Detailed Synopsis for ‘Henry V’

Prologue: The Chorus wishes he and the actors of the play had ‘a Muse of fire’ to inspire them to a production that would do justice to the story about to be told.  If only the small stage they are to perform on were enough to show the vast fields of France.  For how can they show armies, horses, and quick changes of locale and time?  The Chorus asks us, the audience, to use our imaginations to fill in the gaps that a humble theatrical production cannot, and to judge the play kindly, and with patience.

Act One: The Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of Ely discuss the matter of the new king, who has surprised everyone in his “blessed…change” from dissolute prince (who, in the Henry IV plays, cavorted with the licentious likes of Sir John Falstaff) to sober, responsible king.  Worrying that Henry, of limited money, won’t give the Church the funding they are wont to have, these two not-so-scrupulous men of the cloth prefer to persuade their king that invading France will be morally justified.

In the king’s court, Henry has the Archbishop of Canterbury explain how he has a perfect right to be the next king of France.  The archbishop mentions the Salic Law, which forbids female succession in France for inheritance of the throne.  Henry’s connection with the French royal lineage is through his great-great-great-grandmother, and so the Salic Law denies him the right to succeed.

The archbishop, however, says that the Salic Land is in Germany, not in France, so the law was not devised for the French.  Furthermore, the French themselves have allowed female succession to their throne, and the archbishop gives examples of French kings who held the title through the female.  Therefore there is no reason to bar Henry from something French dynastic succession has allowed for the French.

When Henry asks Canterbury if he may in good conscience claim the French crown, the archbishop says he’ll bear the sin on his own head if he is wrong.  The king then allows the ambassadors of France to come in.

The first ambassador speaks of Henry’s reputation, when a prince, of carousing and revelry.  The French Dauphin, whom the ambassadors represent, suggests that, instead of trying to make war with France, Henry should pursue less ambitious goals, those more suited to his apparently feckless nature.  Therefore the Dauphin has given Henry a gift, in a chest, that is in keeping with such puerile pursuits.

Henry has his uncle, the Duke of Exeter, open the chest and see what’s inside.  Exeter opens it, and tells the king it is filled with tennis balls.  Keeping well controlled his fury at such an insult, Henry tells the French ambassadors that England will play such a set with these balls that far more will weep than laugh at the Dauphin’s proud jest; for no one knows what use Henry made of his days with Falstaff and the others in the Boar’s Head Tavern (that use being, to learn how scoundrels think and act, not to emulate them in any way).  The ambassadors are to be safely conveyed back to France.

Act Two, Prologue: The Chorus says, “all the youth of England are on fire.”  All prepare for war with France.  The French “Shake in their fear and with pale policy/Seek to divert the English purposes.”  In fact, they bribe three English nobles, Richard Earl of Cambridge, Henry Lord Scroop of Masham, and Sir Thomas Grey, knight of Northumberland: “Confirm’d conspiracy with fearful France.”  The king and his men will go to Southampton before sailing to France.

In front of the Boar’s Head Tavern, in Eastcheap, Nym is jealous of Pistol, who has taken Mistress Quickly–the hostess of the tavern–as his wife, after she promised to marry Nym.  He complains about this to Bardolph.  Then Pistol and his wife the hostess enter.  Pistol and Nym exchange angry words, then the two clownish men draw their swords; but Bardolph, his own sword drawn, stops them from fighting.

Then the boy, page to Falstaff, comes and tells them all they must come to his master.  Falstaff is sick, for as Quickly says, “the King has kill’d his heart.”  (At the end of Henry IV, part two, just after Henry V’s coronation, the new king snubbed Falstaff, since it had never been Prince Henry’s intention to stay friends with such knaves as Sir John.)  They all go to see Falstaff in bed.

In Southampton, Henry and his men prepare to sail to France.  Exeter and the other nobles are amazed to see the king still speaking on friendly terms with the three known traitors.

Henry discusses what should be done with a drunken man who spoke ill of him; in an indulgent mood, Henry figures the man had too much wine when he spoke so idly.  The traitors, in a vain attempt to appear loyal, insist that the man be punished.  Henry, smiling, still thinks the man’s distemper can “be wink’d at.”  Then the king gives each of the three false men a letter, so they’ll know the king knows their worth: the letters reveal Henry’s knowledge of their plot.

The traitors admit their guilt and, while asking for forgiveness, insist on receiving the harshest punishment, knowing such is the only honourable way to react.  They are taken away to be executed.  Now Henry and his men will sail to France.

In the Boar’s Head Tavern, Mistress Quickly and the others lovingly remember Falstaff, who has died from a broken heart.  She cannot imagine Falstaff being in hell.  Then Nym, Pistol, Bardolph, and the boy prepare to join the king in the invasion of France.  The three men, scoundrels that they are, plan to pillage and steal at the end of each battle; then, back in England, they’ll deceive everyone about fighting bravely.  They all say goodbye to the hostess, and leave.

In the French king’s palace, King Charles VI worries about the coming English.  His son the Dauphin proudly insists that, in defending France, the French army should do so with no show of fear; instead, they should act as though the English were doing no more than putting on a “Whitsun morris-dance,” since England “is so idly king’d” with the supposedly feckless Henry.

The Constable tells the haughty prince to be quiet, and that Henry is much stronger and more resolute than the Dauphin imagines.  Charles agrees, and fearfully remembers past quarrels between France and Henry’s family, as well as the great shame France suffered from defeat against the English.

Exeter enters with a message from Henry, warning the French king of the coming danger.  The Dauphin, pretending for the moment to be his representative, asks Exeter what Henry has for him.  Exeter says, “Scorn and defiance, slight regard, contempt.”  Now angry, the Dauphin proudly says that he is the one who sent Henry the tennis balls.  Exeter says, “He’ll make your Paris Louvre shake for it.”  After being told that Henry will know Charles’s mind tomorrow, Exeter leaves.

Act Three, Prologue: The Chorus tells us of Henry’s course to Harfleur, and that we must imagine Henry’s men going across the English channel, then attacking Harfleur.  We are to “Suppose th’ ambassador from the French comes back:/Tells Harry that the King doth offer him/Katherine his daughter, and with her to dowry/Some petty and unprofitable dukedoms.”  Henry, of course, rejects the offer.  Then we are to imagine the battle.

At the siege of Harfleur, Henry tells his men to go back in and fight.  Roused by the king’s speech, his men rush at the castle and resume fighting.  Nym, Bardolph, Pistol, and the boy, however, remain behind, hiding like the cowards they are; Fluellen, furious, growls at them to race in and join the fighting, so the three men rush in.  The boy, who for obvious reasons needn’t fight, nonetheless hopes that when he is a man, he won’t be as spineless as the three knaves he left England with.

A humourous conversation–one that exploits the stereotypes and accents of Wales, Scotland, and Ireland–ensues between Welsh Fluellen, Gower, Captain Jamy, and Captain Macmorris, an Irishman whom Fluellen scorns.  Fluellen is dissatisfied with the digging of the mines, for they are not up to the proper standards of military discipline, something he is very preoccupied with.

When Fluellen not only criticizes the digging of the mines in front of Macmorris, who is responsible for their supervision, but also makes slurs against Ireland, the Welshman and Irishman almost get into a fight.

The siege is over, and the English have clearly won.  Henry gives an ultimatum to the French, surrender, or die.  He gives a graphic description of how his men will rape the French women, bash the babies’ brains, and kill all the French men mercilessly if they don’t surrender.  The governor of Harfleur says the Dauphin’s powers are not ready yet to resist Henry; so because the people of Harfleur “no longer are defensible,” Henry’s men may enter the gates.  Henry tells his men to be merciful to the French.

In the French king’s palace in Rouen, the princess, Katherine, asks Alice about her time in England and acquaintance with the language.  Alice acknowledges she knows a little English.  The princess asks her how one says la main, les doigts, les ongles, le bras, le coude, le col, le menton, le pied, and la robe in English.  Alice says, with comically poor pronunciation, that these French words are translated, respectively, the hand, the fingers, the nails, the arm, the elbow, the neck, the chin, the foot, and the gown.

Unfortunately, Alice’s pronunciation of foot sounds like foutre, a vulgar French word for a vulgar English word that also begins with an f; and she pronounces gown as con, which sounds like a vulgar French word for certain feminine anatomy, for which the English vulgar equivalent also begins with c.  Katherine is scandalized, and cannot use such dishonourable language in conversation.  Nonetheless, she reviews all her newly-learned vocabulary with Alice, blushing and giggling at the sound of the last two.

Elsewhere in the French palace, all the nobles are alarmed at the advances of the English.  They worry that French women will prefer English manliness over that of the French, and giving themselves to English lust, they will litter France with bastard sons.  King Charles, therefore, has Montjoy, his herald, go and tell the English of France’s “sharp defiance.”  The Dauphin is annoyed, however, that his father wants him to stay out of the fighting for the moment.

The English army has set up camp in Picardy.  Pistol is fearful for the life of his friend Bardolph, who has been caught stealing from a church, and is to be hanged for it.  Pistol entreats Fluellen to use his influence to have Bardolph pardoned, but the Welshman insists on adherence to military discipline, and therefore Bardolph must be hanged.  Pistol curses at Fluellen and leaves angrily.  When Henry hears of the execution of his former drinking friend, he outwardly shows hardly any sign of emotion.

Montjoy arrives, telling Henry that the French could have defeated him in Harfleur, but will show the full might of their army soon enough…unless Henry pays a ransom for the destruction England has so far caused.  Henry says France will have only his dead body for ransom.  Montjoy leaves to relay Henry’s answer to King Charles.

In the French camp near Agincourt that night, the Dauphin, the Constable and the Duke of Orleans all engage in bragging: first, the Constable of his armour; then, Orleans of his horse; and finally, and more gratingly, the Dauphin of his horse, “the prince of palfreys”.  Indeed, the prince’s boasting is so obnoxious that he tries the patience of the other nobles.  All of them impatiently wait for the morning, so they can kill the English, who a messenger says are within fifteen hundred paces of the French tents.

Act Four, Prologue: The Chorus tells us of “The confident and over-lusty French/Do the low-rated English play at dice.”  In the English camp, though, the men “Sit patiently and inly ruminate/The morning’s danger.”  Henry will go about pretending to be one of them, to know their thoughts, and give them “A little touch of Harry in the night.”

Indeed, Henry borrows Sir Thomas Erpingham’s cloak and, thus disguised, goes about his men to know how they really feel about the battle to be fought the next day.  First he sees Pistol, who speaks of his love of the king, then of his spite for Fluellen, whom he’ll hit over the head with his leek on St. David’s Day, since David is the patron saint of Wales.

