Shakespeare’s Greatest Mother Characters 

With Mother’s Day coming up, I thought I would take a little time to showcase some of Shakespeare’s great mother characters. Some of these women are models of selflessness, compassion, and devotion to the children they take care of. Other ones… not so much. Just for fun, I also made some suggestions for Mother’s Day gifts if you had one of these mother’s on the list.

The Good Mothers

  1. Countess of Roussilion from Alls Well That Ends WellJudy Dench in All’s We’ll, RSC 2013

Though she is technically not the heroine Helena’s mother, the Countess is still a fantastic example of selflessness, support, and love. As she says “you never oppressed me with a mothers groans but I expressed to you mothers care.” She also encourages her foster daughter Helena to play doctor and save the King Of France from a deadly illness, giving her a job and a bright future!

Mother’s Day Gift: either some French Wine and cheese, or a Doc McStuffins for her future grandchild.

2. Hermione in The Winters Tale

Her husband arrests her for infidelity with no proof at all, while she’s still pregnant! Then she stands up in front of the entire court, having just given birth in prison, just to prove her child is a legitimate heir to the throne. Hermione is a mighty example of grace and courage under fire, as beautiful and strong as the statue she looks like at the end of the play. What more needs to be said!? Winter’s Tale, Richmond Shakespeare Festival, 2010

Mother’s Day Gift: Statue polish

3. Queen Elizabeth in Richard the Third

As you can see in my description, Elizabeth started out as a poor widow trying to get a better future for her children. Then she becomes the queen and takes a lot of crap from lords like Richard for her marriage, and her sons.

As Richard schemes to get the throne, Elizabeth is the only one who sees how dangerous he is, and how he will certainly try to kill her two sons to get it. To protect them from Richard, Elizabeth hides her sons in a church and tries her best to keep him away from them. The only problem is her husband made Richard Lord Protector, and responsible for everything connected to crowning the new king, (terrible judgment on his part).

Once her husband the king dies, Richard proclaims Elizabeth’s sons as bastards and makes himself king. He then has them secretly murdered in the Tower Of London. Even though Elizabeth can’t defend her sons for long, she identified the threat, and did her best to stop him. In this clip from the TV Series “The White Queen,” Elizabeth tries to get her sons released from the Tower, while her brother is oblivious to the danger they are in: https://youtu.be/5Y3qYeq0ok4

Though Elizabeth fails to protect her sons, she succeeds in saving her daughter. Richard knows that if his enemy Henry Tudor marries Elizabeth’s daughter (who is also named Elizabeth), he can lay claim to the throne and destroy Richard. The wicked king tries therefore, to marry his niece himself! Elizabeth refuses to pimp her daughter to the king and curses him for all of his heinous murders. Click here to see the epic battle of these two great characters in a scene from Ian McKellen’s movie version of Richard III. Look at the power and wit Elizabeth (Annette Benning), displays as she refuses to wed her daughter to Richard, (Ian McKellen).

https://youtu.be/dHqlTSCe18k

At the end of the scene, Elizabeth says she will persuade her daughter to marry the king, but she secretly marries the young princess to Henry Tudor, who becomes King Henry the Seventh after defeating Richard in battle. So Elizabeth succeeds in protecting her daughter and helped to start a dynasty of monarchs, including her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth I.

Mothers Day Gift : Sweaters for her sons to wear in the tower.

Alternative Mother’s Day Gift: A baby monitor that works within the Tower Of London, so she won’t have to worry about her kids being slaughtered.

Queen Margaret in King Henry the Sixth Part III. Queen Margaret and Prince Edward from Henry VI, Part II. ASC, 2008

Though her methods are questionable, and her blood thirstiness legendary, Margaret still fights bravely to defend her son’s rightful claim to the English throne.

Video bio of Queen Margaret: https://youtu.be/hJnspEh99h4

Mother’s Day Gift: A dozen Red roses.

CleopatraThe quintessential queen of Egypt is similar to Margaret in “the ends justify the means” category of mothers. Cleopatra will hook up with any powerful man to protect her son and heir to the throne. Cleopatra’s son, Cesarean is the love child that she had with Julius Caesar. After Caesar’s assassination, Cleopatra seduced Marc Antony, Caesar’s friend and a consul of Rome. Also, according to some historians, Cleo found a way to hide her son after Octavius Caesar tried to kill Cesarean and his mother. She reportedly sent him into hiding through secret tunnels underneath the city of Alexandria.

http://thevoiceofthezamorin.blogspot.com/2015/06/what-happened-to-son-of-queen-cleopatra.html?m=1

Mother’s Day Gift: A snake- proof brassiere.

