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Literary Periods

Hello! Welcome to English literature. I'm going to be your intrepid guide as we go on a magical mystery tour of books. My name is Elspeth Green, as you might see in the little bar down there. That is a real name, believe it or not. I'm going to do this all from the comfort of this armchair, which I bought at a yard sale for $11, so here we go! We're going to start out by giving you just an overview of the course, historical period by historical period. First, we should probably get this out of the way. What's the point of studying literature? What's the point of studying art? We should probably talk about that so that you understand why you're doing this. In theory, literature reflects the values of its time, so that might be why it's important. It's a cultural artifact - we can analyze the people who created it and the people who consumed it. It's a window into a different world that might reveal truths that anthropology or historical stuff might miss. If we're studying art that our own time has produced, hopefully it can tell us something that we didn't previously realize about ourselves. It might not be something flattering, but hopefully it will tell us something. With this in mind - that literature reflects and refracts the culture that it comes from - studying it might be helped by having a basic grasp of different dominant literary periods and times when writers were writing stuff. Because if you're able to quickly situate a text in a certain period, it can give you basically an easy interpretive in - how does the author you're studying play next to the tropes of his time and how does he reject them? How does he use them? Is he looking backward? Is he looking forward? Is he creating the next movement? These are some easy questions you can ask that can really help you figure out what you're working on, how to proceed, and help you situate your thoughts in a more general progression of literary thinking as we go along. Before we do our rundown, we're going to give a few caveats (because nothing is complete without telling you that all of this might be wrong): 1. We're only talking about Western literary tradition here, primarily embodied in works from England, works from the United States. Other cultures obviously have their own histories and their own literatures that are very worth studying. Unfortunately, they're beyond our scope in this class, so I'm not going to muddy the waters by going into that too much in this overview. You should study that you should not ignore cultures besides England and the United States, but in this course, we unfortunately can't go there. 2. A lot of the periods you'll see might be familiar for you if you've studied any kind of art, philosophy, history, politics, anything like that. Just makes sense because, like literature, all of these other disciplines reflect their time, so they're kind of catch-all categories for speaking about dominant cultural trends. For instance, we can talk about Renaissance literature, we can talk about Renaissance art, we can talk about Renaissance politics, and we're referring to the same era in all three cases. 3. You should keep in mind that we can talk about culture in broad swaths - we can do that all day long, and it's helpful for academic purposes. It doesn't always do every writer or every work justice. There are subtleties. There's overlap between these categories. Our survey's not going to account for that. Exact dates for these eras are kind of imprecise, kind of subjective. People just say, 'Oh, this is when the next thing starts,' and that might not be totally representative of an author that was writing at a bridge time area. But we've noted that basically every author will be responding in some way to the prevailing trends of their time - they're going to be aware of it. They might be rejecting it. They might be going along with it, but they're going to be aware of it, and that's the important thing. We're not going to say that every author is the same, but we're saying that every author is at least responding to some of the same things if they are in a certain time period or come from a certain culture.

The Medieval Period (~600 - ~1500)


So with all that out of the way, we are going to go on with our historical survey. We're going to start with the Medieval Period, which is around 600 AD to 1500 AD. This looks like a huge amount of time, right? You probably think this whole lesson could be on that. Unfortunately, that is not true. This is when the Western literary tradition is really finding its feet. The AngloSaxon people are kind of getting going. Technology that propagates writing - like the printing press - is not yet invented. And so, when you think about that, it's probably not super surprising that there's not all that much notable works of art from that time or, at least, works of art that we now have access to. They either didn't get written or have been lost in the annals of time. It doesn't mean there's nothing worth reading from that time, obviously, or else I wouldn't have made a segment on it. One of the most important pieces of English literature from this time is the epic poem Beowulf. Many experts think was written sometime between the eighth and ninth century - again, because it was so long ago, nobody really knows. The story features the titular hero Beowulf confronting a monster named Grendel and then Grendel's mother and then a dragon. It is considered to be the first major work of English literature that exists. This is written in Old English, which is not anything that anyone should be expected to understand, but it is a predecessor to our current language. Another important medieval author is Geoffrey Chaucer, who writes The Canterbury Tales. This is a collection of stories - some kind of pious, some kind of raunchy - told by pilgrims who were traveling to a cathedral. It's a favorite of people who study literature - they love this stuff. It's full of things - styles, forms that come to fruition much later. Chaucer was really a pioneer in a lot of ways. Though works of the Medieval Period are all over the place in content and purpose, there's a few important things you want to keep in mind. The first thing is that, unsurprisingly for the time period, a lot of the works, including The Canterbury Tales, are written within a religious context, which means that they're really driven by religious motivations in a lot of cases. Second is that anonymity is a thing that you find a lot in these works. We don't know who wrote Beowulf - that's one example of it. And this is because writers often didn't really want to credit themselves for creating a story - they saw themselves more as retellers than as creators (which is much different than the way that we see authors today). The third thing is that although technically these are works of English literature, much of the literature of medieval times is written in either totally incomprehensible Old English, like I mentioned before with Beowulf, or slightly less incomprehensible Middle English (you can read that, but it's hard). It kind of seems foreign to modern readers, and it can be hard to really access it. There's translations, so if you want to get going with it, that's a way to start.

The Renaissance (16th and 17th centuries)


Next we move into the Renaissance, which is 16th and 17th centuries. Its name means 'rebirth,' and that implies basically what the Renaissance was all about, which is a flourishing of arts and other culture that swept across Europe between the 14th and 17th centuries. The reason why we start that timeline a bit later in England, the 16th and 17th, is because England caught the bug pretty late, but did some fantastic things once it got there. There's prominent writers like Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon and even William Shakespeare - he counts as a Renaissance writer - he's right in that time period. They were really writing a lot during this period, and a lot of what they wrote is really considered fundamental to how we see English literature today. Certainly Shakespeare is the father of a lot of genres and a lot of the way we think about literature now.

In the Renaissance, we first see writers really start to think about their position in the world independently of religious motivations (which is what we saw in the Medieval Period). Renaissance creators value the dignity of man and the joys of society much more than their predecessors; this is known as humanism this is a huge deal in the Renaissance, not just in literature. They also are embracing literature as an art form - it's not just a practical way to transmit stories. It's not a way to praise God. It's a real way to make art and communicate something different, something higher, something more important than what they've been trying to communicate before. Unsurprisingly, the first major work of literary criticism, which is Philip Sidney's The Defence of Poesy (which is just a fancy word for poetry), was created during this time. As we get more consciousness of literature as art, we also get the beginning of criticizing that art. That's no coincidence. The Renaissance also gave birth to the Protestant Reformation as religious folks began to question objectionable doctrines by the Roman Catholic Church. Criticism and the creation of something new was a crucial mark of this period, both in religion with the Reformation and in the works of art. This was all helped along by the invention of the printing press, which makes it a whole lot easier to transmit ideas in writing and to transmit works of art once they've been created. That's a huge deal in the development of English literature.

The Enlightenment (18th century)


Next we've got the Enlightenment, which is 18th century, and the creators of the Renaissance had begun to critique the practices of their medieval predecessors. Their followers didn't think they'd done nearly enough, so the Enlightenment people are really into strict science, logic, intellectual discourse - really breaking things down into, 'Does this make sense?' and not having any kinds of just blind faith and becoming a real scientific people. Enlightenment authors we remember are usually people who challenged some aspect of society that we previously thought was a given or set down a real systemic approach to how they thought society and government should be run. They either did this in fiction or a lot of them did this in the form of essays. This gives us things like Voltaire's Candide, Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication on the Rights of Women. And we're going to give American writers a shout-out even though this is primarily a British course - Ben Franklin wrote Poor Richard's Almanac. Even the Declaration of Independence is kind of part of this trend towards real rationality. Even the American colonists' rebellion against Britain can kind of be seen as a playing out of Enlightenment ideals in terms of fair governance and whatnot. This is all part of the same thing - this idea that the world should be rational and that if something isn't rational, we should fix it and make it so.

Romanticism (early 19th century)


Next we get Romanticism, which is totally a backlash against that. This is early 19th century. Romantics are just like, 'No, we don't care about logic and rationality and all of this stuff. We are more into nature, emotions.' Both positive and negative emotions - you just want to be feeling something. You don't want to be this cold, scientific thing sitting in a lab analyzing your feelings. When it comes to the Romantic period, the key literary figures you want to keep in mind are poets, like William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake and John Keats. They write these ballads and odes that are full of reverence of nature, descriptions of internal moods. Novelists at this time begin to emerge, like Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.

Even people (mini shout-out to America) that you think of as transcendentalist writers like Herman Melville, Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman - these are all kind of part of this era in terms of their nature worship, their interest in the individual as important rather than the Enlightenment thinkers who were more looking at society as a whole and how to optimize, how to rationalize. Visual art flourished during this time as well - if you think of any kind of famous landscape painting, it's most likely going to be of the Romantic era, again, because they were super into nature at this time.

Victorianism (late 19th century)


Moving right along, we've got Victorianism in the late 19th century. It's kind of a bridge between Romantic literature and Modernism of the 20th century. The Victorian period - a lot of critics think it's really the height of literature in England. It's really when the novel becomes front and center. The novel becomes really important during this time. We've got people like Charles Dickens, George Eliot, who really get into perfecting this as a form, whereas before it might have been seen as a bit of a subservient form to poetry in a way. Poetry was always the height of literature - novels were a bit trashy for a while. Romance, in the sense of love, not in the sense of Romantic literature, was a key trope of Victorian literature, as is hard work and virtue - the idea that good people get good outcomes and bad people are punished. That's a huge thing in Victorian lit. We might even consider Victorian lit as a real major turning point in the development of what we see now as familiar story structure that you can just go to a movie and see today. That's really set down during Victorian times - the familiar progression from beginning to middle to end because like I said, the novel really comes to prominence then, and novels are what movies are based on.

Modernism (early 20th century)


Like I said, it's a bridge from Romantic to Modernism, so next we get Modernism - this is early 20th century. Through the development of literary history, we can see writers start to become a bit more self-conscious about their works, about what it means to be writing, what it means to choose a certain form over another this is happening all throughout. But the Modernists really take this idea as far as it will go, and they create these works that are really designed to ruminate on their own position as works of art - this is 'art for art's sake' idea of aestheticism. We're really thinking about why we make art and what does it mean. It also tends to reflect on what Modernist authors thought was a really fractured, frightening situation in the modern world, which is not a coincidence because they're writing right after World War I, which was a hugely traumatic thing happening in Europe. More so than any generation before them, including the Enlightenment thinkers who were really rigid, rational kind of people, Modernists just question the world around them. Unlike their Enlightenment comrades, they think that you can see what's wrong with the world, but you might not be able to fix it. As such, they end up being very cynical. They use a lot of irony. They end up not really solving things but pointing out problems. The real two pillars of Modernist lit are widely considered to be the T.S. Eliot poem The Waste Land (which I feel like its title kind of says it all about what this movement's about) and James Joyce's crazy novel Ulysses. Some other major Modernist texts would be Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway and also To the Lighthouse, Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, W.B. Yeats' The Second Coming - these are all really important Modernist works.

Postmodernism (late 20th century and beyond)


Next, of course, we get Postmodernism, and now we're almost coming to the end, I promise. If Modernists broke from their Victorian forebearers, it only makes sense that Postmodernists are going to reject their Modernist parents. But in many ways, Postmodernism is kind of an amplification of
Important Modernist works

Modernist thought in certain ways. Because subjectivity, the idea that nothing is certain and everything depends on perspective, is built right in

to the premise of Postmodernism. It's difficult to nail down exactly what they say because they're kind of pointing out that things can mean anything - there isn't any kind of unified truth. The easiest way to look at this division between Modernists and Postmodernists is to think about it like this: to Modernists, they saw that the world was broken. They saw that things didn't make sense anymore, and they tried to show how things didn't make sense. Postmodernists kind of think that there's no world to break. If Modernists think the world has lost meaning, Postmodernists think there is no inherent meaning to lose, essentially. The point is that things are subjective. The point is that there's no central truth. They see reality as a whole bunch of subjective social contrasts. What's really important to them is this idea of deconstruction - this idea that you can look at a work and see all of the inherent contradictions within it and all of the structures that we take for granted that you can actually see as appearing in work after work after work. Probably because they're more current (and because they're more in touch with prevailing thought), postmodern authors might sound familiar. We've got people like Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, Thomas Pynchon, Philip K. Dick. Even more recent people like Bret Easton Ellis and David Foster Wallace. These are all influenced heavily by postmodern thought. Really any literary work that's released in the past half-century has probably got some postmodern element. You might even be able to look through Harry Potter and find something postmodern. I don't know. I haven't tried. Because of that, it might seem like a movement that can last forever - if all meaning is removed, where can you go from there? Critics have definitely said this - they've been proclaiming the death of literature forever (to them, we're in like 'post-postmodernism'). But hindsight's always 20/20, it's kind of tough to classify things right now. Certainly, I'm not going to rule it out - that in a bit we're going to have a new name for this era, and it's not going to be, 'Literature was Dead and the Internet Took Over.' But with the evolution of literary periods, you can only really classify it after it's happened. So who knows what we're in right now, but we'll probably find out. If you want to decide what literature goes next, you should probably get to writing that novel. And with that, I bid you 'adieu.' I am off to go do that myself. You may not know this, but even though this is the first video of the literature course, this is actually the last video that I am filming in a sort of crazy, postmodern literature loop, and so - so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye! So we're going to be talking about literary criticism, which means it is time for the non-fiction glasses because things are getting serious. This is like the 'eating your vegetables' section of the English literature course. They're good for you - pay attention!

When we hear the word 'criticism,' you probably think of somebody telling that you did a bad job at something. Like someone's giving you 'constructive criticism,' but they give you a sentence like, 'You chose a good font, but your writing is crap.' That's people's version of constructive criticism, and it's annoying. But if you're told to think of criticism in a more artistic sense, your minds might leap over to someone like Roger Ebert, famous movie critic. His job basically amounts to giving movies a thumbs up or a thumbs down. If you think about it in that way, criticism starts to seem pretty secondary to art itself - it's about art. It's in response to art. And in many cases it is. In many cases the kind of criticism that we're exposed to is like that. What we call 'critics,' in general, are probably more accurately described as 'reviewers.' Particularly in literature, this impulse to review (because everyone has an opinion and they want to share it) things actually starts to develop into a genre all its own called 'criticism,' which actually starts to have as much of an influence on art as art has on it. It kind of becomes its own monster, in a way. I think the food reviewer in the Pixar movie Ratatouille gives a surprisingly nuanced take of criticism's role in art. I'm actually going to read that to you because I love that movie and I think this is such a good speech (bear in mind, he's writing this review after being fed a meal prepared by a rat): 'We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face, is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new.' Just kind of let that marinate a bit. It's no accident that the genre of literary criticism starts to evolve alongside movements like Modernism in the early 20th century avant garde work, which was kind of selfconsciously about making things new. That's Ezra Pound's famous statement about Modernism - 'Make it new.' If criticism becomes important in the defense of the new, we can see how those would evolve alongside each other. The New Criticism (it actually is called that - New Criticism is what they call themselves at that point) isn't just about saying thumbs up or thumbs down. More purely stated, criticism is interpretation. You look at a text and argue about what you think it means, what you think its themes are, and what you think about its philosophical arguments it puts forth. They also try to understand how a text does what it does - how it makes you feel a certain way or how it describes whatever it describes. In the 20th century, literary theory has developed into a system all its own for doing this. There's a bunch of different branches of theory that all have different ways of approaching texts and making arguments about them. Criticism has been around in one form or another since Ancient Greece because, like I said before, we love to tell people what we think of stuff. As you might expect, literary theory covers a pretty broad spectrum of thought. You might remember the idea that in certain classic texts 'everyone can have their own interpretation' - that's sort of an old standby about that. This is true in one sense. You probably encountered this in English class and it annoyed you this idea that this book can mean anything. How could the author possibly have meant all of these things to be in here? Literary theory is devoted to, in a way, figuring out how to do this systematically in a way that it's not just random. You can't say anything about a text, but if you can back it up in certain ways, then you can say what you want. It doesn't necessarily have to be there, but you can argue for it. That's essentially what criticism is trying to do. There are a bunch of different schools of thought to do this, but there's a few general points we can make about theory. 1. Like we said before, let me say it again: criticism does not imply a value judgment. That's really important. It's not saying thumbs up or thumbs down. If someone tells you to read a critique of something, it might be a review - they might say it's good or it's bad or it's successful or unsuccessful - but it's probably more likely that it will be a little bit more investigative. It's going to

look at the text, why it does things and how it does things. We're not just asking, 'Does it function?' We're asking, 'How does it function?' Why does it do what it does? 2. The history of literary theory is pretty intertwined with philosophy, especially European Continental philosophy of the last couple centuries. A lot of that discipline's key thinkers - names you might recognize like Nietzsche, Sartre, Marx - have contributed to literary theory a lot. It makes sense because they're analyzing life and how we live it; books are metaphors for life, in a way, and so it makes sense that there would be overlap there. 3. Though some people might disagree, prevailing thought about this is that literary theory isn't just confined to just books. Most people tend to argue that all things in the world can be 'read' and examined as a text. So you can do novels, plays - familiar stuff like that. You can do rock & roll records, historical events, and maybe other people. In some cases, like with psychoanalytic theory, it actually goes the other way - we were analyzing people, and now we start using those techniques to analyze books. In short, the deep, thorough analysis that's so necessary for literary theory can actually be applied anywhere. (Maybe not to a subway sign... but maybe! Someone's probably done it.) That's kind of the rule of literary theory - if you can think of an idea, probably someone's done it, which is endlessly frustrating if you're trying to come up with something new.

Major Types of Literary Theory


So now we're going to go through major types of literary theory. You can shorthand call them 'the -isms' because they're all -isms, I think, most of them. If you study literary theory in an academic setting, you'll likely run into some of these or all of them that we're going to cover. So you're going to want a basic knowledge at least - what they are and who the dudes associated with them are. We're just going to run right through them.

Formalism
We've got formalism, which is kind of the big daddy of modern criticism. Formalism develops in Russia in the early 20th century. A huge name associated with this is Mikhail Bakhtin - that's kind of the guy. It comes in direct opposition to the Romantic idea and Romantic schools of thought, which places value on the genius of the artist and the creator. Formalists basically seek to totally deny this value. They don't care about the creator. They want to throw all of their attention on to the text itself. This interpretive shift, new in the history of literary criticism - that we just want to say, 'Eh, I don't care about the author' - basically paves the way for the development of modern theory in general. Not everyone still agrees with this, but it kinds of allows the development of theory as it goes. That's also true of New Criticism, which is happening in England and America a bit later, but it shares a lot of the basic ideas. New Criticism - a big buzzword associated with that is 'close reading,' which is essentially looking at a book - not reading it really close to your face - but looking at a book and picking out details and examining these things in isolation in the text and, again, ignoring the author. These two dudes William Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley are important guys for that. They write this famous article called 'The Intentional Fallacy' - the 'intentional' refers to the author's intention. What they're basically saying is that whatever the author meant to do does not matter. You can say whatever you want as long as it's in the text and you can back it up. If you've ever been sitting in English class and thinking, 'Oh my god, he can't possibly have meant yellow or trees or canker sores or squirrels to symbolize whatever my teacher is saying it symbolizes' - no, the author might not have meant it to do that (although some were pretty good about being specific about what things meant. Like if you ever read anything by Vladimir Nabokov who's the Lolita guy, he is amazing in terms of what he has planned out), but, yeah, your teacher might be talking about something that the author didn't

intend. The author might not have meant squirrels to symbolize death, but if you can make an argument for a pattern being there, you can say it! You can say that it means that. It doesn't matter what the author meant. Like I said before with formalism, it sort of gives the critics free reign to talk about anything they want because the author is taken out of it. The importance of the author is now questioned, and it lets you say whatever you want.

Deconstructionism
Now now we get to deconstructionism, which is associated with the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. He created this term 'deconstruction' to describe what he thought should be the primary endeavor of literary theorists. If the word sounds confusing, do not worry because Derrida himself admits that deconstruction is difficult to explain, and all of his essays were trying to explain it. We read him in translation because he wrote in French, so all of his weird, vague, French stuff becomes almost incomprehensible in English (in my personal opinion). But we'll give it a go in a paragraph or so. Deconstruction is the idea that all texts contain inherent contradictions. What does this mean? It basically means that to Derrida, and to other people who thought like him, all things - including words - only have meaning in relation, or opposition, to other things. So concepts are defined by their opposites. 'Truth' doesn't inherently mean anything - the word 'truth,' the sounds that are coming out of my mouth. But it enters a language system in which it refers to other things and distances or aligns itself with other things. So 'truth' becomes 'not false' or 'not trivial,' but then of course, what do 'false' and 'trivial' mean? So it goes on, and you're never really able to get to something that has meaning on its own. Deconstruction aims to examine these key points in a text where we can see these oppositions really tugging at each other. We can see the system breaking down or acting particularly strongly. The system of building meaning off of oppositions is basically what we're getting at. Some followers of Derrida go on to explain this idea in a bit more friendly terms; one of the things his disciples would say is deconstruction looks at the accidental elements of a text, the things that disturb the tranquility of a text, or attempt to uncover the questions behind a text.

That still might leave questions in your mind - how can a text have anything accidental about it? The author wrote it all - why would he make something that's an accident? Doesn't make any sense. That's really one of the key questions of literary theory in general. And in this case, what
Deconstructionism is associated with French philosopher Jacques Derrida.

they mean by it is just the stuff that doesn't seem central to the

meaning. Like we were saying before, if we're going to remove authorial intent, if we're not going to care what the author wanted to do, then a work of art can mean much more than the creator wanted it to mean. Derrida and other theorists believe that texts will invariably take on disparate, contradictory elements by virtue of just existing in the world. The author might have meant it to do something, but, say he wanted to describe a scene and he sets it in a cafe, and the way he describes the cafe inadvertently undermines the

meaning of the scene. That's one of the things that a deconstructionist would look at and try to figure out what's going on there and why are there these oppositional things.

Postmodernism
Now we're going into postmodernism. The focus in deconstruction on contradictions or unexplained textual phenomena is a key aspect of one of the prevailing schools of late-20th century thought. Postmodernism really takes this up. It's sort of summarized as a study of differences. It kind of is an umbrella term for a lot of things. Remember how deconstruction had to do with pulling apart contrasting forces - that is part of postmodernism. Postmodernism, again, is a term that covers a bunch of stuff. Key landmarks in postmodern thought is the questioning of objective knowledge - so, again, how much does the author have final say over his text? No one person can have final say over interpreting the world around us. Another key thing in postmodern that comes out of this is examining the role of the Other, or the socially marginalized individual. This coincides, not coincidentally, with a sense of splintering in the idea of the literary canon. The literary canon is just what we think you should read, from Shakespeare on of things that you ought to read. Rather than just be a bunch of books written by dead white men, which is what it was for a long time, people start looking at it more like, maybe we should start highlighting more traditionally marginalized literature - literature by women or by people of color - kind of diversifying the body of literature. That's associated with postmodern thought. This shift in thinking about stuff gives rise to lots of different branches of criticism. Feminist Theory Feminist theory, which I mentioned in marginalized literature - literature by women - we want to pay attention to that. Feminist theory is all about this. It seeks to examine literature through the lens of gender relations and, kind of inherently, through the inequality of those gender relations. Feminist theorists might look at Homer's Odyssey and examine the marginalized or vilified role of women in that. The ultimate goal of this is to bring to light the female voice in the history of literature. So they also might look at underappreciated female authors or also at ways in which the female body becomes a space for ideas to play out as it often does in works where women are just objects for the men to look at. Queer Theory Very similarly, we have queer theory, which is kind of the same idea as feminist theory, except with an eye more towards the LGBT presence. Queer theorists might look at how Hollywood films portray and subvert stereotypically masculine images. You might look at the latently homosexual leading man played by Tom Cruise in Top Gun (you should watch that movie again if you don't know what I'm talking about). They also might look at poets, like Gerard Manley Hopkins, who writes a lot about God but in a sort of a homoerotic way. We're sort of bringing out the queer voice in the same way that we brought out the female voice. Hugely associated with both queer theory and feminist theory is a woman named Judith Butler who has a famous book called Gender Trouble that argues that even though we tend to view sex, gender, and sexual preference as linked together naturally, they're not at all, is what she's arguing. They're all essentially performances of identity, and that's the thesis of her book. That's also what feminist theory and queer theory tend to be like in the arguments that they make. Marxism Next we've got Marxist theory, which might sound familiar, and you might think, 'Oh, communism, what?' Basically, Marxist theorists analyze texts through the lens of class relations. It's named after Karl Marx, the famous theorizer of socialism. He was all about the rise of the proletariat, or the working class, against the bourgeois. So Marxist theorists are interested in how current texts and historical texts reflect the social

conditions in which they were produced. They might look at portrayals of class, race, or gender. They might look at anything in terms of social condition, like a Bruce Springsteen song might be rich in Marxist theory potential or a Dickens novel about orphans - anything that reflects social condition. Post-Colonialism Finally, the last thing we're going to talk about is post-colonialism, which you might also have a guess at what that is. Post-colonial theorists really dive into this idea of 'the Other', but in a geographic or cultural sense. They look at how nations, like Great Britain in the height of the British Empire, exert dominance over others by colonizing them either culturally or physically, like by going and taking over their land. A key text in the post-colonial canon is Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre where there's this insane 'savage' wife in the attic who's from Jamaica. She's living up there, and she's crazy. She gets in the way of Jane trying to marry Mr. Rochester. Critics have a field day analyzing the cultural implications of this woman, who is this colonized being, essentially. Jean Rhys, who's a writer in the 60's or so, wrote a whole book from the madwoman's (Bertha Mason is her name) perspective - her back story in Jamaica. It's called Wide Sargasso Sea. It's almost like a novel that is a work of criticism on Jane Eyre that's in the post-colonial vein. You also might look at Heart of Darkness, and look at portrayals of natives versus English people and how that all plays out. Big name with it is Edward Said who wrote a book called Orientalism (you can probably guess what that's about). It's sort of saying that as we study Islamic society (is what he's talking about, but you might be able to extend this to other things), we do so in such a way that affirms our ideas about the West. So that even as we study the Other, we're still being Euro-centric. There's a lot of subtle workingsaround in these kinds of criticism - are we still being Euro-centric? Are we really being not? It's often hard to figure out.

Lesson Summary
That's a big crash course run-down of a bunch of different schools of literary theory. There's a whole mess of them. There's even more that I didn't talk about, but I'm sure you probably want me to stop at this point. We looked at how the schools of thought examine texts based on things that they consider really important: Marxists take a look at class relations and feminists at marginalized gender roles. No one theory can encompass a text fully - that's a really important thing to keep in mind. You don't want to embrace one and not look at any others. You want to approach a text from multiple perspectives. Not all texts call for all types of reading, like Jane Eyre lends itself well to post-colonial analysis and maybe not so much to deconstruction, but you could still try both. The idea that the author's intent shouldn't be paramount - it shouldn't matter so much - that's really important. That gets going in Russian formalism and New Criticism, and it paves the way for us being able to say whatever we want about books. It develops into postmodern critics, which look at inherent differences in texts and the marginalized Other and all these things that the author maybe doesn't intend to be there, but that are there and that we can look at. So, if you want a good 'in' to looking at texts from this postmodern perspective, and easy way to do it is to look at a book and say, 'Where does conflict exist here? What's weird? What doesn't match up? What sticks out?' For any of these things, that's a good way to get going and looking at texts and starting to think of what your theoretical perspective on it is. The question of how to study books is one that is asked a lot, and people have written tons of books on it that then you have to study, so it becomes a bit of a circular problem. But we can lay down some ground rules in a video (which means you don't have to read anything) about how to encounter texts and make the most of them, particularly when you're looking at prose, which is what we're going to talk about today.

The simplest question is probably 'What is prose?' Prose is basically anything written in language that is not poetry. It's kind of a catch-all bucket term; it's defined by what it isn't. In terms of sports, if you're not playing ball with the poets, you're in the prose...

Basic Prose Structure


We're going to talk a little bit about prose structure first of all. If you're looking at a work of prose literature, you've got a story on your hands. Even if it's non-fiction or even if it's super weird and seems like nothing's happening, there's a story in there somewhere. It can be about anything, but at the center it's going to have some sort of conflict. You wouldn't be moved to write if there weren't something that you needed to solve or something wrong - a clash of anything (could be characters, ideas, whatever). But there's got to be some sort of thing that is wrong. The tale of this conflict is the story's narrative, which includes rising and falling action; again, even in the weirdest things, there's some semblance of narrative or rising and falling action. The totality of the narrative's actions, when viewed together (all of this stuff we've talked about), is known as the plot. Plot is just 'what happens in the story' - that is pretty simple. It drives along towards the end of the story until we get to the resolution. The way that everything ties up at the end is called the denouement. If there's any kind of strong emotional release at the end of all of this, we call that catharsis - that's not with everything (there's sort of bits and pieces here we can mix and match), but in general that's how narrative tends to go. Stories feature characters, which are textual representations usually of people, although they can also be places, ideas and other stuff (the ancient Greeks were really good at making characters out of ideas). Also, again, we can consider weirdly experimental people like Joyce - he has characters in Finnegan's Wake that are actually sets of initials that are people, places and all kinds of weird stuff. The central character in your story (whether he be a castle or a man) - the one who drives the action - is known as the protagonist, or you can also call him the hero or the heroine if you really felt moved. The word 'hero' does not mean to imply that the actions are always going to be heroic (there's also the term anti-hero to describe people who are a little less savory but also we do root for). The place or places where our characters hang out is the setting. That's from stage terms as well - the setting of the play. The story's hero or protagonist (whatever you want to call it) is going to meet his or her chief antagonist, who's a character, idea or whatever that is in conflict with our protagonist. Just as protagonists aren't always 'good guys,' antagonists aren't always 'bad guys' - it's not always the guy in the black cloak stroking his mustache or like Dr. Evil. As long as they get in the way of our protagonist, they're an antagonist. They might even be in your mind - in the protagonist's head - if it's a neat psychological drama. Prose works also have a narrator, the one who is telling us the story. Stories are in this narrator's point-ofview, which can be first-person (that's an 'I' or a 'we'), second-person (this is pretty rare when it's in the 'you' form - Choose Your Own Adventure novels tend to be like that) or third-person ('he,' 'she' and 'they'). The narrator might be the story's biased protagonist, so it might be someone who's in the story who's telling us what's going on, or it might be another character inside of the story or it can be an omniscient godlike being. Sometimes it can be kind of ambiguous who the narrator is and that can be really interesting and a way to get at a novel's cool issues. Prose works can be written in a bunch of different styles, or ways of telling a story. Related is the idea of genre, which is the type of story being told (you can see this with movies really easily, like sci-fi movies, action movies - same thing with books). We've got noir, romance, adventure novels - things like that. All these genres tend to have various conventions or tropes, things that come back again and again that

signal that it is this genre. So a trope of the sci-fi genre might be the intelligent computer onboard the spaceship, like HAL or like a bunch of other things. Styles, genres and conventions are closely tied in with motifs, or elements of a text that come back again and again. If you look at Macbeth, the Shakespeare play, blood is super important and comes back again and again - that's the motif. Once you've identified the style and genre that you're looking at, you'll have an easier time figuring out what the atmosphere, mood and tone are. These are other ways to describe how the book feels - that's a good way to think about that. What's the author trying to make us experience as we read this book?

Going Deeper
We're going to go a little deeper and look at what the 'point' of a prose work might be and how you look at that. A fancy way of saying 'the point' is the theme or themes - there can be more than one. Usually when you're looking at literature, you're trying to elucidate themes and things about the text that aren't immediately apparent. You're going to have to take a look at something called subtext, which just means 'underneath the text' or under the surface of the work. Academic people love to discuss subtext - that's what critics love to fight about... what does it all really mean? To understand a subtext, you have to have a command of terms people use when they do literary analyses. Literary analysis is basically trying to get at the subtext. We're going to go over a few of those to give you the tools to look at what's going on beneath the immediate surface of plot, characters and all of that stuff. First we've got imagery, which, as you might be able to tell from the term, is generally used to describe figurative language, or language that creates pictures in your head. It's important because what a mindpicture can do is reinforce, undermine or add additional meaning to what the words explicitly say. Hemingway likes to use stark, unforgiving war imagery - that's a big trait of his. Somewhat related would be symbol, which is a thing that directly represents something other than itself. You see the sun and (this is a pretty common one) that might represent life. That's the idea of a symbol. Any kind of prose with subtext is going to employ symbolism - some are more explicit about it than others, but that's kind of an important thing to keep in mind. We've got metaphor, which is a broad way to describe a lot of different kinds of subtexts, but basically metaphor is when you use one thing to refer to another thing, leading us to connect the two (kind of like a symbol, but it's a little vaguer, a little more artsy-fartsy). Shakespeare, when he's comparing his lover to a summer's day, is not really trying to hook up with a summer's day on the calendar - he's using 'summer's day' to represent a whole bunch of things. That comparison is a little bit abstract. We've got allegory, which is an extended symbol or metaphor. Allegory is a popular tool with authors who want to tell a simple story or have literal elements that mean something else and all come in a sequence. It's kind of like a bunch of metaphors strung out all at once that are all consistent. An example would be the 'Tortoise and the Hare' story, which doesn't mean much if we really think that it is only just about tortoises and hares because that's not that relevant to us. But it's actually about much more - it's an allegory for how we should live our lives. Ambiguity is a favorite thing that authors like to do. They like to muddy the waters on what is being said. An interesting way to think about ambiguity: remember in Star Wars when Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke that Darth Vader killed Luke's father, and so for a while you think he actually literally did that. Then you find out that that was in a metaphorical kind of way because Darth Vader is Luke's father. In some cases, like this,

we're pushed to try to resolve the ambiguity - figure out what's really going on. In other cases, the ambiguity is the point, and we're not supposed to figure it out. We're supposed to take that as part of what the author is giving us. Ambiguity can get a little tricky, but it's well-employed by lots of writers. Now we've got irony, which is when you say one thing and totally mean its opposite. This can be directly in words, like with dialog, if someone's saying, 'I like ham!' but they don't really like ham, and you find that funny or interesting. You can also have situational or dramatic irony that's more having to do with a situation that is sort of known to be false. A great example is in Oedipus Rex (you know, the Oedipal complex). Oedipus is trying to figure out who killed his dad, but the audience actually knows that Oedipus killed his dad - that's a great example of dramatic irony because we know what he's doing is wrong or messed up in some way but he doesn't know it. We've also got allusions, which are when an author directly or indirectly refers to something outside of the text. That's an allusion, not an illusion - it is really there (or maybe you could have an illusionary allusion). Authors love allusions because (I don't want to say it's lazy) it's an easy way to bring in lots of baggage from other works, layers they can add to their work just with a quick word. We've also got archetypes, which are classic literary figures (like a character, place or theme) that tend to repeat across generations and cultures. Carl Jung, who's a psychologist, thought that archetypes were engrained in us so we all know them. That's why so many cultures tell stories of heroes who have rebirths, like Jesus, Buddha and Superman. That's the idea of an archetype - something that recurs again and again in lots of literature. So I gave you a bunch of ways that you can name what's going on when you look at a work. This helps because you can categorize what you're reading and what you're doing. You can start to think about how you're going to form your analysis of a text. What all of these things do (and this is the thing I will leave you with) is allow you to press upon the soft spots of a work. What I mean by that is, like, if you find something that seems weird in any of these - a weird allusion, a weird archetype, a weird image - look at that. Figure out why it's weird, why it does what it does, and that's a good start in trying to figure out why a work is the way it is. Poetry is kind of terrifying. It's not like reading a book, where you generally expect things to follow normal patterns of human speech and thought processes and make sense and all that stuff. In poems, it seems anything can happen. Poems have no rules! That's actually not true at all. Poems have tons of rules, but they're rules that maybe aren't that familiar to us. They're kind of obscure, and that's why poetry seems so foreign. We're going to help you try to make sense of poetry and all those rules and what they're doing. So we're going to make a list of key terms, and we're going to go over what you ought to know about poetry and what's going to help you parse it out and make it easier to understand. We're going to look at technical terms that apply to all poetry, we're going to look at literary terms that apply to poetry and also a bit of prose (well-written language) and we're also going have a general discussion of types of poetry you might encounter as you go through your Norton Anthology.

Technical Terms
First off: technical terms. It might make it easier if you think of poems in terms of songs. Well-written song lyrics really are poetry if you think about it. Poorly written song lyrics are just painful: 'So c-c-c'mon, you've got it wrong. To prove I'm right, I put it in a song' (One Direction). No! That's not poetry. Other song lyrics can be poetry. Just like there are all different kinds of songs - there's orchestra, there's opera, there's pop

music, there's One Direction - songs generally have certain traits in common. They have melodies, they have time signatures, they have rhythms, etc. The same thing can be said of poetry. So, first off: Poems are divided into verses. That's similar to music, little bits of chunks of words. Some poems might just have one verse, some might have just one line and some might have multiple verses. When they're arranged rhythmically, they're called stanzas. You often hear that in poetry: first stanza, second stanza. Depending on how the stanzas are divided, there are different terms you can use to refer to them. Popular types are: Couplet: a two-line stanza that often rhymes (typically using end rhymes) but doesn't have to. Triplet: a three-line stanza. Quatrain: a four-line stanza. Sonnet: a 14-line stanza that can be a single poem, or you can have a larger poem that has a bunch of sonnets as its stanzas, so you can get a little creative. And while verses and stanzas subdivide into lines, lines themselves subdivide into feet, which are not like my feet but are the basic unit of measurement in poetry. It's kind of like how a drummer goes, 'one, two, three, four!' The count of the song, or the count of the poem, can be measured in feet. They typically follow patterns of stress and emphasis, and there are a bunch of different kinds. The most common ones are: Iambs: one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable; this is really common in English poetry. It goes da-DA. Trochee: the reverse of an iamb, a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable, so DA-da. Anapest: two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable, so you've got da-da-DA. Dactyl: the reverse of an anapest, one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables, DAda-da Spondee (my favorite because of a Coleridge poem that has ways to remember all of these): two stressed syllables, DA-DA. (Coleridge's thing is, 'Slow spondee stalks.' I just think a spondee must be a cute creature. Who knows?) Those are the kinds of feet that you can have. The pattern of poetic stresses is called meter, and, much like in music, the sound patterns that result can be referred to as rhythm. This is all looking pretty familiar. You've probably heard of the meter 'iambic pentameter,' because it is super common in English poetry. To illustrate how we can think about feet, iambic pentameter includes five (penta) iambs (iambic), meaning we've got five sets of unstressed syllables followed by stressed syllables. Shakespeare is super fond of this: 'If MUsic BE the FOOD of LOVE, play ON.' That's iambic pentameter. He doesn't usually rhyme in it; that's called blank verse. A lot of poems have a rhyme scheme; some don't. Rhyme does not make a poem. A poem can be anything. When you do what we've been doing, when you look at the elements of the lines, the rhythm, the meter and all that stuff, it's called scansion. Teachers love to talk about scansion. You just make little marks to indicate the stresses. Before we move on, it should be noted that poetry isn't always organized into these meters. The ones that aren't we refer to as being in free verse. That angsty poetry you wrote in your diary in middle school? Probably free verse. I don't think you were writing sonnets about the girl whose locker was next to you. Maybe you were, maybe I'm underestimating you, but you were probably writing free verse.

Literary Terms
Okay, we're moving on to literary terms. So, depending on what background you've had in English, you might have had a ton of detailed 'literary term' stuff, or you might have not. If you're having to analyze

poetry, you're going to need to know a thing or two about poetic language and the kinds of devices people use, so I'm going to get you up to speed with that. First of all, the most important thing to keep in mind is that in written language, especially in poetry because poetry is so compact, words mean more than they appear to at first. There are two different kinds of meanings of a word. There's the denotation, which is its literal meaning, and its connotation, which is the meaning its usage in the poem might suggest. If you're doing an in-depth analysis of poetry, you're usually more concerned with connotation, so what the poet's choice of words are implying even if they're not directly saying it. But, if you're stuck on the denotations, if you don't know what the words mean at all, you're going to have an awfully hard time getting to the 'meaning behind the meaning.' You need to know both, but connotation is usually the one we're more interested in. Anyway, poets use words, and they like to be clever with their words because that lets them build more complicated connotations. All kinds of poetic tropes fall under the category, essentially, of wordplay. (These are things you do with words that are cool and interesting.) We're just going to go in alphabetical order. We've got: Alliteration: when two or more words in a line begin with a similar-sounding syllable (like 'similarsounding syllable'). Old English poets are super fond of this. They actually use this as a way to structure all of their verse; they have a bunch of words that start with the same letter. Analogy: when one thing is compared to another, not always literally. Poets love to do this. Romantic and Renaissance poets threw in all kinds of hidden analogies to sex. That was kind of a thing that they enjoyed. Apostrophe: addressing a gone, dead or inhuman thing as alive and present (an ode by John Keats would do this). If I were to address a poem to Chipotle or Heath Ledger, that would also fall under the category of apostrophe because neither of those things are alive, sadly. Hyperbole: grossly over-exaggerating something for dramatic effect, like 'This is the dumbest thing I've ever written,' or 'Beyonc's music video is the greatest of all time.' Those are all hyperboles. Irony: one of many writers' favorite tools. They love irony. Especially the modernists; they really love irony. It's when something in a text produces an effect that doesn't align with its stated intent. In other words, it's kind of what happens when denotation and connotation clash. Writers can employ verbal irony, which is when spoken words don't mean what they really should mean, or dramatic irony, when elements of a work of art don't really mean what they seem like they should mean. It's often funny; it's often used for humor. But it doesn't have to be funny. A classic example is the story of Oedipus. Oedipus is searching for the guy who killed his father. It turns out to be himself, and he didn't know. That's irony, but it sure isn't funny. It's an example of dramatic, or situational, irony. Onomatopoeia (a wonderful word): when words are used to convey a certain sound, so if you sink a shot in basketball, it's a 'swish;' that would be onomatopoeia. Pathetic fallacy: when a narrator of a poem believes that the outside world, especially nature, is mimicking his internal state. If you're really sad, and it's raining outside, that would be the pathetic fallacy. Synecdoche (the title of a movie): using a part of something to refer to the whole. The best way to illustrate this would be with an example. If you're saying, 'all hands on deck,' you mean that all the sailors should come up and help out. Obviously, the sailors have to bring themselves in addition to their hands. The hands are synecdoche - they're standing in for the whole sailor.

Types of Poetry
We're almost there! You're going to run across certain kinds of basic forms again and again and again. There are lots of different forms poems can take, but there are a few major ones that we should go over:

Ballad: a lot like '80s hair bands, poets like to write ballads. They're typically short, kind of song-like poems and they focus on a single subject, like 'The Ballad of Davy Crockett' or 'The Ballad of John and Yoko.' They come in ballad meter, which goes a little something like this (from Coleridge's 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner'): Water, water, every where, And all the boards did shrink; Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink. You can see how it's in a quatrain - remember, there are four lines, and they're made up of alternating iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter lines. So you've got four iambs in the first line, three iambs in the second, four in the third, three in the fourth. And the second and fourth lines rhyme: 'shrink' and 'drink.' That's ballad meter. That's all you've gotta know. Bucolic/pastoral: popular in the Middle Ages, it focuses on pastoral life, lots of shepherds and sheep and stuff like that. Doggerel: a light, humorous, usually bawdy (having to do with sex) and short poem, kind of like an episode of South Park in stanzas. Elegy: a poem in dedication to something that has passed. It might be a dead person, or it might be a bygone era. Epic poetry: epic, gigantic, world-spanning action. The Greeks were really into this; the Middle Ages were into it too. Beowulf is certainly an epic. Narrative poem: tell a story. Some poems don't tell stories, and those are the ones that make the least sense, usually. Sonnet: one of the most popular types of poetry. Shakespeare wrote a ton of them, but Petrarch was into them too. Shakespeare has his own form of sonnet; Petrarch has another. They tend to be about love, and they're typically 14 lines long. They have a couple of different rhyme structures depending on what you're doing. This is not an exhaustive list of all of the vocab that you will encounter while studying poetry, but it should give you a solid start in terms of where to look, how to describe what you're reading and how to break it down a little bit. So go read some poems and think about this stuff. Analyzing literature. Kind of scary, right? It doesn't have to be. In fact, you're probably a pro at analysis already - you're analyzing text all of the time: when you read a newspaper article, dissect a cooking recipe, and even when you follow driving directions. In order to get from point A to point B in your car, for example, you need to understand the map, the written directions as a whole, as well as all of the individual parts or turns. It often helps you to figure out which areas might trip you up and from what direction of town you should approach your destination. That's all analysis is. Analyzing literature is much like reading directions. First, you tackle literature by reading it once for comprehension. Does it make sense as a whole? Do you understand the events that lead from the beginning to the middle to the end - the basic plot? Are there important parts of the puzzle that you need to recognize?

Once you are steady on your feet with comprehension, you move on to interpretation, which really means filling in the pieces of the puzzle that are not explicitly stated. Look more closely at the details that fit the literary work together. Examine things like mood and tone of a scene or character motivation in a specific moment. Finally, once you feel like you've painted a clear portrait in your head through story comprehension and personal interpretation, you pull all of this information together to create an analytical statement about the piece as a whole. This can include things like theme, author commentary or choices, overall character analysis, how literature reflects a time period, etc. - really, the list of possible topics for overall analysis is endless, and not everyone will interpret the same work in the same way. It is drawing conclusions about a work based upon the story's elements, and while there's no one right way to do it, following the steps in this video can help you get started until you develop a method that works for you. Don't feel intimidated. For the purposes of our work here, we will look more generally at what close reading, making connections, and drawing conclusions really means. You already do a lot of this without realizing it.

Comprehension
You know what comprehension means. You read a literary work once to figure out how all of the basic parts fit together as a story. Essentially, it's the basic understanding of:
Diagram depicting the essential plot elements

Setting Characters Plot (to the extent that they are revealed)

You think you can do this? Let's practice. For this

exercise, we are going to keep things simple with a short version of everyone's favorite, 'The Tortoise and The Hare' : The Tortoise and the Hare The hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. 'I have never yet been beaten,' said he, 'when I put forth my full speed. I challenge anyone here to race with me.' The tortoise said quietly, 'I accept your challenge.' 'That is a good joke,' said the hare. 'I could dance around you all the way.' 'Keep your boasting until you've beaten,' answered the tortoise. 'Shall we race?' So a course was fixed and a start was made. The hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped, and, to show his contempt for the tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the hare awoke from his nap, he saw the tortoise nearing the finish line, and he could not catch up in time to save the race. Plodding wins the race. So, these initial steps should be somewhat familiar to you already.

Step One - Setting Comprehension Is the setting clear in this one? Hmm. It doesn't give a specific location or a time period, so this isn't initially clear. 'No basic setting.' Step Two - Character Comprehension That's easy. 'The Hare' and 'The Tortoise.' Step Three - Plot Comprehension You can do this. Easy. 'The fast hare challenges other animals to a race. The slow and steady tortoise accepts the challenge. The hare, who is confident in his abilities, decides to take a nap on the course. As a result, he loses.' Nice work. Now, on to interpretation.

Close Reading and Interpretation


Interpreting a literary work is the point at which you begin to fill in the pieces of the story a bit more. You explore setting, characters, and plot more deeply while giving consideration to author's style and language. Let's start with setting again. Look back at the story again for a minute. Step Four - Setting Analysis Okay, since nothing is explicitly stated, can we gather any more information about setting? Maybe information that is implied? The story does hint at a social context - 'the animal world' - which you could argue is a contributor to the setting here. Okay, that's something we can gather that is implied. Step Five - Character Analysis What more can we say about the tortoise and the hare? In what ways can we really bring them to life in our mind? Well, we know 'the hare is a braggart with confidence in his abilities to move quickly.' We know 'the tortoise is quiet and predictably slower than the hare.' Here, we basically fill in more details about the characters. Step Six - Plot Analysis What more can we say about the plot? Well, we can figure out what the essential elements of the plot of this story are (the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution). The exposition here? 'The initial invitation to race by the hare.' The rising action? 'After the tortoise accepts the challenge, it is the hare's boastful comments, the initial running of the race, and the hare's choice to take a nap.' The climax here comes 'after the tortoise passes the hare and wins the race.' The resolution? Not much of a resolution aside from the lesson learned at the end - 'slow and steady wins the race.' The quiet, slow, and steady tortoise won. Step Seven - Author Style and Language Analysis Well, this is a bit tougher. It's an examination of point-of-view, imagery, symbolism, other literary devices, the use of repetition, and any other choices the author makes that create a unique piece. This particular step in the process can be one that takes quite a while. Not only are you examining the presence of these aspects of the writing, but you will also have to consider why they are there at all and what purpose might they serve. Examine the work under the assumption that the authors make deliberate choices, and their choices support the overall goal of delivering a specific message. What about our beloved story here? Well, let's go through these one by one. Point-of-view What is the point of view here? From what we can tell, it's 'third person.' Third person omniscient means

that the narrator sees the thoughts and feelings of all characters. Third person limited is when the thoughts and feelings of only one character are revealed. Tough to tell here. The hare took a nap to show contempt for the tortoise, so we know that we are, at least, in the mind of the hare. That much ('third person limited') could be argued. Imagery This is the use of language to create vivid images or pictures in the reader's mind. Do we find this in 'the Tortoise and the Hare?' Nope. This story is rather short and gets to the point. Not many vivid images. Symbolism and other literary devices Here's where you have to be familiar with the rest of your literary devices. One that immediately jumps out at the reader involves the animals talking to each other - 'personification.' That's a start. You could argue that there are innumerable literary devices at play here as well (the use of 'character foil,' maybe a bit of 'suspense,' the creation of 'hubris' in a character). What's the point of examining all this? It creates a more vivid picture for the reader while taking a close look at language and author choice. These are important steps that lead to final analysis.

Drawing Conclusions
In the final analysis stage, you, the reader, must consider all of the elements previously examined in order to draw conclusions. The most common conclusion you can draw from a piece of literature is 'theme,' or the overall ideas that govern the piece. Here, you could say that the themes of 'modesty,' 'hubris,' and 'perseverance' exist. Right? Are there others? Sure. You can add to the list. Because theme has more recently been defined as a kind of high-level topic, we must also take a look at what it communicates about life on a general level. This really means that you need to think about the message or moral. Our beloved story made this easy - a moral was given to us. 'Plodding wins the race,' or 'slow and steady will always prevail.' Can you find other messages by examining plot, characters, setting, literary devices, author style, and choices? Sure. Our friend the hare shows us that 'boasting will never make you a winner,' while the quiet old tortoise demonstrates that 'anything is possible if you try.' Do you see how it works? Ultimately, the last step in this process is to answer these questions: What themes govern the piece? What does the piece communicate to the reader about life?

Lesson Summary
Analyzing literature can be very broad and general or very complex and narrow in scope, depending upon the purpose of the examination. But for us, using this general model will not only give you a solid understanding of a piece, but it will help you move into interpreting and, ultimately, analysis. To review: The first element of analysis is comprehension, or basic understanding of: Setting Comprehension Character Comprehension Plot Comprehension The next element of analysis is interpretation, or a further exploration of the stated and implied aspects of: Setting Analysis Character Analysis Plot Analysis

Author Style and Language Analysis (Remember those literary devices!) The last element of analysis is drawing conclusions, or bringing everything together to support a greater theme, message, or moral about life. Make sense? It should. Think about it this way - you're breaking a story into parts in order to gain a better understanding of each part as well as the greater whole. Like anything, literature will feel less daunting and foreign when you examine it this way.

Early and High Middle Ages


We're going to start, naturally, with the Early Middle Ages, which basically starts when the Romans clear out in about 400 A.D. The Romans had been hanging out since around 50 A.D. or so. There's a lot of Roman stuff in Britain. There's this town called Bath that's named after a Roman bath that was there and actually still is there. You can go look at it; it's kind of cool. So that's the Romans. They clear out around 400 A.D., and there's a period of chaos and figuring out who should be in charge of stuff. Then the Normans come in and invade from France. William the Conqueror is the guy associated with them, and he comes in and conquers. You can remember his name because he conquers things. This scoots us along into what's known as the High Middle Ages. No, it's not that kind of 'high.' They're high because they're the big ones, the late ones. That's when all the stuff you might have seen in Robin Hood takes place - King John, Richard the Lionheart's off at the Crusades; they weren't animals, they were real - so that's around 1150-1215. Then we head into the Black Plague, or Black Death, around 1350. You've probably heard of that. Tons of people died, and stuff got crazy. There were these doctors that would go around with beaks on their noses to keep out the vapors; it was weird. Around that time, they're fighting the Hundred Years' War in France, and that lasts for about a hundred years, from 1337 to 1453. Then we're kind of moving out of the Middle Ages in 1485, when the Tudors take the throne, and we're on our way into the Renaissance. (Side note: I don't know if I should be advocating this, but you should watch The Tudors. Don't believe it, but watch it.) That was a lot of stuff we covered from a long period of time, but we kind of laid out the general sweep of things.

Now it's time to figure out Who was writing? and What were they writing? Per capita, there actually weren't a lot of people writing because not a lot of people were literate. People associated with the church could read, and people who were highborn could probably read. A lot of the oral traditions couldn't survive unless someone who was literate wrote them down. That was the case for the first
Timeline for the Middle Ages

piece of medieval lit we're going to talk about, which is called Caedmon's Hymn.

Caedmon's Hymn
Caedmon's Hymn is the earliest recorded poem in Old English. Old English has the word 'English' in it, but you won't be able to read it if you try. It's super old (obviously) and pretty far removed from modern English - it's basically a foreign language to us. Caedmon himself was illiterate, so this was composed orally. It was

written down by a guy named the Venerable Bede around the seventh century A.D. He wrote it in Latin, and that's the reason we have it, because this literate guy wrote it down. A few things about it, it's composed in something called alliterative verse, which is kind of interesting. Instead of rhyming, in order to structure the poetry, what they do is have a bunch of words in the same line start with the same letter. You've probably heard of alliteration like 'The angry alligator ate Andy.' It's basically that but in poetry, and instead of a rhyme structure they had an alliterative structure. Each line in this hymn also had a caesura, which is basically just a break, or pause, in the middle of each line. And, like modern hymns, it was about praising God. So that's Caedmon's Hymn.

Beowulf
Moving right along, next we've got Beowulf (which we'll have a whole lesson on, but I'll give a brief overview). Caedmon's Hymn, we know that a guy named Caedmon wrote it because that's what we call it, but Beowulf, we don't know who wrote it. It's anonymous; we don't know the dude who wrote Beowulf. It's quite similar in some ways to Caedmon's Hymn - a lot of Old English poetry does that alliterative verse and caesura thing. But it's also really, really long, so it's quite different in that respect. It's actually called an epic; that's its classification. It's about a guy named Beowulf who helps out this guy named Hrothgar who's king of the Danes (that's Denmark a long time ago). Beowulf comes and kills Grendel, who's been terrorizing their mead hall - Oh no, not the mead hall! That's where they'd hang out and drink! - then Grendel's mom comes and takes revenge and Beowulf goes and kills her. Then he goes home and becomes king of his people, ends up fighting a dragon and dies a noble hero's death. That's the very brief summary of Beowulf, but the interesting thing about it is there's a lot of debate about whether it was passed down in the oral tradition for awhile and then written down or whether it was written down around when it was composed. We don't really know. It was written down around 1000 A.D. and could have been composed as early as the eighth century. It's the kind of thing scholars like to fight about, which is not as exciting as it sounds.

More Old English


Is there anything else in Old English? Yeah, there's a ton of stuff, all pretty small. We won't talk about anything individually. There are poems called elegiac poems that are about life and wisdom; they're not as long as epics. Old English people were also really into writing riddles. Kind of like 'What is black and white and red all over?' but more interesting and cool and ancient. And they also wrote a lot about saints because they were religious folk. There's a genre called Saints' Lives that got a lot of play back then.

Middle English Works


Now we're going to move on to Middle English, which as I said roughly corresponds with the High Middle Ages that were ushered in with William the Conqueror coming in and conquering stuff. He brought in sort of a Norman, 'Frenchy' influence that really started to get into the language and we get Middle English. This is much closer to modern English, and you can actually understand it if you squint really hard at it. As an example, 'This Nicholas anon leet fle a fart.' Take a close look at it: 'This Nicholas let fly a fart.' Congrats, you can read Middle English. That line was written by Geoffrey Chaucer, who's one of the most famous Middle English writers. We have a whole mess of videos on him, so I'm not going to go into too much detail. He was writing in the 1300s and is most famous for a little thing called The Canterbury Tales. It's actually kind of a big thing. There's sex in it and violence and farting obviously, so it's pretty cool.

Who else wrote in Middle English? There's an anonymous guy who we call the Pearl Poet because he wrote something called The Pearl, but he also wrote something called Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Sir Gawain was a knight of Arthur's Round Table, which is really exciting. Arthur wasn't in our history; he didn't come up. That's because he doesn't really exist, but he does exist all over literature, which is cool. We'll get to more of him later. So the Pearl Poet's Sir Gawain is our first introduction to that. Then we have a guy whose name we do know (the Pearl Poet was anonymous, which is why we call him by his work), William Langland. He was also writing in the 1300s and wrote an allegorical poem called Piers Plowman. Allegorical just means that the story is a big metaphor for something else. In this case, the main dude in Piers Plowman falls asleep and has a vision that's an allegory for heaven, hell and the people on earth. Then we've got John Gower. He's another poet writing in 1300s - there were a bunch of them - and he was actually really good friends with Chaucer. He wrote in lots of languages but is most famous for a work called the Confessio Amantis, which doesn't sound like it would be in English but it is. The title isn't; it just means The Lover's Confession. Those are the major dudes writing in Middle English. Some women wrote in Middle English, so we're just going to knock them out. We've got Margery Kempe who wrote or, rather, dictated The Book of Margery Kempe. She was basically writing about what it was like to be a woman in the Middle Ages, which does not sound fun. She had 14 children, which is insane, and lived to tell the tale obviously. There's another woman named Julian of Norwich. She was a very religious woman, kind of a hermit; the technical term is anchoress. She didn't go out much, she just wrote about God a lot. She wrote Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love. There's a famous line in it, which is 'All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.' This actually ends up being quoted in a much later 20th-century poem by T.S. Eliot, which is how it gets into the tradition in a neat way. We're almost done. There's one more dude I want to talk about, who's almost not in the Middle Ages. He was in 1485, which if you remember was right when the Tudors were coming in, right at the end. It's still Middle English, but it's much closer to modern English than the other things we've talked about. This guy is Sir Thomas Malory, and he wrote a little thing called Le Morte d'Arthur, which is all about Arthur. (It translates to The Death of Arthur.) It's got all of our favorite Arthurian things in it: Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, that little romance thing, Morgan Le Fay, who's Arthur's weird half sister, and their accidental kid named Mordred. I guess they didn't know that they were half siblings, and he's their kid, which is creepy. What Thomas Malory is doing is really collecting all of the Arthurian legends - and a few totally original ones he wrote himself - and putting them in this book. So it's a real source for a lot of the later stuff that we think of when we think about Arthur; it's his compilation of Arthur legends.

The Text
We're going to talk about Beowulf, and he's super exciting. We're going to talk about the form of the poem, we're going to talk about what happens, and we're going to talk about why we care...because it's old. It's so old...this is like the oldest thing ever. Scholars like to fight about whether it was composed in the 8th century or the 11th century, but it doesn't really matter for us because either one of those things is still really, really old. It's basically written by this anonymous Old English poet and we don't know who he is. It's about some Scandinavian guys who go on some adventures. It's actually called an epic poem. Epic doesn't just mean 'totally awesome,' like 'that was epic,' or, 'Oh my god, that was so epic!' It's a long poem about adventuresome deeds. So that night your friends got drunk and pushed each other around in shopping carts until the cops showed up, that's not epic. Beowulf is epic.

It's written in Old English, which is not the same thing as Middle English, which comes later. Old English is spoken from around maybe 450-1150 AD, it gets a little murky, but that's about right. Even though it has the word 'English' in it and you might think that it would be comprehensible to you, you really can't understand it. So I'm going to put up on the screen the opening lines of Beowulf, and just take a look at it, just try to figure that out: Hwt! We Gardena || in gear-dagum, eodcyninga, || rym gefrunon, hu a elingas || ellen fremedon. You can't do it. It doesn't make any sense. And you're not going to be expected to be able translate that. You're only going to have to read that in translation if you do have to encounter it. But the important thing to know is that it is in something called alliterative verse, which is a really typical thing for Old English poetry. I promise you we're going to get to the fun battles and all the exciting stuff soon, but I do have to tell you about alliterative verse first because it's really important and it is something that might come up at some point if you have to talk about Beowulf. So you've probably heard the term 'alliteration,' which basically means things like 'an angry ant' or 'the beautiful butterfly;' it's a bunch of words that all start with the same letter, basically. Instead of rhyming, what Old English poets like to do, as a kind of way to structure their poetry, was to have a line that, maybe not every word because that would be kind of difficult, but a lot of the words start with the same letter. Translations of Beowulf do try to preserve this, so you can kind of take a look a line and see how this really plays out in a practical kind of way. Here's a translated line: The folk-kings' former fame we have heard of, How princes displayed then their prowess-in-battle. So in the first line we get lots of F's and in the second line we get lots of P's, you know, princes, displayed, prowess. The other important thing is that the lines are kind of divided in two by something that's called a caesura, which means break. And basically how it's organized is that you have two strong accents before the break and two strong accents after the break in each line. It sometimes can be harder to see in translation, but if you look at the second line again that we read before - 'How princes displayed their prowess-in-battle,' - there are two accents before and two accents after, and there's that break that you can do naturally in the middle. And the alliteration is supposed to help us, in a way, bridge that gap, so there are things on either side that all start with that same letter. That's the basic form and structure of how Beowulf is formed and structured.

The Epic Tale

So what happens in Beowulf? It's a lot of awesome adventuring. First we're introduced to the Danes who are people who live in what's now Denmark. They're descendants of Scyld Scefing (that's kind of an awesome name). He's dead, so we're really looking at one of his descendants, whose name is King Hrothgar, and his wife Wealhtheow and all of his knights. (I think that Hrothgar would be the best cat name, but that's neither here nor there.)

So Hrothgar and his people, they have a monster problem. There's this horrible beast named Grendel who's terrorizing their mead hall, Heorot. Scholars kind of fight a little bit about what Grendel really looks like - it's not totally clear from what they've translated. A lot of them think he's kind of human-like, but really big, and maybe has scales. I like to think of him as
King Hrothgar and his wife Wealhtheow are characters in Beowulf.

an ancient-day Oscar the Grouch when I

picture him. Sometimes I also think of him on the cover of John Gardner's book called Grendel about the monster's point of view, and on the cover of that he looks like a furry cat-monster. There's an animated movie (that I love the title of) called Grendel, Grendel, Grendel where he's just a sad-looking green monster. Then there was a 2007 movie with a whole bunch of CGI where he kind of looks gross, I don't know how to describe that gross person. But however you picture him, he's ferocious and weird. He's supposed to be disconcerting and strange, and he keeps killing the Danes (that's really the salient point). And they don't know what to do. He also lives in the swamp - that's important. I think that also might be why I think of him as Oscar the Grouch, because it's kind of like, trashcan, swamp...who can blame him for being upset about things. So Beowulf comes in. He's sort of a professional good guy. He hears about this situation and he comes in to help. He's a Geat, which means that he's from what is now Sweden (it doesn't mean that he opens and closes to let you through). Hrothgar, a long time ago, had helped out Beowulf's dad, so he's sort of repaying the favor a little bit, coming and helping out with this. So Beowulf gets there and they have a big feast. Some of Hrothgar's warriors are a little skeptical of Beowulf's accomplishments. One of them named Unferth brings up this embarrassing swimming contest that Beowulf had back in the day that he lost. Beowulf says that he lost because he had to defeat a bunch of sea monsters on the way, which I think might be supposed to be true. It's the kind of thing, you know, excuses, excuses...

They're having this big feast, and Hrothgar thinks he can do it, even if some of his warriors are a little skeptical. And late at night, Grendel turns up, right on cue, to be fought. But late, kind of like that obnoxious friend who turns up wasted right just when you're starting to clean and gets all upset that no one wants to play Mario Kart with him... Grendel's kind of like that, turning up late at night. Beowulf has decided that he's not going to use any weapons because Grendel isn't armed. That seems like dubious logic to me because people don't have monster things like teeth and claws and all that stuff. But Beowulf thinks he can handle it, and it turns out he totally can because he ends up beating Grendel. He rips off his arm, which is really crazy. Grendel runs away to his swamp to die, and we think we've maybe seen the last of him. The Danes are drinking and singing songs and all happy the next day having celebrations. And then, Grendel's mom turns up. And this is kind of the origin of the mama bear concept;
Beowulf hears about Grendel and comes in to help.

you kill the baby, and then something even more horrible and big comes to get you because you killed its baby. That's kind of what's going on with Grendel's mom. She comes in, she kills one of Hrothgar's favorite warriors, and then it's on. Beowulf and a bunch of the Danes run off to the swamp and they're going to go and take on Grendel's mom. Unferth, remember that doubting guy who brought up the whole swimming contest thing, he's totally convinced now, because he saw Beowulf rip off Grendel's arm, that Beowulf is a good guy, so he gives him a sword called Hrunting. (Beowulf's just full of fantastic names.). So Beowulf takes Hrunting and he's going to go fight Grendel's mom. Grendel's mom ends up pulling him underwater where they fight, which I guess was fine - if you're an ancient-day person I guess you don't have to be able to breathe.

But Beowulf finds that Hrunting isn't really cutting the mustard and he can't really defeat Grendel's mom with this sword. Things are not looking good for Beowulf for a while. It looks like he might lose this battle with Grendel's mom, which is one of the interesting things about the epic in general. He doesn't seem invincible all the time,
Beowulf slays the mother of Grendel with a sword he finds underwater.

which is kind of nice and interesting. Down underwater, he finds this other

sword that is really awesome and is actually able to kill Grendel's mom, and then yay, hooray, the Grendel part of this story is done.

The Epilogue
So then we get a kind of epilogue-y thing, where 50 years later, Beowulf goes home. So now he's back among the Geats, among the people in Sweden, and he's king. During his reign, some idiot guy goes and tries to steal some treasure from a big treasure horde. It turns out to belong to a dragon. The dragon gets very upset and goes around burning the peasants and burning the countryside. Beowulf has to go and deal with it. He's kind of old now. So he goes to deal with the dragon, and he's really not doing well. A friend comes and helps him out,. He ends up being able to take care of the dragon, but he also ends up being mortally wounded in the process. The epic concludes with him dying a hero's death and being buried on the cliff side. So that's what happens in Beowulf.

The Importance

Like I said, it's really, really old, so 'why do we care?' is an important question to ponder. One of the reasons is just because it's old and big and significant-seeming, and so it's worth studying from that perspective. It's an original thing and might have some influence on later literature. The other thing is that it's really attractive to people who study this stuff because they don't know a lot about it. They don't even know who wrote it, and there's a lot of scholarship that can be done figuring things out about it, which is really attractive to the kind of people who do that.

It's interesting too because it's at a weird intersection between Paganism and Christianity. It was probably written down by a Christian, but it's definitely about Pagan stuff, such as these Pagan kings, who are actually probably sort of based on real people. Obviously Grendel and the dragons and stuff like that's probably not real, but Hrothgar and Beowulf were probably based on real people. So there's an interesting intersection of older stuff and then new Christian interpretations going on in this. Legend, myth, and history wrapped up into one thing is interesting. One of the reasons why we're so into it now is that J.R.R. Tolkien, of Lords of the Rings fame and The Hobbit, was really, really into it. You actually might recognize the part where the idiot disturbs the dragon horde, and then the dragon comes out - that kind of happens in the Hobbit. Bilbo is the thief and Smaug is the dragon, so that plot ends up playing out. But what Tolkien did is he delivered this famous lecture about how we really can't separate out the supernatural stuff from the history stuff, which is how people were approaching it at the time. He said, no, this is really important that we look at this all together, and that has influenced the way we think about it now. His work on it influenced the importance that we assign to it now. And we definitely wouldn't have had the crazy CGI Beowulf adaptation if we left out the magic, though I'm still not totally sure how Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mom fit into all that...
Beowulf dies a hero and is buried on the cliff side

Cheers to Medieval Literature


To Chaucer and medieval literature! It's tempting to think about medieval literature as being boring and unsophisticated. A professor in a Chaucer class once pointed out that medieval people aren't stupid; they're smart people. And their literature is interesting and worthwhile - it's just different from ours; it just looks different because it's from hundreds of years ago. They would probably judge us for Twitter, so we should keep it in perspective. They're doing different things, but they're just as smart, innovative and interesting as we are. One way to see this is to really read and get into Geoffrey Chaucer. He's a great example of all the cool things that people in medieval lit do. You often hear that Shakespeare is the father of English. Chaucer's like an earlier father of English; he's the original written source for tons of words we use. And he's also a funny guy. He's got sex jokes, he's got fart jokes; he's got it all. The things we think are funny, he thought were funny, too, because he's great. In this video, we're going to take a look at his life, some of his major works and then we're going to take a look at how to approach reading Middle English, which is the language he wrote in. It's an ancestor of what we speak today. You can do it; it's just a little tricky.

Geoffrey Chaucer
Chaucer was born around 1343 (people don't exactly know when, so that's why we say 'around'). If you've ever watched A Knight's Tale, which is one of my favorite movies, you've seen one representation of Chaucer. He's played by Paul Bettany. He turns up naked on the road. He likes to give extravagant speeches introducing Heath Ledger's character, the knight. It's so good; watch it if you haven't. The thing to remember is that while it's a representation of him, it doesn't have much to do with his biography. It does reflect this idea that Chaucer really did everything. He was a page for a nobleman, he fought in the

Hundred Years' War in France, he wandered around Europe (which was a lot harder back then; now you can just take Ryanair), he worked for the court, he studied law and he actually ended up being in charge of the port in London. He did everything. And, of course, he also was a writer, which is how we know him today. Unlike a lot of people we talk about, he actually was famous and well recognized at the time for writing. He was called upon to write stuff, like this guy asked him to write a eulogy of his wife - it turned into The Book of the Duchess, which also gets a shout out in A Knight's Tale when Paul Bettany introduces himself: 'Geoffrey Chaucer's the name, writing's the game. Chaucer? Geoffrey Chaucer? The Writer?' 'What?' (They don't know what a writer is because they're ignorant.) 'You've probably read my book, The Book of the Duchess?' Again, not accurate but all of the pieces are there. He's also famous for works like The Parlement of Foules ('foules' meaning birds; it's about birds that talk to each other) and a poem called Troilus and Criseyde, so he writes a version of that - Shakespeare does too, but Chaucer does it first. At some point as he's writing all this stuff, he actually is awarded a gallon of wine a day by King Charles III. People think it was probably as a reward for writing - every day. That's kind of a good deal.

The Canterbury Tales


Chaucer is most famous now for The Canterbury Tales, his big work that he gained the most recognition for, at least nowadays. We refer to them as tales or stories, but they are actually in verse; they're all poems. (One of them is actually called 'The Knight's Tale', but it has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the movie, so don't be confused. I promise this is the last time I'll talk about A Knight's Tale.) So, Chaucer presents a series of these 'tales' told by a bunch of pilgrims who are all headed to the Canterbury Cathedral, which is a big pilgrimage site in England at the time. All the pilgrims have different personalities and different jobs, and some of their stories can get pretty raunchy - which is a reason to read it, but we'll get into that a little bit later. The reason Chaucer can tell these stories, as we mentioned before, is he did so many different things and got really familiar with all sorts of people, so he could write about all these different types of personalities. The Canterbury Tales are probably unfinished and are organized into a bunch of fragments. The text itself is lost, so it's been reconstructed from a bunch of different manuscripts. Chaucer was working on them relatively late in his career; they were definitely some of the last things he did. He died in 1400. So, that's Chaucer's life and some things to think about while you read.

The Language
Another really important thing relative to Chaucer is the language and how to approach something that is written in Middle English. Chaucer was part of a movement in the Middle Ages, and really all over the place, to write in what's called the vernacular. That just means the language that people speak. In modern day, the vernacular is English; there's no difference between the vernacular and the language literature is written in or the language important people speak. At the time, important people spoke and wrote in Latin. So, the idea of writing in the language of the people was a new idea. He wasn't the only one who was doing this, but he was kind of a big early example of it. It's also important to note that Chaucer's English - this is around 1100 or 1400 AD in England - is called Middle English (Middle Ages, Middle English, makes sense), which is not the same thing as Old English.

This is a really important distinction. Old English was around 800 AD - we're talking more Dark Ages than High Middle Ages. This is a favorite quiz question, so do not be fooled! Chaucer wrote in Middle English, not Old English - even though it is old, it's Middle English. Old English is a totally separate language. You can actually tell pretty easily if something is in Middle English or Old English because you cannot understand Old English at all. If you look at it, it has all these funky letters in it. You know when you're looking at Old English. Just be warned - teachers love to ask that question! So you can't understand Old English, but you can understand Middle English. It's a little frightening at first, but we're going to go through some lines from the opening of The Canterbury Tales, the 'General Prologue'. We're just going to look at it and go through how to parse it, how to look at it and come out with something we can understand. I'm going to show you - it's not that hard. You can do it. We're going to do it together, and then you're going to do it on your own. I'm going to read this, and it's going to sound more foreign than it looks, so keep that in mind. Look at the text, and listen to what I'm saying.

Understanding Middle English


I'm not an expert at pronouncing Middle English, so it's not going to sound perfect, but you'll get the idea. Here goes: 'Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote, The droghte of March hath perced to the roote And bathed every veyne in swich licour, Of which vertu engendred is the flour;' Pause, and look at the text I just read. I made an effort to say it with the right cadence, but if you actually look at the words, you can see a lot that you recognize right away: 'Whan', 'Aprille', 'March', 'roote', 'bathed', 'licour', 'engendred' would be 'When', 'April', 'March', 'root', 'bathed', 'liquor', and 'engendered' (which just means 'created'). So, if you're trying to parse the first line, you have: 'Whan that Aprille' which is just 'When that April' or 'When April' ('that' is just there for extra emphasis; that's something Chaucer likes to do). Then, 'with hise shoures soote'; that part is a little harder. You've got 'with hise', which seems to be 'with his,' i.e. 'April's'; 'shoures' doesn't look that familiar, but there's a trick you can do when you see a word that's not familiar. You try to say it out loud and mess with all different ways of saying it. So, you've got 'show-urs' or 'show-ers,' and suddenly it clicks in your head that you've got something that sounds a lot like 'showers.' Then, that starts to make sense: 'When April, with his showers ... 'something' ' Now, 'soote' doesn't really sound like its modern English counterpart. This is going to happen sometimes. When it does, you have to rely on the context and kind of let it be at first. We don't know what it is; it could be a verb, it could be an adjective. We don't know. We're leaving it blank for now, and we're going to move on. Let's move on to the second line: 'The droghte of March.' 'Drogthe' is the only weird-looking word here. Try pronouncing it. Try making some of the letters silent; just play around with it. You might get 'drot', which still doesn't sound like a word we have, but if we look back at the context, the first line has 'April' and 'showers'. What might March have that sounds like 'drot'? 'Drought!' That's probably what 'droghte' is, so you can kind of work it out. 'Hath perced to the roote' is the next line. 'Hath' you've seen before; that's just funny English for 'has'. Everyone uses that. 'Perced' is kind of hard, but you try saying it out loud, playing with the vowel sounds, and you get 'pursed,' 'peerced;' that's it, 'pierced!' So, we've got 'has pierced to the roote or to the root'. 'The drought of March has pierced to the root.'

So, the first two lines so far: When April with his showers 'something' The drought of March has pierced to the root. This is starting to make sense! 'April showers bring May flowers' is basically what he's saying. Now that we've done the second line, we can go back to the first line and see that the blank we still have there must be an adjective because 'pierced' in line two is clearly the verb in the sentence; that's what we're doing. Now, we know that it's actually not crucial to understanding the sentence, so we can leave it blank. It already makes sense without it, so we can just leave it. This is going to happen with Middle English. You have to give in to the fact that you might not get all of it but you can get enough. And if you really wanted to know, 'soote' is 'sweet.' So, translated, the first segment reads: 'When April with his showers sweet, The drought of March has pierced to the root, And bathed every vein (of plants) in such liquid, By which the power of the flower is engendered (created)' So, like I said before, it's really just 'April showers bring May flowers.' As you can see it looks, and certainly sounds, like something that might be impenetrable. But when you really sit down with it and look at the words you know and look at the context, you can do it; it is more than doable. Again, it's something teachers like to ask you do, so it's worth practicing. There are great Web resources with side-by-side translations, so that's one way to go about it.

The Canterbury Tales : Style and Structure


The key thing about Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is that it's a story within a story. He uses a frame narrative to set up who all of the characters are, and then the characters each tell stories of their own. The section of the poem that does this frame narrative is called the General Prologue, and that's what we're going to talk about in this video. There's a narrator who tells us that a bunch of pilgrims have all gathered in an inn - it's called the Tabard Inn - in the south of London in April, he tells us, with all its 'sweet showers' reviving the plants. It's the perfect time for making pilgrimages, so they're all doing it. They've spent the night at this inn, and they're all getting ready to leave to go on their pilgrimage to Canterbury. The narrator guy decides he's just going to describe them all, and there are a lot of pilgrims. They're all totally different from each other; they've got very different personalities. He identifies them all by their occupations - so, what they do - but his descriptions are interesting because more often than not, he's trying to point out discrepancies between what their job is and how they actually act. He, generally, praises everybody, but you can kind of tell that in some cases it's meant to be ironic; it's meant to be a joke. (Like 'Oh yeah, he's really great. No, he's not.') So there's a lot of that going on. There's a ton of pilgrims, and we're not going to talk about all of them, but we'll just talk about the most interesting, most significant ones. Go through a few of them. That's the spirit of the General Prologue; we're just cutting some things.

The Knight
We're going to talk about the knight. First off - this is kind of fun - in Middle English, 'knight' is spelled 'knyght', and it's actually pronounced 'kenicht'. So, now you can pronounce 'knight' how you've always wanted to pronounce it: 'kenicht'. This 'kenicht' is accompanied by his squire, who's actually his son, and then he also has the yeoman, who's a kind of servant. They both tell tales as well, but the knight's is the most significant of the three. Chaucer talks about the battles this knight has won and all the places he's gone. He says: 'He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde In al his lyf unto no maner wight' That just means he never said anything bad to any person. You can see that first line: 'Never yet no villainy didn't say' is basically what it says. In Middle English, double negatives are totally fine. It's just emphasis; it doesn't cancel out like it does for us. Chaucer comes to the conclusion: 'He was a verray parfit gentil knyght' (He was a really perfect, gentle knight.) That sounds great! He's also not vain. He's wearing a rough tunic 'al bismotered with his habergeoun.' This is an example of Middle English that no one has a prayer of understanding: 'habergeoun'? That's something you'd have to go look up. His tunic is 'bismotered,' or 'stained,' and what it's staining is his 'chainmail coat.' So, he's noble, but he's not vain (because he's kind of messy, too). The knight is kind of a perfect knight - if Chaucer is being ironic about this, it's very subtle. His praise seems to be as straight as it is for anybody, so the knight seems to be okay.

The Prioress
Where it gets interesting is with the prioress, who comes next in the description. Here we start to really see that disconnect between her job and how she actually is. A prioress is, basically, a chief nun, and she's got a bit of a nun entourage. She's got the second nun, and she's also got the nun's priest, and they tell tales, too. So, think about what you know about nuns. They're kind of sober. They dress plainly. They wear those weird wimples. They're not that much fun (well, maybe some of them are). Now, look at this description of her: 'And sikerly she was of greet desport, And ful plesaunt, and amyable of port, And peyned hir to countrefete cheere Of court' So, she's got great manners, but she's counterfeiting the cheer (or the manner) of the court. She's pretending to be a courtly lady. Even though she's a nun, her manners are those of the court, which is a little bit strange. The narrator goes on to describe her piety and her goodness, and it's clearly overkill. He says: 'She was so charitable and so pitous, She wolde wepe, if that she saugh a mous Kaught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde.'

Basically, she's so compassionate that she's going to cry if she sees a mouse in a mousetrap. That seems to be an exaggeration of the courtly delicacy that ladies are supposed to have and how much compassion you're supposed to feel. It also seems to be a bit of a send-up of a type. She's supposed to be this prioress, but she also acts courtly and is over exaggeratedly concerned for the welfare of animals. Chaucer does this a lot, especially with the jobs that are involved in the church.

Other Pilgrims
There's the friar. Friars are supposed to make their living by begging, but this friar dresses really great and is eating all the time. The summoner and the pardoner; they work for the church (they're not actually of the cloth), and they're horrible people. Actually, if you love A Knight's Tale as much as I do, you'll recall that the summoner and the pardoner are the awful people who convince Chaucer, in the movie, to gamble away his clothes. It results in a naked Paul Bettany, so maybe it's not that bad. Anyway, the summoner, basically, gets people to go to trial who have broken court law, but he's all drunk and lecherous - he's always going after women. The Pardoner sells 'indulgences,' which, basically, means you can buy your way out of having sinned, and he's really corrupt about it, so he's not a good guy. Even some of the 'professional' pilgrims - the ones who have actual jobs - are just as bad. The merchant is in horrible debt. He thinks he's really good at hiding it, but everybody knows. (Kind of like your uncle who thinks he's farting silently but is actually just deaf.) The physician (who's the doctor) is really miserly. The shipman (the guy who runs the ship) is always stealing from the people he ships around. The miller is disgusting and drunk and tells horrible stories. All these people are nuts, basically.

The Wife of Bath


One of the most interesting people I haven't talked about yet is the Wife of Bath. She and the prioress are some of the only women who get to tell stories. She's interesting because she's actually been married five times. It says: 'She was a worthy womman al hir lyve: Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve Withouten oother compaignye in youthe,--' So basically, she's had five husbands and also some 'other company' in her youth (nudge, nudge). And she's very congenial; she knows a lot of stuff: 'In felaweshipe wel koude she laughe and carpe. Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce, For she koude of that art the olde daunce.' She's laughing, and she knows the old ways of love. (She's had so many husbands, so she's very informed about this.) The interesting thing about her is that it's kind of hard to figure out if Chaucer likes her or if he's making fun of her because he's making fun of so many people. She's described in great detail; when she goes on to tell her tale later in the sequence, she gets a much longer prologue than anybody else, so she gets to talk about herself more. It seems like maybe he's actually interested in her and thinks that some of this stuff is a good thing. We don't really know.