Then Henry sees Fluellen and Gower; the former tells the latter to keep his voice down, reminding him of the need for military discipline.  Then the disguised king comes to Michael Williams and some other soldiers.

When Williams expresses his doubts as to the justification for this war, after so many men are maimed or killed, Henry defends the carrying-out of the war.  The two men’s tempers flare as their disagreeing escalates, and they promise to settle their quarrel after the battle, if both survive.  They trade gloves to identify each other later, and part angrily.

Finally, after Henry returns Erpingham’s cloak, he contemplates his burdens as king, and prays to God to make his men brave.  He also begs God’s forgiveness for the sin of his father, Henry IV, who deposed Richard II and had him killed.

The next morning, the French army over-confidently prepares for battle; while in the English camp, the nobles are daunted by the superior numbers of the French–five French for every one English fighter.  Furthermore, the French “are all fresh,” says Exeter.  Salisbury says, “’tis a fearful odds.” Westmoreland wishes they had “ten thousand of those men in England/That do not work today.”

Then Henry arrives, wishing instead to have fewer men, since if they are defeated by the French, the English losses will be minimal; but if these few English win, each man will have a larger share of honour, which Henry covets.  Indeed, the king is willing to let any English go home who are reluctant to fight, so he and the remaining few can have even larger portions of honour.

The day of the battle of Agincourt is St. Crispin’s Day.  On this day in future years, those who will have fought with Henry will proudly show their scars as proof of their bravery.  The names of those who will have fought–Harry the King, Exeter, Salisbury–will be like household words.  St. Crispin’s Day will be remembered till the end of time because of these few happy men, this band of brothers.  It will not matter if one is of high or of low birth, for this battle will ennoble them all.

Those men now in bed in England, however, will feel like lesser men among any who speaks of his valour on St. Crispin’s Day!  The king’s speech fires up the morale of the men, who will now cheerfully face the French army.  Montjoy then arrives, asking if Henry will pay ransom, or be surely destroyed.

The king proudly says the French can have his joints for ransom.  Montjoy says he won’t ask for ransom again, but Henry fears he’ll be back again.

The battle begins.  The English longbow is very effective in cutting down the superior numbers of the French.  There is a comical scene with Pistol trying to communicate with a French soldier who surrenders and, knowing neither English nor what a cowardly rascal Pistol is, fears him.  The boy, who knows French, translates for them.

The French feel terrible disgrace at their defeat.  The Dauphin, Constable, and Orleans all lament their “perdurable shame.”

Later, Fluellen returns to the English camp and finds that the French have killed all the boys who were guarding the luggage!  He mourns their deaths, angrily calling this despicable act of cowardice “expressly against the law of arms” and an “arrant…piece of knavery.”  Henry is enraged at the sight of the boys’ corpses, and when Montjoy reappears, the king rails at him, assuming he wants to ask for ransom again; but he tells Henry that the English have won the battle.

Williams passes by, and Henry, recognizing his glove in Williams’s cap, asks him of it; Williams explains that it is the glove of “a rascal that swagger’d” with him, and whom he will fight, if he has survived the battle.  Williams leaves, and Henry asks Fluellen to wear Williams’s glove in his cap, and if anyone should challenge him by the glove, the challenger is an enemy to the king.  Fluellen is to apprehend such a villain, if he truly loves his king.

Soon enough, Williams meets with Fluellen, and assuming the Welshman to be the man he quarreled with the night before, challenges him to a fight.  Their altercation catches the attention of the king, who then makes it known to Williams that he was the other man in the previous night’s quarrel.  Embarrassed, Williams insists he meant no conscious offense to the king, and begs his pardon.

Later, a list of all the dead is shown Henry, and he is amazed at so many French dead, including many knights, esquires, and noblemen: “a royal fellowship of death!”  Even more amazing is how few English died: four of name, “and of all other men/But five and twenty.”

Convinced that God has fought the battle for the English, Henry forbids any to boast of this victory, which has been God’s only.  Non nobis and Te Deum are to be sung.

Act Five, Prologue: The Chorus tells of Henry’s return to England, and though his people would have him bask in his glorious victory over France, he forbids it, saying the victory was God’s.  Then Henry will return to France to settle a peace treaty there.

On St. David’s Day, Fluellen has a leek in his hat; he knows of Pistol’s threat to hit him on the head with his leek, and tells Gower he wishes to confront the scoundrel.  Pistol arrives, and Fluellen hits him on the head with the leek, then force-feeds it to him, all while Gower watches his humiliation.  After Fluellen and Gower leave, Pistol mourns the death of his wife, Nell Quickly.  He says, “To England will I steal, and there I’ll steal.”  Then he’ll lie to everyone that the scars he got were from the war in France.

In the final scene, Henry meets with King Charles and his queen to discuss the terms of the peace treaty.  The Duke of Burgundy laments the destruction that this war has caused France.  Everyone leaves to work out and sign the treaty, leaving only Henry, Princess Katherine, and Alice.

Henry begins a comically awkward wooing of the princess, whose English has improved somewhat, but is still far from fluent.  He asks, “Do you like me, Kate?”  She says, “I cannot tell vat is like me.”  He says, “An angel is like you, Kate, and you are like an angel.”

She wonders if she can love the “enemy of France.”  He says it isn’t possible, but to love him is to love the friend of France, for he loves France so much that he won’t part with one village of it.  Then he tries to woo her in French, which is as clumsily spoken as her broken English.  He can move her in French only to laugh at him.

Still he asks, “wilt thou have me?”  She says she must have the consent of her father the king; Henry assures her she’ll get his consent.

Finally, he asks to kiss her hand, then her lips, but in her maidenly modesty she says it isn’t the custom of France for girls to kiss before marriage.  He insists that kings and queens make the customs rather than bow to them.  Then they kiss.

The others return, the terms of the peace treaty are all agreed on, and Henry and Katherine are to be married.

The Chorus ends by reminding us of how Henry soon died, leaving his infant son, Henry VI, his successor; and the mismanagement of the throne by quarreling politicians caused England to lose France.  This story, of course, was already staged in the Henry VI plays.

Detailed Synopsis of ‘Othello’

Act One: Iago and Roderigo are outside the house of Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, one night on a street in Venice.  Roderigo expresses his displeasure at his (justified) belief that Iago has been dishonest with him.  Iago insists that he hates Othello for having promoted Michael Cassio to Lieutenant, when Iago, remaining merely the Moor’s ensign, feels he’s much more deserving of the promotion, since he has the military experience Cassio lacks.  Still, Roderigo doesn’t understand why Iago works for a man he hates; Iago explains that he’s only pretending to be Othello’s loyal servant, and when the opportunity comes, he will have his revenge on the Moor.  (See Quote #1 of my Analysis of ‘Othello’.)

Since Roderigo wishes to have Othello’s woman, Iago tells him to join him in shouting by her father’s window, to wake him up and tell him that Othello has eloped with Desdemona (which he has).  So both Iago and Roderigo shout at the top of their lungs to wake Brabantio up.  Her father is angry to see Roderigo there waking him up, and reminds the dissolute suitor that he has rejected his suit for Desdemona.  Roderigo and Iago tell him that Desdemona is not in bed where she should be; Iago uses particularly crude language to describe Othello’s enjoying of her (See Quotes #2 and 3 of my Analysis).  While Brabantio is even further annoyed with Iago’s foul mouth, Roderigo insists they can prove the truth of what they say, if the old man would come with Roderigo.  Iago tells Roderigo he must join Othello, pretending to be his friend, while Roderigo takes Brabantio with him to arrest the Moor.  Iago leaves, then Brabantio joins Roderigo in looking for Othello.

Iago meets with Othello and Cassio; the Moor has married Desdemona.  Cassio tells Othello that the Duke of Venice wishes to speak with him about a problem in Cyprus.  Roderigo and Brabantio come with officers to arrest Othello for using “magic” to win her heart, since Brabantio cannot imagine his daughter willingly going to “the sooty bosom/Of such a thing” as Othello.  The Moor is taken away by the officers.

The Duke of Venice, with a group of senators, discusses the imminent invasion of Cyprus, a Venetian territory, by the Turks.  They need Othello to lead their navy to repel the invaders.  Othello enters with Brabantio, Roderigo, Iago, and the officers.  Brabantio, with a broken heart, accuses the Moor of using witchcraft on Desdemona.

Othello defends himself in a long, eloquent speech (see Quote #4), telling of how he and Brabantio had been good friends, and Othello was often invited to Brabantio’s home.  Othello would tell stories of all the times he had fought in wars, been caught by the enemy and sold into slavery, and then escaped to freedom.  Othello speaks of how he has encountered many strange peoples in his travels, including cannibals and people whose heads were under their shoulders.

Desdemona loved to hear these stories, wishing not to miss a single word.  She pitied how he’d suffered, and he loved her for so pitying him.  She indirectly expressed her love for him by saying that if a man should ever want to win her love, telling such stories would win her to his heart.  Taking this hint, Othello pursued her, and they fell in love.  This is the only witchcraft that Othello has used on her.

The duke is so impressed with this story that he imagines his own daughter could be won by such a story.  Desdemona has been sent for to confirm the Moor’s story.  She arrives, and her father asks her to whom she owes her duty and obedience.  She says that while she owes duty to Brabantio for raising her, Othello is now her husband.

The duke tells Othello to get the navy ready to fight the Turks.  The Moor must hurry off to Cyprus.  Desdemona wishes to join him, so he will tell Iago, who is also to go to Cyprus, to bring his wife Emilia to attend on her.  Cassio will also go.

The marriage being thus confirmed, Brabantio must grudgingly accept it.  His last words to Othello are a warning that she may one day show deceitfulness to him, having already done so to her father (see Quote #5).  He leaves, as does everyone else except Iago and Roderigo.

This latter, despondent over losing Desdemona, wishes to drown himself.  Iago scoffs at Roderigo’s “silliness,” as he himself calls it, but he doesn’t know what else to do.  Iago advises him to collect all his money and join them on the boats to Cyprus.  Iago says that Desdemona will eventually tire of the Moor, then Roderigo will have his chance to woo her.  He should continue giving gifts to Desdemona, money or jewels, and Iago will (supposedly) continue delivering them for him.  This plan revives the hopes of gullible Roderigo, who will now sell all his land.

After Roderigo leaves, Iago speaks of how he’ll use this fool’s hopes for his own “sport and profit,” since cheating him of his money is Iago’s only reason for spending time with him (Quote #6).

