In Love and Agony

What picture of love/lurve is presented in the opening scene of 12th Night. How is this picture reflected in the language choices Shakespeare makes.

From the very first line of the play, an interesting and alternative opinion about love is presented by Orsino. The first line, “If music be the food of love, play on,” gives the reader the idea that Orsino is a romantic and is often misquoted for this reason. In the second line, the idea about love is subverted when he continues with, “give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and die!” This paints a very different picture of love, portraying it as something that Orsino does not want to feel. Instead of asking the musicians to play on for the beauty of the sound, Orsino wants them to play so much that he is sick of the music which is a metaphor for love and the quest to find it. Shakespeare uses an easy to understand metaphor allowing the audience to get a very clear picture of the way Orsino feels about love as it is vital knowledge for the events to come. The instant subversion of love from the positive to the negative provokes thought from the audience about the subject of love as well as capturing their attention and curiosity.

The choice to use poetry rather than prose is highly important to note when examining the opening of Twelfth Night. By starting the play with a poetic speech, Shakespeare is able to immediately gain the audience’s attention as well as depict to them an idea of the tone of the play. More importantly, poetry is known as the language of lurve which is what the play, at its core, is about. The association between poetry and romance is always prevelant within Shakespeare’s plays but the way it is used in this scene is particularly interesting. The use of poetry against love rather than encouraging it is, once again, a subversion of it’s usual role. The subversion of roles continues throughout the play so the fact that it is introduced through the opening poetry is highly effective.

Shakespeare also uses contrast to demonstrate the enormous extent of Orsino’s disinterest in love. He describes his encounter with love stating that “it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound/ that breaths upoin a bank of violets,” using imagery associated with beauty as well as enjambment to create a romantic flow. To contrast this, the following lines, “Enough; no more./ ‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before,” are sharp and abruptly end this flow, similar to the sudden change of mind about love and the feeling becoming negative rather than positive.

Love in Twelfth Night, as portrayed in the opening scene, is an overall agonising experience. Love is depicted as tempermental as it can change from beauty to pain in an instant and suddenly; what was once desirable is wanted no longer. In fact, Orsino wants nothing to do with love at all. The unique use of subversion, poetry and imagery construct this painful depiction of love which is a highly fitting opening for the play.

Poetry: the Language of Life

Take Sir Philip Sidney’s lines (above) in which he values poetry over history and philosophy and develop his argument in your own words, based on your own experience of the value of poetry to you.

History can teach us what is done and philosophy can tell us what is though; poetry tells us what is felt, what is shared and what is lived. Poetry communicates what it is to be human and what it means to love, laugh, smile, cry and form relationships with each other, the world, and even people we have never even met like the poet. History and philosophy merely concern the mind but poetry is all encompassing of the mind, heart and spirit which are all important aspects of life and crucial to our development as people.

History tells us that Shakespeare’s plays were performed in the globe theatre- an interesting and important historical fact. But what history cannot describe is the excited murmur of the crowd as they file in to watch, breathe and live the wonder to be performed. It cannot tell us of the actor backstage more nervous than a pig in a bacon factory, sweating like a horse and shaking from nervous excitement. It cannot tell us about the hearts of all the audience beating as one like a steady rhythm of applause as their soul is nourished by the love, action and emotions playing out before them. History leaves out what it means to be human and poetry picks up it’s slack.

History tells tales of heroes but not of their insecurities; we know many historical figures but we cannot know their emotions without the expert interpretation of the poet. History deals with numbers- a historian may tell you of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, but what about the experience of the 1,the individual. History often does not give individuals a story but groups them in which disconnects us with the fact that each of the 6 million, is an individual. Poetry has the power to reconnect us. To give a voice to the mute. What of the forgotten ones of history who did no great deed other than to love with all their heart? What if the women, the poor, the slaves? History does not give them a chance to speak for it does not consider loving to be a heroic deed, it does not consider living to be a heroic deed. Poetry does and therefore gives a pedestal to anyone who wants it. To anyone who feels and knows what it means to be human, what it means to live. History gives us an outline of the world in facts and figures, poetry fills in the gaps with life.

Everything and Nothing

From the perspective of the moon, in a paragraph, describe the current situation on earth as you see it.

When I look down at the ever turning blue and green sphere of earth, I see nothing and everything all at once. A tiny one bedroom house; nothing compared to the ocean, pointless in the scheme of the universe. And yet, there are two happy specks, a young couple. They are overjoyed with their acheivment of buying their first home together; overwhelmed with excitment about spending a life together inside.

