“Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire,” the gold casket says. “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves,” says the silver casket. “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he has,” says the lead casket. (II.VII, 5,7,9) The portrait of Portia, a beautiful and wealthy young noblewoman, lies in one of these caskets; if a suitor picks that casket, he weds her, but if he choose another, he must forswear marriage forever. Besides finding Portia’s husband, the caskets illustrate different ways – gilded but false, or true as a plumbed line – of looking at love.Continue reading
Not all great men are good men: and as portrayed by Shakespeare in the play which bears his name, Richard III illustrates this excellently. In his first speech, laying out the setting of the play, Richard declares his intention “to prove a villain” and calls himself “subtle, false, and treacherous” (I.I, 30; 37). But this is only for the audience: when he interacts with the other characters, Richard wears a mask of plainness, gentleness, and honest loyalty—as he says, “I … seem a saint when most I play the devil.” (I.II, 337). He can lie, deceive, and murder his way into near-absolute power without blinking an eye except to shed hypocritical tears. He is skillfull and poised, walking, when he needs to, a knife’s edge such as that he dares when he bids Anne tell him to kill himself. By his own and the world’s standards, he is very successful; enough, I think, that he can be termed a great, if not a verily great, man.Continue reading
The Dragons of Building
This land of dragons lies asleep, and we
Who walk it do not see on what we tread
Until we meet a hillside glade and see
The ridge’s other, serpent, shape lie spread.
They sleep. To see this land, you would not guess
The battles they have fought, the mountains made
And kingdoms crushed. Their mortal combat is
More great, strong, slow, than man can comprehend.
To us, they sleep. Or sleep uneasily;
We feel the shield-wall’s jar sometimes, catch how
Beneath our feet they war on steadily
With wing and claw of stone that ages grow.
The dragons of this land are huge and strong,
Seen but when science matches eye with song.