Mediocre Moms

1. Thaisa in Pericles. A lot like her husband Pericles on my OK Dads list, Thaisa’s problem is that, though she clearly loves her children, she doesn’t see them for nearly 20 years. Granted, she doesn’t really know that they’re there they’re still alive but nonetheless, you would think that a good mother would at least check.

2. Constance in King John. I wasn’t sure where to put her on this list, even though she demonstrates great love and affection for her son, (whom King John just murdered), the truth is that Constance doesn’t really do much for her son that we see during the play. https://youtu.be/fpAZju8RbiI

What Constance mainly has going for her is her supremely agonizing expressions of grief over her son’s death. Steven Greenblatt in his book Will in the World, suggests that her speeches might’ve been Shakespeare’s own horror and grief at the loss of his son, who died around the same time King John was supposedly written. https://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/06/is-the-globe-right-to-revive-shakespeares-king-john/

Mother’s Day Gift: barbershop coupon, have you seen that hair, honey?

Also on the ok mom list, Mistress Page in Merry Wives, and Lady Capulet In Romeo and Juliet.

Bad Moms
1. Tamara in Titus Andronicus. She’s called a ravenous tiger in the play, and it’s easy to see why. She encourages her own sons to rape a girl, (Titus’s daughter Lavinia), then murder Lavinia’s husband! As if that wasn’t enough, Tamara tells the boys to cut out Lavinia’s tongue and cut her hands off, so she can’t accuse them of their crimes. Later Tamara tells her lover Aaron to murder their illegitimate baby, so her husband the emperor won’t find out about the affair. Worst of all, Tamara leaves her sons alone with her mortal enemy, Titus which allows Titus to (spoiler alert )…….. kill her sons, chop them up in a pie and serve them to her. She accidentally eats her own sons!

Mothers Day Gift: a parenting book! Or if you’re really sick, a bib with a picture of her kids on it.

2. Dionyza In Pericles- This Queen is a show mom of the worst kind- She’s a Queen from a far off kingdom, tasked with raising her own children and King Pericles’ daughter Mariana. When Dionyza sees that Mariana is a better singer/ dancer/weaver, etc than her own daughter, she tries to kill her! https://youtu.be/z9UW-p7iEk

Mother’s Day Gift:ITonya on DVD,Tanya Harding’s mom and Dionyza should compare notes.

3. Queen in Cymbeline Similar kind of deal. She’s a wicked stepmother who wants to kill the heroine Imogen and make her own son Cloten the heir to the throne. Shakespeare didn’t give her a name, she’s that wicked!

The Queen in Cymbeline, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 2013 http://www.stageandcinema.com/2013/08/06/cymbeline-oregon-shakespeare/

Mother’s Day Gift: A name.

Gertrude in Hamlet This one is very ambiguous. On the one hand, she loves her son, and tries to protect him from his wicked uncle Claudius. On the other hand, she married Claudius less than two months after her first husband died in mysterious circumstances . It’s never revealed in the play whether Gertrude was complicit in the old king’s murder, but when Hamlet Confronts her about the marriage, she is full of remorse.


Absent

To be honest, this list was easier to put together than my Fathers Day list, because there are fewer choices. In 9 Of Shakespeare’s plays, there are no mother characters at all:

Love’s Labor’s Lost

Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Comedy Of Errors

Two Gentlemen Of Verona

Measure For Measure

Twelfth Night

The Tempest

As You Like It

Merchant Of Venice

It’s hard to know how much Shakespeare knew about motherhood. From what we know about his life, he probably wasn’t around to see his wife Anne raise his two daughters in Stratford, since he spent most of his time in London writing and acting in his plays.

In any case, the thing that comes across in all the mother’s in Shakespeare’s plays is the level of sacrifice and selflessness that so many mothers demonstrate. Being a parent is tough, but the rewards are greater than even the Bard could ever explain.

Happy Mother’s Day Everyone!

