May 4 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 28, Friday May 1 2020–LAST CLASS. Dolabella and Cleopatra’s dream

The last class this semester. Cleopatra and her dreams of Antony.  Her death.  Ass unpolicied vs. lass unparalleled.

May 1 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 27 April 30 2020 — The Death of Antony

We continue going through the play, to Antony's loss of himself ("the heart of loss"), his botched suicide, and his reunion with Cleopatra.

April 29 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 26, Tuesday April 28 2020: Act IV and Antony’s Extravagance

Beginning of Act IV.  More on Antony vs. "an Antony."  The latter is an object in the world, has worldly being.  The former is the extravagant, isolated subjectivity which is the tragic waywardness which is more and more where he is: in "the heart of loss." If extravagance -- waywardness, wandering outside of any world which is one's own, Binswanger's Verstiegenheit -- weren't more intense than worldliness, if things didn't get more intense as one loses everything, tragedy would be of no aesthetic interest.  A brief adumbration of the difference between daemonization (for Macbeth) and extravagance (for Antony).


April 24 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 25, Friday April 24, 2020: Act III concluded: Knowing Antony and knowing Cleoipatra

We conclude Act III, and discuss how well people know Antony, and how well Antony can know Cleopatra.  His anger at her, and his recovery from that anger.  Enobarbus' loyalty, and then his planned defection.  Enobarbus compared with Horatio, Kent, and Banquo.

April 22 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 24, Tuesday April 21, 2020: Act III continued: Antony profuse wastefulness

Antony's insistence on fighting by sea: his loss, and anger at Cleopatra

"I am so lated in the world that I..."

("Have lost my way forever.")


"Fall not a tear, I say."


This is where the play starts getting to be Shakespeare's greatest play.

April 18 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 23 Friday April 17 2020 — dramatic perspectives

We continue close reading of Act III, but then the last half hour, in response to a series of questions, is about how to interpret drama: what freedom and what constraints are there on how actors interpret? How should we interpret? Taking Dworkin's dictum that we should interpret in a way that makes the work the best possible work it can be, how does that apply to Shakespeare?  What is the meaning of canonicity?  Something like: a work that is open to lots of possibility for great interpretation. I thought that last half hour or so was interesting.

April 16 2020

Bonus aria on Wittgenstein

I am team-teaching a class on Wittgenstein this term.  The person I team-teach with, a philosopher, is too careful about how to put things to want the class podcast. The class largely consists of us disagreeing.  He thinks (like lots of Anglo-American philosophers) that Wittgenstein was sloppy and couldn't make his case in a systematic and well-organized way.  I defend Wittgenstein, and I usually do it in the spineless liberal way that I was brought up in: "Even accepting everything you say..." after which I try to say that LW is still great.  There may be a little of that in this, but in any case, in class the other day, I found myself talking non-stop for a bit, defending my Wittgenstein against his idea of Wittgenstein as a brilliant failure, and more generally against the idea of some systematized exposition of Wittgenstein, even Cavell's. I should say that in calling him my LW I am also very much indebted to a teacher of mine's LW, as you'll hear if you listen.  Anyhow, this short post is the non-stop portion of the class.

April 15 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 22 Tuesday 4/14/20 Leaders and advisors and news management

We continue reading through the play: Pompey disappoints Menas; Ventidius comments on who gets credit; Menas, Agrippa, Ventidius, and Enobarbus are represented as belonging to the same type (so that Menas's turn away from Pompey will adumbrate a very intense later scene); the love between Octavian and Octavia; her contrast with Cleopatra; Cleopatra's news management; Charmian's encouragement.  Alexandrian vs. Roman Feasts.  We're now well into Act III.

April 6 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 21 Friday 4/3/2020 Messengers

We continue with Act II.  The treaty between Pompey and the Triumvirate.  Cleopatra and the messenger who reports Antony's marriage.  I should have said that her relation to the messenger is a version of the third person imperative force of the play: she demands what can't be demanded, that the truth be different from what it is.