Tale-Telling Competition

Oh wait, I just mentioned her tale you might have forgotten this is the The Canterbury Tales. All of these people are going to tell stories! The way this is set up is that they're all hanging out at the inn, and the host (the host at the inn) gives them dinner. Then he tells them that he's decided they're a great group of people, he loves them, and he's going to come with them to Canterbury. He's going to run, essentially, a tale-telling contest. Everyone is going to tell two stories on the way there and two stories on the way back, and whoever tells the one he likes the best is going to get a free meal, paid for by the rest of the pilgrims. So, that's the setup for why they tell these stories and how we get the stories that make up the rest of the work. It's also what makes some scholars think that the thing is unfinished. The guy says 'two tales there, two tales back,' and there are a lot of tales, but there aren't that many tales. We think maybe Chaucer didn't make good on his premise in the end; he didn't really finish it. The interesting thing about these tales and comparing them to the General Prologue is that the same thing that's going on with Chaucer saying, 'Oh, this person has this job, but they're actually like this.' and kind of pointing out that discrepancy. A similar thing goes on with what stories they choose to tell. Their job, the way they are and their story all intersect in a really interesting way, and you can kind of figure out what this person really is and what Chaucer thinks of them. It gets really interesting.

Chivalric Romance
As much as I love the movie A Knight's Tale and Heath Ledger, this is not about Heath Ledger. This knight's tale bears no relation at all to the plot of the film. Do not be confused. Get it out of your head. Gone? Gone. Okay. Instead, 'The Knight's Tale' and the 'Wife of Bath's Tale' are examples of this medieval genre called chivalric romance. You've heard of chivalry, right? It just comes from that. Again, you should probably get all of your ideas of what romance means out of your head. We're not talking about Danielle Steele. There are no shirtless men in kilts hanging around - totally different. In medieval context, what it means is that it's an adventure story, starring a knight, usually, going around and doing lots of adventuresome things sometimes there's dragons, stuff like that. There's often a lovely lady involved in some way as maybe the prize for all of those adventures. It's not romance novels; it's not what we're talking about.

'The Knight's Tale'


The knight tells one of these tales. It's the first tale that all the pilgrims tell. It's super long. To my mind, it's one of the more boring, but it is significant because it's the first one, so we're going to go over what happens. We've got two cousins. Their names are Arcite and Palamon. They're nephews of the Duke of Thebes, and they end up getting captured by the Duke of Athens. They're in jail, but luckily - or maybe unluckily - they have a window in their cell. So, Palamon, one day, is looking out the window, and he sees a beautiful woman, Emily, with whom he falls immediately in love, from looking at a distance. 'That thurgh a window, thikke of many a barre Of iron greet, and square as any sparre, He cast his eye upon Emelya, And therwithal he bleynte, and creyde 'A!' So, love at first sight, basically. He catches a glimpse of Emily (Emelya) and cries out. He's totally into her. Not that smart, he wakes his cousin up and says, 'Come take a look at this. She's great!' Of course, he falls in love with her, too.

'That, if that Palamon was wounded sore, Arcite is hurt as moche as he, or moore.' Arcite's even more in love with this girl. They get all mad at each other because they are fighting over the same woman, but it doesn't last that long because an old friend of Arcite's turns up and is negotiating his release from prison. The Duke of Athens says, 'You can leave, just don't ever come back to my country. I just don't want you here anymore.' So, he's free now, but he can't pursue Emily because he's not allowed back in Athens. Palamon is still in jail, but at least he can still see her through the window. They're both unhappy for various reasons. What ensues is years of moaning, disguising themselves and trying to get back so they can see Emily again. So, finally, they're both free - Palamon's escaped. They're both free, and they're both disguised. They run into each other, and they decide that they're going to fight to the death over Emily. They're interrupted by the Duke of Athens, who's like, 'What are these dudes doing?' One of them is supposed to be in jail. One is supposed to be gone. This is the worst. He wants to kill them. He's super upset. His wife intervenes and says, 'You know what, let's have a compromise. Let's give them each 100 knights, and they'll have a battle over this, like a real proper battle, and we can watch.' So, they do that, and Arcite's eventually declared the winner, but then an earthquake happens. It knocks him off his horse, and he dies. So, Palamon gets to marry Emily, and they mourn Arcite. Win? I guess. It's a way to get out of having to actually choose one or the other. It still lets Arcite win, so it's kind of fair to him. That's our first example of a chivalric romance. You can see it does involve a woman, but the vast majority of it is battling for things, adventuring, disguising and escaping - all of these things that knights are good at and what they do.

The 'Wife of Bath's Tale'


The next story - not so much. It's told by the fabulous Wife of Bath. She definitely wins the 'most interesting pilgrim' award. She had five husbands. She's got all this advice about love. She gets the longest prologue to her tale of any of the pilgrims - I'm pretty sure - which leads us to believe that Chaucer might like her, too. He may like her as much as we do. So, we've got this chivalric romance that is told by a woman instead of a man, which is an interesting perspective. Whereas 'The Knight's Tale' starts out with two guys falling in love with a woman they've never met, let alone touched, the 'Wife of Bath's Tale' starts out with a knight (described by Chaucer as a lusty bachelor) raping a young woman. Charming, great - that's a great start. He's in King Arthur's court, so King Arthur decides he should die for his crimes, but the Queen says, 'Hold on a sec. I want to judge this one. I have a better idea.' Remember in 'The Knight's Tale' the Queen also interceded to change the punishment. It's a consistent factor across both tales. The Queen tells the knight that he has a year, and if he figures out the answer to this question - which is 'What is the thing that women most desire' - if he figures it out within a year, then he'll be okay. She says: 'I grante thee lyf, if thou kanst tellen me What thing is it that women moost desiren'

So, this is how it becomes a chivalric romance because now he's got this quest. Maybe since this is the Wife of Bath is telling it, his quest is just asking a bunch of women what they want. Everyone says something different - money, flattery. I don't think anybody says shoes but maybe. A year goes by. He's pretty sure he's going to go back and get punished because he doesn't have a good answer. He doesn't know what the real answer is. He's shuffling back to the palace. He's not in a great place. And lo and behold! He sees a magical circle of dancing maidens, just prancing around. He goes to check it out. They all disappear and are replaced by an old hag. That's the first sign that something crazy may be going on. She says, 'I'll give you the right answer to that question, but I'll need payment in the future.' She doesn't really specify what that's going to be. So, the knight goes and tells the Queen the answer the old woman gave him, which is that women want sovereignty over their husbands. Like a BOOM, feminism moment in the tale. This is the correct answer. All the ladies of the court love it. The old Hag swoops in and collects her payment, which is to marry the knight. If you're feeling too sorry for him, do bear in mind that he got himself into this by raping someone. Hold the sympathy. They go into their home, and they start to have their wedding night, but the knight isn't into it because she's an ugly, old hag. She points out, maybe rightly, that there's an advantage to being married to an ugly, old hag, which is that she's never going to be unfaithful to him because no one else will want her. Alright, I guess that works. She asks him, 'Would you rather have me, who's always going to be faithful, or some sweet young thing that will probably cheat on you because she's hot?' He shrugs and says, 'I don't know. You decide.' That's the right answer - DING, DING, DING. She's achieved sovereignty over her husband because he just deferred to her opinion. So, now she transforms into a beautiful woman, and everyone lives happily ever after. The question of Chaucer's feminism or not is open here. The ending's a little ambiguous. She gets sovereignty, but she then cedes once she becomes a beautiful woman. He gets rewarded in a physical way for something that he shouldn't really... Anyway, it's a little murky how Chaucer really feels about all of this. But it's definitely a really great example of a chivalric romance. Even though, you can see it's not that romantic, especially at the beginning.

Quick Review of The Knight's Tale


Sometimes we think that people in the Middle Ages were all about chivalry and keeping it in their pants. You might still think that if you read the Knight's Tale, which is Chaucer's first tale. It's all about two cousins who fall in love with the same woman just by looking at her - never talking to her or touching her - it's all from afar.

Fabliau
Luckily, the Miller's Tale comes right after it and basically tells you that you're wrong if you think that. It's an example of a fabliau, which is a medieval genre originating in France (that's why it has a French-sounding name) and is a short little story characterized by sex and potty jokes . It's kind of like any movie by the Farrelly brothers, or like that horrific (but terrific) scene in Bridesmaids. The legacy is there, and fabliau is the originating thing.

The Miller's Tale

Let's talk about what happens in The Miller's Tale, it's a good one. He deliberately tells it to upset the Knight, who's just gone before him and told a very courtly, restrained story. The miller's a little drunk and uses this as an excuse to say whatever he wants to and doesn't mean to offend whomever he offends. I think we all have a friend like that. It might even be you! So here's the setup for the story. John, who's an old carpenter, lives in Oxford with his wife Alisoun. This creates some inevitable problems because she's young and hot. All the Oxford students (they're called clerks in the tale) want to get with her. John, who's this old carpenter, decides to rent out one of the rooms in his house to a student to make some extra money. This is a terrible idea! This student, Nicholas, moves in and immediately sets to work at convincing Alisoun to sleep with him. It doesn't take him too long and they start sleeping together. Meanwhile, another student, Absolon (who works at the church), falls madly in love with Alisoun too. But between John and Nicholas, she's got as much as she can handle, and she's not going to take on Absolon too. Some time goes by and Nicholas starts turning his brilliant scholar mind to figure out how to spend a night with Alisoun, rather than just sneaking off to the broom closet whenever John starts sawing really loudly (Nicholas is obviously a romantic, nice guy). He comes up with a genius, but also insane, plan. He's going to convince John that another biblical flood is coming. Nicholas believes John will believe him, because he's a fancy scholar. He tells John, the only way to ride it out, is to suspend each one of them in their own little bathtub (with ropes from the ceiling). So, they're each going to hang out in their own wooden bathtub and when the flood comes, they're all going to cut the ropes and sail to safety. The idea is that if John is in his own bathtub, he won't notice that Alisoun is missing. Amazingly, this works, and Nicholas and Alisoun start going at it. Absolon decides that this is the perfect time to come and harass Alisoun for a kiss. It's dark out and he just wants a kiss out the window with her. She and Nicholas are in bed together at this point. She reluctantly agrees, but actually sticks her butt out the window instead. Apparently, Absolon can't tell because it's dark (must've been really dark back then), and Chaucer describes it but with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers. That's arse in modern English, ers is how they said it back then. Alisoun and Nicholas think this is hilarious, but Absolon is predictably not happy about it. He goes off to find a red hot poker to do some damage with. He comes back and asks for another kiss. This time Nicholas sticks his butt out the window and farts. Chaucer describes this Nicholas non leet fle a fart/ As greet as it had been a thunder-dent. Basically, he lets fly a fart as big as a thunderclap, is what that roughly translates to. But he gets a hot poker to the butt in the process from Absolon who's ready this time. So, he's not happy about this. He's in pain and screams Help! Water! Water! Help for Goddes herte! (for God's heart). So, John, still in the bathtub, freaks out because he thinks that the flood is coming. He cuts the rope on the bathtub and crashes into the floor. The townspeople wake up and make fun of them, and that's how the story ends. So, it's crazy, right? But it's also pretty awesome. Chaucer is full of stuff like this, the Miller's Tale isn't the only moment of levity. Medieval people were just as disgusting and sex-and-fart-obsessed as we are.

The Beast Fable


The Nun's Priest's Tale is told by the nun's priest, who is traveling with another pilgrim, the Prioress. He's kind of in her non-entourage, basically. It's a beast fable, which is a medieval genre that's basically responsible for the talking animal films that plague us today. So, every time you cringe at a Madagascar 3 poster, you can blame Chaucer and his buddies, because they were doing this a long time ago. People in the middle ages were into these things called bestiaries, which shouldn't be confused with bestiality, although it is a similar root word - bestiaries means animal, beast. Bestiaries described animals and assigned particular traits and symbolism to them. Like a lot of things in medieval life, a lot of it had to do with God and religion. As an example, bees were described as the smallest of birds that lived in communities ruled by a king but he doesn't need to enforce laws, because the bees will sting each other to death for breaking them. They enjoyed making up kind of human-like descriptions and traits for all these animals. In a similar vein, they had these things called beast fables, of which the Nun's Priest's Tale is one. It takes these anthropomorphized animals, these human-like animals, and has them act out a story.

The Nun's Priest's Tale


In the Canterbury Tales, the Nun's Priest is called upon to tell a fun story, because the Monk has just told a real downer. So, he tells a beast fable. What happens is that there's this rooster named Chauntecleer, which is French for clear singer. (There actually is an animated movie featuring a talking rooster named Chauntecleer. It's called Rock-ADoodle. I've never seen it, but I watched the preview a million times because it was on one of my favorite VHS tapes.) Anyway, Chauntecleer is like the most awesome rooster ever. He's better at crowing than everyone else, he looks great, and he's got seven wives (chickens wives - they're all animals). His favorite wife's name is Pertelote. Interestingly, Chaucer describes her as a faire damoysele even though she's a chicken. She's very anthropomorphized. One night, Chauntecleer wakes up, and he's had a bad dream that he's going to be eaten by a fox. Pertelote is unfazed, but Chauntecleer gets very upset. He starts telling her about all sorts of people who dreamed of their deaths and in general about dreams that come true. He's referencing human sources like the Roman, Cicero. Chaucer doesn't establish a whole separate Chicken Lore, like Redwall. So, Pertelote calms him down, and then we get some kind of disturbing chicken sex, which is typically left out of the Disney movies: Real he was, he was namoore aferd; He fethered Pertelote twenty tyme, And trad as ofte, er that it was pryme. Basically, Pryme means morning, trad means had sex with. So, he had sex with her 20 times before morning. Which is kind of a lot; maybe that's not exactly anthropomorphized. Now that we've got the image of chicken sex out of our heads... inevitably, his dream comes true. A fox saunters into the farm and starts chatting up Chauntecleer. He's praising Chauntecleer's singing, and asks him to sing for him. Of course, Chauntecleer cannot sing without puffing up his chest and closing his eyes. So he closes his eyes, and the fox takes the opportunity to snatch him up. They're climbing in your windows, snatching your chickens up.

Pertolote freaks out when she realizes he's gone - chaos ensues - there's lots of running around, fox has Chauntecleer in his mouth. Chauntecleer is a clever chicken, and he tells the fox that he should stop and brag that he caught him. So the fox does that, opens his mouth, and Chauntecleer flies into a tree. (As a quick aside - when I took a class on Chaucer, there was a big debate in my class about whether chickens really could fly into trees. We concluded that maybe they were special, medieval chickens that were stronger and could do it. I don't know. It's not important. Chauntecleer does it, regardless of whether it's possible.) Fox tries to coax him down with more praise, but Chauntecleer has learned his lesson by this point and he doesn't do it. The Nun's Priest, who's telling this story, says that the moral is that you don't want to trust someone who flatters you. This comes in handy when you're dealing with salespeople at clothing stores: 'This makes you look like a size four!' No, no. I know what you're doing.

The Prioress and the Pardoner


We're going to take a look at two tales told by some of the 'religious job' pilgrims in Chaucer's party. So, we've got the Prioress and the Pardoner. Quick recap: A prioress is kind of like a head nun, so she's in charge of other nuns, and a pardoner sells indulgences, which are basically forgiveness from sin that you can pay for. You can see how that would inevitably get a little corrupt, and he definitely is. So these are people involved in the church, and it's interesting to look at what kinds of tales they tell. I'll give you a hint: They tell weird tales.

The Prioress's Tale


Let's start with the Prioress. The Prioress's Tale is like an anti-Semitic circus. It's crazy and it's awful. It's related to these 'blood libel' stories of the time, which insisted that Jewish people were killing Christians to use their blood in all sorts of ways. Actually, Sarah Palin made a famous faux pas when she used the term 'blood libel' and upset some people. So to set the scene, here are the opening lines to this tale: Ther was in Asye, in a greet cite, Amonges Cristene folk, a Jewerye, Sustened by a lord of that contree For foule usure and lucre of vileynye So I think we can see how the Prioress feels about the 'Jewerye'. She's saying that they're awful and they have money and they're bad. How Chaucer feels is a point of contention. This is the Prioress speaking, but it's up for debate what Chaucer's own attitude is about this. Basically what happens in this city in Asia that has a Jewish quarter is there's a seven-year-old boy who's a Christian (he's called the Clergen throughout the story), and he lives in the 'cite' with his widowed mother. Every day on his way to school, he has to walk through the Jewish quarter. And he's really into worshiping the Virgin Mary; I guess it's kind of like the Star Wars of the day. He learns a song called 'Alma Redemptoris'. He doesn't really understand the words, but he does know it's kind of about Mary, so he decides he's going to sing it all the time. It's kind of like if your little brother started singing along to 'The Thong Song.' He doesn't really understand it, but knows it's vaguely dirty and that it makes mom upset. Except again, this is Mary and religiousness, but it's the idea that he doesn't really know what it means but he knows what it does. Because he's only seven; he doesn't know stuff. So he's wandering through the Jewish quarter singing this song, and the Jews decide to kill him because they're all motivated by Satan. Chaucer describes their motivation by saying: Our firste foo, the serpent Sathanas,

That hath in Jewes herte his waspes nest If you got that, it said Satan has his 'wasp's nest' in Jews' hearts. I warned you this is an anti-Semitic bonanza! So they murder the little boy and they cut his throat. When his family finds his body, he's still singing the song! It's a miracle; he's still singing the song even though his throat is cut. It's so he can still worship Mary even after death. By a miracle he has a grain laid on his tongue that allows him to keep singing. The abbot who's in charge of the funeral finally removes the grain, and the boy stops singing and dies for real. All the Jews get dragged around behind horses and then hung, so they all die. It's such a wonderful and charming story. Good job, Chaucer! The most obvious thing about it, the thing that really gets talked about the most, is its absurd portrait of Jewish people and its rabid anti-Semitism. But it's also interesting because the Prioress makes a point of describing the little boy as a virgin, which is kind of strange because he's seven. You wouldn't think that would be in dispute at that age. But it resonates with this idea that he's singing the song even though he doesn't totally know what it means. It's faith without the possibility of doubt, or virginity without the possibility of sin. The Prioress raises this up to be an ideal that is unattainable for most of us, this idea of innocence and being faithful without any kind of doubt. It's something most of us can't achieve past the age of seven, but this little kid was like that. She raises him up, in addition to being really nasty to Jewish people. So that's The Prioress's Tale, one tale a religious pilgrim tells.

The Pardoner's Tale


Moving along to The Pardoner's Tale. Now I realize that throughout this course, I've been a little heavyhanded with the Harry Potter references. It might have something to do with the fact that I read the books a bazillion times when they came out. But in this case, it is somewhat relevant because J.K. Rowling cites The Pardoner's Tale as pretty much the inspiration for the Deathly Hallows that are in the final Harry Potter book. (You know, those three objects and that whole story.) So here's what happens in The Pardoner's Tale. A bunch of Flemish people, who are people that live in the area near the Netherlands and Belgium, are partying, drinking too much and generally sinning. They find out that one of their friends was killed by this mysterious figure named Death. They're drunk and upset, which is not a good development, and they decide they're going to go show Death who's boss. It's kind of like if you get drunk and start writing angry letters to your congressman or calling the airline, or any of those things you probably shouldn't do but you do because you've got the courage. That's what they do with Death. They run into an old man who's looking for Death, because he's old and tired and wants to die, and he's seen Death hanging out by a tree. So they go over by the tree looking for Death, and instead they find a whole bunch of gold. That's a nice surprise. They get all excited and are going to cart it back to town when one of them suggests they shouldn't do it during the day because everyone will think they're thieves, that they've stolen it all. So they decide let's draw lots and send someone to go get some bread and wine, and then we'll wait and then we'll bring the gold back. The youngest draws the shortest straw and has to go get the bread and wine. Meanwhile, the two that stay decide that when he comes back they're going to kill him, because then they can split the gold just between them and not all three of them. But don't feel too sorry for the guy who went to get the wine, because at the same time, he is plotting to kill the two who stayed behind. He's going to poison two of the bottles of wine that he brings back. (I guess they each get their own bottle, which is fine by me.) He comes back with the food, including the poisoned wine, the other two jump him and kill him, and then they celebrate and drink his wine, but they drink the poison wine and they die too. The Pardoner then jumps in and says the moral of this story is that you shouldn't be too greedy. Because they were super

greedy and wanted all the gold for themselves, they ended up all killing each other - they didn't need Death to do it for them. How this relates to Harry Potter is, if you remember, the 'Tale of Three Brothers' explains how the Deathly Hallows (the wand, the resurrection stone and the invisibility cloak) came into being. Three brothers meet Death while successfully crossing a river. He's all upset because they didn't drown, so he pretends to offer them fun gifts. But they're actually prizes that will kill them. The oldest gets this fancy wand, and it eventually gets stolen and he's killed for it. The middle one gets the stone that's going to bring his lover back from the dead, but she doesn't really come back in a meaningful way, so he ends up killing himself. The youngest asks for the invisibility cloak, and he's fine. But you can see the same sort of theme: three people going out, encountering death and kind of messing it up, because they want things for themselves. It's this greed; they want the cool thing, but the cool thing is actually maybe going to be the thing that kills you.

The English Renaissance


Before we talk specifically about the English Renaissance, there's a really simple question we should probably answer, which is: what is a renaissance? Renaissance basically means 'rebirth' or 'revival.' In a more specific sense, the capital 'R' Renaissance was a flowering of the arts that swept through Europe starting in Italy in about the late 14th century. It made its way over to England somewhere around 1500 and lasted about 100 years. There can be a lot of debate about when it exactly started and ended, but that's a good way to put us in the right timeframe. To many critics, the English Renaissance is kind of when Western literature kicks into high gear. We're about to cover some of the most famous folks that ever put pen - or quill, if you will - to paper. First, let's talk a little bit more about the culture that allowed the Renaissance to occur in the first place. One major thing that England had going for it in the late 15th century was the introduction of the printing press. This made it possible to mass-produce written works, which was huge, and it strengthened society's ability to create a literary culture. Another important factor was England's general social and political climate - the plague (or the Black Death) had passed and the Hundred Years' War was over - so, that's great. It's more productive when people aren't fighting and dying. British citizens could finally settle down in a life of relative peace and safety for the first time in a long time. When all of your resources aren't devoted just to staying alive and keeping your family alive, you have time to do things like write. And write they did. It's interesting to note that, while the Italian Renaissance was primarily dominated by visual art, architecture, and stuff like that, the English really hit hard with the written word. So many titans of the English literary canon wrote during this time that this lesson will kind of seem like a 'Best-Of' list. These are the writers who more or less defined what English literature would be for the coming years.

Terminology & Lesson Outline


Before we go much further, though, there's one caveat that I want to state. This wouldn't be the humanities if there weren't some point of critical controversy. Some critics don't think it's worthwhile to call this period 'The Renaissance' at all. They note that the English flourishing that we're talking about has little to do with what happened in Italy, and besides that, not all aspects of society were undergoing a positive rebirth, which can make the name 'renaissance' seem a little inaccurate. It's just good to know that this term 'renaissance' isn't a hard-and-fast label but more like a general way to think of what was going on at the time. To these people, the term we should use to describe this era is the 'early modern.' Even though the time period's definition is up for debate, we're just going to make it simple, and we're going to stick with Renaissance, acknowledging that that's not the term that everyone would prefer. So, a lot of really

important people did a lot of really important work during this period, regardless of what you want to call it. That's really what we're going to start looking at now: who these people were, what they wrote, and why it matters. An easy way to keep the following writers handy is to divide them into three different segments: the dramatists - the people who wrote plays and wrote for the theater - poets, and the essayists/thinkers. It's possible that these people have some overlap, but those are the three main categories. So, each of the people we talk about usually has one major category that they're associated with even if they dabbled in some others. If you're wondering why I didn't include novelists on the list - good catch, you - novels weren't really a thing yet. That's why we won't be talking about that. One final note- I promise this is it and then we'll dive right in - if you've ever looked into the literary significance of numbers, you'll know that seven is an important one. For example, there are seven horcruxes in Harry Potter, there are seven dwarves, I'm sure you can think of some others. Seven is just a potent, easy-to-remember number - seven digits in a phone number, for example. We're going to give you seven definitive figures of English Renaissance literature. These seven authors, more necessarily than any others, altered the Western literary landscape forever.

Drama
When we talk about important English writers of the Renaissance, you probably know who's going to come up first. It the big guy - the Superman - we're talking William Shakespeare. Still the premiere dramatist of the English language today, his plays you've undoubtedly heard of or seen, either read them in class or seen them performed - seen one of the million adaptations that exist on film. We've covered Shakespeare's works pretty thoroughly in a lot of other lessons, so I definitely recommend you check them out to learn more about who he was and his most famous works individually. The key point here is just to remember that he's at the very forefront of the English Renaissance. Besides Shakespeare, there are two other sort of titans of the Renaissance stage that we've got to discuss. First is Christopher Marlowe, which if you've seen that movie Shakespeare in Love, you might be familiar with that name. He was a precursor to Shakespeare and big influence. Some people think he was a bit of a rival. Marlowe was a figure of some controversy; it's suspected that he was kind of a secret agent for Queen Elizabeth. He had a violent and mysterious death, and it speaks to the way that he may have been tied up in some unsavory business. Of all his dramas, the one with most lasting impact is probably The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, an adaptation of a German legend in which a scholar sells his soul to the devil for personal gain. Spoiler alert: that never goes well! Though this is a story almost as old as religion itself, Marlowe is really credited for creating the first dramatized version. His version inspired most of those that followed, including the most popular version of the story, the German playwright Goethe's rendition, which came over 200 years later. The third and final dramatist (or playwright) we're going to mention is Ben Jonson. He's a 'frenemy' of Shakespeare, and he's best known for his satirical plays. For a long time, it was thought that Shakespeare represented unrestrained and messy verbal genius - he created a lot of words and he played with language in a way that people either really responded well to or really didn't. But Jonson was a superb sculptor of precise plays. This isn't necessarily 100% accurate, but I'm trying to give you a perspective that they were really on opposite ends of the spectrum. Jonson spent a lot of time writing masques, which were elaborate stage productions performed at the royal court. He thus had a good deal of institutional success; always good to get hooked up with the royals. Some of his more noted works include Volpone, a dark satire about a rich guy putting his friends through trials to gain his inheritance. Also, you should know about The

Alchemist, another comedy about the ridiculous lengths people will go to to pursue material wealth. It's kind of a theme.

Poetry
Alright, dramatists covered, we're going to move onto poems. All of the guys we just talked about wrote some poems - Shakespeare for example, you've probably heard of his sonnets - but they're primarily dramatists. We're going to talk about people who were known mostly for their poetry. Up first is Edmund Spenser, chronologically one of the first major writers of the English Renaissance. He's known primarily for his epic allegorical play The Faerie Queene. Epic basically just means long, but it can also mean important. Allegorical usually is when one thing in the play symbolizes something else. It usually has some sort of larger moral attached to the play itself. On the surface, this is just a super-long and beautiful work of poetry about knights, demons, and dragons. It can just seem pretty fun. But, the poem also has applications to more concrete things; for example, critics believe that Spenser intended it to be praise of then-Queen Elizabeth. That'd be Queen Elizabeth I, not the current one. We've got a lesson on Spenser so you can learn more about him; he's a pretty fascinating dude. Another important poet who often practiced a shorter form was John Donne. I personally really love John Donne. He was at the head of the metaphysical poetry movement, the works of which often used clever conceits and were philosophical and spiritual in nature. In other words, they're like sonnets, love poems, and elegies - the kind of oh-so-clever verbiage you might have gotten tired of studying in school. John Donne was a smart guy and a super-skilled writer, and he marks the first in a major breed of English poets. His poems are gorgeous; I really recommend checking them out.

Major Thinkers
Finally, we're moving on to the major essayists/thinkers. This guy also wrote poetry, but he really made his splash by writing about poetry. This person is Philip Sidney, whose major work, The Defense of Poesy, was really the first example of literary criticism in the English language. That's a big deal, because criticism has evolved a lot since then, and however you feel about criticism (and there's a lot of ways to feel), it's definitely a big part of the study of literature. It isn't really surprising that as literature began to take on a life of its own, it's not an accident that writers would begin to think about their profession more carefully and look at what they're doing and what their colleagues are doing with a more critical eye. The Defense of Poesy, Sidney's defense of the fictional arts, as you might call them, basically kick-started this whole enterprise of literary criticism. If you don't like literary critics, you have him to thank. He's the reason you're watching this video, so don't be mad. Finally, we're going to talk about Francis Bacon, a prominent writer who left his biggest mark a little outside the humanities. He's often referred to as the father of empiricism, which means he created a logical, verifiable way to conduct scientific research. You've probably heard the phrase 'empirical evidence,' and we have Bacon to thank for that. No one in England had thought to do that before; it was a really big deal at the time, even if now it's just the way we think about science and conducting scientific experiments. But, Bacon's work in this field basically established all of the modern sciences as we know them - that's huge! He's yet another great example of a Renaissance thinker who got the ball rolling in a major field of study.

What We Know About William Shakespeare


Considering how famous and well-regarded William Shakespeare's work is today, it's kind of surprising that we really don't know a whole lot about his life. Some people even challenge the fact that Shakespeare

actually wrote the plays he was credited with - that's how mysterious he is. Some people don't even believe he wrote his plays! It's ironic that he is such an incredibly influential figure and, with regard to his personal life, a blank slate. We just don't know much about him, but that doesn't mean that this will be a short lesson. Sorry! Let's go over the biographical details that we do have. We'll also talk about his most famous plays and poems, as well as their lasting influence. So, when I say we don't know that much about William Shakespeare, we really don't. We don't even know his birthday because birth certificates - short or longform - didn't exist back then. People born into noble families might have had their birthday recorded for posterity, similar to how these days you can find Brad Pitt's birthday by Googling it, but you probably can't find your next-door neighbor's birth date. Shakespeare, though, was born into a family of commoners. We do know that he was baptized. There are some public records of that. So, he must have been born somewhere near his baptism date of April 26, 1564. His father was a glover from Snitterfield, which sounds like a Harry Potter name, but apparently was a real place. The Shakespeare family wasn't badly off, but they were still commoners. We don't really know where Shakespeare went to school, but he probably did go because he ended up literate. The next solid record we have of the life of William Shakespeare is his marriage, which took place in 1582. Shakespeare married at the age of 18, while his wife, Anne Hathaway (no, not that Anne Hathaway, though seriously, what were that Anne Hathaway's parents thinking, naming her that) was actually of the ripe old age of 26. Six months after their wedding, their first daughter, Susanna, was born so I'll let you draw your own conclusions about that. They then had twins in 1585, named Judith and Hamnet (Hamnet, you say? That sounds familiar! - We'll talk about that later). Hamnet sadly died at the age of 11, and there's been a lot of speculation that his death may have influenced Shakespeare's playwriting, including the famous (and similar-sounding) Hamlet. While the name Hamlet technically comes from a different Scandinavian name, scholars still search for a connection. At some point, while still married to Anne, Shakespeare scooted off to London and got involved in the theatre scene - rather like the Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore of today, William and Anne's marriage was a May-December romance that was destined for failure. From various records, we do know that he worked as an actor as well as a playwright. He wrote plays for a company called Lord Chamberlain's Men. Starting in 1599, the company performed at the Globe Theatre, which is south of the Thames in London. If you go to London now, you can watch Shakespeare performances in a rebuilt Globe roughly in the same spot. Why was it rebuilt? Well, it was made entirely of wood, and it burned down in 1613, but the recreation is pretty good. Well, I mean, it looks good to me. I didn't see the original, but it looks great now, and if you go to London, you really should see a Shakespeare play at the Globe. It's pretty incredible. So, the Globe burned down from a fire started by a special effects cannon fired during a performance. So even back then, there was always a desire for snappy special effects, and this one had a pretty serious consequence. Personally, I'd rather see a real, live cannon go off than some lame video projection. That would have been awesome.

Shakespeare had a lot of success from his playwriting and grew reasonably wealthy from it, which was a rare feat at the time or now, really, I don't know how many wealthy playwrights you can name. He competed for audiences with the likes of Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Ben Jonson and other famous playwrights of the time. Christopher Marlowe might sound familiar if you've seen the movie

Shakespeare in Love. Shakespeare's work has enjoyed a far wider audience in modern times than it did in his time, though.

Plays
What was it that he wrote that was so awesome and influential and long lasting? Well, let's talk about it. Shakespeare is really pretty unavoidable for most people.
Other notable playwrights who lived during the Shakespeare era

You've probably had contact with some of

his plays; almost no one escapes high school without having to read Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's famous tragedy of star-crossed lovers in Verona. If you haven't read it, you've probably seen one of the numerous movie adaptations, or maybe even West Side Story, which is based on the plot of Romeo and Juliet. I'm not going to list off all of his plays. If you really want to know the names of all of them, you can go to Wikipedia. But I want to give you a timeline of some of his most significant works. I'll talk a little bit about each one, but keep in mind that we've got separate videos devoted to each the really big plays, so you should check those out. Also, you should bear in mind that scholars are divided on the dating of many of these. They're working off of multiple versions and incomplete records. Shakespeare's plays didn't have copyright dates like books do now, so not all of these dates are 100% accurate; they're really a best estimate based on the evidence available. So, take this chronology as a suggestion, and use it for slotting the plays in relation to each other, but don't hold on to the dates as gospel. Before we start - what did Shakespeare's plays look like when he wrote them? They tended to be written in something called blank verse. This is made up of lines of iambic pentameter that don't rhyme. What's iambic pentameter? Well, it's a 10-syllable line divided into five units, or feet, called iambs. An iamb is just two syllables that go light-STRONG in stress. For example, one of the more famous lines of iambic pentameter comes from Romeo and Juliet. This is when Romeo sees Juliet on the balcony at the start of that famous balcony scene: 'But SOFT! what LIGHT through YONder WINdow BREAKS.' Obviously, the actors don't read it that way, but that's a line of iambic pentameter, and that's how the syllables are supposed to work together. Earliest Plays So, Shakespeare went to London in the early 1590s, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Scholars fight about which play was the first he wrote, but many agree that it was probably The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which was written sometime between 1589-1591. Though it is significant for being (maybe) his first play and definitely the first instance of cross-dressing, which Shakespeare LOVED, it's generally not considered to be his best work. Next, possibly, came The Taming of the Shrew, around the same time period (1590-1591). It's another comedy and one of my personal favorites. If you want to know the plot of this play, you should watch the movie 10 Things I Hate About You - it's very similar, it's really based on the play - but then go and read or watch The Taming of the Shrew as well, since that's where it came from. Remember how, in the movie, Julia Stiles is this cranky, mean girl, and she doesn't want a boyfriend, but her younger sister really wants a boyfriend, and so Heath Ledger (RIP) has to wear her down and make her fall in love with him? Julia Stiles plays 'the shrew' in The Taming of the Shrew, or the Catherine character, and Heath Ledger is the Petruchio character - his name is Patrick Verona in the film.

Rolling right along, we hit Richard III sometime around 1592-1593. This is a play about a villain, Richard III, scheming to get the crown and - SPOILER - he gets it, hence the kingly name. He kills a ton of people, including smothering a few children. This is an example of one of Shakespeare's history plays because it has a basis in history. Next up comes Romeo and Juliet, in 1595. You probably know the drill: Romeo falls in love with Juliet, but he's a Montague, and she's a Capulet, and their families hate each other. Their plan to be together goes awry, and they both end up killing themselves. A Midsummer Night's Dream is a lot more lighthearted - it's also from 1595. This involves four Athenian teenagers who run out into the woods to try and figure out their romantic problems. They run into some fairies, who mess around with them for fun. There's also an awesome dude, named Bottom, whose head gets turned into a donkey's head. It's a really fun play - I highly recommend A Midsummer Night's Dream. Late '90s Plays and Events 1596 brings The Merchant of Venice. It's the first entry in 'Cultural Studies with William Shakespeare.' This play is famous for the character Shylock, who's portrayed as a miserly Jew who demands a 'pound of flesh' as payment for a debt. That's problematic; anti-Semitism is not cool. It's an interesting play, but you've got to take it with a grain of salt and keep in mind when it was written. An important event in Shakespeare's life comes around the same time, which is the death of young Hamnet in1596. Shortly after that, or maybe around the same time, comes Henry IV, Parts I and II. The titular Henry IV is referred to as 'Hal' throughout the play, just to make it confusing, and there's also a really funny fat guy named Falstaff, who totally steals the show. Falstaff alone makes the Henry plays worthwhile. Another history play is Julius Caesar, from 1599. You might remember the famous line 'Et tu, Brute?' ('You too, Brutus?'). Roman emperor Julius Caesar is brutally murdered by a bunch of people in the government, including his previously loyal friend Brutus. Saying You too, Brutus? is probably the thing most people remember from this. Chaos ensues as everyone scrambles to lead Rome. Now we're coming up to the big daddy, the grand poobah, the big cheese: Hamlet, written around 15991601. It's probably the most famous and frequently discussed play he ever wrote. It's referenced in everything and performed a ton; it's even the basis for The Lion King. The play is about poor Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, who just can't seem to make up his mind about whether he should kill his uncle Claudius to avenge his father's death. It features his mother, Gertrude; his poor love interest, Ophelia; hilarious old fool, Polonius; and probably the most famous skull in theatre history - the 'Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him well' scene. Hamlet is really the first of Shakespeare's great tragedies and, arguably, the most well known. Later Plays Next up is one of his great comedies, Twelfth Night. Shakespeare's really on a roll in this period around 1601. Twelfth Night is wildly successful, and it features even more cross-dressing. We've got the heroine, Viola, who falls in love with Duke Orsino while she's dressed as a boy. Orsino loves Olivia, who falls in love with Viola dressed as a boy - don't worry, it's all sorted out in the end, but hijinks ensue. Around this time, Queen Elizabeth I dies and is succeeded by James I, the former king of Scotland - just a little historical context there. Next up: Othello, written around 1603-1604ish. It's another entry in 'Cultural Studies with Shakespeare.' Othello is a Moor (a North African) who is a general in Venice, and a lot of people don't like that because he's black and they're jerks. There's a bad guy named Iago who convinces Othello that his wife Desdemona is cheating on him. Eventually, Iago wears Othello down; Othello believes

him, goes mad, kills his wife - it's a bummer. It's dramatized in a fabulous movie called O featuring Julia Stiles as yet another Shakespearean heroine. It's really the second of the great tragedies. Moving right along, we've got King Lear, features an old man (King Lear) who wants to divide his kingdom among his three daughters. He ends up banishing one daughter, Cordelia, because she doesn't kiss up enough. The other two, Regan and Goneril turn out to be really nasty and, again, pretty much everyone dies. That's the third of the great tragedies. If you're familiar with the book or the movie called A Thousand Acres, that's based on the story of King Lear. Next up we've got 'the Scottish play', aka Macbeth, written around 1606. People refer to it as 'the Scottish play' because it's considered bad luck to say 'Macbeth' in the theatre - not really sure why. It features Macbeth, a Scottish lord, who tries to become king through murder and avarice at the encouragement of his nutty wife, Lady Macbeth. It features a lot of witches, ghosts, kilts and some great monologues. It's a lot of fun, but it's also a bummer because it's a tragedy. This is followed up by The Tempest, written in the 1610-1611 region. This play is a lot of fun. It features Prospero, the former Duke of Milan. He wrecks a ship carrying the usurping Duke of Milan on a magical island. Prospero's weird supernatural servants Ariel and Caliban hang out with the shipwrecked passengers while his daughter Miranda falls in love with one of them. It's kind of like the original Lost, if you will. The Tempest is probably the last play that Shakespeare wrote on his own. Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen were most likely co-written, both in 1613. OK, I need to take a breath. That was a lot of plays, and I didn't even tell you about all of them. Again, if you want to find out the names of all of Shakespeare's plays, go look on Wikipedia. So, that's a lot to remember, and I don't expect you to recite that all back to me. So, what should you keep in mind after hearing this massive list of plays? I would say, first, that Shakespeare's plays can generally be divided into three categories: comedies, tragedies and histories. At this point, the timeline we've been building could become color-coded for each type of play. The lines can get fuzzy, especially in the tragedy/history areas, because some of the tragedies have a historical basis also, what kind of history isn't tragic in some way? The comedies are things like The Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night. They have fun hijinks like crossdressing or mistaken identity. They tend to end with a wedding - sometimes more than one wedding. Tragedies are plays like Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth, and they tend to end with pretty much everyone dying, or at least a significant number of people dying. The histories are the ones like Henry IV Parts I and II and Richard III - really, if it's got a strong basis in British or Scottish or whatever history, it's a history play.

Other Works
So, in addition to all of those plays (and, like I said, I didn't even hit on all of them), Shakespeare actually wrote even more. He wrote poems, sonnets in particular, which are 14-line poems with a very specific rhyme structure. You can learn more about them in our lesson on Shakespeare's sonnets. But if you see a 14-line iambic pentameter poem in Shakespearean-type language, odds are you're looking at one of his 154 sonnets. This guy was busy. He wrote a ton! You've probably heard the oft-parodied 'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?' poem. Depending on your point of view, you may find it gloriously romantic or seriously cheesy, but that's a Shakespearean

sonnet, and really, the remaining ones are just as good. They're beautiful; they're really worth checking out. In addition to the sonnets, he also wrote some longer poems - Venus and Adonis, written in the 15921593 range, and also The Rape of Lucrece in 1594. In Venus and Adonis, the Greek goddess Venus tries to get the mortal Adonis (who is really, really hot and buff - that's where the term 'Adonis' comes from) to sleep with her, but he refuses and then is killed while on a hunt. Bummer. It's written in 6-line stanzas that go a/b/a/b/c/c. The Rape of Lucrece is pretty self-explanatory, unfortunately. Lucretia is raped by the son of the King of Rome and commits suicide, which incites a revolt against the king. That poem is written in 7line stanzas that go a/b/a/b/b/c/c, also known as 'rhyme royale.'

Richard III
This is about a king who's not supposed to be king. Richard III was really not a good guy. Shakespeare wrote a play about him. He was a real king, reigning from 1483-1485. It's known as a history play - that's a genre that Shakespeare did. To me, that's enough to recommend the play right there because I am a nerd, and I'm really into English history. (I had a deck of playing cards that had all of the English kings and queens on them... I think Elizabeth was an ace... that is horrifying that I don't remember!) Anyway, that might not be enough to recommend it to you. I understand that. So what else is in there? Lots of cool stuff. We've got murder of children! We've got physical deformities! We've got an explanation of how the Tudors came to power and then sort of by extension how that wonderful TV show came into being. And we've also got a really famous but also often misunderstood opening line. Those are the best kind of famous lines because I get to then explain what they really mean, which is a lot of fun for me, again, because I'm a big nerd. So we're going to talk about who's who, what happens and then get a little bit into what's real - because remember, he was a real king - and what's made up by Shakespeare in order to spice it up a little bit - what he changes about history. Fair warning: it can get pretty confusing because everyone has the same name, and sometimes people have more than one name. I'll try to keep it straight for you, but also pay attention! It's important to know who's who.

Characters
So who's in this? We've got Richard III, obviously. He's our hero...not! He's actually an awful dude who schemes to get the throne, but he is the main character. He's also got sort of a hunchback and a weird, withered arm. He starts out as Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and he's known as Gloucester in the text. So if you read it and read 'Gloucester,' that's Richard III. (Obviously not Richard III yet at the beginning of the play.) He's the brother of King Edward IV, who is the king of England as the play begins. Then there's also Richard's brother George, Duke of Clarence. He's referred to as 'Clarence' throughout the whole thing. He's Edward IV's other brother. So those are three brothers: the King and Richard and Clarence. Then you've got Queen Margaret, who's the widow of the previous king, who was Henry VI. She's kind of the old, bat-type person (kind of like Maggie Smith on 'Downton Abbey' - that's kind of her deal). We've got Lady Anne, who is sort of a love interest for Richard (though it's not exactly mutual). She is the widow of Henry VI's son - remember: Henry VI, Queen Margaret is his widow; Lady Anne is the widow of his son.

Then we've got Buckingham, who is Richard's henchman, basically. We've got Richmond, who's the Earl of Richmond and is also known as Henry Tudor, and that will become important later. So that's who's who. We gave you a little family tree for you to sort it out - hopefully that helps a little bit.

Act I
The play begins with a really famous speech by Richard. The first line is often quoted on its own: 'Now is the winter of our discontent,' and when you say it like that, it sounds like he's saying, 'Right now - it's the winter of our discontent,' like it's happening right now, right this very second. That's actually not what it means, but that's usually how it's quoted and often how it's parodied. (There was a frat at my school that threw a wonderful party called 'Now is the winter of our disco-tent.') But this is wrong - this is not a correct interpretation. If you look at the speech as a whole, what he's saying is that the 'winter of our discontent' is basically put away, finished, fixed by Edward IV (who, remember, is the king when the play starts) coming to power and making peace. The whole speech reads (the beginning of it): 'Now is the winter of our discontent Made glorious summer by this sun of York; And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.' So, 'winter' is made 'summer.' The clouds are buried. Things sound like they're going great. So now isn't the winter - now is actually the summer. So that's a good thing to keep in mind. But even though things sound like they're going okay, Richard just can't be happy because he's just that kind of guy. He suffers from some kind of unspecified deformity - it doesn't really say much about it. People kind of agree it's sort of hunchback-ness. He's also got this withered arm thing going on. And this makes him unable to take full advantage, at least in his mind, of peacetime, which to him seems to connote frolicking around. He calls it, 'prancing about to the tune of the lascivious lute,' which I think is sort of a metaphor for sex. So he concludes: 'And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover, To entertain these fair well-spoken days, I am determined to prove a villain And hate the idle pleasures of these days. Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous, By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams, To set my brother Clarence and the king In deadly hate the one against the other:' So basically, because he's bored and can't get laid, he's decided that he's going to be the villain. This is a rather unusual turn for a Shakespeare play. He writes about 'bad guys' - this is not the only play about a bad guy. Macbeth is a bad guy. Julius Caesar is kind of about the people who plot to kill Caesar, so they're kind of bad guys. But the weird thing about this is that in those plays, at least, those characters start out

sympathetic. Here, right off the bat, literally the first page of the play, for his opening minute, he's saying, 'I'm the bad guy, and I'm deciding to be that way because I'm bored, and I want to get the throne.' He's a little vague about why, but it becomes pretty clear that what he wants is to have power - that makes sense, I guess. What he's saying at the end of that speech - the bit about the 'plots I've laid' - is that he's already started laying out strategies to get Clarence, his brother, and King Edward, his other brother, to fight with each other and not like each other very much because that's going to be his path towards getting to the throne, he thinks. What we find out, soon after he gives that speech, is that the plot is already working because we see poor Clarence being dragged off to the Tower because the King is angry with him and kind of suspicious of him. So it's kind of moving forward as planned. Clarence says, 'Oh, no, I have to go to the Tower.' Richard doesn't let on that he set all this in motion - he just blames the king's wife and his mistress as being the instigators of it. He hears from Clarence that King Edward is in poor health, which he already knew - that's sort of common knowledge among the people. But it's really good news for Richard because this is someone that he will not have to kill to get to the throne because he probably will just die on his own. So he starts thinking about his next steps. The next step is to marry somebody noble because that will only help him gain another route to power. He's got his sights set on Lady Anne, who is still in mourning over her husband - remember, that was Henry VI's son - who was killed by some members of Richard's family. He doesn't see this as an obstacle at all - he actually sees this as kind of a fun thing. So he embarks on this horrible seduction scene literally over Henry VI's dead body. So, the father of her dead husband is dead as well, and Richard is trying to seduce her over this guy's body. He kind of bullies her into forgiving his family for inflicting so much death and destruction on hers. He keeps saying how beautiful she is, and he really seems to get pleasure out of coercing her into marrying him - that's part of the fun for him. And he's successful! His use of rhetoric - his sly way of talking and convincing people - comes up again and again in the play. He takes pride in his ability to get these people to do what he wants. As you might expect in a court that just went through a big, frustrating, bad civil war, there are tons of people who do not like each other very much in the court. Now we get to meet some! Next in the play, we have Elizabeth, who is the current Queen of England, Edward IV's wife. She's nervous about how sick he is because if he dies, then his brother Richard, who we've been with (not a good guy), will be in charge of the throne until Edward's oldest kid comes of age because they're too young to rule. Elizabeth really hates Richard because there's some old family conflict there, so she really doesn't want him to be anywhere near the throne. She's worried that her husband will die. She's complaining about him at the moment when Richard blusters in and accuses her of spreading lies and making gossip and drama in the court. He actually says that she is the reason that Clarence got imprisoned - remember, that was the guy we saw getting dragged off to the Tower in the beginning - which we know is not true. We know that Richard was behind that. But he doesn't believe in the truth - he thinks that he can lie and get away with it (which seems to be true thus far). So he and Elizabeth are fighting. Watching from the sidelines is Margaret, who was the wife of the nowdead Henry VI - the king who just died. Margaret really hates Richard, too, but she also isn't a big fan of Elizabeth. She jumps in and does this big speech where she curses everybody. She says, 'I hate you. I hate you.' It's sort of like, 'You suck. You suck. You suck. You're cool.' - that kind of a speech. Except I

don't think anybody's cool - I think she pretty much disparages everybody. Her curses, which are sort of on all of their houses, end up being strangely prophetic, which we will see as the play movies forward. I just want to pause and say I warned you about all the names - there's so many people, but I hope you're trying to keep track. It's rough. Now it's time for Richard's first big murder of the play. He hasn't actually killed anybody yet, although he's been plotting it. He hires some goons to go and kill his brother Clarence, who's in the Tower. What they decide is that they're going to drown him in a big barrel of wine. Clarence wakes up when they're coming in. He's like, 'No, don't kill me - I'll tell Richard that you were doing this.' And they're like, 'No, dude. Richard sent us. He wants you to be dead.' So that kind of clicks for Clarence - 'Oh, no. I guess Richard's after me.' So he gets drowned. They actually strangle him, and then they drown him in the barrel.

Act II
So Clarence's death by wine drowning brings us to Act II (a lot happened in Act I!). Edward IV, who's the current king, is sick and not doing that well, but he's desperately trying to make everyone not hate each other. He seems to be kind of getting somewhere - he's having a big meeting and people are talking. Even Richard gives a semi-convincing speech about how he's not actually an awful person, which, again, we know is a lie. The King gets up and says that he's pardoned Clarence as a way to make peace. Richard, of course, comes in and pretends like that order had been delayed, and so Clarence was killed anyway, even though Richard had him killed. This makes Edward feel horribly guilty - like he didn't get there in time to pardon him. It kind of sends him into a tailspin of guilt and poor health. This is what does him in. Soon enough we find that he's actually died, which is good news for Richard but bad news for everybody else. Richard quickly swoops in and says, 'Better make sure the heirs are protected - have to make sure they're safe.' He enlists his buddy Buckingham, one of his henchmen, to help him secure the young princes, which, again, he says is for their safety. I think you can probably see where this is going. He also starts arresting members of Elizabeth's family (remember, Elizabeth is now the widow of Edward IV, who has just died), for intimidation and just because he can - that's sort of his attitude towards villainy. 'Oh, I think I'll just be a bad guy now.' Now the first bit of Margaret's big curse speech is starting to come true, because she hates Elizabeth's family, and she cursed them. Now they're being arrested and potentially, maybe later, killed.

Act III
This bring us to Act III where the young princes, who Richard is shepherding and making sure are okay, arrive. The oldest is rightfully suspicious of Richard - he kind of knows what's what. He wants to know why none of his relatives are there to meet him. Imagine you come home from somewhere, and you're at the airport, and only your least-favorite friend is there to meet you - might unnerve you a bit. That's basically what he thinks, like, 'Oh, why is it only my creepy uncle?' It turns out that his mother Elizabeth and his younger brother are hiding out in a church, claiming 'sanctuary,' which just means that you can't go and bother someone if they're in sanctuary in church - that's all it means. But Richard is not deterred by this because he's a self-declared villain. He just sends someone to go in and drag them back out again, and they do that. He sends both of the boys, the older boy and the younger boy, off to the Tower to 'await coronation.' We know that this is not a good thing because that's

where Clarence went, and then he ended up drowned in a wine barrel. Going to the Tower - not a good thing, but they do. So then Richard's plotting some more with his henchman Buckingham. They're trying to figure out which lords are going to follow Richard and which lords are going to be the squares who stay loyal. They find out there's this dude named Hastings, who is not going to help them out. Hastings thought things were going to go his way because of the whole Elizabeth's family getting arrested thing, and he doesn't like Elizabeth's family. I told you - all these people hate each other! It doesn't mean that they can't ally sometimes, but...Anyway, he thought it was going to be okay. Turns out, it is not okay because Richard finds out that he still wants to be loyal. He has him executed for thinking that maybe the princes have a right to the throne. At this point, he'd probably execute the whole audience if he could because we probably all think that the princes have a right to the throne - they do. It's becoming clear that the princes are problematic, even though they are confined in the Tower. Richard decides that what he's going to do is spread a rumor that they're actually illegitimate. (You'll see this happening on 'Game of Thrones,' except he actually is illegitimate - Prince Joffrey. I love that show.) So, he says that Elizabeth was fooling around on Edward, and they're not actually Edward's kids, therefore they're not actually royal and not legitimate heirs. If the king doesn't have any legitimate heirs, guess who the throne passes to - his brother! That's Richard because he's the only surviving brother after he had Clarence drowned in the wine barrel. So basically he manipulates the mayor of London into begging him to take the throne. He refuses a few times to make it look good - 'No, I don't want to be king' - but, of course, we know he wants to be king. He ends up saying he's going to do it. The people of London are not happy about this - the mayor seems super gullible, but the people seem to kind of know what's what. They're not pleased.

Act IV
That brings us into Act IV where Richard is crowned king. Now he is really Richard III - no longer the Duke of Gloucester. Elizabeth, the widow of the old king, Lady Anne, who's his wife now - he successfully married her, and some of their supporters are starting to get seriously worried. What they're hoping for is that the Earl of Richmond, who if you remember is Henry Tudor, might come in and save the day because he's kind of a distant claim to the throne - that's what he's got going on. Meanwhile, Richard really can't sit still for two seconds without deciding that he needs to kill somebody. We're up to a lot of dead people - that's just what he does. Next on his hit list is those damn princes, who he was kind of able to take care of by saying they're illegitimate, but that was really a temporary solution. He's still worried that they're alive even though now he's been crowned. So he asks Buckingham, the loyal Buckingham, to kill them, but even Buckingham is a little squeamish about killing kids and doesn't really want to do that. So he runs back home, and Richard is worried about this - thinks maybe Buckingham's going soft and wonders if it might be Buckingham's turn to die and has to find a new henchman. He also preps for killing the princes by spreading a rumor that his wife Anne is in poor health. Remember, this is the woman he strong-armed into marrying him - he was dead set on having this woman to be his wife, and now he's spreading this rumor that she might be sick. It seems like we kind of know where this might be going, which is horrifying, because he starts looking into marrying somebody else - this is where it

gets really confusing - somebody else called Elizabeth. This is Edward IV's daughter, the sister to the young princes that he just ordered killed. So he wants to marry Edward IV's daughter, and he's spreading rumors that his current wife is sickly. That's what's going on. Her mother, who is also named Elizabeth, is justifiably horrified when she finds out because he killed her brothers. It also looks like Anne's probably going to get the ax, too. So, the princes were smothered with a pillow in their sleep - check. But this one bright spot for Richard is quickly marred by the news that pretty much everybody hates him. Not only do they hate him, but they're amassing armies to come and fight him, including that pesky Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, who's got an army in France that's going to come and get him. Also, Buckingham, his faithful servant (' Et tu, Brute!'), is coming with an army to whomp on Richard, too. Not looking good.

Act V
Buckingham gets captured, and now he gets the ax, too. But Henry Tudor is on the march. They really feel - his army, which we get scenes of - like they're on the side of the right because Richard's pretty much an unmitigated monster at this point. He is not doing anything good. Even his own allies are terrified of him. He's trying to get these allies excited for battle, but there's hardly any cause - there's nothing really to fight for - because the cause is just Richard's own boredom and his desire to be a villain. There's no unifying thing for the people who are fighting for him, whereas Richmond's got bringing back England and restoring the country on his side. That's a difference right there between the two leaders. We get a cool scene where we see both Richard and Richmond, who's Henry Tudor, in their tents before the battle, and they both have the same dream about ghosts. It's not a proper Shakespeare story without ghosts - you probably realize this by now. It's basically a series of all the people the Richard has killed. It's kind of like in Harry Potter when Voldemort's wand disgorges all the shadows of people that he's murdered with it - kind of the same idea. Richard looks at them, kind of freaks out and starts to feel scared about what's about to happen because they all come out and tell him how awful he is. Then they all go over to the other side of the stage and tell Richmond how they're on his side and that they think he's really awesome. Richard finally starts to feel scared of what might happen but also scared of who he is and how he feels about himself. He gives this very odd speech. It goes like this: '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.' He seems to be losing it a little bit. There's this re-articulation of, 'I am a villain,' but also this weird denial of it that doesn't totally make sense. There's this kind of doubt that he should love himself just because he is himself - 'Richard loves Richard. I am I.' - those two things might not actually imply one another is what he's

realizing. What he also is getting, which is scary for him, is that if he dies in battle, nobody will care because not even totally he cares about his own survival - that's what he's realizing in this speech. This is really the beginning of the end. The armies fight. Richmond is sneaky and puts lots of decoy soldiers that are all dressed like him, so they go to kill Richmond, and it's not actually Richmond. This is also then taken in the final Harry Potter book where they send all the decoy Harry Potters with the polyjuice potion - same kind of idea. Richard's horse ends up getting killed, and then he cries out one of the most famous lines of anything, I think: 'A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!' This is really total desperation here, and it's also kind of interesting because if it weren't his kingdom, he wouldn't be in this trouble at all. It shouldn't be his kingdom and yet, he's got it - he's stolen it - and now he's sort of saying, 'I'd give it all up if I just had a horse to get myself out of it.' But it's like, 'No, you got yourself into this by stealing the kingdom in the first place.' That happens, and then he gets in this final climactic duel with Richmond, in which he is killed. He actually doesn't get a chance to give a speech - most Shakespeare characters, when they die, give little dying gasp kind of speeches. Richard doesn't get one of those - it's just literally in the stage directions, 'He dies,' which is weird for Shakespeare. Richmond has won the battle! And now he gets to be Henry VII (remember, Henry Tudor), and he starts a long line of Tudors. Henry VIII comes next, and there's a whole bunch of them, and that's English history.

Intro: Romeo and Juliet


We're talking about Romeo and Juliet, which is probably one of the most famous (and also depressing) love stories ever told. Pretty much everyone in high school has to read it and be newly depressed by it. It's been adapted into everything; the musical called West Side Story is amazing (tonight, tonight, won't be just any night), and lots of movies - including one with Leonardo DiCaprio before he got kind of fat and oldlooking (it's a quality film) - really, any kind of movie, book or TV show that involves people in love that shouldn't be in love, like warring families, things like that. That's all coming from Romeo and Juliet. There's this idea of star-crossed lovers , which is a big deal in this book. It basically means that fate has ordained that this is not going to work out. Their stars are crossed, if stars were the way of reading the future, which some people think it is. If you don't know what happens, or if you've forgotten, you should pay attention because all these plot lines will make a lot more sense if you lay it over Romeo and Juliet. You'll see what's going on.

Characters
So, who's in it? We've got our cast of characters: We have Romeo, obviously. He is a son of the Montague family, and he's always in and out of love - a little fickle in that regard. We've got Juliet, of course. She's a daughter of the Capulet family, who don't like the Montagues very much. We've got Mercutio, who's a friend of Romeo's. Then, Benvolio is another friend of Romeo's. There's Tybalt. He's Juliet's cousin. He's also a Capulet. Juliet's Nurse, who's kind of like her nanny and mother-figure. And Friar Lawrence, who's somewhat of a father-figure to Romeo, and gives him some advice.

And then there's some other people (family-type) that we'll also meet. The play starts with kind of a prologue that basically outlines everything that's going to happen. Here it is: 'Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life' Did you hear it? That star-crossed lovers bit, that's where that comes from, that's right at the beginning!

Act I: Romeo Crashes Capulet Party


Then the action starts, as all good things should, with a big street fight. In West Side Story this is represented with a dance battle. It quickly gets out of hand, this street fight, and the Prince of Verona has to step in and stop it. It kind of seems like they have to do this all the time, that things get out of hand all the time, and it's getting kind of tiresome for the people of Verona and the prince is pretty frustrated with it all. In the mean time, with all of this, the Montagues have kind of lost track of Romeo. Then, they're able to find him. It turns out he's been sort of moping around about being in love with someone called Rosaline (so, not Juliet at the beginning - fun fact). Rosaline's decided that she's not going to love anyone (love, seemingly, in the Biblical sense), that she is maybe going to be a nun or something. This is problematic for Romeo because he is super horny, but she is not going to give in. Despite her telling him this, and telling him she's not going to be with him, he's still determined to get into the Capulet feast (essentially, they're having a big party tonight) because she's going to be there and he wants to run into her. Luck has it, it's a masquerade party, and so they get to go with masks on. So, they're kind of hanging around outside, and Romeo's getting a little antsy about whether this is a good idea. He talks about a bad dream that he's had. Then, his buddy, Mercutio, gives kind of an awesome, big speech about Queen Mab, who's the queen of the faeries: 'She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes In a shape no bigger than an agate-stone On the fore-finger of an alderman' He keeps going, and this gets to be a very agitated speech. It's a really good part for an actor. Now, we're in the Capulet camp. Juliet has just found out from her mother that she's going to have to get married, and that the dude she might have to marry is probably going to be at the party. She's not happy about this because Juliet is 14 years old. Things were different back then! But, she's still not feeling that great. When Romeo gets to the party, Juliet's there. He sees her and the world basically stops. There's a frozen moment. They just walk up to each other and start making out. Juliet tells him, you kiss by the book, which I'm not sure is really a compliment.

Needless to say, Romeo has totally forgotten about Rosaline at this point. He's totally in love with Juliet. Nurse comes and shoos her away and informs Romeo that Juliet is a Capulet. Juliet finds out that Romeo is a Montague and the plot is laid for that to be a problem.

Act II: Balcony Scene and Marriage


Now, we're in Act II and it's time for the famous balcony scene, which everyone should have seen parodied a bazillion times in something. Romeo's loitering underneath Juliet's window. He's creeping around and she comes to the window, and he cries out: 'But, soft, what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.' He overhears her moaning on about how Romeo is a Montague, and that's really unfortunate: 'O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name' She's basically asking, 'Why do you have to be called Romeo and, therefore, be a Montague? Why couldn't you just be some other dude that I was allowed to love, and that I could actually date? Why is this so awful?' And note, wherefore in 'wherefore art thou Romeo' doesn't mean where, it basically means why or for what reason. This is a match question on OkCupid and you should get it right, or I will judge you. And also use punctuation! Anyways, wherefore is why and not where. That's the point and it's a good thing to know for life. She goes on: 'O, be some other name! What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd' She's basically saying that a rose is still a rose even if it were called nobbin or boppin or something. It would still smell the same; it would still be the same thing. So, her point is that if Romeo were called Ben, he'd still be the same awesome guy and then she could date him. Romeo overhears this and then he kind of starts to harass her. Then, they chat across the balcony, and Juliet says: 'My ears have not yet drunk a hundred words Of that tongue's utterance, yet I know the sound: Art thou not Romeo and a Montague?' Then Romeo says: 'Neither, fair saint, if either thee dislike.' Back to Juliet:

'How camest thou hither, tell me, and wherefore? The orchard walls are high and hard to climb, And the place death, considering who thou art, If any of my kinsmen find thee here' They talk like this for a while longer; they're kind of flirting long distance over the balcony. Romeo tells her that he really means it, that he's not going to be flighty in his love for her, which we should be suspicious of because he was just in love with Rosaline two scenes ago. He was madly in love with her, and now he's madly in love with Juliet. That's just the kind of guy he is. Juliet says that, the next day, she will send someone to go talk to him about whether he really wants to marry her. That's kind of what they're proposing now, which is strange because it's moving super fast! They literally just met two hours ago, and now, they're talking about maybe getting married. It does skip the whole anguished 'I-don't-want-to-put-a-label-on-things' phase that most of us go through in relationships. It also seems a little terrifying, but they're in love, so that's what they're going to do. The next morning Romeo goes to talk to his friend, Friar Lawrence, who I mentioned in the character list. He's asking for advice and asking if Friar Lawrence can marry him and Juliet later in the day. Friar Lawrence is understandably a little bit skeptical about this because he remembers the whole Rosaline thing. He knows Romeo. But he agrees to do it. Then, Mercutio and Benvolio, Romeo's friends, kind of rag on him for abandoning them; 'bros before hoes, man,' that kind of thing. Then, the Nurse finds them. Juliet really does send the nurse out to find Romeo. She's agreed to facilitate this whole crazy plan. Juliet basically learns that she's going to show up at Friar Lawrence's place. She does, they both are there, and they get married. This is in Act II; they're married! They've met the day before and now they're together.

Act III: Confrontation with Tybalt


Now, we're into Act III. Things seem to be going pretty really well, right? How is this a tragedy? What could possibly go wrong? Right here is where things start to go wrong. Romeo's riding the high of being in love. They've got this crazy plan so they can spend their wedding night together. He's going to get laid, so he's really excited. He runs into Tybalt who, remember, is Juliet's cousin. Tybalt wants to challenge him to a duel and Romeo is like, 'No, I'm happy and the world is great. I don't want to fight.' Tybalt's not having this at all; he still wants to have this fight. So, Mercutio, who's Romeo's friend, steps in and is going to fight for him and he ends up getting killed. He delivers a famous line while dying: 'A plague o' both your houses!' (Mercutio's really the best part, he has very few lines but they're all awesome.) Romeo feels understandably guilty because he was supposed to be fighting Tybalt. So, he kills Tybalt after Tybalt kills Mercutio. He dashes off and gives another famous line: 'O, I am fortune's fool!' He runs away, aware of the fact that he has killed his new bride's cousin (that'd be his new bride as of two hours ago). This kicks the family feud into really high gear. Juliet finds out that Romeo killed Tybalt, and she's super conflicted. She's worrying that Romeo's not going to show up for their wedding night.

Romeo's freaking out at Friar Lawrence's house about the same thing. He's convinced Juliet's going to think he's a monster, that she's not going to want him anymore because he killed her cousin (that might be a fair assumption). He finds out that he's been sentenced to be banished, which he thinks is worse than death because he'll be alive but he can't be with Juliet. Things are not looking good for Romeo. Nurse shows up and says, 'No, you come to the bedroom anyway. We're going to make this work out.' So, he does and they have a great time on their wedding night. Juliet doesn't want him to go in the morning because they had such a nice time. But, he has to or he'll risk arrest and potential death because he's not supposed to be in the city anymore. So, Juliet says: 'Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day: It was the nightingale, and not the lark, That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear; Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate-tree: Believe me, love, it was the nightingale.' Romeo replies: 'It was the lark, the herald of the morn, No nightingale: look, love, what envious streaks Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east: Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops. I must be gone and live, or stay and die.' They're basically fighting about whether it's morning or night and what bird it is they're hearing. Juliet's saying, 'No, it's the nightingale, it's nighttime still,' but Romeo is like, 'No, it's the lark, it's morning.' Romeo is obviously correct, and so, he bounces just in time. Juliet's mother rolls in and says, 'Guess what? You're going to get married on Thursday and it's going to be to this guy named Paris.' That's the end of Act III - she has a great wedding night with Romeo and it turns out she has to get married, again, to somebody else, soon.

Act IV: Juliet's Potion


This is bad. We're going to figure out a way to solve all this, and that's what they try to do. So, she goes to see Friar Lawrence. He's kind of the go-to guy in all of this, it seems. He has a dastardly plan because he's a smart guy. He says, 'Juliet, say you're going to get married, but the night before you're supposed to get married, you'll drink this potion and it's going to make you look like you're dead. You'll be asleep, you'll be fine, but it's just going to look like you're dead. Then you'll get put in the Capulet tomb, we'll alert Romeo of what's going on, he'll come and collect you, and then you can go live happily ever after but not in Verona.'

Why they couldn't just run away together, I'll never fully understand. I guess this is so they won't go looking for her. This seems to be the way that Friar Lawrence wants it to go down. So they do this plan, it works; everyone thinks Juliet is dead and she gets put in the tomb. So far; so good. That's the end of Act IV - she doesn't have to get married, and Paris is really upset, obviously, and her parents are devastated. But, it looks like she's going to get to be with Romeo.

Act V: Romeo's Poison


The problem (in Act V) is that Romeo gets the message that she's dead, but he doesn't get the message that she's actually faking it. So, he's freaking out. He goes and buys some poison so he can spend another night with her (a.k.a. die with her). He turns up at the tomb, and runs into Paris, who's there mourning her as well, because he was about to marry her. They get in a fight, and Romeo actually kills him too! So, now there's quite the body count for something that started out really nice and romantic. Romeo goes in, and he kisses Juliet and then he takes the poison. Now, he's actually dead. She wakes up, finds him dead and tries to drink the rest of the poison, but here isn't any left, so, she stabs herself and says: 'O, happy dagger, Find thy sheath.' So, the final two lines of the play are: 'For never was a story of more woe Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.' Kind of a nice little rhyme there at the end. So, that's what happens!

Julius Caesar : Introduction


We're talking about Julius Caesar, the play by Shakespeare, but also about Julius Caesar the man, because that's kind of inescapable. He's one of the most famous ancient-day people, but maybe we don't know that much about him besides that he's a Roman and vaguely associated with the phrase 'Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,' so we're going to delve a little more into that. That phrase is from this play; it's Shakespeare. Caesar didn't say it; Caesar doesn't say it in the play. It's one of those endlessly parodied Shakespearean lines: Lend me your beers! Lend me your rears! Lend me your ... years! It's one of those lines that's endlessly 'punable.' It's good to keep in mind that Shakespeare's take on Roman history is not necessarily Roman history, but it can be easy to confuse the two. Like the 'Friends, Romans' statement - I definitely thought that was a real, historical thing when I first read it. It's not! It's fiction! Shakespeare does this all over history. He writes a bunch of things about Romans and Greeks - Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra (you know, Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen), Troilus and Cressida (they're not as famous, but they were in the Trojan War), Titus Andronicus (wasn't real at all) - and he writes about English kings. These are called 'history plays,' (or

sometimes tragedies; it depends on how they classify them), which doesn't really make them true, necessarily, but they're based on historical figures. Usually, Shakespeare is reading ancient sources and figuring out what he wants to include in his play. So keep in mind that we're telling Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, and not necessarily the real Julius Caesar. They can be easily conflated, because they're both super old. They both seem like history, but they're not.

Characters

So who's in this show? We've got Julius Caesar, obviously. He is a Roman leader and general, and he's steadily gaining power. People are kind of worried, because Rome is supposed to be a republic. They're worried that maybe he's got too much power. We've got Brutus, who is a friend of Caesar's and ultimately ends up being a conspirator against Caesar. Octavius is Caesar's
Characters in Julius Caesar

nephew, who's also been named his heir to the throne. Mark Antony is the husband of Jennifer

Lopez - ha, ha, no he's not. He's a general and politician. Cassius is a bad dude who's also a conspiracy guy. And there are all sorts of other assorted senators and councilmen and their wives (there aren't really a lot of ladies in this play except the wives of the senators).

Act I: Caesar's Victory


So what happens? In Act I, Caesar has won this big victory against his enemy, Pompey, so he's riding high on the horse. He's got this big parade; he's going through Rome, but some people are worried that he might be getting too powerful. While he's parading around, bathing in the admiration of the people, a soothsayer (who's really just a fortuneteller) pops out of the crowd and says, ' Beware the Ides of March!' ('Ides of March' is just a fancy way of saying March 15th). Meanwhile, Brutus and Cassius are chatting about what it might mean if Caesar became king. They're kind of worried; they don't think it's totally fair that he would get to be king and they wouldn't, because they're kind of all the same. Then they hear a play-by-play of what went down at the square after the soothsayer showed up. What they hear is that Mark Antony offered Caesar the crown three times, and three times Caesar said no. So Caesar's saying that he doesn't want to be king, but clearly there's some popular sentiment toward his being king, and they think this would be a really bad idea. Cassius - he's the sneakier of the two - decides he's going to forge some letters, claiming they are from people who are worried about Caesar, and leave them by Brutus' house in an effort to convince Brutus this is really a problem and they need to take care of it. It's an effort to turn Brutus against Caesar, basically. Later that night, in keeping with the whole fortune theme of 'beware of stuff,' the weather is really strange, there are lions wandering around in the streets, and there's blood - lots of weird stuff going on in Rome that night. Cassius learns that the senators are planning on making Caesar king the next day, so all that refusing of the crown doesn't really stop them, I guess. Cassius is not happy about this, obviously, because he doesn't want Caesar to be king.

Act II: Conspiracy


Then we're in Act II. Brutus has read these fake letters and reluctantly decided that Caesar does indeed need to die. So all the conspirators turn up at his house and they start making this plan. Cassius wants to kill Mark Antony, too, because he's an ally of Caesar's. Brutus doesn't want them to look any more like murdering barbarians than they need to, so he calls for a 'staying of their bloody hands.' The next morning at Caesar's Palace (did Caesar really live there?!), Caesar's wife is super worried about all the weird weather; she thinks it's a really bad sign. She also had a dream in which there's a statue of Caesar with blood all over it, so she's very worried and doesn't think Caesar should go into work that day. Also remember there's that guy who said, 'Beware the ides of March', which is today. And, even further evidence that Caesar should not go into work, his personal fortunetellers are trying to tell the future by looking at animal guts, which is something people did back then. They can't find a heart inside the animal they slaughtered to tell the future, which is a really, really bad sign, apparently. Eventually, he does actually relent and says, 'Okay, I'll stay home today.' His wife's freaking out, so he'll just placate her and it'll be fine. Then one of the conspirators shows up and says, 'Time to go to the Senate!' and manages to convince him to come. They convince Caesar that he's going to look too whipped if he listens to his wife and stays home and doesn't go to work. So they play the manly card and get him to come in.

Act III: Caesar's Death and Funeral


Then we've got Act III, the big murder scene. Caesar is all on his high horse and making a speech about how no one's going to shake his will. Then, right on cue, all the conspirators go in, and they each stab him. Brutus stabs him last, but he does do it. That's when Caesar says the most famous thing ever: 'Et tu, Brute? Then fall, Caesar!' So it's sort of like he's saying: 'You, too, Brutus? All right then, I'll just die.' So he's dead now. We're about halfway through the play and the title character is dead, which is fairly unusual, even in Shakespearean plays. Mark Antony runs away - from Jennifer Lopez, ha, no - from Caesar's body. Then he says he'll be loyal to Brutus as long as no one takes it out on him that he used to support Caesar. Brutus says okay, but Cassius, predictably, is a little more worried. He's particularly worried about Antony speaking at Caesar's funeral, which is what he wants to do. He doesn't want Antony stirring up any kind of popular resentment toward the conspirators who just killed their beloved leader. Brutus thinks it will show a human side to the conspiracy if they let him talk, and they won't look so awful. You can see this is always the difference between Brutus and Cassius. Brutus really likes to think that he's doing the right thing, and he tries to be a decent guy. Cassius is much more transparent about just wanting power, so there's always a divide between those two. They all leave, and Mark Antony is feeling conflicted and guilty there with Caesar's dead body full of stab wounds. He's feeling guilty about making peace with these guys, and he says: 'O, pardon me, thou bleeding peace of earth, That I am meek and gentle with these butchers! Thou art the ruins of the noblest man That ever lived in the tide of times. Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!'

Then Octavius' servant turns up - remember Octavius, Caesar's nephew and heir to the throne - and Mark Antony warns him: 'Keep Octavius well away from this place. It's not a friendly place for him right now.' Because even Brutus might not be able to stop Cassius from murdering the guy Caesar appointed as his heir. So now it's time for Caesar's funeral and a bunch of funeral speeches. This play is full of big speeches they're fun for Shakespeare to write, and they're also characteristically Roman. This idea of addressing the crowd, oration, is a Roman tradition in a way. There's a big focus in the play in general on this idea of 'rhetoric,' which is just techniques for skillful speaking. Brutus' big funeral speech is justifying why he killed Caesar; that's his goal in speaking to the people. He says: 'If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar's, to him I say, that Brutus' love to Caesar was no less than his. If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: - Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men?' So basically, Brutus loved Caesar, he says, but he worried about the fate of Rome and the freedom of everyone who lived in Rome if Caesar were to gain too much power. The audience actually seems to be relatively receptive to this. They don't boo him off the stage; they seem to think this is reasonable, so it's going pretty well for Brutus. But then Mark Antony comes up, and he gives a speech, which famously begins, 'Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears,' so that's where it comes in. So he goes along and tries to basically disprove Brutus' thesis that Caesar was too ambitious. Brutus says 'I killed him, because he would have made us all slaves.' Mark Antony's trying to say 'No, that doesn't make sense.' So this is the strategy he tries with this speech, where he says: 'He was my friend, faithful and just to me: But Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honorable man. He hath brought many captives home to Rome, Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And Brutus is an honorable man.' That phrase 'Brutus is an honorable man' comes back four times in that speech. This exchange between Brutus and Mark Antony really highlights this idea of rhetoric that I was talking about. That technique - to

praise Brutus while also undermining what he's saying - proves extremely effective. He's like, 'Oh, yeah, Brutus is fine, but this doesn't make any sense!' So that's the technique that he's drawing on. He shows off the wounds on Caesar's body and really whips the crowd up into a frenzy, after which they are upset at the conspirators. They want Caesar to not be dead; they are so sad. And then Mark Antony reads Caesar's will, in which Caesar said he's going to give them all money, all the citizens of Rome. So then they really freak out and go on a rampage, looting and killing people, and we find out that Octavius who was Caesar's nephew and heir - has turned up in the city. So things are suddenly really not going well for the conspirators. It turns out Cassius was totally right, that Mark Antony should not be speaking at this thing, and that's the end of Act III.

Act IV and V: Power Struggles


In Act IV, Octavius and Mark Antony are trying to figure out what's the best way to deal with the conspirators and restore order. They hear that Brutus and Cassius are gathering an army, which indeed they are, and we see them with their army, arguing with each other. We could probably see that coming, right, because Brutus actually is kind of an honorable man and Cassius is just out for power. Brutus is upset because people are taking bribes, and Cassius is like, 'Get over yourself, you're way too noble.' Brutus' point, which seems to be a fair one, is 'We killed Caesar because he was corrupt. What's wrong with us? We can't be corrupt too, then there's no point in having killed Caesar.' That makes sense. Brutus gets drunk and confesses that he's on edge because his wife killed herself (which is the first we know of this, this kind of offhand remark). So he and Cassius decide that they're going to march on Octavius and Antony's army tomorrow. It's late at night, and they're all trying to go to sleep, and Brutus is visited by the ghost of Caesar. Because no good Shakespeare play is complete without a ghost! He says: 'How ill this taper burns! Ha! who comes here? I think it is the weakness of mine eyes That shapes this monstrous apparition. It comes upon me. Art thou any thing? Art thou some god, some angel, or some devil, That makest my blood cold and my hair to stare? Speak to me what thou art.' 'Thy evil spirit, Brutus.' So that's the end of Act IV. We've got the ghost of Caesar, and Brutus is feeling guilty and weird about everything. Act V is mostly fighting. The armies of Antony and Octavius and Brutus and Cassius meet at a place called Philippi, and they fight. Octavius and Antony are not getting along vis-a-vis strategy. Cassius is worried because he's seen some bad omens, so then Brutus is saying, 'I would rather die than be paraded around as a prisoner' if they indeed lose this battle. Then they really start fighting in earnest. And it doesn't really seem to be going Brutus and Cassius' way; they're getting pretty worried, Cassius in particular. He sees a battle go down that seems to have gone really negatively for them and decides to have his servant kill him, because he doesn't want to be paraded around as a prisoner either.

But he's actually wrong. Brutus' army defeated Octavius' army, even though Octavius was whomping on Cassius! So basically things are okay, but Cassius doesn't know it because he's on the losing end of things. He kind of kills himself for nothing, which is kind of sad, although he wasn't that sympathetic of a guy to begin with. Brutus discovers the body, and he's really upset about it. Now he thinks Caesar's ghost has come to see him again on the battlefield, and he decides that it's probably time for him to die as well. He runs himself through with a sword, and then he dies. Mark Antony gives another one of his famous, awesome funeral speeches - this time about Brutus - saying that Brutus was actually a really good guy and they should bury him well. And that's the end of the play. It ends with Brutus' death and his being memorialized by Mark Antony.

Midsummer Nights Dream: Introduction

So, we're talking about A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's a typical crazy Shakespeare comedy but with a greater than usual dose of magic in it, and it has fairies, which is very exciting. It also has a certain selfawareness of itself as a play, which is interesting - we'll talk more about that closer to the end of the lesson. You know how Romeo and Juliet is about people who fall in love with the wrong people? And it's a tragedy, so they all die at the end? A Midsummer Night's Dream is like the comedy mirror version of that. Everyone is in love the wrong person, at least in the beginning, but it's a comedy, so at the end they all get married which is actually the difference between tragedy and comedy: in a tragedy everyone dies, and in a comedy everyone gets married at the end. The basic idea of this play is that there are three groups of people who all interact in this forest on one magical night - perhaps in midsummer - falling in and out of love and having slapstick adventures. It shares this premise with a lot of teen comedies. I would say Superbad might even owe a lot to A Midsummer Night's Dream. They're on a mythical quest for alcohol, they run into the cop dudes, and end up with the women. There's something about this idea of one night of revelry and weirdness to sort everything out that I think is present in more things than just A Midsummer Night's Dream. But it takes place not in wherever they were in Superbad. It takes place in Greece a long time ago, around Athens. The men and women falling in and out of love with each other do so in the presence of some fairies (yes, like magical fairies.)