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The Fashion Is The Fashion 2: Clothing and Twelfth Night 

In doing my research for Twelfth Night, I came across a fantastic production from Shakespeare’s Globe in 2002. It used what is known as “original practices,” meaning that the actors tried to replicate everything we know about the way Shakespeare’s actors performed.

The play was performed in the great Globe Theater, which is itself a replica of Shakespeare’s original playhouse, which means that it was outdoors, using mostly natural lighting, and minimal sets. https://youtu.be/qtoUeVjP_rs

In addition, all the women’s roles were played by men, and the actors played multiple parts, which were all accurate stage practices from Shakespeare’s era. Most exciting of all, the actors all wore authentic 17th century costumes designed by veteran costume designer, Jenny Tiramani:

/https://prezi.com/m/zef_cpurcfsl/jenny-tiramani/


Few things determine how an actor moves or looks more than the clothes he or she wears, and watching these actors wear doublet and hose and real Jacobean dresses really fires up my imagine and makes me feel that I’ve truly been transported through time. The production is available on DVD, as well as several clips on YouTube, and I urge you to take a look at it. In the meantime, I’d like to comment a little on how the costumes from this production inform the audience about the characters that wear them.

Some Info On 17th century fashion

* Men

  • Tight pants or hose, and stockings designed to show off the legs
  • Tight jackets made of wool or leather called doublets
  • By the 17th century, starched ruffs were being replaced with lace collars.
  • Starched collars called ruffs around the neck.

  * Women

Longer skirts, often embroidered with elaborate patterns

  * Servants- Servants like Cesario (who is actually the Duke’s daughter Viola in disguise), would typically wear matching uniforms called liveries, a sign of who they worked for and their master’s trust in their abilities. People judged the aristocracy by how well they trained and controlled their servants, so wearing your master’s livery meant he trusted you to represent his house.

In her first scene as Cesario, a servant named Curio remarks to her that Orsino has shown favor to “him” from the very beginning. This might explain the rich garments that Viola wears in this production, which resemble a noble gentleman more than a servant.

A higher ranking servant like Malvolio would be able to wear a higher status garment, which is why you see Steven Fry as Malvolio dressed in a handsome doublet.

3. Character notes:

* What are they wearing?

* Why are they wearing it?

* How do the clothes inform the movement?

1. Viola (Eddie Redmane) Viola, the star of the show, begins the show as the daughter of a duke, who has just been shipwrecked in a foreign country, so her clothes must look bedraggled and worn, yet appropriate to her status. As I said before though, for the majority of the play, Viola is disguised as the servant Cesario

2. Malvolio (Steven Fry)

  • Malvolio wears dark colors since he’s a Puritanical servant.
  • He mentions that he has a watch. The first ever wristwatches ever came into being around this time.
  • Most productions give Malvolio a Gold chain and/ or a staff of office to show his status, and his prideful nature.
  • In Act III, Malvolio is tricked into wearing yellow stockings with cross garters.
    • 3. Maria the Countess Olivia’s maid, (who has an appetite for tricks and pranks), Maria’s job is to dress and help Olivia with her daily routine. This might include tying up her corset, putting on her makeup, and helping her with the elaborate gowns that nobles wore during this period. In the video below, you can watch a dresser help get an actress into an elaborate costume for another Globe theatre production. Just think of the amount of time and hard work it would take for a servant like Maria to dress Olivia every day!

      In the play, Viola momentarily mistakes Maria for her mistress because she wears a veil. This also suggests that, rather than wearing a livery like Cesario, maybe Olivia let Maria wear some of her older clothes, which was a common practice for high level servants. A lot of the costumes Shakespeare’s company wore were probably hand me downs from their aristocratic patrons.

      4. Olivia (Mark Rylance)

      In this production, the countess and all the female roles were performed by men, just as they were in Shakespeare’s Day. Mark Rylance, who played Olivia, was also the Artistic Director of the Globe Theatre.

      • Olivia is mourning her lost brother, which is why she’s traditionally dressed in a black dress and veil
      • The dress is black silk with elaborate embroidery, as you can see from this actual sampler of the real fabric used in the show. You will also notice the threads holding the fabric together with metal points at the end. Olivia’s gown was hand sewn into many different pieces and tied together with these points. One nickname Shakespeare gave servants like Maria was “One who ties [her] points.”
      • The dress is large and has a long train, making it hard for the actor to move: https://youtu.be/dcSNTspXGYk
      • Costumes like these offer a tantalizing glimpse into history. Just as Shakespeare’s words help an actor bring to life the thoughts and feelings of his age, The type of clothes his company wore helps the actor embody the moiré’s and desires of Shakespeare’s society, whether a mournful countess, a dazzling gentleman, or a reserved Puritan.

