespeare plays
(such as Hamlet, whose quarto and folio versions are
significantly different) is avoided when considering
the text of Twelfth Night, it in no way ensures that
the text we have today is what Shakespeare wrote. It
is quite possible, for example, that the actor who
played Feste, Robert Armin, had at least some hand
in writing his own lines. Some have suggested that
Armin, a professional fool and author, as well as an
actor who played one, actually improvised his jokes
so that each night a theatre audience would see a
somewhat different play.
Shakespeare wrote his plays for the stage, and
the existing published texts reflect the collaborative
nature of the theater as well as the unavoidable
changes made during the printing process. A play’s
first written version would have been the author’s
foul papers, which invariably consisted of blotted lines
and revised text. From there, a scribe would recopy
the play and produce a fair copy. The theatre manager
would then copy out and annotate this copy into a
playbook (what people today call a promptbook).
At this point, scrolls of individual parts were
copied out for actors to memorize. (Due to the high
cost of paper, theatre companies could not afford to
provide their actors with a complete copy of the
play.) The government required the company to send
the playbook to the Master of the Revels, the
government official who would make any necessary
changes or mark any passages considered unacceptable
for performance.
Printers could have used any one of these copies
to print a play. We cannot determine whether a
printer used the author’s version, the modified theatrical
version, the censored version, or a combination
when printing a given play. Refer back to the
“Publications” section of the Introduction to William
Shakespeare for further discussion of the impact
printing practices has on our understanding of
Shakespeare’s works.

For more information regarding Early Modern England,
consult the following works:
Bevington, David. “General Introduction.” The
Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Updated
Fourth edition. New York: Longman, 1997.
Greenblatt, Stephen. “Shakespeare’s World.” Norton
Shakespeare. New York: W.W. Norton and Co.,
Kastan, David Scott, ed. A Companion to Shakespeare.
Oxford: Blackwell, 1999.
McDonald, Russ. The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare:
An Introduction with Documents. Boston:
Bedford-St. Martin’s Press, 1996.

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