So who are these people? We've got group number one, the Athenians. There, we've got Hermia, who is a young woman in love with Lysander, who is a young man who loves her back, so this is sounding great so far. They like each other. But then we've got Helena, who is in love with Demetrius, who is in love with Hermia. So uhoh, it's not working out so well; we've got a little bit
The Athenian characters involved in a love quadrangle

of a love quadrangle. It's kind of like the latest season of Gossip Girl, which I shouldn't watch (and neither should you!) where Chuck still loves Blair,

and Blair is vaguely into Dan, and she's fighting with Serena because Serena likes Dan too, and Dan kind of wants Blair. See, Dan is the Hermia of this situation, which is weird if you watched the show from the beginning because he was such a loser at the start. Anyway, that's the romantic setup. Then we've got Theseus, who is the Duke of Athens, and we've got Hippolyta, who is his betrothed wife. She was the queen of the Amazons, who were fighting women, and he conquered her people and now he gets to marry her. So then we've got the fairies, who are hanging out in the woods. We've got Oberon, who is their king, Titania, who is their queen and Puck, who is Oberon's servant. He's also known as 'Robin Goodfellow', so he's got two names. Then the third group of people are known as the Rude Mechanicals, who are laborers and what they're doing is trying to put on a play. There's a bunch of them and the most famous and important one is known as Bottom, who ends up being turned into a donkey. So those are the people we're going to be dealing with. So what do they do? They interact with each other.

Act I: Love Quadrangles and Greedy Thespians


So Hermia is in love with Lysander, and he likes her back, as I mentioned. So this does not seem to be a problem at all, except that her dad wants her to marry Demetrius, who also likes her. But she doesn't like Demetrius. So Hermia's got a real love-buffet going on, but Helena does not at all. Helena is kind of sad and left on her own, like a sad, unpopular friend in any teen movie. We also know that she's taller than Hermia, so I also wonder if it has something to do with her being taller than Demetrius. Maybe she wore heels around him once and he's never gotten over it. Like Nicole Kidman and, well, anybody, but especially Tom Cruise. I guess everyone's taller than Tom Cruise. So that's problematic for them, but the other problem is that Hermia's dad is really not happy that she wants to be with Lysander instead of Demetrius. He actually goes to Theseus who, remember, is the Duke of Athens, to sort it out. I'm really glad that my parents wouldn't call up President Obama when they were upset with me and tell him to figure it out, but that's what this guy seems to think is appropriate. So Theseus says, 'Hermia, you've got options. You can marry Demetrius, you can go be a nun or you can die.' She thinks no, no, those are terrible options, I don't like that. And then they explain that Demetrius maybe isn't the best choice because he had been in love with Helena, but now he was throwing her aside and being a bad dude. Theseus listens to this and says, 'Well, yeah, maybe he is a bad dude. I'll tell you what. You figure this out by the time I get married to Hippolyta (soon) and you do what you want.' She's planning on skeedaddling off with Lysander to go elope and get married at his aunt's house, because she lives outside of Athens and they won't get caught. Helena decides to tell Demetrius that they're doing this, because she hopes that he'll run after them as they go off into the woods to the aunt's house, and then Helena will go after him and somehow get him to love her again.

So her plan is like this: Tell Demetrius that Hermia and Lysander are planning to elope, follow them into the woodsprofit. We don't really know how it's going to work, but this is how they all end up in the forest with the Fairies and the Rude Mechanicals. The Rude Mechanicals are a bunch of workers who want to put on a show for Theseus' wedding to Hippolyta. They're not professionals. It's kind of like Waiting for Guffman - they do not know what they're

doing, but they're really enthusiastic about it. We've got Peter Quince, who is a carpenter who is trying to organize everyone. Bottom is a weaver who is being really disruptive, and he insists that he can play every part in the play. They're going to put on Pyramus and Thisbe, which is basically a Romeo and Juliet variant, with people who try to fall in love but aren't able to and die at the end. Peter Quince wants Bottom to play Pyramus, but when Thisbe gets assigned to another dude, Bottom butts in: And I may hide my face, let me play Thisbe too, I'll speak in a monstrous little voice. 'Thisne, Thisne;' 'Ah, Pyramus lover dear! Thy Thisbe dear, And lady dear!' He wants to be Thisbe too. It's kind of like when I act these things out. I get to play everyone. That's what Bottom wants to do. Then Peter assigns the lion part to someone else, and Bottom interrupts again: Let me play the lion too: I will roar, that I will Do any man's heart good to hear me; I will roar, That I will make the duke say 'Let him roar again, Let him roar again.' Peter Quince is having none of it and repeatedly tells Bottom to shut up and play Pyramus and no one else. So that's the end of Act I, this Rude Mechanicals scene.
Theseus tells Hermia she must marry Demetrius, be a nun, or die

Act II: Oberon's Scheme


Oberon and Titania (King and Queen of Fairies, respectively) are fighting over who gets to keep the young Indian prince they've kidnapped, which is a strange thing to fight about. Oberon wants to make him a knight, but Titania just likes him and wants to keep him. They're acting like he's a puppy or a new toy or something that they're fighting over. They don't resolve it, but Titania still wants Oberon to come do some fairy dancing with her, but Oberon says no because he's butthurt about the whole Indian prince situation. Not only does he not want to go fairy dancing with Titania, he also gets his servant, Puck, to go find this special flower called 'love-in-idleness' that if you squeeze it and put it on someone's eyelids, they fall in love with whomever they see first when they wake up. For me it would probably be be my cat licking my face, but Oberon hopes it's going to be something even funnier when this happens to Titania. So he sends Puck off on that task, and we're back to our favorite Athenians!

Helena's followed through on her plan to creep on Demetrius as he follows Hermia and Lysander who are trying to elope. It's not working out very well, because he tells Helena to cut it out and stop following him, and please go away. Then he
Oberon sends his servant Puck to find a special flower called love-in-idleness

starts being really mean to her and tells her:

Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit; For I am sick when I do look on thee. Then she says: And I am sick when I look not on you. Ouch! That's not very nice. Oberon's watching this whole spectacle and feels really bad for Helena. So when Puck comes back with the special love-flower, Oberon says that in addition to spreading that on Titania to play a trick on her, why don't you put some of it on Demetrius' eyelids too. Make sure that Helena's nearby, and then he'll fall in love with her. Problem solved. Sounds great. Fairies are pretty meddlesome - first they're kidnapping Indian princes, now they're messing with the Athenians. Puck goes off to find Titania to juice her eyelids. Hermia and Lysander wander into a glade and Lysander says he realizes that he's lost. He says they should sleep in the woods, and that he wants to sleep close to Hermia. This whole 'Ooh, I can't find my aunt's house, we'd better get to sleep' thing is starting to sound a bit suspicious to me. Hermia says 'No, get away, you horny horndog!' (That's a direct quote.) So they sleep far apart from each other. So after Puck juices Titania, he comes looking for the Athenian that Oberon wants him to put the juice on, and he comes across Hermia and Lysander. Since they're sleeping far apart, and he has no idea what Demetrius looks like, he figures this is the guy, and the girl who wants him. So he juices Lysander's eyelids. I think you can see where this is going. Helena's still pursuing Demetrius through the woods. It's turning into a Scooby Doo chase. He's still hurling abuse at her over his shoulder. She gets tired from all this running and unrequited love and she sees Lysander sleeping - and wakes him up! And now he falls in love with Helena, because he's had the special eyelid juice. She doesn't get it at first. She thinks he's just upset because Demetrius is also after Hermia, and she doesn't understand what's going on. She says: Yet Hermia still loves you: then be content. He says: Content with Hermia! No; I do repent The tedious minutes I with her have spent.

Not Hermia but Helena I love: Who will not change a raven for a dove? She replies: Wherefore was I to this keen mockery born? When at your hands did I deserve this scorn? She thinks Lysander's making fun of her, and pretending to like her just to add to her misery. So she runs away. He follows her, and Hermia wakes up and there's no Lysander nearby.

Act III: The Ass Head


It's time for the Rude Mechanicals' rehearsal. We know we're in for a good time because they're the best people in the play. They're worrying that the ladies might be scared or offended by the fact that Pyramus kills himself. Bottom thinks he has the solution: he says they should write a prologue explaining that it's all pretend, like when you take a five-year-old to the movies. (This five-year-old got so scared she had to leave the Muppet Treasure Island.) They're also worried about the lion for the same reason. Bottom thinks the guy playing the lion should introduce himself and say he's not really a lion before he does any roaring. I'm sure they had the special effects to really fool those ladies into being terrified. Then they turn to the practical concerns of the production. There has to be moonlight, and there has to be a wall. So they get some dudes to play those things - to 'present wall' and 'present moonlight'. (Holding fingers up to symbolize a wall with a small crack) 'Let him hold his fingers thus, and through that cranny shall Pyramus and Thisbe whisper'. They start to rehearse in earnest. Puck turns up and watches, thinks the whole thing is hilarious and awful, and he decides that it will be even more hilarious if he turns Bottom's head into the head of an ass. (Ass just means donkey, chill out. As a friend explained to me long ago, 'If it's in the Bible it's not a swear.' Actually, his seven-year-old brother then yelled out 'JACKASS!' Really loud.) So Bottom comes back onstage and suddenly he's got an ass-head - not to be confused with a butt-chin and all of his friends run away. You might remember that a long, long time ago Puck put the flower juice on Titania's eyes. She wakes up, right now at this perfect moment, and sees ass-headed Bottom. She falls in love with him and leads him off to her bower, which is a fairy bedroom in the forest, for some quality alone-time. Meanwhile, Hermia's stalking around looking for Lysander. She runs into Demetrius, who's upset that she still loves Lysander best even though he's abandoned her. He says, 'Screw this, I'm going to sleep.' (Another direct quote.) These people should figure out that going to sleep in the forest is a terrible plan, right? Things always happen that are out of their control when they do this. So Puck swoops in and juices Demetrius' eyelids, thinking that he's got the right guy this time. Helena's still running away from Lysander. (You feel like they could just not text each other like civilized people when they don't like each other.)

The noise of their fighting wakes up Demetrius, who now falls in love with Helena as soon as he sees her, because he's got the juice. It would be funnier if he fell in love with Lysander, but I guess it's not that kind of play. Lysander and Demetrius fight over who loves her the most. Helena still thinks they're all making fun of her. Hermia turns up and is horrified that Lysander loves Helena. Helena thinks Hermia's in on the joke, and they all start to have a big fight. Puck runs in and distracts them all by calling out names and mimicking their voices and confuses and separates them all. They all get lost and they all fall asleep again. They're like those people who can sleep on planes even when there are howling babies, except you know those people are on Xanax. I don't know what these guys' excuse is. Puck juices Lysander's eyelids, hoping to get him back in love with Hermia, and then we're in Act IV.

Act IV: Breaking the Spell


Titania's braiding Bottom's ass-head-hair and generally lavishing love upon him. Oberon wanders in and makes fun of her then tells her he'll lift the spell if she'll give him that Indian kid. So she gives him back and wakes up with ass-headed Bottom, and is totally disgusted and horrified. Puck changes Bottom's head back, and now it's time for Theseus' wedding! Wandering around, they find the sleeping Athenian kids, and everything's all sorted out now, because Puck finally juiced all the right eyelids. Everything's fine. They're all like, 'We had the strangest dreams - and you, and you and you were there!' So now that the love-problems are all resolved, Theseus says 'Great, this is fantastic. Come to the wedding feast and we'll all get married today.'

Act V: The Rude Mechanicals' Play


And now it's the moment we've all been waiting for! The wedding feast is over, and it's time for the Rude Mechanicals to put on their play. Theseus' assistant warns them that it will be awful, but he wants to see it anyway. Kind of like a so-bad-it'sgood type of thing. Basically, the plot of this play-within-a-play is that Pyramus and Thisbe can't meet and have talk to each other through a wall, but they love each other. Then Pyramus thinks she's been eaten by a lion and kills himself. Then Thisbe kills herself when she finds Pyramus dead. Kind of like Romeo and Juliet. But the play is so god-awful that Theseus et al. snark all through it, like those two old-man Muppets who heckle everything: 'What was that?' 'It's called the medium sketch.' 'The medium sketch?' 'Yeah, it wasn't rare, and it certainly wasn't well done! BWAHAHAHAHAHA!' That's what's going on during this whole thing. Then it's over, the Rude Mechanicals do a little dance, and everyone goes to sleep again.

And Puck (or 'Robin Goodfellow') gives the final word, encouraging the audience to think it was all like a dream (just like the people in the play felt about their time in the woods!) If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but slumber'd here While these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, Gentles, do not reprehend: If you pardon, we will mend: And, as I am an honest Puck, If we have unearned luck Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue, We will make amends 'ere long; Else the Puck a liar call; So, good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, And Robin shall restore amends. Basically he's reminding everyone that this was a play, and that if anything bothered you, 'if we shadows have offended,' you can think of it just like a dream and forget about it. It didn't really happen. It's interesting in the context of the play-within-a-play that the Mechanicals put on. They too are concerned about not offending - they're worried that people will think the lion was real or that Pyramus dying was real. And you can see in these parallels that A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that's really conscious of itself as a play. People fall in and out of love with each other all the time in Shakespeare plays. It's a common occurrence. Twelfth Night is a great example - there's lots of gender-bending going on there. But in this one it's the fairies' direct meddling, literally determining who loves who by putting magic juice on their eyelids, that seems like a metaphor for the playwright's arbitrary deciding who loves each other. He can change it - it's magic and the characters are totally unable to fight it. It seems like Shakespeare is saying something about the nature of love in plays. So not only is A Midsummer Night's Dream hilarious, it's also thought-provoking. Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius are at the fairies' mercy in their love quadrangle. Oberon and Titania have their own thing going on that ends up affecting them. The Rude Mechanicals give a metaphor for the whole situation by putting on a play of their own!

Themes and Characters in Twelfth Night


So, we're talking about Twelfth Night, which is a Shakespeare comedy. It's actually pretty funny. Some of Shakespeare's comedies meh. Twelfth Night is pretty funny; I enjoy it. It's got cross-dressing, drunk

people, practical jokes - it's really got it all. It's been adapted and used in lots of modern things, including the wonderful adaptation called She's the Man, starring Amanda Bynes, in which she dresses up as her twin brother in order to play soccer. It's also referenced in Shakespeare in Love - Gwyneth Paltrow's character's name is Viola, and it's implied that she's the inspiration for the main character in Twelfth Night, whose name is also Viola, and who also dresses up as a guy. There are a lot of modern adaptations based on it. Women dressing up as men is actually one of Shakspeare's favorite comedy tropes. It comes up over and over again: Portia in Merchant of Venice does it, Rosalind in As You Like It does it. It's especially weird when you remember that women actually weren't allowed on the stage, so what you really had is men who are dressing up as women who are dressing up as men, which is a very strange thing to have onstage - it creates all sorts of weird dynamics that you wouldn't otherwise have. So, I've talked a lot of about cross-dressing. Other things happen in the play, but first, we should go over the main characters so you can have a sense of who's who in Twelfth Night. We've got Viola, a woman who gets shipwrecked while traveling with her twin brother, Sebastian, and she's pretty sure that he's dead. She thinks she might be the only survivor of the shipwreck. We've got Orsino, who is the Duke of Illyria, which is the country where Viola washes up; he is in love with Olivia, who is a noblewoman who is in mourning because her brother just died. She is just not really into being wooed at all, and she doesn't want anything to do with Orsino. Malvolio is Olivia's servant. He's kind of pompous and superior - no fun at all. Then we have Maria, who is a fun-loving lady in waiting to Olivia, and Sir Toby Belch, who is a fun-loving uncle of Olivia's. He's always, always, always drunk. They are fun to hang out with when we get to do that, which is a lot in this play. So, you put all these people together, and you're bound to get something funny, right? We do. That sure happens.

Act I
So, in Act I, right off, we're introduced to Orsino. He's listening to some music and is kind of blathering on about how much he loves Olivia. Some of the blather is actually pretty famous. The opening lines are: 'If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die.' He's hoping that music will over-satisfy his appetite for love and make it so he can't love Olivia anymore because it's so heartbreaking to do so since she wants nothing to do with him. Remember that her brother recently died, so she has to wear a veil of mourning for seven years, and she's not going to marry anybody until she takes it off. It does not sound like a percentage play for Orsino to pursue her, but he just can't give it up, so he keeps trying to get her to marry him. So, as we mentioned before, Viola gets shipwrecked and is rescued and brought to Illyria (if you remember, again, in Shakespeare in Love, that end scene where she walks up on the beach - that's sort of supposed to be this). She was traveling with her twin, Sebastian, but she thinks he's probably dead because nobody else was rescued with her. The captain of the boat that rescued Viola is telling her all about Orsino and Olivia, and Viola thinks, 'hmm I would really like to go and b e a servant in Olivia's house - that would be a fun thing to do.'

The captain tells her that that's probably not a good idea because Olivia doesn't want to meet with strangers because she's so depressed. Instead, Viola decides she's going to dress up as a guy and go be a page, or servant, in Orsino's house. So she does this - this is how the cross-dressing happens - she dresses up as a guy and calls herself Cesario. She ends up, inevitably, falling in love with Orsino, which is not totally OK because she's supposed to be a guy, she's supposed to be a servant. All he wants her to do is go to Olivia's house and deliver these messages of love. It's sort of like befriending the hot guy that you have a huge crush on, but then all he talks about is, 'oh, do you think she likes me' about some other girl. It's kind of depressing, but she does it because she's madly in love with him. Meanwhile, at Olivia's house, we're meeting Maria and Toby Belch, who are really the comic relief in this comedy. They're the funniest ones. We also meet Malvolio, Olivia's humorless steward, which is another kind of servant. Cesario, who is Viola in disguise, turns up with a message from Orsino. Olivia has no interest at all in hearing this message because she's heard like ten billion of them and she does not want anything to do with Orsino, but she gets very interested in hearing a little bit more about Cesario. So she tells him to go back to Orsino and tell him no, but she also says that Cesario should come back and let her know how it went with Orsino. She sends Cesario away and then sends Malviolio after him with a ring that he 'left behind' - but he didn't really leave it behind; it's actually a love token from Olivia to Cesario because she has fallen in love with Viola dressed up as a guy. So, it's nuts because Viola is a woman who is dressed up as a guy, but she's in love with the guy she's a servant for, Orsino, who's in love with Olivia, who's in love with Cesario, who she thinks is a guy but is not really a guy. It's a mess, and we'll see how it all works out.

Act II
We get a little hint as to how it might work out because in the beginning of Act II, Shakespeare writes a little scene to tell us that Sebastian is actually alive - remember, Sebastian is Viola's twin brother. So he washes up and is chatting with this other dude named Antonio, and Sebastian is sure that his sister is dead. Each twin thinks that the other is dead, but now we know that both Sebastian and Viola are alive. Meanwhile, Malvolio is caught up with Cesario and has given him the ring. Viola figures out pretty quickly what's going on and insists that Malvolio take the ring back to Olivia - she knows that it's meant to be a love token for her, and she's really not happy about this. She thinks the whole thing is absurd because, again, Olivia loves her, and she loves Orsino, and Orsino loves Olivia. It's the definition of a love triangle; it's horrible. Viola gets back to Orsino, and he's still moaning about Olivia, but Orsino can also tell that Cesario (Viola) is also feeling a little bit mopey and in love him/herself. He convinces Viola to tell him all about the one that she loves, and she says, 'oh, it's someone who's very much like you, Orsino,' which Orsino takes to mean an older woman, which he finds very funny. But, clearly, it's not - it's actually Orsino. He decides to send Cesario to go talk to Olivia again even though Viola tells him, 'you need to get over this - she's not into you at all.' This time, Orsino gives Cesario a little jewel to take to Olivia. And now, it's time for the real comic relief of the whole play. Toby Belch, Maria and some of their compadres hanging around, drinking and making noise. Fun-hating Malvolio comes down and is like, 'stop, you guys are awful and I hate you. You're having too much fun.' So, they're upset, and they decide to play a trick on Malviolo to get back at him. What they do is have Maria write a note because she can mock Olivia's handwriting pretty well - she's going to write a note that's seemingly from Olivia that's going to suggest that Olivia's actually in love with Malvolio. It's sort of like the ancient-day equivalent of hacking into your friend's Facebook and sending declarations of love to that weird friend-of-a-friend on the math team, or something like that. (I was on the

math team, so love to everyone there.) So they carry out this plan, and at first, they watch Malvolio wander around being a pompous jerk even without reading the letter. He's acting out a fantasy in a scene in which he can tell Toby Belch to stop drinking: Malvolio: Toby approaches; courtesies there to me, Sir Toby Belch: Shall this fellow live? Malvolio: I extend my hand to him thus, quenching my familiar Smile with an austere regard of control, Sir Toby Belch: And does not Toby take you a blow o' the lips then? Malvolio: Saying, 'Cousin Toby, my fortunes having cast me on your niece give me this prerogative of speech,' Sir Toby Belch: What, what? Malvolio: 'You must amend your drunkenness.' Sir Toby Belch: Out, scab! So then, he finds the letter - they left it on the ground - and he makes an even bigger fool of himself. Maria has left a little bit of mystery in the letter. She has Olivia say that she loves MAOI, and Malvolio concludes that this definitely has to do with him. He says: yet, to crush this a little, it would bow to me, for every one of these letters are in my name. It's like if I found something that said ELSH and I concluded that it must be 'Elspeth' - it's just like ugh, no; you're an idiot. But he's convinced that she's in love with him, and he reads on that in order to please her, he should 'be opposite with a kinsman, surly with servants,' and it also says the he should wear 'yellow stockings' and be 'ever cross-gartered,' which essentially means that he should have crisscrosses of garters on his man-tights, which they wore back then. The letter also tells him to smile all the time. It should be clear, but these are things that are calculated to really annoy Olivia. They've put those things in the letter on purpose. She hates yellow, she hates cross-garters and she hates it when Malvolio smiles.

Acts III and IV


Now we're in Act III, and we've got Cesario back at Olivia's delivering yet another message of love from Orsino. We've had in this play alone, so you can imagine how often this guy would do this. It's getting a little creepy. But Olivia is actually going to start to out-creep Orsino by cutting Cesario off in the middle of this message and saying that she really loves him. Cesario/Viola tries to let her down gently and can't really say, 'I'm a woman,' but kind of comes as close as she can to saying that. But still, Olivia really wants him to come back and see her again. Now, things start to get really crazy because one of Toby's friends who has been hanging around this whole time, his name is Sir Andrew, is also in love with Olivia. This woman must really be something because it seems like everyone falls in love with her. Now that he knows that she likes Cesario, Sir Andrew is going to challenge Cesario to a duel. Sir Andrew is one of Sir Toby's friends, so he's totally absurd and is

probably not really going to be dangerous, but he's going to do it. Sir Toby encourages it because he thinks it's going to be hilarious. Then, Olivia runs into yellow-stockinged, cross-gartered Malviolio and thinks he's actually genuinely insane. She thinks he's gone around the bend. The rest of the servants take this opportunity to lock him in a dark room (because that was apparently what you did to insane people back then), and now their revenge on him is totally complete. Everyone thinks he's nuts and he's locked in the cellar. It's kind of mean, actually. They might have gone a little too far. At this point, Cesario comes back and he runs into Sir Andrew, who challenges him to the duel. Now, if you'll remember that throwaway scene that Shakespeare put in to tell us that Sebastian is still alive, he had him talking to this dude named Antonio. Antonio suddenly turns up, and he thinks that he's recognized Sebastian because he sees Cesario (aka Viola, who's Sebastian's twin), and he offers to fight in her place. But then, he gets arrested. Some people turn up and arrest him for we don't know what. He gets carted away, and he's yelling out for Viola to pay his bail, but she has no idea who this guy is, so she's like, 'no, I'm not going to pay your bail. I don't know who you are!' Antonio feels totally betrayed because he doesn't understand why Sebastian won't pay his bail. It's a huge mess. So Viola has no idea who this guy is, but she's heartened by the mention of a guy named Sebastian who she thinks might be her twin. She starts to think that maybe he's alive. Of course, he is alive, and now he comes by Olivia's house and is immediately brought into the fight against Sir Andrew, who thinks that he's Viola. Sebastian is pretty confused that everybody seems to know him because he doesn't know any of them. Then Olivia comes out and brings him into the house, and he's really confused. He has no idea who she is, but she's hot, so he'll go with it. They head off to get married. She's like, 'Come on, Cesario, let's get married,' and Sebastian's like, 'OK, I'll do that. No problem.'

Act V
That brings us into Act V. Orsino and Viola head off to Olivia's house, which seems to be where the action is today. Olivia runs into them and thinks that Viola is Sebastian, who she's just gotten married to. Orsino's upset because Olivia's like, 'we're married,' and Orsino's like, 'come on dude, my servant - why did you marry the woman I love?' Olivia's upset because Cesario is saying, 'I actually love Orsino,' but she thinks that Cesario/Viola is the guy that she just married. Viola is freaking out because she does not understand what's going on. Then Sebastian turns up and they figure out what it all was. Viola can finally reveal that she's actually a woman; Olivia and Sebastian are married, which Olivia is totally fine with because she gets to marry someone who looks like Viola/Cesario, and then Orsonio now wants to marry Viola. So it's a big happy ending for everybody. It's all fine.

Intro: Hamlet
So, we're talking about Hamlet. The first version of Hamlet was published in 1603. To be or not to be is probably one of the most famous quotes from anything, ever. It's kind of a universal reference by this point. You can see this if you go, like I did, and try to Google the phrase with any verb put in for 'to be'. I tried 'to see or not to see'. I got a bunch of scientific papers about vision (I guess this shows that scientists aren't immune to clichs). I also tried 'to pee or not to pee' (because I was feeling like a 5-year old), and I got a children's book about going to the bathroom and also an article about how Lady Gaga uses the bathroom when she's in her fancy costumes. So, it's a phrase that's endlessly malleable and endlessly interpretable it's sort of a metaphor for Hamlet the play! Hamlet is like that too (on a much larger scale).

It's referenced in everything. If you've ever seen someone holding a skull and talking to it - that's Hamlet. If you've ever yelled at someone 'get thee to a nunnery' - that's Hamlet. If you've ever seen The Lion King that's Hamlet. It's all over the place. So, we're going to go over what happens, who's who and a blow-by-blow of major events. Spoiler alert: this is one of those fun ones where everybody dies at the end! We're also going to act out some of the most famous scenes. We're going to take it to the stage, so it's going to be really fun. We're going to talk about one of the major themes of the play: action vs. inaction, which is the common diagnosis and root of Hamlet's problem. We're going to dig in and figure out why it's had such lasting impact. Finally, we'll put that famous 'to be or not to be' phrase in context so you can make fun of it correctly! Don't go with 'to pee or not to pee'- go with something a little more informed.

Characters
As for characters, who do we have? We have: Hamlet: Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play, and Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest part. He's kind of the hero of this story. He's the Prince of Denmark. Gertrude: Hamlet's mother and she's the Queen of Denmark. Her husband, who was Hamlet's father, has recently died, and Gertrude has quickly married his brother. Claudius: He was Hamlet's uncle, who is now the new king of Denmark. Brother of the old king, now married to Gertrude. Polonius: The advisor to the king. He's also kind of up in everyone's business. Ophelia: Polonius's daughter and kind of Hamlet's love interest. Laertes: He's Polonius's son, Ophelia's brother. Horatio: He's Hamlet's buddy. So, what do they do? Here's the plot:

Act 1: Hamlet Returns Home


Hamlet is your typical troubled college student. He's back from university to Elsinore Castle (it's where they all live). Things have really gone to hell in a hand basket. He's got problems. He's upset about the whole dad-dying-mom-marrying-uncle situation. Ophelia might be in love with him, but her family is Polonius and Laertes. They're telling her to watch out because Hamlet was way too high-born to take her seriously. If that weren't enough, there's a ghost that looks like Hamlet's father who's wandering around Elsinore. When Hamlet goes and talks to the Ghost, the ghost (who's Hamlet's father) says he was murdered by Claudius. Let's take it to the stage! I am thy father's spirit, doom'd for a certain term to walk the night, and for the day confined to fast in fires, till the foul crimes done in my days of nature are burnt and purged away.

List, list, O list! If thou didst ever thy dear father love-Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. Ghost explains that Claudius did it, and that's how the plot is kicked off. Also, it's how indecision is going to rear its ugly head because Hamlet says he's going to avenge his father, but he can't quite pull the trigger on it. He keeps thinking he just needs to really prove that Claudius is guilty or find the right time; he just can't do it. In this vein, he's going to pretend to be crazy so he can observe everyone without making them suspicious. It's not exactly how I would do it, but I guess it makes sense to Hamlet, so that's what he's going to do.

Act II: Hamlet Pretends He's Crazy


When Act II opens, he's doing a magnificent job of pretending to be crazy. He upsets Ophelia, who complains to her dad. He goes and confirms that Hamlet's nuts. Then, it's kind of interesting, some traveling players come to put on a show. It's basically like a traveling band, essentially, but that puts on a play instead of a show. He gets the idea that he's going to have them put on a show that will make Claudius feel so guilty about what he's done that he'll be able to see his reaction and tell that he's guilty. So, it's kind of like if you got a band to play the song that you associated with a guy you have crush on and then you're going to watch his face for a reaction. (A pro tip is that this does not work in real life!) But Hamlet thinks this is going to work brilliantly for him, and he says 'The play's the thing / Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.' He needs to figure out for sure that Claudius is guilty. He's going to use the play. The play is the thing that he's going to use to do that.

Act III: To Be or Not To Be


In Act III, the play is getting ready to be put, on and it's time for that famous 'to be or not to be' speech! We're there! So, this is before they're all going to go and watch this play, and Hamlet is characteristically worrying about stuff. This speech is thought to be mainly Hamlet deciding whether or not to kill himself, honestly - whether he should 'be', or 'not be'. This indecision thing is really coming up again and again, here. He argues that anyone would kill themselves if they knew for sure that everything after death was going to be okay and that it's not being sure of that that stops us. So, we're going to go through the speech and explain a bit of what's going on. To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? So, he's basically saying: is it better to put up with life even when it sucks, or to take action and kill yourself and 'end them' - end the troubles, end the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. And he goes on:

To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. He's reinforcing here how good it would be to die - no more heart-ache, no more thousand natural shocks. It would be pretty good, he's saying. Then he goes on: To die; to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come So, the rub is that no one knows what's going to happen during the sleep of death. The dreams which here are referring to some sort of afterlife, they might be worse than what Hamlet is dealing with now. This makes him worry about it. And he goes on, and he's wondering: Who would bear the whips and scorns of time When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? Basically, who would go on if you're quietus make (kill yourself) with a bare bodkin (a sword)? Then, he elaborates on this a little bit: Who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all What he's saying is who would continue to carry the fardels (burdens) in their life, unless they were afraid of what might happen when they die. So, thinking makes you unable to end your life because even if it's awful, you don't know what comes next and you worry about it. So, conscience (thinking) makes cowards of us all. Hamlet, as we've seen, is super into thinking about stuff. He wants to be sure before he does anything. And, it's the longest Shakespeare part - there are a lot of lines, and there's a lot of thinking. If Hamlet just listened to the Ghost, he'd be golden; he'd be fine. But he doesn't, he has to think about it. I guess the moral of Hamlet is: listen to the ghost! Maybe? No. But remember every time you've had to make

a big decision, you've had to think about it a lot, and it can be paralyzing trying to work through all of the options. It makes you unable to do anything. At least that's what happens to Hamlet. After he gives this long speech, Ophelia turns up. Hamlet's super mean to her and this is when he says 'get thee to a nunnery', which is not nice. You know how if a guy doesn't call, he's not that into you? If a guy says 'get thee to a nunnery', he's probably not that into you. She just thinks that he's insane. He's not - he's just not that into you! After this, they all go down to the play. They're putting on a thing called The Murder of Gonzago in an effort to catch the conscience of Claudius. Weirdly, it works! Claudius freaks out and runs away. Hamlet's going to go up and see his mom and talk about this, and he encounters Claudius praying and saying: 'O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven.' This is basically a confession; he's saying he's done this and Hamlet's listening to it. Hamlet thinks about killing him right then, but he's kind of worried because if he kills him while he's praying, maybe he'll go to heaven. Excuses, excuses - come on, just do it! But he doesn't. Instead, he goes up to talk to his mom. Polonius is Ophelia's dad, and he's been hanging out with Gertrude talking about stuff. When Hamlet is coming up the stairs, Polonius goes to hide behind a curtain/tapestry. Hamlet barges in, he's kind of guns blazing, accusing Gertrude of being a disgusting whore for marrying Claudius. Remember, that's her husband's brother. She's freaking out, and Polonius makes this noise from behind the curtain. Hamlet thinks it's Claudius back there watching him, so he goes and he stabs through the curtain. He stabs Polonius and he kills him, which is a mistake! At that point, the Ghost comes back and reassures Hamlet to keep on his course. Gertrude doesn't see the ghost, and that raises the question: is Hamlet crazy, is he just pretending to be crazy, is the ghost really only appearing to him? Lots of questions, and we don't totally know what's going on.

Act IV: Claudius Sends Hamlet to England


So, in Act IV things start to move pretty quickly now. Gertrude tells Claudius what happened. That's not cool.

Claudius decides he's going to send Hamlet off to England with some old acquaintances whose names are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (which are the best names ever). Little does Hamlet know, he's been sent along with orders that he will be killed when he gets to England. So, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are carrying these orders. So, Hamlet goes away.
Hamlet is sent to England to be killed, but the plot fails.

Ophelia's super torn up about Hamlet leaving and going insane and all that stuff, and she starts to go

crazy. Also, her dad being dead doesn't help. And her brother Laertes is really not happy. Again, because his sister's crazy and his dad's dead, he wants revenge on Hamlet.

Lucky for him, Hamlet comes back. No one really knows why, Claudius's plot must have failed. Turns out that Hamlet convinced the people in England to kill Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead of him. Now he's on his way home. Claudius makes a new plot with Laertes to kill Hamlet, basically. They're going to have a duel, and Laertes will have a poisoned sword. If that doesn't work, they're going to have a poisoned cup of wine that they'll offer to Hamlet, if Hamlet ends up winning. So, he'll definitely be dead by the end of the duel is the plan. At the end of that act, they find out that Ophelia has killed herself. This does not do anything to make Laertes feel more charitable toward Hamlet.

Act V: Gravedigger Scene & Duel


So, Act V - we are almost there, this is a very long play. This is the famous gravedigger scene. There are gravediggers digging Ophelia's grave - remember she killed herself - and Hamlet's hanging out with them. They dig up a skull. Let's take it to the stage! Hamlet: Whose was it? Gravedigger: A whoreson mad fellow's it was. Whose do you think it was? Hamlet: Nay, I know not. Gravedigger: A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! A' poured a Flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull, Sir, was Yorick's skull, the king's jester. Hamlet: This? Gravedigger: E'en that. Hamlet: Let me see. Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. You can see that Hamlet is upset. This dovetails nicely through the earlier musings on death. This is a real obvious something-after-death that's horrifying because someone that Hamlet knew could be reduced to this anonymous skull is deeply upsetting to him. To us, I would imagine, too. That's what happens immediately before the big duel scene. That's when everyone is about to die.

The duel starts and Hamlet's winning, so he's offered the wine. But he's smart, so he says no. Unfortunately, Gertrude drinks it because she doesn't know about it. So, the clock is ticking on body number one - the clock is ticking on Gertrude. The duel continues and Laertes actually ends up scratching Hamlet a bit with the poisoned sword. Hamlet gets a hold of the sword and scratches Laertes with it. Now, the clock is ticking on bodies two and three. The queen suddenly realizes that she's been poisoned and she dies. Body number one is down.

Laertes tells Hamlet that they're both going to die because the sword is poisoned. Hamlet's justifiably upset about this, and this is finally what gets him able to take action. He goes and stabs Claudius with the poison sword and he makes him drink the wine - just to be sure he's going to die. So body number four - that's Claudius - is down. Then Laertes dies from the poison. Then Hamlet tells Horatio that even though everybody is dying,
Nearly every character dies by the final scene of the play.

Horatio shouldn't kill himself because someone needs to tell the story. Then, Hamlet dies. Really, almost everybody dies. That's the end of the play.

The Tragedy of Othello


If you've seen Aladdin, which I hope you have, you probably remember the parrot 'Iago.' If you haven't seen Aladdin, go away right now and watch it because you haven't had a proper childhood yet. (It's on YouTube in installments last time I checked, but you didn't hear that from me...) So now you've seen Aladdin, you know that Iago is the parrot belonging to the evil grand vizier Jafar. But what you might not know is that Iago isn't just a wise-cracking evil parrot sidekick with Gilbert Gottfried's voice. The name comes from (I think this may be a record for how far I've gotten into a video without actually talking about the actual topic of the video) Othello! Iago comes from Othello. He's the bad guy - the main antagonist in this play. Othello is the good guy, unlike some of Shakespeare's other plays where the bad guy is the title, like Macbeth or Richard III. And none of them are parrots. (I suppose you could do a production in which some of them are parrots... I've seen more absurd Shakespeare productions than that, but no one's done it yet!) The full title of Othello is The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. What's a Moor, you might ask? When I was little, I thought that it just referred to that hilly, rugged climate that people run around in England when they feel desperate - a moor, a marsh kind of land. But it's also a term that, at least in Shakespeare's time, referred to people who were from North Africa. So Othello is a 'Moor,' again, someone from North Africa. It's spelled m-o-o-r, but it's pronounced 'more' like, 'more money, more problems.' A lot of Shakespeare's plays are set in England, so they probably won't have a ton of racial diversity. You probably haven't seen many people of other races in Shakespeare so far, but the areas around the Mediterranean, which is where Venice is (remember, he's the Moor of Venice), actually had a lot more Moors because Italy and North Africa are pretty close to each other.

So while a Moor in Venice is not an unheard of thing - there definitely were some - it's still important enough that Shakespeare includes that in the title of the play. He wants to indicate Othello's ethnicity right off the bat. Macbeth isn't called The Tragedy of Macbeth, the Crazy Scotsman in the same way that this is The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. We'll get into what happens, and how significant Othello's ethnicity ends up being, and what Iago does that's so awful, in a second. First we're going to introduce the cast of characters.

Characters
OTHELLO: the Moor who's a Venetian general in the army. IAGO: who is technically called an ensign (basically a rank of soldier) and he serves under Othello. DESDEMONA: who is Othello's new wife. EMILIA: who is Iago's wife and Desdemona's servant. CASSIO: who is Othello's lieutenant who he ends up promoting over Iago, which upsets Iago as you can imagine. We'll introduce others as they come along, but these are the most important ones. As you can tell by the short list of important characters, it's going to be more of an intimate drama than a political state intrigue kind of thing.

Act I
So what happens? Why is Iago such a bad dude? He hates Othello because Othello promoted Cassio instead of Iago. He's also convinced (maybe - this is a little unclear if he really believes this) that Othello might be sleeping with his wife Emilia... maybe. He's sort of cagey about whether he really thinks this. Iago's motivations have been up for debate for quite a while. Samuel Coleridge, who's a Romantic poet (you might have heard of him), famously called Iago the 'motiveless malignity.' What he meant by this was basically that Iago's ostensible motivations - the reasons he says he's trying to destroy Othello - don't really hold up. Coleridge saw them more as justifications than motivations. His point is that Iago's hatred seems to just be there, and then there have to be these reasons to back it up. This is just his take on it, but it's an interesting one to keep in mind as we go through the play. Iago sees his opportunity to ruin Othello's life when he finds out that he has eloped with Desdemona. There's this guy named Roderigo who was totally into Desdemona. He's upset when he finds out that Othello snagged her, and he complains to Iago about it. He's like, 'He took my girl!' Iago promises he's going to go tell on Othello to Desdemona's dad, who's a Venetian senator. He's kind of gross about it when he tells him - I don't think any father likes to hear that his daughter is off 'making the beast with two backs,' which is how Iago very tastefully puts it. Meanwhile, Othello's being called in to see the Duke of Venice to deal with a potential military problem out in Cyprus. Desdemona's dad crashes the meeting, gets really upset, and calls Othello a thief. He basically says that she couldn't fall in love with him because she's afraid of Othello, which in general seems to be a reference to Othello's race and general Other-ness that we have gotten a sense of already in the play. But the Duke likes Othello and takes his side. And Desdemona comes forward and says she married him freely, not corrupted by 'spells and medicines' as her father accuses Othello of doing. She says she fell in love with him because of his crazy life story. He told her how he got to where he is, and she was like, 'Oh, that's amazing,' and then she felt attracted to him.

So that's settled. The Duke is satisfied with this and decides to send Othello to Cyprus and is going to send Desdemona with him because she doesn't want to have to go stay at her dad's house now that all this stuff has gone down. So that's Act I.

Act II
They all go off to Cyprus, but Desdemona's actually traveling on a different ship, and she gets there early. She goes off to chat with Cassio - remember, he's one of Othello's lieutenants who's been promoted above Iago - and Iago sees that Cassio takes her hand as they walk off. He's like, 'Ding, ding, ding! Idea! I know how to ruin Othello.' He's going to spread the rumor that Desdemona is sleeping with Cassio. He's very opportunistic in his evilness. He didn't have this plan in his mind - he just thought, 'Oh, sure. Great! I'll use this.' Othello gets there, and they have a big party to celebrate their military successes and also to celebrate the marriage because they haven't gotten a chance to do that yet. The happy couple sneak away to celebrate in their own fashion ('beast with two backs' again, I suppose). And Iago starts to put his plan into action. Othello had told Cassio to be on guard duty at the party - bouncer or something like that - and not to get drunk. 'Just don't get drunk, Cassio. Don't do it.' So of course, this is where Iago starts. He gets Cassio super drunk. He gets all disorderly. Cassio's running around chasing people and being obnoxious, and he actually ends up stabbing someone - one of his fellow military people. Our office holiday party gets a little out of control sometimes, but no one ever stabs anybody. This is clearly on a different level of craziness, partying it up in Venice. This means Othello has to leave the sexytimes and come down and deal with the situation. He fires Cassio immediately after hearing the story from Iago. Iago then convinces Cassio that Cassio should appeal to Desdemona, since Desdemona's got Othello wrapped around her little finger, which might seem like a nice suggestion from Iago, but Iago basically turns to the audience and says, 'Nope, it's not nice. I'm setting him up to have Othello think that he's sleeping with his wife.' Because he's going to spend more time with Desdemona, begging her to appeal to Othello to get him back into his service.

Act III
We've got Cassio desperately trying to win Othello's favor again. He decides to send musicians to play under his window, which is kind of the ancient-day equivalent of sending an email with a funny YouTube video and going, 'We good now?' They're not good - Othello sends the musicians away. To be fair, it's probably pretty irritating. Like those singing a cappella valentines that people send each other in high school. So Cassio goes to talk to Iago's wife, Emilia (who, remember, is Desdemona's servant), so he can eventually talk to Desdemona. Emilia informs him that they've all been talking about him, and Othello really doesn't think he can reinstate him because the guy he stabbed is a little too popular, and they might lose favor with the people on Cyprus. Emilia does work it out, though, so they can all talk, and Desdemona tells Cassio that she's going to do everything she can. But while they're chatting, Othello and Iago enter the room. Cassio scuttles away guiltily because, again, he's feeling a little embarrassed, having stabbed somebody when he was drunk. Othello asks Iago if that was Cassio, and Iago says, 'What, that guilty-looking guy? No way!' And Iago begins his plan in earnest now. He starts insinuating that the affair is happening. We're going to take this to the stage and hear their conversation and how really awesome Iago is at being a manipulative bad guy.

OTHELLO: What dost thou say, Iago? IAGO: Did Michael Cassio, when you woo'd my lady, Know of your love? OTHELLO: He did, from first to last: why dost thou ask? IAGO: But for a satisfaction of my thought; No further harm. OTHELLO: Why of thy thought, Iago? IAGO: I did not think he had been acquainted with her. OTHELLO: O, yes; and went between us very oft. IAGO: Indeed! OTHELLO: Indeed! Ay, indeed: discern'st thou aught in that? Is he not honest? IAGO: Honest, my lord! OTHELLO: Honest! Ay, honest. IAGO: My lord, for aught I know. OTHELLO: What dost thou think? IAGO: Think, my lord! OTHELLO: Think, my lord! By heaven, he echoes me, As if there were some monster in his thought Too hideous to be shown. So basically Iago's implying that Desdemona is cheating on Othello. He's kind of saying, 'Oh, yeah. She knew Cassio? Oh, she did? Oh, okay...' He's asking all these questions and then getting Othello to admit that they knew each other well and all this stuff. Then has the nerve to warn Othello about being jealous. IAGO: O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock The meat it feeds on; 'Green-eyed monster'! That's where it comes from - the phrase about what jealousy is comes from Othello. Fun fact. Of course Othello thinks her alleged unfaithfulness is all his fault because he's not young enough or witty enough or white enough, honestly. He says: OTHELLO: Haply, for I am black And have not those soft parts of conversation That chamberers have, or for I am declined Into the vale of years,--yet that's not much-She's gone. I am abused; and my relief Must be to loathe her. O curse of marriage, That we can call these delicate creatures ours, And not their appetites! So basically, he's decided that she's probably cheated on him and thinks that's just a horrible condition of marriage - that's she's his - these delicate creatures are ours (men's, is what he's saying) - but not really

his because she can still want to sleep with guys who aren't him. The whole owning her thing is a little creepy. Then Desdemona comes back, and there's a big kerfuffle in which she loses a handkerchief. And Emilia snaps it up because Iago's been telling her to get a hold of it. This can't be good. Immediately we see where this is going. Othello starts demanding that Iago get him proof that Desdemona is cheating on him. Iago's gotten his wife Emilia to pick up the handkerchief. So Iago says, 'I might be able to find something...' And then Othello goes and he asks Desdemona, 'Where is your handkerchief?', which was apparently a gift from Othello, we find out, and a gift with some significance - it's supposed to make your wife be faithful to you. So it's starting to look worse and worse!

Act IV
You probably can guess where this ends up. Iago plants the handkerchief with Cassio, and Othello sees it. He becomes totally enraged. He wants to kill both Cassio and Desdemona. Iago helpfully suggests that he should strangle her on their marriage bed because that would be symbolic and give him some cathartic emotional release. And he says that he'll take care of Cassio, so he's just being a stand-up friend, helping him kill everybody. Othello gets in a series of fights with Desdemona and accuses her of being a whore. He's generally freaking out. He sort of had been known for being a cool cucumber, so this is really out of character for him. Desperately, Desdemona says, 'Emilia, put the wedding sheets on the bed.' It's unclear actually if maybe they haven't been able to consummate yet because they keep getting interrupted by stuff, so maybe that's what this is about. And Desdemona asks Iago what's going on, and of course Iago plays innocent, and says, 'Othello must have been deceived by someone.' Remember Roderigo, the guy who was madly in love with Desdemona at the very beginning, who complained to Iago in the first place? Iago convinces Roderigo to kill Cassio, just to kind of get him in on the plan.

Act V
Roderigo stabs Cassio, but of course he misses - he only gets him in the leg. Othello sees Cassio's wounds and thinks maybe he might be dead and thinks that Iago has done his part, so he starts to think that he better get going with his part of the plan. He goes up to his bedroom where Desdemona is. He wakes her up with a cheerful 'prepare to die,' literally. She continues to deny her guilt - 'I didn't cheat on you!' - but he doesn't believe her. At this point, it's not even about evidence anymore. It's about the fact that he can't ever be sure that she didn't do it. This has been so planted in his brain that whatever she could say, he'd always think that she was guilty. So he smothers her in her bed and she begs for mercy. He proudly tells Emilia this when she comes into the room. She informs him that Cassio actually isn't dead. Desdemona yells out that she's been murdered (apparently, not yet!), but then says, 'No, I actually killed myself.' And then Emilia says enough about Iago and his involvement that Othello starts to figure out what's been going on. Now he's feeling really regretful. He collapses onto the bed with the dead Desdemona. His conviction in Desdemona's guilt is finally broken when Emilia explains what happened with the handkerchief - about how she was told to steal it and plant it with Cassio. Now Iago comes into the room. He stabs Emilia. So Othello's hanging out with two dead ladies. Everyone goes and chases Iago. They

catch him and bring him back. Othello stabs him. They find a letter in his pocket that explains the whole plot. The other men are preparing to bring Othello to Venice for justice because, you know, he killed his wife. And then he stabs himself and falls into bed with Desdemona. And that's the end. Oh, Iago gets executed, but that's really the end of the play.

Themes
Othello is numbered among one of the four 'Great Tragedies' alongside Hamlet, King Lear, and Macbeth. It's by far the most romantically oriented of the four. Hamlet's love interest is Ophelia. She's kind of incidental - she doesn't really matter. Othello is a tragedy of interpersonal relationships gone horribly wrong. An interesting fact about the play is that even though Othello is the title character, Iago actually has more lines than Othello does in the play. This seems right because when you think about what goes on, Iago schemes and figures out how to get everything to go his way. Othello doesn't actually make any major decisions himself - he's manipulated by Iago. Unlike someone like Hamlet, who rarely acts, but he expends a lot of lines agonizing over things and thinking about stuff, whereas Othello takes other people's council really easily. All of this dovetails interestingly with the issue of race, which is inescapable when talking about Othello - I mentioned it a couple times at bits and pieces of the play where its reference is significant. In all modern productions, Othello is played by a black actor. His ethnicity has always been a bit in dispute because, to Elizabethan people, 'Moor' could just indicate anyone who's a little bit darker than your typical pale Englishman (which are pretty pale and like to take their shirts off whenever it gets warm so you can really see how pale they are). He was actually played by white actors for a while, notably in an embarrassingly blackfaced performance by Laurence Olivier in 1964. I guess people just did that back then. You can YouTube that - it's kind of awful. He makes reference to his own race a few times in the play. He says, 'Haply, I am black.' Others treat him with respect, but it seems to be a respect that comes from his Other-ness. Desdemona falls in love with him because he has such an interesting life story. She thinks he's really great. Her father thinks that she's afraid of him, and therefore couldn't be in love. But it seems like his different-ness is actually fundamental to her love for him and maybe responsible for her father's attitude toward him. Shakespeare makes Othello 'different,' but also really noble (which is a contrast to his character in The Merchant of Venice who's Jewish, named Shylock, who's really stereotypically miserly and a villain), whereas Othello is a sympathetic hero. But, as I mentioned before, Iago has the most lines. Othello's kind of a hero but without agency. It's hard to tease apart what Shakespeare was getting at - how race plays into that, how Iago's manipulations play, and how that's an ethnically tinged interaction. Another thing to reconcile is that Shakespeare wrote this play obviously in a much different racial context than we have today. It's pretty safe to say that Shakespeare's understandings of Moors and Africans was probably quite different than ours. Our context changes the way we see it, and that's another thing to tease apart - how much we should let that do so and how much we should think about what Shakespeare would have seen and thought about as he wrote this.

King Lear

Unlike many of Shakespeare's plays that are about kings, King Lear's actually not a history play. It's based on the story of King Leir. (See what Shakespeare did there? He just changed the spelling and made it his own.) King Leir was sort of a legendary king of the Britons. 'I am Arthur, King of the Britons!' 'You're clapping two coconuts together!' 'No I'm not!' 'Where'd you get coconuts in England?' King Leir was probably not real. He was originally documented by the same guy who kind of popularized Arthurian myths. But that's the kind of world that we're dealing with in King Lear. We're kind of in preRoman Britain, right - so like, Celtic stuff, druids. It's a pretty cool time period - a lot more interesting than one of these boring medieval history plays (in my personal opinion). But if you're expecting something kind of along the lines of the Arthur legends, you might be disappointed because King Lear is really old. In fact, that's kind of the whole point of the play - he's too old to rule and he wants to abdicate. King Lear is kind of a rite of passage - the role - is sort of a rite of passage for famous, grown-old actors, like Ian McKellen (Gandalf in Lord of the Rings), Geoffrey Rush - they both played him on stage. Anthony Hopkins was going to do it in a movie with Keira Knightley which, thankfully, got axed. But that's the kind of actor that likes to play Lear - someone who's kind of old and distinguished. And it's a really challenging part, and it's seen as a sort of culmination of a successful acting career, to play Lear. You can bet your bottom dollar that I will be acting out some crazy old man Lear even though this will not be the culmination of a successful acting career for me!

Characters
So who else is involved in this shindig? What happens? Why do I mention 'daughters' in the title? Clearly maybe Lear's got daughters - he does. So, characters. There's King Lear - he's the titular old man and king, obviously. We've got Goneril who's daughter number one - she is married to the Duke of Albany. We've got Regan who is daughter number two - she is married to the Duke of Cornwall. We've got Cordelia who is daughter number three, and she's the youngest. She's not married... yet. That's kind of a plot point. We've got the Earl of Gloucester and the Earl of Kent, and we've also got a Fool. It's not like a fool-fool - it's really in the sense of a court jester, kind of witty commoners who make fun of their leaders by being really smart, and this one happens to be Lear's nephew.

Act I
So kind of kicking off the action in Act I... I mentioned before, the main problem of the play is basically that Lear is old and tired, and he wants to retire from kinging. Kinging's hard and he doesn't really want to do it anymore. What he decides he's going to do is divide up his kingdom among his three daughters. But since he
Characters in King Lear

can't just do it evenly, apparently (I don't really understand why not), he decides he's going to give

the biggest piece of the kingdom to the daughter that loves him the most. This is clearly against the advice of all parenting books and also incredibly narcissistic. It would be vaguely better if it were just the one that he liked the best. But no, it's the one that likes him the most. So it's still all about him. Anyway. But he doesn't know off the top of his head which daughter loves him most, so he tries to get them to all come and convince him of this. And so Goneril makes her sort of pledge and she says: 'Sir, I love you more than words can wield the matter; Dearer than eye-sight, space, and liberty; Beyond what can be valued, rich or rare;' And yadda yadda yadda, she goes on. Regan kind of tries and she says: 'I profess Myself an enemy to all other joys, Which the most precious square of sense possesses; And find I am alone felicitate In your dear highness' love.' Goneril and Regan are really sucking it up. They're just, you know, 'I am not worthy.' Goneril's saying she loves him more than all kinds of important things, like eye-sight and stuff like that. Regan says she's never actually happy unless she's loving her father. So now it's Cordelia's turn to kind of top this, but she's not nearly as good with words or flattery as her sisters, so she just decides she's going to be honest and frank about stuff. And she says: 'Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave My heart into my mouth: I love your majesty According to my bond; nor more nor less.' This sounds nice, right? But it enrages Lear because even though she was his favorite before, he's like, 'Oh my god, you ungrateful child! You didn't say you love me the most! Disinherited!' And he disinherits her, splits the kingdom between Regan and Goneril - flatterers extraordinaire - and he marries Cordelia off to the King of France (who takes her even though she has no inheritance). She had some other suitor who kind of bounced once he found out about her disinheritance. So the Earl of Kent - who's an old friend of Lear's - he sees all this go down, and he is not happy about it. He voices his dissent - he's like, 'Why did you do that? That's not very nice to Cordelia.' And Lear banishes him from the kingdom, too! He's like, 'Get out!' He's on a roll in terms of exercising kingly power for the last time. We can kind of tell right off the bat here that Lear's got some serious issues with authority and people violating it - he does not like that. And already though we can see that this whole plan and everything is starting to fall apart around his ears, Regan and Goneril are secretly plotting to reduce their father's influence now that they've got control of the land. Lear heads off to Goneril's castle to hang out for a while - kind of like when your grandparents retire and decide to 'visit relatives' (a.k.a. drink all of your bourbon, hog the remote, and then skip town). Anyway, it turns out he's just like that - he's a super obnoxious guest. He's got all these boisterous knights who drink

too much and are loud, and Goneril just can't take it (just kind of like my mom at the end of the weekend), and she tries to get him to leave. And then Kent turns up at the castle, but Kent was supposed to be banished! How is he doing this? He's disguised himself as 'Caius,' a peasant, and he turns up at Goneril's castle. And like in all Shakespeare plays, nobody recognizes the badly-disguised person even though the whole audience can recognize him (because otherwise you wouldn't know who he was). And Lear takes a liking to the disguised Kent and actually accepts him as a servant. So now Kent is back with Lear, but Lear doesn't know who he is. Goneril basically tells all of her servants - she's upset that Lear's knights are being annoying, she's upset that Lear is being annoying - to stop listening to him, which enrages him all over again. Then she demands he sends away his pesky knights, and he storms out in a huff. He's like, 'I'm done with this! I'm going to go hang out with my grateful daughter.'

Act II
He goes to Regan's castle, or he actually goes to the Duke of Gloucester's house, which is where Regan and her husband are hanging out. The Duke of Gloucester has his own domestic problems. He's got two sons, Edmund and Edgar (it's like Shakespeare's just trying to confuse us). Edgar is legitimate. Edmund is not legitimate. Edmund's upset about this, and he plots to discredit Edgar and then hopefully get the Duke of Gloucester's inheritance. He manages to convince Regan and her husband that Edgar is plotting to kill the Duke of Gloucester to get his wealth - there's problems going on in the Duke of Gloucester's house is the point. The disguised Kent turns up with Lear, gets himself thrown in the stocks for fighting, and even still nobody recognizes him. But he somehow manages to get a hold of a letter from Cordelia saying that she's trying to figure out a way to deal with the situation even though she's still in France. She knows things are going wrong, and she's going to try to help out in any way that she can. Edgar takes a cue from Kent and decides to dress up as a beggar because things are not going well and his illegitimate brother has convinced them that Edgar is trying to plot to kill his dad. You should note by this point that part of the reason why this is so confusing is that everything is doubled. We've got two sets of unhappy families - we've got Lear and his three daughters and his problems and the Duke of Gloucester and his two sons and his problems - and we've also got two noblemen now disguised as peasants - we've got Kent and we've got Edgar. Just to sort that out. So, again, Lear turns up at Gloucester's and starts to complain to Regan about how nasty Goneril is to him, only to predictably find out that Regan is on her side and isn't sympathetic to him. Goneril turns up and they both tell him, 'You know what, dad. You're getting old. We're going to govern the country.' He freaks out and runs out onto the heath (which is sort of like a wild landscape - lots of shrubs) and that's the end of Act II.

Act III
Kent (remember - disguised) sends some of Lear's knights, the boisterous knights, to Dover, which is right by France, and hopes they'll be able to get to France, hook up with Cordelia and figure out a way to get out of this whole situation. He runs out after Lear. He finds Lear and the Fool (who's turned up) and convinces them to take shelter, and Lear is clearly starting to go insane, which is one of the reasons why he's such a fun character to play. This is an example of this ramblings:

'Thou think'st 'tis much that this contentious storm Invades us to the skin: so 'tis to thee; But where the greater malady is fix'd, The lesser is scarce felt. Thou'ldst shun a bear; But if thy flight lay toward the raging sea, Thou'ldst meet the bear I' the mouth.' It's kind of nonsense. In their weird hidey-hole place, they find Edgar feigning madness as a peasant person. He calls himself Tom. Lear is weirdly sympathetic toward him, I guess because he is crazy and Tom's pretending to be crazy. Back at the castle, Gloucester is feeling uncomfortable with this whole situation. He wants to be loyal to Lear, worried about potential conflict with France, and he goes out onto the heath after Lear. And he tells Edmund, his illegitimate kid who he thinks is on the up-and-up because he's warned him about Edgar's plot, not to tell anybody. Gloucester finds him in the hovel - now it's getting a little crowded with Lear, Kent, Edgar, the Fool, and Gloucester all hanging out in this little hole. Of course, immediately, Edmund tells everybody that Gloucester went out looking for Lear. He hopes that Gloucester's treachery to Regan and Goneril will result in he, Edmund, inheriting the title right away even though he's illegitimate. So he's really trying to come up in the world. Regan's husband sends him after Gloucester to find evidence of treason. Lear and everyone move to this abandoned farmhouse. Lear is still going crazy. He hosts a mock trial for his daughters, so he gets people to play his daughters. It's a spectacularly weird and crazy scene. Edgar is pretending to be crazy, so he doesn't make any sense. The Fool is speaking in riddles, so he doesn't make any sense. And Lear is crazy, so he also doesn't make any sense. Nobody makes sense, but everyone's calling for evidence and arraigning people. He says of Goneril: 'she kicked the poor king her father', and then he says of Regan: 'Then let them anatomize Regan; see what breeds about her heart. ' He's kind of just going nuts. Regan, Goneril, and their people catch Gloucester. They're not happy. They decide they're going to put out his eyes. So they gouge out his eyes - now he's blind - this is Gloucester, Edmund and Edgar's father. He calls out for Edmund, but Regan tells him that Edmund was the one that told them everything, so he's betrayed. And now, rather like Lear (remember all the doubling in this play), he realizes that he banked on the wrong son because he banked on Edmund and Edmund was treacherous.

Act IV
Edgar leads his blinded father off to Dover. He still hasn't told him that he's Edgar. Goneril goes back home and takes Edmund with her, discovers that her husband actually is not all that supportive of her actions, and kind of wants the French to invade and deal with all of it. And he's horrified that they blinded Gloucester. He's really upset about that. They get a letter saying that Regan's husband has died. Goneril isn't happy with her husband because her husband's not on her side. Regan is now a widow. And now they both start to fight over who gets to sleep with Edmund, which is a weird twist in this whole thing - it's like a weird love triangle now between Regan, Goneril, and Edmund, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Gloucester. And everyone is massing their armies and sending them to fight the French who are going to land probably around Dover.

Meanwhile in Dover, Kent's talking to a guy who's in the French army, who says that Cordelia's in town, so they try to conspire to get Lear and Cordelia to meet up and talk. Meanwhile, Gloucester and disguised Edgar arrive. Gloucester tries to throw himself off the white cliffs, fails. Lear's like totally bonkers by this point, and Cordelia sends her men after him to find him. She talks to her father. He's convinced that she hates him, but she doesn't. She says she forgives him and that she's going to work it all out.

Act V
Like many Shakespearean Act V's, we're having a big battle! We're also having a private, intimate battle over Edmund, as Regan and Goneril don't let the other be alone with him (kind of like when you're at the dance and you don't want to go to the bathroom so the guy you're dancing with doesn't go and dance with somebody else). You'd think this would be the last straw for Goneril's husband, but he's actually decided that he hates the French more than he hates his wife, so he's going to still fight against them. Until Edgar turns up with an incriminating letter in which Goneril asks Edmund to kill her husband. So that's not good. Battle starts. It's going really poorly. Lear and Cordelia are quickly captured. Goneril's husband demands to see them. Edmund lies and doesn't tell him where they are. Goneril's husband then accuses him of treason and challenges him to trial by combat (sort of the medieval equivalent of grade-by-paper-toss - whichever one goes the furthest gets an A). Edgar turns up, and then Edgar and Edmund fight - they do the trial by combat. Edmund's very wounded - he's not totally dead. In the midst of all this, Regan's mysteriously stumbled off the stage, clearly very sick. And then Goneril runs away when Edmund loses the trial by combat. We learn then that Gloucester's dead (and we start to get that sinking feeling that we do at the end of Shakespeare plays as the body count starts to mount and we just wonder how many of these people will end up dead by the end). Because then we find out that Goneril has stabbed herself. Not only has Goneril stabbed herself, she also poisoned Regan beforehand (that's why Regan ran offstage sick because she was poisoned). So now Regan's dead, too. Kent rushes in and is like, 'Where's Lear and Cordelia?' Edmund, who's barely alive, admits that he had Cordelia hanged. And then, right on cue, Lear walks in carrying her body and just sobbing over it, and he kind of dies of sorrow with Cordelia in his arms. And he thinks he might be able to see her breathing there's this awful speech he gives near the end: 'And my poor fool is hang'd! No, no, no life! Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, And thou no breath at all? Thoul't come no more, Never, never, never, never, never! Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips, Look there, look there!' But it's not. She's not breathing. She's just dead. And then he dies. And then the play just ends. That's how it ends. It's the most downer of any Shakespeare play, probably. Everyone just dies.

Themes

Lear's final speech - its repetitions are so wonderful. 'No, no, no life' and those five 'never's. It's really emphasizing the desperation and the madness in his life. His life has culminated in this horrible bloodbath, really. It was going so well beforehand. So this play seems like a melodramatic sob-fest. You might wonder why anyone thinks it's good or worthwhile watching or fun at all. But it's cool because, as I mentioned before, there's this doubling of main plot points. We've got Lear's relationship with his three daughters and we've got Gloucester's relationship with his two sons that are kind of similar. Kent's disguise mirrors Edgar's disguise. All of these relationships are united together by an idea of blindness, or the inability to see what's in front of your face. And physical blindness when Gloucester gets his eyes gouged out. The play is so tight and so cool because this blindness reverberates on a bunch of different levels. Lear is metaphorically blind to Cordelia's honesty, and he's deceived by the rhetorical disguises of Regan and Goneril and their flattering of him. And remember that Goneril said her love was better than 'eye-sight,' was on that list of things that she listed out. Gloucester is metaphorically blind to which of his sons is actually the good son. And then he ends up physically blind and can't see the good son even when he's wandering around with him in Dover. And the disguised people - Edgar and Kent - they aren't even recognized by the people who know them very well. That's maybe typical Shakespeare, but still in this light, it seems to be significant. Except for Cordelia who has been able to see all along. She always knows what's right. Blindness brings down everybody in different ways. So it's not just a sob-fest - it's a sob-fest with a clear and sustained point about how we live and how we shouldn't live and what happens when we make this mistake. And so it sticks in a really cool way. So, that's Lear.

Macbeth: Intro & Characters


We're going to talk about Macbeth. It was written in about 1607, though there's kind of debate about that. It's counted among one of Shakespeare's Four Great Tragedies, and in my humble opinion, Macbeth is really the most awesome Shakespeare play. It's got everything - murder, mayhem, ghosts, blood, witches, kilts - emphasis on the kilts (unless you watch the 2006 movie adaptation, which is set in modern-day Australia, which is very disappointing). If you want to keep something in mind as we go through the plot, Macbeth is ultimately a fable about the perils of ambition - a really key word in Macbeth. And it's creepy, so much that there's a superstition about saying 'Macbeth' out loud in a theater. It's considered bad luck. There are all sorts of legends about really ill-fated performances, actors dying, sets falling apart and theaters closing, all because someone said 'Macbeth.' So, even though the curse is definitely not real, some actors prefer to call it 'The Scottish Play' instead of Macbeth. So, what happens in this creepy, cursed play? Lots of awesome stuff! First, we're going to go over who's who: You've got the character Macbeth, who is, as the play opens, the Thane of Glamis. Thane is just Scottish kilt-talk for nobleman/military guy. You've got Lady Macbeth, who's Macbeth's wife. She's kind of mean! We'll see that soon enough. You've got Banquo, who's a friend of Macbeth and also another army guy; Duncan, who's the King of Scotland and Macduff, who is the Thane of Fife; so, another guy who's about

equivalent to Macbeth in terms of rank. You've also got the Witches, who are pretty self-explanatory. They're usually portrayed as kind of old and grizzled.

Act I: Prophecy
So, what happens? In Act I, we start out right off the bat with the witches. We're going to take that to the stage: First Witch: When shall we three meet again In thunder, lightning, or in rain? Second Witch: When the hurlyburly's done, When the battle's lost and won. Third Witch: That will be ere the set of sun. First Witch: Where the place? Second Witch: Upon the heath. Third Witch: There to meet with Macbeth. First Witch: I come, Graymalkin! Second Witch: Paddock calls. Third Witch: Anon. ALL: Fair is foul, and foul is fair: Hover through the fog and filthy air. So, they're being creepy and casting a spell that has something to do with Macbeth, and that's how the play opens. It sets the tone really well; it's kind of dark and stormy - witchcraft-y. It's awesome. Macbeth and Banquo are feeling really great about themselves because they've just won a big battle against the traitorous Thane of Cawdor, another thane. They're wandering around the heath, heading home, probably to drink mead and listen to bagpipes, and they run into the witches:

First Witch: All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis! Second Witch: All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! Third Witch: All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter! Hmm that's curious. They hail him as Thane of Glamis, which we know he is. We can check on that. But he's not the Thane of Cawdor; he just beat the Thane of Cawdor in battle. That's what he and Banquo were just doing. And he's certainly not king. Sounds like that might be a little bit of a prophecy, maybe. And they don't leave Banquo out of this: Third Witch: Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none: So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo! So, Banquo is going to father a bunch of kings. That's what they're saying, basically. Macbeth is going to be all these cool things, and Banquo is going to father a line of kings. They can't really get any more detail out of the witches. You usually can't when people make prophecies; they like to be a little obtuse. And Banquo thinks it's maybe not the best idea to pay that much attention to it and take it too literally. But then, Macbeth actually finds out that he is going to be Thane of Cawdor because the old Thane - the one they beat in battle - is going to be executed for being a traitor, and Macbeth is going to get his title. So, already one part of their prophecy is coming true, and so the gears start turning about how he's going to get to be the king hereafter. Macbeth and Banquo go to see the current king, Duncan, to get congratulated for their success in person. Macbeth invites Duncan to come down to his castle for a little bit of feasting, probably haggis or maybe MacDonalds (haha). Meanwhile, back at the castle, Lady Macbeth is reading a note from Macbeth describing what happened with the witch encounter. She's worried that he might not have the balls to make the whole 'king hereafter' part happen. She says, 'Yet do I fear thy nature; / It is too full o' the milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way:' She thinks he's ambitious but he's not mean enough to really get it done. A messenger comes to tell her that Duncan is on his way, and she's excited because this will give them the opportunity they need to make the whole 'king' thing happen. We'll take that to the stage: Lady Macbeth: The raven himself is hoarse That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan Under my battlements. Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full Of direst cruelty!

So, she's basically saying 'make me not a woman; make me mean!' That's what 'unsex' means in this case. I don't know what you could think it means... anti-sex? I don't know. 'Make me really nasty and full of cruelty' is basically what she's saying, so she can make Duncan's entrance fatal and make Macbeth king. They welcome Duncan. They discuss the plan. Macbeth's not totally on board, but Lady Macbeth convinces him to do it by, basically, calling him 'not a man.' They're going to kill Duncan in his sleep and blame it on the guards; that is the plan.

Act II: Macbeth Kills Duncan & Rises to King


So, Act II; it's almost time to do it. Macbeth has a vision of a dagger floating in the air covered in blood, and then it's time to do the deed. Lady Macbeth is worried that he's going to bungle it in some way because she hears noises, and it's supposed to be a quiet operation. He comes back and it's done. He's killed Duncan, but he's forgotten to leave the daggers by the guards. That was the whole point, right? They did it. So, Lady Macbeth is like 'if you need something done, you've got to do it yourself.' She goes and deals with it. Macbeth freaks out while she's gone. He's freaking out because there's so much blood. So he says: Macbeth: Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather The multitudinous seas in incarnadine, Making the green one red. The presence of blood signifying guilt that can't be 'washed away' will actually come back importantly later. Keep that in mind. So, Lady Macbeth deals with it. Macbeth is freaking out. Macduff (again, one of the other thanes who's hanging out at the house) ends up being the one to find the king dead. He's a little suspicious. But now, all hail Macbeth! Macbeth is king! But Duncan's kids are not happy about this, so they're plotting revenge.

Act III: Macbeth Kills Banquo


Now it's Act III, and Banquo is kind of sniffing around, thinking that if Macbeth's prophecy came true - he got to be Thane of Cawdor and king hereafter - why won't his prophecy come true? Good thinking. Funnily enough, Macbeth is thinking the same thing and is actually plotting to kill Banquo and his son so that Banquo can't father a line of kings like the witches prophesized. He is just a fantastic friend; he's kind of on a roll with killing people. He gets some dudes to kill Banquo and his son when they come to the palace for a feast. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth come into the feasting hall. They find out that Banquo has been successfully killed but that his son actually escaped. The whole point was to get both of them because now the son can still father kings. And if that weren't bad enough, when Macbeth goes to sit down at the dinner table, he finds that his seat is occupied by Banquo's ghost. He freaks out. Lady Macbeth sends everyone away. She's kind of embarrassed by her husband because she thinks he's not the manliest man, and this is further evidence of it. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth talk about it, and Macbeth says that now that he's killed the king and he's killed Banquo, he's gone so far toward being a really bad dude that he might as well keep going. It's going

to be just as easy to go forward as to go back. So, he's going to talk to the witches to figure out who else he should kill to ensure that he's going to be able to stay on the throne.

Act IV: Macbeth Visits the Witches


In Act IV, we're back to the witches, who are awesome. If you remember that Mary Kate and Ashley movie Double, Double, Toil and Trouble, which I do, fondly, or anything else that uses that phrase, that comes from Macbeth right here in Act IV. It's right here: All Witches: Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Second Witch: By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes. And then Macbeth turns up, and he asks what he should do. A bunch of weird ghost-y things climb out of the pot and tell him stuff. One of them says to beware the Thane of Fife, who you might remember is Macduff (if you don't, that's fine; there are a lot of thanes). The second one says that 'none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth,' which would seem to rule out most people; most people are born of woman because that's kind of how that works. The third one says that Macbeth will be fine unless Birnam Wood (a forest) moves to Dunsinane, which is Macbeth's palace. So, Macbeth's thinking, no one born of woman... nothing bad is going to happen until the forest moves to Dunsinane; this all seems kind of absurd, and it kind of seems like he's going to be fine. Macbeth's starting to think that he's got nothing to worry about because none of these things are going to come true. But these kind of restrictions are just begging to find exceptions in some way. So, you might not want to think you're so safe. But the pot's not done; it starts to make some more gurgling noises, and all these ghostly figures of all of Banquo's kingly sons emerge in a procession to taunt him. 'Nanananana, we're Banquo's sons; you didn't get his kid,' is basically what they're saying. So, that's kind of unnerving. Even though he thinks he's probably going to be fine, Macbeth decides that he really ought to take care of Macduff because he was warned about him, and why not? He's already killed a lot of people. So, he sends some cronies to go take care of that. Macduff actually isn't at his house, so the cronies kill his wife and son instead. We've got quite the body count so far - might as well call him 'Macdeath.' Macduff was actually down in England talking with one of Duncan's sons, Malcolm. They were going to team up to oust Macbeth because they were done with Macbeth's reign of terror.

Act V: Lady Macbeth and Macbeth Die


Now we're in Act V. We're on the home stretch! This act is action-packed. Lady Macbeth is not doing well. She is driven mad by guilt. She's convinced that she's still got blood on her hands (remember how Macbeth was worried about that in Act I?). This comes back for her in a really significant way. She says: 'Out, damned spot! out, I say! -- One: two: why, then, 'tis time to do't. -- Hell is murky!' She's freaking out, and people are watching her, and she's totally oblivious.

Military forces of Malcolm and Macduff are gathering outside the castle; they're getting ready to trounce Macbeth. They decide that they're going to hold tree branches in front of themselves in order to disguise their numbers. So, huh... tree branches... forest... Birnam Wood... people moving with tree branches... this is starting to sound familiar. Then Macbeth gets some unsettling news. Lady Macbeth has killed herself. And then he gives the best speech ever, this haunting meditation on mortality, time and the relentlessness of existence. It's just gorgeous. Here it is: Macbeth: She should have died hereafter; There would have been time for such a word. To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time, And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more: it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. So, basically, life is meaningless, and it keeps coming at you: 'tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.' There's nothing more or less; it's just a poor player strutting and fretting his hour upon the stage, and then the play is over - kind of a nice play metaphor within the play. So then, right on time, someone comes to tell him that Birnam Wood seems to be marching to Dunsinane because there are those warriors with the branches in front of them. And the battle begins! Eventually, Macbeth runs into Macduff, who tells him that he was 'from his mother's womb / Untimely ripp'd.' So, he wasn't really 'born,' he was yanked out via some early Scottish C-section! So, now Macbeth is really starting to think 'okay, I guess these things are coming true, and I really might die.' He still fights. He's eventually killed, and then Malcolm, who was one of Duncan's sons, gets to be king. And that's the end!

Lesson Summary
That's my favorite. I think it's awesome. You can see how it's all about ambition but also magic and Scottish-ness, which is also what makes it great. There are so many murders, and there's such an interesting dynamic between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth because she starts out the one who's got all the ambition and is really into getting him to be king. She's kind of bloodthirsty; remember all that stuff about 'unsexing' her and complaining that Macbeth was too full of the 'milk of human kindness'? As it progresses, Macbeth gets more into it, and he kind of crosses the line from being spurred into to doing it himself. He takes it to its natural conclusion, and she can't take the heat. With the 'Out, out damn spot!' speech, she gets overwhelmed by the guilt of doing it all.

And then, there are the witches, who are awesome with all of those awesome spells they cast, which people thought were maybe real spells; that's kind of why they were superstitious about performing it. Double, double toil and trouble! Something wicked this way comes. And the way that they convince him he's going to be fine, but we know the forest is going to come to Dunsinane, and there is going to be someone that's not born of woman. All of that mystical, supernatural stuff is very cool, and it accentuates an already compelling story. So, it's a Great Tragedy, but it's also just a great tragedy and a great play. And that's Macbeth.

The Tempest
We're talking about The Tempest, which is one of Shakespeare's last plays. It's written around 1610, and people think it's probably the last play he wrote on his own. He died in 1616; he wrote a couple things in between The Tempest and then, but they were collaborations with other people. It's an appropriate final work because it really reflects this growing concern at the beginning of the 1600s with the New World. Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, so they'd known about America for quite some time. Jamestown, in Virginia (the first permanent English settlement), was settled in 1607 - it's weird to think of that as contemporaneous with Shakespeare, but it totally is. It's where Pocahontas and John Smith - all of that played out ('Just around the river bend!'). The Tempest isn't set in America, but it is set on an island where some kind of native/colonist dynamic ends up playing out. It's also got magic, which is kind of cool. And it's sort of one of those plays that's not quite a comedy, not quite a tragedy; it's a little bit of an odd duck of a Shakespeare play. And I will just put this out there right now - there are a lot of people, they are difficult to keep track of and, for the most part (in my humble opinion), they don't do very interesting things. I'm going to try my very hardest to separate all these people out and make it work for you. It's kind of like the third and fourth seasons of Lost, when it seemed like the writers had no idea where it was going and just wrote stuff. There's that episode where Hurley drives around the island in a VW bus and nothing happens - that's kind of like The Tempest, honestly. There's a lot of 'driving around in the VW bus,' a lot of running through the jungle, a lot of weird, supernatural, magic stuff that no one understands. There's no polar bear, but there might as well be.

Characters
So who are the major players? We've got Prospero, who is the former and rightful Duke of Milan. He was kicked out, and now he lives on an island (the island that we've been talking about). He's also a magician; that's something important about him. Miranda is Prospero's daughter. She's generally pretty inoffensive and kind of boring, but she has one very famous line, so that's a reward for that actress, I guess. We've got Ariel, who is a mermaid with red hair - hah, no she's not. He is actually a spirit of the air, so don't think we're going to start breaking into song or anything. Caliban is a native of the island and kind of bestial (I think he has scales). He's a slave to Prospero because he tried to rape Prospero's daughter Miranda. We've got Antonio, who is Prospero's brother and who kicked him out of Milan and is now the duke. So Prospero's the rightful duke; Antonio is the usurping duke. Alonso is the King of Naples; Sebastian is the King of Naples' brother. Ferdinand is Alonso's son (so the King of Naples' son), and he's the eventual love interest for Miranda.

There're a whole bunch of other people, assorted sailor types. Trinculo, Stephano - all these people kind of blur together and aren't that important, so I'll get to them when I get to them.

Act I
What do they all do? Act I; let's go. The play begins, as all good things do, with a storm at sea. (That's the 'tempest' of the title. Not the tempest in
William Shakespeare

the teapot.) Anyway, it turns out it's no natural storm, and Prospero has raised it from his island

because he knows there's a boat coming that has Antonio and Alonso on it. (Remember, they're his usurping brother and the king of Naples.) So he knows there's a boat going by so he raises this storm to drown them or to bring them to the island because, lest you forget, he's not only the deposed Duke of Milan; Prospero's also a wizard, so he can do stuff like that. You'd think he would have figured out a way to wizard his way out of being thrown out of power if he's just able to sink ships at will, but I guess consistency isn't quite Shakespeare's strong suit. Come to think of it, that's kind of like Lost as well in a way. The plane crashes because Desmond forgets to push the button, but there's heavy suggestion that the people were destined to come there anyway. So there's a little bit of inconsistency there as well. Like the people of Oceanic Flight 815, the people on board the ship are pretty sure they're all going to die because things aren't looking good for them. Meanwhile, while his storm is trashing the boat, Prospero and Miranda are sitting around watching the fireworks from their island, and Prospero decides this is the perfect moment to tell her where she comes from. ('When a man and a woman love each other very much' No, not that part.) He decides to tell her because apparently he has not told her this before - that he's the rightful Duke of Milan and he was deposed by his evil brother, who, by the way, is on that ship out there. It's kind of weird that he's never told Miranda any of this, leaving her content to just think that she was 'magicked' into being on this weird island by her weird magician father. But now he's told her, and he 'magicks' her to sleep after he tells her and he goes to deal with serious business. He gets his air-sprite fairy servant guy Ariel to come down for a chat (no, not that Ariel; I told you already before). So Ariel was the one who actually made the storm, it turns out - he can just be told to go and conjure lightning and thunder and all that - and he's made sure that everybody has survived, and he's deposited them all over the island. (So there's the tail section of the plane and the body of the plane and all that stuff with the pilot and whatever.) After reviewing all of this with Prospero - job well done! - Ariel asks if he can have some time off because apparently Prospero promised him that if he worked hard without complaining, he could have a year of freedom. Unfortunately, it seems like asking about this has counted as complaining in Prospero's book, so he gets the very long 'Why are you so ungrateful?' speech from Prospero. Prospero reminds him that he actually rescued Ariel from imprisonment. Ariel had been locked away, basically inside of a tree, for failing to serve Sycorax, who is a witch who used to live on the island and who is now dead. Prospero rescued him, so apparently now Ariel has to serve him forever without complaining - so no freedom for Ariel. Ariel leaves, Miranda wakes up (there's a lot of magical falling asleep and waking up in this play, so just go with it). So Prospero decides to call his other supernatural servant, Caliban. He is actually the son of that witch Sycorax who locked Ariel in the tree. He enters the stage, and he's cursing: As wicked dew as e'er my mother brush'd

With raven's feather from unwholesome fen Drop on you both! A south-west blow on ye And blister you all o'er! He's really upset; he's not a happy camper. Prospero is not pleased by Caliban's outpouring of venom, and he threatens to give him cramps as punishment. It turns out that all he wants him to do is gather firewood, but we get an interesting exchange in this process. This is when we find out that Caliban had tried to rape Miranda: PROSPERO: I lodged thee In mine own cell, till thou didst seek to violate The honour of my child. CALIBAN: O ho, O ho! Would't had been done! Thou didst prevent me; I had peopled else This isle with Calibans. So that's a little creepy. He's basically saying that if Prospero hadn't interrupted him, he would have 'peopled the isle' with little baby Calibans via Miranda. (Clearly one is difficult enough, so I'm kinda glad that didn't happen.) Prospero scolds him for being horribly ungrateful, and then we get a continued exchange that really highlights something that's seen as a big theme of this play: the ethics of colonization and colonial/native relations. PROSPERO: I pitied thee, Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour One thing or other: when thou didst not, savage, Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like A thing most brutish, I endow'd thy purposes With words that made them known CALIBAN: You taught me language; and my profit on't Is, I know how to curse. The red plague rid you For learning me your language! So basically Caliban was a native of the island and didn't know how to speak. Prospero came along and taught him (he also enslaved him and made him fetch him firewood all the time), and he thinks that Caliban should be grateful for this, should be grateful for learning how to talk. But Caliban basically says that his only profit from learning how to speak is that now he knows how to curse and he can curse out Prospero -

essentially his slave-driver - and better express his misery. Modern critics have basically interpreted this as reflecting the problem of colonizing 'savages' in order to 'improve' them. It's not an improvement if then they're subordinate to the colonizers. There are a lot of issues then with people writing literature in colonized countries in the language of the colonizer, and what that might mean, so it has a lot of implications. Caliban really becomes a symbol of colonized language in a way for a lot of people later on who study this kind of thing. Anyway, in the play, Caliban, after this exchange, skulks away. Prospero has Ariel lead Ferdinand (remember, he's the son of the King of Naples) across Miranda's field of vision, and of course it's love at first sight; they really like each other. But Prospero, while he's sort of resigned to the fact that this might go down, doesn't want to make it easy. He can't just let them be happy. So he decides that he's going to pretend to imprison Ferdinand and make him do stuff for him. And he tells Miranda that he's actually an awful guy, and Miranda doesn't know what she's talking about because she's never known anybody except her dad. Again, Prospero's resigned to them getting together, so he's really just doing this to be annoying and likes to imprison people, I guess, and make them serve him. That's what kind of dude he is.