April 1 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 20 Tuesday 3-31-20 She did make defect perfection (Continuing Act II)

News for Pompey.  Characterization of Antony in his absence, again.  Delicate negotiations.  Octavia.  Enorbarbus predicts what Antony will do: his amazing description of Cleopatra.  Antony confirms that he'll go back to Alexandria. 

March 27 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 19 Friday 3-27-20 Act I concluded

Cleopatra's character.  Antony and Cleopatra as, essentially, the one life-affirming tragedy: the tragedy that does what comedies do.  "Strong as death is love."  Versions of the verb "to bear." Jokes at Mardian's expense.  Apostrophes to Antony.  How they are together in separation.  What I didn't quite say is that Rome and Alexandria are established as social spaces, while Antony is between them and so gone during the period of his transition from one to the other,.  More uses of the word where: Where is Antony? Where he is asking, Where is Cleopatra?

March 22 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 18 Friday 3-20-20 Antony and Cleopatra Act I continued

We continue our close reading, especially of the clash of mood or tone between characters in scenes 2 and 3, in the way Shakespeare is representing people trying to set the dominant mood of the scene: Antony and Enobarbus, and then Antony and Cleopatra.  Some attention to the extremely subtle foreshadowing and creation of perspective in those scenes.  Similarities and differences between Antony's relation to Enobarbus and his relation to Cleopatra.  

March 18 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 17. Antony and Cleopatra 2.1: the soothsayer and Cleopatra’s women

Since we're now online, and since it is Antony and Cleopatra, we're going to go through the play scene by scene.  Here we looked at the clash of tonalities between the soothsayer and Cleopatra's women, in 2.1, and also the way Antony treats the messengers from Rome.  

March 14 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 16 Being Mark Antony

First class on Zoom.  I recorded the class as though in class but I was sitting at my computer.  That means there's more me and less them, alas. 

Anyhow: we talked about being Mark Antony (cf. Being John Malkovich) and the odd phrase "an Antony."  Comparing that to the king's two bodies.  And we talked about time frames again: how Octavian is always the age he is at the beginning, and Antony and Cleopatra always the ages they are at the end.

March 11 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 15, 3-10-20 Ages of the characters — Shakespeare’s temporal preferences

After a 15 minute discussion of Covid-19 (not recorded here) we talk about the actual ages of various characters, and the ages that Shakespeare wanted them to be: not only in A & C but in Richard II1 Henry IV and the romances: the idea that you can go from the start of adulthood (Octavius) to the maturity that makes you fit for tragedy and old enough to have lived long enough (Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra) within 16-18 years or so.  Shakespeare's highly skillful stage setting in scene 1.  Too all over the place, but I am hoping that if classes aren't canceled as they're being at many of our sister institutions, we'll settle down in to focused discussion.

March 7 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 14 3/6/2020 Opening of Antony and Cleopatra

We finally really begin Antony and Cleopatra, discussing Plutarch's interest in character, and Shakespeare's, and what makes a tragic character interesting since we know what the plot will be.  Aristotle on pity and terror again: usually the protagonist or main is someone innocent or at worst someone like ourselves: not so in Macbeth.  After which we start analyzing the opening scene, with comparisons to Lear and to Hamlet as well (on the quantification of love).  Many corny jokes.

March 4 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 13 - March 3, 2020 Last class on Macbeth: sonnets and then “My way of life is fallen….”

 A class where we finally talk about the whole soliloquy, with which I am obsessed, in which Macbeth calls or Seyton and considers how his way of life is fallen into the sere, the yellow leaf."  We get there by means of Sonnet 12, but that means talking about the sonnets: first the nature of sonnet sequences from Petrarch through Wyatt to Sidney and Shakespeare, then of course (via Wyatt) about Tottel's miscellany, and then a discussion of Sonnet 73 and its echoes of Macbeth's soliloquy, and ultimately about the nature of interruption, here as well as in Lear:

Prithee, go in thyself: seek thine own ease:

This tempest will not give me leave to ponder

On things would hurt me more. But I'll go in.