They say dust turns to dust which is true, I see it all the time; a life is created and a life fades; a lifetime is not as long as it sounds. As the light fades from a person’s eyes, the rivers do not stop flowing, the earth does not stop turning, time does not pause. A life has no influence on the ways of the universe. And yet, there are hundreds of mourners gathered to celebrate the life of a child who’s time on earth was “cut short” by a terminal illness; he has had an influence on all the people he had met.

The happenings on earth are both miniscule and significant. The oceans roll and on dry land there is a man eating himself to sickness and a man dying from hunger. Winds rush through the sky but on the ground there are politicians cutting back education funding and a child giving up on reading because her parents cannot afford books. The cosmos is unending and on earth a baby is born and an elderly man passes away.

The vastness of the universe is all consuming and the earth is a speck of dust, it’s inhabitants even smaller. But joy, love, despair, sadness, life and death; they are powerful and extend beyond that tiny house, beyond the church filled with mourners, beyond the ocean, beyond the sky, beyond myself. They stretch to the edges of the universe- and I could not say myself that I know if that exists.

Elisabeth Klingler Röist

Chose any one of the paintings that you fell in love with yesterday and write the back story behind the painting. In other words imagine the artist, the sitter, the event that produced this painting and describe the painting itself with as much rich detail as you possibly can. 

Francesco Xanto Avelli’S beautiful plate depicting an allegory for the sack of Rome inspired me to investigate the event in further detail and write a creative piece from the perspective of someone there at the event. I conducted further research into the sack to learn about the individuals involved. While reading, I came across Kaspar  Röist who was the commander of the Swiss Guard at the time who defended the entry of Saint Peter’s Basillica while the Pope escaped. All 147 of his men were killed and he was badly wounded and took refuge in his home where he was followed by the Spaniards and killed in front of his wife. This event inspired me to write in the perspective of his wife, Elisabeth Klingler Röist.


 My brave husband, my Kaspar. Defending our Pope from those evil wretches on the steps of the Basillica; defending our faith from those red-clad devils; defending our livelihood from those who theive all that is good. I know he will return. God is watching over this Holy fight and if by all misfortune he falls, Saint Peter will call him to those glorious gates where he will be rewarded for the protection of all that is good. But dear God if it be in your will, bring him back to me, Amen. Kaspar is all I have, I have no sons to protect me; no daughters to weep with me and my parents, well I do not know if they live. I must stay positive. He will be back in my arms soon after succeeding on those blessed steps of the Basillica. 

Those cursed steps of the Basillica! Woe to any man who dared to defend them- all of them dead! My Kaspar wounded and in surrender returned to me only to have been followed by all that is evil in the world into my house. Kaspar, my brave husband; Kaspar who provided for me; Kaspar who loved me- killed, neigh, slaughtered in front of mine own eyes. I cannot leave my hiding place in my chambers for fear of death or worse- to be confronted by the bloodied and beaten body lying on the kitchen floor. It is unbearable. There is supposed to be comfort in the fact that he died protecting the Pope but… all I find is despair and darkness and questioning- why Lord have you done this? Why was he cut down in front of his poor wife his poor… widow? That tragic thump plays over in my mind.

Will I ever find peace? Will I ever find sleep? Will I ever find hope? Will I ever find God?

Honesty and Hypocrisy

What is the central complaint that underlines Ralegh’s poem “The Lie”?

Ralegh’s poem The Lie, at its’ very core is about the hypocrisy of all aspects of society and the false pretences these groups live under and portray outwardly. Under the pretence of good, each feature or organisation introduced is really enacting the opposite of what it teaches hence highlighting the corrupt nature of everything in Ralegh’s society. The poem encourages the reader to “tell” the people of their hipocrisy rather than to accept what they are teaching and then to “give the lie” when they argue back meaning to tell them that they are lying. Clearly, this demonstrates that Ralegh is sick of pretending that the society is honest in any way and wants to uncover the corrupt, decaying nature or individuals and groups.

One example of Ralegh highlighting the hypocritical nature of society is shone in his line about the church, “Say to the church, it shows/ what’s good and doth no good.” In this line he is stating that even the Church, which is outwardly the pinnacle of morality, has become corrupt and does not practice what it preaches , so to speak. Even small aspects of life that everyone thinks they know are “given the lie” by Ralegh as he dismisses honesty in zeal, love, wisdom, fortune and friendship. The fact that some of the most basic aspects of life and seemingly the most pure are contradictory to their actions truly highlights the corruption and how untrusting Ralegh is of others.