Act II
Wow, that was a long act. Meanwhile, Alonso (King of Naples, remember) and his friends are looking for Ferdinand, Alonso's son. They can't find him; he washed up somewhere else on the shore. They can't believe they're alive - it's been crazy with the shipwreck, etc. Alonso's feeling really bad and thinks everything is all his fault. Antonio (remember, Prospero's brother, the usurping Duke of Milan) and Sebastian (Alonso's brother) are not being very helpful or nice. They all get 'magicked' to sleep again by Ariel's piping or something like that, and while they're sleeping, Antonio and Sebastian plot to kill Alonso so that Sebastian can be king. These guys are super bad news. They deposed Prospero - this is really nasty. They're supposed to be on an island helping each other out, and all they can think about is who they're going to murder next. Luckily, Ariel decides to wake everybody up with his pipe - so he kind of interrupts the plotting and now Ariel knows about it and lets some of the other dudes know that there's a plot afoot. So people kind of know, but it still might happen. That's how we leave things. There's a dude named Trinculo who encounters Caliban. He thinks he's basically a freak-show creature. (Is he a man? Is he a fish? I don't know; I guess he's just a symbol of cultural domination.) Then he's hanging out with a dude named Stephano, who is drunk. Stephano and Trinculo get Caliban drunk. Caliban's a huge fan of Stephano because he loves to drink, and they wander around the island together and hatch a plot to steal Prospero's magic books. Then they're going to kill Prospero. So they're basically going to take his magic away and then kill him. Caliban wants revenge on Prospero because he's been his servant for forever. You can probably tell that this will not work out properly - I don't think I'm spoiling anything by letting you know - and these guys are basically absurd. They're kind of like Hurley and Charlie if Hurley and Charlie were bad on Lost. They're driving around in the VW bus, basically; they're just there to make trouble.

Act III
Meanwhile, on the island, Ferdinand is hauling wood for Prospero because Prospero needs to build fire after fire, it seems. He needs everyone to bring wood for him. Miranda wanders in, they whisper sweet nothings to each other, he tells her she's really beautiful and she's like 'Gee, thanks. I had no idea because I've never seen another woman before.' And she's also never seen another man besides her father, so she thinks that Ferdinand's attractive but she probably can't be too picky. Once she's convinced that he loves her, she actually proposes:

MIRANDA: I am your wife, if you will marry me; If not, I'll die your maid: to be your fellow You may deny me; but I'll be your servant, Whether you will or no. FERDINAND: My mistress, dearest; And I thus humble ever. MIRANDA: My husband, then? FERDINAND Ay, with a heart as willing As bondage e'er of freedom: here's my hand. It's kind of an interesting contrast in the end because he is in bondage to Prospero, and then he's saying that he's going to be in bondage with Miranda and whatnot, freely acquiescing to Miranda's proposal of marriage. Prospero's response to all this is characteristically muted. He says he can't be happy for them. Meanwhile, King Alonso and his company are still wandering around on the beach. Ariel comes along and plays that music again. This time it doesn't make everybody fall asleep; instead, it brings a banquet. (Magic banquets are not really always a good sign - kind of like in The Hunger Games when the banquet comes and it's really just to lure them all to fight each other more.) Alonso et al are on to this a little bit. They argue about whether they should eat or not, then they just decide to go for it because they clearly haven't read all the stuff that says you shouldn't eat magical food. Ariel appears, scolds them for kicking Prospero out of Milan and says they've taken Ferdinand as revenge. Alonso thinks Ferdinand must be dead and wants to kill himself. Antonio and Sebastian freak out and they run after Ariel and all the other spirits who brought the food.

Act IV
Prospero finally gives his blessing to Ferdinand and Miranda. He totally messes with them first because, as you might be able to recognize by now, Prospero loves playing God; that's kind of his thing. So he messes with Ferdinand a little more, then says 'Alright, you can marry her.' He reminds him that he can't bang her before he actually marries her, so that's out of the way. Then they have a big party and spirits dancing, and Ferdinand's very impressed. Prospero remembers now - he's found out about Caliban's plot to kill him that this is about when Caliban thought that he was going to do it. Again, nothing surprises him because he's really kind of like God, but he decides he'd better shut down the party in favor of stopping the attempt on his life. He gives a very famous speech that goes a little something like this: Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits, and Are melted into air, into thin air

He goes on, and concludes with: We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep. This speech is famous because it really emphasizes the 'play-ness' of the play. It's conscious of itself as a work of theater - these can be 'our' revels also, and the players also 'melt into thin air' when it's all over. Prospero deals quickly with Caliban - not even an issue.

Act V
It's really all over but the shoutin'. Prospero dresses up in his duke clothes and addresses Alonso and all of them. He says he forgives Antonio, but he better get his dukedom back. Then he gives a speech about how he's going to give up magic once he gets back to Milan. He reveals that Ferdinand is totally okay and that he's marrying Miranda. At this point, Miranda comes out, she sees all these people and she gives her very famous line - remember, I said she has one good line. She says: O, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, That has such people in't! Did you catch that? Brave New World! That's a book that you might have read about a dystopian future in high school or something. That's where the title comes from; it comes from The Tempest. Now we're really almost done. They all go back to Italy and are going to live out their days. Prospero give a famous final epilogue speech, again very conscious of the 'play-ness' of the play. And this is what he says: Now my charms are all o'erthrown, And what strength I have's mine own, Which is most faint: now, 'tis true, I must be here confined by you, Or sent to Naples. He's basically saying that the audience could keep him here forever on the island, or on the stage, if they wanted to. And he ends with the following couplet. He says: As you from crimes would pardon'd be, Let your indulgence set me free. So the play ends, and it's sort of like you're setting him free, off the stage and off the island, which are all metaphors for each other.

Shakespeare's Sonnets
'Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?'

No, I don't thinks so. I don't really like summer. I burn really easily because I'm super pale, and it's too hot out to wear my jacket! Not a big fan. It turns out that Shakespeare not a big fan of summer days either. In this famous sonnet (that's the opening of the sonnet), he quickly answers: 'Thou art more lovely and more temperate.' Meaning 'thou,' the person to whom the sonnet is addressed to. So, whoever this person is is 'more lovely and more temperate' than a summer's day, which I can heartily agree with even without knowing that person. 'Temperate' seems to be a bit of a pun, because it can mean mild climate, and it can also mean self-restrained. So you're not as hot as summer (yay!), but it also means that you're even-keeled, even-tempered and you're not going to freak out about stuff. This is 'Sonnet 18', which is really one of the most famous sonnets that Shakespeare ever wrote. He wrote a bunch of them; he wrote 154! So, it's kind of high praise. Are we going to talk about all of them in this video, you may be wondering with dread in your heart. No, we're not going to! You might also be wondering if you have to read all of them. No, you don't! The Sonnets are kind of the English Lit type person's first experience with talking about stuff that you've only read part of. Once you get to Paradise Lost, the Sonnets don't seem nearly so bad, and you get incidentally exposed to a lot of them if you read and do a lot of lit stuff. But since it can be daunting to read 154 sonnets all at once (and have coherent thoughts about them and be reading carefully), we English-type folks have all kinds of ways of talking about the Sonnets while only reading a few famous ones really closely. So listen hard, young grasshopper, and I will share with you the secrets of 'distant-reading' the Sonnets. So here we go.

What Is a Sonnet?
You already know your first fact about the Sonnets as a group: there are 154 of them. Second fact would probably be what a sonnet really is, so let's talk about that. A sonnet, you have hopefully gleaned by now, is a type of poem. It's a short poem. We love sonnets because they're only 14 lines long. They're never longer than 14 lines. Also, they're never shorter than 14 lines, so if that's a problem, you may want to stick to haikus. Maybe that will be your area. There are a few sonnets in Shakespeare's cycle that violate one or more of the sonnet rules (including the length rule), but in general, this is how it works. There are a bunch of different kinds of sonnets in the world. They're distinguished from each other by what type of rhyme scheme they use; they all have 14 lines. Guess which type of sonnet Shakespeare wrote. If you guessed c (English/Shakespearean Sonnet), you're correct! Shakespeare was such an important sonnet-writer that they named the rhyme scheme he used after him - Shakespearean sonnet! So what was this rhyme scheme? We're going to take a look at the rest of that summer's day sonnet (remember, number 18), and we're going to figure out what's going on with the rhyme scheme. We're just going to read the whole thing because it's pretty. So, here we go: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed, And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed: But thy eternal summer shall not fade, Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st, Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st, So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. So what do we see vis-a-vis the whole rhyming situation? You can basically divide this thing into three 'quatrains' and a 'couplet.' A la 'quartet,' or 'cuatro' in Spanish, 'quatrain' just means a set of four lines, pretty easy. And a 'couplet' just means a set of two, like a 'couple,' or one of my favorite British TV show, Coupling. The first quatrain rhymes a/b/a/b, the second c/d/c/d and the third e/f/e/f. And the final couplet rhymes g/g. So 'day' and 'May' rhyme, temperate and date (kind of) rhyme, Shakespeare gets a little fuzzy with this stuff sometimes. And then 'shines' and 'declines', 'dimmed' and 'untrimmed.' But they're not related to 'day' or 'temperate' from the first quatrain; it's a new set of rhymes in the second quatrain (that's the c/d/c/d part). So that's the rhyme scheme. Now we're going to take a look at something called 'meter,' which is another distinguishing factor of sonnets in general. Meter, most simply, is just defined as the rhythm of a poem. How you pause and emphasize as you read along. Shakespeare's sonnets are written in a kind of meter called iambic pentameter. Iambic refers to the fact that the lines are divided into 'iambs,' which are basically two-syllable 'feet' with the emphasis light-STRONG. There are tons of types of 'feet.' Feet is just another way to say metrical divisions, so a set of syllables. There are things called trochees that go STRONG-light. And one of my favorite, an anapest, has three syllables, and it goes light-light-STRONG. So, iambs go light-STRONG and are just two syllables that go like that. Pentameter means there are five iambs to a line. Think pent like in pentagon. Shakespeare is a huge fan of iambic pentameter and uses it all the time. Probably because, unlike some other meters, which can sound sing-songy, you barely notice it's there. If you go iambic trimeter, which has three iambs per line (so it has six syllables total), it sounds kind of like a chant. 'I LOVE the JOcund DANCE, / The SOFTly BREATHing SONG.' Anapestic tetrameter (that's a fun one) has four anapests per line. It sounds like Dr. Seuss: 'Every WHO down in WHO-ville liked CHRISTmas a LOT. But the GRINCH who lived JUST north of WHOville did NOT.' But 'Shall I compARE thee TO a SUMmer's DAY?' when you read it, sounds pretty natural, even when I over-emphasize the syllables. So, that's why he chooses iambic pentameter.

Sonnets #1-18
Now I've bored you to death talking about meter, but it's important so I hope you listened. We're going to talk a bit more about what this sonnet means.

It's the 18th in the sequence. One through 17 were explicitly about encouraging a young man to have children. They're called the 'procreation sonnets,' actually, in reference to this. Number 18 doesn't do this; it's the first one to shift away from that. It praises pure beauty, is what it does. He's saying that the beloved is better than a summer's day for so many reasons, and he names all the reasons. And as Shakespearean sonnets are wont to do, each quatrain develops the idea further of why the beloved is so much better. Summer still might be windy and nasty ('rough winds do shake the darling buds of May') and even if it's nice, it goes by too quickly ('summer's lease hath all too short a date'). Sometimes it's too hot, and sometimes it's cloudy. 'But thy eternal summer shall not fade;' you'll always be awesome, whereas summer is only kind of awesome only sometimes. In his couplet, what Shakespeare likes to do is makes some kind of clever turn or new take on his material. In this couplet, he's true to form. What he's saying is that the beloved's eternal summer will not fade because it is preserved in art 'so long lives this, and this gives life to thee.' A lot of his sonnets do this; a lot are self-referential in this way, talking about what they do as poems.

The Fair Youth, the Rival & the Dark Lady


So, I eluded to this a bit, but what is the overall structure of Shakespeare's sonnet sequence? And what are a couple more famous ones that you should know? We'll go over bits and pieces of them. Again, distant reading of the sonnets, that's what we're up to. Shakespeare's sonnets are basically divided into groups based on who's being addressed. If you assumed that 'shall I compare thee' was written to a lady, you'd actually be wrong! Sonnets #1-126 are addressed to an enigmatic (male) figure typically referred to as 'The Fair Youth.' Within this set, there is a mini set (Sonnets #78-86), which are thought to be addressed to The Rival Poet, again, another dude, essentially. And the latter portion of the sonnets ( Sonnets #127-152) are addressed to The Dark Lady. So, you might say Shakespeare was into dudes? Wasn't he married to Anne Hathaway? He was, but he was possibly also into dudes. He dedicates the whole sonnet sequence to an enigmatic Mr. W.H., and nobody knows who Mr. W.H. is. Scholars love to fight about this; this is exactly the kind of thing that literary people go nuts for. Some people think that Mr. W.H. is the 'Fair Youth,' and he might have been a patron of Shakespeare's, who was a young earl. It's speculation; people can back it up in various ways. How do we know the addressee of Sonnets #1-126 is a man? There are hints everywhere. Shakespeare uses phrases like 'master-mistress' and entreats the addressee to have sex with women, but to only really love the speaker. All of this could be platonic; there isn't really any explicit sex talk with the 'Fair Youth.' Who knows?

Sonnet #116
So, we're already looked at one 'Fair Youth' sonnet; we've looked at 'Summer's day.' Sonnet #116 is a good one that is, again, about love and apparently addressed to a man. We're just going to read that out loud so you can get a sense of it. Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved. This sonnet picks up on the themes of everlasting-ness brought up in Sonnet #18 and directs it directly to the abstract idea of love, 'it is an ever-fixed mark' is love. Again, it relates it back to Shakespeare's writing: 'If this be error and upon me proved / I never writ, nor no man ever loved.' So, love, timelessness, and writing are all intertwined.

Sonnet #79
What's an example of a sonnet addressed to the 'Rival Poet'? Also, we don't really know who this rival poet is; it might be Christopher Marlowe, maybe not. Sonnet #79 is one that doubts that the speaker's muse serves only him anymore. It says: Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid, My verse alone had all thy gentle grace; But now my gracious numbers are decayed, And my sick Muse doth give an other place. Here Shakespeare seems jealous of another, because his verse alone lacks the singular devotion of the poetic muse, or inspiration in general. Since so many of the poems, as we've talked about before, are so concerned with the idea of the permanence of poetry and the importance of verse (in terms of preserving things), it makes sense that some of them would deal with the problem of another poet's fame, or another poet trying to do this. So, that's one of the 'Rival Poet' sonnets.

Sonnet #130
Finally, we're just going to take a look at a 'Dark Lady' sonnet. This is one of my favorites. My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips red; If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damasked, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound; I grant I never saw a goddess go; My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground: And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare. In this sonnet, Shakespeare seems to be making fun of the tropes of a typical love sonnet, right? He undermines all these clichd comparisons: eyes like the sun, cheeks like roses, a voice like music. Because of this, the sonnet seems super down-to-earth, and the Dark Lady is so much more relatable, realistic and grounded than the Fair Youth. There's also, in other sonnets, more evidence of a real sexual encounter with the Dark Lady, whereas the Fair Youth was potentially platonic. We don't really know. In this sonnet, we see too that despite the lady's homeliness, his love is still strong. Maybe stronger than love evoked by 'false compare,' which he says in the final couplet, or by all those techniques he's skewered as ways of false comparing.

Introduction to Christopher Marlowe : Biography and plays His Life


Christopher Marlowe is kind of the other Elizabethan playwright (it's like pork - the other white meat). He precedes Shakespeare a little bit - chronologically and in reputation - just by a few years. They knew each other. They're contemporaneous, roughly. He was kind of the go-to guy for tragedies for a long time in London. He was also a crazy fascinating person. His biographical details are muddied, which is just perfect because it makes people able to fight about him ad nauseum today.

What kind of things do they argue about? There's tons of accusations and illicit information about Marlowe. Some of it is confirmed; some of it is not at all confirmed. People say that he was a spy for England, that he was a traitor, that he was an atheist, that he was a homosexual... (Can you imagine such things?!) A few people even think that
Marlowe served the English government in some secret capacity.

Marlowe was Shakespeare, or that Shakespeare was Marlowe. They claim

that Marlowe faked his own death and then continued to write as Shakespeare, or that Shakespeare found fame under the assumed name before he used his own. There's all sorts of crazy accusations about that.

Those are probably not true, but he and Shakespeare are enigmatic enough figures that you can say stuff like this and no one can really say that you're wrong. That's why rumors like that keep being perpetuated. Here's what we do know: Marlowe was baptized in Canterbury in 1564, so he was born some time around then. He got a Bachelor of Arts degree, and then a master's, from Corpus Christi College in Cambridge. When he was there, we know that he served the English government in some secret capacity because there's a letter from Elizabeth's administration that was written to the school about his master's degree. What he actually did, we don't know, but lots of people think he was a spy, kind of a prototype James Bond without the gadgets and with a codpiece. Regardless of his other employments, he was an incredibly popular and influential playwright. He wrote in blank verse, which is just unrhymed iambic pentameter - like Shakespeare - and was one of the first ones to do it. Only two of his works were actually published during his lifetime (they were all performed and continue to be performed); everything else was published posthumously. In addition to plays, he wrote some poems and translations of Latin works. His drama is what we're most interested in, but we'll mention a couple of his poems near the end of our little lesson here.

His Plays
Since Marlowe didn't actually have too many plays to his name because his life was cut tragically short, as we'll soon discuss, it's actually possible to talk about everything that he wrote. So, we're going to do it! Dido, Queen of Carthage (1587) This is believed to be Marlowe's first performed play, although record-keeping was not so hot back then, so we can never be sure. It's based on three early books of the Roman poet Virgil's epic The Aeneid. It's about a crazy queen who falls in love with Virgil's hero, Aeneas. and, when he spurns her to continue on his mission, she commits suicide. We can already see that Marlowe didn't really shy away from racy and offensive themes - he just dove right in. This was first performed by a company of young boy actors sometime between 1587-1593. Tamburlaine the Great (1587) This is Marlowe's first proper London production, probably in 1587. This again takes on classical source material; Tamburlaine is about an Asian emperor Timur the Lame (which sounds a lot like Tamburlaine). He kind of clawed his way up from being a shepherd to being a ruler. Scholars celebrate this play as a turning point in Elizabethan drama because it introduces rich language, complex plotting, and complex themes - things that hadn't really been seen before on the London stage. It was so successful that it was followed by a sequel, and these two plays were the only ones that were actually published during his lifetime. The Jew of Malta (1592) Not an awesome name by today's standards; this was first performed in 1592. It tells the tale of a merchant, the titular Jew named Barabas, who basically plots revenge against Malta, which is the country where he lives, because they made him penniless. They stole all of his stuff. It's got these political and ethical complications that make one of Marlowe's favorite themes - ambiguous protagonists - super relevant to this play. His good guys aren't always good - they don't always seem to be perfectly good - but we kind of sympathize with them anyway, even if they're (gasp) Jewish. This one's one of those ones that's hard to read - we're not sure what audiences would have made of it then or what Marlowe intentions really were with this character. What we do know is that it definitely influenced Shakespeare's play The Merchant of Venice, which is also about a Jewish merchant getting his revenge. Edward II (1592)

One of the first English historical dramas, it's about the reign, the deposition, and the eventual execution of Edward II, who was a king of England. Lots of modern scholars like to tease out the potential homosexual relationship between Edward II and his companion named Gaveston. Modern performances pretty much make this explicit - they just make them gay. That's again one of the things that we're not sure about Marlowe - what his sexuality was. This play, maybe, provides evidence one way or the other... who knows. The Massacre at Paris (1593) Another great title - his titles really let you know what they're going to be about. This one's about the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris in 1572. Given its violent political topics, the play was actually thought to be dangerous, so there aren't actually any complete editions of the work that were published or reproduced. People thought it was a little too political. Segments drawn from memory is all the evidence that we have of it. Doctor Faustus (1592) The story itself is made more famous by the German writer Goethe, but Marlowe is the first one to actually bring it to the stage. Big surprise, this story is about a guy who sells his soul to the Devil in order to get knowledge, power, and a visitation from sexy Helen of Troy. This was another controversial Marlowe work. Some folks were uneasy with its questions about the then-popular doctrine of predestination and also about its unapologetic presentation of sin and demons and whatnot. The play also presents difficulties for modern scholars because it's edited after Marlowe's death, most likely. There's two versions of the play we don't really know which is the right one. There's a lot of teasing apart that they have to do to figure out what was really Marlowe's intention behind this.

Other Works
And those were all of his plays. Like I said, he didn't really write that much. He also wrote some poems, and we're just going to talk about those really quickly. Hero and Leander is an unfinished poem about Hero, who is a priestess to Venus, and Leander, who's a guy who lives on the other side of the water from her, and their romance. It was unfinished, so we don't really know how it was supposed to end. His other famous poem is called 'The Passionate Shepard to His Love.' It contains the semi-famous lines: 'Come live with me and be my love.' That's how you might recognize that one.

His End
Like much of his life, the death of Christopher Marlowe is a huge mystery wrapped in an enigma. We know he was stabbed to death in 1593; that's what the coroner said. But the whys and wherefores of this are pretty questionable. The death came at the hands of a known government spy and con-man just a couple days after Marlowe was arrested for heresy. He was never actually found guilty of heretical acts, but this might have been a way for the government to exact their punishment anyway. Or it might have been a bar fight that escalated - that was the official report. Or maybe Marlowe wasn't dead at all and faked it to get the government off his back. Or maybe he's still not dead. Or maybe he was Shakespeare! You can see where this is going. Nobody really knows. We can never really pin it down because we have all the information, probably, that we're ever going to get about it. But this mystery enhances his reputation even more than if he'd died under normal circumstances, probably. The fact that he's this talent cut short makes him even more poignant. We can see that his life and his plays were the result of a brilliant, conflicted, influential guy struggling with some of life's biggest questions. We saw that a lot in Faust should I sell my soul to get good stuff? Did he physically live on in the persona of Shakespeare after his

'death?' Probably not. But he did live on in spirit in the Western literary canon and was influential on poets and other writers after him.

Edmund Spenser
Are you familiar with the concept of fanfiction? It's when a writer, or a person, really, likes a fictional world so much that he or she is inspired to create more fiction in that world beyond the scope of the original work. For example, fans of the Harry Potter series who were heartbroken when the last book was finished might be inspired to write more stories set at Hogwarts and featuring Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Those stories would be set in the world that J.K. Rowling created but written by fans, hence the name. Though we tend to think of fanfiction as a more modern phenomenon, the truth is that people have been writing stories like fanfiction for years. In fact, it used to be a really common thing to do - storytellers didn't just invent their own worlds but instead chose to build off of others. The fact that many stories were born from the oral tradition really helped feed that. One of the most famous writers to ever make a name for himself writing almost completely in a world that he had nothing to do with was Edmund Spenser. Spenser was one of the key figures of the English Renaissance, which was a time during the late 16th and early 17th centuries when the arts - especially the literary arts - flourished in Great Britain. Like so many of his contemporaries, though, Spenser wasn't just a writer - he also had a political and a military career. But writing was one of his major passions, and he hoped to use his writing to make a little money which a lot of writers did; not all were very successful. The ones who did were lucky, and they're generally the ones we still know today.

The Faerie Queene - Plot and Reception


In those days, one of the only ways to make money through writing was to court royal favor - to get patronage from the royals. And so he did. In an attempt to please the reigning Queen Elizabeth I (not to be confused with the current Queen Elizabeth), Spenser crafted The Faerie Queene, one of the first (and longest) written English-language epics. An epic, by the way, is a lengthy composition, often a poem, that narrates the tale of a hero or heroes through some important event. Classic epics include Homer's Iliad and Odyssey; also Beowulf; an example of a more modern epic could be The Lord of the Rings. Remember that before I was talking about fanfiction? Well, Spenser based his epic The Faerie Queene mostly on the legends of Arthur - you know, King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Though he was a real English king, Arthur's exploits had been the stuff of folklore for centuries, and poets loved to talk about him, but Spenser no doubt produced one of the most notable works of Arthurian lore. The first version we have of The Faerie Queene is actually six books long - although correspondence from Spenser indicates that it was meant to actually be even longer, but he never got to finish that piece. What we do have is a lengthy example of an allegory, which is basically something representing something abstract through something concrete - or, in the literary sense, it's using characters (or sometimes events or people) to stand in for higher ideas. Spenser's idea with The Faerie Queene was to have each knight of Arthur's Round Table stand in for some kind of desirable virtue. They're all supposed to represent something more lofty and important than just themselves. For example, in the first book, a knight named Redcrosse (not like the charitable organization, but he did have a red cross on his shield) is meant to represent holiness - probably not a shock, with the cross - a most important trait in Queen Elizabeth's England. Throughout the journey, Redcrosse is faced with challenges that would separate him from a true spiritual path, like the temptations of women, and his conflict centers on attempting to wade through all the falsehood and distractions of the world to maintain a

virtuous life. This kind of high-minded moralizing is pretty common to Spenser's work and might sound familiar if you've read The Pilgrim's Progress. I'm sorry if you have. It also, by the way, made The Faerie Queene an easy sell to Elizabeth. Spenser took on some pretty massive historical liberties to connect the bloodlines of Queen Elizabeth and King Arthur, which was his poetical way of validating Elizabeth's reign. It would be like today if somebody tried to show that President Obama had descended from George Washington. Also, another major part of Spenser's allegory was incorporating Elizabeth into his story as the titular Faerie Queen. Her name is Gloriana - whose name, as you might guess, means 'glory,' so he's kind of being a kiss-ass. This tactic worked pretty well for Spenser; after presenting the epic to Elizabeth, he was granted a pension of 50 pounds per year, which is more money than it sounds like now.

The Faerie Queene - History and Form


We touched a little bit so far on The Faerie Queene's plot, but before we move on we should probably talk a little bit about how it fits into the larger literary culture. As you may have guessed, Spenser's work owes quite a lot to other classical pieces - besides the body of the legends build around King Arthur, critics have pointed out that his work has connection to Italian epics written during that country's Renaissance, which predated England's by about a century or so. There are significant connections to Virgil's Aeneid, another epic that was meant to validate the reign of a monarch - in this case, Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar. (The Aeneid is long, and hard to read, but it's totally worth the time, so if you're not familiar with it you should check it out.) Spenser even covers some of the same plot area as Virgil; both works deal with the fall of the noble Trojan Empire and they attempt to connect it, in the modern day, to the monarchs that they each wish to praise and gain favor with. Another important aspect of The Faerie Queene is its form. It is, probably unsurprisingly, the first work written in the Spenserian stanzas - which are, in fact, named after Edmund Spenser. Each Spenserian stanza contains nine lines - two quatrains of iambic pentameter with differing rhyme schemes capped off by a single line in iambic hexameter. Does that mean nothing to you? That's totally fine. Let's look at an example of the opening stanza of The Faerie Queene to get a sense of how Spenserian stanza really works: Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome did maske, As time her taught, in lowly Shepheards weeds, Am now enforst a far unfitter taske, For trumpets sterne to chaunge mine Oaten reeds, And sing of Knights and Ladies gentle deeds; Whose prayses hauing slept in silence long, Me, all too meane, the sacred Muse areeds To blazon broad emongst her learned throng: Fierce warres and faithfull loues shall moralize my song. The first thing to notice is the very distinctive rhyme scheme - it's an ababbcbcc. So that just means that the first and third lines rhyme; the second, fourth, fifth, and seventh lines rhyme; and also the sixth, eight, and ninth lines rhyme. It's also good to note that the final line is a little bit longer than the others. If you didn't notice that, you can go back and look at it and see. That's because it actually has six 'feet,' or groups

of syllables (when something has six feet it's called hexameter), and the others have five (which is called pentameter). This really innovative structure (at the time) allowed Spenser to present his material in a formal poetic manner. Eight-line stanzas of iambic pentameter were an incredibly popular form, but that addition of the rhyming ninth line at the end gives him the ability to throw in a powerful narrative punch to cap off his thought. Thus, the Spenserian stanza capitalizes on both the traditional poetic format and the ability to surprise readers and drive them in a new direction. This form was embraced by a lot of writers to follow, including Romantic poets like Byron, Keats, Shelley, and Tennyson, all of whom, no surprise, were huge admirers of Spenser.

Sonnets and Essays


So that's a quick introduction to The Faerie Queene, and it's really Spenser's most well-known work, but that's not the only thing he wrote; he didn't stop there. In particular, he was a noted writer of love poems. His two big ones were the sonnet cycle Amoretti and his 'Epithalamion', which were published together in 1595. Real quick, a sonnet cycle is simply a collection of sonnets, and a sonnet is just a 14-line poem or 'little song.' You might be familiar with the term sonnet from Shakespeare, and Shakespearean sonnets were also of course widely popular. Spenserian sonnets are similar in a lot of ways, but also different, so they have different names. The main difference comes in the form. Both Amoretti and 'Epithalamion' were written for Spenser's bride-to-be, a woman named Elizabeth Boyle, to commemorate and celebrate their love. Actually, the word 'epithalamion,' if you've never heard of it (and it's totally fine if you haven't), is a general term that really just meant a poem written for a bride to celebrate marriage. Spenser's 'Epithalamion' is perhaps the most celebrated of its type. There's one other work of Spenser's that's worth mentioning, though it wasn't actually published until decades after it was written. It might seem like a huge departure from Spenser's work if you're familiar with it or have an impression of what kind of guy he may have been. This comes from the political and military life that Spenser lived in addition to being a poet. This work was entitled 'A View of the Present State of Ireland'. This work was an essay, and Spenser writes about whether and how the rebellious Irish people that he really spent his whole military career fighting can never be integrated into the larger culture of Great Britain. His conclusions there are troubling, to say the least. It's basically advocating a 'scorched earth' method of completely destroying their culture and land so that the Irish really have no choice but to get on board with whatever England's doing. So, it wasn't great. In fact, it was pretty horrible; modern critics have even referred to it as 'genocidal.' There's a reason it wasn't published until after he died. This just goes to show you that even the best writers have some serious misfires.

Introduction to Ben Jonson


Nowadays if there's a really famous person and they have hanger-on friends, we typically know about the famous person and we don't know about the friends. This was true even back in Renaissance times, and this kind of had the negative effect of making Ben Jonson someone that we don't really have such great name association with. We do have great name association with his more famous buddy William Shakespeare. Ben Jonson was a contemporary friend and rival of Shakespeare's; unfortunately, his work and life have been a bit eclipsed by the man we call the Bard. Things weren't always that way, though; this is kind of a modern thing. There was a point in time where Jonson's fame was even greater than Shakespeare's, if you can imagine that, and critical revision in the centuries since his life ended changed that a bit. But there's importance to his skill, and he has a massive catalog of plays and poems that are not insignificant; he's still a talented guy that we should know about. We shouldn't just cast him into the annals of history and say 'he wasn't as good as Shakespeare.' He's an interesting dude in his own right.

He was born in London in 1572. By the age of 25, he's already deeply entrenched in the city's burgeoning dramatic culture. In particular, he's taken up a position with a theater company called The Admiral's Men. He's an actor and a writer just like Shakespeare - he kind of did both; most reports we get from this time show that he didn't really have that much success as an actor, but he tried, and his plays are starting to bring him some real attention.

Plays
His first major success came not with The Admiral's Men but with another company called The Lord Chamberlain's Men - if you're wondering, it's because pretty much all the actors back then were men. That's a plot point in Shakespeare in Love - Gwyneth Paltrow dresses up as a dude to be in a play, and then she dresses up as a woman. That's how things were back then. In 1598 The Lord Chamberlain's Men put up his comedy, Every Man in His Humour, which is a play that exhibits several really important Jonson traits. We're going to pause for a second here and talk about some of these traits so that we can see them as we describe some more of his plays. He loved classical style. He took his plotting cues more from Aristotle and other Greeks and Romans rather than his English contemporaries, especially because his stories tended (more so than his contemporaries) to really emphasize dramatic unity. So he would try to follow the rules set down by Greek and Roman theater. He was really into farcical characters, which are just people who are defined by their really exaggerated traits. Like if you've got a drunkard with a huge red nose or something like that - that would be a farcical character. He's into absurdity kind of along those lines - over-the-top, unreal comic situations. Kind of like anything you might see on Adult Swim late at night. He's also into presenting contemporary life. That's a real goal of his. This last one is really central to his mission statement, and a lot of where he finds success is in doing this. He explicitly states in his prologue for the published edition of Every Man in His Humour that he intends to use 'deeds, and language, such as men do use:/And persons, such as comedy would choose,/When she would show an image of the times,/And sport with human follies, not with crimes.' That's sort of his take on what he's doing with this. Every Man in His Humour is notable not just for its form but also for its production - a young William Shakespeare was cast to act in this comedy. Recorded details of their relationship are kind of spotty, but people generally assume that this is when they got to know each other and when they started working together. That's kind of how they encountered each other. By the way, a year later, Jonson released a follow-up to the play called Every Man out of His Humour, which seems to be a pretty clear attempt to cash in on the success of the prior one. It's kind of nice to know that people still did that back then; it's not just a modern phenomenon that we release Shrek 6 or whatever. Jonson did it too. Does that make it more legitimate? I don't know.

Courtly Life
Jonson had a certain amount of success, and a few years after he really gets going. Beginning with the reign of James I in 1603, - so Elizabeth I dies and is succeeded by James I - Jonson actually enjoys a certain amount of royal favor, and he gets a yearly stipend from the English court essentially. His position really gets some people calling him England's first poet laureate. There wasn't really a term for it then, but that was kind of what he was. It also led to a new, interesting direction in Jonson's career. His interest was

now also invested in writing royal masques, which were basically just elaborate stage productions that include acting, dancing, and music that are performed at court. This paid a ton better than being a public playwright. In the course of doing this Jonson produced two dozen masques. He produced a whole bunch. Some of them are really considered to be premiere examples of the form. He does a masque really well. These are things like The Satyr, which is a celebratory exploration of English folklore, and also The Masque of Blackness, which is about African ladies arriving at court so James could cleanse them of their dark skin, which is problematic to say the least. Though it actually went over pretty well at the time because they had different understandings of what was okay. Anyway, The Masque of Blackness is one of his legacy pieces. Even though that one was surprisingly not that controversial, other works that he did did land him in hot water. There were many times before he got this patronage that he was arrested and jailed for offensive material. He even had information about the Guy Fawkes plot, the plot to blow up parliament - 'remember, remember, the fifth of November,' all that V for Vendetta stuff. He had to reveal all that he knew in order to avoid punishment, so he was kind of in the thick of all this stuff. At any rate, the middle period of Jonson's life was free of legal trouble, and it was generally pretty much his most successful time. He produced work really considered his best, like 1605's Volpone, which is kind of a combination beast fable/comedy thing. This is his most-performed play. In 1614 he publishes Bartholomew Fair and also the hilariously named 1616 The Devil is an Ass; that just gets right to the point. 1610 has The Alchemist - not the novel by that guy recently. This last effort is really an examination of destructive greed; it's especially notable in that Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge called it one of the three most perfect plots in literature, so Coleridge liked it.

Poetry
We've talked about his plays, we've talked about those courtly masques; it behooves us to mention that he did write some poetry and it was pretty good. Like his stage writings, it's pretty clearly connected to Greek and Roman sources in its form. He's also considered to be at the vanguard of a new form of poetry known as Cavalier poetry, which is described as an elegant, graceful, relatively straightforward and often amorous expression of courtly thought. Sounds nice, doesn't it? Cavalier poets are not really that concerned with extended metaphors or textual riddles; they're not that into words working their magic. They kind of prefer direct, beautifully worded forms of expression. Jonson's notable for a few lyrics that really excel at this. The most famous is actually an ode to his deceased son, which is sad - kind of a heavy topic, especially because his plays are so comic; it's sort of an interesting switch. And it's actually so short and it's so nice that we're actually just going to read it to you here so you can get a sense of what his poetry sounds like. Here we go. 'Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy; My sinne was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy; Seven yeeres tho' wert lent to me, and I thee pay, Exacted by thy fate, on the just day. O, could I loose all father, now. For why Will man lament the state he should envie? To have so soon scap'd worlds and fleshes rage, And, if no other miserie, yet age?

Rest in soft peace, and, ask'd, say here doth lye Ben. Jonson his best piece of poetrie. For whose sake, hence-forth, all his vowes be such, As what he loves may never like too much.' So it's very sweet. He's saying that his son is his best work of poetry, which is very nice. So that's an example of Jonson's lyric.

Shakespeare
Because we have to talk about it, Shakespeare's kind of ghosted in and out of this lesson. Jonson and Shakespeare were thought to be rivals. Common critical conception, at least in the 20th century, was that Jonson was kind of the foremost practitioner of real, sculpted verbal excellence - he was a good craftsman - where Shakespeare kind of represented unfettered natural genius. Of course, in reality Shakespeare knew his dramatic forms just fine, and Jonson was creative as well, but this was sort of the easy way to classify them. It kind of seals their fates later; that's why Jonson's fallen out of favor - no one thinks he's as creative and dramatic as Shakespeare is. But despite their opposition, which even was there when they were living - they were rivals contemporaneously as well as later - and despite Jonson's reported high opinion of himself, they weren't really enemies. Jonson had a lot of respect for Shakespeare, and he actually contributed two poems to the front of Shakespeare's first published folio in 1623. It could be these poems that really contribute to the public's conception of Shakespeare as a natural genius; it could be Jonson's characterization of him. In that case, Jonson kind of dug his own grave in terms of his reception later on. He writes a very sweet poem about Shakespeare after his death - 'To the Memory of My Beloved Master William Shakespeare, and What He Hath Left Us.' It's in that poem that he says - and maybe now it sounds cheesy, but then it probably sounded really nice - 'he was not of an age, but for all time,' which turns out to be very, very true. So Jonson got it in one.

Conclusion
Just to sum things up a little bit, there's temptation to remember Jonson solely in opposition to Shakespeare. I've fallen into that trap a little bit during this lesson; I will not tell a lie. The truth is that he really did have a rich career full of plays, masques and poems all his own. He's really noteworthy for his farcical humor and absurdity as well as his real skill with language and his indebtedness to the Greeks. He was really into making things follow Greek form. His most famous play is Volpone, which, like I said before, is a fox, so it's kind of a beast fable-y play, which is very cool. He also produced lyric poems and fathered the group of poets known as the Cavalier poets. He might have said some kind of rough stuff about Shakespeare during his lifetime, but he really did respect him, and he cemented the reputation that Shakespeare has today with that lovely poem he wrote after his death. And that's Ben Jonson in a nutshell.

200 Years of Literature


Two hundred years of literature - no big deal, right? As you might have guessed, during the 17th and 18th centuries, a whole lot happened in the world of English lit. It would be impossible to cover everything that went down in this intro lesson, but we're going to take a quick tour of the broad movements that defined these two centuries of the written word in the U.K. If you, like me, struggle with what '17th century' means as far as what the years actually were, 17th century: 1600s; 18th century: 1700s. I mix those up all the time; let's just put that out there right now.

Basically, this period of English literature can be broken down into three smaller eras, each of which has their own little sub-eras, so take these designations loosely. It's not like they're set in stone, but they're just meant to give a sense of context. So, today we're going to be looking at: 1. The Renaissance - or really, the back end of it. The early 17th century is also known as the 'Jacobean era' in England. 2. The Caroline, Interregnum and Restoration periods that filled up the latter half of the 17th century. By the way, these names basically just refer to what was going on politically at the time. ('Caroline' is the Latin word for 'Charles,' and King Charles I had an on-again/off-again relationship with the throne during this time.) 3. The Neoclassicism of the 18th century. The first half of this century is also known as the 'Augustan era'. So, alright, let's dive right in!

The Renaissance

We're not going to spend a whole lot of time on the Renaissance since we've already got a few lessons covering that period and its main authors in detail. But we can't rightly talk about the 17th century of British literature without mentioning William Shakespeare, the biggest name in the field. He's the big daddy - the big cheese. He wrote plays and poems that were immensely popular, and we've got videos that cover a lot of
William Shakespeare

them. Some of the most important pieces that he wrote are the stand-outs, like Hamlet and Romeo

and Juliet. If you study literature, he's often the figure to which all other writers are compared - so, totally important guy. Of course, he wasn't the only writer to make a name for himself in the early 17th century. There was also his frenemy, Ben Jonson, a fellow dramatist and poet. Jonson's most famous for satirical stage productions that illuminated human flaws via darkly comedic plots. Some famous Ben Jonson works include - and this one, I say 'Vol-pone', I've heard 'Vol-poh-nay', you call Volpone what you will, The Alchemist and Bartholomew Fair. Jonson was also known for his masques, or elaborate stage plays produced in the royal court, kind of like the ancient version of a Lady Gaga concert. One other important part of literary culture in the early 17th century was the appearance of metaphysical poets, like John Donne. These poets were extremely clever and crafty with their words, but they also really meditate on some heavy subjects, like 'What is religion?' and 'What is love?' Their poetry is marked by their intricate phrasing and extended metaphors; if it helps, you can think of them as poetic show-offs; although that shouldn't detract from the fact that they were often talking about really important things. Before we moving on from the Renaissance, let's just mention a couple other cultural landmarks from that time. A little bit prior to the 17th century, the printing press kicked into high gear in England, and this allowed literature to be mass-produced for the first time, and that's huge - so it's not just available to the elite. One of the biggest beneficiaries of the printing press was the Bible. In particular, the King James Bible was completed in 1611; this was more or less the definitive English-language Bible and a massively

important piece of literature at the time. The Bible's influence is everywhere in English literature; it's almost impossible to overstate how influential it is.

Also, other disciplines, like the sciences, really began to jell during this period, and that was led by major thinkers and essayists, like Francis Bacon, whose work brought about the scientific method which hopefully you're familiar with from science classes. So, we owe a lot to Bacon.

Caroline/Interregnum/Restoration
A lot of the trends from the late Renaissance continued into the latter part of the 17th century,
Famous Ben Jonson works

known as the Caroline, Interregnum and Restoration periods. For example, metaphysical poetry kept going and got one of its most famous practitioners in someone named Andrew Marvell, whose poem 'To His Coy Mistress' is really one of the most celebrated in our language. You might be familiar with the opening couplet of 'To His Coy Mistress.' It goes: Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness, Lady, were no crime. He's basically saying, hey, we don't have forever, but let's get together while we can - so, he's smooth. It's a great poem; you should really check it out. Another important thing to remember here is Restoration literature, particularly Restoration comedy, is so-named because it's what resulted after King Charles II was restored to the English throne after almost two decades of boring Puritan rule. Restoration comedy is marked by its incredible sexual explicitness; it would even make some modern audiences blush. This was also the first time in history that there were female actors (or you know, 'actresses') and female playwrights. The times, they were a-changing. We've got a whole lesson on Restoration comedy you can watch if you want to learn more about this crazy time in English theatrical history, and I recommend you do.

However, in the later half of the 17th century, some of the biggest splashes were being made by three guys who were all conveniently named John, and we're going to talk about each of them. We've got:
The King James Bible was completed in 1611.

John Milton John Dryden John Bunyan

Of the three, I'd say John Milton is the big one; you've probably heard his name before. When it comes to English lit, he's usually placed as the second most important writer, after Shakespeare, so he was a big deal. Again, we've got a whole lesson on

Milton if you want to know more about him, but here are the basics: He was a noted essayist, poet and dramatist who produced popular but controversial work leading up to and during the Puritan regime (during which he actually held a political office). Exemplifying his work from that period is an essay called 'Areopagitica' (you can read it on the screen; that's not a word I'm familiar with). It's a 1644 tract about the dangers of censorship that helped develop the concept of freedom of the press. So, that's huge. But what he's probably most known for, and what you've probably heard in conjunction with Milton's name, is the poem Paradise Lost from 1667. It's a Homeric-style epic that dramatizes the story of Satan's rebellion from God and the fall of Man. Maybe that doesn't sound that appealing but it's a kickin' poem. You should really check it out. It's one of the most celebrated works of literature in the English language; it's long - it's over 10,000 lines long, but it's really worth the investment of time. It's fascinating and also another huge influence on literature. But let's not neglect the other Johns. As important as John Milton was to long-form poetry, John Dryden was also the most celebrated poet of his age, to the point that some literary circles referred to Restoration England as 'the Age of Dryden.' While you may or may not have heard of his individual works, he racked up a couple accomplishments that are really hard to ignore. First, he was the first guy to formally hold the position of England's 'poet laureate' - so, good on him. Second, he established the heroic couplet as the dominant form of English verse. For an example of a heroic couplet, take these two lines from Mac Flecknoe, his celebrated satire: All human things are subject to decay, And when fate summons, monarchs must obey So basically, heroic couplets are just pairs of rhyming lines in iambic pentameter. You can see this used all throughout English literature, from John Keats to Alexander Pope to even modern pop music (which some might consider literature - not me, but some). Anyway, Dryden's influence is hard to downplay; there are heroic couplets everywhere. Last, we'll talk about John Bunyan, one of those Puritans we mentioned earlier - who is not Paul Bunyan, no matter what I say. Bunyan wrote one of the major examples of religious literature, The Pilgrim's Progress, in 1678. This is a lengthy allegory in which the lead character, conveniently named Christian, tries to make his way through the world while fending off characters like Beelzebub, Lord Hate-good and Atheist. This may not be the most subtle piece of work ever written, but it was incredibly popular and has never gone out of print since its release. It's also one of the most prototypical examples of the early novel. It's over 100,000 words and split into two parts with no chapter breaks, so it's not quite the literary form we know yet, but that will come quickly. We have a video on The Pilgrim's Progress if you want to learn about it in more detail.

Neoclassicism
One of the most defining features of 18th-century British literature is the rise of the novel. During this time, authors like Daniel Defoe (who wrote Robinson Crusoe) and Jonathan Swift (who wrote Gulliver's Travels) began to write in the lengthy, chapter-divided form that today we consider the standard for consuming literature. Obviously, though, this standardization wasn't always the case. What happened? Well, in addition to writers like Bunyan, Defoe and Swift paving the way (all three had serious successes with their works), the Licensing Act of 1737 encouraged more controversial thinkers, who would typically write plays to fire up the masses, to instead turn to novels. This was a huge act of censorship that neutered drama for some time in England, but it ended up working out okay for people who enjoy reading novels, like myself.

Besides novels, poetry was still going strong in the 18th century. One of the major figures working in the form was one of my favorites, Alexander Pope, a noted satirist and classicist who produced popular works, like The Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad, mock epics that scrutinized what he saw as the failings of his time by casting them in a very serious, heroic light a la Milton or Homer. Really funny guy; his stuff is great. Check out Pope. One other important literary figure of the time is Samuel Johnson, a celebrated essayist, poet and critic who helped define and push the boundaries of English literature with his work - like an influential annotated edition of Shakespeare's plays and, most importantly, one of the first major dictionaries, simply titled A Dictionary of the English Language. Who needs something fancier? In fact, until the famed Oxford English Dictionary was published in 1895, Johnson's was the preferred dictionary of choice among writers and scholars. So, that's a really impressive contribution. A few other aspects of 18th-century literary culture began to look quite a bit like our own. Also, in the mid1700s, writer John Newberry made children's literature a popular thing or a real thing that people took seriously. (You may be familiar with the children's literature award now named after him, the Newberry Medal.) Finally, during this period an illustrator named William Hogarth pioneered sequential art - what we now refer to today as comics or graphic novels. Although in his time this much more resembled political cartoons or newspaper strips than the graphic novels you may think of today, like Maus or Persepolis.

John Bunyan and Pilgrim's Progress


I'm not going to sugarcoat it, Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, or, to use its full and proper name, The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come, is not known for being the most exciting work of 17th century literature - though that may be a dubious honor to begin with. That being said, it's an enduring and influential work, and no student of English literature should ignore it.

Something that is actually pretty interesting about Pilgrim's Progress is that John Bunyan (who is not Paul Bunyan, although I'm probably going to make that mistake at some point, so I apologize now), wrote at least some of it while he was imprisoned. Pretty badass, right? It's less so when you find out why he was put in prison. John Bunyan spent time in the Bedfordshire county gaol (jail, but spelled old-e time-y) for violating the Conventicle Act.
Writer John Bunyan

What, you don't know what the Conventicle Act is? The Conventicle Act prohibited holding religious

services outside the auspices of the Church of England, which was the state-sanctioned religion at the time. A conventicle is a religious assembly of more than five people (you know, in case you want to bring that out at an upcoming social gathering). As a Baptist, John Bunyan was essentially preaching without a license and jailed - or gaoled - for his crime. Clearly, someone who's willing to risk imprisonment for the sake of pursing his religious practices is someone who takes his beliefs and practices seriously, so it's really not surprising that John Bunyan wrote a religious work like Pilgrim's Progress.

We're going to take a look at what happens in the book and discuss why it's so important and still widelyread. A few things to keep in mind before we jump in: this book is divided into two parts (cleverly named Part 1 and Part 2), and it's an allegory or a work in which the characters and plot symbolize other ideas. Nothing is really meant to be taken at face value; they're all supposed to represent something more lofty and moral, and because this is a religious work it's pretty obvious. An example of a modern-day allegory is the movie Avatar. You can think of it as just a fantasy story about a journey to a magical land, but there's also that deeper meaning about respecting the environment and protecting the earth and the people who were there before you. So, that's sort of what we're heading into. So, let's follow Pilgrim's Progress.

Part 1: Christian's Journey


Bunyan begins by stating the story he's about to tell is actually a dream. Saying that something was 'all a dream' is considered a bit of a literary cop-out these days; you may have used it in a short story you wrote in junior high where you didn't know an ending so you were just like, 'Oh, then I woke up.' But this was the late 1600s, so it wasn't quite the clich that it is today; so, we'll give him a pass. Here's how Pilgrim's Progress begins: 'As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept I dreamed a dream. ' I did a lot of research to see if this 'I dreamed a dream' was the source of the song 'I dreamed a dream' from Les Misrables, but it doesn't seem like it is. But that's all that I think about when I read that first passage. That's neither here nor there. The dream was about a man named Christian, which is an interesting choice considering this is a Christian allegory. Christian is having a little bit of a crisis of faith, and he receives a visit from a sort of fairygodfather-like character named Evangelist. Bunyan didn't reach too far when trying to come up with character names; it's like if Harry Potter's name was Wizard with Glasses and Voldemort's name was Super Bad Guy. This guy, Evangelist, encourages Christian to leave the place he currently lives, called 'City of Destruction,' which he says is currently doomed. And he should seek God's redemption in the 'Celestial City,' and he goes without his wife or children because they refuse to join him. I guess because it sounds a little nuts. The rest of Part 1 follows Christian's journey. He visits a lot of different places and he meets a lot of people. Because it's an allegory, each of these places and people represent a larger idea. He meets too many people and goes too many places to talk about them all in detail, so we're just going to touch on the big ones: First, he goes to the Slough of Despond. It's a miserable bog-like place that you would sink into as soon as you walked across it. It's meant to represent Christian sinking against the weight of his own sins, so that's cool. While he's there, he encounters someone named Mr. Worldly Wiseman, who is nothing like the Three Wise Men in the story of the birth of Jesus. In fact, he tries to deter Christian from continuing towards the Celestial City and encourages him to stay in the village of Morality (where things are more intellectual) and forget about pursuing religion. Christian is intrigued by the offer, but he ultimately decides to continue on his quest. He encounters someone named Good Will (like I said, Bunyan didn't leave a whole lot to the imagination when it came to naming these characters), who directs Christian towards the home of someone named Interpreter, who really emphasizes the values of the Christian faith and the lifestyle to Christian. So, he's talking up being a Christian to someone named Christian. So, that's not confusing.

Next, Christian will head to the Wall of Salvation, where he thinks he sees the cross and the tomb where Jesus died. That vision throws him to his knees, and he eventually falls asleep. While he's asleep, he loses his certificate, which is meant to serve as his entrance ticket into the Celestial City. He's real hard on himself for that. Never fear, he'll eventually retrace his steps and find it again and continue on his quest. He encounters more treacherous places with very loaded names. He'll emerge victorious against temptation each time until he encounters a friend named Faithful and arrives at a place called Vanity, which has a famous fair, called Vanity Fair. You may have heard of a novel that's called Vanity Fair, there's a very popular magazine called Vanity Fair; that novel was made into a movie with Reese Witherspoon - those all come from the Vanity Fair of Pilgrim's Progress. Because Christian and Faithful are able to resist the temptations of Vanity Fair, they are put in prison (because the people of Vanity Fair are not nice). Faithful is unfortunately executed - something that Evangelist predicted; he thought one of them would die in Vanity Fair. Christian, luckily, is able to escape the prison and continue on his journey. He'll keep encountering more lands and people that tempt him, but he will best them at every step of the way. Part 1 ends with Christian and his friend, Hopeful, reaching the Celestial City. In case all of the names don't really give it away, what's going on here is that Christian is on a quest to fulfill a religious vision toward the Celestial City, which was assume should represent Heaven. He's meeting all these different people, some who try to help and guide him, like Interpreter, some try to detract him, like Mr. Worldly Wiseman. He listens to the people that are trying to help him and, eventually, ignores that people that are trying to tempt him. We see that Christian is a model of Christian virtue, really. It's not that there's no temptation, but that he's able to resist it and continue toward his quest. That's what happens in Part 1.

Part 2: Christiana's Journey


Part 2 is called 'Christiana,' and Christiana is Christian's wife's name. Yep, Christian and Christiana. John Bunyan was as creative with coming up with names as he was subtle. Part 2 focuses on Christiana and their four sons' journey to follow Christian to the Celestial City. They're accompanied by a maid named Mercy, and they'll encounter a lot of the same people and a lot of the same obstacles that Christian does. They're able to overcome them each time on their way to the Celestial City, where Christiana will meet her maker, known as the Master. Some of the people that they encounter that we didn't see in Part 1 have names like Contrite, Standfast, Mr. Ready-to-Halt, and my personal favorite, Valiant-for-Truth, who I imagine to be some sort of combination of He-Man and Fabio. You know, he has a big sword, and he comes at the end of Part 2 to help Christiana and the boys along their way. That's Part 2; his family follows along the same quest that Christian did.

Introduction to John Milton


It's easy to portray artists as rebels of their time. The thinking goes, if they're not offending someone's sensibilities, they're probably not making anything interesting. This is true to varying degrees, but it is super true when it comes to John Milton. He is an English poet of Titanic proportions. He is super important; listen hard young grasshopper as I tell you about him. He was spirited; he was critical; he was a freethinker, and he loved challenging popular institutions and modes of thought. He also had long hair, which makes him the perfect rebel. Although, that might have just been the style in those days - Isaac Newton had long hair and Alexander Hamilton is the stone-cold fox of the ten dollar bill. Throughout his life (and afterwards because there were things published after he was dead), he published a bunch of groundbreaking works - groundbreaking is a fair term to use with him - of both poetry and prose

that attracted a ton of controversy. Perhaps even more controversial to the anti-establishment thinkers of today, Milton for a long time was working for 'the Man.' He worked for the government; he spent his days supporting the legitimate English government. He's kind of like Mel Gibson's character in The Patriot; he's all reasonable and mild-mannered, and then he turns into a crazy-father-revenge-hero when his kids get killed. Milton turned for a reason; it's just not quite that dramatic.

Early Life
We'll start at the beginning. We got a little ahead of ourselves. John Milton was born in 1608 in London. He was the child of a composer and a Protestant 'rebel' who was disowned by his very Catholic father. Back before Christians had other religions to worry about, the Catholic-Protestant divide was a really big, important thing. Even back in my mother's time, she remembers 'the
John Milton

Protestant kids went to Baskin Robbins and the Catholics went to Carvel,' and they also called

ketchup CAT-sup. Apparently that was a thing. Now that's a little unfamiliar, but back in Milton's time, it was really important whether you were Protestant or Catholic. From a really early age, Milton was immersed in academia; he gets a private tutor; then he goes to this special fancy private school, and then he gets to go to Christ's College in Cambridge in 1625. He graduates from Cambridge four years later, and he goes on to get a master's degree. Then he goes on and studies a ton on his own. He had an insatiable appetite for learning. If he had had the Internet, he might've spent time watching videos like this to educate himself. I don't know, maybe I won't flatter myself. All of this led to Milton being one of the most learned of the early English poets/writers. He had strong backgrounds in almost everything - languages, theology, literature and politics. He knew it all. He was a smart dude. This studying and traveling around had a hugely major effect on Milton's political opinions, which were brought to the forefront when he got home right before the English Civil War. That's right; the English had a Civil War too. It was probably very civil, indeed, with tea breaks. In this conflict, the free-thinking Milton took sides with the Parliamentarians, who were basically people who didn't want to have a king anymore. They were rebelling against King Charles I. During this period, Milton published a whole bunch of pamphlets supporting Parliamentarian philosophies. From these pamphlets we get one of the more important facts about Milton's political life, which was that he was an early adopter of republicanism (with a small 'r'). He's not aligned with George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and all those kinds of people; republicanism back then just meant that you favored a government that was by the people. This was a republic that you got to vote in. For him, this meant that you'd be able to essentially elect your king - or whatever you wanted to call him - instead of it going down the line of kings, and letting them become tyrants just because they claimed that they had divine right by God. So, that's an important thing that Milton believed about politics.

Major Prose & Political Life


During this period, Milton wrote a ton of important prose works; that was where he was really focused. In 1643 he publishes Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, coming out in favor of being able to end marriages,

which was still quite controversial at the time. Now, 50% of marriages end in divorce, but back then, no divorce! His most lasting prose piece was published in 1644 ( Areopagitica), and it's basically an attack on censorship. Censorship was a huge thing, now it's just in China. Back then, it was all over the place. China will probably censor me for saying that! In 1649 he releases The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, which is basically saying that the people have the right to execute a bad monarch. Charles I could not have been happy with this because the target was clearly on his back for that. It was great for Milton that he was into republicanism because they won for a little bit. The Parliamentarians came out on top in the war. Oliver Cromwell won, and he appointed Milton his official Secretary for Foreign Tongues, which meant that he was to write all of England's international edicts and what not (which had to be done in Latin). It was the Esperanto of today, except it was a real language that people did know how to speak and wasn't made up by the U.N. He was also the State's official propagandist, essentially. It was ironic given his past, saying that state censorship shouldn't happen. In this period, his writing is exemplified in 1651's Defensio pro Populo Anglicano or the Defense of the People of England, a work commissioned by Cromwell's government to bolster its reputation. Again, it's work as a propagandist. But since this was politics, nothing lasts forever. Cromwell's Commonwealth collapsed at the end of the 1650s, the monarchy took back control and Milton was then a wanted criminal because he was so involved with the Parliamentary government. Eventually a pardon was issued, but he found himself in a bad place. He doesn't have any money; he's unpopular. He also went completely blind from glaucoma (that's not so good). It seemed that maybe his time was over as an important figure, but no!

Poetry
This is when his poetry really gets going. He had written poetry before, but maybe the blindness helps him. Homer, the famous Greek poet, was also blind. Maybe there's a little bit of inspiration going on there. Milton had published poems before, going back to the 1630s he wrote anonymously 'On Shakespeare,' and in 1631 he wrote a pair of pastoral poems, 'L'Allegro' and 'Il Penseroso.' It's fair to say that these took a backseat to political prose during the Commonwealth. His most famous piece from this time period, though, was probably the pastoral elegy 'Lycidas.' It basically memorializes the death of a friend of his from Cambridge named Edward King. Even though this is a respectable track record for publishing, probably nobody expected that Milton's most lasting work would be the groundbreaking (again, I normally use that word 'groundbreaking' sparingly) 1667 epic Paradise Lost. It's over 10,000 lines long, and it is about the biblical fall of man. It's like 'whoa,' and it's unprecedented from what he'd written before. It ends up being somewhat modeled on Greco-Roman epics. So, it marries Christian theology with Greek stuff, essentially. It tells the story of the war between Heaven and Hell and the fallout on Earth from that battle. It's pretty universally considered one of the most important works ever written in English, and it's studied everywhere. It gets a whole lesson itself. Don't you worry; we will come back to Paradise Lost. You might be wondering, how did he write poetry when he was blind? His daughters took dictation for him, which is really sweet. I just imagine him and his daughters, almost like an old blind King Lear, or something like that. After Paradise Lost, Milton had a few more epics up his sleeve. He wrote Paradise Regained in 1671, which is a shorter epic about the temptation of Christ. It didn't get quite as much attention as its predecessor, and that's still true today. He also wrote Samson Agonistes, which is a closet drama. All that means is that it is a play not intended to be performed. Unfortunately it is not a play that is meant to be performed in a closet! It would be awesome if it were. This tells the tale of the once-invulnerable Samson in

the last few hours of his life. Neither of these would go on to have the lasting effect of Paradise Lost, but together they represent his greatest poetic impact.

Style
One final note about Milton, he's a famous poet; he's a popular poet; he's great. I wouldn't call him an easy poet. He writes with some serious old-timey language, which is understandable because he's an old-timey guy. He doesn't sound like Shakespeare; you're going to be able to distinguish that pretty clearly. So, he doesn't sound like Shakespeare; he's got a style all his own. His poetry was characterized by really whacky sentence structure. If you encounter a poem that has old-timey language and you can't find a verb or you have to wait ten lines for it, you might be looking at a Milton poem! It's a good way to pick him out of a lineup. As an example, we're going to take a little looksee at the beginning of 'Lycidas' and see how he sounds. That's important for being able to recognize him. 'YET once more, O ye Laurels, and once more Ye Myrtles brown, with Ivy never-sear, I com to pluck your Berries harsh and crude, And with forc'd fingers rude, Shatter your leaves before the mellowing year. Bitter constraint, and sad occasion dear, Compels me to disturb your season due: For Lycidas is dead, dead ere his prime' So, the first verb we get in that is 'com,' and that's not even until the third line. But, that's not even the point of this opening! We don't get to the point until the eighth line - the point being that Lycidas is dead. All that flowery preamble to the point is really characteristic of Milton. He loves to talk and talk and get really involved in his own language.

Legacy
So, let's talk a little bit about Milton's legacy. He dies in 1674 of kidney failure, which is sad. But, his legacy has never really gone away. The Romantics in the early nineteenth century were really into Milton for both technical and also personal reasons: they really appreciated his lack of rhyme and also his descriptions of what Romantics would come to call 'the sublime' - meaning the awe-inspiring. They really liked how Paradise Lost described Hell. That's what they were into. At times, Milton has been prized above Shakespeare as a person who contributed to English. That's a tough claim to make! So, he's up there Milton and Shakespeare are the titans of English. Without a doubt, Paradise Lost is firmly in the canon. Everybody has to read it, and we will devote a lesson to it next. So, that's the little intro to John Milton.

Introduction
Of all the work that English poet John Milton - he's also other things, not just a poet - has done, Paradise Lost is kind of the big kahuna of his work. It really towers above everything else he wrote, and also everything else, pretty much, in the English language. He and Shakespeare are kind of even for most important dude in English. It was published in 1667, and Paradise Lost basically recreates the Biblical story

of the 'Fall of Man,' mostly taken from the Book of Genesis, and it's through the lens of Greco-Roman epics like The Odyssey or The Illiad - these stories of heroism and war and things like that. Centuries after its initial publication (so, like, now), critics are still arguing about the most basic aspects of the work, which is fitting - all of his writing inspired controversy. Probably not as much as Paradise Lost, but that's the kind of dude he was. He made people think, and he's going to make us think. So get ready. As we mentioned, Paradise Lost was published in 1667. It's 10,000 lines long, so it's an undertaking if you want to read the whole thing. It's blank-verse, so it doesn't rhyme, and it's broken up into ten books. Actually, later editions of it broke it into 12 to try to mimic The Aeneid, which is the Latin poet Virgil's major work. It's worth noting that Paradise Lost saw release near the end of Milton's life, and it was pretty much all written when Milton was totally blind and also totally out of political favor. He was actually even kind of a wanted criminal during part of this time. He wrote it by basically dictating it to his daughters because he couldn't see. The effect that his political situation and his physical state at the time play on the poem is up for debate - it's something that people and critics fight about, too - but whatever effect it might have had, it's definitely impressive that he was able to do that in that condition, essentially. Paradise Lost follows two strands of narrative. We've got Satan who's the rebellious angel, originally called Lucifer, outcast from Heaven and thrown into Hell. It also features the Garden of Eden's familiar resident couple, Adam and Eve, as Satan switches from Greek-tinged anti-hero to antagonist and tricks them into committing Original Sin. It bears repeating that the plot outline of Paradise Lost is basically in the Book of Genesis. It's nothing new. But where Milton really excels - and why he's such a big deal - is that he's able to use language so skillfully as to dramatize this in a whole new and compelling way. Actually in such a compelling way, in such a longlasting way, that a lot of our understanding of Genesis is actually influenced by Paradise Lost. So they kind of become synonymous in the way that we think about the creation story.

Plot Summary
But, in case (as would be totally understandable and was for me when I read Paradise Lost) you need a little brushing up on your Western religious traditions, we're going to give a little brief outline of what actually goes down in Paradise Lost. The poem begins shortly after Satan and his allies have rebelled against their creator, and they have been
The rebellious angel was cast out of heaven.

cast out of Heaven. Now they're hanging out down in Hell. Milton spends a lot of time giving these

wonderful, long descriptions of Hell and Satan hanging out in it. One of my favorites goes a little something like this: So stretched out huge in length the Arch-Fiend lay, Chained on the burning lake; nor ever thence Had risen, or heaved his head, but that the will

And high permission of all-ruling Heaven Left him at large to his own dark designs, The burning lake, stretched out, his dark designs... it's beautiful language. It gets confusing because it's kind of all garbled up - Milton's syntax is all over the place - but it's worth reading. So Satan, having been dealt a huge, massive blow to his pride, rallies his forces down in their dark little Hell-home and convinces them that they're going to strike back at the being that damned them to suffering, which would be God. Satan braves the Abyss and Chaos outside of Hell. He comes up to Earth, and he enters the Garden of Eden, turning himself into a serpent (which might be familiar from the Adam and Eve story). In the Garden, God's favorite new creations - mankind, the husband and wife duo of Adam and Eve - are hanging out, being innocent, toiling around in the Garden. God has basically promised them that everything's going to be hunky-dory unless they try to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Satan, who's really good with his words - he's really good at talking and convincing people what to do, uses his rhetorical skills to tempt Eve into doing just that, into eating from that fruit. Adam sees that his wife has fallen from God's grace, and he does the same thing; he eats from the tree, too. Then they have sex, and then they feel really guilty about it.

They confess to God what they have done and, as punishment for their own rebellion, God throws them out of the Garden, though not before the angel Michael shows Adam a redemptive vision of humanity through the arrival of the King Messiah, who we know is Jesus Christ. So that's how it ends. That's the basic plot, which you might wonder, 'Oh my God, how does he stretch that into 10,000 lines?' Well, you saw what he did with just a little tiny bit of Satan in Hell - he does that all over the place. This thing is so long. Good! But long.
Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent.

Examination of Themes
And it's heavy stuff, right? Milton's tackling Western culture's most influential story, and there's a lot to unpack and deal with. Central to Milton's interests in this story seems to be the idea of obedience and free will. Why does Satan rebel and cause others to do that, too? What's the controversy wrapped up in that? We can take a look at Satan's motivations, which we have ample evidence of in the poem. He's a rebellious angel, and though he has proof otherwise, he rejects the idea that all of creation comes from God. He doesn't like that because he wants to be his own creator. He rebels basically to get independence. He doesn't want to be enthralled to God anymore. For this - for disobeying God and, more importantly, for his pride and arrogance - he's thrown out of Heaven, along with everyone else who agreed with him, that maybe they should be their own creators instead of just bowing down to God's will. This drama essentially plays out again with Adam and Eve because they can have anything they want on Earth as long as they don't eat this tree - as long as they obey God and they don't seek knowledge on their own. It's important that it's the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - it's not just like, the Tree of Sex or the

Tree of Whatever. Knowledge is what they're after. It's kind of analogous to Satan's pursuit of his own independence - it's kind of another form of that. Satan tricks Eve into disobeying, and she also - and Adam and everyone else - is punished for their pride in wanting to be like God, essentially - wanting to have God's knowledge. In theory, right, Milton's lesson here is pretty simple. You 'obey your creator' and you don't think that you're greater than you are. You know your place, and everything will be hunky-dory. If you don't, you'll end up in Hell or thrown out of the Garden of Eden. Seems simple.

A Major Contradiction
But the problem is that this doesn't really align with what critics know about Milton. It's something that's also not especially resonant with people in general because so many of our heroes, especially in Greek epics, are rebels. Think of how we think of America's founding fathers or even how Milton himself was really into Oliver Cromwell who was kind of a rebel against the Crown. That's who we idolize, and so it doesn't totally sit right that he's just saying, 'Be obedient.' That creates dissonance and that leads a lot of critics to look deeper at what's going on here. Ostensibly, Paradise Lost is a religious text. Milton was famously Protestant. He was rebellious because he was in a divorce and things like that. But in theory, he's not going to try to create an epic poem that is full of heresy. Book I of Paradise Lost even says that its point is to 'justify the ways of God to man' - that's what the poem is trying to do. But many critics - especially Romantic poets, like William Blake, see that Milton's methods were at odd with his plot. For several reasons: First reason: His characterization of Satan is actually pretty compelling. Satan's part of Paradise Lost is structured like a Homeric struggle against powerful forces - first God, then the Abyss and Chaos - and he eventually loses, valiantly maybe. Milton emphasizes this by comparing Satan to various people from Greek myth, like Mulciber who's the Greek god Hephaestus in this passage: In ancient Greece; and in Ausonian land Men called him Mulciber; and how he fell From Heaven they fabled, thrown by angry Jove Sheer o'er the crystal battlements: from morn To noon he fell, from noon to dewy eve, Milton's using this in the context of telling how Satan fell for a day from Heaven - just like Hephaestus, he's basically saying. The problem here is that Hephaestus is not an evil guy - he just had a fight with Zeus, or Jove as Milton says in this. The Greek gods weren't 'good' and 'bad' in the same way that God is 'good' and Satan is 'bad.' Like I said, Hephaestus and Zeus just had a fight, and Zeus threw him off the mountain top and then he fell for a day. But, by throwing in this Greek stuff, by making Satan a little bit of a Greek person and tinging it with all of this, he kind of muddies the waters in how we think of Satan - because Hephaestus is a sympathetic figure. Zeus is clearly being the jerk in this situation. It kind of serves to make Satan a bit of a sympathetic figure, which is starting to sound awfully radical and awfully heretical when you think about the context. We're not supposed to root for Satan. There's also the unfortunate fact that the parts with Adam and Eve in it are regarded by many (including me) to be boring! They're not as good as the parts with Satan. They have much more domestic focus.

They're all wrapped up in troubling gender politics and whatnot. So who would we rather read about? Exciting Greek-tinged anti-hero Satan or morally-correct humans? I think you know the answer... Second reason why the whole, 'What does Milton really think of Satan?' question gets asked. Satan is really good at talking - he's a skilled rhetorician. This is a trait that a writer like Milton might like because Milton is also good with words. There's two major times in which Satan uses impassioned speeches to get what he wants. He convinces his fellow Hell castaways that the fight isn't over - the speech is straight out of a fantasy war movie: 'There are brave men out there! Let's go kill them!' (Yes, I watch Game of Thrones.) And he also uses his skilled rhetoric to tempt Eve into defying God. It should be noted, right, that Satan doesn't really have the stuff to back up his words because he gets schooled by God in the end. Milton maybe would have admired his attempts - or, it's hard to imagine Milton not admiring his attempts, I guess is what I should say. Third reason is that beyond simply being good with words, there are some hard-to-deny similarities between Satan and Milton. You might recall in our lesson on Milton we said that politically he was rabidly anti-monarchy; he sided with the Parliamentarians who were trying to rebel against the king, and he advocated the execution of bad rulers. To Satan, God is a wicked tyrant much the same as Charles I was to Milton. There's obviously differences - Charles I was not God (that should be pretty obvious), although he did claim to have divine right to the throne. That might be all you need to know to really figure out what the difference is here between Satan and Milton. Some critics think so - they don't think it's worth diving into this anymore. Others don't find it that easy to write off because Milton obviously possesses sympathy for rebellious people, and the text surrounding Satan seems to indicate as such because of the other things we said - how good he is with words, how 'Greek hero' he is. There are certainly explanations for why Satan comes off positively in Milton's poem. The most obvious is Milton just wanted to craft an epic that was kind of about the Biblical story but was imbued with human emotions. So Satan gets kind of humanified and that makes it easier to write the story. But William Blake has a different explanation in mind; he says that Milton is 'of the Devil's party' without knowing it. Others felt the same - that Satan really was the tragic hero of Paradise Lost and that the book is basically hypocritical and highlights hypocrisy that is the foundation of Western religion. Blake kind of thinks that it's heretical maybe by accident. But other critics think (and this is kind of my favorite interpretation of this, but take this with a grain of salt) that the reader's sympathy for Satan might be Milton's point in the sense that we understand Satan's motivations because we're the descendants of fallen Adam and Eve. God isn't sympathetic - we don't understand Him. But maybe that's the point of religion and believing and all of that - we don't understand God, but we trust Him anyway. Even though He might seem tyrannical, even though it doesn't make sense, we trust it anyway. We don't rebel, but of course we feel sympathy for the one that does because we understand what he's feeling. And this is how we come back to the issue of free will, which we mentioned briefly at the beginning. Satan's really compelling personal drama is set in relief by, as pointed out by a critic William Empson, that 'however wicked Satan's plan may be, it is God's plan too.' God requires that Satan and Man fall so that they may be redeemed by Jesus, by his Son. So even in his rebellion, Satan doesn't have any agency, and Adam and Eve don't really have any agency - this was all in God's plan. Again, this is kind of sympathetic. Satan's a little bit sympathetic because he thinks that he's rebelling, but he's not - he's just following the plan. And we're kind of moved I think by the irony of his classic line 'better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.' And I think we sympathize with that.

There's no easy answers here - there really aren't. There's no critical consensus on these big questions about Paradise Lost, and debates go on still about what this all means. But this conflict really gets to the heart of why Paradise Lost is so good and why it has resonated with so many readers and why we still think about it - it's like a puzzle, which you have to figure out, but it's really worth figuring out because its heart is kind of the basis of Western literary and cultural traditions - this work that has all these contradictions in it and we want to work it out. But if you sit down to read Paradise Lost, be prepared for the ultimate anti-hero you're supposed to think is the worst, but you might end up liking. If you do, it will set you up to think about some really cool stuff and work out some serious issues.

Alexander Pope Background and Biography


Pop quiz: he's one of the most quoted authors in the English language and a scathing satirist to boot. He's responsible for making Homer - Greek Homer, not Homer Simpson - cool again, and he almost ruined Shakespeare. If you haven't guessed it yet, I'm talking about Alexander Pope, one of England's most notable 18th-century poets and satirists. Maybe you think being one of the 18th century's most notable poets and satirists isn't that cool, but I promise you it is, and I'm going to tell you why. Pope was hilariously born into a Catholic family in London in 1688 (because how could you not be Catholic if your last name was Pope?). This religious affiliation actually caused a lot of trouble for him, all joking aside, for a lot of his life; thanks to the recently (for that time) enacted anti-Catholic Test Acts, it was actually illegal for Pope to seek out a higher education. So, many of us may have used that law as an excuse to kick back with some Mario Kart (or whatever the equivalent time-waster of that era would have been), but not our boy Pope. From about the age of 12 on, Alexander Pope was really responsible for his own learning, and he took it pretty seriously. He taught himself by reading classic Greek and Roman works of all kinds; he read satires by Horace and epics from Virgil and Homer. These two styles - satire and epic - really pop up a lot in Pope's own works - you can really see how he was influenced by these writers that he studied as a child. Of course, one must also be well-rounded, so during this time he also enjoyed some classics of the English literary tradition, most notably Chaucer and Shakespeare. Besides his religion, another source of constant trauma for Pope was his health. At age 12, Pope came down with Pott's disease (which is a form of tuberculosis), which led to lifelong complications like difficulty breathing, abdominal pain and even a hunchback. But that's not even the worst of it: Pope never grew above 4 feet 6 inches tall. Some critics have even suggested that the never-ending turmoil caused by his religious affiliation and his sickness and his inability to grow did a good deal to contribute to Pope's satirical fire - the whole 'tears of a clown' theory. One more cool thing to know about Pope is that he was one of the first people to make a living off of just his writing - that's something a lot of people struggle to do today, so good on him. Pope's relationship to the classics, especially those by Homer, paved the way for this trailblazing lifestyle. We'll explain what that means in a little bit, but for now, it's just important to understand that Pope did understand how to monetize his talent and make it work for him, and that's huge.

Early Poems
Pope's first major works are a series of four short, seasonally themed poems called the Pastorals, and they were published in an anthology in 1709. These poems show off the two important traits of Pope's work that you'll see pop up again and again. First, as we mentioned above, we see his love of the classics;

Pope's Pastorals are based on the Roman poet Virgil's works. This will not be the last time that Pope bases his work on the work of Virgil; it's just one example. Secondly, the Pastorals are written in the style of heroic couplets - those are rhyming couplets of iambic pentameter, so named because it feels very epic and celebratory to do things in heroic couplets. Pope was one of the key practitioners of the heroic couplet style, which we can see at work in the opening lines from the Pastorals' Spring: First in these fields I try the sylvan strains, Nor blush to sport on Windsor's blissful plains: So you can see right there how the heroic couplets are a reader-friendly style; they flow naturally and have that pretty rhyme at the end - it almost feels like singing a song. Anyway, those are heroic couplets, but I think one of Pope's most important works didn't come until after the Pastorals. It's called An Essay on Criticism, but don't be fooled by the title - it's not just an essay. It's also a poem written in his beloved heroic couplets. This work is Pope's attempt to lay out what is basically a philosophy of writing. It takes on important questions of Pope's day that people still really debate: should art and poetry be artificially constructed, or do they come from this unpredictable burst of inner natural genius? What's the role of the critic in art - what's their function, and how do they contribute to art? Do they contribute to art at all? As it happens, Pope believed that true poets were made, not born, and that the best poetry comes from artfully imitating classic examples (given Pope's education and the way he likes to write, it's really not a surprise to learn that he thinks this). He also believed that critics served the incredibly important function of helping writers to express themselves, but he warns that it's too easy for critics to fall into lazy traps. We mentioned at the start of this lesson that Pope gets quoted a lot - he's really one of the most quoted authors in the English language. Even if you've never heard of Pope before, you've probably heard some of his quotes, and a few of those actually come from An Essay on Criticism. Some of the most popular include: A little learning is a dangerous thing. To err is human, to forgive divine. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. I mean, 'fools rush in' became an Elvis song, and I think there was a movie with Matthew Perry - it's become a very popular phrase, even now. These are the kind of witty, perfectly-stated lines that have kept Pope popular even today. To me, I really see a connection between Pope and Oscar Wilde, another figure of English literature who had these witty epigrams that people love to quote and also a really strong love for humor and satire as well. Pope's most famous poem is indubitably The Rape of the Lock, and that comes a year after An Essay on Criticism. We've got a whole other video on that poem, so we're just going to keep it short here. I do want to state right up front, though, that The Rape of the Lock is in the style of a mock-epic and has nothing to do with a real sexual assault, so don't be afraid to watch it. It's really pretty funny what actually happens. In this poem, Pope is drawing on classical sources, but now his satire is really kicking into high gear with this poem that takes a very minor incident (in fact it's just the stealing of a lock of hair - that's the 'lock' in the title), but he conflates it with a war to shake the heavens along the lines of Virgil's Aeneid - a very violent, emotional, huge, epic poem. He's trying to elevate this minor event to something as big as an epic.

It's really a great piece, and you can learn about it in the other lesson, and then you should go and read it because it's a mock-epic, so it's not as long as the Aeneid, thankfully.