Iago now gives the real reason for his, indeed, most virulent hatred for Othello, mentioning a rumour he’s heard that the Moor has slept with his wife, Emilia.  Iago doesn’t have proof of this adultery, but he’ll assume the story is true and act on this assumption.  He’ll take advantage of Othello’s trust of him, and weave Cassio into his schemes, knowing the lieutenant has a way with the ladies.  Since Othello “is of a free and open nature,” Iago can easily manipulate him.  The ensign now has the germ of a plan to destroy the Moor, his wife Desdemona, and Cassio.

Act Two: In Cyprus, Cassio, Montano, and the other Venetians wait as Othello’s ship sails on the stormy seas; everyone hopes the ship will arrive safely.

Desdemona, Iago, and Emilia arrive.  Cassio kisses Desdemona’s hand; Iago notes this innocent show of affection, and plans to make it seem much more than that.

The Moor arrives, and he will relieve Montano of the duties of governing Cyprus; he also has good news–the Turkish fleet perished in the storm, so there will be no invasion!  Everyone is to celebrate that night.  Cassio is commanded by Othello to watch over the city that night and ensure that the revelry doesn’t get out of hand.

Roderigo appears.  Iago tells Roderigo that Cassio’s kissing of her hand is proof that she is looking for new lovers.  Roderigo doesn’t believe this, thinking (correctly) that Cassio was only showing gentlemanly courtesy; but Iago insists that the kiss was an expression of lust.  He then tells Roderigo to pick a fight with Cassio that night, during the festivities, when the lieutenant is drunk.

When the celebrations begin, and everyone has had some wine, Cassio insists he’s had enough, and he must begin his work, watching over the town.  Iago asks him to have some more wine, but Cassio says he mustn’t have any more, since he cannot handle it well.  Iago insists, though, so Cassio reluctantly drinks some more.

Later on, after some singing and rowdiness, Cassio decides he must begin his work.  He is very drunk, but he refuses to admit it, his pride piqued at anyone even thinking he’s drunk.  He leaves to begin his night watch.

Iago speaks with Montano about Cassio, lying that the lieutenant regularly drinks to excess.  Montano finds it worrying that Othello would give such a man a position of such responsibility.

Suddenly, Cassio returns angrily after having fought with Roderigo.  When Montano tries to calm Cassio, he threatens to knock him over the head.  Montano says he’s drunk, provoking him.  Swords drawn, the two men fight briefly, and chaos ensues.  Montano is wounded by Cassio, and Othello arrives, demanding that everyone immediately stop fighting.  He demands an explanation: Montano cannot answer, since he’s badly hurt; the lieutenant is too ashamed to speak.  Othello then turns to Iago, and demands to know who started the fight.

Iago pretends to be reluctant about giving an answer to Othello’s question, acting as though he is loath to blame Cassio.  Othello insists that Iago speak.  Iago speaks in a manner as if only vaguely to justify Cassio’s aggression.  Othello responds in the manner Iago was aiming for: the Moor assumes his ensign is mincing matters to protect Cassio from judgement, but he punishes Cassio by stripping him of his rank of lieutenant.  He gives the responsibility of watching over the town to Iago.  Cassio is crushed.

Desdemona arrives, asking what the matter is; Othello expresses his annoyance that the brawl has woken her up.  He takes her and Montano away with him, since he will bandage Montano’s wound.  Everyone else leaves, except Cassio and Iago.

Cassio complains of how he has “lost [his] reputation,” and blames wine for bringing out the devil in him.  Iago says there is nothing wrong with wine when drunk in moderation.  He also tells Cassio that if he wishes to get his reputation back, he should plead his case to Desdemona, for the “General’s wife is now the General.”  She in turn will plead for Cassio’s sake, asking Othello to forgive him and reinstate him as lieutenant.  This gives Cassio hope, and he leaves.

Alone now, Iago insists he is being no villain for offering such good advice to Cassio (Quote # 7); and yet, it is Iago’s plan to make Othello believe that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair.  With every appeal she makes to Cassio’s virtues, she will all the more arouse the Moor’s suspicions of her infidelity.  Thus will Iago turn her white virtue pitch black.

Roderigo appears, complaining to Iago about the beating he’s got from Cassio, and of how he’s spent almost all his money (given in gifts to Iago to give to Desdemona, but of course Iago keeps the gifts for himself).  Iago gives the foolish suitor more dubious encouragement by saying that the fight he provoked in Cassio caused him to lose his rank of lieutenant.  This loss of status should make Cassio unattractive to Desdemona, and then Roderigo can have his chance to win her love.  Cheered up, Roderigo leaves.

Act Three: In the garden of the citadel in Cyprus the next day, Cassio asks Emilia if he can speak with Desdemona: she takes him to her.  He asks Desdemona to beg forgiveness of the Moor, and she promises to help him.  He, grateful, says he is her “true servant.”  As they continue talking, Othello and Iago arrive: while the Moor thinks nothing of his wife talking with Cassio, Iago says he doesn’t like what he sees.  Cassio leaves, and Iago characterizes his going as guilty-looking.

Desdemona approaches Othello, asking him to forgive Cassio.  He says they can discuss that at another time, with her at first importuning him when.  She obediently leaves at his request, satisfied that they will resume the discussion of reinstating Cassio.  The Moor expresses his love for Desdemona (Quote #8).

Iago asks Othello about how he began to woo her.  He says Cassio already knew of his wooing of her, and was very diligent in going between Othello and Desdemona.  Iago says, “Indeed,” in a way insinuating bad intentions in Cassio.  Othello begins to wonder what Iago is implying; the Moor recalls when Iago said he didn’t like seeing Cassio guiltily chatting with Desdemona.  He presses the seemingly reluctant Iago to speak his mind.

Using reverse psychology, Iago speaks of how wrong it is to harm someone’s reputation by slandering it, all the while making Othello more and more suspicious of Cassio and Desdemona.  Iago continues to be evasive, pretending Othello shouldn’t think too much of the matter.

Iago climaxes his manipulative words with a warning to Othello about giving in to jealousy (Quote #9), saying it’s better to be a cuckold who is blissfully ignorant of his wife’s infidelities than to suspect an innocent wife of such disloyalty and to torment himself with such suspicion.

Now, ironically, the Moor is fully enmeshed in the net of jealousy, though he denies it.  Knowing this, Iago advises him to watch Desdemona when she is with Cassio.  He reminds Othello of how she’s deceived her father, but still tells him not to worry about this suspicion until better proof is available.  Iago leaves.

Othello ponders what Iago has said, imagining that Desdemona may not find him so attractive because of his dark complexion.  She returns, and seeing he is not well, she tries to wrap around his brow a handkerchief, one designed with a distinct strawberry motif.  He pushes it away, causing it to fall on the ground; the distracted wife follows him as he storms away, forgetting to pick the handkerchief up.

Emilia enters, finding it on the ground.  She picks it up, speaks of wishing to have the pretty thing copied, and remembers how her husband has wanted her to steal it for some unrevealed purpose of his.  He returns, and she tells him she has the handkerchief; she tells Iago that she hasn’t stolen it, but Desdemona left it on the ground “by negligence.”  He takes it from Emilia, but she worries about Desdemona not getting it back, since she will be in a terribly distressed state if she loses it, a special gift from Othello.  Iago tells Emilia to go away; she does.

Iago speaks of how jealous people will consider the most trivial of things to be firm proof of their suspicions.  He will leave the handkerchief with Cassio’s things, knowing this will aid him in his vindictive purposes.  Iago gloats as he sees returning Othello, who is increasingly coming undone.

The Moor angrily demands that Iago produce proof that Desdemona is a whore.  Iago speaks of how regretful he is of his “honesty” being so ill-appreciated.  Othello says he is torn between believing his ensign and trusting Desdemona, and that his vague, unproven suspicions are tormenting him; he must have proof.

Iago says it would be nearly impossible to arrange a viewing of her in bed with Cassio, something the Moor recoils at, saying, “Death and damnation!”  But if some kind of circumstantial evidence were provided, perhaps that would be sufficient for Othello.  He will indeed accept such evidence.

Iago speaks of a night when he and Cassio were sleeping side by side: Cassio, apparently, was talking out loud in his sleep, speaking of how he and Desdemona must hide their love from the Moor.  Then Cassio wrapped his leg around Iago and began kissing him, imagining in his dream that Iago was Desdemona.  Othello grows all the more unsettled by this revelation.

To make matters worse, Iago tells him of a handkerchief, “spotted with strawberries,” that he’s seen Cassio wipe his beard with: Othello knows this to be his gift to his wife, and he is going insane with jealousy now.  He makes Iago his lieutenant; Iago says, “I am your own for ever.”

Before the citadel, Desdemona is going mad herself wondering where her handkerchief is.  She tells Emilia she would rather lose her “purse full of crusadoes” than lose Othello’s dear gift to her.

He enters, finding it difficult to hide his jealousy; she says Cassio will come and speak with him, hoping to bring about a reconciliation between the two men.  This, of course, inflames his jealous rage further.

He asks her to wipe his brow with her handkerchief, but she can only do so with another handkerchief she’s using as a temporary replacement.  Having tested Iago’s story, and dismayed to see it so seemingly confirmed, Othello demands that she produce the strawberry-patterned handkerchief.  She says she cannot find it at the moment.

He tells her that the handkerchief was a magical gift an Egyptian gave to his mother.  As long as his mother had it, his father would continue loving her; but if she were to lose it, she would lose his father’s love.  The implications of the story for Othello’s love for Desdemona frighten her.

He demands again that she find it.  She says she’ll get it later, for now she sees it as a distraction from her suit to get him to reinstate Cassio.  He keeps demanding the handkerchief while she pleads for Cassio; he curses and leaves the room.  Emilia wonders if he is jealous, while Desdemona insists he’s never been that way.  Emilia says men are all stomachs, and women their food to be belched when the eaters are sated.

Cassio gives the handkerchief to Bianca, a girl he’s been seeing; he wants her to have it copied.  She jealously suspects he’s got it from another woman.

Act Four: Iago tells Othello of a time he heard Cassio speaking of lying in bed with Desdemona; Othello gets so upset that he has an epileptic seizure.  Iago gloats to watch Othello coming so unhinged.

After the Moor has swooned and fallen on the ground, Cassio comes by, and wonders what’s wrong with Othello.  Iago tells him the Moor has “fall’n into an epilepsy.”  Cassio suggests rubbing him on the temples, but Iago insists that the epilepsy must be allowed to follow its course.  Iago asks Cassio to leave, but would have him return soon, for he has something important to talk about with Cassio.  Cassio leaves.