To the Fool

In, boy; go first. You houseless poverty,--

Nay, get thee in. I'll pray, and then I'll sleep.

Fool goes in


Poor naked wretches, whereso'er you are,

That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,

How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,

Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you

From seasons such as these? 


Macbeth interrupts himself to call for his last loyal servant; Lear to dismiss him.

February 28 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 12 Feb 28 2020 Poetic form and Yes Fear ShakeFear

A class which turned out to be a lot on verse drama, and how and why it works, partly based on Evelyn Tribble's ideas about "fluent forgetting" (which I mentioned before) in her book Cognition in the Globe.  Lots of stuff on proto-Indo-European and on how poetic lines work: "loose onsets, strict endings."  How Shakespeare makes us focus on particular words but also justifies that focus.  Hint: rhyme.  We finally get to talking about 5.3, and to Shakespeare's bad Dad pun on Macbeth's refusal to "shake with fear."  Antony and Cleopatra officially starts next week, but we'll have one more day on Act V of Macbeth.

February 25 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 11 2/25/20 Interiorizing time

A class which first is about Protestantism and Catholicism in Shakespeare, and the idea in Protestantism that theological issues take on a psychological air.  That is, they are interiorized.  Then a digressive account of time in Shakespeare (and many others, including Ashbery and Kafka), with the idea being that as you get older -- as the Macbeths get older -- time is interiorized.

February 18 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 10 Class of 2/14/20

A class on doubling, literal and metaphorical, e.g. Lady Macbeth and Lady Macduff, Hecate, etc.  The meaning of doubling.  The conglomeration and dissolution of social groups.  Simmel (of course!) on spatial relations as both the condition and the symbol of human relations.  The quickness of friends (in anticipation of Antony and Cleopatra).  Miscellaneous digressions, not all my fault.

February 12 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 9 2/11/20: Remorse and repentance

We start with Coleridge's insight (followed by Bloom) that Macbeth confuses his own pangs of conscience with imaginative fear.  Then some discussion of remorse vs. repentance as analogous to that confusion.  A couple of jokes, and then a close reading of the line "Which of you have done this" when Macbeth sees Banquo.

February 7 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 8 2/7/20 Being a character and daemonization

A class I actually liked some of: on daemonization (Lionel Abel's term in his article "Daemons true and false") and character.  How the most practical matters of representing character on stage (what we hear about Macbeth vs. what we see) give insight into the deepest existential-psychological.  This is me essentially trying to turn aspects of Macbeth into L'attente l'oubli. With digressions and a digression on digressions.

February 5 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 7 2/4/20 Friendship and love in Shakespeare

A student brings up Banquo and tries to relate the line of kings to the edge of doom to Dante's Inferno.  Which leads to a discussion of Banquo and the more general tension in Shakespeare between friendship and love, solved in the comedies but always part of the loss in the tragedies.  Considerations of this issue in Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, King Lear, and of course Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra.

January 31 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 6 1/31/20 — witches and soothsayers and messengers o my

Mainly about witches: Reginald Scott's skepticism, James's motivated belief in them, the King's touch, the relation of witches to the soothsayer in A&C (vs. the one in JC), and some attention (again, as in other courses) to Dan Decker's Anatomy of a Screenplay and the insights it affords into Shakespeare's construction of scenes: the way soothsayers and messengers are similar and the way they differ.  At the end a brief consideration of what De Quincey means by sympathy.

January 29 2020

Advanced Shakespeare 5 1/28/20 De Quincey Knocking at the Gate

Elements in Macbeth that were more or less likely to come from elsewhere.  Who played whom.  Robert Armin (and Will Kemp).  Johnson on whether the reference to Antony and Cleopatra (Macbeth's genius overmatched by Banquo's as Antony's is by Caesar) is an interpolation.  De Quincey on the knocking at the gate, and the effect that the juxtaposition of scenes has.

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