A Classical Turn
Pope never shied away from any of his classical influences in writing, but in 1715, I think, is when he really embraced them completely. This is when he began translating Homer's epic poem The Iliad into English, which is really no small undertaking because that thing is huge. As you might have guessed, Pope exclusively uses heroic couplets for this endeavor; since The Iliad tells the story of a Greek hero, Achilles, the style really fits because it's got that feeling of celebration and of excitement that comes when you tell a story of a great hero, and Achilles certainly was one. This is also a project that brought Pope some serious financial success. Earlier, we mentioned he was able to live solely off his writing, which is no small feat, even today. That's because he brokered a deal with the translation's publisher that made him handsomely rich, so good on him. He released his translation of The Iliad in six separate volumes via a subscription service; one volume would come out each year, kind of like a really slow magazine. Pope earned some lavish pay for this project, which was wildly popular and basically cemented his reputation even in the face of some struggles to come. What kind of struggles, you ask? I'm happy to tell you. Well, Pope hit a string of difficulties in the late 1720s. In 1725, he was commissioned to put out his own version of Shakespeare's works as he had done for Homer. The resulting version was highly revisionary and, to many, highly unsatisfactory because Shakespeare was beloved even then. Pope took a lot of liberties editing Shakespeare's work, and a lot of people weren't happy with it. Pope's revisions have more or less been written out of the English literary canon, though his introduction to the volume does still remain popular. In 1726, Pope went back to his Greek roots, maybe feeling he didn't have quite as much success with English work as he had hoped, and made a translation of Homer's second epic, The Odyssey. Unfortunately, given the amount of work it took Pope the first time around, this time he thought he'd hire on some help with the translation process, but he didn't tell anyone. Once word got out that he didn't do all of the work himself, people were understandably kind of upset. This one-two punch of frustration had Pope a little fired up, so he again turned to his favorite outlet - mocksatire - to get some sweet revenge on his critics. This took the form of The Dunciad, a kind of inverted heroic epic that details the fall of Britain to the god 'Dulness.' In The Dunciad - which, we should point out, was originally published anonymously, though everyone pretty much knew who was behind it - Pope attacks some of his biggest critics by putting them in incredibly unflattering positions, though he tries to save a little face by using only their initials in the text (but really, how smooth is that? Not so much). One of his main targets was Lewis Theobald, a man famous for his scathing rebuttal of Pope's own version of Shakespeare, entitled - get ready: Shakespeare restored, or, A specimen of the many errors, as well committed, as unamended, by Mr. Pope : in his late edition of this poet. Designed not only to correct the said edition, but to restore the true reading of Shakespeare in all the editions ever yet published. A - that's huge. B - mean. Total sour grapes. The Dunciad - at least its earlier editions - concludes that witty men (you know, like Pope himself) are constantly at war with the subjects of Dulness and must fight back against her. Petty - maybe. Funny? Totally.

A Philosophical End
Pope's last major work was called An Essay on Man, and, similar to An Essay on Criticism, it's not really an essay the way that we would think of it - it's also a poem written in heroic couplets. It was meant to be

the center of an entire poetic system of ethics, but unfortunately, Pope never got to complete this subject. However, this work, which was meant to 'vindicate the ways of God to man,' according to Pope's words, still exists as a foundation for Pope's general worldview. What is Pope's ultimate argument here? It ties in with his religious background. It's meant to challenge a human-centric worldview in favor of the ways of the Universe, which both does and doesn't refer to an actual Christian God. Basically what Pope's saying is that we're in the middle of our life, so we can't really make sense of it, but everything is ordered in 'the Great Chain of Being,' and we just don't know how. Thus, it is man's duty to accept this truth and strive to lead a good life and conduct good actions in the face of these limitations. His philosophy boils down to 'que sera, sera' - whatever will be, will be; or, as he puts it himself, 'Whatever is, is right.' This poem drew a number of admirers early on for its beautiful language and its sense of optimism despite, or even because of, human limitations, but some of its earliest supporters, like the philosopher Voltaire (who you may have heard of), would come in time to even rally against its seemingly laissez-faire approach to ethics.

The Rape of the Lock


It's Alexander Pope time! I am so excited because we are talking about Alexander Pope. He was one of the foremost British authors and satirists of the 18th century. He, in a highly relatable way, built his reputation on the foundations of a sharp satirical tongue and a love of bringing classical Greek and Roman literature into the modern day (as we all do). Alexander Pope was awesome and hilarious, and we're going to talk about his most famous work, which is rather unfortunately titled The Rape of the Lock. I'd like to specify right now that, in this instance, the word 'rape' does not imply sexual assault - I just really want to get that out of the way. This work is really entertaining. It combines both his foundations of satire and his influences from the Greek and Roman traditions to really make something awesome but also trivial at the same time. Let's just jump right into The Rape of the Lock and find out why it's so great and why it's so funny and still enjoyed today. This work was originally published anonymously in May of 1712, but Pope would eventually expand The Rape of the Lock and publish it again under his own name a few years later. That's the version - the second version - that we're going to look at today. It's known as a mock-epic or a mock-heroic, which should be pretty self-explanatory. It's a work that takes on the form of a classic Greek or Roman epic, like Homer's Odyssey, but with a satirical twist, and that's where the 'mock' comes in. Satire, remember, is a literary form that uses exaggeration and ridicule to expose truths about society. In The Rape of the Lock, the satire comes from the fact that Pope is using high-and-mighty classical epic form - the tradition of Homer - but he's really telling a story that is incredibly trivial. Before we get into that story, there are three other things you should know about the poem. First, like typical epics, The Rape of the Lock is divided into cantos. That's the standard division for epic poems that comes from the Italian word for 'song.' If you've read any of Dante's Divine Comedy or if you are a fan of Ezra Pound (as so many of us are), you'll be familiar with that term. Unlike an epic, though, The Rape of the Lock is not incredibly long - it's just 5 cantos and only about 600 lines. I guess he figured satire would wear out its welcome after a while. Also, it's a mock-epic - it's not a real one. Second, the poem is written in heroic couplets, which means rhyming pairs of iambic pentameter - so if Shakespeare had rhymed all of his lines, that would be heroic couplets. Pope was an early adopter of this form and should deserve a lot of credit for making it popular. Heroic couplets make a very pleasing,

melodious reading and listening experience; you'll find that the passages of this poem have kind of a songlike quality to them. Finally, just an interesting side-note - The Rape of the Lock is based on real events that Pope had related to him by a friend. That same friend had asked Pope to write this mocking poem in an attempt to show the groups involved how silly they were being and hopefully get them to reconcile. But of course Pope ends up the real winner here, because The Rape of the Lock is considered one of the greatest satirical poems in English literature. If you write great poems, you don't need friends. You heard it here first.

Plot Synopsis
Let's get to the story. As I mentioned earlier, we should not interpret the word 'rape' here as sexual assault. So what does it actually refer to? Well, as we mentioned, the events of this poem are very trivial. Basically, it's the tale of a lock of hair getting stolen from a beautiful girl at a party - that's the 'rape.' And while this may sound pretty upsetting, it's not as intense as Queen Helen getting stolen from Troy and launching the Trojan War, which is the basis for a lot of other epics. So right away, they're lampooning this event by comparing it to something huge, like the start of the Trojan War. Pope's point there - and this is where the satire starts - is that the society of his day placed too much emphasis on trivial things like surface beauty (thank God we're over that...). He's trying to compare that maybe someone would find getting their hair cut off as depressing as having their queen stolen or a massive war with another land. That means that the poem is both satirizing the genre of epic and also the modern sensibility at the same time. It's a double satire - he's working hard. The main character here is Belinda, a beautiful woman called the 'Fairest of the Mortals' by Pope in the first canto, which, if you're familiar with Homer, might sound a little bit like Helen of Troy (and I don't think that was an accident). In this section of the poem, Belinda wakes up and gets ready to go to a ball, and that's about it. If Stephenie Meyer - the Twilight lady - had written The Rape of the Lock, this section would take like 35 pages and it would be told in excruciating detail (because that book is terrible). But Alexander Pope was much more skilled than Stephenie Meyer (sorry Twilight fans). However, since this epic is modeled after the likes of Homer, Belinda gets some supernatural help getting ready. The gods are always interfering in Homer's works, and this happens here, too. Belinda's supernatural help comes from someone named Ariel, her guardian sylph - basically an 'air spirit' that Pope uses as a satirical equivalent of a major god or goddess who intercedes in the hero's life - like Athena, for example, except Ariel's a dude. If you're familiar with Shakespeare's The Tempest, you might recognize Ariel as the name of Prospero's servant, but, realistically, you're probably thinking of The Little Mermaid. However, Ariel's a man, so that's not a good association. Ariel and his fellow sylphs, Pope says, have the duty of protecting virgins - to quote from the poem, 'Whoever fair and chaste / Rejects Mankind, is by some Sylph embraced.' You can see the rhyming couplet right there - chaste/embraced. Nice work. Ariel, in keeping with his duty as a protector, warns Belinda of dark omens on the horizon, but he's not exactly sure what they are. We know what they are - someone's going to cut her hair. Those omens, we learn, are there because of the Baron, the poem's main antagonist, who we meet in Canto 2. The Baron is an admirer of Belinda's who's been plotting to steal her most prized trait, which Pope says are 'two Locks which graceful hung behind / In equal Curls, and well conspir'd to deck / with shining Ringlets the smooth Iv'ry neck.' He's talking about her hair - it's really pretty and hanging in curls around her pale neck. In other words, Belinda is known for her hair, and the Baron, who's obsessed with her, wants to steal some of it for himself - that's all that's going on so far.

But Pope words this in a way to let us know that the Baron is a total creep - he's not a lovestruck Romeo, he's a weirdo. Here's what he says: 'Th' Adventrous Baron the bright Locks admir'd, /He saw, he wish'd, and to the Prize aspir'd: / Resolv'd to win, he meditates the way, / By Force to ravish, or by Fraud betray .' I guess just asking her for some hair is out of the question. Besides introducing us to the Baron, Canto 2 also brings Belinda to the party by a sea voyage, which is another element of epic poetry that Pope's making fun of - there're always ships sailing somewhere in Homer's works. In Canto 3, after a game of cards is written up like a grand battle, the Baron sets himself for his nefarious task. He's aided by Clarissa, a young lady who fancies the Baron for herself. This is one of those sad kind of 'if I do this for someone, maybe he'll like me' approach that you might observe in people you know from time to time or perhaps have been guilty of yourself (we've all been there - no judgment). Clarissa's role in the plot is to hand the Baron the scissors and not much else. This is really where the overblown satire comes in. All she's doing is handing the Baron the scissors to cut some hair from a girl who doesn't know her hair is about to be cut. But this is how Pope dramatizes the handoff: 'Just then, Clarissa drew with tempting Grace / A two-edg'd Weapon from her shining Case; / So Ladies in Romance assist their Knight, / Present the Spear, and arm him for the Fight.' He's just cutting some hair, but he's saying she's the lady assisting the knight before a duel. He's trying to elevate it while also making fun of it. The third canto ends tragically with Belinda finally losing a prized lock of her celebrated hair. In the fourth canto, another otherworldly creature appears and takes the place of the sylphs. This is a gnome called Umbriel, who travels from the 'Cave of Spleen' to procure for Belinda 'a bag of sighs and a vial of tears' from its Queen. Now we've met the Queen of Spleen. It's too bad Pope never actually uses those words, because that would be hilarious. If the use of spleen doesn't make a lot of sense, it helps to keep in mind that people in Pope's time thought that your spleen was where all your angry feelings come from. So basically Canto 4 uses a supernatural metaphor to explain that Belinda's overflowing with emotions after her very upsetting event. Now we're on to Canto 5, where Belinda is overcome with bad feelings thanks to Umbriel, and Clarissa's role in the poem sort of changes from scissor-hander; all of a sudden, she's meant to present the story's moral. She attempts to calm Belinda down with a speech about how beauty will eventually wither but good humor and a positive attitude can last forever - that's really supposed to represent Pope's own idea about the events of the poem and the real events that inspired them, too. Let's hear how he says it: But since, alas! frail Beauty must decay, Curl'd or uncurl'd, since Locks will turn to grey; Since painted, or not painted, all shall fade, And she who scorns a Man, must die a Maid, What then remains, but well our Pow'r to use, And keep good Humour still whate'er we lose? That's what Pope says - beauty fades, but if you're a cool person who rolls with the punches, that's more important. But Belinda isn't hearing it because who's going to listen to the weirdo who just helped some creep cut your hair? Instead of just trying to calm down, Belinda starts a violent fight at the party, which is great. In the scuffle, it appears that Belinda's treasured lock is now lost forever... or is it?

As it happens, the poem delivers something of a twist ending here. Let's let Pope explain: 'But trust the Muse -- she saw it upward rise, / Tho' mark'd by none but quick Poetic Eyes .' If you're thinking 'What?' then you're correct - I am too. It turns out that the stolen lock of Belinda's hair is supposed to have ascended to the heavens, the final resting place for all great and beautiful things. Kind of a cop out? Maybe. Pope does a little poetic trickery here and even inserts himself a bit into the proceeding - 'Poetic Eyes' he's the poet. The Rape of the Lock closes with these four lines that tie a nice little bow on this surprising development: 'When those fair Suns shall sett, as sett they must, / And all those Tresses shall be laid in Dust; / This Lock, the Muse shall consecrate to Fame, / And mid'st the Stars inscribe Belinda's Name!' In case anyone didn't know, 'tress' just means 'lock' - it's just a synonym for hair (you can only say 'lock' so many times, realistically). In other words, now that the lock has been championed before the Muse - the Muses were supernatural beings that were supposed to inspire poets and artists, so it's kind of a reference to Pope - it shall live forever among the stars. This brings The Rape of the Lock back to its classical roots, because invoking the Muse is a classic move for any epic poet worth his salt - a lot of epic poets will start by praising the Muse and asking the Muse to inspire them. So Pope's really nailing it here. This ending also introduces a bit of sympathy to Belinda's cause because it's like she gets this consolation prize for losing her temporary beauty, and that consolation prize is pretty grand - that her name will live forever among the stars.

Restoration Comedy Historical Background


Imagine that a religious group, far more conservative than any of the ones operating today, took over the country for almost 20 years, and when they did, they banned theater, TV, movies, Youtube - basically any form of entertainment that we like to rely on. The only thing you could indulge in were essays about virtue and other crap like that. Then, suddenly, that ban was lifted. How crazy would you go? Believe it or not, this is almost exactly what happened in England in the mid-17th century (although obviously not with Youtube). King Charles II was dethroned by a Puritan named Oliver Cromwell. I love British names so much! Cromwell banned public stage performances for 18 years. When Charles, who was a personal fan of the arts, was restored back to the monarchy in 1660, one of his first acts was to bring theater back. That's why it's known as the Restoration period - the Restoration era of theater. And, given the general air of happiness around this return, you might imagine that, in particular, there would be an awful lot of Restoration comedies during this time. You would be right.

Traits of Restoration Comedy


The phrase 'Restoration comedy' might make you think of a fix-'em-up sitcom like Home Improvement. The truth is, though, that it refers to a type of comedy that is, in many ways, even more modern and edgy than a Tim Allen vehicle. Shocker! It was as though all of these social and performance pressures had built up over those 18 years of Cromwell's rule of boredom, and the decadent Charles II let them all out in grand style. That's why, above all else, Restoration comedies are marked by their emphasis on highly sexual situations - something that would have made the Puritans blush, at least. In fact, it only took a few decades for this to become pass in England again for centuries. But from 1660 to about 1710, sex was the king of the theater. It's like going from Home Improvement to South Park.

This emphasis on sexual situations goes hand-in-hand with some other important social and theatrical changes. The period of Restoration comedy marked a transformation in English arts in a lot of ways. During this time, the first professional actresses took the stage. Prior to that, there were men and boys cross-dressing to fill the
During this time, the first professional actresses took the stage.

female roles. Now they actually let women play women parts, which is great and seems like it should have happened a long time

before that. This alone brought in lots of theater-goers at the time; it was considered something of a novelty, maybe a little bit risqu. Ladies on stage! Actresses even parodied and subverted the old crossdressing tradition; there was a major trend toward breeches roles, or parts in which female characters would pretend to be men on stage. It's something that we don't think of as shocking or novel today, but it really was at the time. This period also saw a rise of celebrity actors in general. Again, we're really comfortable with the idea of actor as celebrity, but this was new during the Restoration period. Though their names are mostly forgotten to the general public now, in their day, performers like Thomas Betterton, Nell Gwynn and Elizabeth Barry could fill houses based on their star power alone. This was true to such a degree that a group of celebrity actors even started their own theater company in the 1690s. Also, for the first time in history, it was fair to say that there were truly diverse theater audiences. Everyone from the king to servants patronized the theater during this time, and the bawdy, naughty scripts of the day took advantage of this fact. Going hand-in-hand with that, Restoration comedies aren't really known for being satirical or overly critical of society, at least not in any obvious way. They basically just took the social mores of the day and ran with them, trying to entertain as many people as possible because they had really been starved for entertainment. Because of that, Restoration comedies were packed to the brim with variety. Playwrights loved to take plots from various sources (the Greeks, the Romans, the French, sometimes their own heads) and toss them all together into a manic hodgepodge. Audiences of the day did not care for ponderous philosophy they wanted singing, dancing, burlesque - anything that could fit on stage and delight them. Finally, recalling our first point, Restoration comedies really marked the beginning of the professional female playwright in English society. In particular, Aphra Behn made a large mark on the theatre during this time, and we're going to talk about a couple major works of Restoration comedy right now, including one of hers.

The Rover
Aphra Behn's The Rover, first produced in 1677, is one of the premiere examples of a Restoration comedy. Remember how we said that these comedies were especially sexually explicit? Well, that should be immediately apparent from this brief plot synopsis. So, here we go (send the kids out of the room if you're sensitive). In The Rover, Willmore, an amorous (fancy word for 'horny') English naval captain, falls in love with Hellena, who wants to experience 'love' - by which we definitely mean sex - before she's sent off

to a convent by her brother. Who wouldn't? Meanwhile, the famous courtesan (fancy word for 'prostitute') Angellica Bianca falls for Willmore too and vows to get revenge on Hellena. Spicy already! Seriously, though, all the
Professional female playwright Aphra Behn wrote The Rover, a Restoration comedy.

explicit sexual intrigue of The Rover is clear even in its most base plot elements. Can you imagine a Shakespeare play with a onesentence synopsis that just reads 'Juliet wants to have sex as quickly as possible?' No, probably not. There's sex in Romeo and Juliet, but they're in love and they get married first. Then they have sex under appropriate circumstances. It's not like these people who are on a mission. Discussing The Rover allows us to mention the term for many of the male protagonists of Restoration comedies - they were called rakes and they were basically nothing but immoral womanizers. Their attempts to have sex with basically anything that moved drove most of the comedy of that period.

The Country Wife


If you want a great example of a rake - and possibly the best example of Restoration comedy imaginable you've got to look at William Wycherley's The Country Wife, probably now the most staged work of this period (although, 'infamous' is probably a better word for this one). After serious initial success, the play basically disappeared from the stage for 171 years. That's a really long time! Its content was deemed too risqu and immoral to produce. It's crazy to think that London theatergoers of the 1670s were more accepting of things than those in the 1910s, but there you go. What got people so riled up about The Country Wife? Well, listen to this plot description: Harry Horner, the town rake (again, a womanizer), decides to feign impotence in order to lull women (and their husbands) into a false sense of security. If this guy can't perform sexually, there's no reason not to trust him around the ladies in town, right? Of course, Horner intends to use this lie to climb into bed with every woman in town. Smart guy. Meanwhile, the shoe's on the other foot with newly married couple Mr. and Mrs. Margery Pinchwife (the titular 'country girl'). Mr. Pinchwife has married Margery because he thinks she's a simple rural girl, and she won't be bright enough to cuckold (cheat on) him in the big city. Of course, he turns out to be wrong, and with the help of Horner, Margery soon learns about the joys of sexual freedom and adultery. Actually, this sounds pretty risqu even for today. We'd love to quote the infamous 'china passage' here that sees the play at its most vulgar, but it's essentially X-rated. If you're curious, find a copy of the play (the full text does exist online) and turn to Act IV, Scene 3 in which Horner and his latest conquest make love under the guise of him showing her precious china. This is stuff that South Park can barely get away with, particularly the lines after Horner and his lover emerge from their bedchamber.

Daniel Defoe A Born Dissenter


All right, let's talk about Daniel Defoe. You may not know much about Daniel Defoe yet, but his legacy is really strong. If you've ever seen the show Survivor or the movie Cast Away, those are really influenced by

Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe. If you're a reader of novels, which I hope you are, it's good to know that Defoe was actually one of the earliest writers of the English novel. (Also, fun fact, he also had a great wig - neither here nor there.) Anyway, this guy did a little bit of everything. He wrote literally hundreds of books and pamphlets. I don't even know how to get started, so I just will. Daniel Defoe's birth name was actually Daniel Foe. He was born in 1659 or 1660 (apparently we can't nail that down). He was born in London. He'd add that more dignified-sounding prefix to his surname a little bit later on, and we'll talk about that. Daniel Defoe was raised as a dissenter, which is not the same as a Dementor. It was a group of people who didn't believe in the Church of England, which maybe now, when we live in a society that celebrates freedom of religion, might not seem like a big deal, but this wasn't an era of religious tolerance in England. It was a rough time to be a dissenter. They often faced a lot of persecution and animosity from people who disagreed with them. You could say Defoe was a lucky child. He survived the Great Plague of London, which, as I'm sure you know, many did not. It was the last bubonic plague outbreak, and it killed about 1 in 5 people. That is ridiculous. Then, he also survived the Great Fire of London, and that destroyed about 90% of Londoners' homes. I don't think they really understand what the word 'great' means. Like a lot of writers, Defoe flirted with the idea of becoming a minister, which, I know, makes no sense if you belonged to a group that didn't support the Church of England, but he ultimately decided against it. He wanted to go into business. He had a pretty successful career in hosiery (I guess those guys needed tights to go with their wigs). In 1864, he married a lady named Mary Tuffley, which to me sounds like a made-up name, but apparently it was not. They'd go on to have eight children together, so good for them. In 1865, shortly after his marriage, he took a break from his business to take part in something called the Monmouth Rebellion. This was an ill-fated attempt to overthrow King James II. Good try, Daniel. After that failed, hundreds of rebels were put to death. As I'm sure you can imagine, the King didn't take kindly to people trying to overthrow him - some people were hanged, some were beheaded, some were burned at the stake, and others were drawn and quartered, which I think means cut up. I didn't want to look it up. It sounds gross. Daniel Defoe actually was able to get a pardon and survived that, too. So he was a pretty lucky dude. So we've got plague, fire, rebel - I don't even know what the word is when you try to attack a rebel, but he survived that too - clearly, he was destined for great things. So, let's talk about what they were.

Early Writing and Politics


Since Defoe was born a dissenter, you might expect that he was born to have a career in politics, and you'd be right. Near the end of the 17th century, he began publishing pamphlets and poetry that had sort of a political leaning. The pamphlets were essays and articles that were intended to share the author's opinions on politics, amongst other things. They were kind of like an early Twitter or some political blogs, only with a lot less Justin Bieber (thankfully for them). He wrote hundreds of pamphlets. It's sort of ridiculous. I don't know how he got anything else done. The first notable publication of Defoe's was called An Essay upon Projects, and it was published in 1697. This was a collection of essays on improving education, roads and other social issues through taxes. It was apparently over 50,000 words long. That is a serious pamphlet. During the reign of William III, Defoe was a big supporter of the monarchy, which makes not a lot of sense considering he tried to overthrow a previous king. Regardless, in 1701, he published something called 'The True-Born Englishman', which was his most popular poem and to me sounds like an article in GQ. This

poem made use of satire, a key theme in a lot of Defoe's writings. It's good to know that King William was Dutch. There was a lot of xenophobia in England at the time, and some people resented having a foreignborn king. No evidence of that in the U.S. today, though (lucky us). Today, they'd ask to see the king's birth certificate, but back then they just got violent. So Defoe used his weapon, his pen, and satirically noted that everyone in England is pretty much from somewhere else, what with all the conquering by foreign hordes and colonization - again, sounds kind of familiar. The poem won Defoe favor with the king since he was reaching out in the king's defense, but then that king died, and Queen Anne took over. She didn't like the dissenters. She didn't like something he wrote called 'The Shortest Way with the Dissenters', which was a satirical suggestion that the dissenters be violently suppressed. The anti-dissenter crowd thought that he was serious, and the pro-dissenter crowd was appalled. When they realized what his actual intentions were, everyone was mad at him. I guess they didn't see the irony of it. They arrested Defoe and put him in a pillory, which is weird and thankfully something we don't do today, unless you go to Colonial Williamsburg, and then you can. While he was under arrest, Defoe wrote a poem - shocking - called 'Hymn to the Pillory' which, reportedly, made him very popular again. Apparently you can win or lose favor in England with a great poem. He got out of prison by agreeing to be a spy for the Tory party and would spend the next several years writing, and then spying, and then writing some more.

Major Fiction Works


We're going to jump now into his works of fiction because his personal life is getting a little too insane. In 1719, when Defoe was around 60 years old, he published his best-known work, which is Robinson Crusoe. You're probably familiar with this or some later version of it. It's inspired a lot of adventure stories. The book tells the fictional story of a castaway who lived for nearly 30 years on a remote island. Even if you think about Swiss Family Robinson, the show Lost or Gilligan's Island, which I know is not contemporary at all, a lot of those deal with people stranded on an island, and you can see ties back to Robinson Crusoe. Though the novel is fiction, it was partially based on some real experiences of either one or multiple real castaways from Defoe's time. The book was an immediate, massive success, and it's still widely read over 200 years later, which is a real testament, I think, to Defoe's writing and understanding of what people find entertaining. After the great success of Robinson Crusoe, Defoe quickly published two sequels, though neither of those did nearly as well, and they definitely didn't have the staying power that Robinson Crusoe did. Defoe's next original novel after Robinson Crusoe was called Captain Singleton, and it was published in 1720. It is an adventure story about an English pirate. Following that, he published Memoirs of a Cavalier; it's a historical fiction novel set during the Thirty Years' War. By 1722, Defoe was on a tear with novel-writing. In that year alone, he published three novels. I can't even finish emails, but Daniel Defoe published three novels in 1722. Only two are really worth noting. First, there's one called A Journal of the Plague Year, which sounds uplifting. It recounts the Plague of London that occurred during Defoe's childhood. It's a weird book. It's not really a story. It's more of a historical record of what life was like in London during the plague, watching people around you die of a gross disease, so interesting, if not always pleasant. What's amazing is that Defoe was only about five or six years old when the plague happened, so if he remembered enough to write any sort of account at all, it's pretty impressive. But maybe living through the plague hits your memory harder than other things. Finally there's Moll Flanders. This is probably Defoe's second most well-known work after Robinson Crusoe. You might notice that I'm getting nervous. That's because I'm going to have to say its full title now,

and it's huge, so I'm just going to do my best and ask you all to bear with me now. Here we go: The Fortunes & Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders &c. Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu'd Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whereof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv'd Honest, and died a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums. Yep. That's the full title. Spoiler alert - it pretty much gives away most of the story right there. Also, someone should tell Fiona Apple that Daniel Defoe had already played out the ridiculously long title thing over 200 years ago and she should have done something different for her new albums. Daniel Defoe died in 1731. By the time that he died, he reportedly had used nearly 200 pen names to publish his hundreds and hundreds of pamphlets, essays, stories, novels and who knows what else he wrote.

Robinson Crusoe She Ain't Seaworthy


Before there was Tom Hanks, Castaway and that blood-stained beach ball named Wilson, there was Robinson Crusoe. This novel was written by Daniel Defoe (not to be confused with Willem Dafoe, the actor) and published in 1719, and Defoe probably based Robinson Crusoe on a real guy named Alexander Selkirk, who was a Scottish castaway. Selkirk was sailing around off the coast of Chile, and he let his captain know that he thought that the ship really wasn't that seaworthy. The captain was like 'Well, if you don't think it's seaworthy, why don't you just wait around for a better ship on that island over there.' Selkirk said 'Fine!' and he waited around on the island. He kind of regretted the decision immediately, running after the ship as it was sailing away, but he didn't, obviously, make it back on. He lived on the island by himself for four years. And the ship that left him there actually wasn't very seaworthy, and it sank off the coast of Colombia! So Selkirk was totally right about not getting on this boat - the problem was then he was stuck on this island for four years. He was eventually rescued. The island eventually, eventually was renamed Robinson Crusoe Island because of the story that it eventually inspired. But Defoe was totally into this story, and he used it as the basis for Robinson Crusoe. He kind of one-ups Selkirk in a way because he lives on the island for 28 years, although he's only alone for about 15 of them we'll get to that a little bit later. He's not left behind by an indignant captain; he's just shipwrecked instead. There're also cannibals because of course Defoe has to up the ante a little bit on the adventure side of things. I'm getting ahead of myself. We're going to start from the beginning, and we're going to talk about some of the themes of the work and also just what happens because you probably know some of the story, but you probably don't know all of the story.

A Rebellious Youth
It starts out when Robinson Crusoe is 18 years old. His father wants him to be a lawyer (I think some of us can probably relate to that these days), but Crusoe just does not care. He wants adventure! It doesn't matter that his two older brothers have already gone away voyaging; Crusoe wants to go to sea - that's his dream. His father refuses to let him travel, and Crusoe runs away with a friend to sail off to London. In this willingness to go against his father's wishes and journey off into the great unknown, we're already starting to see a theme of determination but also maybe of foolhardiness on the part of Crusoe. Misfortunes set in almost immediately. There's rough weather, the ship doesn't make it to London and he parts ways with his friend. Crusoe goes the rest of the way to London on foot, and he signs on for a voyage to Guiana.

That ship is then attacked by Turkish pirates, and Crusoe is enslaved for two years. He manages to escape - he's sent fishing with these two guys. He throws one guy overboard, and then he forces the other one, whose name is Xury, to pledge loyalty to him. They paddle the boat away, meet some friendly natives and convince this Portuguese ship to take them off to Brazil. We're seeing a consistent pattern here with Crusoe meeting obstacles at every turn, but he has a real strong will to keep on going and really make the best of things. He rises to each challenge and sees it through. Still, his biggest challenge is yet to come.

A Business Man
He leaves Xury with the Portuguese captain on the boat, and he sets off to start his life in Brazil. Once there, he notices that people are making money off of plantations - that seems to be the way to go, so he makes some money and buys one. He's doing well - he makes some friends and gets some business partners. They're all getting pretty wealthy, and they decide to start a trading business. Unfortunately, since it is 1659, that business involves trading slaves. Crusoe doesn't seem all that concerned about this - I guess that's a product of the time. There're a couple of themes at work here that we should probably take a look at. Crusoe is clearly a friendly dude - he keeps making friends, from ship captains to business partners. We'll see friendship come more into play once Crusoe gets marooned. Another continuing theme that is really important for this book is work ethic. Crusoe is clearly a self-made man. Whether he's working on a ship or managing his plantation, he's really pulling himself up by his bootstraps, and again, that will continue in interesting ways once he gets marooned. Anyway, as a part of this new business venture, he decides to go on a sea voyage. He doesn't have to go, but remember he was all into adventuring - that's why he didn't want to be a lawyer. Inevitably, there's a shipwreck, and Crusoe is the only survivor on an uninhabited island. That is where the part of the story that you are probably most familiar with begins.

Shipwrecked!
Luckily, he has enough forethought to salvage supplies from the sinking ship. He goes back a few times to get more stuff as it's sinking. He also finds two cats, a dog and a parrot, who he ends up treating as his subjects - he kind of pretends he's king of the island (again, kind of like Wilson the volleyball to a certain extent). But the interesting thing about Crusoe is that he doesn't just survive. He survives in style. He learns how to cook. He makes his own clothes. He finds some wild goats and raises them to be domestic goats. He plant crops. He builds himself a really cool house. He also builds himself a country house on the other side of the island where there are fruit trees. He has a lot of free time on his hands, obviously, because he's alone on this desert island. This theme of work ethic has come back in an interesting way because he doesn't just sit around and wait to die or sit around and do the bare minimum to survive. He accepts that these are his circumstances - he's alone on this island - and starts to build a life for himself. Before he builds this comfortable life, he's pretty miserable. It takes him a while to get there. He nicknames the island the 'Island of Despair' because it's not going so well. One of the things that helps him overcome this is his strong faith in God. This becomes interesting again in relation to the work ethic because what emerges from this is the idea that Protestantism at the time - there're Protestants and Catholics - was really into working hard and

making money as a sign that you were God's chosen. We can see this playing out in isolation on Crusoe's island. There's no reason for him to work hard because it's just him. He doesn't have to get dressed. He doesn't have to make interesting food. But he does anyway, and there's a certain sense that this is, in a way, related to his own religious faith and a way to make himself be closer to God to a certain extent. So that's kind of interesting. Eventually Crusoe discovers that he's not alone on the island - he finds a footprint on the beach. It turns out that every once in a while, some cannibals come over from a neighboring island to eat some prisoners. Crusoe ends up freeing one of these prisoners, and this is how he gets his companion, who he names 'Friday' because he appeared on that day of the week. (Crusoe has obsessively kept a calendar all this time to sort of keep him connected to the outside world.) He and Friday end up going back and killing the rest of the cannibals and freeing two more prisoners, one of whom turns out to be Friday's father. Another turns out to be a Spaniard who tells them that there's a shipload of Spaniards who are shipwrecked nearby! So suddenly, things are looking up. They make a plan to get off the island with the Spaniards. Before they actually do this, some Englishmen turn up whose ship has been mutinied. Crusoe helps the captain take control of the ship, strands the mutineers on the island, and then they all get to go home! Everyone at home thought he was dead, so he didn't get to be in his father's will, and there are lots of negative things that happen from that. But overall, things work out pretty well for him even though he had to spend 28 years on a desert island.

Legacy
The story of the shipwrecked man on the island and his boy Friday - they obviously go beyond the novel because you've probably heard of Robinson Crusoe even if you haven't read this book. This is because this base narrative was spread far and wide by tons of adaptations, different editions and sequels. At the time, it was widely disseminated in the form of 'chapbooks,' which are basically pictures with minimal text to tell the story. Most people only know the shipwreck part of the story. All that stuff that I described before - getting enslaved by Turkish people, being in Brazil and having a plantation - was probably pretty unfamiliar because what people know best is when he's on the island, living by himself, and then he finds Friday. And that's because this is the part where Crusoe has hit upon something unique. Before that, he's just writing another adventure story. People wrote adventure stories before - it wasn't that interesting to read about a guy out trying to make his fortune on the high seas. But when he gets him on the island, he ends up writing something much weirder - this weird, cool parable of hard work even without an outcome. What people do on their own - the kind of interesting things that happen when you don't have companions. This is the thing that really ends up lasting, even though it's spread as an adventure story and a non-literary tale - children know this story, and they're obviously not reading Defoe. This conceit of the guy who makes his own way even when there's no point to making his own way is the thing that really resonates with us... we're kind of the descendant of the Protestant work ethic as well. So that's Robinson Crusoe - the story and also a bit of why this story in particular has lasted so long with us.

Swift's Life

So, we're talking about Jonathan Swift (no relation to Taylor - at least, none that I'm aware of). He's actually one of the most famous satirists of the Western literary canon. He held political positions and religious positions in a variety of institutions in both England and Ireland, and that gave him lots of great material to work with. It led to the two really important works of Jonathan Swift's that we're going to talk about today, and that's A Modest Proposal and Gulliver's Travels. Swift was a child of two countries - England and Ireland - and I think that contributed to his eye for politics and his ability to observe differences between peoples and countries. He was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1667, but he was born to English parents who had fled the country during the English Civil War. Swift's father died before he was born, and his mother returned to England, leaving him with an uncle who acted as sort of a benefactor, even paying for Jonathan Swift to go to school.

However, in another bout of political upheaval, the Glorious Revolution, Swift returned to England to live with his mother. She helped find him work as a secretary and the personal assistant of a diplomat, whose name was Sir William Temple. Temple was writing his memoirs at the time that Swift joined him, and Swift was able to assist him in that process - sort of
Jonathan Swift was a child of two countries: England and Ireland.

an early introduction to his career as a writer.

He had an on-again, off-again working relationship with Temple, and between helping him write his memoirs, he also became ordained as a priest in the Church of Ireland. After Temple died, Swift became a minister in a rural area outside of Dublin. He spent a lot of time during this period traveling back and forth between Dublin and London, championing the rights of poor Irish clergymen. He found sympathy amongst the Tories, which is an oppositional political party in London. It was also during this time that he began to anonymously publish his first political pamphlets, and that's sort of how his writing career got going after working with Temple. You can see, even in those early days, how his interest in writing and his interest in politics started to meld. A few years later, when the Tories rose to power, Swift was made the editor of their weekly periodical, which was called The Examiner. But, easy come, easy go; when the opposing party, the Whigs, got back into power, many of the Tories were tried for treason, which was a bummer. Because of this, Swift again fled to Ireland, and that gave him the opportunity that he needed to really start his career as a real writer. It was during this period that Swift produced many of his important works, including the two that I'm about to talk about. One is a satirical pamphlet, and the other is an epic parody of a travel narrative. Both are awesome, and let's go!

A Modest Proposal
Even though Gulliver's Travels, Swift's epic travel parody, was written first, we're going to talk about A Modest Proposal now. A Modest Proposal's full name is A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burden on Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick (and that's 'publick' with a 'k' - fun fact). The topic of the pamphlet is one that Swift had taken up

throughout his life - the conditions of impoverished Irish people. This time, Swift's dark sense of humor led him to suggest a pretty nasty way for the poor Irish to lead a better life - they could sell their babies to rich people to be eaten. Yes - baby-eating. Of course, he wasn't serious - though not everyone picked up on that. Swift was actually employing a classical Latin form of satire in which an extreme position is taken up to ridicule it, and the audience is never really let in on the joke - they're supposed to figure it out for themselves that Swift is kidding. Of course, not everybody did. But you can even see the satire even in the title because what's so 'modest' about suggesting that people sell their babies to be eaten? Swift had a few other targets that he was lampooning here as well, like the people of his time who thought that they could offer easy cure-alls to society's problems in just a little pamphlet. He was also pointing out the dehumanization of the lower classes - this is something he saw around him a lot - where poor people were basically reduced to statistics and not actually viewed as human beings. Swift ultimately does introduce actual notions of reforms that he think would work, though he does this using a tactic called paralipsis, which is introducing a topic by saying it shouldn't be talked about (yeah, there's a word for that). The things that Swift embraces through this mocking tone include using only Irishmade goods, tightening up on personal spending habits and encouraging all Irish citizens to be more peaceful and understanding of their neighbors - relatively reasonable suggestions (much more so than selling your babies to be eaten). Of course, that part of the text hasn't really stuck with people as much as baby-eating. That vivid, unexpected image is what makes A Modest Proposal so famous even today and really one of the best examples of satire ever written because its point of view is so extreme.

Gulliver's Travels
So that was A Modest Proposal, and we're going to move on to Gulliver's Travels, which is really, I think, Swift's most famous work, and it's pretty incredible. It's an epic satire, a parody of a travel novel and also a sort of prototype for the science fiction genre that was to come. Gulliver's Travels is a four-tale story of the adventures of a ship captain named Gulliver. Throughout these books, he will travel to lots of lands and encounter all sorts of strange people and places, and each one is meant to illuminate some folly of the human condition that he's observed in his own life. I'm going to go through what happens in each of the books, then we'll talk about what it was that Swift was trying to point out with each of these stories. Don't be afraid if you hear a lot of crazy names that make no sense, and if the way I pronounce them isn't the way you would pronounce them, I apologize - I'm really doing my best. In the first book, Gulliver is shipwrecked and ends up in a place called Lilliput, and it's a land of tiny people that are all under six inches tall - so, of course, Gulliver is a giant because he's what we would consider a regular-sized person. Gulliver takes up a position in the Lilliputian court, where he's put to work attacking their enemies, who are the Blefuscudians. These groups are at war over how to crack an egg. Gulliver refuses to use his massive size to obliterate the enemies completely, which pisses them off. Then he also puts out a fire by urinating on it, and I think that was really the nail in the coffin for Gulliver on Lilliput. He's charged with treason, but because he's a giant, he manages to escape and returns to England for the time being. That's the first book. In the second book, the tables are turned, and Gulliver is abandoned in the land of Brobdingnag, which is a place full of giants. So, before Gulliver was much bigger than the inhabitants, and now he's much smaller. He's taken in by a local farmer as a curiosity (like, 'Oh, look at the tiny guy I found!') and is purchased by the Queen for her collection of oddities (which sort of reminds me of something that the Queen of Hearts

from Alice in Wonderland would do, but that's just me). While he's in the company of the royal family, Gulliver regales them with stories of his life in England, and it seems that the people there are all a little bummed out by it. They think England sounds like a violent and petty place. Eventually, as you might expect, a giant eagle snatches Gulliver up and drops him into the sea, where he's received by a group of sailors. The third book finds Gulliver marooned after a pirate attack in the land of Laputa, a floating island whose inhabitants rigorously pursue mathematics and science but for no real reason; they just like inane experimentation. For those of us who aren't scientifically inclined ourselves, this can be how we view all people who rigorously pursue math and science. During this voyage, he also takes a side-trip to the land of Luggnagg, which is populated with ancient immortals called Struldbrugs, who age but never seem to die. Eventually, Gulliver manages to escape by way of Japan and then returns to England. A lot more happens than I'm talking about - these are just really the bullet points here. In the fourth and final book, Gulliver suffers a mutiny at the hands of his crew and winds up on an island controlled by the Houyhnhnms. They are incredibly wise but highly dispassionate horse-people. On that island, humans are wild, second-class citizens called Yahoos. Gulliver finds great joy in this society of the wise Houyhnhnms, but eventually they figure out that Gulliver's just another Yahoo, and they exile him. Gulliver eventually does get back home to England, but now he's a changed man; he spends most of his time thinking about these experiences that he's had and refusing the company of people he now considers Yahoos (which are just other humans), and he'll even go to the stables to hang out with horses because he misses the company of the Houyhnhnms. So ends Gulliver's Travels. That's what happens in the book, which can seem like a lot of ridiculous nonsense, just like a crazy fairy story, but there's really more going on. Critics have literally filled books talking about the deeper meanings of all of his journeys and the people that Gulliver encounters, so we're just going to scratch the surface here a little bit. Each land that Gulliver visits is pretty clearly meant to represent some exaggerated human trait or philosophy that he observed at his time. The Lilliputians are small, and they're warlike. They fight over stupid things like cracking an egg. This is how we imagine Swift viewed England at the time. In the second book, the tables are turned, and Swift can't escape the association of his countrymen; in the land of peaceful giants, he's a quaint oddity from the land of angry, violent people. In the third book, the Laputians criticize this slavish devotion to science and reason without a sense behind it - it's not too dissimilar from one of his attacks in A Modest Proposal, actually. The immortal, miserable Struldbrugs show that even having all the time in the world to think about stuff doesn't necessarily guarantee happiness. Then finally, the fourth book presents the hyper-rational Houyhnhnms, a race Gulliver desperately wants to be a part of but yet cannot. Gulliver's realization that he is, at least in part, a wild Yahoo is sobering for him; having seen the alternative - the way he could be living - he never really feels comfortable amongst his own people again. (That's kind of a bummer.)

Swift's Themes Summed Up


There's really a whole lot more that I could say about Gulliver's Travels, but that's a really quick overview of its plot and themes, and I hope you'll check it out for yourself, as well as A Modest Proposal. Swift really used Gulliver to satirize the human condition; through exaggerated comedy, he ridiculed prominent thoughts of his day, but he also tried to offer people some comfort. Gulliver, after all, has to accept that he's passionate, not-always-logical and just a human being at the end of the day, even if he'd rather be

something else (in this case, a horse-person...). Regardless, you have to be who you are, even if you think the alternative might be better. This same idea comes up in A Modest Proposal as well - there's the central notion which is based on a totally dispassionate sentiment - that Ireland can take care of its poor if they would only sell babies to be eaten. Looking at these two works combined, it really seems as though Swift was advocating for a more compassionate way of life, workable reforms for the conditions in Ireland and England and really just more sympathy amongst peoples and an effort to understand each other instead of offering crazy solutions, like going to war or eating babies. Even in Swift's broad, unflinching comedy, humanity always shines through, and that's what I'd like you to remember about Jonathan Swift.

Samuel Richardson
Though the name Samuel Richardson might not sound that familiar to you now, he was actually the most famous author of his day. In fact, he was the first writer in history to write what we would now think of as a bestseller, and we'll get to what that book was and what made it so exciting a little bit later. That happened in 1740, and the novel was called Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded; that had a huge impact both on literature and literary culture in the 18th century and really after that as well. First, I want to talk a little bit about who Sam Richardson was (his life and his background), and then, we'll get into this novel that shaped so much of what we take for granted about books today. There's a lot of things we assume were always true about novels, but all those things had to be invented by someone. One of those big someones was Samuel Richardson.

Biography
He was born in 1689, probably in a small rural village somewhere in England. The details of his early life are sketchy, as is the case for most people born in that time who weren't born into nobility. He was one of a family of nine children. The Richardsons eventually moved to London, where Samuel got some sort of education - we're not sure exactly how formal or what the quality was. It was at Christ's Hospital grammar school. What is clear - at least according to Richardson himself - was that he always had a penchant for letter writing. He said one of his favorite things to do was help people in his community write letters of correspondence for various purposes. He actually got into helping local girls correspond to their longdistance suitors/lovers/pen pals. Right now, that probably seems like a surefire way to get 'friendzoned,' but he was really into it. According to Richardson, the experience helped him both get his start writing and also learn the ways of the female heart. Both of those will really come into play when we examine Pamela. Because Samuel Richardson's father really couldn't afford the education necessary to make him a clergyman - which is what he wanted - Papa Richardson allowed Samuel to pick his own profession. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me. Samuel chose to go into printing because he thought it would give him ample time to read, which is reasonable. As was the custom at the time, Richardson apprenticed in another shop for a while, then he eventually went on to either co-manage or manage a shop himself. It's a little sketchy as to which one. Finally, he bought his own shop in 1719. During his tenure as a printing shop owner, Richardson encountered all sorts of people who needed works printed, as you might imagine; everything from political dissidents to the enforcers of etiquette (of which my mother is one). It was two of the latter, named Charles Rivington and John Osborn, who asked Richardson to produce what was known as a conduct book to help teach rural individuals about manners, social graces and the like. That might seem sort of offensive today, but it's something that happened then. Richardson had just started this project when he was inspired to turn what he had into a fictionalized story

by adopting the relatively new form, the novel, which had just started to congeal about 20 years before. And so, that was what became Pamela: Or, Virtue Rewarded. Let's talk about that now.

Epistolary Novel
The form of Pamela is really interesting, and everything Richardson wrote sort of followed this form. It's called an epistolary novel, which just means that it's written as letters from one character to others. Oftentimes there is a central character who corresponds with many characters; sometimes you'll see different kinds of correspondence in an epistolary novel. Remember how we mentioned that Richardson liked to write correspondence for people growing up? It's no really surprise, then, that his novels took this form once he started writing on his own. Also, the fact that he wrote a lot of letters for young ladies made him feel equipped to write a novel completely from the perspective of a woman, in this case Pamela. Whether or not he did a good job is your call. You should read it and decide. What are the benefits of writing an epistolary novel? There are actually a few. First, it lets you more clearly see characters' motivations and their development than if you were just being told them by an author. Going along with that, it also allows the author to present a more complex main character than if it's written in another form. When an entire work is written in one character's voice, it more easily allows for complications and depth than a typical third-person narration really doesn't. Finally, it brings a sense of immediacy to the work. In an epistolary novel, characters are typically recording things more or less as they happen or shortly after they occur. Therefore, you feel more like you're right in the middle of the action, versus a more traditional form, where it can seem like everything that's going to happen already has and you're just getting to hear a future summary of the story, essentially. If you think about it, you've probably seen some form of epistolary novel - or other media - somewhere before. Some famous examples include Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Perks of Being a Wallflower and even that Eminem song Stan are all moden day froms of an epistolary novel.

Pamela - Plot
So, now that you know what an epistolary novel is, let's get back to Pamela - the book that started it all. Some people call Pamela the first English-language novel, though it seems more likely that early 18th century authors, like Jonathan Swift or Daniel Defoe (both of whom we have lessons on, by the way), could really claim that prize instead of Samuel Richardson. It's up for debate, but either way, Pamela is an early novel , and it's an important one. But one reason people probably say that Pamela was the first Englishlanguage novel is because of the sensation that was around it. It was really the first book release that could be called a true multimedia event - it inspired artwork, novelty teacups and even playing cards. In a lot of ways this is the precursor to something like Harry Potter, Twilight or the Will and Kate phenomenon. If there had been motion pictures back in 1740, you really can be sure that someone would have made a movie of Pamela (in fact, there is a movie version made in 1974, but it was kind of played as a comedy - it's not my favorite thing). Anyway, what was Pamela about? Why all the excitement? The main character is named Pamela Andrews, and she is a young, innocent country girl who works as a maid in a wealthy household in rural England. When her mistress dies, her mistress's son, Mr. B, decides to pay her more attention, going to great lengths to try to sleep with her, essentially. This includes everything from overt passes to actually hiding in her closet and then jumping out as she's undressing for bed. Basically, Mr. B is a big old creep. When Pamela decides to get away from this and return to her parents, as many sane people would, Mr. B intercepts her letters to her parents and sends her to live in a new house with a really unfriendly housekeeper. Really relatable plot so far, right? At this point, Pamela begins to keep a journal instead of

sending letters, since she doesn't know if her parents will ever see her letters or if they will get intercepted by the shady Mr. B. It's there, in this new house, that she meets a clergyman named Mr. Williams, who wants to marry Pamela and save her from this unfortunate situation she's found herself in. As you might guess, Mr. B finds out about this plan and is not happy. He has Mr. Williams arrested. Mr. B is clearly creepily obsessed with Pamela in a way that would maybe get him arrested today. In one intense moment, he actually confesses his love to her right away but says that he can't marry her because of their different social standings, which is insulting, but something you see in literature some places (especially in Pride and Prejudice, for example). Mr. B does lighten up a little bit, and he steals and reads Pamela's new letters. He really starts to feel bad for what he's done to her and decides that the right thing to do to her is to let her go home to her parents. However, that makes her feel bad, and she realizes that she doesn't actually want to leave him when given the opportunity. She decides to return to Mr. B, and the two make plans to get married. In essence, they both make honest people out of each other and live happily ever after.

Pamela - Analysis
That sounds kind of old-fashioned, right? Basically, the plot is this guy, Mr. B, is trying to sexually assault Pamela at one point, has a change of heart due to her virtue, she ends up falling in love with him, he becomes a decent guy and they end up together. It's a classic romance - not really. There are definitely some questionable sexual politics there, especially by modern-day standards, but actually that's not what caused the big stir around Pamela at the time. Besides the story being wildly entertaining for readers, there are two things about Pamela that really stood out. First was its morality. Remember that Richardson set out to write a conduct book. He kept that goal alive in Pamela, which is kind of preachy in its ethics. This is apparent in Pamela's subtitle, which is Virtue Rewarded. He wanted a book whose main character remains chaste and pure despite numerous trials, temptations and people trying to take her virtue from her. That's exactly what happens here. Richardson aims to show that, in Pamela's continued resistance to Mr. B, she actually turns him into a better person, who eventually sees the error of his ways and does the right thing. Whether that's a faithful depiction of real life or not is up to the reader to decide. Everything seems tied up into too neat of a little bow for my liking, but it's also important to remember that this was the 1740s, so it's a different perspective. Second, Pamela is noted for challenging traditional notions of class. Some readers at the time may have found it very shocking that a lower-class girl would be able to marry someone with wealth, even if that wealthy guy is a lecherous weirdo. There are some interesting notions of gender tied up into this too. The fact that a woman's virtue and steadfast refusal could eventually lead a man to become more virtuous and a well-behaved person himself may have been a shocking notion to 18th century audiences. It may shock some modern day audiences too, but possibly for different reasons. Thinking about what we know about Richardson's life, this makes sense, because his family couldn't afford the education he wanted. He essentially rose from the lower classes to a wealthy celebrity status by his own bootstraps. So why couldn't his heroines do the same? Why did they have to follow the conventional wisdom that you were born into a class and stayed in it until you died?

Ann Radcliffe The Reclusive Radcliffe


Ann Radcliffe was born in 1764 in London. She was the only child of a haberdasher which is a fancy word for someone who sells clothing stuff, like zippers and buttons and whatnot. We don't really know that much

about her personal life because she was kind of a reclusive person. Actually, even in her own time people didn't know that much about her, so much that she was actually falsely reported to be dead twice - this didn't just happen once, this happened twice. Not to mention rumors that she'd gone totally insane, that she was suffering from incessant terrors brought on by her obsession with Gothic literature. In actuality, she probably had a pretty happy marriage - she didn't have any children, but that's not everything. Her husband encouraged her writing, and she just probably died of an asthma attack, is what people think, in 1823. So she had a pretty humdrum life in a lot of ways. The 1823 Edinburgh Review had this to say about her: She never appeared in public, nor mingled in private society, but kept herself apart, like the sweet bird that sings its solitary notes, shrouded and unseen. That's kind of a nice description of basically a hermit. She was so secretive that there's no known images or likenesses of her - we don't really know what she looks like, although people say she was attractive, so there's that I guess. Unlike many writers who we've talked about who achieve posthumous fame - they only get famous after they're dead - she was super famous while she was living. Her books sold well and she was very popular. She's considered to be, if not the founder, the propagator of Gothic literature. She's known as the Mother of the Gothic or even the Great Enchantress, which is a very sexy name for someone who writes about ghosts. This doesn't mean she was the first author to write Gothic works; there was a few that came before her (that's why I backed off from saying 'founder'), but her style and approach went a long way towards legitimizing the genre as something that wasn't just pop-fluff essentially.

Major Works
She did write some poetry, but she's really considered a far superior novelist than poet. She churned out six novels during her long and illustrious career. Her first novel is called The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne published in 1789. You should note the 'castles' in the title; this is pretty much a dead giveaway that we're dealing with a Gothic work - we're going to get into more later a little bit what the specific elements of the Gothic are, but castles are one of them. The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne basically just covers a family feud between two medieval Scottish clans (which I love because that usually means kilts and haggis which are two of my favorite things). It's against a backdrop of passion, revenge, extreme landscapes and cool stuff like that. It also covers an extended romance between Mary, who's a girl of noble birth who tends to faint all the time, that's kind of her distinguishing trait, and Alleyn (not Elaine), a handsome commoner who saves her from villains and stuff. Luckily, it turns out that Alleyn is actually of noble birth, so then they're able to get married at the end and that ends the strife between those two castles. So that's her first book. Next she publishes A Sicilian Romance anonymously in the following year. Like its predecessor, it has romance, it has aristocrats, it has these really vivid, striking landscapes; there's castles, there's a villain, there's extended romance that ends in a happy wedding... This novel is notable for being the point where Radcliffe starts developing her mixture of terror and also of poetic descriptions that really help to extend her influence. Like I said, she really legitimized the genre, and part of that is her writing style - she was good at it. She wasn't just writing pulp. She kept up her publishing pace. She released The Romance of the Forest in 1791. This third novel was really her first major success. It's pretty similar to the first two novels, but it's well-known for its use of suspense to really immerse the reader in the story's structure. It follows the heroine Adeline, who is

introduced as an orphan but later finds out that she's of noble birth (which probably sounds familiar from that other dude from the castle one that found out that he was of noble birth - Alleyn). The Romance of the Forest also involves the supernatural and a whole bunch of gloomy ruins and terrifying rooms. It also has Radcliffe's typical fairytale ending with lovers being reunited and whatnot. It's her fourth book that is the most famous, what she's best known for. This is The Mysteries of Udolpho and it's published in 1794, and this really cements her reputation as the Mother of the Gothic. In this one, The heroine is Emily St. Aubert, and she falls in love with a dashing young man named Valancourt (which is an awesome name), but she fears that she will never see him again after her father's death. She's forced to live with her unsympathetic Aunt who marries Montoni, who is a sinister Italian nobleman. Montoni is just a bad dude. He has these calculating plans for Emily, and he's really considered to be THE Gothic villain. He's strong-willed, he's brooding, he seeks to just dominate everybody else (sounds a little sexy to me, but who am I to say it). She describes him as this, she says: He delighted in the energies of the passions; the difficulties and tempests of life, which wreck the happiness of others, roused and strengthened all the powers of his mind, and afforded him the highest enjoyments, of which his nature was capable. It sounds like Ann Radcliffe thought he was sexy, too, but I don't know. And yes, Montoni also lives in a remote castle because, like I said, castles are everywhere with this stuff. There's a series of terrifying and seemingly-supernatural-but-eventually-explained stuff that happens. Emily is eventually able to end up with Valancourt, so don't worry, she escapes the evil, sinister Montoni. The Mysteries of Udolpho is actually also significant because it plays a big role in Jane Austen's book Northanger Abbey. Austen's heroine is reading the book and then comes to see everyone around her as characters in a Gothic novel and the place where she's at as being a scary, Gothic place. So it's kind of a little riff on Ann Radcliffe that Austen picks up. The last novel published in Radcliffe's lifetime was The Italian in 1797. It's very similar to her past four novels. There's a memorable villain called Schedoni, who is also Italian (she thought Italians were evil, I don't know). Her sixth novel Gaston de Blondeville was published posthumously in 1826 but wasn't that successful. It's notable because unlike in all of the other ones, the supernatural stuff actually isn't explained at the end. Her other works are kind of a lot like Scooby-Doo in that sense - like you think it's a ghost but then it gets unmasked at the end, and it's actually some old dude. That doesn't happen in this final one which is one of the reasons why it's interesting, but other than that, nothing really that cool happens.

What is Gothic Literature?


I've told about you the basic plot lines of a lot of her novels, and you've probably gotten a sense from that what Gothic literature is. We should probably clarify that in a couple of points. So, let's say we decide one rainy Sunday afternoon we're going to take a break from playing Call of Duty and we're going to sit down and write ourselves a Gothic novel. What do we include? First we need a castle. I've been saying it all along. We definitely need a castle. It can either be in great shape or it can be in ruins - it just needs to be imposing and foreboding, that's it. Why stop there though, right? We can have crypts, we can have catacombs, dungeons, labyrinths, winding passages - really any kind of terrifying place would be great. Any place you wouldn't want your candle or your torch to go out is ideal. It's sort of like any where that if a horror movie character was going in there, you'd be like, 'Don't go in there! Stop!' That's the kind of stuff we need in a Gothic novel. To complete the setting, we probably want some extreme landscapes, like jagged mountains or shadowy forests or wastelands. All that stuff is good. Nasty weather is a plus - that just kind of helps set the scene. 'A dark and stormy night' and all that that's super Gothic. We also need some black eye makeup... No, wrong Gothic!

As for characters, the young, virginal, oppressed heroine is clearly key - we saw that in all of her books. She's virtuous, she's inquisitive, but she has the unfortunate tendency maybe to faint a lot and need rescuing. We also definitely need a villain, possibly Italian like Montoni. We don't have to worry about making him that sinister because that's just in his nature to be sinister - he'll take care of that himself. Of course we need a dashing hero to add to the romance. He has to be brave, he has to be willing to save the heroine and have no expectations whatsoever because it's all about the romance and not about them actually getting married at the end. At this point, we've got all of our elements of our future bestseller Gothic novel. We can't forget though that mystery, suspense and terror - they're kind of regular features; omens, curses, gloom and doom - all of that is all great. Our characters will probably find themselves in thrilling, dangerous situations, probably not keep their emotions in check. Passion and high emotions - all of that is great. Finally, to be absolutely sure we've got a Gothic novel, we need supernatural events - that is important. It could a suit of armor coming to life, could be a creepy painting watching you with its eyes. Whether or not we choose to give it a rational explanation at the end, that's fine - we don't have to. I mentioned before that Ann Radcliffe isn't the first one to do this, but she's the one to really make it legitimate. I just kind of want to give a shout-out to some of the other dudes that do the Gothic novel. The first guy to really do it is a guy named Horace Walpole who writes The Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Story (see that castle again, right?). He publishes this actually in the same year that Ann Radcliffe was born in 1764, and it has all of these elements.

Mother of the Gothic


But one of the things that she does that he doesn't do, or that a lot of people don't do - she's the Mother of the Gothic, I've been saying this all along - is that she makes it a bit more high-brow. People weren't really that into stories about romance and supernatural elements, they thought that was a little tacky. But what Ann Radcliffe does is when she adds the explained supernatural a la Scooby-Doo where it's actually just a guy in a ghost mask, this goes a long way towards making people think that this is a legitimate genre (which is funny because Scooby-Doo is not a legitimate TV show). But that's sort of how she gets away with it and how she makes it into something that Walpole maybe didn't have as much success with. She influences lots of people, like Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley, Sir Walter Scott... Anywhere from Dracula to Harry Potter to Twilight, we see the Gothic influence. And that's all thanks to Ann Radcliffe.

Characteristics of Romantic Prose


So we're talking about Romantic literature, and that is not literature that's based on love stories, although some of these novels that we'll talk about do have a romantic element. But what Romantic literature means really is works that were written during the Romantic period. There was a Romantic period all throughout Europe and here in the U.S., but we're specifically focusing on the Romantic period in England, which was from about 1800 to about 1840. There are some books that we'll discuss that were written outside of that period, and that's okay. We'll talk about what makes them Romantic which is really their characteristics. What are the characteristics of Romantic prose? I'm so glad you've asked. The first is a departure from reason. The Romantic period came after the Age of Enlightenment, which really had a focus on logic, reason and science, and the Romantic period was a deviation from that. In Romantic literature, you'll often see an emphasis on emotions, imagination and intuition - elements of humanity that can defy reason.

Next is a focus on nature. You really see this more in Romantic poetry, and we'll talk about that in another video, but there is a lot of Romantic literature in both England and the U.S. that has a focus on connecting with the natural world. You'll also see an element of the supernatural. To further separate itself from the Age of Enlightenment, from logic and reason, there's really no better place to turn than the supernatural. A lot of the works that we'll discuss in this video, like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, contain elements that require the reader to suspend their disbelief to accept what they're reading and go along with something that will defy logic and reason. Finally, there's a focus on the individual. A lot of the works that I'm about to talk about talk about the rights and freedoms of an individual and their ability to exert their will even against what might necessarily be logical. A lot of these novels have themes of rebellion in the face of oppression and characters doing things that might seem irrational because it's really what they want to do.

Shelley's Frankenstein
So we're going to start with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, which many people believe is the best work of Romantic prose (at least British Romantic prose). It's not really my taste, but it does embody a lot of the typical characteristics of Romanticism, so it's a good one to start with. Before we get going, I want to make sure that I differentiate between Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and the Frankenstein of movies and TV - the green head, bolts in the neck Frankenstein - very different. Now that we've established that, fun fact about Mary Shelley - she was married to Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was a noted Romantic poet. Their love story is full of scandal; I really recommend you look into it. I don't have time to go into it now, but it's good stuff. The modern character of Frankenstein, the guy with the bolts in his neck and the green head - big on Halloween - is very different. I really recommend watching the video on Frankenstein to learn more. But in the tiniest of nutshells, Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein tells the story of Dr. Victor Frankenstein the doctor who creates the monster, not the monster himself. Dr. Frankenstein believes he has discovered the secret to life. He's really fascinated by this and fashions together, through spare body parts, a creature. That creature is Frankenstein's monster. Once he realizes what he's done, that he's put together this sort of haphazard creature and brought him to life, he's understandably pretty freaked out, and he tries to ignore it and just goes to bed, which is a really bad choice. The monster will eventually escape and kill his brother - not ideal. There's a lot more that happens in the novel, but what I really want to focus on here is that Dr. Frankenstein, who's a learned doctor and a man of science, in the name of science creates this creature that ends up committing murder and being pretty dangerous (although, it turns out that the monster is really more lonely and misunderstood than actually violent). It's a great example of Romantic literature making a deviation away from science and logic and saying that there's more to humanity than just putting together a bunch of parts, animating it and bringing it to life. There's more to creating a person - there's more to life than just what science can explain. So that's Frankenstein.

The Works of Sir Walter Scott


Another noted British Romantic writer is Sir Walter Scott. Walter Scott was Scottish, but Scotland is part of Great Britain, so we're going to talk about him. His best known works are Rob Roy, which was published in 1817, and Ivanhoe, which was published in 1819 (though it's worth noting that Sir Walter Scott was really

prolific and wrote a lot more than that). He's mostly thought of as a historical novelist, but he also wrote poems, essays and short stories - he really did a lot during his career. We're just going to focus on Ivanhoe for these purposes, though. It's a fun adventure story set in 1194 (way before the period that it was actually written), and it actually features Robin Hood and his merry men. Ivanhoe is a lot of fun, in my opinion. It's got a lot of exciting elements - there's a forbidden romance and a knight in disguise. If you like the movie The Princess Bride, I highly recommend checking out Ivanhoe. It's a really plot-heavy story, so I'm not going to go into too much detail now, but I'm bringing it up because one of its themes is identity. Beyond just that knight in disguise that I mentioned, there are lots of people in disguise in Ivanhoe, and when you don't know who someone is or someone turns out to be not who you thought they were, it sort of raises the question, 'Who is anybody? Who am I? Who are you?' That notion of identity ties into the concept of who someone is as an individual versus maybe who they're perceived to be by society.

Jane Austen's Romantic Romance


Sir Walter Scott was a big fan of one of his contemporaries, Miss Jane Austen, who happens to be my
The works of historical novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott include Ivanhoe and Rob Roy.

favorite writer, so I'm really excited to talk about her. She wrote

six major novels, including Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Sense and Sensibility. Those tend to be the most 'romantic' in the way that we tend to think of romance - they're love stories. They're usually about a woman or a few women looking to find suitable husbands and typically ended in one or more weddings. I'm just going to talk about Pride and Prejudice now. It's arguably her best-known and most well-loved novel. It deals with a woman - her name is Elizabeth Bennet - who needs to find a suitable husband for financial reasons but, like a lot of people, would also like to marry someone that she loves. She is given the opportunity to marry a man who will help save her family from financial ruin (it's a long back story about why), but he's terrible. He's really obnoxious, and she knows she wouldn't be happy with him. She refuses his proposal, and her mom freaks out. She thinks that's a terrible idea and says that she's being selfish and is going to ruin the family by not accepting this proposal. But Elizabeth exerts her will and acts as an individual and is motivated by intuition and by her emotions, thinking about what will make her happy versus what is necessarily the most logical choice. So that's another way that this is a great example of a Romantic novel. It's also romantic in the typical sense because she does end up happily married to a rich guy who saves her family anyway (but that's not the point right now).

The Bront Sisters


Finally, we have the Bront sisters, Charlotte and Emily Bront. They published their most famous works, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, respectively, towards the end of the Romantic period, somewhat

overlapping with the Victorian period. The Bront sisters had a pretty rough childhood - they went to boarding schools that seemed to be pretty unpleasant, a lot of their siblings died very young of ugly diseases, but they had strong imaginations and senses of creativity. That's what drove them to become writers, and they started writing from a really early age. Their novels, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, are good examples of Romantic novels that have an element of the supernatural. Both of their novels are darker than the other ones I've talked about especially darker than any Austen novel. The elements of the supernatural in these books can almost seem ridiculous to a modern reader because they're not really meant to be fantasy stories. It's not like when you read Harry Potter and something magical happens, you accept it because it's a magical world. It's really supernatural elements happening in the real world - so, for example, in Jane Eyre, the title character Jane has a really terrible wedding where she finds out her husband's already married. She's horrified and flees, and she's gone and leaves her fiance (understandably, I guess). Years later, she's living with someone else now, and she hears him call her name in the night - he calls, 'Jane, Jane, Jane!' She rushes to his side, thinking that he needs her, and it turns out that he does because his crazy first wife has burned down the house. So that's an element of the supernatural that, when you read it, might seem sort of ridiculous - first you might think, 'Oh, she just heard him in her mind,' but it turns out he really did call her name, and she really did hear him across the miles.

In Wuthering Heights, the main character, Heathcliff, is haunted by the ghost of his estranged love Catherine - he thinks he sees her all the time. It's hard to know necessarily if these writers meant for these supernatural elements to be taken literally - if they wanted us to believe that Jane really could hear Rochester, her erstwhile fiance, calling her name across the miles, or if Heathcliff is really haunted by the ghost of Cathy, or if it's meant to show that these things are just happening in the characters' minds, or maybe that it's meant to be symbolic... All those things can be argued, but they're good examples of supernatural elements that you'll find in Romantic literature. Neither of the Bront novels are romantic in the other sense (I don't think so, anyway). They're kind of dark and a little weird but a lot of fun.
Charlotte and Emily Bronte published Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, respectively.

Mary Shelley Introduction


It was a dark and stormy night maybe. I don't really know. It might have been a nice night for wine drinking and partying. Anyway, it was nighttime, and it was at the Villa Diodati in Geneva when not one, but two staples of horror fiction were brought into the world. The year was 1816, and Mary Shelley, Percy

Shelley (her husband, not her brother), Lord Byron, and John Polidori were stuck inside their holiday home, apparently due to inclement weather. One night, they were inspired by conversations about modern science and the occult, and they decided to have a storytelling competition to see who could tell the most horrific story. (This kind of shows the difference between them and us. We'd probably just crack open a bottle of wine and play Apples to Apples or something, but they were doing productive things with their free time.) John Polidori produced The Vampyre, so we can blame him for Twilight. Mary Shelley, who was only 18 years old at the time, eventually came up with what some people have called the first science fiction story ever: Frankenstein. It was kind of the more famous of the two stories that came out of that night, although the vampire legacy is just as rich. Of course, the Frankenstein legend has grown a great deal beyond the actual original work, basically thanks to Hollywood proliferating the story of the 'monster.' But before we can discuss where Hollywood went with it and how the monster has been adapted over time, we should probably take a look at the original novel itself so we know where we're coming from with it.

The Modern Prometheus

Once the competition began, it took Shelley two years to finalize her story. She called it Frankenstein, and she subtitled it The Modern Prometheus. It was first published anonymously in 1818 in London. You might be wondering, 'If Frankenstein is the modern Prometheus, who is the un-modern Prometheus?' Prometheus was a Greek Titan, one of the gods that came before the familiar
Mary Shelley originally published Frankenstein anonymously

Olympian gods like Zeus, Athena, Aphrodite, and all those people. He's famous for having

stolen fire and given it to mortals. This got him in a lot of trouble because fire is super important, and it was a big betrayal of his Titan comrades and of Zeus and the other gods. That's the story of the original Prometheus. Keep it in mind when we talk about Frankenstein: How does stealing fire - this important, lifesustaining force - and giving it to mortals relate to bringing this monster into the world? The story, when it was published, drew a mixed critical response. Some were really into it; they praised its powerful language and its really interesting plot. Others were kind of 'blah' about it; they weren't that into it. Maybe the critics in 1818 just weren't ready for the power of the story like we are today. Let's talk a little bit about the form of the novel. It's basically told using two major literary devices. They're often forgotten when we talk about the story because we want to get straight to the monster, but they're actually important for understanding what's going on and the significance of it all. First of all, it employs the epistolary form, which basically means it's written as a series of letters ('epistles' is a fancy word for letters). In this case, the letters are from the failed writer and North Pole explorer Robert Walton to his sister Margaret Walton Saville. This introduces the second device, called a frame narrative, which is essentially just a story within a story. In this case, that story belongs to Victor Frankenstein, who's a frail, defeated old man discovered by Walton

and his crew when they're up in the Arctic. After Walton rescues Frankenstein, the old man recounts to him the story of his life and his most terrifying work - but you probably know that's coming. Maybe you didn't know that Frankenstein starts in the Arctic, but now you do. You're learning things already! So, we've got letters on the outside, then we've got a story-within-a-story and, finally, we've got the familiar part of the story on the inside, like the nugget beneath the layers. Victor tells his tale of what his life was like. He's pursued science his whole life, and his experiments were encouraged when he's in college. He basically figures out how to animate dead tissue. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, this has fallen out of the curriculum at many liberal arts colleges... although we will be introducing a course on it very soon (no, we won't). He takes this ability to its obvious extension and builds for himself a facsimile of a man. He builds this big guy made up, essentially, of parts, but he has to build it larger than normal because he can't get the finer parts of the anatomy correct to scale. So the guy ends up big. Then he uses electricity to bring this thing to life. Unfortunately, as soon as the creature comes alive ('It's ALIVE!'), Victor is immediately repulsed by it. Like the stereotypical people in a monster movie, Victor flees, which is clearly not the responsible thing to do because you just created a monster and now you're leaving. (I think it goes without saying: Don't try this at home. Don't try to collect body parts and then zap them; it will not work.) But do you remember how I said that this was the first work of science fiction? That's why. Frankenstein gets sick from all this distress. He goes off and deals with his illness, and he comes home four months later to find that his brother has been murdered. He becomes convinced that the monster has done this to get back at him. Ever the hero, Victor retreats again but is eventually found by the creature. Then we get the creature's story, so now we're in a double frame narrative. We have the Arctic letters, Frankenstein's story, the story of how the monster was created, and now we have the monster's story on an inside layer. Essentially, the monster says that after Victor bailed the first time, he was left to his own devices. He didn't know what to do or who he was; he didn't know anything. It's a touching, sad story that the creature tells. He ran off and ended up studying a family that lived in a cottage to figure out how he should act and how things were. He learned language, he learned socialization, and he learned how to read by watching these people. Now, because he knows all this stuff, he wants to be human; he craves human interaction, but he's been rejected every time he's tried. (I would run away too if I saw a big hulking mass of dead flesh running after me). It's really sad. The family he observed didn't want to talk to him; random townspeople don't want to talk to him. The creature comes to Victor with a demand that seems rather reasonable. He says, 'Make a female for me so I can have company.' If Victor grants his request, he'll go away to a remote corner of the world. If not, he will continue to exact his revenge on Victor. Victor actually begins to work on the second creature, but partway through the process, he realizes that if there's both a male and a female of this weird species he's created, they could have offspring, which would be super strong, giant, weird monster creatures that might overrun the world. So he destroys this second project, thinking, 'I'm going to release horror upon the world if I do this.' The first creature watches him as he does this and decides he's going to murder Victor's betrothed, and also his best friend, as revenge. Victor's father dies out of grief. Victor's family has been pretty much decimated by this point, and he vows to pursue his creation across the Earth until one of them destroys the other. That is how he ends up at the North Pole. This is where we return to our initial frame. Captain Walton says that shortly after Victor finishes telling his story, he dies. His final request is for Walton to finish the work that Victor started in terms of pursuing and killing the creature. The creature is actually aware of everything that has happened, and he feels a lot of grief over Victor's

death because Victor is the closest thing he had to a father. He also feels bad about killing a bunch of people, as he should. He vows that he's going to kill himself instead of wreaking more havoc. So, that's how the story ends - on a really cheerful note!

Frankenstein in Pop Culture


But the story doesn't really end. Hopefully, you were surprised by how complex this story is - how it's got all those layers, first of all, but also that the creature isn't evil; it's sentient. There are lots of differences between the actual original story and the way it has been picked up in Hollywood. Shelley's novel basically ends up taking on a whole new life for readers to follow because it's a perfect distillation of Gothic and Romantic sensibilities, it creates a new genre of fiction, and also partly because the existential crisis - the 'who am I' feeling that the monster experiences - might be familiar to a bunch of us. 'Why am I here?' 'Why can't I find someone like me?' All of that stuff. There's a reason OK Cupid exists: 'Why can't I find someone like me?' I think we can all identify with the creature a little bit. Theatrical adaptations of the book started as early as the 1820s, and the thing was only published in 1818. Basically, as soon as film existed, they were making movies about Frankenstein; in 1910, Edison Studios produced Frankenstein, which was a 16-minute adaptation of the novel. The most notorious Frankenstein film, the one that really shaped our understanding of the character (and also what made us think Frankenstein was the monster instead of the doctor; I hope we've got that all cleared up now for you), was Universal Studios' 1931 film. It was called Frankenstein and had Boris Karloff as the creature. We get this lumbering, green hulk of a thing with bolt attachments and slicked-back hair, and it's from this movie that we think that the poor guy can't talk. In Shelley's book, he's actually super eloquent and tells his own whole version of his story. Like I said before, this movie is also the reason we call the monster 'Frankenstein', which is incorrect. Frankenstein is really the doctor who creates the monster. As you already might have guessed from this description, the plot of the film differs significantly from Shelley's novel. It's actually based on a prior stage adaptation of the novel. In this version, Henry Frankenstein (for some reason they change his name; he's not Victor anymore) creates the monster accidentally. He includes in his creation the brain of a criminal, and as a result, the monster becomes an actual bad guy because he's got a bad-guy brain. The movie ends with the monster being destroyed by angry townspeople. This story and this conception of Frankenstein have persisted more than any other - maybe not as much as vampires, but a lot - in the popular imagination. There's a whole empire of sequels ( Bride of Frankenstein, Son of Frankenstein); there are ones that make fun of it (Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein); The Munsters is taken from it, as is Young Frankenstein, the Mel Brooks movie. Even The Rocky Horror Picture Show takes cues from it as well. There's all sorts of great stuff that comes out of this very potent figure Mary Shelley created.

Brontee Sisters The Early Years


Charlotte and Emily Bronte are probably some of the most well-known children of Maria and Patrick Bronte (who were their parents). The couple actually had five daughters and a son - they had a lot of kids!

Only Charlotte, Emily, Anne and their brother Branwell actually made it to adulthood. It's important to know that they had these other siblings because the effects of the lives and deaths of their sisters actually did have a lot of influence over their works. Both Charlotte and Emily (and the rest of their siblings) were born in Yorkshire, Charlotte in 1816
Portraits of Charlotte, Emily and siblings

and Emily in 1818. Their mother died in 1821, which is tragic. Their aunt moved in to help their

father raise the children. When the Bronte girls are sent to a boarding school, it wasn't a very nice experience for them. They experienced harsh treatment and seriously unhealthy conditions. Two of the girls, Elizabeth and Maria, actually end up dying of typhus after going to boarding school. So, only four of them made it to adulthood. Charlotte and Emily returned home shortly after their sisters' death because that's kind of a downer when you're away at school. Maybe it's not such a safe place to be if everyone's coming down with typhus and dying. They come home with their surviving siblings, and they spend a lot of time in their own little worlds. They create these fantasy worlds; they had a couple named 'Angria' and 'Gondal,' which sound awesome. They sound like things out of World of Warcraft. It's amazing that kids back then were exactly like kids right now, in terms of creating worlds of their own to play in and think about.

Influences and Inspirations


All four siblings really loved to write, not surprisingly given that background. They wrote these dramatic accounts of things that happened in these imaginary worlds. Which again, is something that's common with first graders nowadays, right? Everyone's writing fantasy stories - like Lord of the Rings-lite. Emily and Charlotte were both really interested in education and each held various teaching jobs throughout their lives. What they really wanted to do was eventually go and open their own school. After a few unsuccessful attempts at doing so, they returned to writing, and they published a book of poems with their sister, Anne. They used the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. They're kind of androgynous-sounding names. They choose them because they weren't sure if they would be taken seriously if publishers and readers knew that it was written by women. But they wanted names that would preserve their initials anyway, so that's how they came up with those weird names.

Jane Eyre
This trend of publishing works under androgynous pseudonyms continued beyond that book of poems. When Charlotte published her best-known novel, which is Jane Eyre (this was in 1847), it was under the name Currer Bell. So, she used that same pseudonym. It was originally titled Jane Eyre: An Autobiography; since it was written really convincingly from a woman's point-of-view, people started to speculate about whether Currer Bell might really be a woman, possibly because Currer sounds like a totally fake name! That might've tipped them off a little bit that it was a pseudonym.

Despite getting some early criticism for being 'coarse,' Jane Eyre was actually a big hit. This is possibly due in to the fact that there was all of this scandal around who the author was and whether it was really a woman - all of this probably raised its profile a certain amount. We're going to go into more details in another video about the plot of this and what really happens. The basic overview is that Jane Eyre goes to work as a governess for the enigmatic Mr. Rochester, with whom she inevitably falls in love even though he's rich and she's a governess (and by her own account, is very plain). That's kind of the set up for that novel.

Wuthering Heights
The same year (1847) Emily Bronte publishes her most famous - and actually only completed - novel, Wuthering Heights. Like Jane Eyre, it was kind of controversial because it was pretty dark and features lots of nasty things happening (cruel treatment of other people). When it was first out, it wasn't well-received. It's a classic of English literature now, people regard it as such. We're going to go into more detail again in a separate video. Briefly talking about it here, it's the doomed romance of Heathcliff and Cathy and all of their relatives. It gets very messy and complicated. After Emily Bronte died of tuberculosis in 1848 (that's tragic), Charlotte had Wuthering Heights published under Emily's real name.

Other Works
Charlotte Bronte goes on to publish two more novels, Shirley and Villette. Shirley wasn't seen as quite as radical as Jane Eyre. It was written in the third-person, so it's a less immediate woman's experience. Villette is in first-person again. It's about girl named Lucy Snow who goes abroad to teach at a boarding school. You can see how schools come up again and again. The Bronte sisters wanted to open up their own school - life imitates art to a certain extent. The novel called The Professor, which was actually the first thing that Charlotte wrote, wasn't actually published until after she died in 1854. She died essentially of morning sickness (which is awful). She was basically so sick from being pregnant that she got dehydrated, couldn't eat and died. That's an awful way to go! You can see that the whole family dies in tragic ways - Branwell was addicted to alcohol and laudanum, and he died at the age of 31. They all died pretty young.

Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, was first published in 1847 under Bronte's pseudonym, Currier Bell. It's about a girl named - not surprisingly - Jane Eyre, and it's a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story that follows Jane from childhood through motherhood. Many elements of Jane's life are similar to events in Charlotte Bronte's life. Because the work features a strong-willed and intelligent woman, it's often considered to be an early feminist text.

A Fictional Autobiography
If you know anything about Charlotte Bronte's life (and you might know a little bit about it if you watched my video about her), it might seem like Jane Eyre is a glamorized autobiography. When Charlotte Bronte's mother died, her aunt moved in to help her dad raise Charlotte and her siblings. When we meet Jane Eyre, we meet her as a young orphan living in the house of her very nasty aunt and her evil cousins; they're all named the Reeds. The story is in first person, so we get her descriptions of herself at that age, which is an interesting way to go about it. Whether Jane's poor treatment in the Reed household (which is called

Gateshead, because people in 19th-century England loved to name their houses) is based on the way her aunt treated her, we don't really know, but it does seem to have certain parallels with her life.

An Orphan's Exposition
Eventually Jane Eyre is sent away to boarding school to this place called Lowood. Here, the nasty treatment continues; there's a horrible headmaster who has the awesome name Mr. Brocklehurst. He's a nasty guy, a jerk and a hypocrite, and almost certainly is modeled after the Reverend who ran the boarding school that Charlotte attended where all her siblings died of typhus. At Lowood, Jane makes a really good friend in a girl named Helen Burns. Helen is sweet and a good person, but, since this is a 19th-century novel, of course she has to die of a horrible disease (typhus in this case). Jane is totally devastated at the loss of her friend, but the good thing that comes out of this is that the powers that be wise up and realize how horribly Brocklehurst has run the school - kids dying of typhus is not such a great thing - and he gets kicked out. He's replaced with much kinder people running the school. Jane spends several pleasant enough years there and even ends up being a teacher for a little while.