The Moor comes out of it, and Iago says Cassio will return; while Othello is hiding, he can eavesdrop on a conversation between Iago and Cassio, one that will confirm the latter’s guilt.  Othello hides, and Cassio returns.

First, Iago speaks of Desdemona with Cassio, and of his hopes that Othello will forgive him.  Then Iago deftly changes the subject to that of Bianca, and in a way that makes Othello think the woman being discussed is still Desdemona.  Cassio laughs, speaking of how she (Bianca, or Desdemona?) is in love with him.  Othello is snarling as he listens to this.

Then, in a turn of fortune better than Iago could have devised, Bianca suddenly appears, showing off the handkerchief so Othello can see it, and complaining jealously that Cassio is seeing another woman, the handkerchief being proof of his two-timing.  She leaves angrily.  Cassio follows after her.

Othello emerges, asking Iago how he should kill Desdemona, now that he has apparent proof of her infidelity.  Iago suggests killing her in her bed, the one she has “contaminated.”  Othello considers this a just punishment.  Iago then offers to kill Cassio.

Lodovico, Desdemona’s cousin, has arrived in Cyprus to tell Othello he is to return to Venice.  The Moor is visibly upset as he reads the letter from the Duke of Venice with his orders to return, and for Cassio to be the new governor of Cyprus.

Lodovico wonders what is troubling him; Desdemona speaks of the friction between her husband and Cassio, a problem she wishes would end, for all the love she bears to Cassio.  Othello is especially offended to hear her dare to say that in front of him, and he slaps her in front of everyone!

She knows she doesn’t deserve such abuse.  Lodovico is shocked at what he’s seen, imagining no one in Venice would believe Othello could behave in such a way.  Surely his reputation as unflappable is in question.

Later, Othello questions Emilia if she has ever seen her mistress with Cassio in an intimate situation; Emilia, of course, hasn’t, for she has never left Desdemona’s company, not even briefly to get a fan or anything.  Emilia, not believed, is told to fetch Desdemona.  The Moor insists that his wife is “a subtle whore.”  Desdemona, frightened, returns with Emilia, and must defend herself against accusations of being a whore.

Othello leaves, and Desdemona complains of her troubles with teary eyes to Emilia and Iago.  They cannot imagine why Othello would slander her so.  Emilia insists some villain has told Othello slanderous lies about his wife, then Emilia recalls how someone similarly calumniated her to Iago about having had an affair with Othello, a vicious rumour that drove Iago to near madness.  Her husband dismisses the story angrily.

Desdemona, in her sweetness, cannot even say the word “whore,” let alone be one.  Iago reasons that Othello is simply annoyed at having to return to Venice, and is thus taking his frustrations out on Desdemona.  Dinner is about to be served, and Iago tries to cheer her up with that, and with hopes that all will soon be resolved.  The women leave.

Alone, Iago is accosted by a furious Roderigo, who demands satisfaction for having been duped by Iago all this time.  Roderigo has spent all his money in his foolish, futile suit for Desdemona, having given gifts to Iago to give to Desdemona, but Roderigo has gotten no desirable results at all.  Correctly assuming that Iago has been cheating him, Roderigo demands compensation and threatens Iago if he isn’t satisfied.

Quick-thinking Iago praises Roderigo for showing his manhood, and suggests that he use his apparent strength in a fight against Cassio.  Iago will help, it seems; then when Cassio is removed, Roderigo can have Desdemona.  Gullible Roderigo agrees to this plan.

After dinner with Lodovico, Othello tells Desdemona to go to bed alone, and to dismiss Emilia as soon as she has finished getting her ready for bed.  This command is surprising both to Desdemona and to Emilia when she hears it.

In Desdemona’s bedroom, as Emilia is getting her ready for bed, Desdemona remembers a maid from Barbary whose lover went mad and abandoned her.  The maid sang a sad song called ‘Willow,’ which Desdemona then sings.

She asks Emilia if there are any wives anywhere who commit adultery; Emilia says there surely are at least a few; for women have their ways of getting revenge on the wrongs their husbands inflict on them.  Emilia is sure that some women would gladly make their husbands cuckolds if doing so might make their men kings.  (Is she implying here that she, indeed, slept with Othello in the hopes that the Moor would, in return, make Iago his lieutenant?)  Desdemona, ever sweet and innocent, still cannot imagine any wife to be unfaithful to her man.  Emilia leaves her, and she goes to bed.

Act Five: Outside on a street at night, Iago and Roderigo are waiting for Cassio to leave Bianca’s home so they can assault him.  Iago realizes that this altercation will be crucial, for both men must die if Iago is to succeed in his plans.  This night will either make him, or undo him.  Iago and Roderigo are hiding in the shadows.

Cassio appears, and Roderigo attacks him.  Swords drawn, they fight, and Cassio wounds Roderigo.  Then Iago sneaks up behind Cassio with his rapier and stabs him in the leg.  Not knowing who has attacked him, Cassio calls out for help.

Othello watches from his window, and hearing the commotion on the street (as do Lodovico and Gratiano), assumes Iago has killed Cassio.  Satisfied with the achievement of this part of his supposed revenge, Othello heads for Desdemona’s bedroom.

On the street, Lodovico and Gratiano come to help Cassio.  Iago reappears from the shadows, pretending he’s only just arrived and knows nothing of what has happened.  Cassio says his wounded attacker is back somewhere in the shadows.  Iago goes over and mortally wounds Roderigo, who curses him before dying.  Then Iago yells for help.  He binds Cassio’s wound with his shirt.

Outside, Emilia and Bianca come to help Cassio.  Bianca is hysterical with grief over her lover’s hurt, but Emilia and Iago dismiss her as a tramp, implying Cassio’s injury to have been her fault, which she denies.  Cassio is taken away to be treated for his wound.

In Desdemona’s bedroom, Othello gazes on her sleeping body, his heart full of grief over the murder he feels he must commit, for the sake of honour.  He speaks of how he won’t shed her blood, or wound her beautiful skin, as “smooth as monumental alabaster.”

Extinguishing candles by her bed, he speaks sorrowfully of extinguishing the fire of her life (Quote #10), already imagining his regret over killing her, and knowing that, while one can light a candle again after wishing one hasn’t put the fire out, one cannot resurrect the victim one rues having killed.

He reaches over and kisses her several times, the last kiss waking her up.  He asks her if she has said her prayers for the night; she has.  He is glad of this, for he doesn’t wish, in killing her, to send her soul to hell.  She asks why he has murder on his mind, and he accuses her of having an affair with Cassio, who had the handkerchief.

She vehemently denies this adultery, asking to have Cassio summoned to corroborate her story.  Othello says her alleged lover cannot attest to her denial, for he has been killed.  She weeps for Cassio’s sake, infuriating the Moor.

He approaches her to commit the murder, but she begs him to banish her instead. He picks up a pillow and smothers her with it.  There is knocking on the door; Emilia comes in, telling him of Cassio’s injury.  Othello is annoyed to know he is still alive.

Emilia, however, is shocked to see Desdemona murdered; actually, she isn’t quite dead, but her last words are ones of love for Othello.  Then she dies.

When Othello justifies his murder by saying she was unfaithful to him, Emilia refuses to believe him.  He says Iago informed him of the adultery: too horrified to imagine her husband so wicked, she asks of Iago repeatedly to make sure, causing Othello to wonder why she needs to make this “iterance”.  She insists that if Iago really accused Desdemona of infidelity, he is a liar.  Sure of Iago’s reputation for honesty, Othello cannot believe that he lied.  Emilia cries out of the bedroom for help.  “The Moor hath kill’d my mistress!  Murder!  Murder!”

Montano, Iago, Gratiano, and others come into the bedroom.  She asks Iago if he told Othello that Desdemona had had an affair with Cassio: her husband admits that he said so.  Emilia is heartbroken that Iago could tell such “a wicked lie.”  He barks at her to go home; she refuses to, insisting that she have a chance to speak.

When Othello mentions her handkerchief in Cassio’s possession, Emilia is all the more horrified, now knowing Iago’s real purpose in having it stolen.  Emilia refuses to obey her husband’s command to be quiet and go home, for she must tell all.  Iago tries to attack Emilia with a sword, but is stopped by Gratiano, who is shocked he’d try to stab a woman.

When she tells Othello she stole the handkerchief to give to Iago, the Moor finally realizes how wrong and rash he was to murder his wife.  She carries on about how foolish Othello has been, murdering such a sweet and innocent wife.  He is already agonizing over his mistake.  Iago stabs his wife, then flees the room; he is pursued.

She lies beside Desdemona, weakly singing, “Willow, willow, willow,” before dying.  Othello continues grieving over Desdemona.

Iago has been apprehended and is brought back with Lodovico, Montano, and Cassio (who is carried in a chair), and officers.   Othello takes a knife and wounds Iago, who maliciously smiles at him and says the stab isn’t fatal; the Moor, preferring death to life, is glad to let Iago live.  Othello’s sword has been taken from him.

Cassio protests his innocence to Othello, who sadly acknowledges this and apologizes to him.  Othello wants to know why Iago has thus ruined him, but the villain refuses to say any more.

Othello is to be arrested for murder, but he wants a moment to speak, since he’s done some service to Venice.  He asks the people of Venice to speak truthfully “Of one that lov’d not wisely, but too well” (Quote #11).  At the end of his speech, he produces a hidden dagger and stabs himself.  He kisses Desdemona and dies (Quote #12).

Lodovico execrates Iago for his villainy, and demands the harshest punishments for him.  Lodovico must now return to Venice and tell this sad story with a heavy heart.

Detailed Synopsis of ‘The Merchant of Venice’

Act One: Antonio, the merchant of Venice, tells Salerio and Solanio that he feels sad and wearied for reasons he can’t understand.  His friends suggest that he’s worried about the ships carrying his money and goods: what if they’re lost at sea?  He says he isn’t worried about that.

Solanio imagines Antonio could be in love: he rejects the idea as absurd.

Bassanio and Gratiano enter.  Gratiano, a well-meaning, though rather rude and tactless fellow, prates about nonsense with Antonio until Bassanio stops him and apologizes for him.

Then Bassanio tells Antonio of his wish to marry a beautiful, wealthy heiress named Portia; he says she, having all the virtues of Brutus’ wife (see my synopsis and analysis of Julius Caesar), is aptly named.  Bassanio, however, has spent all his money, and ever in debt, hopes Antonio will lend him some for the trip to Belmont, which is about ten miles from Venice, in Villa Foscari, in Mira.