        References

        Feldman, Adam

        “Q&A: Mark Rylance on Shakespeare, Twelfth Night and Richard III” Time Out Magazine. Posted: Tuesday November 12 2013

        Retrieved online from https://www.timeout.com/newyork/theater/q-a-mark-rylance-on-shakespeare-twelfth-night-and-richard-iii

        Minton, Eric. Twelfth Night: What Achieved Greatness was Born Great.

        Posted May 22, 2014 to http://shakespeareances.com/willpower/onscreen/12th_Night-Globe13.html.

        https://thepragmaticcostumer.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/through-the-keyhole-a-peek-into-a-17th-century-ladys-wardrobe/

        Why Mechant Of Venice is the Perfect Play For the Holidays 

        The Merchant Of Venice is unquestionably Shakespeare’s most controversial play- it covers such topics as anti-semitism, religious hypocrisy, racism, slavery, and the meaning of justice and mercy. As I have written before, few people read this play in school, but I believe that it has many lessons to teach our children. I also believe its lessons are also very much a part of the Christmas/ Hanukkah/ Kwanza holiday season, and here’s why:

        Short summary

        Famous quotes

        • All that glitters is not gold.
        • Hath not a Jew Eyes
        • The quality of mercy is not strained

        You may very well wonder why this play about greed and prejudice reflects the warm holiday spirit. I would argue that, like cold winter snow, this play emphasizes the importance and the need for compassion, humanity, and generosity because without it society becomes truly frigid.

        Merchant Of Venice takes an unflinching look at greed, prejudice, and religious hypocrisy, while at the same time retaining a hope for peace on Earth and goodwill towards men.

        One of the best ways I can justify the connection between Merchant and the holidays is by comparing it to the quintessential Christmas story, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In terms of tone, themes and especially characters, these two classics are very close indeed. Shylock is an ancestor of Scrooge- in addition to both being money lenders, both men are miserly, cold, and willing to destroy lives for wealth. Shylock even has a ghost that comes back to haunt him. Shylock mentions a ring that he got from his late wife Leah, similar to how Scrooge lost his only love, Belle. Just as Scrooge is a counterexample of everything that Christmas stands for, Shylock’s greediness, cruelty, and hatred of the people around him make him a figure to avoid, no matter what holiday you celebrate.

        Merchant also raises questions about materialism, which we should all consider around the holidays. Shylock especially mentions this in quotes like: “You take my life when you take the means whereby I live.”

        The themes of Merchant also reflect a modern multicultural holiday season. In one example which I wrote about before, The Prince Of Morocco has a great speech that calls to mind the concept of kuchijagulia, or self determination, one of the 7 principles of Kwanzaa. According to the official Kwanza website, kuchijagulia means, “To speak up for oneself,” and Morocco definitely does that:

        Mislike me not for my complexion,

        The shadow’d livery of the burnish’d sun,

        To whom I am a neighbour and near bred.

        Bring me the fairest creature northward born,

        Where Phoebus’ fire scarce thaws the icicles,

        And let us make incision for your love,

        To prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine.

        I tell thee, lady, this aspect of mine

        Hath fear’d the valiant: by my love I swear

        The best-regarded virgins of our clime

        Have loved it too: I would not change this hue,

        Except to steal your thoughts, my gentle queen. Merchant Of Venice, Act II, Scene I.

        Moracco’s unwillingness to change who he is makes him a model of the kind of pride African Americans celebrate during Kwanza. In addition Shylock, the Jewish moneylender, is also very proud of his heritage. His famous quip: “Sufferance is the badge of all our tribe,” expresses perfectly the resilience of the Jewish people, which of course is the central point of Hanukkah.

        When it comes to Christmas, Antonio demonstrates a Christ- like self sacrifice, when he lets himself be arrested and nearly killed by Shylock.

        Bassanio. Good cheer, Antonio! What, man, courage yet!

        ▪ The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones and all, 2045

        ▪ Ere thou shalt lose for me one drop of blood.