Life Outside Lowood


At a certain point, Jane gets curious about life outside Lowood because she's been there since she was very young, and she accepts a position as a governess at a large estate named Thornfield (remember all the naming of the houses in England). She is going to be a live-in tutor for a young French girl named Adele, who has no parents and a mysteriously absent guardian named Mr. Rochester.

Jane gets to Thornfield and befriends several of the other servants, who work really hard to keep the house totally ready for anyone to see it, because they're never sure when Rochester is going to be home. He kind of comes and goes on his own schedule. I'm sure you'll be shocked to hear that when Mr. Rochester does turn up, he and Jane fall in love.
Thornfield introduces characters Adele and Mr. Rochester

It's not an immediate, love-at-first sight thing, but it happens over time, over a bunch of intense

conversations about themselves where Jane is reserved and Mr. Rochester pushes her a bit. They don't really do all that much except talk, but there is one interesting thing that does happen over the course of this courtship. Jane is sleeping, and she's awakened by the smell of smoke and the sounds of something burning. She runs to go figure out what it is, and it turns out that it's coming from Rochester's bedroom, where it seems like someone has tried to burn him alive. He's very grateful that she basically saved his life, but the incident is pretty much dismissed as a drunken accident by a servant named Grace Poole. Jane, understandably, finds this a bit suspicious.

Wedding Woes
Instead of just telling Jane he loves her right away, Rochester toys with her for a little bit, making her think he's about to propose to this another woman, who is obviously awful. Jane is understandably upset. She arranges to get a governess position somewhere else, Rochester's like 'No, don't go!' and he proposes to her before she actually leaves.

Everything seems like it's going to be fine. They're getting ready for the wedding - happily ever after Jane and Rochester, woo hoo - until a mysterious man shows up to claim that Rochester already has a wife! And he uses that dramatic 'or forever hold your peace' part of the wedding to do it, when nobody ever says anything, but this guy says something. The man, whose name is Mr. Mason, says that Rochester is already married to his sister Bertha (not Rochester's sister, Mr. Mason's sister), which is kind of a scandal because that would be bigamy, being married to two people. It turns out Rochester and Bertha did get married, but Bertha has since gone insane, and Rochester now keeps her hidden up in the attic of his estate.

Grace Poole, the servant who the fire was blamed on, attends to her. Apparently, Grace doesn't do such a great job all the time because Bertha gets out and tries to set fire to people every once in awhile.

Life on the Heath


Jane is, of course, humiliated and runs away; she's angry with all of this. She just kind of dashes off into the countryside, which is not a great plan because she really has nowhere to go. She spends some time begging out on the heath and is sick and whatnot, but she ends up being taken in by a nice clergyman whose name is 'Sinjin' (it's spelled St. John, but is pronounced 'Sinjin' for reasons I cannot discern) and his two sisters, Mary and Diana. They're all really happy with each other, and it seems like Jane has totally forgotten her soap opera life with Rochester. She's teaching at a school and has a little cottage of her own. Then St. John decides to go to India as a missionary, and he asks Jane to marry him and come along. At this point it is worth mentioning that it has been discovered along the way that Jane is actually St. John's cousin, but that doesn't stop people back then from getting married (it seems to make people want to get married more, honestly). In this case, Jane says no; she's like 'No, I'm not going to marry you and go to India,' but she does consider going to India as his companion. Why not? It would be an exotic vacation; he's a nice guy, and she kind of thinks of him as her brother. Then she feels like she hears Rochester calling her name in the night. In case the story didn't have enough plot twists, now we're getting jerked right back to Thornfield!
Mr. Rochester has been hiding away his insane wife, Bertha Mason

'Viewer, She Married Him'


Jane realizes she can never be that far away from her true love, Mr. Rochester, and she decides to return to Thornfield. She finds that crazy Bertha has actually
St. John and his sisters take Jane in when she is ill and wandering on the heath

succeeded in setting the place

on fire. Bertha has actually died in the fire. Rochester survived, although he was blinded so he's not doing so great, but Jane agrees to marry him anyway. This gives rise to a famous break in which she says (to the reader, obviously) 'Reader, I married him.' That's kind of a famous line from the book. Jane tells us in an epilogue that by the time she placed her firstborn son in Rochester's arms, he was able to see him (at least with one eye), so maybe things are getting a little bit better vis--vis Rochester's blindness. That's the way it ends. She ends up with him; it's not happy exactly, but it is sort of positive. It seems like Charlotte Bronte is carefully mediating the way the ending plays out to make it not too happy and not too sad.

Wuthering Heights
'Wuthering Heights' is Emily Bronte's only published novel, but if you're only going to publish one novel in your lifetime, this is a good one. Follow along as this lesson introduces you to the plot, characters and other aspects of this novel.

Introduction
Wuthering Heights was originally published in 1847 under Emily Bronte's pseudonym, Ellis Bell. Emily and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, all wrote under these gender-ambiguous pseudonyms because they weren't sure how novels would be received if they were perceived to be written by women. This might seem kind of lame, but if you think about it, it still goes on today. Why does Joanne Rowling go by J.K. Rowling? It's because her publishers thought that young boys wouldn't read a book that was written by a woman. So this is still going on, although it was obviously much more of a big deal back in the 1850s when people thought that women couldn't do anything.

Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights - that was how it got its start. It was like, who is this Ellis Bell? Turns out it's a woman psych! It's a classic now. We don't care that it's written by a woman. But when it was first published, people thought it was actually dark and had way too much cruel stuff going on in it. It takes its name from an estate where the story takes place, and because it takes place at a house that is named something, it's probably set in England - that is a good tip-off. It starts with a man named Lockwood who was renting a house called Thrushcross Grange. That's another one of those named houses. He's renting it from a man named Heathcliff, who lives in a nearby home called - wait for it - Wuthering Heights. Lockwood finds the residents of Wuthering Heights to be kind of strange people, and he can't really figure out how they all relate to each other. He's curious about it. He asks his housekeeper, whose name is Nelly, to tell him the story about what happened to all those people who live in that house. The rest of the story is sometimes told from Lockwood's point of view and sometimes from Nelly's. Not everything is perfectly chronological. It's a frame narrative - a story within a story. But we're going to go through it chronologically because that will make it make a lot more sense. It is difficult enough to understand it anyway without going all out-of-order. Nelly starts out by telling him about the Earnshaw family, who she used to work for when they lived in Wuthering Heights 30 years ago. The Earnshaws had two children, whose names were Hindley and Catherine. While Mr. Earnshaw was traveling on business, he ended up adopting a homeless boy who he ran into. It's like when homeless people ask you for money and you're supposed to give them food.

Apparently, this guy decided to give him a home. He named him Heathcliff - probably not after the fat, orange cat (although that was a great movie that I watched when I was little).

This is where the story really starts to get good. Hindley is so jealous of Heathcliff, who is now his sort-of new, adopted brother, because he gets way more attention from his father and from his sister. He's raised like a member of the family, although his attachment to Catherine seems a little more than brotherly, if you know what I mean. It's kind of like how Woody Allen fell in love with the daughter
The Earnshaws

of his ex-girlfriend. It's not his biological daughter, but it's still kind of family. It's still kind of creepy. It's

like that situation. Eventually, Hindley goes off to university and doesn't return for three more years, until after he's married and his father, Mr. Earnshaw, is dead. Once he's back, he demotes Heathcliff from adopted brother to poorly-treated help. Here's where stuff gets weird. One day, Heathcliff and Catherine head over to Thrushcross Grange (where Lockwood is living now, but he wasn't living at that time). They're hoping they're going to mess around with the snobby Linton children who live there. They don't really like them. Catherine ends up getting bitten by a dog and has to stay with the Linton family for about a month while she's getting better. To a modern reader that probably does not make any sense at all, but it seems to be something that people did back in the 18th and 19th century, at least in literature. Apparently, if you get sick at someone's house, you have to stay there for a while. It happens to Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. While she's there for five weeks, she spends some time with the Lintons. She not only becomes as snobby as they are, but she also falls for Edgar Linton, even though she isn't totally over Heathcliff either. She gets engaged to Edgar, even though she realizes she loved Heathcliff a bit more. She wants to marry someone of higher social status and with more education. Heathcliff can't take this, and he runs away for three years, which, I guess, is the amount of time that people run away for in this book.

Heathcliff's Revenge
When he comes back, he's acquired some mysterious wealth, and he's decided he's going to use this to exact revenge on everybody who has wronged him, as is the tradition with newly wealthy, vigilante-type people. Hindley has become a sad-sack drunk in the meantime. His wife died giving birth to their son, Hareton (all these names - I know it's hard to keep track of, and I'm sorry). Heathcliff views this as an opportunity, and he loans Hindley a lot of money. Hindley is his old adopted brother who eventually demoted him to servant. So, when Hindley dies, Heathcliff ends up inheriting Wuthering Heights as debt repayment. It's a way to get back at Hindley. He doesn't wants to stop there, so he also marries Isabella Linton. Remember the Linton family? That's what Catherine married into. So he's setting himself up to be the heir of Thrushcross Grange as well. He's a terrible husband to Isabella. He's awful, like only revenge-obsessed, mysteriously wealthy men can be.

Simultaneously, Catherine, who we all assume Heathcliff's crazy behavior is really directed at, gets sick and dies shortly after giving birth to a daughter. Heathcliff begs that her spirit will stay with him, even if it's going to torture him and be nasty and bad and make him miserable. Not liking this at all, Isabella - who's, remember, his wife - decides to jump ship and moves to London, where she gives birth to her and Heathcliff's son, whom she names Linton after the family Heathcliff is trying to destroy. It's kind of like a final thumbing her nose at him. Eventually, Isabella also dies, and the adolescent Linton, Heathcliff's son, comes back to live with Heathcliff. Linton's a sickly lad, and Heathcliff is nasty to him as he seems to be nasty to everybody. Heathcliff eventually meets Catherine and Edgar's daughter, who is also named Catherine (all these names - they have the same names, so I understand why it's confusing). She and Linton form a very unlikely friendship. Nelly - remember, Nelly, the maid, who's telling all this to Lockwood - by this time is Catherine's nursemaid. She does not approve of any of this. She knows how badly things ended for their parents, but Heathcliff encourages the relationship of Catherine and Linton, forcing them to marry, essentially thinking that this marriage is really going to complete his revenge on Edgar Linton for stealing Cathy away because he's going to take Edgar Linton's daughter. Shortly after Linton and Catherine marry, Linton and Edgar both die. Heathcliff inherits Thrushcross Grange because, remember, he set himself up to inherit that as well and treats his young daughter-in-law just as poorly as he did his wife and son. After hearing all of this from Nelly, Lockwood, who's that guy we started out with who moved into Thrushcross, decides he really can't stay there anymore. He's like 'these people are too awful. I have to get away.' He returns to London. A few months later, he visits Nelly, and he gets an update on the residents of Wuthering Heights. It turns out that Catherine and Hareton - remember now, Hareton is Hindley's son, and Hindley's the guy who was the brother of the original Catherine, and then Heathcliff was their adopted brother - form an unlikely alliance as they're living together at Wuthering Heights because they're both stuck in this house with awful Heathcliff. They want to be friends with anybody who's not mean and crazy like he is. Heathcliff, meanwhile, has become convinced that he can commune with the dead Catherine - commune with her ghost - and he has conversations with her all the time. He's clearly insane. He's obsessive. He's not in his right mind. Eventually he dies, and Catherine and Hareton are going to get married. Why they would do that instead of just running the hell away is beyond me. This place is just haunted and awful, but we end up wishing them the best in the end anyway.

Sir Walter Scott


Sir Walter Scott time! In his day, Sir Walter Scott was one of the most popular writers around. You probably haven't heard of him, and that's because in the time since then, history hasn't been as kind to Scott's work as it has to some of his contemporaries. That's really a shame because a lot of it's great. There's an important thing that Walter Scott's really known for, and that's his historical novels, or a fictionalized novel set in a real historical period. The Help or The Kite Runner are more recent historical novels. He was really at the forefront of that genre, so he's an important figure in literature even if his work isn't as well-known now as maybe it could be or should be. Scott didn't start off writing historical novels. Actually, in the time period that he wrote - the early 19th century - novels were considered an inferior form of literature for expressing important historical stories;

poetry, especially epic poetry, really dominated that role. Still, Scott was able to create a successful career for himself even while embracing this supposedly lesser form, and in doing so, he managed to write a few of the real heavy hitters of the English language. I know it might be surprising to think of novels as not being revered during Walter Scott's time because I think they really are a much more respected art form now, but that's really the truth at the time. It's important to keep in mind that when Scott was writing these works, it was a really exciting (dare I say novel) thing to do!

Early Life and Poetry


From his earliest days, Scott was obsessed with stories. As a very young child, he went to live with his aunt Jenny in the rural Scottish Borders to recover from a lameness that was brought on by polio (and I mean 'lameness' as in inability to move, not like he was not cool). While he was living with his aunt Jenny, he learned about many of his country's folktales and legends that would have a big influence on his later works. At the age of 12, he attended the University of Edinburgh to study classics - 12 was young to go to college back then, by the way, but not as young as it seems now (he wasn't a Doogie or anything). He gained an extensive knowledge of poems, romantic tales and history, though all of this was put by the wayside for a while when, at the ripe old age of 18, he, instead, entered the family profession of law. But Scott never let go of these early influences in his development. When a friend of his was founding a printing press in 1796, it seemed as good a time as any for Scott to embrace his early love of stories and get to work on creating some of his own. His first published work was a translation of some German poems. A few years after that, Scott's first original work made clear that he had a real interest in Scottish folklore - the stories that he had been told as a child. There was a three-volume set called The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border , a collection of ballads based on Scottish Border tales. A number of poems followed for Scott, like The Lay of the Last Minstrel, a narrative poem about a sixteenth century Scottish border feud, and Marmion, an epic poem about a sixteenth century battle between the Scots and the English. These works and more led Scott to becoming a really extraordinarily popular figure in both Scotland and England at the time. He was even offered the position of England's Poet Laureate in 1813, but he declined.

Novels
After awhile, Scott began to feel that with all of the knowledge he had collected about Scottish history and Scottish culture, perhaps a longer form than poetry might actually suit his interests and his writing style better. We already mentioned that novels were frowned upon in Scott's day, but this didn't deter him - he published his first novel in 1814. Maybe he's not quite as brave as I'd like to believe, because he did publish it anonymously. This first novel was called Waverley, and it was set during the Jacobite Uprising of 1745. What, you don't know what the Jocobite Uprising of 1745 is? Fine. I'll tell you. It was a conflict in which the followers of a deposed English/Scottish king violently attempted to return him to a throne others most vehemently did not want him to have. Pretty exciting stuff - you might see how that could be good fodder for a historical novel - kings and unhappy peasants, a lot of violence and upheaval - exciting stuff for reading. This novel Waverley was so popular that Scott was able to kick out a new novel every one to two years for a while, and they kept selling, which is great because making a living as a writer is not easy at any time in history. He also kept publishing those books anonymously, and they were only attributed to 'the author of

Waverley,' which led all these subsequent novels to be commonly referred to as 'The Waverley Series' or 'The Waverly Novels'. Scott finally revealed that he was the author of the Waverley books in 1827, but it wasn't that big of a deal - a lot of people already had suspected that for a long time, so maybe not quite the big reveal he had hoped for. We should spend a little time talking about a few of Scott's most popular novels individually so you'll get a sense of the kind of plots that he favored - I think you might notice some consistencies. In general, you might notice that all of these books are full of characters (often with very intricate family relations) who are usually caught up in some twisting, potentially confusing plots like any soap opera you've ever seen. That's because major historical events provided the skeleton to all of Scott's work. So, for those of us who might be unfamiliar with Scotland's tumultuous history, some of these conflicts with their many political and religious allegiances can be hard to follow - it's true. If anything, though, that should give you an idea of the grand scope of Scott's novels. He had his sights set on these really major events that had a big impact on his country's history. He liked important characters and sweeping action. So let's talk about the first of these novels - published in 1816, it's called Old Mortality. It's now considered one of his best. It takes place in the late 17th century during a period of religious upheaval in Scotland (I'm sure you're shocked). In it, Henry Morton, a moderate Presbyterian, gets drawn into the Covenanters, a more violent faction of his church that objected to the reestablishment of the Episcopalian reign in Britain. Morton is given pause by the more extreme members of the Presbyterian Church that he encounters, and he's also distracted by this love for a girl named Edith whose family has taken the Episcopalian side. So we've got a little of the star-crossed lover action that readers seem to love. We can see how Scott's drawing conflict both from the major historical events and then, also the personal experience of falling in love (and maybe falling in love with someone you shouldn't). In that respect, he's not terribly dissimilar from Charles Dickens, if you're familiar with Dickens' work. Next up we've got Rob Roy from 1817 (no relation to the drink, as far as I know). It's part of the Waverley series, and it's a story you may be familiar with because a movie of the same name was made (although its relation to the book is pretty loose at best). Like Waverley, this story concerns a Jacobite uprising, though this one's set 30 years earlier in 1715 (apparently the Jacobites rose a lot). The novel stars a young Englishman named Frank Osbaldistone, who wants to be a poet. This upsets his father (as it upsets the parents of many people who want to be poets), so his father decides to send Frank off to live with his uncle in Northeast England, and he brings his cousin Rashleigh to work with him. However, Rashleigh's not a totally upstanding guy; he steals some financial documents that are vital to Frank's father's business and runs away to Scotland. Frank goes to Scotland to pursue Rashleigh, and he ends up getting caught up in the Jacobite uprising. He also encounters this enigmatic but strong title figure named Rob Roy. He's a political associate of Frank's uncle whose decisive actions will end up saving Frank and his family (spoiler alert). I know that might sound really confusing, but I swear people loved this book. Last we'll talk about Ivanhoe, which I personally think is Scott's best even though critics may disagree. It's an 1820 story that's probably his most popular. Unlike many of his other works, it's set way, way in the far past - 12th century England. The story depicts a time of transition for English nobility; it centers on the few remaining noble families with Saxon heritage and the cruelty that they faced at the hands of the Norman rulers. It follows the story of title character, Ivanhoe, who's fallen out of favor with his Saxon father because of his allegiance to the Norman king and their love of the same woman - so you see again that same sort of big political issues and then more personal issues and how they can interact and contradict each other.

Of interest to modern readers, this book incorporates the popular Robin Hood character (here that character's name is Locksley, but he shares a lot of the same characteristics), a noble outlaw who helps fight for the dispossessed - rob from the rich and give to the poor. After a huge amount of events, like a tournament of strength, the storming of the castle and the intervention of the legendary Knights Templar, Ivanhoe and his father are eventually reconciled, but there's a lot of really exciting stuff that happens in between, so check out Ivanhoe.

Scott's End and Legacy


Scott wrote a great deal more - he was very prolific - but those are some of his most famous works and, I think, give you a taste for what he was really into. He remained an incredibly popular figure during his lifetime. He both found favor with the general public and the English Crown - that's not easy to do. That 'Sir' at the beginning of his name isn't just something people called him to be polite; he was actually granted the title of baronet in 1820.

Jane Austen Introduction


Jane Austen - you've probably heard of her. She is a very influential and popular writer of romantic novels, and pretty much all of her books have been converted into big-name movies, even though they were published in the early 19th century. Her ability to create these really relatable characters and her really amazing sense of humor - she's got a perfect eye for social comedy -is something that still resonates with readers and viewers today. It's all still pretty relevant. In a lot of ways, her books are kind of the proto-romantic comedies. Her actual plots are made into movies, but also a lot of the rom-coms that you're familiar with, if not based on Austen, certainly owe a lot to Austen. 'The meet-cute - hate each other - come together at the end' is totally a Jane Austen original plot that's been done to death now, but back when she did it, it was kind of original. There was an even a novel published in 2004, which was then made into a movie, about people reading Jane Austen novels, called The Jane Austen Book Club. So, you can see we really love some Jane Austen. It's good stuff; we still relate to it.

Austen's Life and Themes


But for someone who's so omnipresent in a lot of ways and so famous, we actually don't know that much about Jane Austen. She was a little bit of a mysterious figure. Part of the reason for this is that her sister, Cassandra, burned a lot of her letters. The theory is that Cassandra thought that the letters would make Jane look bad, but we don't really know. Literary letters often do make their writers look bad but sometimes in really entertaining ways, like James Joyce wrote some really, really dirty letters to his wife that you can Google. So, maybe Jane Austen's letters were dirty sex letters; we'll never know. And actually, Cassandra burning them has probably led us to think a little more creatively about what might be in them and extrapolate further and worse than what they probably were. The things that we do know: like many of the characters in her novels, Jane Austen grew up in a house wealthy enough to not be poor, but poor enough not to be wealthy; she's kind of in that awkward middle place. A lot of her novels focus on the fact that women who weren't born into extreme wealth are obligated to marry well in order to get any kind of independence from their family or to have any kind of money of their own to spend.

But even though all of Jane Austen's books are about marriage, neither she nor her sister Cassandra ever married, which is kind of interesting. Austen writes about marriage in a way that's clearly saying something about how you don't have a lot of options as a woman in her time. Her take on marriage is that it's something you do and something that can be beneficial in a lot of ways, but it's not something to be happy about. That might explain a bit why she, who was a successful author, didn't end up marrying - she was able to make her own way a bit. And it's interesting, actually, that she was writing in a time when marriage was absolutely expected. That was the only thing that you could do as a woman. Now, when thinking about all of these books and movies and things that are based on the romantic comedy plotlines that she laid out, we live in a time where you're not forced into marriage, and yet all of those things still end in, if not marriage, the two characters getting together. It's a little funny when you look at it that way: she was writing something that was reflective of the time, where marriage was almost a business proposition in a lot of cases. We've kind of taken that and further romanticized it, made it into something that is not necessary but still greatly desired. We've kind of taken it out of context a bit with the way that we interpret her now.

Biography
We said a little bit about her family. How'd she get to writing? That's the next logical question.

She was born in 1775 in Steventon, England. She was one of eight children - six brothers and the aforementioned Cassandra (who burned all of her letters). Austen's parents were really good about encouraging her love of reading and writing. She had a sharp wit; that was really apparent right from the beginning. They saw that and nurtured it, which is what parents should do - nurture your children's talents; your kid might turn into Jane Austen!
Portrait of Jane Austen

Something that they noticed right away is that she loved making fun of 'the establishment' (social

laws, social rules). Her real gift was for skewering social mores. Outside of her writing, her life really wasn't all that dissimilar to a character in her books - she played the piano, she sewed, she danced at balls; she was kind of your typical well-cultured lady (or 'accomplished' is the word that they used to describe women like that. They have accomplishments - piano, sewing, etc.). She really was a writer who wrote what she knew (with the exception of the whole 'not marrying' thing although, actually, to be fair, we don't see a lot of her characters in marriages; we see them going towards marriages, so perhaps she did actually still have familiarity with that). Austen scholars speculate, in the same vein of writing what you know and writing for entertainment to skewer the establishment, that she started out writing to amuse her friends and family. She didn't actually decide to be professional until around 1789. I wish I had a friend like Austen, writing to entertain me, instead of some of the friends that I have who you have to encourage in their creative projects. Austen had something going on; she had real talent.

Her Work

Her first attempt at a thing to publish was a shorter novel, called 'Lady Susan', which is totally unlike the work she's famous for, and you've probably not heard of it at all before this lesson, but it's really cool. It's worth checking out. It's interesting because it's very different in a lot of ways. It's about a woman in her mid30s who's a widow and who's scheming to get a new husband. She's attractive, but she's also really selfish, and she's not very moral, which is kind of a little bit of a deviation for Austen. But she's witty, which is an Austen staple. So she's sort of a weird hodge-podge. It's an interesting first attempt at a work, and it's worth checking out for that reason. She's most widely associated, though, with six major novels (and, of course, their respective film adaptations): Sense and Sensibility, in 1811, was her first published work. It focuses on the limitations of women's options due to the circumstances of their birth, which is sounding very familiar now that we know something more about her. It's got an older sister, Elinor Dashwood, who's totally ruled by her head, and a younger sister, Marianne, who's motivated by her heart. Each sister thinks that the other one totally doesn't know what she's doing and that it would be better if she did it the other's way. They get what they want when they start acting more like each other; what they want is, of course, husbands. Elinor ends up with a guy named Edward Ferrars and Marianne with Col. Brandon. Next we get Pride and Prejudice, 1813, and this is probably the most famous Jane Austen novel. It was first called First Impressions because it's about two people - Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy - who initially don't like each other very much, but - spoiler alert (I think you probably know how it ends) - they end up falling in love. This is really the ultimate romantic comedy. We have a whole video on it; watch that to learn more. Mansfield Park, 1814, is often the least favorite of Austen fans, probably because the heroine, Fanny Price, is kind of boring. Like way too many Austen characters, she ends up marrying her cousin, which is a thing they did back then. She's from a relatively poor family, but she ends up being raised by her rich aunt and uncle and then her cousin. That's who Fanny is. Emma comes in 1815, and if you've seen the movie Clueless, you'll know this story very well. Wealthy and beautiful, if kind of slightly misguided, Emma Woodhouse is always trying to set up her friends (with often disastrous results) while never realizing that her sort-of brother-in-law (Paul Rudd in the movie) has been in love with her since she was 13. There are so many inappropriate family relationships in Austen, it's unbelievable - and they were all seen as really romantic! That's something that's lost in the modern adaptations; we don't usually have people falling in love with their cousins. That sounds a little too... ugh. And then we get Northanger Abbey published in 1818, actually after her death, so that's a posthumous publication. This one has all the hallmarks of an Austen novel: we've got a plucky heroine named Catherine Moreland, a grand estate (the titular Northanger Abbey), and kind of a complicated romance, but there's also this fun, spooky element to it. It's kind of in competition with Mansfield Park for the least well-known and least-loved work of Austen, but it's actually kind of fun, and it sort of explores the act of reading novels in addition to being a novel itself, so it's a little bit of a meta thing. Catherine's reading The Mysteries of Udolpho, a gothic novel by Ann Radcliffe, and she expects Northanger Abbey to be like that. Then we get Persuasion, also in 1818, also posthumously, and like the title might indicate, Persuasion kind of explores what happens when somebody acts under the influence of somebody else instead of making her own decisions. In this case, we've got smart but weak-willed Anne Elliott talked out of a marriage that she wants with Fredrick Wentworth, who's kind of a classy but unfortunately, poor naval officer, and she's talked out of it by her family and her close friend and is really unhappy because of it.

They do get together in the end because it is Austen, these are comedies, not tragedies. But the point is that you might get swayed by people, and that's not a great thing.

Pride and Prejudice The Original Romantic Comedy


Any brief summary of Pride and Prejudice is going to sound pretty much like every romantic comedy you've ever seen - that's because it's kind of the first one. Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy don't like each other when they first meet. They're forced to spend a lot of time together through contrived circumstances, and they end up falling in love and getting married. (I'm sorry if that was a spoiler, but you could kind of see it coming.) Pick a movie: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Bridget Jones' Diary, Knocked Up, When Harry Met Sally. In all of these, it starts out rough then ends up being a wonderful union at the end. It's also not a coincidence that almost every Jane Austen novel has been made into a movie because we've got a way of thinking about that kind of plot now in movies; it's a sure box office winner. But Jane Austen was way more talented than your average Hollywood screenwriter. She kind of invented this plot; she invented the 'people don't like each other and then they fall in love' story. She, actually, originally titled the book First Impressions, but she was forced to change it when she published it. This is interesting to know because it's kind of a handy way of remembering what Elizabeth and Darcy think of each other. The new title is Pride and Prejudice; the original title was First Impressions. Their 'first impressions' of each other are that Darcy is way too 'proud', and Elizabeth thinks he's too proud and is 'prejudiced' against liking him on further interaction. So, that's a neat way to remember that their 'first impressions' of each other are 'pride' and 'prejudice.'

Beginnings and Protagonists


The Bennet family has five daughters, and because of this silly rule called an entail, none of the daughters can actually inherit the estate. So, basically, at least a few of the daughters have to find very rich husbands or else the family is going to be ruined (because the estate will have to be inherited by someone who's not directly in it). At the beginning of the novel, the prospect of this happening is actually looking up. They might meet someone rich because someone rich has moved into the neighborhood. That is Mr. Bingley. The novel begins with this pretty famous line that you should probably remember: 'It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.' Jane Austen is known for her dry wit and sparkling dialogue, and this is arguably one of her most famous lines, so you should probably know it. It's also an interesting line because you get the sense that Jane Austen, herself, doesn't really believe that it's true (it definitely wouldn't be 'universal,' so that tips us off). But her characters do, so she's inhabiting their voice right off the bat in the opening of the book. This is something that's called free indirect discourse because she's expressing the thoughts and words of her characters, but she's not directly signaling it. So, she's not saying he said, she thought or they believed (which would be the most applicable in this situation). She uses this all the time in the book, but it's really prominent in this opening sentence. It's also a famous opening sentence! So, everyone in the neighborhood is freaking out because this rich guy has moved in nearby to this place called Netherfield Hall. The Bennets are freaking out times five because they have five daughters who all might want to marry this guy.

Luckily for them, Mr. Bingley actually likes one of their daughters, Jane, who's the oldest one. She's really pretty, and she's really nice, so it kind of makes sense that he would like her. They end up hanging out and dancing a lot at this neighborhood ball, which they seem to have a lot of in this book. Bingley has brought along with him his even richer friend, Mr. Darcy, and he tries to set him up with Elizabeth at this same ball. Darcy's kind of a tool at first. So, Bingley's like, 'You should hook up with Elizabeth,' and Darcy's like, 'No. She's kind of ugly. I don't like her.' Elizabeth overhears this and is justifiably upset; thinks he's kind of a jerk. She's not a big fan. But like in all romantic comedies, they begin to grow on each other. Darcy, eventually, acknowledges that Elizabeth is pretty and that she's actually really smart and fun to be around. Elizabeth learns that, while maybe Darcy isn't the most socially gifted guy in the world, he's actually really nice and decent. And he also has a lot of money. From this set up, it seems like the sister-sister, friend-friend double wedding thing is going to happen, and it's going be great.

Antagonists
There are, actually, a lot of people in the book who do not want this to happen and are actively (and inactively) trying to stop it. We're going to go over some of those people now; they're kind of the main antagonists in this book. First of all, we have Bingley's sisters, who like Jane because she's really pretty and likeable. There's really nothing not to like about her, except that she doesn't come from money. Bingley's sisters really want him to settle down with someone of much higher social status. They've picked out Mr. Darcy's younger sister, Georgiana. She's 16, so that's a little ehh, but that's how they rolled back then. Bingley's single sister, Caroline, really wants this to happen. She's awful; she's like the worst person ever. She has the hots for Darcy, so she wants her brother to marry his sister, so she can have a better chance with him. That seems to make sense to her; it doesn't really make sense to me but whatever. We'll just go with it. So, Bingley's sisters don't want him to marry Jane, and they have someone else picked out for Darcy. The next person who does not want this to happen: Lady Catherine DeBurgh. She's Darcy's aunt, and she's kind of old and cranky and nasty, and she's awful. She wants Darcy to marry her daughter (who's his cousin; again, things were kind of weird back then) to keep their family fortunes all together. She's super rich, but she's horribly ostentatious, and her house is really tacky. Another person who is getting in the way of Elizabeth's marriage is Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins is Mr. Bennet's cousin, and he's actually the rightful heir to the estate (remember the entail prevents the daughters from inheriting it). He actually proposes to Elizabeth, sort of as a gesture of 'We'll keep this in the family.' But he's super annoying and weird, and she denies his proposal. She still isn't into Darcy, but she's like 'No. I don't want to marry you.' He actually ends up marrying her best friend, so it works out okay for him in the end. So, those are the people who are actively trying to mess things up.

The Bennets
The rest of the Bennet family inactively messes things up. They don't have a lot of money, so people don't want their sons to marry into their family. But they're also kind of terrible and embarrassing - all of them. Mr. Bennet's okay; he sort of stays out of things. He's nice, but he doesn't really take action. Mrs. Bennet, Elizabeth and Jane's mom, is obnoxious, a hypochondriac; she's really embarrassing and doesn't realize it. Mary is their middle daughter. She's just a boring know-it-all. She's always trying to show off with these 'accomplishments', like she plays the piano really badly. Kitty, another sister, is all right but kind of boring; you forget about her. Lydia is a huge problem. She's the youngest; she's 15. She ends up eloping with a soldier and bringing all kinds of shame on the family. They're already not such a good family and she does this, which isn't so good.

Despite all of these things, Elizabeth and Darcy do end up falling in love with each other. How it happens is kind of interesting: Elizabeth is hanging out with her aunt and uncle touring around the countryside, and they end up going for a tour of Darcy's fancy house, which is called Pemberley. Rather than being ostentatious and tacky- like, remember, Lady Catherine DeBurgh's house that is not that exciting - Elizabeth finds that it's in really good taste. It's large, but it's well-proportioned and balances with nature. Austen describes it: ' and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!' She starts to think, by seeing his house, that Darcy might actually not be a proud, rich tool but maybe someone who's kind of nice with bad social skills to deal with. Then he helps her family sort out the whole Lydia-marrying-the-soldier mess and that wins him points in Elizabeth's book. They all end up happily ever after in the end.

Romantic Poetry
I'm just feeling some artful, sad emotions here. Feeling some sappy love poetry coming on. It's actually a little bit of a misconception about romantic poetry that it was all sappy and about love and stuff. They were kind of tortured souls, and they wrote stuff like Dejection: An Ode and Ode on Melancholy. I guess I shouldn't have thrown the tissues away just yet, but in this video, you'll learn that the Romantics were not just about that. They had a lot going on than just touchy-feely, lovesick stuff.

Themes
So, themes of Romantic poetry - we're going to start by setting the scene for the birth of Romantic poetry. It was the late 18th century. The French Revolution had begun in 1789. England, at this time, was at war with everybody, including itself. It was suppressing dissent, and things weren't going that great. By the end of the 18th century, industrialization was responsible for life as we know it - the ability to make a bunch of stuff quickly. 'Made in China' is kind of the culmination of industrialization. That was getting going by the end of the century, and it was making huge changes in people's lives, understandably. The Age of Enlightenment, which had come before and led to this in a lot of ways, had its emphasis on science, reason and being intellectual - thinking things through - that had held sway for a while. For young writers at the time and when things were changing so much, the world just stopped making sense. It was too unfamiliar. The city was rising in this way that was unpleasant to them. The Romantics were really looking to do things differently. The first thing they wanted to do was to use regular language. This was a direct response to some of the poetry that had been written before. English poetry had been super formal. They wanted to write with words that regular people would know. They didn't want big band music - they wanted rock and roll. That's kind of the Romantic sentiment. You can see how this can be related to the French revolution - 'for the people, by the people' and all that stuff. And then poetry you could actually understand. They also wanted to focus on emotions and feelings more than anything else. This can be seen as a response to the cold science and industrialization thing that was sweeping the country. Enlightenment writers, again, were focused on science, fact and reason. The Romantics really wanted to focus on how people felt. So, it's like singer-songwriter, Bob Dylan and Alanis Morissette types rather than corporate manufactured boy band stuff. I'm looking at you One Direction! Like any good revolutionaries, the Romantics had a real love of nature. Celebrating nature was really central to a lot of their most significant works. Again, it's a reaction to the Enlightenment, because the

natural world had been dissected and clinically examined by scientists. The Romantics wanted to get back to just appreciating it and seeing it in its whole. 'Relax bra, be cool' - that kind of sentiment towards nature. Works by Romantics were also designed to represent the individual artist. The reader should feel like there's a voice behind the poem and that it's directly addressing you. This all comes back to the idea that we're not a monolith anymore. We're not a government that's a king and everyone else is a subject. We're entering a world in which individuality and individual voices can be heard. Again, this was spurred on by the French Revolution idea. How different is Romantic poetry than what came before it? I will give you an example. I'm going to show you some Alexander Pope, who is super popular. He was a prominent English poet from immediately before the Romantics. This is some of his poetry: 'Tis hard to say, if greater Want of Skill Appear in Writing or in Judging ill, But, of the two, less dang'rous is th'Offence, To tire our Patience, than mis-lead our Sense' And that was from a poem called An Essay on Criticism, which already blows your mind. And this was one of his greatest hits; people loved this thing. Just to contrast that, we're going to show you some William Wordsworth, who was a Romantic poet. 'I have a boy of five years old; His face is fair and fresh to see; His limbs are cast in beauty's mould, And dearly he loves me.' That's from a little poem called Anecdote for Fathers. You can see, the Romantic poem is way easier to understand, and it has normal human emotion in it. It has words like a regular person addressing the reader. It's more like something Wordsworth would put on Facebook rather than what Pope would write to put in the Journal of Stuffy Intellectualism (which I would totally subscribe to - I don't know about you).

Major Romantic Poets and Works


So who were these guys? I mentioned William Wordsworth, but who are the rest of this cast of clowns that we're talking about? You've probably heard of some of them.

Like I said, Wordsworth. We've got Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who is a buddy of Wordsworth). They started hanging out in 1795. They're kind of like the Starsky and Hutch of Romantic poetry. They wrote this book together called Lyrical Ballads - they each contributed stuff. It was published in 1798, and it's considered the birth of Romantic poetry. This is really the thing that kicks it all off.

Romantic poet William Wordsworth

You probably know Coleridge's most famous contribution to the book, which is The Rime of the

Ancient Mariner. It's awesome. That's where we get the phrase 'Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.' That's from that poem, so it's awesome. It also has zombie sailors and big albatrosses. We talk about that in another lesson. I'll let you judge for yourself. It's pretty cool. Coleridge is also known for Kubla Khan, which is a poem he composed while under the influence of opium (which was a major character trait or flaw - depending on how you see these things). Wordsworth was way more straight-laced than Coleridge. It actually caused a lot of problems with them. He wrote a poem that makes it seem like he's on opium, but he's not: 'Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey on revisiting the banks of the Wye during a tour. 13 July 1798.' He was just long-winded; he wasn't high. The poem is also just shortened to just plain Tintern Abbey. If you want to remember it, that's what you should remember. He also wrote a few other famous things, like The Solitary Reaper. It's not a horror movie but a poem about a solitary Highland lass reaping wheat. Another thing you can reap besides human souls. A little while after Wordsworth and Coleridge, there's a second generation of Romantic poets. This includes John Keats, who was ridiculed by critics all his life, and he died when he was 25 of tuberculosis. He had a short and tragic life. He was insanely prolific; he wrote a ton of stuff, some of which are now considered super iconic Romantic poetry, and we love it: Ode on a Grecian Urn, On First Looking into Chapman's Homer and Ode on Melancholy. He had a lot of greatest hits. That always makes me feel inferior, so I better get cracking at some Romantic poems before my next birthday. I've revealed my age!

Then, we have Percy Bysshe Shelley; he's another one of these second generation Romantic dudes. He's best known for 1818's Ozymandias and also for leaving a trail of women who killed themselves after he didn't love them. He's also the husband of Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein. Yeah, that Frankenstein. The third major second-generation Romantic poet is a guy names Lord Byron. If you ever thought that being a Romantic poet meant lonely nights at home pining over lost loves and writing sometimes, then you don't know Byron because he was a ladies man. One of the many women who liked him had an affair with him and called him 'mad, bad and dangerous to know' (it's like mad, bad 'Leroy Brown, baddest man in the whole damn town'). When he wasn't being a player, he found the time to write some poetry, like Don Juan and She Walks in Beauty. The names kind of fit right in with what I just described: lots of lovers and into beautiful women.
Percy Bysshe Shelley was the husband of Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein.

There's also William Blake. He's not really an early Romantic or late Romantic, he's just Blake. He's in his own weird category. It's like platypuses; they're mammals, but they lay eggs. He's in his own little area. In addition to writing poetry, he created illuminated prints, which are basically complicated relief etchings. He's strange because not only did he do this - illustrate and write poems - he said that he learned how to do this illustration method
William Blake created illuminated prints.

from the ghost of his dead brother. You have to

take this with a big grain of salt. I guess they left the 'I need help with relief etching techniques' ghost out of The Sixth Sense. I have no idea why! Blake is best known for the book Songs of Innocence and Experience, which includes the poems that are innocent and poems that are experienced. The Tyger on the experienced side, The Lamb on the innocent side. There are other Romantic poets we won't study in depth, but you might want to know their names. Men get a lot of attention in this, as they normally do in these time periods of literature. There were significant women writers. There's Charlotte Turner Smith and Mary Robinson; these are people you should have burbling in the back of your head when you think about Romanticism. While our lessons will focus on British authors (this is English literature after all), Americans, like Edgar Allen Poe and Walt Whitman, are often considered Romantics as well - although that will be on the American side, so you can look over there if you feel like it.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge


He was one of the leading Romantic poets. Again, Romantic doesn't mean it's about love, it's a whole movement; it's about nature vs. the city and things like that. Coleridge is kind of a rock star of the 19th century. His life has big hit singles, drug addiction and unrequited love - there's even kind of a band breaking up part of the story that we'll get to in a little bit. It's really exciting and he's a cool dude. So, let's talk about Coleridge! Coleridge was born in 1772 in a country town in England. His father was the vicar of a local church and headmaster of a local school. He had a ton of kids; he had three kids with his first wife and then ten kids with his second wife. Coleridge was the last of all of those - you can imagine how that might be difficult for him. His father actually died when he was eight, which was kind of difficult again. He was sent off to a school in London that was basically a charity school to try to give poor kids a good education. It actually worked really well for him. He read a ton. By the time he was done, he was reading Robinson Crusoe and Virgil, etc. He got a really good foundation in literature. One of the things that really had a lot of influence on him was something that he had read when he was quite young, was the Arabian Nights (which is not the opening song in Aladdin, although you can see that it might be related). It's actually a series of stories compiled from the Middle East centering on a girl who has to tell a bunch of stories in order to not be dead. In order to not be killed, she has to entertain - sing for her supper, literally. It sort of gives him an initial outlook into the exotic and things like that. He got really obsessed by one tale about a guy who was trying to find a pure virgin. That really stuck with him, it seemed like. Actually, when his father found this book, he was really not happy and he ended up burning it. It's like if your mom found your Nine Inch Nails albums and then tried to play it backwards to find devil messages or something. He was not happy that Coleridge was being exposed to

this kind of literature. Remember - he was a vicar! He was a bit conservative. So this forced Coleridge to rely on his imagination, which comes back later, it's important. His dad wanted him to be a minister, so that was the original plan. Coleridge went to college and he was going to be a minister, but it doesn't really work out that way. He makes friends who aren't really in that path, he ends up falling in love and getting involved in radical politics, which really does sound quite familiar to a lot of people's college experience. He ended up going into debt and had to leave school, which is pretty sad. It was really sad because he was totally in love with his friend's sister whose name was Mary Evans. Mary wasn't that into Coleridge, which was a problem. This all led to some bad decision making: he decided he was going to use a fake name and join the British Army regiment known as the Royal Dragoons - which is a great idea for a sensitive poet who was going to be a minister. It sounds like there's no way it could go wrong, right? Well, it did go wrong. He ended up dropping out really quickly and ended up not in a great situation.

Early Career
While Coleridge was at Jesus College, he befriended the writer named Robert Southey. He's kind of the John Lennon to Coleridge's McCartney. That's maybe a good analogy. They shared the same general outlook on life and hopes for the future. They hatched a plan to create what is known as a pantisocracy. Which you might say, what is that? Is it a democracy of pants? No, it's not - sadly. It's a utopian society where everyone is equal in status and role. It sounds a lot more boring to me than a democracy of pants! Anyway, that's what it is. They wanted to do this in Pennsylvania. I don't know if that's exactly where I would go in search of utopia, but that's where they wanted it. So Southey married this woman named Edith Fricker. Then, in 1795, he persuades Coleridge to marry Edith's sister, Sara Fricker. I don't really know how that went - oh yeah, she needs a husband. Why don't you do it? It didn't really work out because he wasn't ever really that into her. Actually, not only was he not that really into her, he kind of hated her and they spent a lot of time apart and they never really got along. That was 1795, which was a bad year for him in that sense, but a good year in the sense that he met a guy named William Wordsworth , who ended up being a huge influence on him. They bonded over poetry and politics, and within a few years, they were not only friends, but they were collaborating on a lot of stuff. They were really the leaders of this blossoming Romantic Movement in poetry. We've already used the Beatles Southey and Coleridge/ Lennon and McCartney metaphor. If we use another music metaphor for Coleridge and Wordsworth, it's maybe like Kanye and Jay-Z. Maybe Simon and Garfunkel might be a little more accurate. But before Coleridge could be a major poet, he had to figure out a way to make money. Even back then, poetry was not the most lucrative career choice, maybe a bit more so than now, but not by that much. In 1798, he's kind of in real financial trouble again. He was about to fulfill his dead father's wish to become a minister, which by now you know is a terrible idea! Then, these awesome dudes named the Wedgwood brothers offer him a lot of money just to write. So, they give him an annuity of 150 pounds a year, which is nothing by today's standards but was enough by those standards - just because they think he's a good poet and they want to encourage him to write more. If anyone wants to sponsor me, I'm accepting! Alcohol and money are both welcome.

Major Works

This is a game-changer for him. He's really able to just focus on his work now. About a month after hearing from the, again it's 1798, he writes Frost at Midnight. This is one of his first major things. In the poem, he talks about his upbringing in the city and he worries and hopes that his son will get to really experience nature. You can see that it's a key Romantic theme cropping up; the importances of nature vs. the city, things like that. An excerpt from that goes: For I was reared In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim, And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars. But thou, my babe! Shalt wander like a breeze By lakes and sandy shores, beneath the crags Of ancient mountain, and beneath the clouds Frost at Midnight, as you can maybe see from its address to the son, is known as one of Coleridge's conversation poems which were written over about a dozen years at the turn of the 19th century. As you might guess, they're written in a conversational tone. As you saw in Frost at Midnight, they share the same celebration of nature trait that comes up throughout Romantic poetry. They're also very clearly about Coleridge's friends and experiences. They're very much based on life. In addition to Frost at Midnight, other notable conversation poems are The Eolian Harp, This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison and The Nightingale (these are the famous ones). Later on in that same year, 1798 (kind of the big year for Coleridge), he and Wordsworth (remember, Wordsworth is the little Simon and Garfunkel buddy) publish Lyrical Ballads, which is a collection of poetry. It's the thing that's important to the Romantic Movement; the birth of the Romantic Poetry Movement is the publication of this book. Wordsworth's poems really dominated it, they were the majority, but Coleridge's poem was the big hit of the book: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. We're going to talk about that more later. If Coleridge was the George Harrison of this album, he doesn't write as much but it's the best. That's kind of what's going on here. So, that's one of his big claims to fame. The following year, Coleridge goes and falls in love with another woman who doesn't love him back. He just can't catch a break. This one is called Sara Hutchinson, and she's actually the sister of Wordsworth's future wife. So, that could get kind of awkward. This doomed love affair led to the poem Dejection: An Ode, which sounds really depressing. It actually began as a letter to Sara, but by the time he published it a lot of that personal stuff had gotten worked out, so it's less of an embarrassing love poem and more of a good poem. It's also known as another one of Coleridge's conversation poems. Dejection: An Ode is really depressing, and it's really like his emo phase. I imagine him hanging out in the smoking corner painting his fingernails black and all that stuff. In 1816, he writes this poem called Kubla Khan. He originally wrote it in an opium-induced dream in 1797. So, a while back. And yes, that's as crazy of a story as it seems - that also gets its own lesson, and we'll talk about that more later. For now, it's worth knowing that Kubla Khan is actually one of the most widely read Romantic poems that exist. It's pretty cool. It comes up a lot, and you might have read this in high school and thought this sounds like this guys on drugs. Well spotted, he was on drugs!

In 1816, he also publishes a poem called Christabel, which is one of the last important things he writes. It's a narrative poem, that just means it tells a story. It's about this woman Christabel who's very virtuous and religious, and she runs into a woman in the forest named Geraldine, who might not be - she might be possessed by a demon or something like that. It's actually not finished; he planned a lot more than he was able to write. It just ends with Christabel figuring out that Geraldine might not be all that she says. That's an overview of his major works.

Opium Addiction
We mentioned the whole opium thing, so we're going to dig into that a little bit more. This is the drug addiction section of the video I'm sure you've all been waiting for. No discussion of Coleridge would be complete without talking about drugs because he did a lot of them. He was very sickly throughout his life. He had physical problems - he had rheumatic fever as a child, which isn't fun - he also had some mental health problems, like anxiety and depression. It's like Dr. House. He hurts his leg, then he gets the Vicodin and then he can't get off the Vicodin, which leads to addiction. That's the same thing that goes on with Coleridge. He began taking a liquid form of opium called laudanum, which was totally common back then and it was really a pain killer and a sleeping aid all in one. Again, like Vicodin in that sense - that wonderful feeling when you've gotten your wisdom teeth out and you're lying on the couch drinking smoothies. You can see why someone might get addicted to it. Side note: Abe Lincoln's wife was addicted to laudanum. It was common to be addicted to it. His dependence was increasing; he became less productive as he got more and more addicted. Drugs are bad! He got to be like Ozzy Osbourne or another aging rock star like Keith Richards. Ozzy didn't always wander around shouting Sharon - he used to be a functional person. With Coleridge, in the beginning, the opium would help or he would say that it helped. It would give him these visions, and he'd really be able to realize poetry in a different kind of way. But as it went along, it got to be really difficult for him to keep up the productivity with this addiction. His friends knew he had a problem. He would say that it helped, but it ended up causing a lot of serious problems, especially with Wordsworth. It would give him exciting dreams early on and help him write things like Kubla Khan, but later on, it gave him horrible nightmares and he'd wake up screaming in terror. Ultimately, Wordsworth just had enough because Coleridge would crash at his place and wake up screaming. That was not okay, and their friendship ended up totally dissolving over drugs. So, drugs are bad! They make you not be able to be friends with Wordsworth anymore. Coleridge was aware of his addiction but he never really got past it. In 1834, he dies at the age of 61.

Romantic Themes
So in 1798, the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge published a little poem called 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.' It's a pretty great poem. It's got awesome adventure, horror, and mystery. It's also got zombies. You know those books, like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, that kind of get updated to include horror stuff? Coleridge doesn't need to do that; 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Zombies' would be redundant because they're already in there. So that's pretty cool. It's also got a famous little quote embedded in there: 'Water, water, everywhere, nor any drop to drink.' That's from 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.' We'll find out where that comes from and what they're talking about. It's basically just a reference to the fact that there's lots of salt water around but you can't drink any of it because it will make you die faster than if you just don't drink anything at all.

Kind of like all the best poetry, I think, it either has a very powerful message or it kind of might be meaningless. It's sort of ambiguous about what it really signifies, but it is a great poem. It's pretty Romantic in style and concern, except at times when it really isn't; it's sort of ambiguous in that sense, too. And it's very, very long. It's divided into seven sections and it's got about 600 lines, which is a really long poem. But don't worry; the lines are really short, so there's not really all that may words in them. And that should make you really excited to learn about this, so let's do it! But before we jump in, we're going to look a little bit at some Romantic themes that come up in the poem or are subverted by the poem. What we're going to look at is nature (the idea of the natural world), supernatural forces (zombies might come in there), strong human emotions, and the idea of sin and restoration (you do something bad but you can be redeemed for it). If you know Romantic poetry by now, then you also know that one of the major facets of Romantic poems tends to be that they use accessible, modern language (modern for them; it might seem a little antiquated to us). But 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' actually doesn't do that. It actually uses fairly antiquated language deliberately. It deliberately violates this particular trend of Romantic poetry. This was actually an issue when the poem debuted. It was the first poem in collaboration between Coleridge and Wordsworth called Lyrical Ballads. It's the first poem in the book, and Wordsworth went on record complaining that it used this archaic language and he called the poem an 'injury to the volume' that discourages people from reading the rest. It's kind of like if you bought Now!...whatever number they're on now (back when I was buying them it was like Now! 5...now it's like Now! 45) and because you like Top 40 music, you buy that CD or download it (whatever the kids are doing these days). Then, the first track is actually a 10-minute Tom Waits song. If you don't know who that is, all you have to do is Google and see that a YouTube genius posted one of his songs onto a video of Cookie Monster singing - he sounds like Cookie Monster. Anyway you get an idea of who Tom Waits is and how it would be quite different than the other things on the Now! CD. The point is that there would be a major shift in tone and that's what's going on in Lyrical Ballads, or at least what Wordsworth is worried about in Lyrical Ballads with 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.'

The Poem Begins


As the title might suggest, this poem is about a tale told about and/or by an ancient mariner, who is just somebody who sails. It's not someone who plays baseball for Seattle. It starts with a bunch of dudes who are all heading to a wedding. The Mariner shows up and stops one of the men. The man says to the Mariner: 'By thy long beard and glittering eye, Now wherefore stopp'st thou me? The Bridegroom's doors are opened wide, And I am next of kin; The guests are met, the feast is set: May'st hear the merry din.'

I warned you that the language is kind of archaic. You might be able to see why Wordsworth was a little bit bothered by it. But all the guy is saying here is, 'Dude, you look kind of crazy. Why'd you stop me? The wedding is about to start. I gotta go.' And the Mariner says back to him, 'There was a ship' Let this be a warning to you. If a long-bearded, glittery-eyed stranger accosts you and says, 'There was a ship,' you might as well sit down. It's going to be a long story. And that's exactly what happens in the poem. The Wedding-Guest is spellbound and sits to listen, like a 'three years' child...' who 'cannot choose but hear.' He's totally going to miss the wedding. The Mariner proceeds to tell a long and amazing story that I'm going to try to summarize in just a few minutes. So here we go!

The South Pole and the Albatross


Basically, the Mariner is describing this journey he was on a long time ago. They were heading south towards the South Pole. In 1798, nobody actually knew if Antarctica existed. People would try to get down there but there'd be crashing waves and rough seas and they wouldn't be able to get very far; it gets rough down there. Today, you could take a cruise ship down there and go look at it, which is kind of cool; but, back then, it was more difficult. For the Mariner, things were going well. Then: '...the Storm-blast came, and he Was tyrannous and strong' You should note there that the weather is personified. He was tyrannous and strong. Not only that, but Coleridge is highlighting this awesome power of nature, which is one of those Romantic themes that we talked about in the beginning. As they get closer to Antarctica, they encounter ice. The description of that is: 'The ice was here, the ice was there, The ice was all around: It crack'd and growl'd, and roar'd and howl'd' Again, nature is seen as a powerful and threatening thing. It's also definitely a character in the story along with the Mariner and the other people on the ship. Nature is kind of a person in this thing. But just as nature punishes, it also gives back. The men see an albatross appear in the fog. It's just a giant bird; its wingspan is over 10 feet wide. Actually, in the Disney classic The Rescuers Down Under, that big, white bird that tries to land on the runway but the runway is too small for it - that's an albatross. Fun fact. Things were looking up; they think they're going to be able to get home even though there were all the storms and ice and stuff that was bad. Things keep looking up for a while and then the Mariner decides to shoot the albatross with his crossbow. And we're really not told why, it just kind of happens. This is a little troubling. It doesn't really seem like a great idea to shoot this bird that brought the fair wind, but he just does it anyway.

But then it still seems like it might be okay; there's still a good wind and the fog has cleared. For a little bit, the other sailors thought maybe the albatross was actually a bad omen and it brought the fog with it. They start to think it was a good thing it got shot. But no, it was not a good thing it got shot, as you could predict. The ship ends up near to the equator and it gets becalmed - there was no wind and they can't get anywhere. As they sit idly, baking in the sun, we get those famous lines: 'Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink.' They are thirsty; they can't get anywhere. It really seems like they are in trouble, like it's not going to be okay. They decide that the albatross was their good luck charm and the Mariner needs to be punished for shooting it. So what they decide to do is literally hang the dead albatross around the Mariner's neck and have him wander around like that. I really don't know how they think this is going to help, but they do and so they do that.

Death Sails In
So everyone is almost dead from thirst. Totally out of water and can't drink the seawater - looking bad. They're probably drinking their own pee by this point, which is never a good thing. The Mariner spots a ship approaching. They all think, 'Oh, this is good news! We're going to be rescued!' He's too parched to yell out, so, as he says: 'I bit my arm, I suck'd the blood, And cried, A sail! a sail!' As in the line about the water, we have a representation of strong human emotion, which the Romantics prized, if you remember. They're not stoic and somber. They're real, dramatic and excitable. They'll bite their arms and suck on their own blood to quench their dry mouths. They get excited about a ship sailing towards them. But then it occurs to them that the sea is really calm and they're stuck. How can that ship be sailing towards them in such weather? The sailors realize this and this is where it gets to be the horror movie part. It's where the supernatural comes in. As the ship gets closer, they realize it's a ghost ship. Little did you know that the Pirates of the Caribbean movie was based on this poem, in addition to the theme park ride. It really wasn't, but it's the same kind of idea - the ship full of skeleton people - is basically what turns up. And they begin to freak out. When it gets close enough they can see what's on it and it's described as: 'And is that Woman all her crew? Is that a Death? and are there two?' So it's two people: Death and a woman. You'd think these guys would be over the moon to see a lady because they've been at sea all this time, but they're not. They described the woman as: 'Her lips were red, her looks were free, Her locks were yellow as gold:

Her skin was as white as leprosy, The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she, Who thicks man's blood with cold.' She's terrifying! I mean, skin as white as leprosy does not sound good. And that's not all. The Woman and Death are playing dice. She wins and then things get a whole lot worse. She makes the sun go down and then she takes care of those sailors: 'One after one, by the star-dogg'd Moon, Too quick for groan or sigh, Each turn'd his face with a ghastly pang, And cursed me with his eye. Four time fifty living men (And I heard nor sigh nor groan), With heavy thump, a lifeless lump, They dropp'd down one by one. The souls did from their bodies flyThey fled to bliss or woe! And every soul, it pass'd me by Like the whizz of my crossbow!' So you can see, the other sailors are not happy with the Mariner because he brought all this upon him by killing the albatross with his crossbow, which he's reminded of by the end. The Mariner is the only one who doesn't get killed in this. He spends about a week on the boat with these 200 dead bodies, which must have smelled great. Finally, he's able to pray, which actually causes the albatross to drop from his neck. And this begins the restoration part of the sin and restoration theme of the Romantics. He starts to repent a bit for this sin of mindlessly killing this bird. With the albatross off his neck, things start to improve a little bit. He's able to sleep; it rains, so he's able to drink and quench his thirst and he doesn't have to bite into his arm anymore. When the moon appears, the ship actually begins to move. Again, nature is seen as a force that's this time helping the Mariner, rather than hurting him.

Zombies Guide Us Home


Then we get to the best part. I promised you that there were going to be zombies and there totally are. It's time for the zombies at this point when the moon comes and it's time to pick up: 'The dead men gave a groan. They groan'd, they stirr'd, they all uprose,

Nor spake, nor moved their eyes; It had been strange, even in a dream, To have seen those dead men rise.' These aren't your usual flesh-eating, Walking Dead zombies; they don't want braiiiiiins. They're actually helpful zombies. They raise the sails and steer the ship. They may even know the Thriller dance. While the ship sails along, there's an odd little sequence in which the Mariner hears two voices. One notes that the ship is sailing without wind, and really, really fast. He wonders why this Mariner is getting this luxury zombie cruise. The other voice notes: 'The man hath penance done, And penance more will do.' While the other voice thinks the whole thing is a little far-fetched, the first voice basically says that the moon fought the sea and won. So the moon wins and is now able to guide him home and raise the zombies. So nature is controlling the Mariner once again. As for the zombies, they are pretty good sailors. The ship eventually returns home. Before it reaches port, the spirits that had reanimated the zombies fly away again and the Mariner is once again alone. A hermit rows out to the ship and rescues him and the ship sinks. The Mariner gets off and he returns to land. Now we're back to the beginning where he was telling the wedding guest all this stuff. So the wedding guest totally missed the wedding but he did learn why the Mariner bothered him in the first place. It's kind of interesting. The Mariner says: 'Since then, at an uncertain hour, That agony returns: And till my ghastly tale is told, This heart within me burns. I pass like night, from land to land; I have strange power of speech; That moment that his face I see, I know the man that must hear me: To him my tale I teach.' He's basically compelled to tell his story forever more as part of his additional penance for killing the albatross. And that's 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.' That's what happens.

Introduction to Kubla Khan


In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree

Hello, I was just reciting Kubla Khan, which was one of the most beloved Romantic poems of all time. Not only is it awesome, but there's an awesome story of how it was made. But remember through all of this drugs are bad. Don't do this. Coleridge did it and it worked out great, but it didn't actually work out great for him in the end. It just worked out great that he wrote this poem.

Writing the Poem


So, drugs might make you write a poem like Kubla Khan, but they'll also do lots of other horrible things to you. In Coleridge's time, it was super popular for doctors to prescribe opium for everything. If you have a headache... opium! If you're depressed...opium! If you're getting something amputated...probably opium. Doctors didn't really understand that it had the potential to really get you seriously addicted to it. Coleridge would develop a really bad addiction by the end of his life. In 1797, Coleridge was still just a recreational user. As you might learn if you take a psychology course, Coleridge was just abusing drugs but he wasn't dependent on them yet. Because drug abuse is totally fine...not! Not at all. But he was reading a book about Xanadu, which is strange to me because there was a house at my college called Xanadu and I was horrified to learn that even the people who lived in it had no idea that it was the location of Kubla Khan's summer palace. Okay, I was just horrified that they didn't wonder about it; I had to look that up on Wikipedia, but it really is a dorm that you could live in... Anyway, Coleridge was reading about Marco Polo's journey to Xanadu. Yep, that Marco Polo. That's where Kubla Khan, who was the grandson of the Mongol conqueror, Genghis Khan, set up shop to rule China from this place. He got really into it; Kubla Khan got really into ruling China but Coleridge got really into reading about Kubla Khan. Then he took some opium, as he was wont to do, and he went to sleep. He had some really cool dreams. Later on, these dreams would become nightmares; when he was in the dependent stage of his drug problem, his dreams were not good. But for now, they were awesome. So, he had this wonderful dream about Xanadu, about Kubla Khan's summer palace. He claimed that he composed a complete 200-300-line poem about Xanadu all in his sleep. Then he got up and started writing it. It's kind of like if you're out partying with friends, and one of your friends (not you, of course) gets really messed up and spends an hour talking about his crazy plan to build a Taco Bell on the moon. You know, it's crazy, definitely. He's thinking outside the bun, but he also has this incredibly fleshed out thing in his head. The same thing happens to Coleridge. The problem is when he wakes up, he only gets about three stanzas in until he's interrupted by a mysterious person from Porlock, which makes him forget the rest of it and then he has to stop. That would be kind of like your drunk friend deciding that instead of putting a Taco Bell on the moon, he just wanted to go get some Taco Bell because he kind of gets interrupted, which happens all too often. Coleridge gets interrupted, doesn't finish it, and shelves the poem for nearly 20 years thinking it's not good enough and it's not complete. But then a friend found it and pushed him to publish it, and he included it in his collection from 1816, Christabel, Kubla Khan, and the Pains of Sleep.

A Person from Porlock


As for that person from Porlock who interrupted him and made him forget the rest of the poem, he's actually one of literature's greatest mysteries. No one really knows who it was. Porlock is just a village in England, near where Coleridge was living at the time.

But since Kubla Khan has become such a significant poem that everyone is, rightfully, really into, this person from Porlock has kind of risen in stature because he's theoretically the reason why it's not longer and even better and more glorious. Some people think that it might have been Coleridge's doctor, who was prescribing him the opium in the first place. That'd be a bit ironic. Some people think that Coleridge just made the whole thing up. It's like, 'Oh, yeah, my essay is going to be 10 pages long. I dreamed it all out, but then the person from Porlock ate 9 pages of it.' Sure. F. It might just be all a myth. Still, this Porlock figure - the interrupter of creativity - gets referenced all over the place. He come up in Lolita; a person checks into a hotel under the pseudonym A. Person, Porlock, England. It comes up all over the place always as this symbol. He also has a Facebook page and a Twitter page. It's always as this symbol of interrupted creativity. So, a side legacy of the Kubla Khan poem is this reference to this mysterious figure. That's a lot of background on the poem but it's interesting stuff. Now we're going to get to the poem itself, which as you might remember, is a lot shorter than it should have been so it should go pretty quickly.

The Poem: Stanza 1


It begins with a description of Xanadu, which again is Kubla Khan's summer capital. It's a stately pleasuredome (those are the lines that I read in the very beginning), which basically means a fancy palace. Coleridge describes its walls and towersgirdled round, its gardens bright with sinuous rills and forests as ancient as the hills. It sounds pretty plush and pretty great. We also learn about where Xanadu is: Where Alph, the sacred river, ran Through caverns measureless to man Down to a sunless sea. This is notable because although Xanadu is a real place, there is no Alph river. It does not exist. Coleridge made it up. This is interesting because he's kind of openly saying that while Xanadu is real, it's a place of his imagination; he's kind of re-making it in his head. Imagination is a key element or key idea for Romantic poetry - this idea of recreating things in the mind and the artist's imagination. So, he's really calling attention to that with this inclusion of this fictional river. There's also an interesting dichotomy here: between the positive, warm images of Xanadu, all those gardens bright, incense-bearing trees and whatnot, and then the outside world, with has caverns measureless and sunless sea. There's clearly a hierarchy here; there's nice things on the inside and there's nasty things on the outside.

The Poem: Stanza 2


So, then we get to Stanza 2 where Coleridge seems entranced by the landscape outside of Xanadu and the river that runs through it. He describes it as: A savage place! as holy and enchanted As e'er beneath waning moon was haunted By woman wailing for her demon-lover!

In those three lines, we got three important facets of Romantic poetry: imagination celebrated , nature and mysticism. The Romantic poet's awe of the majesty and power of nature you can see throughout this stanza and those lines and also in these next lines when he's describing this river. And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething, As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing, A mighty fountain momently was forced; Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail, Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail Look at all those strong, dramatic words: chasm, ceaseless, turmoil. It's is not a lazy stream; it's not like the lazy river at the water park. It's kind of this fantastic, almost impossibly theatrical river. The second stanza ends with a turn. We follow this river down to that lifeless ocean and then we learn: And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war!

We're all caught up in this amazing river; there are all these words describing how great it was, but, then we realize that this poem is supposedly about Kubla Khan and not just about the natural world. But that's an interesting thing; a lot of it is about the natural world, which is a Romantic trope that Kubla Khan
The poem is supposedly about Kubla Khan and not just the natural world.

is sort of represented and kind of shoved aside in favor for these

images of nature. Just a quick reminder, he is Genghis Khan's kid. He ruled in the 13th century mainly and he wasn't really renowned for peace. He had lots of war. That's those voices prophesying war. That's what they're talking about.

The Poem: Stanza 3


Then we get to Stanza 3 and this is a weird little segment where Coleridge brings back the juxtaposed images of Xanadu and the surrounding natural scenes: The shadow of the dome of pleasure Floated midway on the waves;

Where was heard the mingled measure From the fountain and the caves. It was a miracle of rare device, A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice! He's repeating his language, with the pleasure dome, the fountain and the caves. When it's presented here, it's all kind of jumbled together on top of each other. It's not really separated anymore. It kind of get's go be a weird celebration of creativity, this idea that you're remixing what he's already done and putting it all on top of each other. It might also be meant as an image foreshadowing war or for something that's going to disrupt the scenery of Xanadu and mix everything up. It could also just be the opium. We'll never really know what Coleridge's intentions were with all of this.

The Poem: Stanza 4


We get to the final stanza and we get a more significant change in the tone and the content of the poem. We've got: A damsel with a dulcimer In a vision once I saw: It was an Abyssinian maid, And on her dulcimer she play'd Singing of Mount Abora. Who is this and where did she come from? We're not really sure. It seems we might not be able to figure it out until Coleridge tips his hand a little bit about what this might be. He goes on and he says: Could I revive within me, Her symphony and song, To such a deep delight 'twould win me, That with music loud and long, I would build that dome in air, That sunny dome! those caves of ice! So the poem starts with him talking about his vision of Xanadu, and changes near the end to this other vision of a damsel with a dulcimer. Most people think that this last stanza was probably written after the person from Porlock interrupted him, because what Coleridge was talking about in this last line is his forgotten 300-line poem. He had this vision, and if he still had it, he'd build the pleasure dome. And it would be amazing! You'd see! If only that person from Porlock hadn't interrupted. So, the poem itself kind of becomes the palace - this lost vision that ends up being a metaphor for the poem about Kubla Khan's palace that Coleridge forgot when he was interrupted.

We're back to that celebration of the imagination that we saw introduced with the introduction of that phony river. But it's important that it's the imagination in the context of nature; we saw all that natural imagery throughout the poem. And you can see that Coleridge is in love with his own creativity. So much so that he's really angry that he can't finish it, that he can't remember what the rest of it was because he knows it was good. And, at the same time, he's praising the awesomeness of nature, so it's praising nature and also praising man's ability to create in and out of nature. So, it's a very complicated but kind of beautiful statement that he's really making about this. The poem ends with more of the same: just how great the poem would have been if he remembered all of it.

Introduction to Lord Byron


Lord Byron - he is no ordinary poet. A refrain that I talk about a lot when I talk about poets and authors is that they were unappreciated in their lifetime, and nobody liked them and they struggled for acceptance. Lord Byron did not have that problem. His poertry was popular. He was popular. He had a real way with the ladies and some dudes, actually, too. He was a tabloid celebrity of his day. If there was a People magazine back then, he would have been all over it. They'd be like, 'who's he with now?' And there'd be a list of all these women and 'scandal' in big red letters across his head. He left a trail of heartache that inspired Fatal Attraction- type responses. It was nuts. We're going to look at his early years, including the story of his name, which is interesting as well. We'll talk about how he got exiled from England. Oh, yeah. He wrote poetry, too. He didn't just go around womanizing - he wrote some stuff. So, we're going to talk about all that.

About That Name


First off - the name, Lord Byron - he sounds like an important guy. He wasn't born an important guy. He was born George Noel Gordon in London in 1788. His father was Captain John 'Mad Jack' Byron, which is kind of an awesome name on its own. So, George should've been Byron. That would make sense. Why was he born Gordon? Who's Gordon? His mother was an heiress. Her name was Catherine Gordon. His dad, Captain Byron - Captain Mad Jack, had squandered his first wife's fortune and she died, and then he married Catherine. In order to claim her estate, so he could also squander her fortune, he took Gordon as his surname, so that's why Little Byron has Gordon as his surname. So, basically, it's kind of progressive - the man took the wife's name - if it weren't motivated out of greed. But that's how he got to be Gordon. But then he was christened George Gordon Byron; at school he was registered as George Byron Gordon. It's all very confusing. Then, when he was ten, his great uncle died, who was William Byron, the 5th Baron Byron, which is hard to say. He wasn't such a great guy. He was known as the 'Wicked Lord' and 'Devil Byron.' He's not filling in good footsteps. When he died, George became the 6th Baron Byron, which is why he got to be a lord, so that's how he ended up Lord Byron. Later in life, he'd add the 'Noel' back on in order to inherit an estate. People made fun of Prince for changing his name, but, I guess, Byron didn't ever change it into a symbol, so maybe that's why he's been left out of the mocking.

The Young Poet

He could have published poetry under ten different names if he wanted to. It might have helped him hone a persona because he was publishing poetry that didn't get very good reviews, but it was always kind of attached to his name, so that's not so great. He publishes this collection of poems called Hours of Idleness in 1807. It gets savaged in the Edinburgh Review. They hate it. Two years later, 1809, Bryon gets his revenge by writing something called English Bards and Scotch Reviewers, which is like a satire. Some were so offended that they actually challenged Byron to a duel, which doesn't happen nearly enough these days with satire. The President doesn't call up SNL and demand a duel to get back at them for making fun of his ears or whatever. This is actually Byron's first in a long line of satirical works that target enemies or people who have made fun of him. 1809 - this is the same year again - he goes out on a tour. He goes to Portugal, Spain, Greece and Turkey. These travels inspired his first big, hit poem, which is Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. Childe Harold is the hero of this. It's semi-autobiographical, and it's in two parts. These parts are called cantos. He'd add additional sections to it as the years went on. It was an opportunity for him to collect his emotions, beliefs and share his adventures. It follows a hero who, like Byron, travelled around to foreign lands and also characterizes the melancholy and disillusionment felt by Byron and lots of other people like Byron after the French Revolution and after the Napoleonic Wars - the sense that things were going to be great, but now maybe they're not that great. The title character of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, who I said is Childe Harold, would come to be recognized as the first Byronic Hero, which is a major Romantic trope. The Byronic Hero, like the Romantics, has a complicated soul. He's an intellectual, but also sensitive and moody. He's a wanderer, which makes him isolated from society. He appears all over works of Byron because he invented the dude. He's like Don Draper, like on Mad Men - this mysterious, compelling, attractive dude with a dark past. That's the Byronic Hero - very compelling. He's the guy that you think you can chain down and train, and then he breaks your heart in the end. That's the Byronic Hero.

The Player
Byron publishes Childe Harold's Pilgrimage. He's a star. People love it. It didn't hurt that he's good-looking, and he's renowned for that. He was born with a clubfoot, but I guess that didn't stop him. You don't see that until you're pretty well intimately acquainted with him. He had the hot book in town, and he begins this affair with a woman named Lady Caroline Lamb. She's the one who called him 'mad, bad and dangerous to know,' which is such a wonderful description. They had a tumultuous relationship. She had a husband, which turned into a big scandal. Byron loved people with husbands. He did this a lot - loving and leaving them all over town.

He took up with a woman named Lady Oxford after Lady Caroline. Lady Caroline took to stalking him. She wouldn't eat anything, and she turned really skinny. Then there was this other woman named Augusta
Lady Caroline Lamb said that Lord Byron was mad, bad and dangerous to know.

Leigh, who was Byron's half-

sister who he might have had an affair with, so there's an element of incest. It's kind of funny and gross. In 1814, she gives birth to a child. Byron goes to see the kid and makes special note that the child wasn't an ape, so he wasn't deformed, which was believed to be caused by incest. Why would he comment that it wasn't an ape if he didn't have a reason to believe it would be? That's sort of evidence for the incest theory. I don't look at babies and say, 'Whew! It's not an ape. Thank God!' So, take from that what you will. It's fitting that during this period of romantic tumult and sleeping with his sister, Byron produced a work called She Walks in Beauty, which is a short poem about a beautiful woman. It starts out: She walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that's best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes: Thus mellow'd to that tender light Which heaven to gaudy day denies._ Byron would come full circle then. A woman who was Lady Caroline's cousin, Annabella - he actually marries her in 1815. What? Why? Why would you get married, Lord Byron? You know you can't be tied down to any one woman. Turns out he absolutely couldn't. They had a daughter, and then they separated due to tons of stuff - incest, infidelity, the whole bag - sodomy rumors. It was nuts. Annabella, his wife of a year, is significant for having coined the term 'Byronmania' to describe Bryon's celebrity. Sort of the predecessor to Beatlemania, or these days, Bieber fever, I suppose, would be the analog, although it doesn't seem right.

In 1816, he leaves England. His wife and daughter are gone and his reputation's in jeopardy.

The Traveling Poet


He wanders around in Europe, hangs out with Percy Shelley and his wife, Mary Shelley. While hanging out with Byron, she comes up with the idea for Frankenstein. Byron was having an affair with one of Mary Shelley's sisters, named Claire. So that was part of that entanglement.
In 1815, Byron married the cousin of Lady Caroline.

It was a really productive period for both Byron and for Shelley. Byron completed the third Childe Harold canto in 1816 and does a bunch of other stuff. The Shelleys go back to England. Claire is carrying Lord Byron's child. Lord Byron decides to go off to Italy. He has more affairs with married women in Venice. One of them let him move into her house and then got mad at him, and he had to go out and sleep in the gondola, which I guess is the Venetian equivalent of having to sleep on the couch. She threw herself into a canal over him. It was a mess. He wrote a ton in Italy. He did the fourth Childe Harold canto. He did a supernatural poem called Manfred, a closet drama (which means a drama that isn't meant to be performed) called Cain - it's about Cain and

Abel, and then he writes this poem called Beppo, which is awesome title; it's a satire. It's kind of the story of The Princess Bride. Buttercup loves Westley, and then he goes off and became a rich pirate, she marries Humperdinck, Westley comes back. Beppo is basically the same thing, if Buttercup had willingly taken Humperdinck as her lover and then gone back to Westley and everyone was fine at the end. Basically, the message of the poem is that adultery shouldn't be a big deal. It's probably understandable why Byron would write that. After Beppo, he pretty much exclusively worked on what's widely regarded to be his masterpiece, Don Juan. It's an epic satire. We're going to explore that in a separate lesson. It was so long that it wasn't even done when he died.

The Revolutionary
Byron was a controversial figure because of all those affairs that he had. He was also active politically. He had a seat in the House of Lords because he was a lord (Byron). He only spoke in Parliament three times, but each time he did, he was being deliberately ornery. In 1811, he gets up, and he defends the Luddites, who are people who went around and smashed the machinery that put them out of work. It's like if encyclopedia publishers came in and smashed computers because you can access Wikipedia on them. That's what the Luddites were like. Byron was into that. He wrote poems about politics. He wrote one called Song for the Luddites. He was kind of active in stuff. He used his power of satire to attack his perceived enemies. He had a target on Robert Southey, who he perceived as a lesser Romantic poet. His politics eventually led him to Greece, where he was involved in the independence movement from the Ottoman Empire. He decided he was going to attack a Turkish fortress even though he did not know what he was doing. Luckily, before he could go to battle, he got really sick, and then he actually died because of bloodletting. He probably would have survived, but the doctors were like, 'We're going to let out blood to cure you,' and then that weakened him, and then he died. That's the end of Lord Byron in 1824.

Byron's Satirical Masterpiece


When you think of 'Don Juan,' what comes to mind? Womanizer? Seducer? Maybe Johnny Depp? Maybe none of those things, and that's okay too. To clarify, those are the things you should've thought of; Don Juan's associated with seducing lots of women, and Johnny Depp played him in a movie, because who else could play him but Johnny Depp, really? But in Lord Byron's epic Don Juan, it's actually the opposite of what you'd expect. The title character is the opposite of Don Juan; he's not a suave womanizer, and it's actually the women who are always trying to seduce him, so it's a little role reversal. It's kind of a funny idea for a poem, and it is a humorous poem, but it's hugely long. It's a real epic at 16,000 lines. Just for comparison, if you've heard of Paradise Lost, which is Milton's epic poem about Satan's rebellion against God (which sounds a lot more serious and deserving of lines than Don Juan), that's only 10,000 lines, so Byron's got him beat by a lot. This is a long poem. There's no way we can talk about everything that happens, but we can do a few important things - we can talk about how the poem is written and its structure, and we can do a high-level plot summary, so we're going to go through some of the major themes as we go and give you a sense of the thing, at least for a few of its 16,000 lines. So here we go.

History and Form


Let's start with the poem's history. Byron started working on Don Juan in the fall of 1818, when he was about 30 and living in Venice. At this point in his life, he'd pretty much lived out the life of the fabled Don

Juan. He was living in exile from his native England because of all of his scandalous affairs with married women (and some men too, it's rumored). Part of his problem was that he liked married women and noblewomen, which got him in huge amounts of trouble. He starts writing this poem, and he writes it in sections that he calls cantos. Each canto is kind of like an episode of a TV series. It has a contained story, but it's also part of a greater whole. The first two cantos of Don Juan were published in 1819. The sexual content raised eyebrows, but they were a big hit - maybe they were helped by the sexual content, really; sex sells, even then. He continued working on additional cantos until he died in 1824. When he died, there was a 17th canto that was left unfinished. Some people thought that he had an ending in mind, kind of like J.K. Rowling knew Harry Potter was going to be seven books (or eight movies) I don't think we really needed that whole last book of wandering around the forest, but anyway, she at least did have it planned out. Don Juan was written in serialized form, so some people think that maybe it was just going to keep going on and on until people stopped reading, which, again, is more like a TV show that's open-ended - kind of like The Simpsons, really; it just keeps going and going. As for structure, Don Juan is written in ottava rima, which refers to the stanzas in each canto. Each has eight lines, hence the 'ottava' (for you music folks, it sounds like 'octave;' 'ottava' means 'eight'). The rhyme (the 'rima') is a fixed pattern: you've got A-B-A-B-A-B-C-C for your eight lines. This rhyming couplet at the end lends itself to humor, and we'll see how Byron uses it. It's almost like a punchline or a rimshot at the end of each stanza, because this is satire, right? It's supposed to be funny. It's very clear throughout the whole thing that Byron is not taking it seriously. He was open about the fact that he didn't really know where the plot was going, unlike the writers of Lost, who claimed they knew where it was going and were clearly liars. That will be more clear as we talk about the plot a bit more, so let's get to that.

An Epic Summary
Actually, we're not going to get to that now. Before the story begins, there's the dedication. It's dedicated to Robert Southey, who's a fellow poet. But kind of like the Don Juan in this poem, who's not what you'd expect from a Don Juan, the dedication is not what you'd expect from a dedication. Byron basically spends the dedication trashing Southey, as well as Wordsworth, Coleridge and a whole bunch of his contemporaries. He's kind of like a rapper who calls out everybody; it's like 'you suck, you suck.' It even kind of sounds like a rap; the first lines are the sarcastic: 'Bob Southey! You're a poet, poet laureate, / And representative of all the race.' Then there's a funny slam of Coleridge: 'And Coleridge too has lately taken wing, But like a hawk encumbered with his hood, Explaining metaphysics to the nation. I wish he would explain his explanation.' Oh, snap! He's taking down Coleridge! That sets the tone right there. That's not really a dedication; it's just saying 'you guys are awful.' That starts it off with a bang. Canto I describes Don Juan's early life in Seville, which is 'famous for oranges and women' as Byron says. His father, who cheated on his mother, dies early. His mother, an intellectual, really is determined to keep him from learning anything at all about sex. In terms of his studies, she says 'not a page of anything that's loose, / Or hints continuation of the species' - where 'continuation of the species' means 'having sex.' That's

tough, because the Greek and Roman classics he was reading are full of gods and goddesses getting it on. You might as well forbid him to learn about vowels as forbid him to learn about sex; it's just not going to happen. When Don Juan turns 16, along comes Donna Julia. She's 23, married to a 50-year-old dude, and hot for Don Juan. The description of her gives you a good sense of how Byron uses these joke rhyming couplets at the end. 'There was the Donna Julia, whom to call Pretty were but to give a feeble notion Of many charms in her as natural As sweetness to the flower, or salt to ocean, Her zone to Venus, or his bow to Cupid (But this last simile is trite and stupid).' That couplet at the end comments on its own self and is designed to make you chuckle. Maybe you chuckled, maybe you didn't. Anyway Donna Julia is the first in a long line of women who seduce Don Juan. She's a married woman (much like Byron's real-life lovers) and their affair becomes a scandal. Her husband sends her off to a nunnery, and Don Juan's mother decides to send him off to travel in order to regain his morals, which is a horrible idea. I guess she hadn't seen Eurotrip, but clearly if you send 16-year-olds off to party in Europe they're not going to regain any kind of morals. What are you thinking, woman?