Antonio would gladly lend his friend all he needs (and without interest), but he himself has none, for he’s waiting for his ships to arrive.  He will, however, be a guarantor to any money-lender Bassanio can find in Venice; so they’ll look for a usurer to lend Bassanio 3,000 ducats.

In Belmont, Portia complains to Nerissa, her lady-in-waiting, about the predicament her late father has put her in.  Suitors from all over the Mediterranean and Europe hope to marry her, but she likes none of them (except for a handsome young man named Bassanio!).  She must marry the suitor who chooses the correct one of three caskets, each made of gold, silver, or lead.

What if one of the undesirables chooses the correct one?  She cannot, by oath, refuse him.  What if a desirable man chooses incorrectly?  She cannot, by oath, marry him.  Nor can she aid or deceive any suitor in his choice.

Nerissa comforts her by reminding her of her father’s wisdom; surely his system of three caskets will yield Portia a worthy husband.  Nerissa then asks what Portia thinks of the various suitors: Portia contemptuously dismisses all of them…except Bassanio.

The ladies must go meet a suitor–the prince of Morocco.

Back in Venice, in a public place, Bassanio finds Shylock, a Jewish usurer, to lend him the money.  Knowing Antonio will be Bassanio’s guarantor, Shylock considers the merchant a man of good credit (though not of good character); so Shylock agrees to lend Bassanio 3,000 ducats.  Bassanio invites Shylock to dine with him and Antonio; the Jew says he will do business with them, but neither eat nor pray with them.

When Antonio arrives to cement the deal, Shylock speaks to himself of how much he hates Antonio, not only because he is a Christian, but also because he scorns Shylock’s Jewish faith and lends out money gratis, thus hurting Shylock’s profits.  He hopes he can get an opportunity to trip Antonio up.

Shylock and Antonio begin discussing the deal with polite smiles to mask their mutual hate.  Shylock refers to the story in Genesis of how Jacob cleverly tricked Laban into letting him have the best sheep and goats, and that this was shrewd commerce.  Antonio considers such an interpretation of the Bible story to be a devilish advocacy of taking interest (see Quote #1 of my ‘Analysis of The Merchant of Venice‘), and says instead that God had intended this transaction for divine purposes.

Shylock mentions how Antonio spat on him the previous week, and how he’s often spoken disparagingly of Shylock’s Judaism; now Antonio needs money from a Jew!  Antonio proudly says he’d gladly spite the usurer again, and if Shylock won’t lend the money as a friend, he may do so as an enemy, taking as much interest from Antonio as he pleases if the debt isn’t paid on time.

Shylock pretends that he wishes he and Antonio could be friends; he offers not to require any interest from Antonio if he defaults, and instead–supposedly in jest–would have a pound of Antonio’s flesh, cut from whatever part of his body Shylock chooses.

Antonio happily agrees to this arrangement; he will follow after Shylock to the notary public and sign the bond.  Shylock leaves.  Antonio imagines the Jew is growing kind, and that he may even convert to Christianity one day.

Bassanio, fearing danger to his friend, urges Antonio not to sign the bond.  Antonio reassures him that his boats will arrive well before the due date, with more than enough money to pay the debt.

Act Two: In Portia’s house in Belmont, she and Nerissa meet the prince of Morocco and his followers.  He tells her not to dislike him for his darker skin, since many of the best-regarded virgins of his land have liked his hue.

Still, his aggressive manner frightens Portia, who hopes he’ll choose from the wrong caskets.  He is led to them.

In Venice, Launcelot Gobbo, a comical Christian, doesn’t enjoy working for Shylock.  Gobbo imagines a devil tempting him to end his services to Shylock and work for Christians instead, while his conscience tells him to stay in the Jew’s employ.  He sees his blind father, Old Gobbo, approaching, and for fun, briefly tricks him into thinking he isn’t his son.

Old Gobbo wishes to find and give a present to Shylock, and after Gobbo has had his fun, he takes his father to Bassanio instead of the Jew.  Then Gobbo tells Bassanio he wishes to work for him instead.  Bassanio agrees to hire him.

Gratiano wishes to join Bassanio on his trip to Belmont.  Bassanio tells Gratiano to be tactful in Belmont, so as not to endanger Bassanio’s hopes of winning Portia.  Gratiano promises he’ll watch his words.

In Shylock’s home, Gobbo knows of how Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, secretly wishes to elope with and marry the Christian Lorenzo.  Arrangements have been made to get her out of Shylock’s house that night, while he’s at dinner with Antonio and Bassanio, to give the latter the 3,000 ducats.

Jessica knows it’s shameful to scorn her own father, but she yearns to convert to Christianity and be Lorenzo’s wife.  Shylock commands her to keep the windows of his house closed while he’s out, since he doesn’t want her “to gaze on Christian fools.”  He doesn’t want to go out, for he knows the Christians aren’t his true friends; still, he leaves anyway.

That night, Lorenzo, Salerio, and Solanio come to Shylock’s house to get Jessica, who is disguised as a boy and embarrassed about it (see Quote #2 from my ‘Analysis’).  She steals small caskets of Shylock’s ducats and leaves with the men.

Back in Belmont, the prince of Morocco looks over the three caskets.  On the gold casket an inscription says, “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.”  The inscription on the silver casket says, “Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.”  That of the lead casket says, “Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.”  Portia tells the prince that the correct casket has her picture in it.

The prince refuses to risk everything for mere lead.  He looks over all three inscriptions again after asking for divine guidance in his choice.  He looks at the gold casket’s inscription again, and, noting how many men desire Portia, he assumes her picture must be in such a beautiful casket; so he chooses gold.

He gets the key to the casket and opens it.  To his chagrin, he sees a skull and a scroll.  He reads it (Quote #3): many men desire gold, some getting killed in their quest for it.  Since this is a foolish thing to desire, the prince’s “suit is cold”.

He sadly leaves with his followers.

In Venice, Salerio and Solanio discuss the eloping of Lorenzo and Jessica, and Shylock’s rage over it.  They speak gloatingly about Shylock’s misfortunes: the Jew has been going all about Venice complaining about his disloyal daughter and stolen ducats.  They mock his ranting and raving, as have all the boys in Venice following him about.

They also mention a rumour that a ship, possibly Antonio’s, may have been lost at sea.  They fear for their friend.

In Belmont, the prince of Aragon, a pompous, foppish sort, arrives to try his fortune with the caskets.  He reads the inscriptions on each, scoffing at the “base lead” casket; and insisting he’s better than the lowly multitude, he assumes the gold casket is wrong too, for what he values is better than what “many men desire”.

He feels that the inscription on the silver casket is “well said”, for we can have things only with “the stamp of merit”.  Assuming he deserves Portia, he imagines her picture will be in the silver casket.  He asks for its key, and opens it.

Instead of seeing Portia’s picture, however, he sees that of “a blinking idiot”.  The accompanying scroll has a poem that says the picture is a representation of arrogant fools like him.  As disappointed as the prince of Morocco was, he leaves in annoyance.  Portia, of course, is relieved.

Act Three: On a street in Venice, Salerio and Solanio have confirmation that Antonio has lost a ship at sea; they both worry about their friend.  They give antisemitic scowls to Shylock, who is approaching and still ranting about Jessica.

When he speaks of how shocking it is for his own flesh and blood to have betrayed him by marrying a Christian, Salerio speaks of how she is more dissimilar to her father than red wine is to Rhenish, or than jet and ivory.

Shylock says Antonio should “look to his bond”.  Salerio asks Shylock what he could possibly want with a pound of Antonio’s flesh: Shylock gives all his reasons for wanting revenge on his Christian persecutor (Quote #4).

Shylock says Jews share all the same human qualities as Christians do, including vulnerability to pain, disease, and death; Jews can also be as villainous and vengeful as Christians.  Shylock will soon prove this last point.

Tubal, Shylock’s Jewish friend, appears; not willing to tolerate the presence of any more Jews, Salerio and Solanio leave.  Tubal has good and bad news for Shylock: Antonio’s ships are indeed lost, so Shylock can get his pound of flesh; but Jessica was seen having sold a turquoise ring (Shylock’s wife’s, therefore having sentimental value for him) in exchange for a monkey.  She also spent 80 ducats in one night, Tubal says.  This breaks Shylock’s heart.  He has Tubal find an officer to arrest Antonio.

Bassanio and Gratiano have arrived in Belmont, and Portia and Nerissa are with them.  (Gratiano and Nerissa quickly take a liking to each other.)  Since Portia likes Bassanio, she wishes he would wait and talk with her for a day or two before choosing from the caskets; for if he chooses incorrectly, he’ll have to leave immediately, and they’ll never see each other again.  Still, he cannot bear the suspense of waiting, and must make his choice and get it over with.

As he looks over the caskets and their inscriptions, a love song is sung during the comments he makes.  Knowing that outer appearances are often deceptive of inner reality, Bassanio wisely imagines the dull-looking lead casket, whose inscription threatens rather than promises, has Portia’s picture in it.

He gets the key, unlocks the casket, and finds her picture.  He and Portia are overjoyed.  When he reads the congratulating poem in the casket, he says, “A gentle scroll.”

Along with their imminent marriage, Gratiano and Nerissa tell of their having fallen in love and plan to be married.  The women give their men a ring, and make them swear an oath never to lose the rings or give them away.

Salerio has arrived in Belmont, and he enters with Lorenzo and Jessica with bad news from Venice: since Antonio’s boats are lost and he has no money to pay Shylock the 3,000 ducats, Shylock wants the pound of flesh.

Jessica knows of her father’s lust for revenge, and that no amount of money will deflect him from getting that pound of Antonio’s flesh.  Wealthy Portia considers any friend of Bassanio’s to be a friend of hers, so she will gladly pay twice the amount so the debt may be forgiven.

The two couples will be quickly married, then everyone, except Lorenzo and the ladies, is to make plans to hurry back to Venice and help Antonio in any way he can.

Back in Venice, Antonio tries to reason with Shylock, who has a gaoler arrest the merchant.  Shylock refuses to yield to Christian intercessors.  Antonio must accept the fact that the Jew hates him and seeks his life.

In Belmont, Lorenzo commends Portia for her patience in enduring the absence of her husband while he is in Venice trying to help his friend.  She has a servant go to Padua to see Bellario, a great lawyer, to get whatever notes and clothing he can give her.

Portia has devised a plan of her own to save Antonio: she will learn what she can of law from Bellario, then disguise herself as a man (Nerissa will be disguised as ‘his’ clerk).  The two faux lawyers will then go to Venice and help Antonio.

Gobbo jokes with Jessica about how her conversion to Christianity will raise the price of pork.  She shares the joke with Lorenzo.