        Antonio. I am a tainted wether of the flock,

        ▪ Meetest for death: the weakest kind of fruit

        ▪ Drops earliest to the ground; and so let me

        ▪ You cannot better be employ’d, Bassanio, 2050

        ▪ Than to live still and write mine epitaph.

        While Antonio’s actions mirror Christ’s sacrifice. Portia’s famous “The Quality Of Mercy Is Not Strained,” speech, goes to the heart of the reason why Christ came to earth; to grant mercy to the sinners who would be damned otherwise

        Portia. Do you confess the bond?

        Antonio. I do.

        Portia. Then must the Jew be merciful.

        Shylock. On what compulsion must I? tell me that.

        Portia. The quality of mercy is not strain’d, 2125

        ▪ It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

        ▪ Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;

        ▪ It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:

        ▪ ‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes

        ▪ The throned monarch better than his crown; 2130

        ▪ His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

        ▪ The attribute to awe and majesty,

        ▪ Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

        ▪ But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

        ▪ It is enthroned in the hearts of kings, 2135

        ▪ It is an attribute to God himself;

        ▪ And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

        ▪ When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,

        ▪ Though justice be thy plea, consider this,

        ▪ That, in the course of justice, none of us 2140

        ▪ Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;

        ▪ And that same prayer doth teach us all to render

        ▪ The deeds of mercy. Merchant Of Venice, Act IV Scene I.

        Shakespeare no doubt wrote these characters to reflect the Christian values many people celebrate at Christmas. Meanwhile the play’s comic subplot with Bassanio and Portia teaches Christians about generosity and mercy. As I have written before, the character Bassanio is the moral center of the play, and his journey mirrors many characters in classic Christmas stories who learn about giving and receiving, the true meaning of Christmas.

        In Act III, Scene ii, Bassanio participates in the highest stakes Secret Santa gift exchange ever: three boxes of gold, silver, and lead are set before him.

        If Bassanio picks the right gift, he will be rich, powerful, and married to a beautiful woman, but the winning box is inscribed with a warning: “Who chooses me must give and hazard all he has.” Bassanio wins the gift auction, which means he may marry the beautiful Portia, but he gives her the choice to marry him or not: https://youtu.be/6IFSMgggS8k

        [Music, whilst BASSANIO comments on the caskets to himself]

        Bassanio. So may the outward shows be least themselves: 1440

        The world is still deceived with ornament.

        ▪ In law, what plea so tainted and corrupt,

        ▪ But, being seasoned with a gracious voice,

        ▪ Obscures the show of evil? In religion,

        ▪ What damned error, but some sober brow 1445

        ▪ Will bless it and approve it with a text,

        ▪ Hiding the grossness with fair ornament?

        ▪ There is no vice so simple but assumes

        ▪ Some mark of virtue on his outward parts:

        ▪ How many cowards, whose hearts are all as false 1450
        Look on beauty, 1455

        ▪ And you shall see ’tis purchased by the weight;

        ▪ Which therein works a miracle in nature,

        ▪ Therefore, thou gaudy gold,

        ▪ Hard food for Midas, I will none of thee;

        ▪ Nor none of thee, thou pale and common drudge 1470

        ▪ ‘Tween man and man: but thou, thou meagre lead,

        ▪ Which rather threatenest than dost promise aught,

        ▪ Thy paleness moves me more than eloquence;

        ▪ And here choose I; joy be the conseque

        [Reads] 1500

        ▪ You that choose not by the view,

        ▪ Chance as fair and choose as true!

        ▪ Since this fortune falls to you,

        ▪ Be content and seek no new,

        ▪ If you be well pleased with this 1505

        ▪ And hold your fortune for your bliss,

        ▪ Turn you where your lady is

        ▪ And claim her with a loving kiss.

        ▪ A gentle scroll. Fair lady, by your leave;

        ▪ I come by note, to give and to receive. 1510

        ▪ Like one of two contending in a prize,

        ▪ That thinks he hath done well in people’s eyes,

        ▪ Hearing applause and universal shout,

        ▪ Giddy in spirit, still gazing in a doubt

        ▪ Whether these pearls of praise be his or no; 1515

        ▪ So, thrice fair lady, stand I, even so;

        ▪ As doubtful whether what I see be true,

        ▪ Until confirm’d, sign’d, ratified by you. Merchant of Venice Act III, Scene ii.