The stanza that is the most powerful in pointing out hypocrisy and contradiction tome is stanza six which states “Tell zeal it wants devotion;/ Tell love it is but lust;/ Tell time it is but motion; Tell flesh it is but dust.” This stanza truly dismisses any idea that honesty and purity still exist and it tells us that enthusiasm is false, time is not important, we as humans are just dust and that love does not exist- a thought that to me, is almost painful to read. The fact that Ralegh goes to this extent, to say that love, the emotion that makes one human, is not even true anymore truly expresses his core complaint about the hipocrisy and falsehood portrayed by all. At the end of this stanza he states, “And wish them not reply/ For thou must give the lie.” To me, this is also the most powerful dismissal of truth because Ralegh is really hoping that they do not try to argue as he does not want to have to dismiss them as lies. This really underpins the main complaint of the poem; that even the truest of truths have become hypocritical and that every truth has a falsehood behind it.

The Faerie Queene

Write a paragraph describing the dramatic power of the opening stanzas of Spenser’s The Fairie Queene. Try to point out why this poem is really worth reading.

Before Canto I of The Faerie Queen even begins, Spenser writes 4 stanzas as a sort of preface to the poem detailing the excitment that the reader is yet to come by as they continue reading. This preface tells of the adventures to come and expresses to the reader why they should continue to read and find out more about this quest.

These first four stanzas tell the audience about the dramatic events that will be depicted in the rest of the epic poem and leave the reader wanting more; wanting to find out how and why these events unfold. By opening the poem with the lines, “Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske,/ As time her taught, in lowly Shepherds weeds,/ Am now enforst a far unfitter task,” Spenser expresses that the following events are so noble and soimportant that he is not even worthy to tell them. This creates a sense of drama and urges readers to continue. He then pleads that his telling of the events be good enough for the grand events asking “O helpe though my weak wit, and sharpen my dull tongue,” using metaphor to express the importance of this. Throughout the stanzas, Spenser gives the audience a taste of the action to come using phrases such as “fierce warres and faithfull loves”, “murderous spolies and bloudy rage allayd”, and “that glorious fire,kindled in his hart.” The use of such dramatic imagery tells the reader just how much more action, drama and adventure is to come. By not telling the audience the details of the events outlined, a sense of mystery is created which makes the audience excited to read on and find out about these knights and monsters and to learn of these deeds that are so great that the poet himself id not worthy to tell of them.

Language of Ladies

How does the language of Lady Anne’s speech in Act 1 Scene 2 of Richard III present the consciousness of a woman as distinct from that of a man. What words or phrases enable Shakespeare to suggest this difference?

Lady Anne’s speech highlights the distinctive nature and thoughts of a woman compared to a man as she mourns her father in law. As it directly follows a monologue of Richard, the stark differences in language use become glaringly obvious. While the short sharp words of Richard still hang in the air, Anne enters and begins a speech that flows elegantly and uses detailed imagery to communicate her grief. She mournfully exclaims, “set down, set down your honourable load, if honour may be shrouded in a hearse,”

The lament of Lady Anne over her murdered father in also law demonstrates the gentle way that women are perceived by Shakespeare even when experiencing such intense emeotions. While Lady Anne has lost her husband and her father in law, no actions can be taken by her because of her gentle nature; instead, she uses words to wish curses upon the man who did this. She cries through her angst “curs’d be the hand that made these fatal holes” which uses powerful language and yet, from Shakespeare’s perspective, cursing is a woman’s weapon as a man in the same play may have been more likely to cry in anger “I will cut off the hand that made these fatal blows.” This act of cursing on Lady Anne’s part hence presents the ways in which Shakespeare demonstrates the differences in thinking between a man and a woman.


Lady Anne as portrayed by Rose Riley. Photo Credit: Limelight Magazine

The stark differences between the speech of women and men in Shakespeare is not in any way used to belittle women, but to show that they had power in a different way to a man and a different way of presenting emotion. In many ways, Shakespeare presents this as a more favourable alternative to the violent nature of men as they often suffer severe consequences for their actions. Lady Anne’s speech is in no way indicative of powerlessness, but rather an example of women taking an issue into their own hands and reacting in a way that is applicable and appropriate for the self.