Act Four: Back in Venice, the Duke of Venice enters a courtroom.  Shylock, Antonio, Bassanio, Gratiano, Salerio and Solanio are there.  The duke speaks to Shylock, hoping he’ll show mercy and forgive the debt.  Shylock refuses, insisting he has a legal right to a pound of Antonio’s flesh.

Why does he want it?  The desire for the pound of flesh is just a part of his disposition, Shylock says, as it is the disposition of others to dislike a pig or a cat.  He has “a certain loathing” of Antonio, and that is sufficient reason for him.

No one accepts this reasoning, though Shylock isn’t moved by their rejection of his attitude.  Antonio says nothing will move the Jew any more than telling the water not to reach its height on the beach.  Nothing will inspire pity in his hard “Jewish heart.”  Sentence should be quickly given, and one should just get this whole ordeal over with.

Shylock says that the slaves of many Venetians are legally the rightful property of their masters, who have paid dearly for them–we don’t ask the masters to free their slaves.  Similarly, the pound of flesh he has bought rightfully belongs to him.

Though the duke realizes that his refusal of Shylock’s legal right to the pound of flesh will render invalid the law of Venice, he will wait for Bellario to determine the case.  The duke is told of the famous lawyer’s inability to attend; he has, however, recommended a young lawyer named ‘Balthazar’ (Portia in disguise), whose wisdom with the law belies ‘his’ youth.  The duke wholeheartedly will have ‘Balthazar’ take the case.

‘He’ and ‘his clerk’ (Nerissa in disguise) enter.  ‘Balthazar’ being already thoroughly acquainted with the case, ‘he’ looks over the document allowing Shylock a pound of Antonio’s flesh if he defaults.  ‘He’ then says Shylock must show mercy; the Jew asks what compels him to.

‘Balthazar’ explains that nothing in the nature of mercy involves compulsion (see Quote #5).  Mercy blesses the giver as well as the receiver; this virtue is most becoming of kings, for it is an attribute of God’s.  We must remember that justice, strictly applied to all of us without mercy, would damn every one of us sinners.  Therefore, when we ask for God’s mercy, we are likewise well advised to show mercy to those who’ve wronged us.

None of this speech moves Shylock, who craves the law and will gladly accept all responsibility for his misdeeds.  He is offered twice the original amount; he refuses it, sharpening his knife.

When ‘Balthazar’ sees that Shylock will not be moved to mercy, ‘he’ says the law of Venice must be upheld, and Antonio must prepare his breast for Shylock’s knife.  Shylock praises ‘Balthazar’ for his learned understanding of the law.

Bassanio and Gratiano brace Antonio, and each of them says he’d gladly give up his beloved wife to save Antonio.  Little do these husbands know, of course, that the wives they’ve just proven disloyal to have heard their words, and are frowning at the sound of them.

Shylock similarly frowns, assuming this disloyalty to be typical of Christian husbands.  He’d prefer Jessica had married the worst of Jews rather than a Christian!  He says time is being wasted, and wishes the duke would pass sentence promptly.

As Shylock’s knife is being brought near Antonio’s breast, ‘Balthazar’ suddenly interrupts, saying that the law allows Shylock not one drop of blood–only Antonio’s flesh (Quote #6).  Technically, nothing in the bond says Shylock is to be awarded anything other than an exact pound of flesh–no more or less, by even the weight of a hair.

Shocked Shylock is immobilized; Gratiano mocks Shylock’s words of “learned judge”, and gloatingly thanks the Jew for teaching him such expressions as “a second Daniel”.

Shylock asks if he can at least take the 6,000 ducats, but ‘Balthazar’ reminds everyone that he rejected the money in open court; he cannot even have the principal.  The Jew, wanting only a pound of flesh, must take his legal property, at the risk of shedding Christian blood.

Demoralized, Shylock wishes to leave the courtroom, but ‘Balthazar’ says the Venetian law, so fetishized by Shylock, ironically has a further hold on him.  For a foreigner’s attempt, direct or indirect, on a Venetian’s life, the law can penalize the foreigner by seizing all of his property: half goes to the victim, the other half to the state, in the form of a fine.  Shylock’s life, on top of these punishments, is at the mercy of the duke.

Gloating Gratiano says Shylock should beg to hang himself; though he, now totally expropriated, hasn’t even the money to buy a rope.

The duke, demonstrating ‘Christian mercy’ over ‘Jewish mercilessness’, grants Shylock his life before he even asks it; nonetheless, all his money and possessions are to be claimed by Antonio and the state.  Shylock prefers death, knowing that he cannot live without any money or property.

‘Balthazar’ asks Antonio what mercy he can give Shylock.  Antonio asks the duke not to seize the state’s lawful half of Shylock’s assets; Antonio’s half will be reserved until Shylock’s death, then given to Lorenzo and Jessica.  Shylock groans at this.

Moreover, Antonio has another, more crushing condition for this ‘mercy’: Shylock must immediately convert to Christianity.  The Jew-no-longer is thus both materially and spiritually destroyed.

He tearfully accepts the terms, and will sign the requisite documentation at his home.  Not feeling well, he asks to leave.  The duke allows him to go; Gratiano continues to gloat as Shylock exits the courtroom.

The duke tells Antonio and Bassanio that they are most beholden to ‘Balthazar’ for saving Antonio’s life; they agree.  They approach the ‘lawyer’ and offer ‘him’ anything ‘he’ wishes for ‘his’ service to them.  At first ‘he’ says such gifts of gratitude are unnecessary, but they insist.  ‘He’ therefore asks Antonio for his gloves, which are promptly given him.

Not forgetting Bassanio’s willingness to give up his wife for Antonio, ‘Balthazar’ then asks for Bassanio’s ring.  Though he would gladly give the ‘lawyer’ the most valuable ring he can find, he cannot part with his wife’s gift.  ‘Balthazar’ makes him feel guilty for not giving ‘him’ the ring, and thus manipulates him into giving it to ‘him’.

Nerissa whispers in Portia’s ear that she’ll use the same tactics to get Gratiano to give her the ring she gave him.  The ‘clerk’ asks Gratiano to show ‘him’ where Shylock’s home is.

Act Five: In Belmont, Lorenzo and Jessica share a romantic moment together at night.  Launcelot Gobbo comes looking for Lorenzo.  Gobbo tells Lorenzo that Bassanio will be back soon.

Portia and Nerissa arrive, back in women’s clothes (see Quote #7); Portia would have none of the servants tell Bassanio or Gratiano, who they know will arrive soon, that she and Nerissa were absent.

Their husbands arrive and share a few words; then a quarrel begins between Nerissa and Gratiano over his having given up her ring.  He insists a clerk, about her height, insisted on having the ring as gratitude for having helped save Antonio.  She says, feigning jealousy, that Gratiano gave it to a girl he’s enjoyed.

Portia says Nerissa’s anger is justified; Portia gave Bassanio a ring, and says he’d never give it away.  Gratiano says Bassanio gave it to the lawyer who defended Antonio.  Now Portia is angry with her husband.

Bassanio tries to explain that his hand was forced in giving away the ring, but Portia will hear none of his excuses.  Antonio feels he is to blame for these quarrels, and asks how he can help resolve this fighting.

Portia gives Antonio an apparently new ring to give to Bassanio, who must now swear never to give it away; Antonio will be his guarantor again.  As Bassanio is about to swear his oath, he recognizes the ‘new’ ring as the original he gave ‘Balthazar’.  Portia claims to have slept with the lawyer, and to have gotten it from him.  She asks Bassanio’s forgiveness.

Nerissa similarly produces her ring, claiming she slept with the ‘clerk’ to get it.  She asks for Gratiano’s pardon, but he is furious about being made a cuckold.

Portia says she’ll explain everything soon enough, and that she and Nerissa were Balthazar and the clerk.  She then gives Jessica and Lorenzo a document that gives them Shylock’s property on his death.  She also gives Antonio a letter, which says all his ships have safely arrived in Venice after all.

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Detailed Synopsis of ‘Hamlet’

Act One: Bernardo relieves Francisco as night watch on the guard platform of Elsinore Castle in Denmark.  It’s a cold night, and the threat of invasion looms in the air.  Another night watchman, Marcellus, arrives with Horatio, Prince Hamlet’s good friend, to see a ghost the guards have seen two times already.

Horatio is skeptical till the ghost appears, terrifying all the men.  The ghost is that of Old King Hamlet, who died less than a month before.  He is clad in his armour, from head to toe, with a sorrowful expression on his face.  Horatio would have the ghost speak, but it soon disappears.

Horatio tells the guards of how the ghost looks exactly as the late king did when he killed Old Fortinbras of Norway and took, for Denmark, Polish territory formerly occupied by Norway.  Horatio then explains the reason for Denmark’s preparations for war: young Prince Fortinbras wishes to avenge his father by taking back the Polish lands and invading Denmark.

The ghost reappears.  Horatio again entreats the ghost to tell them what can be done to do it ease, or what the fate of Denmark is, but it still won’t say a word.  As it disappears, Marcellus futilely tries to strike at it with his partisan.  They decide to tell Prince Hamlet about the ghost.

Hamlet’s uncle (see Quote 1 of my ‘Analysis of Hamlet‘), Claudius, has married Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, and become the next king of Denmark, thus stepping in the prince’s way of succession to the throne, committing incest with her, and dismaying Hamlet to the point of despair.

The king sends ambassadors Cornelius and Voltemand to Norway to entreat Fortinbras’s bedridden uncle, Old Norway, to stop the Norweigan prince from making war with Denmark.  Claudius then permits Laertes, son of Lord Chamberlain Polonius, to return to the university in France, since the young man has finished in his duty to the king by attending his coronation and wedding to Gertrude.

Now the king and queen turn to Hamlet, urging him to end his mourning for his father, for the prince seems to have mourned too long.  They also don’t want him to return to the university in Wittenberg; they’d have him stay in Elsinore.  He sadly acquiesces to their wishes.

Everyone except Hamlet leaves, and the prince in a soliloquy expresses his chagrin over his mother’s hasty, incestuous marriage to his father’s brother.  The weak will Gertrude has shown in allowing Claudius to win her over especially distresses him, causing him to assume all women have this fault (see Quote 2 of my ‘Analysis of Hamlet‘).

Horatio and Marcellus enter, Hamlet’s friend also noting how inappropriate it is, so soon after the old king’s death, that Gertrude has married Claudius.  Hamlet bitterly jokes of how economical it is to have the funeral leftovers for the wedding feast before they go bad.  Horatio then tells Hamlet of seeing his father’s ghost at night with the guards.  Suspecting foul play, Hamlet will join Horatio and Marcellus that night to see the ghost again.