That's Canto I. The subsequent cantos find Juan traveling around, having adventures, and getting seduced by tons of women. We're not going to talk about all of them because we'd be here all day, but we're going to go through a few to give you a sense of what happens.
The mother of Don Juan sends him off to travel in order to regain his morals.

Canto II is actually kind of important, and it's different from Canto I. Juan is on a ship sailing for Italy. The ship sinks in a storm and Juan ends up on a longboat with a bunch of men. He doesn't seduce any of them. The food runs out and people start cannibalizing each other. Then Juan is actually rescued by a woman named Haidee, who he falls in love with, even though they don't understand each other's language, which, if you've seen Love Actually, you know is not a problem (the Portuguese maid who Colin Firth can't understand). You might have noticed too, that all the women in that film are under superiors - the men are their bosses who they fall in love with. Anyway Anyway, Haidee doesn't speak any Spanish, but that's just A-OK; they're in love. Her father is a pirate who wants to sell Juan as a slave and does not approve of their relationship, so she has to hide him - he just can't catch a break with a normal relationship here. We go into Cantos III and IV, where we hear more

about them; they get the news that Haidee's father is dead, so they mourn him for a little bit, then they decide to move in together and have a huge party. They do that; then Lambro, her father, turns up, and he's unhappy - they're spending all his money. He orders his men to seize Don Juan. Haidee is so upset that she suffers a brain hemorrhage and dies. Juan is sent to the slave market. In Cantos V and VI, Juan meets an awesomely named Englishman, John Johnson. They're sold as slaves to a sultan. Juan has to dress as a woman for reasons that are not really explained. Even dressed as a woman, one of the Sultan's wives in the harem wants to sleep with him. A whole bunch of shenanigans go down and he gets thrown out of the Sultan's palace. A whole bunch of other stuff goes on. He ends up in a battle against the Russians that's based on a real battle with Catherine the Great. Then he ends up with the Russians and Catherine the Great wants him. Everybody wants this guy!

The war section actually gives Byron a chance to critique war, which is part of his thing. There's extreme violence; Juan starts off thinking he can be a war hero, but the extreme violence, immorality, and horrors of the battle get described in really sharp
Don Juan ends up in a battle that is based on a real battle with Catherine the Great.

detail. Even so, Juan is considered a war hero, so he kind of compares those things. Juan is sent off to St. Petersburg. Again, Catherine the Great's kind of in to him. Then she sends him to England because he's too cold in Russia. Then there's just a whole bunch of cantos about Juan interacting with all sorts of Lords and Ladies of England and having affairs with a bunch of them. And that's kind of all that goes on. In the midst of all this, we do get a very famous line that you've probably heard of: 'for truth is always strange; Stranger than fiction.' That is from Byron's Don Juan, so now you know that's where that comes from. The story ends unfinished; we don't really know what Byron intended to happen to Juan. It could be that he ends up in love with one of the many married women in England that he has affairs with, but we'll never really know. It's kind of like Freaks and Geeks gets cancelled before we really know most of the story; it ends with Lindsay riding off in the VW bus. That's kind of what happens to Don Juan.

Introduction to Percy Shelley


Percy Shelley was kind of like Jimi Hendrix, Hugh Hefner and Michael Moore all rolled into one and put into tights (or whatever they wore back then). Like Jimi Hendrix, he's this really highly creative artist and he goes his own way. People think he's one of the greatest Romantic poets, even though his influence parallel with Hendrix - grows a lot more after his death. He died young, too - only the good die young.

Like Hefner, he was a believer in free love and he followed his passions, regardless of whether he was in a relationship or married at the time, he just did what he wanted. He loved many women, young and old. He was a lover of the female form, I guess one could say. And like Michael Moore in some ways, he had these progressive and controversial opinions that often rubbed people the wrong way, earning him very vocal detractors and also passionate admirers. Unlike Michael Moore, he was maybe a little bit less abrasive with some of his opinions. That might be a matter of reference.

Early Life
Percy Bysshe Shelley was born on August 4, 1792. His father was Sir Timothy Shelley, who served in Parliament, as did his grandfather. His grandfather, Bysshe Shelley (that's where that Bysshe comes from, and also the name of one of my fish), was a baron, and he earned that in 1806. He passed that on to Timothy Shelley when he died in 1815. Since Percy was the oldest child in his family, he totally could have inherited the title and a seat in Parliament. That's the whole 'House of Lords' thing that they've got going on in England. The fact that I said 'could have' might tip you off to the fact that he didn't. Before we get to that, he had a happy childhood, but things took a turn when he went off to school. He started at Eton College in 1804. He was bullied relentlessly by his classmates every day - not unlike sensitive poets in our day. Not the manliest profession, but clearly he'd get a lot of women later on. They referred to their torments of him as 'Shelley-baits'; it involved encircling him, knocking his books down and tearing at his clothes. Pretty much everything short of dumping him in a trash can, which I don't even know if they had back then. They'd let him go, and then they'd do the same thing the next day. Again, it's sort of like bullying that happens today; it's just like that. In 1810, he starts to study at Oxford University. I should note it's 'study' and not 'go to class,' because he apparently never went to class. To be fair, nowadays they have this wacky tutorial system over there, so there hardly is any class. I went there for a term, and I only had to go to class twice a week. I spent the rest of the time drinking hard cider from 2-liter bottles and wondering why all the vegetables came in shrink wrap. I still don't understand that; it's a mystery of England to me! Shelley was doing productive stuff; he had his whole life to get used to the horror of the British grocery store. It was 1810, so he couldn't spend his days watching illegal streaming of Top Chef; he had to do more important things that that. He'd basically sit up in his room for anywhere up to 16 hours a day and write and read. That's what he got up to. He was an empiricist, which basically means that he believed knowledge should come from sensory experience and that evidence determines truth. He channels this belief, which blossoms along with his atheism (makes sense: you're looking for evidence and when you don't find it for God, you become an atheist), into an 1811 pamphlet called 'The Necessity of Atheism'. He basically claims that there's no proof that God exists, and until someone proves otherwise, God can't exist. This got him expelled from Oxford. It also caused some difficulties with his father.

A Marriage and Two Elopements


Within a few months of leaving Oxford, he elopes to Scotland with a 16-year-old named Harriet Westbrook, who's the daughter of a local pub owner. This further enrages Shelley's father, because Harriet's from a lower social standing than someone whose grandfather was a baron. Some people think that Shelley's dad disinherited him over the atheism pamphlet and the marriage. Other people say that Shelley disinherited himself over all this. Either way, Percy Shelley did not get to be a Sir. But he was 19, and he was in love, so it was clearly all worth it - maybe. At this point, you can see that Shelley is good at annoying people, which is, again, that Michael Moore streak in him. He goes to Ireland, and as though he can't help himself, he tries to incite the peasants to

revolt. Even with his young wife, he kind of has this love-hate relationship. They end up having two children together, but Shelley resents the fact that Harriet lets her sister live with them, who Shelley can't stand. It sounds like the plot of a modern sitcom to me, but apparently was not very funny at the time. But Shelley's writing at least. He also develops this intense but maybe platonic relationship with a woman named Elizabeth Hitchener, who is a 28-year-old unmarried schoolteacher. She becomes his muse to his first long, serious poem: 'Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem'. This work was also influenced by William Godwin, who was a freethinker who espoused socialism and kind of an anarchist of his day. Shelley idolizes Godwin and he reaches out to him, seeking him as a mentor. There aren't a lot of wealthy anarchists, as you might imagine because they're not into government. Godwin was not the exception to this rule, he was also poor. He recognized that Shelley comes from money and could maybe help stabilize his own situation. So, he was like 'Sure, come to my house and hang out. I'll be your mentor.' So Shelley does this. Meanwhile he and his wife, Harriet, were on the outs. Harriet and her sister moved back to their parents' house, and it seems like maybe this is going to not work out. Shelley's looking for greener pastures. He finds them in William Godwin's house. William Godwin has a young daughter named Mary, who is his daughter with Mary Wollstonecraft, who died in childbirth giving birth to Mary. Like Harriet had been, Mary was only 16 when Shelley fell madly in love with her. This is becoming a pattern, and is now a little bit creepier since Shelley is a little older than 19. It was 1814. Harriet, his wife, is pregnant, and Shelley runs off with another 16-year-old, Mary Godwin, to Switzerland. He takes along one of Mary's two stepsisters. He takes along Claire, who was also 16, because she spoke French and they had to cross France on foot to reach Switzerland. Apparently, they needed her for that. He didn't bring along the other, who was distraught because she had fallen in love with Shelley. That sister's name is Fanny, and she would kill herself over Shelley. So, he was really a lady killer, literally. He must've been really something, is all I can say. They're in Switzerland, and Shelley and Mary are struggling with money. So, they go and they hang out with another Romantic poet named Lord Byron. These people were all kind of in with each other. They would sail around on Lake Geneva and tell ghost stories. One of these would actually become Mary's famous novel, Frankenstein. This would go on to become a cultural icon for going 'uhhh,' and would eventually become Kim Kardashian's husband, Chris Humphreys. Yeah, she's that' Mary Shelley, after she marries Shelley.

Major Works, English Style


We learned a lot about his life. We're going to get into more of his major works and when he writes them. Six weeks after they're hanging around with Byron, the money runs out. Shelley returns to England, and in 1815, he writes Alastor, or, the Spirit of Solitude: And Other Poems. The title poem was largely dismissed at the time, but it's since earned regard as Shelley's first major poem. The next year, the couple returns to Switzerland at the urging of Mary's stepsister, Claire. She and Byron had a little fling, so she wants to go back and rekindle that. Byron had gotten tired of Claire, though their second meeting did actually lead to a daughter named Allegra. But Byron and Shelley had become good friends at this point, and Byron encouraged Shelley to write, and this is when Shelley really starts to pick up his pace on poetry production. His first major work after Alastor was called 'Hymn to Intellectual Beauty'. The poem is all about the idea of feeling beauty through imagination. It includes nature imagery and spirits, all the things that are

associated with Romanticism. But, Shelley was a little bit different in saying that beauty maybe shouldn't be sought in nature but in the imagination. It can be reflected in nature, but it's all up here. December of 1816, Shelley's wife, Harriet, is actually found dead (and very pregnant), drowned in London. It was actually soon after Mary's half-sister, fanny, killed herself because Shelley wouldn't pay any attention to her. It seems that Harriet might have been pregnant by another guy, who was a lover she'd taken after Shelley. She drowned herself in the river because she thought she was abandoned by the new lover. It's a lot of tragedy following Shelley around. But, with every suicide there's a silver lining, because Shelley then marries Mary, who becomes Mary Shelley. He's finally allowed to do it after his wife has killed herself. It's not quite as cold and calculating as it seems; Shelley was hoping that the marriage would help him get custody of his children, though that didn't work (they went to foster parents anyway). That's awful, but it did actually help repair his relationship with William Godwin, Mary's dad, who wasn't too happy when they ran off together. Not long after that, in 1817, Shelley completed a book-length narrative poem that's called Laon and Cythna; or, The Revolution of the Golden City: A Vision of the Nineteenth Century . It has so much punctuation in it; try submitting that to your English teacher and see all the Xs that come back on it. It's a controversial work for two reasons: one, it attacks religion (a trope that Shelley does all along), and two, it features an incestuous relationship between the title characters, Laon and Cythna, who were two revolutionaries. It was republished in 1818 as The Revolt of Islam (though it has nothing to do with Islam at all), and in the new version, the two characters are no longer siblings. It also lost all of those colons and semicolons, which makes me sad. That was clearly the best part. Around the same time, Shelley and his friend, Horace Smith, challenge each other to write a poem called 'Ozymandias'. Shelley's was awesome. It's so great that we have a whole lesson on it. We don't have many lessons on Horace Smith at all, so you can probably guess how the contest turned out.

Major Works, Italian Style


Once again, he's helping out Claire, Mary's sister, as she pursues Lord Byron across Europe. The Shelleys and Claire are headed to Italy again in 1818. Tragedy strikes when two of Shelley's children die, including an infant daughter. Meanwhile, a girl born in late December of 1818 was apparently Shelley's child. There's debate about the mother, some people think it was Claire. We don't really know. It's also unusual that we don't really know who the mom is. That's kind of the opposite of the way things usually work. All the while, Shelley was writing at a prolific pace. He's inspired by Lord Byron, and he completes Prometheus Unbound and it's published in 1820. It's a play, but he didn't write it to be performed. It's called a 'closet drama'; that's the official term. Thinking like a Romantic, he wants the play to be staged in the reader's imagination. He also writes some other famous poems during this time, 'To a Skylark', 'Ode to the West Wind' and 'The Cloud'. These were included with Prometheus Unbound in the publication. We'll focus on 'Ode to the West Wind' in a separate lesson. He was very political while he was in Italy, and this is reflected in that poem. Shelley was really fond of fellow Romantic poet, John Keats, although, Keats found Shelley a little overbearing. When Keats died tragically young in 1821, Shelley wrote a poem called 'Adonas,' which is an elegy for his friend. It was a spiritual poem that suggests that Keats is now one with nature and free from the critics who despised him. Actually, Mick Jagger read a part of this poem at the memorial for Rolling Stones' guitarist Brian Jones after he died. Again, the rock star connection with Shelley continues. Only one year later, though, in 1822 (Shelley's 29), he dies when his boat sank off the coast of Italy. It's kind of like Keats dying young. Romantic poets just aren't long for this world. There are rumors that he was

killed for political reasons. There are rumors that he committed suicide. No one really knows for sure. It was probably just an accident, a storm came and sank the boat. His body was eventually found and cremated, and that's the end of Percy Shelley.

Ozymandias
In this lesson, we're going to talk about one of the most famous poems in the English language (which I feel like I say in every video, but I'm doing videos on them because they're famous, so bear with me). Percy Shelley's 'Ozymandias' is the target of today's video. The poem was published in 1818; it's a sonnet, which means it's only 14 lines. Great news for us! We love sonnets. They're short; they're always 14 lines long. This is also called an ekphrastic poem. Ekphrastic just means that it's a poem about another work of art. In this case, it's about a statue. So, remember that - ekphrastic poem, just a term to keep in your head. It's got a 'k' in it; that's kind of a neat thing for a word to have. Since it's so short, we're going to take it apart and look at its fantastic diction - which is basically just word choice - and imagery. We're also going to look at the themes of the poem, which tend to be things like fleeting power, arrogance, the power of art lots of good stuff like that.

Two Poets Compete


Before we get to the poem, we're going to talk about how it was written. It's 1817. You're Percy Shelley. You have a friend named Horace Smith. What you really want to do is destroy him at Mario Kart, but you can't because it's 1817. You have two options: You can either wait 200 years for the N64 to be invented (people are probably rolling over in their graves that I didn't say Super Nintendo, but I'm not that old), or you can find a different way to compete. Fortunately, you're a poet, so you go for the latter, and Horace is a stockbroker, so maybe he's not quite up to snuff. You decide that you're going to challenge him to a sonnet writing contest, which is kind of like getting your dad to play Mario Kart with you. Mine always has that little wrong-way guy hanging over his car throughout the course. Mom's great at video games; my dad is not so much. My dad's like Horace at sonnet writing. There are conflicting reports of why they decided to write about Ozymandias. You probably care more about who that was; it's kind of a weird name. Ozymandias was a real guy. You probably know him better as Ramses II, one of Egypt's most powerful kings. You also might know him as the pharaoh who was ruling when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. (Any love for The Prince of Egypt movie? I hope so; it's great.) The name Ozymandias is a Greek version of Ramses' throne name, which is Usermaatre Stepenre. I think you'll agree that Ozymandias is a little bit catchier than that at least, even though it is quite unwieldy on its own. As for the poems, they both had them published in a guy named Leigh Hunt's magazine; it was called The Examiner. That was in 1818. Shelley's poem, like I said, really famous, and it's still talked about today. Smith's poem is mostly notable for being on the losing end of the sonnet contest. (I guess he fell off the rainbow road one too many times.) And for those of you who think 'Ozymandias' is a mouthful of a title, Smith's poem was called 'On a Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below,' which is probably a good indication of why we're talking about Shelley's poem and not Smith's.

The Poem
So, the poem itself - let's dive right in. We're going to be doing something called close reading, which is what it sounds like: looking really closely at the details in the poem. It does not mean that we read it really close to our face. That's just a joke that people make sometimes. It begins:

I met a traveller from an antique land It's interesting already - right - because of the diction (like I said before, that's just a fancy word for word choice). We have a 'traveller,' which could just be a superfluous detail about the person. You could just say 'I met this guy,' but 'traveller' is more interesting; it makes us think. And he's not just any traveler. He's a traveler from an 'antique land,' which is an odd phrase in itself. 'Antique' implies what? It implies old, but it also implies valuable, and it's usually in regard to an object. If you have an antique, maybe you're going on Antiques Roadshow to find out if it's worth a fortune or to find out it's really only worth $2, and you got ripped off. So, this traveler is from a land that is antique. It's not just old; it's not just ancient. It kind of has this added connotation of being regarded as really valuable or interesting or perhaps having produced a lot of antiques. It has this removed, vaguely mythical quality to it that's different from simply saying 'old' or 'ancient'; it gives it this other level of meaning. That's why diction is so important; it can do that. If you pick the right word, you can add layers of meeting to it. If you said 'I met this dude that came from a really old place,' that is not as good as what Shelley said. (Maybe that was what Smith wrote that was so awful.) Anyway, Shelley goes on. He says: Who said: 'Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert.' That is an image for you. If you wanted to take a class on how to write poetry, just think about that image. That image is fantastic. He's talking about Egyptian ruins, and he literally means that there are two stone legs with nothing attached to them that are standing there in the desert. He goes on to describe them. He says: Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, As if the legs weren't enough, now we get a 'shatter'd visage.' A 'visage' is just a face. So, it's the head of the statue, plunked down next to the legs. It's half buried in the sand. Again, we've got this diction question: Why is it 'visage' and not just 'face?' That would be easier, wouldn't it, if he just wrote 'face?' He doesn't. It sounds kind of fancy. I guess that's one reason. Poets like that. But kind of in the same vein as 'antique' instead of 'old', it works differently in your brain to produce different associations, basically. If you think about it, 'visage' sounds a lot like 'vision,' doesn't it? That's because they have the same Latin root ( vis-) that comes from the same Latin word, the verb that means 'to see.' So, this word for 'face' has this associated meaning of 'vision,' and it emphasizes that you're looking at it. But it also brings out this idea that it might be looking at you. By using 'visage' instead of 'face,' he gives this connotation of seeing to this face - it's looking at you; you're looking at it - that maybe you wouldn't get if he just said 'face.' Let's hear more about this visage. It goes: whose frown And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command We have three descriptions of the face here. But we don't hear about the eyes or the nose or anything else. We only hear about the mouth. He mentions a 'frown,' he mentions a 'wrinkled lip' and he mentions a 'sneer.' 'Frown' and 'sneer' are expressions; a 'wrinkled lip' is, I guess, an expression or just a sad characteristic of his lips. He could have used just one of those images (I guess he needs chapstick), but piling them together gives them extra weight and really puts this emphasis on the mouth. Then he notes that the mouth is demonstrating 'cold command.' This guy, Ozymandias, was a super powerful dude who ruled Egypt from when he was a teenager until his 90s, which was a long time to live back then. You don't

rule an empire for that long by being nice. You do it by issuing lots of nasty edicts. Focusing on the mouth, the 'talking part' of the face and its unpleasant expression adds to this idea that the mouth is the important part of him. That's the ruling part of him essentially. Now, those features were doing something. They: Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things This is an interesting pair of lines. We went from the powerful Ozymandias to the sculptor who created the statute. While the king was sneering and had 'cold command,' the sculptor is being praised for having read the king's expression well. He read the 'passions' of the king, and it's the sculptor's work that survives, while the king is long dead. All of these sculptures from ancient times are still around, and we often use them to learn about their subjects. But what Shelley is saying, by focusing on the sculptor, is that we should give more notice to the artist. This could be seen as a Romantic notion; the notion of the power of art is what the Romantics were really into. Great art survives even when the leaders don't. Back in the poem, we learn more about what the sculptor conveyed. It says: The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed. We're learning more about Ozymandias. Shelley conveys the nature of his rule with these two simple phrases. First, 'the hand that mock'd them' describes the ruler's arrogance toward his people. 'The heart that fed' might be getting at humanity and compassion. But he's also saying that the sculptor is conveying all of this - in a broken statue, so it's still the sculptor's skill that's really at hand here. We get a more direct description of Ozymandias. It says: And on the pedestal these words appear: My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair! He is not modest. More than that, he's describing himself as the 'king of kings,' which is the nickname that usually is reserved for Jesus. And he issues this incredible boast: 'Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!' which is basically the ancient Egyptian version of Kanye West bragging about, you know, everything he does. He's saying that not only is my empire awesome but it should make the most powerful other leaders despair because of its awesomeness: 'I'm going to let you finish, but Egypt was the best empire of all time.' But Percy Shelley doesn't end the poem here. He leaves us with some closing lines that really drive it home: Nothing beside remains: Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away. We began with this desolate image of the 'trunkless legs.' Now, at the end, we return to the same scene, the same sands in the desert and whatnot. Those 'works' Ozymandias bragged about are nowhere to be found. Nothing remains of his empire. His statue is not just a wreck but a 'colossal wreck,' and the same could be said of his empire. Look at the other words Shelley uses - 'decay,' 'bare,' 'lone'. The king is dead, and even his statue is left alone and in ruins. While we're used to these amazing sites in Egypt being ruins, Ozymandias probably thought he was infallible. I mean, he lived to be 90; even today that's impressive. But now, all that he built is just ruins in the desert.

While Shelley was fascinated with ancient Egypt (obviously, or else he wouldn't have written this poem), he was also a revolutionary in 19th-century Britain. And he wasn't a fan of the British habit of spreading their empire around. So, there's a parallel he might be drawing between the hubris, or the boldness, boastfulness, of Great Britain and the arrogance of Ozymandias. Henry Kissinger has a line: 'Every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately collapsed.' It's a sobering truth about the fleeting nature of power. And like Great Britain, Shelley is suggesting that the ultimate fall of the Egyptian empire is even more bittersweet because of the arrogance of Ozymandias. It's like the Titantic. Lots of ships sink. If I built a canoe and it sank on the first trip, it wouldn't be news. I hope I could swim back to shore. But the Titanic was billed as unsinkable. The hubris of its owners and its captain made the sinking even more significant. 'Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!' is a big statement that makes the ruins even sadder because it didn't come true. But there's also a little bit of deliberate irony here because it came true in a way that he didn't intend. We do despair, but we don't despair because his empire was so great and we're scared of him. We despair because he was so wrong about the fate of what he built. Maybe the 'mighty' - you might suggest if you stretched it far enough, the higher ups in Britain - despair because they see that their empires can't last either. Political power is left in ruins, but the work of this artist is the only thing that remains. The sculptor was low on the totem pole in Ozymandias' time, but the sculptor's work is still being celebrated and is still incredibly vibrant even as a ruin. It's the only thing we can see. This fits so well with the themes of the Romantics, especially Shelley. It celebrates beauty; it celebrates the power of the imagination. While Ozymandias ruled with an iron fist, the sculptor really created the timeless work, the thing that lasted long after his death.

Ode to the West Wind


Hello! I am talking to you about Percy Shelley's 'Ode to the West Wind'. I'm in California right now, and you could be anywhere. You could be in New York or Japan; or you could be out hunting polar bears in Norway for all I know. You could be naked right now - I could be naked - who knows?

But in the early 1800s, people were much more isolated. They knew if someone was naked because they were sitting right next to them. In 1819, Percy Shelley was hanging out in Italy. In England, which is where he was from, the Peterloo Massacre had taken place. This was something people were really upset about, and there was a lot of political outrage and revolutionary spirit incited by this. Shelly really wanted to help out and
English writer Percy Shelley

make this revolutionary spirit go even further. But

he's in Italy. So, what does he do? Skype does not exist, so he has to figure out another way to long-distance motivate people. So, what he does is something that Romantic poets tend to do, which is write poems. He decided to write a poem about this in the hopes that it would travel far and wide and get to England. The poem is 'Ode to the West Wind,' and it's about his hope that his words will be carried, as if by the wind (hence the title), to those who need to hear them. That's sort of the general gist of it. Doesn't really sound like a personage play to

me, right? I feel like smoke signals would probably be slightly more effective, if anything, but this is all metaphor land and poet land. That's just how they think. The poem was published in 1820 and it's one of the poems in the collection that includes Prometheus Unbound. It's notable for both its form and its content, and we're going to look at both. I'm really into form, so we're going to start with that. But, then we'll get to content, so don't worry if you are bored, we'll get to the good stuff (as other people call it).

The Poem's Form


As you can tell from the title, 'Ode to the West Wind' is an ode. What's an ode? It's basically a type of lyric poem that addresses a subject. So you can write an ode to anything. You can write it to Chipotle if you want. I might do that in my spare time. You might write it to something else. John Keats is really famous for writing odes; he's another Romantic poet. He did 'Nightengale' and 'Grecian Urn.' 'Ode to the West Wind' is Shelly's most notable contribution to the ode form. That's his big ode. The poem is divided into five stanzas of 14 lines. Those stanzas are divided into four tercets and a couplet. A tercet is just a group of three lines, and a couplet is a couple of lines (two lines). Basically, he's doing five stanzas of a sonnet - five little sonnets in a row, essentially. What he's also doing is this particular rhyme scheme in a modified form of terza rima, which is Dante's famous rhyme scheme. He wrote The Inferno, which you might have heard of. Basically, the way that these 14-line blocks will rhyme is that they will go A-B-A, then the next little tercet is going to go B-C-B, where the B word is from the second rhyme of the first tercet. The next one's going to go C-D-C, the next one DE-D and the final one E-E. So, basically, what this is doing is propelling the poem along by interlocking the tercets and the couplet so that you're always going into the next tercet rhyme scheme. So, it's always linked but it's always moving forward at the same time. It's like knitting, except instead of a sweater, you end up with a poem at the end - which is better or worse depending on your perspectives on sweaters and poems. Also important, the poem is written in iambic pentameter. The 'iambic' means that each line starts with an unstressed syllable and then there's a stressed syllable after that. You just do this five more times. Each of these is 'iamb' five times - 'pentameter.' An easy way to remember what an iamb is is to think of the line 'To be or not to be' - that's from Shakespeare (who was a huge fan of iambic pentameter). That's a bunch of iambs in a row: to-be-or-not-to-be. Again, I said that 'pentameter' just means that there's five: to-be-or-notto-be (-or-not-to-be, if he kept going). So, 'pent' - just remember pentagon or pentathlon - five, we're good.

First Three Stanzas


So, now we're getting to what's in the poem. The first three stanzas: it begins (as you might expect an ode to begin) with the speaker personifying the wind, addressing it directly. So it goes exactly like this: 'O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being, Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing' You can see we start with that A-B-A; we've got 'being,' 'dead' and then 'fleeing.' 'Being' and 'fleeing' rhyme pretty well together. And this is the wind that's in autumn, and it actually sounds a little bit sinister. We've got dead things, ghosts, fleeing and things like that - dead leaves. He goes on to describe the leaves as 'Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,' which is awesome. Hectic red is such a cool description. I don't know if I've ever called leaves that, but that's because I'm not Shelley, and Shelley's awesome. He

also calls the leaves 'pestilence-stricken multitudes,' which is also really cool. So they're hectic red and pestilence-stricken multitudes. They're like ghosts, red things and zombies. This is a very sinister description of an autumn scene. The wind is blowing the leaves along, but it's also performing a function. It's not just blowing them around for nothing. He goes on and he says: 'O thou Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low, Each like a corpse within its grave' The leaves aren't just zombies; they're carrying seeds along with them. The wind might seem like this sinister thing, sweeping along these dead things, but it actually does have a positive purpose. It's spreading the seeds around so they'll grow in the springtime. Yes, they're like corpses in a grave, but then he goes on: 'Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth' So, spring's going to come, and then the wind will signal to the earth that it's time to wake up and grow again. He summarizes everything he's just said by calling the wind 'destroyer and preserver.' So again, that sums everything up: it sweeps everything away, it gets the dead leaves off of the trees, but it also is the preserver because it helps them grow again in the springtime. Then he concludes this by asking the wind to 'O hear, O hear!' That's the way he likes to end these stanzas, you will see. That's the first stanza; we're done. The second: he's describing the wind some more, and he's requesting to be heard. So, he moves from the wind moving the leaves around to the wind moving the clouds around, which he calls 'angels of rain and lightning.' It's a nice way to say 'the stuff that brings the rain and lightning that's in the sky.' He's elevating the scope of the wind's power with this. He's going from the ground to the sky. Clouds are bigger and more powerful. They're also less real; you can't really stand on a cloud. He refers to the wind as the 'dirge of the dying year.' In other words, it's basically a funeral song that takes place at the end of the year when the year is dying. As he's closing the stanza, he says that the wind moves the clouds so that 'black rain, and fire, and hail will burst.' Like in the first stanza, he implores the wind to listen to him, he says, 'O hear!' Again, like I said, he's trying this idea that the wind will carry his words. Here we can kind of see it taking place. We've heard about the leaves, which are earthy stuff. We've heard about the clouds, which are the sky stuff. What's next if we're thinking in terms of elements? We might think about water. Oh my God, we do! He's following that pattern, and he goes on: 'Didst waken from his summer dreams The blue Mediterranean, where he lay Lull'd by the coil of his crystalline streams, Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay, And saw in sleep old palaces and towers'

The wind moves the water, and this movement reveals old palaces and towers, is what he's basically saying. The place Shelley is referring to, Baiae's bay, is actually a real place. They're ancient Roman ruins that sunk during an earthquake, although they're still partially visible. It's kind of a magical image; it harkens the idea of Atlantis, another sunken city that is a magical place. This nice, pretty image is followed by another, more sinister one. So, we're back to what we started with: 'For whose path the Atlantic's level powers Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear The sapless foliage of the ocean, know Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear, And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear!' He's saying here that, basically, the plant life underwater follows the same cycle as the trees on land. It's going to die and the West Wind, again, signals the looming winter and the fear of death. And, again, he ends it by asking the wind to hear him, which is starting to get awfully familiar as we end three stanzas that way!

Final Two Stanzas


The final two stanzas get a little different. We might be expecting that we're going to hear about fire because we were right when we guessed that water was coming next. We've had the other three elements. Where's fire? But, no! Instead, he messes with us by summarizing what's come before. So he says: 'If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear; If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee; A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share The impulse of thy strength, only less free Than thou, O uncontrollable!' Again, there's that 'O.' The 'O's are really good for odes (this is a good way to remember it). There's a lot of 'O'ing at things. 'O uncontrollable' is directed at the wind again. He wishes that he were any of those things and so be moved by the wind. Again, he's trying to have his words spread by the wind. He adds: 'if even I were as in my boyhood, and could be The comrade of thy wanderings over heaven' If he were, then: 'I would ne'er have striven As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.' Since he's not a leaf, a cloud or a wave - and he's no longer a young boy - he needs to ask the wind for help. Why? He tells us in the final couplet of stanza four. He says:

'A heavy weight of hours has chain'd and bow'd One too like thee-tameless, and swift, and proud.' This could be a couple of things. First, he mentioned wishing that he was still young, but now he has the 'heavy weight of hours,' and that's not so fun. So, age is weighing on him in an unpleasant way. Since he's using this language of chains contrasted with being tameless, he could also be talking about (I mentioned before that he's trying to incite revolution) the oppressed masses that he's trying to address with these words. The wind is free, and he wishes that he were like it. He also wishes that the oppressed masses were like it. In the final stanza, again we're focused on the speaker: 'Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is: What if my leaves are falling like its own?' He wants to be the music of the wind, which sounds like Pocahontas. He references how the wind makes music as it blows through the trees in the forest. And he asks the wind to: 'Drive my dead thoughts over the universe, Like wither'd leaves, to quicken a new birth' What are his dead thoughts? They're his poetry! Ah, the poetry falls from the tree of the poet and then is borne along like the wind. Once they're out of his head and on the page (which are also called leaves leaves of a book are pages), they become dead and ready to be spread around. It's a little bit of a morbid conception of poetry. But again, like his initial description of the wind, it's morbid but is also about rebirth at the same time. The leaves are going to get somewhere, then they're going to plant themselves and then they're going to quicken a new birth. They're going to die, go off and then grow in the minds of the people who read them, essentially, is what he's saying. Then, finally we get to fire, which we've been waiting for this whole time. He says: 'And, by the incantation of this verse, Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!' It's a little ego-driven. He's basically saying that his words will bring fire. He ends with some optimism: 'O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?' If you haven't been paying attention to iambic pentameter, this is a perfect time to stop and look: 'If WINter COMES, can SPRING be FAR beHIND?' It's perfect iambic pentameter, well done Shelley! But also this final couplet - if you look at it - it doesn't exactly rhyme: 'wind' and 'behind.' It's not quite there, but that's ok. It's something called a slant rhyme, which is basically a close-enough rhyme. What it can do, if it's done right, is it can draw more attention to the final line. You expect it to rhyme perfectly and then it doesn't. It's a little jarring, and the poet hopes it to be so we'll pay more attention. That way we don't get complacent in our poetry reading!

John Keats A Tragic Story


The story of John Keats is not a particularly happy story. Among the tough stories in the art world, there are artists who toil in obscurity for years before finding success, and even though they might seem famous and well-known to us, some of them didn't achieve it even during their lifetimes. There are those who receive acclaim early, then struggle to match those early career highs. If you've read the book that J.K. Rowling wrote after Harry Potter, you might know what I mean there. John Keats probably would have welcomed either of those paths. But that's not his story. The upside is that great art often comes from great misfortune. Even though Keats didn't live to see his poetry become as successful as it did, he did persist long enough to produce some of the greatest poems that the English language has really ever known. So let's talk a little bit about John Keats.

Poet or Doctor?
He was born in London on Halloween in 1795. Today that would be rough - it would be like being born on Christmas. Everyone would have wanted to have their own parties and not come to yours. And actually, like a certain other fellow who was born on Christmas Day, Keats said he was born in a horse stable. His father was a stableman, so that could actually be true. John was the oldest child in his family. He had a younger sister and two younger brothers. His parents couldn't afford to send him to a fancy school, so he went to the Clarke School in Enfield, which was a very liberal and progressive institution. John's father died after falling off a horse when John was just eight. Six years later, his mother died from tuberculosis. It's a rough start for young John. John and his sister's grandmother appointed two guardians for the kids: Richard Abbey and John Sandell. Abbey ended up doing most of the guardian work. Abbey was a successful tea broker (that's a phrase you don't hear much these days), so he offered a little financial stability. Keats left Enfield and worked as an apprentice with a surgeon and an apothecary named Thomas Hammond. He had a knack for surgery, and he earned a license as an apothecary, which is a little bit like a pharmacist who prepares and sells medicines. The license also entitled him to practice as a physician and a surgeon, because you'd let your local pharmacist operate on you, right? But really, John was at a crossroads. He had this promising start in a career in medicine, but he'd also been writing and becoming more interested in becoming a poet. So he had a choice: poet or doctor? You can probably hear parents everywhere going, 'Doctor! Choose doctor!' But since this is an English literature video, you can probably guess what he decided. Why pick a lucrative, stable profession with a lot of prestige when you could be a starving poet? Makes sense to me. Speaking of money problems, around this time, Keats should have earned two bequests that would have been worth the equivalent of about half a million dollars today. These were held in trust until his 21st birthday, but it's believed that he didn't know they existed. For a struggling student who came from a modest background, and one who would later go on to battle debt, that money could have been huge.

First Success
Keats' first real breakthrough came in 1816. He'd met Leigh Hunt, a writer and well-connected publisher of The Examiner, a popular liberal magazine at the time. Hunt published one of Keats' sonnets, called 'O

Solitude,' in The Examiner. For a guy who was still struggling with his decision to pursue poetry, he saw this publication as a validation, confirming that he'd gone on the right path. 'O Solitude' is a typical Romantic poem celebrating nature. It begins: O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell, Let it not be among the jumbled heap Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,Nature's observatory And, well, it goes on, essentially saying that he'd rather be alone in nature than alone in the city - a very common idea for the Romantics. Hunt would also publish the sonnet 'On First Looking into Chapman's Homer,' which we'll explore in another lesson.

Later in 1816, Keats' first volume of poems, descriptively titled Poems, was published with a dedication to Hunt. The book unfortunately bombed. After the failure of that book of poems, some of Keats' friends had advised him to maybe hold off a little bit before trying to publish again. In hindsight, that really may have been good advice. He kept at it, though. He wrote to one of his
Writer Leigh Hunt

friends: 'I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart's affections and the truth of the imagination. What imagination seizes as Beauty

must be truth.' You'll actually hear that idea explored again when we discuss 'Ode on a Grecian Urn,' one of his more famous poems.

The Family Disease


As I mentioned, Keats' mother died of tuberculosis. In 1817, Keats went to live with his brothers Tom and George. Tom now had tuberculosis, so George and John were caring for him. It was at this time Keats finished an epic 4,000-line poem that took up four books: Endymion: A Poetic Romance. Displaying his Romantic ideals, the poem begins: 'A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.' You may have heard that before. The critics didn't see this poem as a thing of beauty, though. One called it an 'imperturbable driveling idiocy,' which is really harsh. I wonder what that critic would've said about those Transformers movies. Keats was deeply hurt by this criticism, as you might imagine, and unfortunately, things didn't get better for him. In late 1818, his brother Tom died from tuberculosis. Some believe that John contracted the disease, too, around this time. He had been sick frequently. In fact, one of the reasons he went to care for Tom was because he thought the damp London apartment he lived in was making him ill. Incidentally, John's brother George and his wife also both died of tuberculosis. Keats would later refer to this as the 'family disease.' Other than his father, who died from the horse accident, only his sister Fanny would survive to old age; she would die in 1889.

Wentworth Inspires
But, again, I'm getting ahead of myself. After Tom died, Keats moved to Wentworth Place, which was owned by his friend Charles Armitage Brown (awesome British name). While there, he fell in love with Fanny Brawne. Keats wrote a love sonnet for her called 'Bright Star,' which is also the name of a recent movie about Keats. Between Fanny and his successful writing, this would be an actual good year for Keats - it was about time for the poor guy. It was at Wentworth that he would write what would become probably his most notable of all of his poems. This includes his famous odes, which include 'Ode on a Grecian Urn,' 'Ode on Melancholy,' and 'Ode to a Nightingale'. These poems would be a part of his remarkable collection Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems, which was published in 1820. Unlike his previous books, this one actually got pretty decent reviews. Today it's regarded as one of the most significant books of English poetry. However, Keats would go to his grave believing that he'd made no mark on the literary world.

Death in Rome
In early 1820, Keats was very ill from tuberculosis (like everyone else in his family), though he hadn't actually officially been diagnosed at that point. He'd had two lung hemorrhages that involved significant blood loss. His doctor suggested moving to the warmer climate of Italy, so he set sail in September. (It would be pretty cool to just get a diagnosis to move to Italy - I'd take that.) Anyway, the journey did not go well. First, there were storms; then there was a calm sea, which slowed their progress. When they finally did reach Italy, they had to be quarantined for ten days because of a suspected cholera outbreak. The whole trip lasted about a month and doesn't sound like any fun at all. He wrote to his friend Charles Armitage Brown: 'I have an habitual feeling of my real life having past, and that I am leading a posthumous existence' ('posthumous' meaning after he died). Like, his real life is over, and now he's living a life after death, but not in a cool way. While he was in Rome, Keats lived in an apartment on the Spanish Steps. His doctor put Keats on a starvation diet, which sounds miserable. He received an anchovy and one piece of bread each day - so it wasn't even good food that he was allowed to eat. The doctor also bled Keats, which was a common process then. But since Keats was also vomiting blood and hemorrhaging, the diet plus the blood loss left him weak and in agony. He could've eased his pain with opium, but there was a belief that Keats was suicidal, so nobody would give it to him. His condition worsened, and his diet was reduced to pretty much just fish. Keats thought he was starving to death and pleaded for food. He also pleaded for opium to ease the pain. He said 'How long is this posthumous life of mine to last?' Not the sign of a happy person. Not long, as it turned out. He died on February 23rd, 1821, barely three months after arriving in Rome. At his request, his grave is marked with an unnamed tombstone and the quote 'Here lies one whose name was writ in water.' He was just 25 years old. It's really sad that he died so young but also impressive that he wrote so many wonderful works at such a young age.

Reading Chapman's Homer


We're talking about a sonnet in this lesson, and we love sonnets because they are only 14 lines. So this is going to be short - hooray! Before we get to the sonnet, we're going to talk about how it was written, because it's pretty interesting (and also, if we only talked about the sonnet, because it's short, we wouldn't have enough to say!)

In October of 1816, John Keats was hanging out with his friend Charles Cowden Clarke. They got their hands on a copy of Homer's Iliad and Odyssey translated by this dude named George Chapman - you might have figured that out from the title. Chapman was a contemporary of Shakespeare in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Shakespeare actually probably read Chapman's translations; that's probably where he got his Homer. Keats and Clarke had read other translations of Homer. One of the most popular versions at the time was by the poet Alexander Pope. Keats really didn't like Pope's translation - he thought it seemed artificial, and it was stiff and flowery. He didn't really like it because Keats was a Romantic poet, and he wanted something that didn't have artificially ornate language, because that's kind of anti-Romantic. The Romantics were all about naturalness and language that you can understand and all that crunchy, hippie stuff. So they get to Chapman's translation, and they love it. They stay up all night reading it. It's kind of like when you discover Battlestar Galactica on DVD and you watch episode after episode. You've seen Star Trek, you've seen other sci-fi TV shows, which are good in their own nice, prosthetic-nose, cheesy way, but this is so much more awesome. You get really excited about it. It seems to get at the heart of what sci-fi is, and you watch the whole first season all night long, and then you want to tell everybody about it - which if it's Battlestar, people might make fun of you, but then you can laugh at them later when they watch it and they realize how awesome it is. But Keats and Cowden did this with Chapman. What they realized, after the equivalent of staying up all night and watching all the seasons, was that most people were reading Pope because it was more recent than Chapman. But Keats wanted to do something about this. He thought it was a travesty that no one was reading this awesome Chapman's Homer translation.

Keats Tweets a Sonnet


If you encountered this situation, you might update your Facebook status to 'OMG! BSG!' (if you were into Battlestar), and your friends would probably comment on it. But if you're Keats, and you don't have Facebook but you still just need to say your piece to the world, you write a sonnet. A sonnet is just a type of poem. Again, it has 14 lines, a very particular rhyme structure and a bunch of other conventions. If free verse poetry is like a blog, where you can just go on and on and on, then a sonnet is like Twitter, in the sense that you have certain constraints. You have to get in and get out, and you have to get creative to fit it all in. Usually on Twitter, it's with punctuation and grammar (#GrammarSnob)! The sonnet we're talking about is a type of sonnet called a Petrarchan sonnet, which begins with an eightline section called an octave, just like an octave in music, which is an eight-note span. Then there's a shift (or turn) leading into the final six-line section, which is a sestet, which sounds like six. The rhyme scheme is a-b-b-a-a-b-b-a-c-d-c-d-c-d. After Keats and Clarke stayed up feasting on Chapman's Homer, Keats immediately went to work on a poem. Kind of like fan fiction, but better, because we're still reading it (and I don't think we'll be reading any Twilight fan fiction any time soon). He had it complete and actually waiting for Clarke when his friend came to breakfast the next morning. The poem was published in The Examiner, which was a magazine, and then in Keats' first book, called Poems (very uncreatively). It was really considered the highlight of the book. People loved it; they thought it one of the best sonnets ever written. So let's get to the poem.

Summarizing the Sonnet


The poem begins:

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold, And many goodly states and kingdoms seen; Round many western islands have I been Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold. When he talks about traveling in the 'realms of gold', he's actually doing two things. First, he's referencing his own adventures in reading. It's just like 'the pagemaster', and these 'realms' are like libraries, or the books themselves. He's read a lot of books, and most of them are good. That's traveling in the 'realms of gold'. But he's also making an allusion to Odysseus, the hero of Homer's Odyssey, (remember, he's reading a translation of Homer) who traveled a lot in that tale. The reference to Apollo works well with both meanings, because Apollo is the Greek god of poetry, so that goes with the book/library meaning. It's also Greek, obviously, so it reinforces the Odysseus meaning. There are so many layers. That's why sonnets are awesome, because they are short but they've got lots of stuff packed in there. We're going to move on to the next four lines: Oft of one wide expanse had I been told That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne; Yet did I never breathe its pure serene Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold: This is the lead-up to his revelation moment, which comes, not coincidentally, when the sestet starts - that's that turn that we talked about before. He's saying that he read Homer. He's heard that Homer is this amazing poet. But he couldn't read The Odyssey or The Iliad in the original Greek, because he didn't know Greek. So he's had to rely on translations, like Pope's, that didn't really impress him that much - and he didn't really get what was so great about Homer. It's like if people tell you over and over again how there's this amazing song, you have to hear it - like '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'; that's a good song. But you've only heard the Britney Spears version. You might wonder why people think this song is so great. Then suddenly you hear the original; you hear the Rolling Stones, and you get it. It's an amazing song. That's what reading Chapman's translation was like for Keats. So we're at the end of the eight-line octave, moving into the sestet, and here's the turn. We transition into the period after he's read Chapman. (So before the turn, it's like before he read Chapman, and after the turn, it's after he read Chapman.) We're going to take this sestet in little chunks: Then felt I like some watcher of the skies When a new planet swims into his ken; He begins with this simile of how significant this moment is. Imagine you're an astronomer. You spend years of your life staring at the sky. Then, one day, you discover a new planet. Today, people are discovering new planets all the time that are far away. It's exciting, but there's so many of them that it doesn't really matter. But when Keats was writing this poem, people only knew about six planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Then they found Uranus. Suddenly, the Solar System expands from six planets to seven. Keats is saying that reading Chapman's Homer is like discovering Uranus, which is pretty significant for all of us!

Then, we get this concluding image to end the poem: Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes He star'd at the Pacific - and all his men Look'd at each other with a wild surmise Silent, upon a peak in Darien. It doesn't really matter here that the history is wrong. He's basically referring to the time when European explorers thought they could find the Pacific Ocean by crossing the New World, but no one had actually done it. Then he's saying that Cortez and his men did it in Darien, which is essentially Panama. They were really awestruck, just as Keats was when he read Chapman's Homer. The power of this discovery, like with Uranus, can be hard to imagine today, because there's nothing really left to discover, at least on Earth. It's like the end of civilization when you map out all the territory, and there's nothing black left on the map. But at that time when there were still tons of question marks, and people didn't know what was going on, it was really life-changing. Again, it's not exactly correct. It wasn't Cortez. It was Balboa who did that first; who stood and saw the Pacific Ocean. Keats' friend, Clarke, actually pointed that out to him and told him, 'dude, you might want to change that.' But Keats left it as Cortez - maybe because Balboa has three syllables, while Cortez has two. Cortez just sounds better; it fits better in his sonnet. Your English teacher won't take that as an excuse, but Keats can get away with it. If your English teacher says, 'Why did you say this,' and you say, 'Oh, it sounded good, it didn't make any sense though.' that's basically what Keats is doing. He can get away with it because he's famous. He finished the draft and he was happy with it. He didn't want to mess with it any more. So that's why it's Cortez instead of Balboa, and why it's wrong.

Odes, Iambs and Urns


'Ode on a Grecian Urn' is one of John Keats' most famous poems. He's a Romantic poet, and he wrote it in 1819 along with a bunch of other odes - he was kind of going through a little bit of an 'ode period.' They're known as his 'Great Odes of 1819.' Some of the other ones are 'Ode to a Nightingale,' 'Ode on Melancholy' and 'Ode on Indolence.' An ode is really just a kind of poem that usually focuses on a single person or a thing or an event, and it's kind of a tribute to that thing. So if you were in love with someone you could write them an ode. You could write an ode to Chipotle if you love burritos as much as I do. You can really write an ode to anything; you just have to really be 'once more with feeling' about it. Before we get to 'Ode on a Grecian Urn,' we're going to talk about Grecian urns in general. When you hear 'urn,' you might think of those containers you put your dead relatives in after they've been cremated or something like that. That's kind of the modern connotation of it. If you've ever seen Meet the Parents, you might think about that urn getting knocked over and then the cat going and doing its business all over the grandma. Anyway, that's not the kind of urn that we're talking about. Greek urns were a type of pottery used for holding water, wine, olive oil - they really liked olive oil. What was interesting to Keats about all of this, and what's still kind of interesting today about Grecian urns, is that they were really heavily decorated. They had all kinds of drawings all around the outside of them. In the poem, Keats is basically looking at an urn that depicts a whole bunch of different scenes - you know, it was 1819; I guess he didn't have TV or the Internet or anything else to do, so he had to be entertained by sitting around and staring at old pottery.

The First Stanza

So, the poem - in total, 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' has five stanzas. Each of these is ten lines. We're going to start by just talking about the dramatic situation of the poem, which is just a fancy way of saying what's happening in the poem. The first stanza begins: Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness, Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time He's talking to the urn in this opening. That's the 'foster-child of Silence and slow Time' and all that stuff. He's fascinated by how the images on the urn are captured in a single moment. They're silent and they're not moving forward in time - that's the 'foster-child of Silence and slow Time' - they kind of evoke this stillness or frozenness of the images on the urn. Then he starts to describe the first image. He says: What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? So some dudes are chasing women, and since this is Greek art, they are likely naked. So Keats kind of naturally presumes that all these scenes might be kind of about sex, which sounds reasonable given that there's a bunch of naked people chasing each other around.

The Second Stanza


Second stanza - Keats is looking at a different part of the urn that has a different picture on it. This one basically has a man and a woman lying under a tree and the man is piping on a pipe. He describes: Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd, Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: So he's kind of saying that, alright, the songs that you hear are great - songs you can hear with your ears but the songs that you don't hear with your ears are better, so keep playing, soft pipes. What does this mean? What are songs you don't hear with your ears? Maybe Keats has been staring at one too many urns! Really he's just saying that, you know, as good as music is that you play and you hear - literal music the music that the man is playing on the urn (that's kind of frozen in time and you obviously can't hear because it's just a painting) is better because it's kind of there and it never ends. He's always playing this piping tune. Keats goes on, and he says: Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, Though winning near the goal-yet, do not grieve; She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair! So, dude, don't worry that you can't ever kiss your woman or 'have thy bliss,' if you all know what that means - the whole 'frozen in time' thing kind of gets in the way of that - but it's okay because she's never going to get old. That's a benefit of being frozen on an urn. You can't have sex with her, but she's never

going to get old; you're kind of perpetually stuck in this wooing stage; you're gazing at her for all time and she's always going to be pretty. They're captured in their youth; they're never going to not be youthful and they're never going to not be in love.

The Third Stanza


Next stanza is just more of the same. There's happy, happy boughs; there's more happy love! more happy, happy love! It just sounds great, doesn't it? Keats gets pretty excited about the fact that the leaves on the trees are going to stay green forever and that this couple will always be in love. Those things kind of go along together. Then Keats reminds us what happens to young lovers. He says: All breathing human passion far above, That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd, A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. People have debated about what this line means, but what they're essentially saying is that when young love is consummated - or maybe even just when a couple spends more time together; it might not have to do with sex - bad things happen. Maybe you have sex and you're not quite as into each other, you find out he's got some weird fetish, you start fighting or whatever. Whatever he really means, he's kind of saying that it's better to be captured at that moment where you're just hanging out in the tree, playing your pipes. You're kind of perpetually frustrated but you're also perpetually in love. Nothing bad can happen. Not only can she not get old, which is what he said in the last stanza, but you're never going to start fighting or not liking each other so much, so that's good, I guess.

The Fourth Stanza


Fourth stanza - we're kind of getting in the home stretch now. We get those two stanzas about the young lovers, and now he moves on to another picture on the urn. I guess it's a big urn with lots of drawings. He says: Who are these coming to the sacrifice? To what green alter, O mysterious priest, Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, And all her silken flanks with garlands drest? So some folks are taking a cow to a sacrifice, and it's not quite as fun as men chasing naked women around or lovers hanging out under a tree. So, Keats starts thinking about where these drawings on the urn might have come from - where they're coming from in the picture. What little town by river or sea-shore, Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel, Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn? And, little town, thy streets for evermore Will silent be; and not a soul, to tell Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

So he's kind of saying these folks are here forever on the urn with the cow, and the town that they came from is always going to be empty in this frozen moment in time. So he starts imagining this world beyond the urn, which is kind of interesting. If you ever think about your house or your car being lonely and sad when you're not there, that's pretty much what Keats is doing with these people and their town. The town is said because they're not there.

The Fifth Stanza


Fifth stanza - we're almost done. It's time to kind of sum it all up. Keats talks to the urn again. He says: When old age shall this generation waste, Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe Than ours, a friend to man In case you missed it, that stuff on the urn will always be there. You, me - we're all going to die, and we're all going to be forgotten. But the urn is forever. There will be other people in the future who will look at the urn and maybe will talk to the urn (if they're as nuts as Keats). The urn is forever, and kind of by extension here, art is forever. Art freezes things in place, including, maybe, this poem that we're reading, because Keats is dead and we're still looking at it. He says that the urn will say to people: 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty'-that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. You might have heard this line before; it's a pretty famous one, and it basically is Keats outing himself as a Romantic poet. He's having this urn talk about truth and beauty - the object that is being admired is basically talking to you and to Keats and to everyone. The Romantics had rejected the idea that religious authority, political leaders, science, any of those things could really answer the big questions about the universe. They really believed more in imagination and emotion and nature as kind of being where to look for answers to stuff. It was a big shift from the Age of Enlightenment that came before the Romantic era, when reason and scientific fact ruled the day, which kind of is where we are now again, except in some corners of this country. You might say that the Romantics are kind of the crunchy granola hippies of their day. They're kind of saying 'this urn is beautiful, so are the people on it. That's the truth, man. That's what matters.' That's kind of the tone of the end of the poem.

The Great Odes


Sometimes you might have kind of an off day. You might feel sad. You might feel melancholic. I don't know; maybe that's just me. If you were feeling that way - maybe you've been studying awhile or watching a ton of videos and you just can't take yourself away from the computer - Keats has got a poem to help you out, to understand your melancholy and your suffering and make it okay. It's one of John Keats' six Great Odes of 1819 (that's the title of the group of them), and it's called the 'Ode on Melancholy,' which makes sense because that's what it's about. And this ode isn't really like the other five in a lot of ways. If the Great Odes were like the Avengers, 'Ode on Melancholy' would be the Incredible Hulk. They're all emotionally tormented superheroes, just like Keats' odes are all emotional tortured, but this one is even more emotional on a whole different level. It's full of sharp contrasts that are forever linked to one another, just like Bruce Banner and the Hulk.

Major Themes
The narrator of this poem isn't like the narrators of the other odes. Those ones address things like an urn and a nightingale. In 'Ode on Melancholy,' the narrator is talking directly to the reader. Keats is breaking the 'fourth wall,' 'talking through the TV,' kind of like Ferris Bueller. This has the effect of heightening the emotional intensity in the poem. As you might expect from the title and from my
Romantic poet John Keats

forlorn intro, it really grapples with the depths of melancholy and what to do about melancholy.

Keats was in his early 20s when he wrote the poem, but his life had been full of dark moments: depression, debt, the deaths of tons of family members. He was sick. He only lived to be 25, so he was at the end of his life already. But he'd also known a lot of joy, and he was interested in where melancholy and joy collide with each other. When he wrote 'Ode on Melancholy,' he was in love with a woman named Fanny Brawne. She'd recently moved into a section of Wentworth Place, which was the house where Keats was living. So, he could see her every day, which in the days before Skype and e-mail and all that stuff was a huge deal. A few more structural features of the poem - we're going to look at personification, which is when you give human characteristics to something that's not human. We're also going to see some images from Greek mythology, which was a fascinating thing for Keats; he loved it. And it wouldn't be a Romantic poem if we didn't hear about nature, so we're going to hear about that too. So, let's begin.

First Stanza
This poem is divided into three really distinct stanzas. (It actually was originally four but he chopped off the first one in editing, so that's kind of a fun fact.) It begins: No, no! go not to Lethe You might be saying, 'I wasn't going to go to Lethe. I don't even know what that is.' Well, okay. It's a complex way to start a poem because it's not until you read more that you actually know what it's talking about. But we're going to unpack this opening line. Lethe is a river, and if you're there, you are dead. In Greek mythology, dead souls go to Hades (that's the underworld), and they go to Lethe to drink water that will make them forget their lives. Keats does not want you to be dead, and he doesn't want you to forget your melancholy. Those are two distinct ideas. He could've just said 'don't go to Hades' if he meant 'don't be dead.' But since he mentions Lethe, it really means he doesn't want you to try to forget how you're feeling. Emotion - I told you that would be important. Even if that emotion is melancholy, he wants you to feel it. He doesn't want you to shove it away. And it's really dramatic. He could have just said 'Don't go to Lethe,' but he says 'No! No!' and it creates this sense that you're coming in, in the middle of something (which actually, you are, because there used to be a first stanza even before this, and now there isn't). He goes on: neither twist Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine; Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kist By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;

Make not your rosary of yew-berries, Wolfsbane, nightshade, yew berries; these are all fatally poisonous plants that mentions. You might be thinking, 'I was just a little sad. I wasn't looking for a botany lesson from Dr. Kevorkian.' But that's what you got. What we also have is the nature theme in full force. He's basically saying, 'Did you know there were so many plants with awesome-sounding names that could kill you? Now you do, but you should stay away from them.' And Proserpine is the queen of the underworld, so she's associated with all of these things. This series of emotive pleas isn't over yet; he's not done. He's just changing from plants to animals: Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl A partner in your sorrow's mysteries; For shade to shade will come too drowsily, And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

It's so intense. Those three animals - beetle, death moth and owl - are all associated with death. If you ever saw or read The Silence of the Lambs, you might remember the death moth's head is on the poster on Jodie Foster's lips. It's called the 'death's head moth' because it has a skull on it. (I actually watched that movie for the first time when I was in Disneyland on TV. It was a total shift from the Magic Kingdom.) He makes the connection between the moth and Psyche. Psyche is the Greek goddess of the soul - wings of a butterfly is how she's personified - so the moth and Psyche are similar in that sense. And he's saying 'Don't run from melancholy toward death. You should experience the emotion.' He does this in the first stanza by telling you what not to do. In the second stanza, he's going to tell you what you should do.
Romantic poet John Keats was in love with Fanny Brawne when he wrote Ode on Melancholy.

Second Stanza
The second stanza begins: But when the melancholy fit shall fall Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud, That fosters the droop-headed flowers all, And hides the green hill in an April shroud;

I'm going to pause mid-thought here. All he's saying is 'When you feel sad,' but he goes on and on and on because he's describing it with nature imagery. He's also personifying nature: the 'weeping cloud,' the 'droop-headed flowers.' Alright, back to the poem: Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose, Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave, Or on the wealth of globed peonies; So when melancholy overtakes you, here's what you should do: Go outside. Look at a rainbow. Look at a rose. The beauty of the natural world, with its awe-inspiring stuff, is going to bring you joy (but don't eat the poisonous plants; he warned you about that earlier). The idea of nature as a source of joy and a source of melancholy is really in line with the Romantics. This idea that you should celebrate nature and really look at it as a way both to relieve your pain and as a metaphor for your pain, all wrapped up into one. (I've just got a dreary parking lot outside, so this will not work for me.) He elaborates on nature being a source of the melancholy as well in these next two lines. He says, 'The clouds weep and make the flowers droop. But they also make the hill green and give the flowers life.' There's that contrast. The stanza concludes: Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows, Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave, And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes. This is a weird section of the poem because he's turned from nature to love. He's saying that if your girlfriend is mad at you and she's yelling at you, you should just hold her hand, let her rave and stare deeply into her eyes. Which I think would be a sign that you have a dysfunctional relationship, but Keats seems to think that you're going to further experience your emotions by doing this. His word choice - 'rich anger,' 'emprison,' 'rave,' 'feed deep' - emphasizes that you should experience the highs and the lows. Throw away your Lithium and your other mood-stabilizing drugs (please don't do that)!

Third Stanza
In the third stanza, we're told that joy and melancholy are inextricably linked. He brings this home in this stanza. He says: She dwells with Beauty - Beauty that must die; And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh, Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips: The 'she' he's talking about could be the woman from the stanza before. It's also definitely melancholy. He's personifying the emotion; we've got two themes in one here, which is a good sign that we're reaching the end of the poem (yay, we're almost done!). In this stanza, he's bringing everything together: Beauty (with a capital 'B') is awesome, but it dies. And Joy is also awesome, but it's fleeting. And Pleasure can swiftly turn to poison. Then he goes further: Ay, in the very temple of Delight Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,

This is an elaborate way of saying that you can't have joy without melancholy; you can't have melancholy without joy (again, the Bruce Banner/Incredible Hulk kind of together). They're not two separate people. They're the same person. One is always part of the other. But not everybody sees this, as we learn in the poem's concluding lines: Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine; His soul shall taste the sadness of her might, And be among her cloudy trophies hung. He wanted you to experience sadness in the first stanza, and now he's circling back to this idea. He's saying that only those who are intensely and keenly in touch with their emotions can see how joy and melancholy are present, always at the same time. If you do this, you're going to 'taste the sadness,' which isn't necessarily a bad thing because it represents heightened emotional awareness. It's the pinnacle of feeling. It's like the dude who looks into the Ark of the Covenant in Indiana Jones. Right before your face melts, you see and understand everything. It's this revolutionary thing in your head.

William Wordsworth Early Years


All right, in this lesson, we're going to talk about William Wordsworth, who, along with his friend Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was a progenitor of the Romantic poetry movement in England; they got it going together. You might figure that a guy with 'word' and 'worth' in his name would write words of worth. It's kind of like my middle school gym teacher whose name was Miss Sweat; that is a true fact. Wordsworth was born in 1770 in Cockermouth, Cumberland, which is northern England, near Scotland. You might wonder why it's called Cockermouth, and it's because it's the mouth of the river Cocker. You guys, what were you thinking? He had four siblings; he had a particularly close bond with his sister Dorothy, with whom he was baptized. They actually remained close throughout their lives, even living together as adults for a while - they were tight buds. As for Wordsworth's parents, they weren't really in the picture for that long, but each played a pivotal role in his development as a poet. His mother died when he was eight, but before she died, she taught him how to read, as all good parents do. He was actually largely homeschooled when he was really young. His father also died when Wordsworth was young; he was a lawyer. He had a library in his house that helped expose the young William to Shakespeare, Milton and other really important works that shaped his development as a writer and thinker. Following the death of his mother, Wordsworth was sent away to school. At school, he actually met his future wife, Mary Hutchinson, although they wouldn't marry until 1802 when Wordsworth was 32. So, they're high school sweethearts in a way, but they waited a long time. Mary and Dorothy (Wordsworth's sister) also met at this time. They actually ended up great friends, which probably contributed to Mary ultimately marrying Dorothy's brother, William.

Nature, Walking and Revolutionary Babies


As I said before, he grew up near the beautiful river Cocker, and this caused Wordsworth to develop a deep appreciation of nature. As he began to write, he made celebrating nature a real central theme of his

work. Like I said before, he was a founder and leader of the Romantic poetry movement, and his appreciation for nature made this an important element of the genre. Other Romantic poets would extend this and rank imagination really highly as well. Wordsworth pretty closely stuck to nature as a really important theme (or at least setting) for a lot of his poetry. He also liked to use the fond memories of his childhood as basis in his poetry. He writes: There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream, The earth, and every common sight, To me did seem Apparelled in celestial light, The glory and the freshness of a dream. If Wordsworth had been born in Newark, nature probably wouldn't have been so central to Romantic poetry, but he was born in Cockermouth. So we can all be thankful for that, for beautiful Cumberland. While he was attending St. John's College in Cambridge, he spent a few summers seeking out nearby locations that were known for their awe-inspiring natural settings because that was what he was into. To go out and explore the countryside, he would walk because they didn't have cars back then. Cars aren't really that great for exploring anyway. In 1790, he takes a walking tour of several countries in Europe. He goes on a long hiking trip, basically; he goes to France, Switzerland and Italy. This only served to deepen his love of nature. This was really a pivotal thing for him. It actually made sure that he was in France during the French Revolution, which was also important. He returned in 1791 because he really became fascinated with the politics of the Revolution. This would inspire another theme of Wordsworth's poetry, which was the idea that you were writing for the common people. This was the French revolutionaries and the masses rising up against the aristocracy. Wordsworth's poetry was really into focusing on ordinary people, using ordinary language, and this was in stark contrast to what a lot of poets would write about before. The poor would really find a place in Wordsworth's poetry, and again, he wrote in accessible language, which would really come to define the movement as a whole. It probably comes as a relief from all that stilted stuff that came before, especially Milton. Politics wasn't the only thing that kept Wordsworth interested in France. He was smitten with a certain Annette Vallon, who was involved in the Revolution. Also, in 1792, she gave birth to a little girl named Caroline, who was probably Wordsworth's. He'd keep the affair quiet, but he would actually go visit the child. He actually went with his wife to meet his daughter. I guess she was cool with it. I don't know; it's a little nicer than if he had just abandoned her.

Lyrical Ballads
Rolling right along, we're going to get to the poetry now because we've talked a lot about him as a man. For such a looming figure in Romantic poetry, Wordsworth's notable career was actually pretty brief. He didn't write so many great things, but he did write a lot of good stuff. He'd met this guy, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, in 1795, and together, they decided to publish this thing called Lyrical Ballads in 1798. This is mostly Wordsworth's poetry, but it begins with Coleridge's 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner,' which is still the most widely read poem in Lyrical Ballads. So, he was upstaged a lot in this.

The most significant Wordsworth poem in Lyrical Ballads is (I have to take a deep breath before I say this) 'Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey on revisiting the banks of the Wye during a tour. 13 July 1798' (it is also known as 'Tintern Abbey'). It's kind of like that Fiona Apple CD where the title takes up the whole front of the CD (I hope that doesn't age me too much). The poem basically uses a memory of a visit to a long-abandoned abbey as an opportunity to - wait for it - celebrate nature. We're going to get to this in more detail in a seperate lesson. Also of note from Lyrical Ballads are several of the Lucy poems, which are basically about the speaker's unrequited love for a maybe-fictitious dead woman named Lucy. Some people think Lucy is actually Wordsworth's sister Dorothy; that's who it's based on. Or she may just be a literary device that allows Wordsworth to write about longing, love and, as usual, nature. A few other significant poems in Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth would be 'We are Seven,' 'The Idiot Boy' and 'Lines Written in Early Spring.' He's really found of those titles: lines written on blah, blah, blah. That's a way you can probably recognize a Wordsworth poem. Starting in 1801 with the book's second edition, Wordsworth included a now-famous preface that established his beliefs about what poetry should be and, as it turned out, what Romantic poetry did turn out to be. This is kind of a manifesto, as it were, of Romantic poetry. It's in this preface that Wordsworth spells out what all the themes should be: common language, nature, emotion and so on. He says that poetry should be the 'spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in tranquility' . What does this mean? Basically, that poetry shouldn't be a clinical exercise; if there's no emotion in it, why bother? If it's not written to express something deep, what's the point of writing at all? But, it should be recollected in tranquility. So, it's like when people tell you that you shouldn't send that angry e-mail to your ex-boyfriend when you're in a rage and cancel his Starcraft account or whatever you might want to do. Don't do that when you're angry! You want to wait, and then write something more cogent or take a more considered form of revenge. That's the idea with this; poetry should overflow with powerful feelings, but you should be able to construct it in calm retrospect so that you really know what you're saying and you're not just spewing your emotions onto the page. That never turns out well.

Poems, in Two Volumes


In 1807, Wordsworth publishes Poems, in Two Volumes, which was a bit of a flop at the time, but today some of the poems are really considered to be awesome. It's kind of the Arrested Development of 1807. A few of the collection's really notable poems: one is 'The Solitary Reaper,' which begins with this really awesome, evocative image: Behold her, single in the field, Yon solitary Highland Lass! Reaping and singing by herself; Stop here, or gently pass! He goes on to describe how he's transfixed by the woman and her singing, and she's alone in nature. She's Scottish, so he doesn't understand the words: Will no one tell me what she sings? And that's important. He loves the music but he doesn't have the language to convey the emotion, but it's powerful. There's also a sonnet called 'London, 1802,' which is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings about John Milton. He's really upset about Milton being dead.

In this poem, one of the interesting things about it is that you can see that Wordsworth is different from his fellow Romantic poets in the sense that he cares about morality. His discussion of Milton and London in this poem really brings about that he sees that there are things that are wrong in England. He's not that into free love and stuff that maybe his contemporaries (like Blake in Coleridge) were. He's really not into drugs. Also in Poems, in Two Volumes, there's the very sadly-titled 'I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.' But it's actually a happy poem because clouds wandering lonely is a nice image for Wordsworth - because it's a cloud wandering around in nature! This one, again, is about the speaker walking in nature. He's basically saying that it takes a really hard-hearted person to be unhappy with really beautiful scenes around him.

Later Career
So, his later career wasn't much of note. We should mention The Prelude, which is basically an epic poem that he starts when he's 28. He continues working on this for decades; he's never done. He changes it substantially as he goes along, so there are a lot of different versions of this poem that are markedly different from earlier versions. His wife had it published after his death. The poem is autobiographical, and it details events that are from his life. Beyond The Prelude, which is a problematic work on its own, there really isn't that much that you need to know about the later career of Wordsworth. He kind of does his best work early on. He peaked with Lyrical Ballads and Poems, in Two Volumes and never recovered the glory years. Later in life, his politics shifted pretty dramatically. You know how he was into the French Revolution back in the 1790s and whatnot? Well, he stopped being a revolutionary and became really conservative and patriotic. It's like those people who were left-wing hippies in college, and then they end up watching Rush Limbaugh and Fox News (hopefully without the virulent misogyny, in Wordsworth's case). Despite this, he was England's poet laureate in 1843 until his death in 1850.

Lines Composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey by Wordsworth Behind the Poem
If you were wondering what the Romantic poet William Wordsworth was doing on July 13, 1798, I can tell you that he was writing a poem. Where was he? He was traveling on the River Wye. Why was he traveling on the River Wye? Because he had just left Tintern Abbey, and the river was how you got there. Had he been there before? Yes! You can learn all this stuff about that day in Wordsworth's life without even reading the poem that we're talking about. All you have to do is read the incredibly descriptive title 'Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798' . The title's often shortened to 'Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey,' or just 'Tintern Abbey' if you want to get right to the point. You don't have to remember the full title, but it is kind of fun to know that it exists. It's also kind of fun to think about why he might do that. I don't really have any thoughts about it, but that's something you can ponder. Why would you write a title like that? Just to annoy people and make them have to remember the whole thing? As you now know, Wordsworth (along with his sister Dorothy) was visiting the ancient Welsh abbey in the summer of 1798 - again, we got that date from the title. He had visited it by himself five years earlier, in the August of 1793. Between 1793 and 1798, he thought about it a lot - he thought about that visit and the impact it had on him. It's like any great trip you might have taken. Maybe Cabo might not be totally the same idea, but the point is that the traveling stays with you even after you've left that awesome place.

When he returned in 1798, it inspired him to write a poem. He claimed that he composed this 160-line poem in his head, which, if you've ever tried to memorize a poem, is a little nuts (actually, a girl in a class I took on Wordsworth did memorize this whole thing and recited it for us, which was crazy, and I don't know how she did it). He was so proud of this poem that he wanted to add it on to the end of Lyrical Ballads, which was the collection of poems he had written and published with Samuel Coleridge. The book was already in production, but they did manage to tack it on at the end, so he got his way.

About the Abbey


Just a little background about this scene - let's talk about the Abbey. Tintern Abbey was the home of the Earl of Grantham - no, that's Downton Abbey, a different place, even though they both have 'abbey' in the title. Tintern Abbey was founded around the 1100s, and its great church was completed in 1301. It's 700 years ago now, still 500 years before Wordsworth ever visited it, so it was a ruin. It was the home of Cistercian monks who were really into manual labor, they were into agriculture, they were into making delicious beer - monks just love to do this. There are some monks that make awesome jelly. Monks just like to make cool stuff, and also books and whatnot. The Abbey was doing great for about 400 years, and then in 1536 Henry VIII decided that monasteries were going to go the way of the dinosaur and he disbanded them, and that was kind of the end of it. The thing that is important is that when Wordsworth visited, it had been in ruins for hundreds of years already. It wasn't like it was a working thing or like it was recently ruined. It was all covered in ivy, but it was otherwise pretty similar to what you'd find if you went and looked at it today. In 1798, it had just been kind of rediscovered as a bit of a tourist trap of its day. As a fun kind of side note, the Abbey was actually also the setting for an Iron Maiden video, so it kind of inspires lots of people: it's got monks, it's got Wordsworth, it's got heavy metal. It's a pretty versatile place.

Memories and the Worship of Nature


Let's get to the poem. It begins with Wordsworth reflecting on the time that's passed between his first visit and his second visit. He says: Five years have past; five summers, with the length Of five long winters! You first notice the use of accessible, ordinary language. He's not tarting up his speech; he's going simple and keeping it clear. It was really important to Wordsworth and his fellow Romantic poets to do this: to make the language not artificially fancy. The poem was written in blank verse, which means that lines don't have rhymes but they are in iambic pentameter, which is five pairs of unstressed and stressed syllables. There are two main themes to consider with the poem: memory and Nature worship. They're kind of intertwined, so we're going to examine them together in the poem. Right from the start we get this emotional connection to his memory. He's so amazed that it's been five years that he says it in three different ways: he says 'years,' he says 'summers,' and he says 'winters.' It's all the same thing - all of those three things mean that five years have passed, but he gives a lot of depth to the time that has passed by naming it in all these different ways. And then right away we jump right into Nature. He says: and again I hear These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs

With a soft inland murmur.-Once again Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, That on a wild and secluded scene impress Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect The landscape with the quiet of the sky. Since you know he's visiting the ruins of an abbey, and it's not a still-functional abbey, it's easy to understand why the actual Abbey itself is not described in the poem. Instead he's talking about the beautiful rural landscape in this particular remote corner of Wales. The ruins of the Abbey become the landscape in a way, which is kind of poignant, because it used to be for people, and now it's for Nature. It's kind of been reclaimed by the land in a way due to its ruin. Another poet might have just described his visit to Tintern Abbey and how it was great and looked nice - he would have taken a photo but cameras weren't invented - and he would've just called it a day at that. But Wordsworth is not just interested in nature and pretty scenery. He's also interested in memory. He's been to this place before, and that's interesting to him. He says: These beauteous forms, Through a long absence, have not been to me As is a landscape to a blind man's eye: But oft, in lonely rooms, and 'mid the din Of towns and cities, I have owed to them In hours of weariness It's a special place to him, and it had a really profound impact in 1793. In the ensuing five years since then, the memory was strong enough that he took solace in it; it soothed him when he was in a less pleasant place or in a bad mood. Think about that great trip you took, your favorite vacation ever - maybe it was Disney World when you were little and you still believed in magic. When you think about it, you can remember the feeling of being on the rides, the taste of the food - especially if your mom gave in and bought you one of those Mickeyshaped ice cream treats even though they were four dollars, and you begged and begged and you got it, and that great memory of that - it's all kind of wrapped up in the magic of the place. That memory still sustains you - you look back and it's this perfect, magical memory. That's what's going on with Wordsworth and Tintern Abbey. You might not feel that way about a ruined abbey. Wordsworth didn't have Disneyland in his time, so take that for what it is. He goes on to state that he was so altered by his first visit that it caused little, nameless, unremembered, acts / Of kindness and love, so not only does it help him out in times of trouble, it also makes him a better man, he's basically saying. It makes him do nice things for people. You might be able to say that about Disney World; I'm not sure I can. He expects that the second visit will have the same effect on him - that's important. It will change him for the better; it will give him these memories that sustain him in difficult times in the future. The poem goes on and Wordsworth begins to reflect about how he's changed since his first visit. He says then he bounded o'er the mountains full of youth and vigor and now all its aching joys are now no more, /

And all its dizzy raptures. He's only five years older, but I guess that was a big deal. I guess five years from now I'll feel pretty never mind; maybe I won't feel that old still. But this isn't just a sad lament about getting old. He's learned to appreciate age in new and more mature ways. He says: I have felt A presence that disturbs me with the joy Of elevated thoughts It's kind of like if you went back to Disney World as an adult with your kids. You'd feel a little weird that it's different and that you're the one who's telling them they can't have the Mickey Mouse ice cream - suddenly you understand why your mom thought it was absurd to buy it - but you're still happy in the moment because you're sharing it with somebody new. In Wordsworth's case he's sharing this place with Dorothy; you're sharing it with your kids. He calls her my dearest Friend / My dear, dear Friend as well as his dear, dear Sister - there's a lot of 'dears' there; she's clearly very, very dear to him. As the poem winds down, Wordsworth starts to focus more and more on his sister. He says: Therefore let the moon Shine on thee in thy solitary walk; And let the misty mountain-winds be free To blow against thee This is part of a kind of prayer he makes to Nature, essentially asking Nature to watch over Dorothy and to provide her with comfort and some of the same solace that's offered to him by this place. He refers to himself as a worshipper of Nature, again in this vein of prayer, and he's saying that even if he's dead, Dorothy should remember how much he loved Nature. So again we have these themes of memory and Nature, only now he's telling his sister to keep the memory of his love for Nature after his death, so they're kind of twisting together. I mentioned earlier how the Abbey itself is never described, but here at the end we get this overt prayer. An abbey is sort of a religious place - monks live there, and they're all into God - so we get this prayer in this used-to-be-religious setting, but it's a prayer to Nature. So religion is in the poem, but in a pantheistic sense (that's the belief that God and Nature are the same thing, that God is everywhere). In a way, you can say the whole poem is a prayer to Nature and its power over you and your memory. That's 'Tintern Abbey,' or - excuse me - 'Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on Revisiting the Banks of the Wye during a Tour, July 13, 1798.'

William Blake Early Life and Visions


William Blake was a major Romantic poet, and he was also kind of a visual artist. He did a lot of engravings. He was also kind of a religious mystic in a lot of ways; he was kind of into all that stuff. He was largely unknown, actually, during his lifetime. Nowadays, you might not be able to name a poem that he wrote, but you should probably know who he is. That's his level of fame. He's kind of like Lady Gaga in the sense that he's almost more famous for being weird than for any specific work of art. But he did actually make significant contributions to Romantic

poetry; I don't want to belittle that, and I don't think he ever wore a meat dress, so there are some differences. He was born in London in 1757. His father was a hosier, which means he made hosiery. You know you see those pictures of old British people wearing tights and those fun buckle shoes, men especially? Somebody had to make those; someone had to make the tights that they wore with their man-heels, and that was William Blake's father, so that's kind of cool. From the beginning he was sort of different in a lot of ways than other kids his age. He had these religious visions. He would think he saw God outside his window or, like, a tree full of angels. I once saw a bush full of raccoons outside my window, but that was, unfortunately, real. Like a lot of precious, weird kids, his parents pulled him out of school when he was ten and home-schooled him. At the same time, they also sent him off to drawing school so he could learn how to be more artistic. When he was twelve, he began writing poetry. When he was fourteen, drawing school got a little too expensive, so they moved him over to be an apprentice with an engraver. Engravers make detailed images on metal stuff with tools. That can be used as a print, essentially - fill it with ink and print it on something. In 1781, Blake was heartbroken because he unsuccessfully proposed to a woman and she said no. He was talking about his deep grief with another woman, whose name was Catherine Boucher. He asked her 'Do you pity me?' She said that she did. Then he said 'I love you.' A year later, they got married. No, this usually this doesn't work out if you try to coax a friend out of their break-up, but in his case it worked out great. She was kind of illiterate, so he taught her how to read and write, which was kind of sweet. She actually ended up collaborating with him on a lot of his works as time went on. For most of his adult life, he eked out a living engraving and illustrating books and magazines. That was how he made his money.

Illuminated Printing
Blake was primarily known for something called relief etching, also known as illuminated printing. Basically, what this involves is adding text and illustrations to copper plates with pens and brushes - usually it's acid-resistant to do that - then you put the whole plate in acid, which etches and leaves the text and drawings behind in relief (hence the name), kind of raised. He came up with this method... he says that he still had these weird visions as an adult. Remember the tree full of angels and the God outside the window? When his brother died in 1787, Blake claimed to see his brother's spirit rise up and go through the ceiling, clapping its hands as it went, like really happily. That spirit would return to him and teach him that style of printing. Okay, there was kind of a friendly ghost teaching him how to do stuff. I guess that's nice. As you can probably imagine, this process is kind of timeconsuming and expensive. Blake was poor for most of his life. You'd think as long as we're in the ghoststory realm, his brother could have taught him something a little more lucrative, like helping him to invent a laser printer or something like that, but that's not how it went.

Poetic Works
Blake's doing a lot of this etching stuff, but he also wrote poetry. He published his first book of poems, called Poetical Sketches, in 1783. It was not very good. It was kind of derivative. It bombed. No one liked it, but he didn't let that stop him. In 1789, he publishes something called Songs of Innocence, then Songs of Experience in 1793. That kind of makes sense. These would be combined in 1794 into Songs of Innocence and Experience. This book contains Blake's most well-known poems, including 'The Little Boy Lost', 'The Little Boy Found', 'The Lamb' , and 'The Tyger'. 'The Tyger' is really Blake's most famous poem, probably. Yes, it's

a little weird to spell 'tiger' like that with a 'y,' even in Blake's time. He probably did it for effect, kind of an anachronism. It's like having a shop nowadays called 'Ye Old Fudge Shop;' it's harkening back to prior times. The opening lines of the poem go like this: 'Tyger! Tyger! burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry?' In this poem, Blake's questioning, basically, how something really terrifying, like the tiger, could have been created by God if God creates everything in His/Her image. I guess Blake didn't think that tigers were awesome; that's maybe a cultural difference between then and now. 'The Tyger' is sort of interesting; it's a sister poem to 'The Lamb', which is in Songs of Innocence; 'The Tyger' is in Songs of Experience. These deliberate contrasts occur all over the poem. They sort of match up with each other across Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience. In that sense, it ends up being this prototypical Romantic work, in the sense that there is this vision of innocence that refers to childhood, this time when we're sheltered from the dangerous world, then experience, which is what happens to us when we lose that childhood innocence due to the corruption of society or the oppression of organized religion in the form of the Church and the ruling classes. Romantic poets are always trying to capture this contrast between instinct and between reason or nature and civilization, negotiating the dynamics between those things, usually privileging the former over the latter. They like nature and instinct a lot better than reason and experience.