        Like the story The Gift Of the Magi, Bassanio prizes Portia’s love, and is willing to give her all he has in return, which is what separates him from the other suitors. Bassanio also understands it’s not the physical gift that is really the gift, it’s the love that it represents that really matters, which allows him to look past the outward appearance of the lead chest. Having gratitude for the gifts we receive and pledging our love to others is something that everyone should remember at Christmas and all festive occasions.In Conclusion, it isn’t cheery, and it is not as hopeful as most holiday stories, but in the season when people of all faiths celebrate together, Merchant Of Venice is a great reminder of our shared humanity and how we can show love and mercy to our fellow people.

        Resources:
        Merchant Of Venice Website: http://www.themerchantinvenice.org

        Book– Will in the world by Steven Greenblatt- An amazing analysis of Shakespeare’s life and career. The chapter “Laughter At the Scaffold,” traces the link between Merchant Of Venice and the real life treatment of Jews in the 16th century
        Book/ TV- Playing Shakespeare by John Barton.

        MovieMerchant Of Venice 2004 Movie starring Al Pacino. I like the way the director films the drama documentary style, using a single handheld camera in most of the shots. Pacino is very good at playing Shylock as a bitter, cynical old man who is trying to survive in a powerful Christian country.

        Official Kwanza website: http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/NguzoSaba.shtml

        http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/m/lifetimes/plays/the%20merchant%20of%20venice/mershylock.html

        Shakespeare on Ghosts

        Since Halloween is right around the corner, and since this is a huge topic in Shakespeare, I would like to talk a little bit about Shakespeare’s treatment of the living impaired, specters, spirits, in a word GHOSTS.

        Ghosts appear in five Shakespearean plays: Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Richard the Third, Macbeth and Cymbeline. In all but one of these plays, and in many other Elizabethan and Jacobean dramas, a ghost is a murdered person who needs someone to avenge their deaths. Their function is to warn the hero of the play to revenge their deaths, and/ or to torment their murderers.

        Ghosts have been part of western drama almost as long as there have been ghost stories. After all, the Greek and Roman plays that Shakespeare emulated often mention ghosts as warnings from above and below the world is in some kind of chaos. Most of the time, the kind of play in which you see a ghost is a Revenge Tragedy, plays like The Spanish Tragedy, Locrine, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and even the Disney movie of The Lion King.


        The most potent example of a Shakespearean ghost is definitely  the ghost of Hamlet’s  father. I actually played this role and, rumor has it, so did Shakespeare himself! Hamlet’s father appears as a ghost two months after his death, and soon after his brother Claudius marries his widow Gertrude. The ghost’s purpose in the play is to get his son’s attention so that he can correct the terrible regicide that Claudius committed, allowing the Ghost to Rest In Peace.

        Shakespeare describes the ghost as a pale, sorrowful figure, dressed in full armor. The ghost only speaks to his son in the play, and he begins with a strange and terrifying description of the afterlife:

        Ghost: I am thy father’s spirit,

        Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,

        And for the day confin’d to fast in fires,

        Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature

        Are burnt and purg’d away. But that I am forbid

        To tell the secrets of my prison house,

        I could a tale unfold whose lightest word

        Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,

        Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,

        Thy knotted and combined locks to part,

        And each particular hair to stand on end

        Like quills upon the fretful porcupine.

        But this eternal blazon must not be

        To ears of flesh and blood Hamlet Act I, Scene v.

        Many scholars believe that the tormenting realm of fire that the ghost describes is actually Purgatory, an old Catholic concept that explains where the souls of the dead go if they are neither evil enough for Hell, or good enough for Heaven. It’s also the place where people go who didn’t confess their sins before death, which was the ghost’s fate since Claudius poisoned him while sleeping.

        Though neither Hamlet nor his father explicitly say it, there is a strong implication that Hamlet must avenge his father by killing Claudius, which will presumably release the Ghost from Purgatory allowing it to ascend to Heaven.

        Some suggest that the ghost is a manifestation of Hamlet’s superego:

        Ernest Jones in his book Hamlet And Oedipusbelieved Hamlet had an unresolved Oedipus complex and couldn’t bring himself to revenge because Claudius had achieved the very goals Hamlet himself secretly desires to kill his father and marry his mother

        Faced with his guilt and lack of moral integrity Hamlet could have created a supernatural superego to spur him to revenge. As Freud describes it, the superego

        The superego is the ethical component of the personality and provides the moral standards by which the ego operates. The superego’s criticisms, prohibitions, and inhibitions form a person’s conscience, and its positive aspirations and ideals represent one’s idealized self-image, or “ego ideal.”