At the docks and ready to sail for France, Laertes says goodbye to his sister Ophelia, warning her not to take Hamlet’s love too seriously.  As the prince and, therefore, future king of Denmark, Hamlet’s choice for a bride must result in a political alliance good for the health of the nation.  She, on the other hand, must guard her virtue in not yielding it to the prince.

Polonius comes over, telling Laertes to hurry and get on the boat.  He also gives his son a prolix speech of advice on how best to conduct himself in France: Laertes should avoid fights, but if in them, he should fight so as to make his enemies fear him; he should listen more than speak; he should dress well, but not overly so; he should neither borrow nor lend money (see Quote 3 of my ‘Analysis’); and most importantly, he should be true to himself (see  Quote 4).

Laertes leaves, and the ever-nosy Polonius asks his daughter what she was talking about with Laertes.  When Ophelia says the conversation was about Hamlet, Polonius berates her for her naiveté about the prince’s intentions, which she believes to be those of honourable love, but which her father believes to be no such thing.  Accordingly, Polonius forbids her to encourage Hamlet’s suit of love.

That night, on the guard-platform of the castle, Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus are waiting for the ghost to reappear.  They can hear trumpets and canons go off; the king is indulging in drunken revelry, something he does habitually, which gives Denmark a bad reputation among other nations.

Hamlet then mentions how some people, however virtuous in all other ways, nonetheless may have one particular fault or another, a vice that corrupts those people utterly, their other virtues incapable of reversing the corruption.

The ghost appears, frightening all three men.  It beckons Hamlet to go with it to a removed place for private conversation, and Hamlet would eagerly follow; but Horatio and Marcellus restrain the prince, fearing that further contact with the ghost may drive him mad.

Hamlet pulls free of Horatio’s and Marcellus’ restraining arms, pulls out his rapier, and threatens to kill them if they continue to stop him from following the ghost and facing his fate.  Hamlet and the ghost leave, while Horatio and Marcellus fear for him (see Quote 5).

When Hamlet and the ghost are alone, it tells him of the horrors of Purgatory, which it must suffer by day, then at night it haunts Elsinore Castle.  All of Denmark has been deceived, the ghost tells Hamlet, with a lie that Old Hamlet was killed by the bite of a poisonous snake.  The ‘snake’ that poisoned Old Hamlet is now the new king; this confirms Hamlet’s suspicions that Claudius murdered his father.  Old Hamlet was killed before he even had a chance to go to confession: hence his suffering in Purgatory.  The prince is horrified.

When Old Hamlet, as was his habit, was sleeping in his orchard in the afternoon, Claudius snuck up to him with a vial of poison and poured it into the sleeping king’s ear.  The poison coursed through Old Hamlet’s body, killing him.  Then, most heartbreaking of all, the would-be virtuous Gertrude accepted Old Hamlet’s brother as her new husband.

Now, if Hamlet truly loves his father, he must avenge Old Hamlet’s murder.  He mustn’t allow Denmark to be ruled by an incestuous royal couple: Claudius must be killed.  The ghost urges Hamlet, however, not to be violent against his mother; her guilt will punish her during all her sleepless nights.

The dawn is approaching, and the ghost must leave.  It says, “Adieu, adieu, adieu!  Remember me.”  Wild with excitement, the prince rants and raves about how he must focus his every single thought, to the exclusion of anything else, on avenging his father and killing his uncle, that “smiling, damned villain!”

Horatio and Marcellus come to him, asking him what’s happened.  Still speaking wildly, (Quote 6), Hamlet makes them swear four times, hands on his rapier, never to reveal to anyone what they’ve seen this night.  The ghost’s voice can be heard commanding them to swear each time.  Even if Hamlet seems to be acting like a madman, Horatio and Marcellus mustn’t imply knowledge of his plans.  As the sun is rising, the three men head back inside the castle (Quote 7).

Act Two: In his house, Polonius tells Reynaldo to go to France and spy on Laertes.  Reynaldo is instructed to imply, in his conversations with any Frenchman who may know what Laertes is up to, that he perhaps is indulging in such vices as gambling, swearing, or even seeking prostitutes.  Though Reynaldo thinks this last vice would dishonour Laertes, Polonius insists it’s an acceptable sullying; and if those Frenchmen Reynaldo is speaking with confirm any of the vices mentioned, Polonius can know what naughtiness his son is really indulging in.  Reynaldo leaves.

Ophelia bursts into the room frightened and in tears.  She tells her father that Hamlet came to her room, with his clothes all in disorder, and with the wild look of a madman in his eyes.  He said nothing to her: he just approached her, held her hard by the wrist, put his hand over his brow, perused her face a long while, moved his head up and down three times, and let out a heavy sigh; then he walked away, still looking back at her, leaving the room without needing to see where he was going.

Polonius assumes Hamlet has gone mad from her rejection of his love (for she has indeed obeyed her father in not allowing the prince to continue wooing her).  Polonius now realizes that Hamlet wasn’t merely playing with Ophelia as he’d assumed; Polonius will tell the king and queen.

Claudius has sent for two old school friends of Hamlet’s, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to watch the prince and report to the king and queen about anything Hamlet says or does that may give insight to his erratic behaviour.  Claudius and Gertrude thank the two young men for coming.

After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern leave, Polonius comes and tells Claudius that the ambassadors, Cornelius and Voltemand, have returned from Norway; Polonius also tells the king that he believes he knows the cause of Hamlet’s lunacy.  Claudius is eager to hear this, but first he speaks to the ambassadors.

Voltemand tells Claudius the good news that Old Norway, the sick uncle of Fortinbras, has stopped the Norwegian prince from invading Denmark.  Instead, Fortinbras will pass with his army through Denmark and into Poland to reclaim the territory Norway lost.  The threat of him invading Denmark seems to be no more.

The ambassadors leave, and Polonius goes into a needlessly wordy speech about the cause of Hamlet’s madness, claiming, fantastically, that he’ll be brief about it (Quote 8).  He says that Hamlet has gone mad.  Then he reads to Claudius and Gertrude a love letter Hamlet has written to Ophelia, showing the sincerity of the prince’s love for her.  Polonius explains that he told Ophelia to reject any further wooing from Hamlet; when she did, he went mad from a broken heart.

Polonius tells the king and queen they should plan to hide and watch Hamlet as he walks through the halls of the castle, a habit of his.  Polonius can arrange for Ophelia to be there, so they can watch the prince’s interactions with her.

Just then, Gertrude sees Hamlet walking with a book in his hand.  Polonius asks her and Claudius to leave while he talks with Hamlet.  The king and queen go; Polonius approaches Hamlet.

During their conversation, Polonius notes that Hamlet speaks in the erratic manner of one mentally ill, yet there’s an odd rationality to what the prince says.  (Quotes 9 and 10)  Polonius also notes with interest Hamlet’s references to Ophelia.  Polonius leaves.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive, and after exchanging a few bawdy remarks about the ‘strumpet’ goddess of Fortune, Hamlet asks them why they have come to the ‘prison’ of Denmark.  The two school chums wonder why the prince thinks Denmark is a prison, but he insists it is, since anything can seem good or bad according necessarily to our thoughts (Quote 11).

Hamlet quickly realizes that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have come to see him not of their own accord, but because Claudius sent for them.  Assuming they want to find out, for the king’s sake, what’s troubling Hamlet, he gives them a vague, general explanation of his melancholy (Quote 12).  Rosencrantz laughs at these musings, thinking Hamlet won’t enjoy the entertainment the arriving actors will give.

Hamlet is delighted to see them in Elsinore.  He asks the First Player to give a “passionate speech”, one of Pyrrhus, son of Achilles, avenging his father’s death by killing King Priam during the sacking of Troy.  The First Player vividly describes the weak old king’s pitiful attempts to defend his besieged, burning city, then Pyrrhus’ raising of his sword against Priam, briefly pausing, and finally bringing his sword down to kill him.

Polonius interrupts the speech for being too long.  Hamlet snaps at him, contemptuously dismissing his tastes as philistine.  The prince asks the First Player to “come to Hecuba”, the Queen of Troy.

The First Player’s powerful description of Hecuba lamenting the slaying of Priam is such that the actor has tears in his eyes.  Hamlet is profoundly moved (one imagines that the prince wishes his mother would have shown similar love for Old Hamlet, rather than marrying his brother less than a month later).

Hamlet tells Polonius to accommodate the actors, and asks the First Player to have his actors perform The Murder of Gonzago before Claudius and Gertrude the next evening, and to include a speech Hamlet will write and insert into the play.  Polonius leads the actors away, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern also leave, and Hamlet is alone at last.

In the ensuing soliloquy (Quote 13), Hamlet confronts, for the first time, his inability to act, to go ahead with his revenge and kill his uncle.  Hamlet is amazed that an actor can show so much emotion–to the point of actually weeping–for the suffering of Hecuba, a mere mythical character!

Had the actor been portraying Hamlet’s situation, he’d weep an ocean of tears and shock his audience utterly.  Hamlet himself, however, having really lost his father to murder, and his mother debauched, can do nothing.  Imagining himself a coward, he acts out the taking of his revenge, as if in a play; now he’s disgusted with himself that he can only talk about getting revenge.

Knowing that guilty people often confess their crimes when watching their wicked acts performed in a play, Hamlet decides to have the king watch, in The Murder of Gonzago, a murder and usurpation exactly like that which Claudius is accused of by the ghost.  If his uncle winces at the performed murder, Hamlet will know he’s guilty.

After all, the ghost Hamlet’s seen may be a demon in disguise, deceiving the emotionally vulnerable prince into murdering an innocent man.  This would send Hamlet straight to Hell.  Better assurances than the dubious testimony of a ghost will be needed; Claudius’ viewing of the play will determine whether or not he’s guilty.

Act Three: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern tell Claudius and Gertrude that Hamlet speaks only of a general sadness; they also tell the king and queen of the play about to be performed.  The two young men leave, as does Gertrude.

Polonius and Claudius will hide while Ophelia waits for Hamlet, ever wandering in the halls, to meet her.  As the king and Polonius listen to her conversation with the prince, they hope to gain further insights into Hamlet’s madness.  Claudius and Polonius hide nearby, and Ophelia waits.

Hamlet appears, contemplating suicide in a soliloquy (Quote 14).  If death is like eternal sleep, with no more of the pain of sentient life, doesn’t that sleep include dreaming (i.e., an after-life–heaven, or, for suicide, Hell)?  If the everlasting nightmare of Hell results from suicide, then killing oneself doesn’t end one’s pain, and therefore suicide is useless.  Too afraid to risk Hell, Hamlet chooses to continue living.