Romantic Works
Outside of poetry, Blake was a radical thinker. He supported the French Revolution, and he opposed England's treatment of the Americas. You can remember this when you forget about when he lived and wrote: late 1700s... American Revolution, French Revolution, William Blake. He also had interesting ideas about marriage and women. He illustrated Mary Wollstonecraft's Original Stories from Real Life; she was a famous feminist and also the mother of Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein. He ended up, along with her, as kind of a pioneer of the free love movement. I guess British people in fancy tights were doing free love before the hippies were. Some of this might have had to do with the fact that he had some problems in his own marriage. Catherine couldn't have children. Rather than just accept this, Blake criticized the constraints of marriage and wanted to try to bring a concubine into the house. This did not go over well. Suddenly, it seems like he was a little bit less progressive and a little more self-serving, but I'm not going to pass judgments. Moving along from that, a couple more poetic things that he did - in 1793, he completes a thing called The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, which is kind of like in Dante's Inferno and Milton's Paradise Lost; it's about Hell. Since the Romantics weren't such huge fans of organized religion, Hell's actually a really cool place. Blake suggests that Heaven is too authoritarian and too stuffy and guided by rules. In Hell, people can relax, which is quite different than what's going on in Milton and Dante. It's like that expression 'I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.' That's what's going on in Blake's poem. It's the same idea. So it makes sense that Blake would also write an epic poem called Milton: A Poem (it's like Milton: A Movie.), which was completed in 1810. Again, he has this interest in Hell and poetic tradition in that sense. In this work, John Milton comes back from Heaven and hangs out with Blake. It's an interesting way of

exploring the relationship with dead predecessors in poetry and working out things like influence and poetic trajectory in that sense. Writers actually do a lot of this, elegizing each other, talking about each other. Keep a look out for that. It's a favorite quiz question to ask about writers who wrote about other writers. In 1804, Blake starts working on a poem called Jerusalem, which is his longest and also most illuminated work (that just means more of those illustrations), completed in 1820. It's really long; it has about 100 etched and illustrated plates, which is kind of cool. It involved Blake's own mythology about Britain. There's Albion, who is the primeval fallen man, and other characters. There isn't a linear plot. It's not really beach reading; it's kind of difficult. Jerusalem isn't just a city, it's a female character and it's the title of the book. It gets very complicated very fast. That one's not usually on the syllabus. Blake died in 1827. At the time of his death, he was working on a bunch of engravings for Dante's Divine Comedy, which, like we said before, he doesn't totally agree with Dante and Milton and their concept of Hell, so his etchings end up being kind of critical of what's going on in Dante. So, that's kind of an interesting final project for him.

About the Book


In the shockingly profound movie Megamind (which, like all the computer-animated features in my Netflix queue, I watched right away while the foreign films languished on the shelf), the supervillain, played by Will Ferrell, beats out the superhero, played by Brad Pitt, Metro Man. (Which, if you think about it, totally would be played by Brad Pitt; he's just gorgeous. 'Metro Man?' Perfect.) Megamind realizes that he can't really be a supervillain if he doesn't have a superhero. And Metro Man can't really be a superhero unless he has Will Farrell. I would agree that a world without Brad Pitt would be incomplete, but the larger point is that evil needs good and good needs evil in order to define each other. The world is full of contrasting elements that depend on each other to make sense: Bert and Ernie, Team Jacob and Team Edward (although I think the world could be better off without either of those last two). But it's nothing new, this idea of contrast. It's been around forever, and it fascinated the Romantic poet William Blake. In 1794, he published his collection Songs of Innocence and Experience. As you can probably tell from the title, it is a book that is about innocence and experience. You can also look at the subtitle, Showing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul, for an equally unsubtle description of what is going to go on in this book. Innocence and experience, at least in Blake's view and others' views as well, are essentially opposites that together form a whole. One isn't necessarily better than the other, but like Megamind and Metro Man, they need each other. Blake was kind of a weird dude, but Songs of Innocence and Experience contains some of his most accessible poetry. So if you're going to start somewhere, this is a good place to start. A bunch of people have actually taken the word 'songs' in the title quite literally and have set these poems to music. Which is everyone from the German synthesizer band, Tangerine Dream, to Beat poet, Allen Ginsberg. Allen Ginsberg actually idolized Blake. He recorded an entire album of the songs from Songs of Innocence and Experience using instruments that would have been available in Blake's time (which is obviously the sign of a real super fan nutso person, and Ginsberg was not a great musician so it doesn't sound that great). But if you notice from the cover of that and of Blake's book, this is one of Blake's illuminated manuscripts. You might remember from when we talked about Blake's life that he was an illustrator and a printer, so his illustrated manuscripts included lots of artwork that he created to accompany the poems. He would etch them onto plates and then print them on the manuscript.

Before we get into specific poems, we're going to talk about important themes and elements of Romanticism that might appear in this work.

Major Themes
First, it's worth noting that the book is actually two books. We've got Songs of Innocence, which was actually published alone first, in 1789. Most of the poems in this section are about children. Some are even written in the voices of children. As the title suggests, it focuses on a nave, pure and inexperienced worldview. It's basically saying that the world can be scary, and a lack of experience can lead to being taken advantage of in some cases. Sometimes it's very positive, but there's also a negative side to innocence that is expressed here. In these poems, God is always a protective force, although children don't really fully understand him. He's there and he's protective, but he's kind of misunderstood. Transitioning to Songs of Experience, which first appeared in the joint volume (so it was never published alone) in 1794, the tone and message of these poems changes quite dramatically. These poems tend to focus on adults (which makes sense), and the world is exposed as a dark place where the Church, politics and society can be constraining. These poems deal with jealousy and corruption, very 'adult,' bad things. While all this sounds kind of negative, these poems also suggest that these forces exist in the world among the innocent - it's not like they go away - but they're too nave to see them. Experience has some advantages; you're able to see what's really there. It's not like you grow up and suddenly the world gets terrible, although it might feel like that. So how are these two sets of poems different, and how are they similar? I think that's worth discussing. Both sections use contemporary, accessible language, which was really important to the Romantics; it's one of the Romantic themes. And the poems tend to take place in natural settings. Again, the Romantics were really into nature as a place to be experienced, and a place where you can get an authentic experience, rather than in a city. So that's a little about how this fits into Romanticism as a whole. Now we're going to get into a couple of the most famous poems in it.

'The Lamb' vs. 'The Tyger'


We're going to start out with 'The Lamb', which, as you might have guessed, is from Songs of Innocence. This poem starts out: Little Lamb, who made thee? Does thou know who made thee, Gave thee life, and bid thee feed By the stream and o'er the mead; We begin in a natural setting with a child questioning a lamb. This seems like the most innocent thing ever. They're just bounding over mountains and feeling great, and there are butterflies everywhere probably. Let's skip to the second stanza: Little lamb, I'll tell thee; Little lamb, I'll tell thee: He is called by thy name, For He calls Himself a Lamb.

So the lamb was made by Jesus (who is sometimes called a lamb). The boy is basically just expressing his very simple Christian faith. In this poem, the world is a safe, friendly place, and religion is represented in this very peaceful, non-threatening way - it's a lamb, the Lamb of God, very simple. And the poem is a great example of why people wanted to make these poems into songs, because it's really written like a song lyric: 'Little lamb, I'll tell thee; little lamb, I'll tell thee;' you can practically hear Allen Ginsberg singing that aloud. So what's the opposite of a lamb? What might appear in 'Experience' that's the contrast to this poem? Well, we get 'The Tyger,' which I'm not sure is the opposite, but Blake thought so. It goes: Tyger, tyger, burning bright In the forests of the night, What immortal hand or eye Could frame thy fearful symmetry? So it's almost the same poem as 'The Lamb,' except it's a tiger instead. The speaker wonders if God (the 'immortal hand or eye') could make such a terrifying creature (which, again, is a judgment call because I think tigers are great). The poem goes on, and it gets a little darker: When the stars threw down their spears, And water'd heaven with their tears, Did He smile His work to see? Did He who made the lamb make thee? So you can see, there's an explicit reference to the earlier poem: 'Did He who made the lamb make thee?' He's questioning whether the same God - who made the peaceful lamb the child is hanging out with in the fields with the butterflies and the bunnies - could make the tiger that's so violent it could tear that lamb to pieces and eat it for breakfast. The point being, if God made the lamb and God made everything, then God also made evil and terror. So with experience, the world becomes a more complicated place. This is something you see being expressed all over, this question of faith: If God loves us, why does he let us die, or why does he let my loved ones die? It's a realization of how that's a problematic thing to believe in. (You should listen to the song 'Casimir Pulaski Day' if you want to hear this expressed in a wonderful way. You should also read William Blake.) Going quickly back to Megamind and Metro Man (because I just can't stay away), if we just had experience, we'd be terrified and miserable all the time. If we had a world with tigers and no lambs, we'd always be running for our lives and thinking we were going to be killed. But if we only had innocence, we'd have a complete lack of understanding of what the world was like and we wouldn't know what was going on. It's like how utopia seems like a good idea, but it's actually mind numbing and awful in its own way. It's like the saying 'I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.' The world needs good and evil, superheroes and supervillains; that's the basic idea.

Other Notable Poems


There are a lot of other poems in this work that are good and worth noting. There are a few that are kind of interesting. We've got this poem called 'The Little Black Boy' that's in Songs of Innocence, and it is problematic with a capital 'P.' It goes like this:

My mother bore me in the southern wild, And I am black, but O my soul is white! We should probably take a look at the context to see what Blake was trying to get at. Basically, we have a boy who's born in Africa who proclaims that despite his skin color, his soul is 'white,' or pure. It was first published in 1789; slavery was still totally legal. It was common then (and still is now to an extent) to associate the color black with evil and all things bad and white with purity and all things good. That was inevitably extended to race. In this poem, Blake is using these symbolic colors to talk about the boy's innocence, and he's also trying to subvert them a bit by saying that his skin is black but his soul is white. The poem also proposes that the boy's skin is black because of his closeness to the sun (which symbolizes God), so it's a little bit that his soul is white and he's closer to God because the sun has turned him black. It's still racist, but it was progressive for 1789 in the sense that he's at least trying to say something nice even if he is using tired racial stereotypes to do it. In Songs of Experience, one of the more interesting poems - besides 'The Tyger,' which is probably the coolest - is called 'The Sick Rose,' which is, surprise, about a dying and sick rose. It's a short poem, and it declares 'O Rose, thou art sick.' It goes on to describe: The invisible worm, That flies in the night And his dark secret love Does thy life destroy. So even the most beautiful things are corrupted and destroyed by experience. In this case, critics agree that the worm is probably sex and the resulting disease is probably syphilis, which is a bad one and will make you go insane. So it's a rose, which might be an innocent symbol, and it is corrupted by experience, which is sex, and something bad happens to it. That's why it belongs in 'Experience,' but it's a striking poem for its imagery and whatnot. There are a bunch more interesting poems in this work, and if you just look at the titles of the poems, you can get a sense of which ones are the 'Innocence' and 'Experience' and which ones correspond with each other. It's interesting to take a look.

Understanding Literary Periods


So, we're talking about Victorian literature, and it's good to keep in mind that all literary periods, or movements, are really just a scholarly construct to help readers understand and classify literature from different time periods or that have been written in different styles. So, it's not like Charles Dickens got together with George Eliot and Robert Browning and went, 'Hey, we're Victorian writers, so our work better have a strong sense of right and wrong.' That's not how it worked. Characteristics of Victorian literature are likely similar because the artists were inspired both by the art that came before them and the events occurring during the time that they were working. So, something can seem Victorian, but not have been written in the Victorian era, or something written in the Victorian era might not actually seem Victorian. For example, Charlotte and Emily Bronte wrote Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in what would be considered the Victorian era, but those novels have much more qualities of the Romantic period.

So, what I'm going to talk about are the commonly observed characteristics of poetry and prose written during the Victorian era and the probable causes for those characteristics. Now
Victorian literature refers to literature written during the 63-year reign of Queen Victoria

that you're suitably enthused, let's dive in.

Major Events of the Victorian Era


So, Victorian literature is just literature written during the reign of Queen Victoria in Great Britain. My favorite British comedian, Eddie Izzard, refers to Queen Victoria as 'one of England's more frumpy queens.' You can take a look at her picture and decide for yourself. So, Queen Victoria reigned from 1837-1901. Currently her reign is the longest of any British monarch - 63 years and 7 months - but it looks like our girl, Queen Elizabeth II, is well-poised to steal that record. Some major events that took place during the Victoria era include: A huge growth in population. During Victoria's reign, the population of England more than doubled, from 14 million to 32 million. There were also some significant improvements in technology. The Victorian era slightly overlaps with Britain's Industrial Revolution, which saw big changes to the way that people lived, worked, and traveled. These improvements in technology offered a lot of opportunities for the people in England but also represented a major upheaval in regards to how people lived their lives and interacted with the world. Those of us who were alive before the Internet should be able to relate. I mean, the Internet has made a lot of things easier, but it's also brought a lot of issues about personal privacy, how we communicate, and the potential for terrible things, like identity theft. Another characteristic of the Victorian era are changing world views. In addition to the major developments in technology, there were emerging scientific beliefs, like Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, and those things were changing how people in England thought about themselves and how they interacted with the world around them. Most notably, a lot of people were distancing themselves from the church. And finally, there were poor conditions for the working class. The Industrial Revolution led to the distance between the haves and have-nots growing at a really high rate, and a lot of people (especially artists, like writers) felt obligated to speak out against what they believed to be societal injustices, which if you've followed any of the 'We are the 99%' movement, it might sound familiar to things that are happening right now.

This isn't an exhaustive list of things that were happening during the Victorian era, but it's just meant to give you a sense of what was going on and why that would have inspired the writers of that time to write what they do.

Victorian Prose

Arguably the most well-known Victorian writer was Charles Dickens. He wrote a lot of novels about the struggles of the poor and the battle between right and wrong. His characters were really vivid but not terribly nuanced, so it's pretty obvious from the getgo who's good, who's bad, who can be reformed, and who can't. Dickens himself had to leave school early to
Perhaps the most well-known Victorian writer is Charles Dickens

work in a factory to support his family after his father was sent to jail, so it's not really surprising that a lot of his works, including Oliver Twist or David Copperfield, have protagonists who are good people that fall into bad circumstances that they don't deserve. It seems like that's something he could really relate to personally. Dickens' novels usually end with every character getting the kind of ending they deserve. So, the good people get happy endings, and the bad people get sad endings, and there really aren't that many loose ends left at the end of the novel. We'll talk more about Dickens' novels in another video.

Another notable novelist from that time, from the Victorian era, is George Eliot. It's important to know that George Eliot was actually a woman. Her name was Mary Ann Evans. She wrote under the name George Eliot to conceal the fact that she was a woman because she thought that her work
George Eliot was actually a pseudonym for female writer Mary Ann Evans

wouldn't be taken seriously if they knew it was written by a female

writer. (The Bronte sisters also had gender-ambiguous pen names to hide the fact that they were women. And I promise that's the last thing I'll say about the Bronte sisters for this video.) George Eliot wrote a bunch of successful novels during the Victorian Era, including Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Middlemarch (1871-72). Middlemarch, I think, is her best novel and arguably her most well-known. Her novels tended to focus on the lives of people living in the country and were noted for really strong character development - the characters were really, really clear and nuanced in a way that I personally don't think Dickens' were. Some modern critics actually consider Middlemarch to be the best novel ever written. I'm a big fan of it myself but that strong character development can sometimes lead to some really boring chapters that I found myself skimming. Anyway, we'll talk about George Eliot later in another video, too.

Victorian Poetry

Victorian poetry is different from Victorian novels in a lot of ways. Some of the notable poets from the Victorian era are Lord Alfred Tennyson, Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and also Matthew Arnold. Their poems were often characterized by a strong desire to connect with the past, a skepticism about religion, which could tie in with Darwin's theory of evolution coming in to prominence during that time, and they also had a stronger sense of humor than was generally present in the Romantic poetry that came before it. I want to be clear that not all the poems had to have all these characteristics. It's not like every poem written in the Victorian era had to be funny, skeptical, and nostalgic all at the same time.

Dickens' Early Life


Charles Dickens' life is like something out of a Charles Dickens' novel, which is probably not a coincidence. He was born in 1812 in England, and he was the second of eight children - that's a lot of children!

Things were going super well for a while (which is not like a Charles Dickens novel). The family moved into a fancy home. They had servants. He was even going to a private school. Things were great. He read a ton. He read Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (things like that), Henry Fielding, and he was also really into Arabian Nights. That's where
Portrait of Charles Dickens

Ali Baba, Aladdin and all those stories come from.

But then it all came to an abrupt halt when his father was thrown into debtor's prison in 1824. As, I guess, was common then, also, his mother and siblings were sent to debtor's prison at the same time. It seems a little excessive but oh well. He kind of ended up like the Fresh Prince in reverse, essentially. Instead of starting out in West Philly and going to Bel Air, he started in Bel Air and went to West Philly, alone, at age 12. West Philly and London was a factory analogy - maybe my analogy is wearing thin. Basically, he had to go work at a factory at age 12 that was overrun with rats, and his posh existence was upended, and it traumatized him. Suddenly, he was one of a ton of child laborers, which he wasn't all that familiar with before. What's even worse is that even when his family did eventually get out of prison, his mother wanted him to keep working at the factory. So, he gets his family back, but he's still stuck doing this awful job. Fortunately, at least, he did get to go back to school. His father got him into a school in London, saving him from a life of factory stuff forever. Then, even more financial problems forced him out of that school in 1827. He starts work as a law firm clerk. He also works as a reporter, which hones his writing a bit.

In 1830, he falls in love with a woman named Maria Beadnell. Her parents didn't approve, so they sent her off to finishing school in Paris to get her away from him. By 1836, he must've totally forgotten about her because he married a woman named Catherine Hogarth .They'd go on to have 10 children, which is a lot! That's like two Brady Bunches or half a Duggar clan.

Early Major Works


It's a bunch of kids, but it's nothing compared to his literary output - tons of books! He published his first short story in 1833. It was quickly followed by a flood of novellas, novels, plays and many, many stories. He wrote a ton! His first fully-fledged novel was called The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (or, shortly known as The Pickwick Papers). It was published in 19 monthly installments from 1836 to 1837. It's a collection of stories loosely connected to each other. The Pickwick Papers was actually kind of like an original Star Wars of its time in a lot of ways. There were spinoffs; there were bootleg versions; there were stage shows and merchandising - all it was missing was a terrible Christmas special (we'll get to Charles Dickens' Christmas special later). You should also check out the Star Wars Christmas special because it is hilarious! We meet Chewbacca's family. It is awful! Anyway, this was the beginning of a hugely successful and prolific career for Dickens. Next, comes Oliver Twist, which is published, again, in installments in 1838. This is about a miserable orphan boy stuck in a workhouse, which, if that sounds familiar, it is! Dickens drew on his own experiences to write this. It's actually been adapted into a musical called Oliver, which was then adapted into a movie version that I never saw - but I watched the preview a ton of times on Disney VHS. After that, there were several more novels, including Nicholas Nickleby and The Old Curiosity Shop. In 1842, Dickens goes to America. He comments on a variety of stuff. He really throws his opinion out there important things, like condemning slavery, and losing battles, like fighting the rampant piracy of his novels. Can you imagine pirating books instead of music? Although, people do pirate Kindle editions - rebel nerds! I don't know. Dickens hated that people were making illegal copies of his books and he wasn't getting paid. Now, ironically, he's all over the Internet because it's public domain. He's probably rolling over in his grave about that. 'Dem's the breaks! 'Dem's the berries!

Christmas Novels and David Copperfield


Back in England, he completed A Christmas Carol in 1843, and it was a special Christmas book. You're probably familiar with this one. It's about a guy named Ebenezer Scrooge, and there are three ghosts. You've probably seen A Muppet Christmas Carol or heard someone say 'God Bless us, everyone' - that's all from this. You know how people always complain about Christmas starting in June? Christmas wasn't always like that; it wasn't always a months-long shebang, with parties, TV specials, Mariah Carey and the movie Love Actually (which I hate, but I watch every year). It was A Christmas Carol that started all of this off. It sparked interest in Christmas as this real festive holiday in Britain and in the U.S. It was all getting going at the same time, the whole decorating a Christmas tree thing, the month-long celebration. If they had TV, they'd probably be producing those annoying Gap Christmas commercials. We have Charles Dickens to thank for all of this. So, thank you, Charles Dickens! I'm sounding a lot like Scrooge right now, aren't I? Dickens wrote four more Christmas novels actually, but we're not going to talk about those because we're sick of Christmas already.

In 1849, he published David Copperfield, which is his most directly autobiographical novel. It's about his days training to be the world's greatest magician no, it's not! Not that David Copperfield. It's just about a guy; he has many adventures. He meets lots of interesting people. There's not any magic. I just said that to get you interested in it.

Dickens' Late Life and Works


Bleak House (1853) and Hard Times (1854); this is not sounding so fun anymore, right? You couldn't even pretend that there was magic in those. I jest. Bleak House actually is one of his more popular novels. It's got a lot of interesting characters and cool interwoven subplots. It's also a critique of the British judicial system, so you can make your own judgments about how interesting that would be to you. In 1857, Dickens was starring in a play he'd written called The Frozen Deep, and he fell in love with Ellen Ternan, who was one of the actresses who was playing opposite him. How did he have the time to fall in love while acting in a play he'd written and writing all this other stuff? I don't know; I guess he had his priorities straight. Even worse than all that - he was 45, and she was 18. You may have forgotten about his wife and their ten children, but he had her, too. This was kind of not all that nice. He got totally busted when a jeweler delivered a gold bracelet to his wife that had a note from Dickens to Ellen, his mistress. Which is totally what happens in Love Actually, which is weird that now I've mentioned it twice in a video, even though I don't like it very much. So, he got separated from his wife. They didn't get divorced because you couldn't do that then (especially if you were famous). But Dickens would go on to support Ellen for the rest of his life, and they traveled around together. It probably annoyed the hell out of his wife. With his new muse, Dickens' completed two of his really biggest hits. He published Great Expectations in 1861 and A Tale of Two Cities in 1859. Even if you've never read A Tale of Two Cities, you probably know how it starts: 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.' The novel is set in wait for it, two cities! That should be a quiz question: how many cities is A Tale of Two cities set in? It's London and Paris (the two cities mentioned in the title) during the French Revolution. The plot deals with the good and the evil that came from the overthrowing of the French aristocracy. Best of times, worst of times - he's letting you know right from the beginning that we're dealing in opposites. We have a whole lesson on that; we'll talk more about A Tale of Two Cities. Great Expectations is about an orphan named Pip - again, there's those orphans - who is helping out a convict. So, that is a heartwarming story. He falls in love with a girl named Estella, who is being taken care of by this strange old woman named Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham lives in a decaying old mansion, wearing a wedding dress and generally being weird. I've got a video on that one too, so we can learn more about that together later. Fun fact about Great Expectations is that Pip was Daniel Radcliffe's (from Harry Potter) first film/TV role. That's how he got his start and how he got discovered to be Harry! Dickens was pretty prolific for a while, it declined around 1865. On June 9th of that year, he was in an almost deadly train accident. It was deadly for a lot of people. All these cars plunged off a bridge - his didn't - but he was rattled by that. He wrote a little ghost story about it called The Signal-Man. Then, five years later to the day, he died. It was 1870, and he was one of the most popular authors in Victorian England at the time.

Literary Style

We'll dive more into individual styles and themes as we go. As I mentioned, we're going to discuss several of these novels in-depth. The important thing to know about Dickens - I mentioned this in regards to a couple of the books - most of his works were published serially, which means that they were published in sections in magazines as he wrote them - like TV shows episodes. Again, they didn't have TV, so they had to make do with what they had. This kind of publication schedule can really change how you conceive of a novel and how it evolves. That's something important to keep in mind with regard to his stuff. It's also important that he loved a good satire. He liked to comment on social issues, particularly class and poverty. His satire can be funny, but it can also be kind of alarming. He was really into railing against social conditions, especially in factories and the things that he had experienced. For upper class readers, this shocked them. He really opened the door on a lot of this stuff that was going on. He also combines awful, harrowing realism - like poor Oliver Twist and his early life - alongside very idealized things as well - like the transformation of Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Also, he's not shy to be sentimental. Oliver Twist is ridiculously sentimental. The character is good; he's so pure; he's kind of virtuous to the point being obnoxious. This is not something that Dickens is trying to avoid. You can find some fault with Oliver and characters like him, but Dickens has also got some great characters. Whether they're realistic, complex or caricatures, he's got great names in particular. He's got the Artful Dodger, Inspector Bucket, Martin Chuzzlewit, Mrs. Snagsby, Mr. Fezziwig, Uriah Heep - these are great names! These are awesome. You'll have those to look forward to as you enter the wild world of Charles Dickens.

Dickens' French Revolution Novel


'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times' - it's A Tale of Two Cities! You probably know the novel's opening lines because they were super famous, and now you're going to know what the rest of the novel is. So let's get started. It was originally published in 1859. This is a historical novel. It's set in London and Paris, which are the two cities - you're learning stuff already. Before and during the French Revolution is when this is set. There have been over two hundred million copies of the novel that have been sold, which is a ton, and it's really one of the biggest single-volume novels ever. To compare, there have been four hundred million copies of the Harry Potter series sold, but that's for all seven books combined, so this is a lot of copies - although Tale of Two Cities has been around quite a bit longer, so I guess you take that into account.

Major Characters
Major characters in this - you'd think that a Dickens novel about the French Revolution would be loaded with characters who are all super-important, but it's actually not so bad. There's only a handful of people who are really, really important that you need to know about. If there are other people who crop up we'll go into them briefly when they arrive. We're going to go in the order in which they appear. First we've got Jarvis Lorry, who's really only important in the beginning. He's kind of an older businessman. He's a moral person, he's a good friend and he's a nice guy. We've got Dr. Manette and Lucie Manette. Dr. Manette is a noted physician; he's a doctor and a loving father. Lucy Manette is his daughter. We've got Monsieur and Madame Defarge, who are from the French side of things, as you might be able to tell from their names. They're revolutionaries; they also own a wine shop - they're kind of French multitaskers. Monsieur Defarge is a leader, kind and a nice guy. His wife is kind of ruthless. She's also a

knitter. She's kind of a ruthless knitter - they exist. Throughout the book she's knitting a list of who should die in the Revolution, which is something you will probably not see on Etsy any time soon. Charles Darnay - we're just getting to him, but he's actually one of the main protagonists. He's sympathetic to the Revolution, he's a nice guy, he's honest, he's fearless. These two traits get him in trouble. Sydney Carton's next; he's a lawyer and a hot mess. He's an alcoholic. He kind of knows that his life has been a waste. He wants to do more with himself but he doesn't really quite know how. We've got Marquis Evremonde, who is the face of the French aristocracy. He thinks that the French peasants are just awful. He thinks they're less than human and not worth looking at. He's clearly not a good guy in this book.

Book 1: Recalled to Life


Alright, with the main characters out of the way - again, if there are others we'll introduce them as we go along - let's get to the story. Tale of Two Cities is split into three books, which are just larger segments of chapters essentially. The first book is called 'Recalled to Life' and it opens in England in 1775. Jarvis Lorry - remember that guy I said would only be important in the beginning; this is his star turn - is traveling by train and he meets Lucie Manette, who thinks that her famous doctor father is dead. But Lorry says no, no, he's not dead; he's just spent 18 years in the Bastille, which is a famous French prison. He's out now and is being protected by the Defarges, who are that couple I mentioned in the character list.

The Defarges and their revolutionary friends use the codename Jacques, which is a play on the Jacobins, who were an actual revolutionary group. So Lorry and Lucie go to France, but unfortunately Dr. Manette has gone mad in prison, and now he just makes shoes all day - that's how his madness manifests itself. In prison this kind of
No longer in prison, Dr. Manette is being protected by the Defarges.

took his mind off all the torture all around him, but now he's just a little nuts. He

doesn't recognize his daughter at first, which is sad for her, but then her hair and her eyes remind him of his wife. He realizes what's going on and they decide to take him back to England with them to get well.

Book 2: The Golden Thread


Book Two is called 'The Golden Thread,' and this jumps ahead five years, so now it's 1780, and Charles Darnay, who we meet, is on trial for treason for allegedly giving info to the French about British troops in North America, because also what's going on at the same time is the Revolutionary War - it's that time of the 1700s. His lawyer is not doing such a great job defending him, so the lawyer's otherwise pretty indifferent and alcoholic partner Sidney Carton jumps in and says 'hey, wait a second, I look a lot like Darnay,' which then compromises the eyewitness testimony and actually ends up getting him off the charges. It's kind of random but it works great. It's kind of like when Dr. House sort of swoops in or emerges from a drug-induced haze to diagnose the patient with lupus. It's always lupus.

So that's what's going on in England. Now we go back to France and we learn that the carriage of the Marquis Evremonde - remember that kind of awful upper-class French dude - strikes and kills a peasant's baby, which is sad. The Marquis just tosses a coin for compensation. Defarge witnesses this and kind of comforts the peasants, and then someone tosses a coin back at the Marquis, which really ticks him off. That night the Marquis is visited by his nephew; it turns out to be Darnay. What? Who saw that coming? I didn't. Darnay apparently changed his name to hide his past because he's renouncing his aristocratic family. Darnay is the guy we saw on trial for treason and Carton got him off. It's kind of like Darth Vader in reverse - he went from the dark side to the light side I guess. Unlike the Marquis, he actually does care about the peasant class and thinks they're not terrible people. Later that night the peasant whose child was killed shows up and murders the Marquis, leaving a note signed 'Jacques' so we know that it's that revolutionary group.

So a year later Darnay wants to marry Lucie. Lucie's an eligible young woman and Darnay is an upstanding young man. He gets permission from Dr. Manette. The problem is he hasn't told Dr. Manette that he was from an aristocratic French family, and we can see why this might be a problem - he'd be walking up to Dr. Manette and saying 'by the way, remember those French aristocrats who locked you up
The peasant whose child was killed shows up and murders the Marquis.

in the Bastille and drove you crazy? I'm one of 'em!' That wouldn't really go over that well. Sidney Carton, alcoholic lawyer guy who's kind of a mess, also loves Lucie, and he pledges that he is going to become a better person and do anything in order to have her, so that kind of sets up a conflict there. Darnay's past is inevitably revealed on the day of the wedding. Dr. Manette freaks out and starts making shoes again because that seems to be what he does when he freaks out. No one tells Lucie, so the wedding goes ahead anyway, and Manette gets over it after awhile. They take away his shoemaking supplies and that seems to do the trick. Now we get to the storming of the Bastille, an iconic event from the French Revolution that happens on July 14, 1789. The Defarges are there, and Monsieur Defarge mysteriously heads for Dr. Manette's old cell. We don't really know what's going on here, but he's looking around in there. Now we jump ahead again to 1792. Darnay gets a letter from a guy who worked for his family's estate. The guy's now in prison and he wants Darnay's help. Darnay is an honorable man, so he decides to go to Paris and see what he can do. This is a horrible mistake.

Book 3: The Track of a Storm


Now we're in Book 3. This is called 'The Track of a Storm.' Big mistake. Darnay is immediately arrested for emigrating. He spends almost a year in prison. It seems like this whole book is people going to jail. He eventually gets a trial. Dr. Manette shows up and pleads for his son-in-law. 'No, don't throw him in jail!' He

manages to get him acquitted, but then Darnay is arrested the same night. Now there are new charges.
The storming of the Bastille was an iconic French Revolution event that occurred on July 14, 1789.

What are they?

It turns out that when Defarge went to Manette's cell he got a letter that explained why Manette had been imprisoned in the first place. You might have wondered that - why was he in the Bastille for 18 years? We find out why. Way back in 1757, so a long time back, Darnay's father and his uncle, who's that Marquis guy, called on Dr. Manette for medical help because there was a sick peasant woman and her injured brother. Turns out what had happened is that one of them had actually raped the woman, killed her husband, and stabbed the brother, which is not so nice of them. Manette couldn't save them, and then he couldn't be bribed to keep quiet, and so they had him arrested and tossed in the Bastille. Darnay's family were directly responsible for Manette being imprisoned, and now since Darnay is actually the next in line to be the Marquis - now that the Marquis has been murdered - the crime is determined to now be on his shoulders, even though Darnay has nothing to do with it; he's totally innocent. This is what's happening in France; they're looking for aristocrats to punish because that's the tenor of the Revolution. So that night Carton is at Defarge's wine shop and hears Madame Defarge plotting to get Lucie and her and Darnay's daughter killed. Why? Because it turns out that Madame Defarge is the surviving sibling of the peasants that were raped and killed, so she's got a personal vendetta against Darnay and anyone associated with him. So Carton doesn't really know what to do. He loves Lucie; he doesn't want her or her daughter to get killed. So what he does is he decides to go to Darnay, who's in prison; he drugs him and then he swaps places with him because, if you remember from the very beginning, they look alike. That was foreshadowing; that was telling us what might happen at the end.

Darnay and Lucie make it back to England and Carton is killed by the guillotine. It's a really selfless act; he's sacrificing himself for them. If you remember from the beginning, he wanted to give his life meaning; that was something he was really looking to do, because he was an alcoholic and he didn't really know what he was doing. In this way he does give his life meaning by sacrificing himself for Lucie and her child, and that's how it ends: kind of sad but hopeful and good.
Carton switches places with Darnay, whom he resembles.

Major Themes

What are our major themes of this novel? We've got resurrection, which is kind of a main theme. Remember the first book is called 'Recalled to Life,' and you might notice how it kind of bookends the novel. Dr. Manette is thought to be dead but then is actually alive, and then Carton's sacrifice resurrects his life's purpose and Darnay's actual life (and Lucie's life as well, which was not going to be around much longer). Duality is also a real key theme; this is clear from the opening lines of the book - 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.' Dickens goes on in that speech to list a whole bunch of other opposites. Right from the beginning there's good, there's evil, there's darkness, there's light. This is tied up with the resurrection theme. Several of these characters live dual lives. Darnay is the most obvious example, but there's also Dr. Manette, who kind of alternates between brilliant physician and mad shoemaker. There's also the fact that Darnay and Carton look alike; there's a German word for this called 'doppelganger,' which literally means 'double-goer,' but it just means someone who looks like you. Finally, the theme of social justice is really a big one. You can't talk about the French Revolution without talking about social justice, because that's what it's all about. Dickens obviously has no love for the French aristocracy; he does not characterize them in a nice light - they are rapists and murderers essentially. But he's also not purely sympathetic to the revolutionaries either. They brought the Reign of Terror; they executed lots of people, which is symbolized by Darnay's conviction for something that he really had nothing to do with. So right and wrong on both sides is what we get out of Tale of Two Cities. Also, it's worth pointing out that while Dickens is often very funny, this book is not. This is really one of his most serious works. There's really not a lot of comic relief. But it's also one of his, at least in my opinion, more emotionally satisfying books and one of his least sentimental, I would say. But again, that's a matter of opinion. And that's Tale of Two Cities.

Introduction to the Novel


If you've never read Great Expectations, you've probably encountered it in some form or another because Dickens is everywhere. There've been tons of movie adaptations - there's one with Alec Guinness, one with Gwyneth Paltrow; Daniel Radcliffe (that's the guy who plays Harry Potter) got his acting start playing Pip in a movie adaptation of Great Expectations - but you can learn everything you need to know about it in less time than it will take you to watch any of those movies, and I am certainly just as entertaining as Gwyneth and young Daniel Radcliffe. So here we go! The novel was published serially from 1860 to 1861. This just means that chapters usually end without resolution; he was trying to make it a cliffhanger so you'd buy the next issue of the magazine. It's kind of like Lost, where they force you to watch the next episode because they end with dramatic music and you don't know who's in the hatch and all of that. Luckily, Great Expectations doesn't disappoint you and make you cry like the end of Lost does because it doesn't wrap everything up in a neat bow like they promised you - but anyway.

Major Characters
Major characters in Great Expectations: the first is Pip, who I mentioned before - the young Daniel Radcliffe character. Since the novel is a Bildungsroman, which is just following along a character's development as he gets older, Pip is the guy that the Bildungsroman is about, so he's kind of the main character. We learn early on that he's passionate and idealistic and he's really, really moral. He's always looking to improve himself in a social kind of way and also in a moral way.

Next, we've got the convict, who is also known as Magwitch, which is another one of those awesome Dickensian names. He's kind of an interesting figure. He's a convict, as you might have guessed from his title - he's on the run from the law - but he also does some really good things that we're going to talk about later, so he's a morally ambiguous kind of character. There's Miss Havisham, who kind of seems like a crazy person when we meet her. She hangs out in her old wedding dress because she got abandoned at the altar. Her wedding didn't happen, so she basically hangs around in her old dress, which is kind of like an episode of 30 Rock - well, I guess that's when she buys her dress without having a wedding in mind, but it's the same kind of idea. There's rotting food and memories and she's just a weird character. She hangs out in a room where all the clocks are stopped at 20 to 9:00, which was the moment she found out that her fianc left her; she only wears one shoe because she was only wearing one shoe at the time. She's kind of a crazy person. But she's the guardian of Estella, who is someone with whom Pip is infatuated. He loves Estella. She lives this kind of upper-class life; she's beautiful, she's cold and manipulative, kind of like Gwyneth Paltrow if you want to typecast things.

There're other characters that I'm going to talk about as we go along, but these are kind of the most important ones, the ones that are going to crop up again and again, and I don't want to have to keep reintroducing them.

Major Themes
Before we get to the plot - I'm keeping you on the edge of your seat - we're going to talk about one
Major characters in Great Expectations

more thing, which is major themes, because this is something we're going to introduce and then you

can see how they unfold as the novel goes forward. I mentioned before that it's a Bildungsroman, and that's important because Pip - who, again, is the main character - is full of ambition, and that really propels him through his life. He has - wait for it - great expectations for himself and for what his life is going to be. So his moral development is really central to the book. Like any good Bildungsroman, he has to develop and change as it goes along. He has a really strong conscience, and he's always, always, always worrying about acting immorally because he recognizes that immoral behavior is not good, leads to punishment, and could prevent him from reaching his goals - all bad things. So that's one sort of key thing that we're going to look at. The other is a huge deal in this book: social class. Dickens portrays people from every stratum of Victorian England's class system, and Pip always wants to ascend the social latter; that's one of his goals. It's important to think about this issue of class in the context of when the book was written. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, class was who you were born as and that was basically it. You were either born into the aristocracy or you weren't, and that was kind of how it broke down: there's aristocracy and then there's everybody else. But by the time Dickens wrote Great Expectations, the world was actually changing quite a bit, and by this point you could achieve wealth and status through your work, which is more similar to the world that we know today.

Now we basically take for granted that if you work hard and you go to school and do all the right things, you can climb the social ladder even if you're born into poverty, which is kind of one of the tenets of America in a way - that's the American Dream, that you can achieve what you want through hard work, and it doesn't matter what class you're born into. But even in the early days of America, all the presidents were rich guys. Now you get someone like Obama, who had difficulties and hardships growing up, and now he's president. So the world that Dickens is telling us about is one that's kind of in transition from a prior system - where it was pretty much who you were when you were born - to the current system where you can fight your way up, but people are figuring out what the best way is to do that and what sort of new challenges are associated with that kind of world.

Plot Summary
So, finally, we're going to get to the story - I know you've been waiting patiently. The novel opens fairly ominously. Pip is hanging out in a cemetery. He's a young orphan and he's looking at his parents' tombstones, which is extra sad. And as he's doing this - as he's wallowing in his sadness - an escaped convict appears and orders Pip to find him some food and also a file so he can file his shackles off. At this time, Pip is living with his sister, who's not so nice (kind of abusive) and her husband, whose name is Joe. When the convict tells him to go get food he runs and he gets some food and the file and brings it to the convict. He briefly runs into a second convict, which I only mention because it will be important later - for now, just know that he runs into another guy who's also escaped from jail. And here's our first example of Pip's sterling character. He's terrified of the convict - I think as you would be if you're hanging out in a graveyard and some man in shackles jumped out at you and demanded food - but Pip honors his promise to help the convict. That's important to him. But helping out the convict kind of leads to a guilty conscience, because he expects to be arrested for doing that, especially after he learns that the convict was found by the police shortly after Pip helped him. So he gets a little worried that maybe he's going to get taken down by this guy. A while later, Pip's uncle takes him to Satis House, which is where Miss Havisham lives - remember, crazy lady in a wedding dress, all the clocks set to the same time - and Pip's uncle and his sister think that Miss Havisham, who is quite wealthy, will make Pip rich as well - and by extension them, so that's their genius plan, and so they send him there. Miss Havisham just wants someone to play with Estella, so that's where Pip falls into all of this. Of course he falls in love with Estella, because that's just what little kids do, I guess. She's kind of not that happy about having to play with a boy who's not of high social status. Again, kind of imagine Gwyneth Paltrow having to go to Walmart - I don't think they sell brick pizza ovens or whatever the stuff is she advertises on her blog.

Regular playdates at Satis House unfortunately do not lead to fortune for Pip; instead, Miss Havisham ends up helping him become an apprentice for Joe. There's this kind of sweet country girl named Biddy, which is kind of a horrible name, who kind of might be into Pip, but he's still got his sights set on the high-class Estella. Things aren't going all that well for Pip at this point.
Satis House is the home of Miss Havisham

But then things take an unexpected turn for the better when a lawyer turns up and tells Pip that a mysterious benefactor has given him a ton of money. He has to go to London and become a gentleman that's what he's supposed to do with the money. Pip thinks the benefactor is probably Miss Havisham, which makes sense; she's the only person that he knows who seems to have any money, so he goes to London. This process of becoming a gentleman really ends up being a process of becoming a jerk. It's that age-old saying: mo' money, mo' problems. He's kind of rude to Joe, who's really been nothing but nice to him, and he starts running up some debts which, again, seems to be what happens once you have a little taste of what money is. One night, the convict that Pip helped - remember the guy from the graveyard - turns up. He reveals that actually he is the benefactor. Now we learn that his name was Magwitch - again, one of those awesome Dickensian names; he probably didn't like being just referred to as 'the convict' all this time. You might be wondering - he's an escaped convict who got rearrested; how did he get so much money? It turns out that he was so affected by being helped by Pip - he was so moved by that - that he then spent his life making a fortune so he could help Pip become a gentleman. Don't we all wish the world revolved around us in that way? I guess you just need to transport yourself to a Dickens novel and make yourself the main character, and everyone will just want to help you with stuff. So Pip feels kind of bad about this, feels a little guilty, but Magwitch is still a convict, and Pip decides to help him again - he couldn't really say no because of the whole 'giving him money and a new life' thing. But remember when I said you should remember the second convict? This is where he comes in. That guy was actually named Compeyson - which is a silly name - and it turns out that he is the guy who abandoned Miss Havisham. Again, it's a very small world in Dickensian London. All along, Compeyson was just conning Miss Havisham out of her money, which is sad; she's obviously torn up about it. Magwitch was just a criminal who worked for him, so they were arrested together during all of this. Like any good con man, Compeyson adapts to the situation, and so now he's helping the police find Magwitch; he's kind of traitorous. Now he's really turned into a real villain. He messed up Miss Havisham; now he's after Magwitch, who's Pip's benefactor. Then we get another really big reveal - how small is this world? It turns out Magwitch is actually Estella's father. What? So she wasn't born rich, and Miss Havisham just raised her to break men's hearts as her revenge for being dumped at the altar. Ultimately it turns out that Pip was brought in for Estella to practice on, which is kind of sick and seems awful of both Miss Havisham and Estella. Anyway, Miss Havisham repents and kind of apologizes to Pip - 'I'm sorry I did this' - after Estella marries someone else; she marries Bentley Drummle, who's kind of a rich jerk with an awesome British name: Bentley. So that was kind of nuts - all of those people turned out to be related to each other. Crazy. Next, we're going to get some action - finally. Pip's trying to help Magwitch escape from London because Magwitch is still a convict. There are fight scenes with characters that are way too minor for me to mention. Pip almost gets killed, then doesn't; Compeyson turns up and Magwitch actually kills him, which he totally deserves for being really nasty to Miss Havisham and to Magwitch. Magwitch is eventually arrested and given the death penalty, which is sad because he didn't seem like that bad of a guy. Pip gets sick, which keeps him from prison. Joe - remember nice Joe who Pip was an apprentice to? - Joe's wife died, so he turns up briefly. He's really kind-hearted and he cares for Pip and that's nice, and now we start realizing that maybe the best people aren't upper class after all because Joe is awfully nice. Pip's beginning to see that. He decides he's going to rush home and marry Biddy, who I guess he figures has been waiting for him all this time. Remember Biddy; she was just around? Pip assumes that she'll marry him, but then Joe marries her first, so I don't know who saw that

coming - I sure didn't! And seeing no other options, Pip decides to take a job outside of England and just goes off and leaves for 11 years.

The Two Endings


At this point, the novel actually has two separate endings. There's the original ending and there's the revised ending. The revised ending is the one that you would read today if you picked up a book and wanted to read Great Expectations, which I recommend, so we're going to start with that. Revised ending: Pip returns to England and heads back to Satis House. All that's left is this kind of ruined garden that's gone into disrepair, and Pip finds Estella wandering around. It turns out her husband has died. Then Pip and Estella kind of reconcile and leave the garden hand-in-hand, maybe never to be apart again? That's kind of the implication, which sounds awesome. That sounds like a nice, lovely, happy ending. Well, Dickens' original ending was not that. Dickens originally had Pip encountering Estella in London when he comes back. She actually remarried after her husband's death. They talk briefly and then they just go their separate ways. Critics argue that the original ending - the one I just described, where he doesn't end up with Estella - actually probably fits the book a little better because to complete Pip's development he really can't be still pining for Estella. She still represents this kind of upper-class ideal that has been thoroughly debunked by this point. It's kind of like people wanted a happy, sappy ending, and Dickens was a man of the people - he wanted to give them what they wanted - so he just changed it for them and made it happy in the end. It's kind of like how they changed the ending of I Am Legend, that Will Smith movie instead of helping them, he blows them up. That wasn't how it originally was. Remember the Jennifer Aniston movie The Break-Up? Originally they were actually going to break up and that was it, but then they changed the ending so that they might get back together because the original was just too depressing. That's what happened to Charles Dickens in Great Expectations.

Dickens' Bildungsroman
ALAKAZAM! It's time for 'David Copperfield'! Not the magician, the Charles Dickens book. I hope you are not disappointed. It was originally published in 1850, after first appearing serially, like most of Charles Dickens' works. No, that is not in the form of a serial. That just means published chapter by chapter in a magazine. Dickens noted that this novel was special to him. He said, '...like many fond parents, I have in my heart of hearts a favourite child.' Actually, I'm not sure that is like many fond parents. I thought you weren't supposed to have favorite kids. Anyway, he goes on. He says, 'And his name is David Copperfield.' This book - it's a coming of age novel. It's a bildungsroman. That's just another name for that. It's when a title character or a main character - we follow along in his development from childhood to adulthood. Along the way, he loses his youthful naivet, affirms his moral integrity and deals with some crazy stuff. Otherwise it wouldn't be an interesting book. People often call this novel Dickens' most autobiographical work. It's not really his story, but there are a lot of parallels, and we're going to talk about them as we go along. You should also note that David Copperfield's initials (D.C.) are Dickens' initials backwards (C.D.). Is that significant? I don't know. Maybe. Even if this novel isn't completely autobiographical (And it's not. You'll see that it's not.), Dickens really had a good time taking things from his own life and incorporating them into the protagonist's story. Most of Dickens' novels feature characters and events that come from his own experience; few have quite as personal a connection as David Copperfield.

Major Characters

Let's talk characters. David Copperfield is the star of this book because he's also the title character. He's honest and good-natured. He's a little too trusting, at least early on. That's kind of a flaw. As you'd expect in a book about a trusting, good-natured character, the story is full of good and bad people who influence his life because he is very influenceable. This isn't a novel that really has much to do with in the way of moral ambiguity, so we're going to divide up the remaining characters into the good, the bad and the minor, who you should just know who they are. First, the good: We've got Peggotty, who was David's nurse when he was young. She's kind of a mother figure to David, which is a key thing in the novel. David loses his actual mother pretty early on, but others kind of take her place. There's a lot of mother figures here.

Next is Mr. Micawber, who might be modeled on Dickens' own father. Dickens' father faced debt problems but always treated Dickens really well. Micawber also has debt problems but is ultimately a pretty good person and very loyal to David. We've got Betsey Trotwood, who is David's aunt. She's also a good character. Like Peggotty, she plays a motherly role for David.
Peggotty was kind of a mother figure to David.

We've got Agnes Wickfield, who is a lifelong friend (and maybe more than friend?) of David's. She's

always there to help out. Those are the good people. Next, we're going to talk about the villains, who are often a bit more fun in Dickens' books. We get not one, not two but three villains, so this is an extra special book. We've got Mr. Murdstone, who's David's stepfather. You might hear 'murder' in his name? Right? Murdstone. That's good because he's a violent and cruel man. He is not a good guy. You shouldn't trust a guy who is named after murder. We've got James Steerforth, who is supposedly a friend of David's, although Steerforth is manipulative and ends up taking advantage of David and a whole bunch of other people. You can also hear his character in his name. He 'steers forth' those around him. He's always controlling them based on his desires, not really based on theirs. Then we've got Uriah Heep, who is not just a band, but a Dickens villain. He's probably worst of all. He's evil throughout the novel. He's always conning people. He's always pretending to be this humble, moral guy. He's not. He's a heap of trouble. Finally, we're going to talk about a few minor characters. We've got Dora Spenlow, who's kind of child-like and spoiled. David still loves her. We've also got Little Em'ly and Ham. Little Em'ly is Peggotty's niece. Ham is a sailor, who is, for a while, Little Em'ly's fianc.

Then, there's Dr. and Mrs. Strong. They're good people. They play a key role in David's development. We'll get to them a little bit later, what they do.

Plot Summary
The novel's narrated by David as a grown man, reflecting back on his life. When he was very young, things were going well. He lived with his mother. He lived with Peggotty, his nurse. Then his mother married Mr. Murdstone, who comes along with his sister. You're really just asking for trouble if you marry someone named Murdstone. That's on David's mother. The Murdstones are really cruel to David. After one too many beatings by Mr. Murdstone, David bites him, which gets him sent away to boarding school, which seems to be the common punishment in Victorian novels. You get sent away. That's also what they threatened Harry with in the beginning of Harry Potter - sent away to the Stonewall School for Boys.

This school is Salem House. He makes a couple of friends there, including James Steerforth, who you remember was classed with the bad guys. David foolishly trusts and idolizes him. He really shouldn't. Steerforth takes advantage of David's innocence as he looks to gain power at the school. David returns home when his mother dies, which is very sad. Mr. Murdstone sends David to a workhouse in London, which is just like what happened to Dickens when his father got into debt and his whole family had to go with to debtor's prison. While David is there, his caretaker, Mr. Micawber, develops debt problems and also ends up in debtor's prison. So, again, this is where it mimics Charles Dicken's own life. Dickens was sent because his father went to debtor's prison. David's sent, and then his caretaker is out of the picture. He's suddenly without a guardian, so he decides to run away. He finds his late father's sister, Betsey Trotwood - remember that's his aunt. This is a definite twist from Dickens' life. After Dickens' family emerged from debtor's prison, he was sent back to the workhouse by his mother, which gave him lifelong mommy issues and also with women in general. Here, he adds a strong mother figure in Miss Betsey on top of Peggotty. Although, neither of these women is his actual mother, whom Dickens kills off early on, so maybe he's still got mommy issues.
Mr. Murdstone sends David to Salem House, a school for boys.

Miss Betsey sends David to a school run by Dr. Strong - remember I mentioned is one of the minor figures. He lives with Mr. Wickfield and his daughter, Agnes, who I also mentioned is a good character. David and Agnes become good friends. The Wickfields have another boarder who's that awful guy Uriah Heep.

Miss Betsey sends David to a school run by Dr. Strong.

Throughout the novel, characters cycle in and out of David's life. After graduating, he goes and

hangs out with Steerforth for a little bit. He goes and hangs out with Peggotty and her family. There he meets Little Em'ly, who is engaged to Ham, but she ends up running away with Steerforth, which is such a scandal because you know that Steerforth's bad news. David decides to pursue a career as a proctor, which is another word for a lawyer. He apprentices at a law firm and falls in love with Dora, who's the daughter of one of the lawyers. At this point, Uriah Heep (bad guy), a bunch of his general misdeeds start to accumulate. Of course a guy named Uriah Heep has got misdeeds. He uses his cons to get a bunch of folks in financial trouble, including Miss Betsey, Mr. Wickfield and Mr. Micawber. He's got a lot of influence, I guess. Because that isn't enough, he also convinces people that Mrs. Strong, who's the wife of Dr. Strong who runs David's school, is cheating on her husband. Uriah's so manipulative and David's still so nave that he manages to make David feel like the jerk in all of this. Things are not going well. David eventually goes on to marry Dora, the lawyer's daughter at the firm he was working at. She's kind of a lousy housewife, but he loves her. There's hope for all of us. When Mrs. Strong's non-infidelity comes out - the fact that she was not cheating on her husband and all of that was just a big lie - their marriage is reconciled. David looks at this, and he realizes how important a marriage is that is built on respect, equality and devotion is. This is a key theme. It's interesting because Dickens would actually leave his own wife for an actress but not until several years after he wrote this book. So, maybe he had a change of heart about marriage and its importance.

David finds out that, inevitably, Steerforth has abandoned Little Em'ly. So, that's not so good. In the wake of this, a bunch of characters, including Little Em'ly and Mr. Micawber, decide to move to Australia. I guess they want to go hang out with Crocodile Dundee. I don't know. They decide to go. Before Mr. Micawber goes, he exposes Uriah Heep's frauds and Uriah ends up in prison. Hooray! The bad are getting what they deserve. After a while, Dora gets sick and dies. I guess not housewife-ing can do that to you. Steerforth is on a ship wrecked. It seems like the bad characters are getting their comeuppance, which as they should in any good melodramatic novel. David decides he's going to travel. He hangs out in Switzerland. He's deciding how to be a better person. He gets a letter from Agnes. Remember Agnes, his old friend? He realizes he loves her, and it turns out she secretly loved him all this time. They get married and have a bunch of kids. And that's the end. David Copperfield at the end is a mature, happy and successful writer. Just like Charles Dickens!
Uriah Heep is a financial con-man.

Oliver Twist Background


Oliver Twist is Charles Dickens' second novel. Like many of his books, it was first published in monthly installments. Its first installment came out in 1837, and its final chapters eventually came out in 1839. It is a gritty, realistic novel that is full of Dickens' trademark satire on class and whatnot. Even if you haven't read it, you've probably seen one of the dozen or so movies based on it. Or maybe you saw Oliver & Company, the kind of awful, kind of wonderful Disney cartoon starring Joey Lawrence of Blossom fame and Billy Joel of, uh, Billy Joel fame. That's a great movie. It's from Dickens' paid-by-the-word period, so he does not skimp on the language. He's a bit wordy in this one. Nevertheless, it was a huge hit and solidified his growing reputation as a very good writer.

Characters
We're going to go over the main characters first. We've got Oliver Twist (obviously, because that's the name of the book). His mother dies shortly after giving birth to him, so he's an orphan. He's nine when the main story begins. He's nave, innocent and easily taken advantage of. He's our protagonist, and he's one of those protagonists where it's really more about the things that are done to him than what he actually does (kind of like Bella Swan of Twilight in a lot of ways). So, he's good. He's virtuous. Next, we get a bunch of despicable people who are a lot more interesting. We've got Mr. Bumble, who, despite the cheerful-sounding name, is an awful person. He's a church official at the workhouse where Oliver has to live. Dickens makes him unlikable in pretty much every way, from his arrogance to his mistreatment of the boys. He's just an awful person. Next, we've got Fagin, who is a career criminal. He takes in homeless boys, and he employs them as pickpockets. He's kind of like a 19th-century version of Stringer Bell if you watch The Wire. He pulls the 'strings' (ha, ha, pun) and is always a step or two removed from the crimes themselves, so he can't get thrown in jail. Fagin is Jewish and - because of a bunch of negative stereotypes that Dickens employs pretty regularly criticized as a very anti-Semitic portrayal of a character. That's Fagin. One of his best pickpockets is a guy named Jack Dawkins, who's also known as the Artful Dodger. He's a really fun character. He dresses and talks like an adult even though he's actually not any older than Oliver. We've got Bill Sikes and Nancy, who are two lovers, and they're associates of Fagin. Sikes is a nasty, violent criminal. Nancy graduated from being one of the pickpockets to being a prostitute, so that's really nice. They're not the best, most charming couple that you can imagine. There's a guy named Monks, who is another bad guy. There are a lot of bad guys in this book. He partners with Fagin. He's violent and angry, a lot like Sikes. There's something mysterious about him; we don't know what it is. We do figure it out, and I will tell you eventually, but I'm just going to hang that out there for suspense. There are some good people too. There's a guy named Mr. Brownlow. He's wise and wealthy. There's Rose, who is just your typical perfect, virtuous young woman. She's taken care of by the wealthy Mrs. Maylie. And, that is it for key people, so there are a lot more villains than there are good people, but that's why it's interesting. (None of them are animals, though, which you might have learned from Disney. This is not a beast fable!)

Plot
The novel starts with Oliver in a workhouse. Basically, his workhouse is part orphanage, part sweatshop. (It's like Kamp Krusty from The Simpsons or the old folks' home in Happy Gilmore, except worse.) The kids

are fed gruel, which is a really thin, nasty porridge, but not that much. They're always hungry. One day, Oliver and several boys draw lots to see who's going to have to ask for extra gruel. Oliver loses, so he has to be the one to ask. This leads to the famous line I enacted previously: 'Please, sir, I want some more.' In the movie version at least, the guy is like 'More? He wants more?' and he gets all upset, and then, of course, they break into song. That's not what happens in the book. In the book he just doesn't get any more. Mr. Bumble offers five pounds for anyone to take Oliver away from the workhouse. Mr. Sowerberry, who's an undertaker, takes Oliver on as an apprentice. Unfortunately, another apprentice ends up bullying Oliver, saying all sorts of mean things about his mother. Oliver lashes out, things go south pretty quickly with the Sowerberrys, and he runs away to London. There he meets the Artful Dodger, Jack Dawkins. Jack offers to help and give him a place to live, which sounds great until it turns out that it is the home of Fagin, and Oliver gets trained in the art of pickpocketing. But because he's so virtuous and unable to be wrong, he gets totally freaked out just watching two boys steal a handkerchief, not even money or anything. The man who is being robbed is Mr. Brownlow, who's one of those good guys I mentioned before. He recognizes that Oliver is freaked out and doesn't want to do it - so he recognizes the good in Oliver - and he ends up taking him home. He also recognizes that Oliver looks just like a woman who is in a portrait that hangs in his home, which is weird, right? I don't know. Coincidence? Maybe it's foreshadowing! We're going to find out. From there, of course, they all live happily ever after. Ha, no; I'm only halfway through this video. Bill Sikes and Nancy snatch Oliver and bring him back to Fagin. As you might imagine, Oliver is not any better at burglarizing than he used to be (he's supposed to help Sikes rob somebody). He's terrible at pickpocketing; he's terrible at burglary. He actually ends up getting shot while Sikes escapes. The victims of the crime take pity on Oliver again; they think he doesn't seem like such a bad kid. This time it's Rose and Mrs. Maylie, who are those two other good characters I told you about. Oliver has a great time with them; they take care of him. And again, happy ending? No! Not a chance. Fagin is still after Oliver. Around this time, we learn that Oliver's mother had left him a gold locket. Intrigue! Where's the gold locket? Maybe she wasn't that poor after all, right? Why would a poor person have gold? This is where Monks (who is that other weird, bad guy I told you about) comes in. He apparently had found the locket and had thrown it in the river so Oliver would never know it existed. Nancy, who might just be a whore with a heart of gold, tells Rose that Fagin is out to get Oliver (Rose is the person Oliver is now staying with), but it gets back to Sikes that she squealed. He murders her, and then, while running away from an angry mob of people, he trips and accidentally hangs himself. If this were a Shakespearean tragedy, this is when you'd expect the body count to really start rising. Fortunately, it's not and Oliver just gets reunited with Mr. Brownlow, and all the pieces seem to fall into place. It turns out that Monks (the bad guy) and Oliver actually have the same father. Their father had an affair with Oliver's mother and then died. He left an inheritance that, apparently, Monks had been trying to keep Oliver from finding out about, and that's why he got rid of the necklace. Mr. Brownlow, though, forces Monks to get Oliver his share. But wait; there's more! Fagin gets arrested and hanged (so I guess that's one more in the body count). And the bad Mr. Bumble (the guy who wouldn't give Oliver any more) loses his job and ends up destitute in the same workhouse he once presided over. So, there's justice for everyone. But that's not all! It turns out that Rose is actually Oliver's aunt! And remember that picture Mr. Brownlow had? Well, it turns out that he had been engaged to Oliver's father's sister, but then she died. So, Oliver's parents, Mr. Brownlow and pretty much everybody who is good in London turn out to all be connected to each other. Then Mr. Brownlow adopts Oliver, and all the kind and honest people head off to the English

countryside together. The English countryside, Dickens implies, is really a better place to be than the dangerous, nasty city. (I bet they go on leisurely strolls and then have lots of tea and eat cucumber sandwiches just like Downton Abbey) And that's the happy ending we've been waiting all this time for. It's really no coincidence that Oliver's last name is Twist. His life is full of twists and turns, and he bounces back and forth through all these people in the novel. But he does end up in a nice place.

A Social Novel
The point of all this is that this is something called a social novel. That means that Dickens uses the story to basically tell his readers what is wrong with England, particularly what was wrong with the treatment of the poor in England. He goes out of his way to characterize these really awful living conditions, like the workhouse that he describes in such detail, the hungry children, the misery, all of that stuff. He's particularly criticizing the Poor Law of 1834, which basically forces those who want government assistance into workhouses. The idea being that it's making them get jobs. Instead of helping people getting back on their feet, they actually end up stuck like prisoners in these workhouses. They can't get out; they're unable to get to a better life. With a character like Mr. Bumble (who's the guy who wouldn't give Oliver any more), Dickens really highlights the hypocrisy and the cruelty of these workhouses. The people who manage them aren't offering charity but exploiting the system and exploiting the poor. Where does this come from? Dickens himself had to spend a lot of time in a workhouse. His family got put in debtors' prison when he was very little. It severely traumatized him. He ended up being rich and famous in the end, but he never really forgot that experience. There is a bit of a contradiction, though, because he shows how awful poor people are, like Fagin and Sikes - all those people are really nasty. And all of the nice people in the novel are rich, but in a way, he's combining this social novel with the fairy tale that Oliver gets to have what he wants in the end. So, it's a mishmash of those two things. That might go a bit of the way toward explaining that contradiction.

Mary Ann Evans, AKA George Eliot


Pen names are pretty common in English literature. You've got Lewis Carroll. You've got Sapphire. Even J.K. Rowling is a bit of a pen name. If you walk away with just one thing from this lesson, please let it be that George Eliot is a pen name. I mean, that name seems boring enough that you would probably assume it's real - who would choose George Eliot as their fake name? But that was probably the point of choosing it. In fact, George Eliot's real name was actually Mary Ann Evans. She was a woman! Oooh, scandal. Really, at the time that Evans was writing (which was the second half of the 19th century), female authors weren't uncommon, but she wanted to make sure that her novels were taken seriously and not instantly dismissed into that category of light, tawdry romances that female writers were typically associated with. The words 'chick lit' didn't exist then, but I think that's what she was trying to avoid. She also wanted to draw attention away from her not-so-standard personal life. But we'll come back to that in a little bit. So, first thing to note: George Eliot - not her real name; George Eliot - actually a woman.

Eliot's Early Life


So, we're going to start by talking about the life of Mary Ann Evans before the writer George Eliot even existed. She was born in a rural English family in 1819. Because many didn't consider her conventionally attractive, she was more or less deemed unmarriageable (which seems harsh), and therefore her father decided to invest a more-than-average amount of money into her education, which is sort of like the ultimate backhanded compliment. This extra schooling went hand-in-hand with her already considerable

intelligence and voracious appetite for reading. Probably something that you might notice is a real similarity amongst the writers that we cover in these videos is that they grew up loving to read and loving stories, and Mary Ann Evans was no exception. At the age of 16, sadly, her mother passed away, and she had to leave school and come home and act as her father's housekeeper. After this point, her education mostly would come through self-study. While she was helping out her father, Evans was exposed to things that would later really influence her writing, including the differences that she observed between the upper and lower classes, between urban and rural communities and the many differing religious opinions that exist everywhere. Her father died when she was 30. After his death, she spent a little time traveling and then moved to London and became the assistant editor of a left-wing journal called The Westminster Review. This provided her with an introduction to the world of professional writing, and it was in this position that she produced a lot of essays and works of criticism.

Enter Career and Controversy


This move to London also brought on some changes in her personal life that weren't too well-accepted at the time. In essence, Evans entered a relationship with philosopher and critic named George Henry Lewes. He was already married and already had children, so that was very much frowned upon. He and his wife had agreed on an open relationship, so there wasn't really anything unethical going on per se, but proper Victorian society was pretty taken aback with the openness with which they carried on this extra-marital relationship. By the mid-1850s, Evans had built up some steam in her writing career, and she was ready to take that leap into fame. It was at this point that she adopted her pen name. As we mentioned, the reasons for this were really two-fold: she wanted to draw attention away from her fairly scandalous lifestyle (she didn't want to be known as Mary Ann Evans, the woman who was carrying on a relationship with a married man), and also, she didn't want to be thought of as 'just another female writer.' The inspiration for that second point is detailed in her popular essay from 1856, which has come to be seen as her statement of purpose of her writing career. It's called 'Silly Novels by Lady Novelists,' and I recommend checking it out. Now, we're going to talk about George Eliot the writer, using the pen name. Eliot's first published fiction was a three-part series of serialized short stories entitled Scenes of a Clerical Life. A year after this, in 1859, her auspicious output of novels began. Eliot crafted seven full-length books, and though we're not going to talk about all of them here, we're going to hit three of the big ones.

Major Themes
But first, as we look at some of Eliot's most important works, let's keep in mind some of the major themes she's dealing with in them. Any study of her work isn't complete without mentioning the following themes that almost all of her novels seem to tackle in some way. The first of these is realism, or basically, an attempt to write about things as they are. As you might have guessed so far, Eliot was a pretty no-nonsense woman; she didn't want to be considered a 'silly novelist.' It was important to her that her work be real. She wanted to capture what she saw as real people with real problems; fantasy didn't hold an appeal for her. This goes hand-in hand with her next trait, which was a real emphasis on rural life. She had a rural upbringing and really was starting to pay attention to those differences between the rural and the urban lifestyles. You really see this in her novels. Many of her novels were focused on realistic characters in small

towns who lead more mundane lifestyles. It's not kings and queens or knights and fairies, just regular people. Eliot thought it was important to focus on this because rural people were considered more common and more average and thus closer to pure human nature. In other words, in Eliot's perspective, the rural way of life, their opinions and their struggles were just more real than the people in the cities who maybe had a different sort of lifestyle that didn't have those same aspects. You can see those two really complement each other nicely - her interest in realism and her interest in rural life. So, let's talk about a few of her books.

Key Novels
Her first novel came in 1859, and it was called Adam Bede. As you might have guessed, the novel has a rural setting in the fictional town of Hayslope. It focused on what we would think of as a 'love rectangle' of four characters whose emotions are all tangled up. Unrequited love - it's tough, right? We've all been there. Describing the plot in more detail would take more time than I have, so I'm just going to talk about why the novel's important and why people still love it today. It was incredibly popular at the time and built interest and excitement around this mysterious George Eliot. It was said that Queen Victoria liked it so much that she commissioned an artist to paint scenes out of the novel for her (it's cool to be queen.) Second, right out of the gate, Eliot's mission was really clear; as a fellow Victorian mainstay Charles Dickens wrote of the novel, 'The whole country life that the story is set in, is so real, and so droll and genuine, and yet so selected and polished by art, that I cannot praise it enough to you.' This is really what George Eliot was going for. Really, at the time, if Charles Dickens liked your book, you probably felt pretty good about what you're doing. It's good praise to get. Another immensely popular work of Eliot's - probably, I would say number two of all-time Eliot works - is Silas Marner from 1861. This novel that not only revisits Eliot's preoccupation with rural realism but also questions traditional religious structures in some pretty potent ways (and, I think, pretty ballsy of her considering the time period). Here, Silas Marner is a weaver in a small, urban, Calvinist congregation and is exiled to the country after being falsely accused of stealing money from his deacon. So he's in this new rural setting, after living in a more urban area, which really ties into Eliot's wanting to compare the lives of the rural to the urban people. He becomes a recluse once he's in this rural setting until he happens upon an abandoned child and decides to raise her as his own. Who doesn't love a good orphan story? Annie, Harry Potter - everyone loves an orphan story. Marner's ability to create happiness for himself in this environment, free from the city life and free of the church, is really sort of an act of cultural rebellion. He's sort of saying that he doesn't need the things society tells him he needs to be happy. Silas Marner has remained a major force in pop culture since its publication. It's had numerous adaptations, and he's been portrayed by actors like Ben Kingsley, Steve Martin, and even Samuel L. Jackson. They've been played with various degrees of faithfulness, as you might imagine. Finally, we're going to touch on my personal favorite George Eliot novel, and maybe one of my favorite books of all time, and that's Middlemarch - or its full title, Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life . You can see this book's rural focus is right there in the title - a study of provincial life. It takes place in another fictionalized, pastoral town. This novel's a lot of work; it's huge. It's eight books long, and depending on the version you get, can be about 1,000 pages. It follows the lives of a pretty significant cast of characters who try to make their way through life's various troubles in the face of both the social issues of the day and more personal moral compromises that they need to make with themselves.

Middlemarch is generally considered to be one of the best books of the English language, and I fully support that; it's full of really compelling characters, complex situations, and some ethical ambiguity, which you didn't always see in books. For example, in Dickens there's a real set of a moral sense of right and wrong. You know who is good, and you know who is bad, but in Eliot it's different. There's a real complexity there, and it's pretty fascinating. We've actually got a whole lesson on Middlemarch, so I recommend you check it out and then go and read it, of course, but for now it's just good that you know that it's George Eliot's work, and it's probably her most popular. It's kind of the apex of realism in a rural setting, and that's a big mark of a George Eliot work.

Middlemarch
The first thing you need to know about Middlemarch is that the title refers to a fictional town. It's not a time of the year. It's not an entreaty to 'march in the middle.' Because it's a novel named after a town, you might be able to make a few guesses about what it's going to be like right off the bat. Unless we're in a kind of world like Pixar's Cars, except instead of cars that are people towns that are people - I don't know. Unless we're in some crazy land, we're probably dealing with multiple protagonists. That's what we get from naming it after a place instead of after a person or a theme or whatever. And its subtitle, A Study of Provincial Life, really confirms this assumption. As in most studies, we're going to be examining a bunch of different people with the aim of figuring out something about provincial life. And you can note the removed tone right away. It's not a 'novel;' it's a 'study.' This novel - excuse me, study - is super long. My paperback copy, when I had this, was about 800 pages; it's a huge book. So it's more of a 'testing out a new heart medication' study than a, 'I'm a senior sociology major. Please fill out my survey!' kind of study. This is a big-deal novel. It's set against the backdrop of the Great Reform Act of 1832, which is aimed at making voting more fair in England. It redistricted stuff, so it was a bit more representational, and also extended the vote to more people. So who wrote this novel? George Eliot, who is - psych - a woman! You don't want to get caught with your pants down thinking that George Eliot is a man because she is not; she is a woman. Her real name Mary Anne Evans, and Middlemarch is probably her most famous novel - her most well known, certainly. Virginia Woolf, who was a famous Modernist writer (so, in the early 20th century), characterized Middlemarch as 'the magnificent book that, with all its imperfections, is one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.' You might worry that 'novel for grown-up people' is a synonym for boring, but in this case it's not! I mean, I like it, and do I seem like a real grown-up? (Don't let the blazer fool you.)

Plot Summary
So what happens in and around the town of Middlemarch and in and around this novel? As I mentioned before, we're dealing with lots of characters, and these characters have lots of intersecting storylines. First we encounter Dorothea Brooke, who is a 'beautiful, smart and marriageable young woman.' But she's a little bit idealistic. We find her devising schemes to improve living conditions of her family's tenants, along with Sir James Chettam, who's clearly got the hots for her. But instead of marrying him like everybody expects, she decides that she's going to marry this guy named Edward Casaubon, who's an old guy and a scholar, and he's trying to write a book called the Key to All Mythologies. She thinks this is going to be a great work, that she can help him to do this and that she can share in his intellectual triumphs because she's smart, and she wants to do things that are helpful and good; that's her goal. The next major character we meet is Tertius Lydgate, who is a young doctor, and he's also got aspirations to be a reformer. He's a smart guy. He's fairly highly born, but he still wants to be a country doctor. He's not going to go and make a lot of money. (He's not going to go into plastic surgery or whatever. I guess they

didn't have that back then, but whatever the equivalent was, he's not going to do that.) Being a doctor, his ideas for reform are more medically based. He gets to Middlemarch and he starts his own hospital. He gets a good reputation as a doctor but he's also a 'marriageable' young man, and he's quickly ensnared by the beautiful Rosamond Vincy, who's the beauty of the town. She's the niece of a guy named Mr. Bulstrode, who's a prominent banker in Middlemarch. (He's important; we're going to get to him a little bit later, but just remember that name, Mr. Bulstrode. He's Rosamond Vincy's uncle.) She's super vain, but I guess it's kind of justified because she is really pretty. She's also actually pretty smart. She's educated, she uses this to her advantage, she's born middle class but she really wants to rise up to a better class. And since Lydgate is higher born (the doctor), she figures this might be the way to do it. So we've started out right off the bat here with two marriages that we're pretty sure are going to end in disaster. We've got old man, young woman and scholarly pretensions - that doesn't sound like it's going to end well. And then we've got a medical reformer and vain wife who wants to use him for his money. That doesn't seem like that's going to work out. And right here we can note something that is actually fairly unique, at least compared to novels that came before this: a bunch of Victorian novels (and Romantic novels that came before, like Jane Austen and things like that) end in marriage. There's something that's called a marriage plot, where everything resolves itself by two people getting married at the end. And this is still pretty common today. If you've ever seen a romantic comedy, you've seen a marriage plot, where it ends in a kiss. In these kinds of books and movies, the marriage is the climax; it's the goal - the solution to everyone's problems. Eliot goes out of her way here to point out that marriage is actually the start of everybody's problems. She starts with these marriages instead of ending with them, and then she goes on to document these problems at great length. That's pretty much the whole rest of the book. So we've talked about Lydgate and Rosamond; we've talked about Dorothea and Casaubon. There's a third player in this book: Rosamond has a brother, named Fred Vincy, who's supposed to go into the church. That's what his parents think he should do. He's kind of a drunk, and he's kind of bad with money he likes to gamble. All he really wants to do is marry Mary Garth, who's his childhood sweetheart. She won't do it unless he gives up on the church because she doesn't want to be married to someone who hates his job (which makes sense because that's miserable). And he would have had money so he didn't have to go into the church because he had this inheritance from an old guy named Mr. Featherstone. But Featherstone rescinded it at the last minute, and then he tried to un-rescind it, but it didn't work. So, basically, Fred is stuck in a hard place because he's going to have to go into the church, but then he can't marry the love of his life. So that's a problem. That's sort of the third problem - we've got three main sets of issues, essentially. These people are all connected because they live in Middlemarch, and if it sounds a bit scattered, it's worth knowing that Eliot actually didn't intend for all of these things to be in the same book at first. She was writing about Dorothea, and she was also writing about the other people. She ended up stringing them into this novel, weaving them all together. So that's why it sounds a little bit disparate, but it does all come together in the end, and I will tell you how eventually. Basically, their paths are crossing all throughout. Dorothea goes on her honeymoon to Rome (she's married this old guy). Quickly, the scales fall from her eyes, and she realizes that Casaubon doesn't really care about her helping him out with his work. She also begins to realize that his Key to All Mythologies probably isn't ever going to be finished because he just keeps working on it. He isn't really internally motivated for scholarship; he just wants to write this thing so that he gets famous. It's kind of like your friend who's been 'working on his screenplay' for five years and is convinced it'll drag him out of his life of obscurity working at Denny's. Except Casaubon does have money, so that's the difference, but it's definitely not a good thing. Also the sex is not that good. He's 'not

passionate enough for her,' is how George Eliot puts it. I think we all know what that means. He's kind of an old dude, remember? Anyway, all of this coincides nicely with her meeting one of his much younger cousins - who's name is Will Ladislaw - and I think you can see where this is going. Will's an artsy guy, and he runs into her in Rome, but Dorothea is loyal to Casaubon. She does not have an affair; she's not that kind of woman. George Eliot actually compares her to St. Theresa in a famous opening prologue. So she's not an adulterer, she's not Madame Bovary; this is not what we're talking about. Still, Casaubon is really not happy with Ladislaw's presence because he suspects there's something going on. They're definitely attracted to each other, but they're not going to act on it, at least not now. They all come back to England, and meanwhile, Lydgate and Rosamond's marriage is totally falling apart like we predicted. They get into money troubles, in part because Rosamond's got really expensive tastes. Her charms are wearing thin on Lydgate, and his lack of money is making her love run dry because she's slowly realizing that this is not going to be the kind of life she anticipated with him. He ends up taking a loan from Mr. Bulstrode (remember, he's the banker who's Rosamond's uncle) to keep things going with his practice. Meanwhile, it finally seems like Dorothea might catch a break because Casaubon is sick! And he's probably gonna die because he's super old! This is really exciting when you're reading the book because you're like, 'I hate this guy,' and you think, 'Maybe she'll get to marry Will Ladislaw! That would be great.' No! Casaubon has got provisions against that in his will. He does die, but it turns out that he's put all these stipulations that if Dorothea marries Ladislaw, she will lose her inheritance from him, which is really nasty. Up until now, we've probably just thought that Casaubon is just a little bit distracted, kind of old, not really that into stuff. But this is really directly mean; he's being nasty to Dorothea. So this is a problem. What's she going to do? We don't know. We leave that be for a second, and we go back to Fred Vincy, who's our third thread in all of this. His money troubles continue, and he has to borrow money from Mary Garth's father (remember, Mary Garth is the woman he wants to eventually marry, so that's embarrassing). But then things are looking up a little bit. He starts training to be a land agent under Mary's father, and things might be going better. He starts to learn a new profession, and maybe that will be better than just becoming a drunken, gambling vicar, which was seemingly the plan before. All throughout this (this is not chronological), Dorothea's uncle, who's referred to as Mr. Brooke, has decided to run for Parliament as a reform candidate. This plotline seems to be largely for comic relief because he is terrible at it, but it does underscore a major theme in the novel that we can see with all of these characters, which is self-delusion. Casaubon is wrong about the significance of his project. Dorothea is wrong about Casaubon's dedication to intellectual pursuits. Lydgate is wrong about Rosamond. Rosamond is wrong that marrying Lydgate is going to make her upper class. So when Mr. Brooke fails comically (his entire run is sort of hypocritical - Dorothea was actually working to make his tenants' lives better and he doesn't care; he just wants to be in Parliament) it underscores another point: the difference between people who pursue something for its own worth and people who pursue it for outside validation, like Mr. Brooke, who just wants to be in Parliament; he doesn't care about actually helping his people - that's a huge difference that's in the book. Casaubon is doing his research to be recognized rather than just because he wants to do it, whereas Dorothea actually cares about bettering herself and learning and dedicating herself to reform and all of that stuff. Lydgate actually cares about being a doctor. He didn't go into a more lucrative field; he went to be a country doctor, whereas Rosamond does everything to get a better social station. So that's another separation we get between the characters.

Are you watching this video out of a love of learning, or are you watching it to get college credit? I don't know. Either is okay, but this difference is what Eliot is getting at. How does this all wrap up? This is a lot of stuff that we've talked about. It wraps up weirdly. When I first read this, I was like, 'Huh? What is going on? I don't understand this.' I'm going to try to break it down for you the easiest way that I can. Mr. Bulstrode (you must think, 'Why does she keep mentioning this guy? He clearly is nothing important;' he is important) has bailed out Lydgate from financial trouble. It turns out that Bulstrode does not have an innocent past. His wife is actually Will Ladislaw's grandma, and he made his money from stolen goods! He's been concealing all of this so nobody knows, and then this old man who's dying - his name is Raffles, which is kind of a funny name - turns up and knows everything; he knows all the stuff about Bulstrode's past. He basically jeopardizes Bulstrode's whole operation. Lydgate, the doctor, treats Raffles because he's dying, and he's like, 'Don't give him booze!' Of course, Bulstrode gives him booze because he wants to finish him off, and this works. The poor guy dies. But the cat's already out of the bag - Raffles has already told people about Bulstrode's elicit starts and his banking efforts - and Bulstrode is disgraced. He takes Lydgate down with him, since people find out that he gave Lydgate a loan and they assume Lydgate's involved. Bulstrode and Lydgate both leave town. Rosamond is happy at least because she finally gets to get out of Middlemarch. She makes Lydgate become a moneymaking kind of doctor, and then she gets the money that she's always wanted. This book seems like it's unrelentingly sad! This is awful; why does this happen to all these people? It's not quite unrelentingly sad. Fred Vincy and Mary Garth do get to get married, like I alluded to before, when I said that things might be looking up for him. And Dorothea says, 'No, I don't need Casaubon's inheritance. I'm going to marry Will Ladislaw anyway.' So that's nice; she gets to marry this guy. But Eliot still doesn't let us feel super great about this ending; otherwise it would be just a traditional marriage plot. Dorothea, we've seen, really does have goals. She wants to be a reformer, she wants to be smart, she wants to learn things. She gets a nice ending (she marries this nice guy), but she doesn't get to do any of those things that