        In essence, since (in Jones’ view), Hamlet is too morally corrupt to be an effective avenger for his father, Hamlet imagines the ghost to help justify his revenge to himself. This is of course, only one way of interpreting the ghost and Hamlet as a whole. There is no right or wrong interpretation for any of Shakespeare’s characters, but it is a testament to Shakespeare’s genius that, 400 years after his own death, his ghostly writings helped inspire one the architects of modern psychology.

        Ghosts Of Torment

        The ghost of Banquo in Macbeth and the ghosts that plague Richard the Third the night before his battle help quicken the murderous kings’ his downward spiral. Macbeth becomes more and more paranoid, and therefore easier for his foes to defeat.

        When Julius Caesar’s Ghost appears to Brutus, he does so the night before his final battle- the battle of Philippi, where Brutus was defeated and committed suicide.

        When Richard III sees the ghosts of all the people he murdered, it not only terrifies him, it splits his soul in half! According to Sir Thomas More, Richard couldn’t sleep the night before his final battle at Bosworth Field. Shakespeare gives Richard a strange soliloquy where the ghosts awaken his conscience and awaken him from a fearful dream:

        [The Ghosts vanish]

        [KING RICHARD III starts out of his dream]

        Richard III (Duke of Gloucester). Give me another horse: bind up my wounds.

        Have mercy, Jesu!—Soft! I did but dream.

        O coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me!

        The lights burn blue. It is now dead midnight.

        Cold fearful drops stand on my trembling flesh.

        What do I fear? myself? there’s none else by:

        Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.


        Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am:

        Then fly. What, from myself? Great reason why:

        Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?

        Alack. I love myself. Wherefore? for any good

        That I myself have done unto myself?

        O, no! alas, I rather hate myself

        For hateful deeds committed by myself!

        I am a villain: yet I lie. I am not.

        Fool, of thyself speak well: fool, do not flatter.

        My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
        And every tongue brings in a several tale,

        And every tale condemns me for a villain.

        Perjury, perjury, in the high’st degree

        Murder, stem murder, in the direst degree;

        I shall despair. There is no creature loves me;

        And if I die, no soul shall pity me:

        Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself

        Find in myself no pity to myself? Richard III, Act V, Scene iii.

        In these plays, the ghosts are a form of spectral punishment; the punishment of a guilty Conscience.

        Shakespearean Friendly Ghosts

        The only friendly Shakespearean ghosts appear in Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline and these ghosts are the ghosts of posthumous’ ancestors. They appear before the God Jupiter to plead for their descendant. Posthumous Leonidas. They beg Jupiter, the most powerful Roman god to end Posthumous’ suffering.

        Like the witches in Macbeth, ghosts in Shakespeare are mysterious and sometimes frightened- the are sort of a mirror for how we see ourselves, our lives, and our hopes to be remembered after death; the final words Hamlet’s father utters before disappearing into the morning mist are: “Adieu, adieu, remember me.”

        https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/ghosts-in-shakespeare

        https://www.bard.org/study-guides/ghosts-witches-and-shakespeare

        Animated Richard III, 20:00 the ghosts appear:

        References:

        Greenblatt, Steven Hamlet In Purgatory 2001. Princeton University Press. Link: file:///Users/jrycik/Downloads/Hamlet-in-Purgatory-Princeton-Classics.pdf

        Jones, Earnest, Hamlet and Oedipus. 

        https://people.ucsc.edu/~vktonay/migrated/psyc179d/HamletOedipus.pdf 

        Open Source Shakespeare, Cymbeline: 

        https://www.opensourceshakespeare.org/views/plays/play_view.php?WorkID=cymbeline&Act=5&Scene=4&Scope=scene&LineHighlight=3243#3243

        http://www.markedbyteachers.com/gcse/english/which-version-of-the-hamlet-ghost-scene-act-1-scene-5-was-the-most-effective-and-why.html

        Pearlman, E. Hamlet: Critical Essays: The Invention Of the Ghost. https://books.google.com/books?id=jdfWAQAAQBAJ&pg=PA71&lpg=PA71&dq=ghost+that+shrieked+hamlet+revenge&source=bl&ots=KY68gIrh2V&sig=MjEr2NxLQ7T4c2xW1QscrmdeMkc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiR5o6M4I_XAhUK0oMKHQIJBeAQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=ghost%20that%20shrieked%20hamlet%20revenge&f=false

        https://www.shmoop.com/hamlet/ghost.html

        https://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/456606.pdf?refreqid=excelsior%3A3f62aed88fb9e9b9a8f8e462186ff95c

        How to Throw Your  Own  12th Night Party  

         Part One: The Invitation:

        Tradition says the 12th night does not actually start until nightfall on January 5th; it’s the celebration of the night when the wise men finally got to Bethlehem, so make sure you you’re clear on that in the invitation. If you need help on designing clever 12th night invitations, view my previous post on creating Valentine’s Day cards!

        Part TwoThe Feast

        Traditionally celebrated with, (as Sir Toby puts it), “cakes and ale,” there’s a lovely recipe for a 12 night cake below.

         Picture/ recipe is available here: Jane Austin.com: Twelfth Night cake

        A Twelfth Night cake is basically a fruitcake stuffed  with spices and dried fruit, that symbolizes of the three kings that came from the orient to Bethlehem all those years ago. One game you can play with your guests is putting a bean in the center of the cake. Tradition holds that whoever  finds the bean has good luck for the coming year.

        The alternative version favored in France and Switzerland, is made of puff pastry, egg, and rum. Here’s a recipe I found on food.com: Swiss Twelfth night cake

        Music

        Singing is a big part of 12th night as evidenced in this scene where sir Toby, Mariah and Sir Andrew start singing songs: Act II Scene III

        I have taken the liberty of putting down all the songs from 12th night and some YouTube clips of my favorite renditions.

        Hold Thy Peace, Thou Knave (Shakespeare Songbook)

        O Mistress Mine (2011)

        Come Away Death(2014 Shakepeare in the Park Soundtrack

        Hey Robin, Jolly Robin ( Shakespeare Birthplace)

        I Am Gone Sir (Stratford Shakespeare Festival 2011)

        The Wind and Rain (Alabama Shakespeare Festival)
         
        Games
        As I’ve mentioned in my previous posts one big part of the Christmas season was appointing a lord of misrule, and ancient tradition that goes back even before Christian times. In the play 12th night Feste basically serves as Lord Of Misrule; he presides over all the games and songs in the house, and he helps Sir Toby baffle   Malvolio. In real life a Lord of Misrule presided over each Twelfth Night celebration, choosing which games and dances everyone would engage in.

         Most early Twelfth Night celebrations included a masked ball. In the 18th century, merrymakers  engaged in a sort of role playing game, where they drew a character based on a popular archetype like the soldier Charles Cuttemdown or Beatrice Bouquet, and had to act like that character the rest of the night. Finally, a holiday that encourages you to LARP!

        Wassail
        .

        As I mentioned in my previous post wassail was the quintessential winter beverage and 12 night was not an exception. In this post you can see some photos of me actually making wassail myself in accordance with a trip up recipe I found on the food from the food network’s Alton Brown.

        Alton Brown Wassail recipe 


        I didn’t have Madeira wine so I substituted port, but otherwise I used all the ingredients he mentioned in the recipe.


        Like I said in the previous post, Wassail is derived from an old word meaning “lamb’s wool,” and you can see why when you see the frothy mixture on top.


        I served this wassail to my in laws on Christmas night, and the only complaint I got was that the weather was a little too hot to enjoy it. I can personally attest that wassail warms you right down to your toes, which is great if you’ve been out caroling in 17th century England, but indoors during the hottest Christmas on record, it was a little uncomfortable- I was already wearing shorts and I was still too hot. My advice is- if you get a white Christmas, enjoy your wassail, but if it’s 60 degrees outside, stick to ale or Madeira, or some other kind of spicy spirit that you can serve
        Well, that’s my advice, happy Twelfth Night everyone!
        Sources:

        Brownie Locks.com- History of Twelfth Night 

        Catholic Encyclopedia: Feast of Fools
        Jane Austin.com: Twelfth Night Celebrations
        Lost Past Remembered: Twelfth night

        Why Christmas.com: the Twelve Days of Christmastime