He sees Ophelia, who wishes to return gifts he’s given her during their wooing.  He flies into a rage and accuses her of being a whore (Quote 15).  He also rightly suspects that Polonius is listening to their conversation.  After continuing his abusive ranting at her for a while longer, he leaves.  She weeps copiously, devastated that the man she loves has lost his mind.

Polonius and Claudius come out of hiding, her father comforting her and the king suspecting danger in Hamlet.  Claudius decides the prince should be sent to England, ostensibly to calm him.

With the actors now, Hamlet tells them not to overact, but to play their roles naturally and realistically.  (Quote 16)  Then he tells Horatio to watch Claudius carefully as the play is performed, and to note his reaction when the murder happens.

The king and queen come, as do Ophelia, Polonius, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  Hamlet sits by Ophelia and makes bawdy remarks about her ‘lap’.  Polonius still assumes Hamlet’s madness is all about her.  The prince’s erratic behaviour and outbursts continue during the play, which now begins, with a pantomime to summarize the play’s action.

The First Player (as King Gonzago) enters with another actor playing Gonzago’s queen.  (One can safely assume that this dialogue is what Hamlet wrote and had inserted into the play.)  The aged ‘king’ tells his ‘queen’ that he will die soon, and she then presumably will find a new husband.  She protests lengthily that doing so would be tantamount to treason against Gonzago; sleeping with another man would be like killing the ‘king’ a second time.

She leaves him, and he takes a nap.  The scene is over, and Claudius and Gertrude have been made very uneasy by what ‘Gonzago’s queen’ has said, implying that Gertrude is guilty of such treason with Claudius.

Hamlet asks his mother how she likes the play; she doesn’t like the, to her, prating ‘queen’ (Quote 17).  Claudius, clearly offended by the play, asks Hamlet about the story.  As the play continues, Hamlet comments on the action in his usual wild manner. When the ‘villain’ pours poison in the ‘king’s’ ear, Claudius can bear no more.  He gets up and demands to be given some light.  Polonius stops the play, and pandemonium ensues.  Claudius and Gertrude leave.

Hamlet is gloating deliriously over confirming his uncle’s guilt; Horatio attests that he, too, saw the king’s guilty reaction.  The ghost told the truth!

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern tell Hamlet of how angry the king is; the prince’s gloating is most inappropriate.  Though Rosencrantz and Guildenstern insist they are Hamlet’s friends, he knows better.

He gets a recorder and asks Guildenstern to play it; the false friend insists he can’t.  Hamlet angrily wonders how Guildenstern can imagine he can ‘play’ the prince, but not a pipe.  Is Hamlet so unworthy that he is easier to play than a mere pipe?

Polonius tells Hamlet the queen wishes to speak to him in her bedroom.  Ever erratic and wild in his behaviour, Hamlet says he’ll be with her “by and by”.  Everyone leaves him: he’s thinking bloody thoughts, but he reminds himself not to be violent to his mother in any more than words.

In his room, Claudius tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern they must take Hamlet to England.  The two boot-lickers are prolix in saying that the safety of Denmark depends on the king’s safety.  Polonius tells Claudius he will hide in Gertrude’s room and eavesdrop on her conversation with Hamlet.  Claudius is left alone.

In a soliloquy, the king gives full vent to his guilt over killing his brother.  He knows that in this corrupt world, one can hide one’s crimes, but one can’t hide them from heaven’s all-seeing eyes.  He would be free from his sins, but he can’t repent; for to do so would mean giving up everything–his crown, his queen, and his life.  Hopelessly groping for forgiveness, he tries praying.

Hamlet sneaks over, seeing a perfect opportunity to kill Claudius.  If he kills the king while he’s praying, however, he’ll send him to heaven.  He’d rather kill Claudius when he’s enraged, swearing, committing incest with Gertrude, or doing anything contrary to piety. Hamlet would ensure his uncle goes straight to Hell.  He leaves Claudius, who finishes praying.

In his despair, the king knows that his insincere prayers will never be heard in heaven (Quote 18).

In Gertrude’s room, Polonius advises her to be firm in showing her displeasure with Hamlet, who can be heard approaching.  Polonius hides behind an arras.  Hamlet enters.

Mother and son exchange angry words, her accusing him of offending his adoptive father (Claudius), him accusing her of offending his real father by marrying Claudius.  Their anger escalates, and when he pulls out his rapier to stop her from walking out, she thinks he’s threatening to kill her.  She screams for help, as does ever-nosy Polonius.

Hamlet impulsively stabs through the arras and kills Polonius.  She is horrified at her son’s violence, but he continues ranting at her for her disloyalty to his father.  He compares pictures of his father and uncle, respectively on his and her necklaces, noting the nobility of his father and baseness of Claudius.

He can’t imagine how she could choose Claudius to replace Old Hamlet.  She can’t bear to hear his dagger-like upbraiding.  Then the ghost appears.

Only Hamlet can see it, so when he speaks to it guiltily of how he hasn’t obeyed its command to kill his uncle, she assumes he’s mad, hallucinating.  It reminds him to get on with the revenge, but also tells him to comfort his frightened mother.  When she asks him who he’s talking to, he says it’s the ghost of his father, which is now leaving.

When she says the ghost is a mere figment of his mad imagination, he insists he’s perfectly sane.  He begs her to stop sleeping with Claudius, to bring herself back into a virtuous frame of mind.  He also tells her not to tell Claudius that he’s only pretending to be mad.

As for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet reminds her that he must go with those false friends to England.  He knows they’re working with the king against him: he’ll allow their plan to be played out, while he figures out a way to turn their plan against them (Quote 19).

He leaves her, lugging Polonius’ dead body away and finding a place to stow it.

Act Four: When the king arrives with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, she tells them about mad Hamlet’s killing of Polonius.  Shaken with knowing how dangerous the prince is growing, Claudius has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find him.

They find him, and take him to Claudius, who asks where Polonius’ body is.  After making a number of cryptic remarks that try the king’s patience, Hamlet tells him.  Claudius tells Hamlet he must go with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to England.  When everyone else leaves, Claudius expresses his exasperation with, and wish to have England kill, Hamlet.

Outside, Fortinbras tells a soldier of his to go and ask Denmark permission to pass through so his army can invade Poland.  The soldier goes.

Hamlet, with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, are by the boat to take them to England.  The prince sees the Norwegian army, and asks Fortinbras’s soldier, who’s passing by, what they’re all doing.  The soldier tells Hamlet that Fortinbras is leading them to invade a worthless patch of Polish land.  Though Hamlet doubts the Poles will defend it, the soldier says they’ve already garrisoned it.  The soldier leaves.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern get on the boat first, and before Hamlet follows them on, he contemplates again his delayed revenge in light of the activity of the Norwegian army.  A man who only eats and sleeps is no more than an animal; surely God didn’t give us brains so they’d sit unused in our heads.

Everywhere Hamlet sees people inspiring him to revenge, yet he’s done nothing to achieve it.  An army eagerly marches to its death for a worthless piece of land; Hamlet’s father is murdered and his mother made a whore, and he doesn’t know why he hasn’t acted.  If his next thoughts aren’t of killing Claudius, they’re worth nothing!

Back in Elsinore Castle, Horatio and a gentleman tell Gertrude that Ophelia has gone mad.  They explain the wildness of her condition to the queen, who tells them to let the girl in.

Ophelia enters, speaking incoherently and singing songs, apparently either about Hamlet or about Polonius.  The king enters, as shocked by her behaviour as the others are.  Her singing turns bawdy, implying that Hamlet has enjoyed her in bed and abandoned her.

Then she laments of her father being buried, warns everyone that Laertes will hear of their father’s murder, then leaves.  Claudius tells Horatio and the gentleman to watch her closely.  He bemoans the deplorable situation (Quote 20).

The king and queen hear a noise from outside.  A gentleman comes in to tell them that Laertes, furious, has returned from France and, backed by a mob of angry men, would overtake the castle, kill Claudius, and be the next king!

The queen is incensed by their treason.  The doors are broken open, and Laertes enters.  He wrathfully demands revenge for the murder of his father, screaming contemptuously of allegiance to the king.

Claudius and Gertrude tell him they are not responsible for Polonius’ death, but are as grieved of it as Laertes is.  He calms down.  Then Ophelia returns with flowers.  At the sight of his sister’s obviously insane manner, her handing out the flowers to everyone, his rage has turned to heartbreak.  She leaves.

Claudius will explain to Laertes who killed his father, and will help him get satisfaction.  The two men leave together.

Elsewhere in the castle, an attendant tells Horatio of sailors who have letters for him.  One of the sailors gives Horatio a letter, which he reads (it’s from Hamlet).

The prince has written that there are letters for Claudius, too.  When Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were sailing to England, pirates attacked their boat.  During the ensuing fight, Hamlet went on the pirates’ boat; he is now their prisoner.  Horatio must take the sailors to the king, and if Claudius does the pirates a good turn, Hamlet will be freed.  When he meets with Horatio, he’ll tell him shocking things about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Horatio takes the sailors to Claudius.

In another room of the castle, Claudius explains to Laertes that Hamlet killed his father, and meant to kill Claudius.  Laertes asks why the king didn’t have Hamlet executed.

Claudius gives two reasons: first, Gertrude loves her son, and Claudius loves her so much that he can’t act against her wishes; second, Hamlet is well loved of the Danish people, so executing him would make the king unpopular.

A messenger gives Claudius letters from Hamlet, saying that he’s back in Denmark, and–begging the king’s pardon–wishes to return to the castle.

Laertes would be happy to have the prince return, so he can have his revenge.  The king will, of course, help: they plan to arrange a game of duelling with rapiers, Laertes’ having a sharp point.

Laertes adds that he’ll dip his sword in a powerful poison he bought.  Being merely scratched with the envenomed sword, Hamlet will surely die: no antidote will save him.  Claudius will offer Hamlet poisoned wine in case the plan fails.

Gertrude enters with sad news: Ophelia has drowned.  While picking flowers by a brook, she fell in; and instead of pulling herself out, she just lay floating on her back, in her madness still singing her songs.  Soon the water filled her stretched-out clothes, and weighing her down, pulled her under the water.  Too insane to save herself, she stayed under and drowned.

Laertes, though ashamed to weep, nonetheless does so for his dead sister.  He leaves.  Now the king must calm him down again.  Claudius and Gertrude follow Laertes out of the room.

Act Five:  In a churchyard, two clowns are digging a grave for Ophelia, and debating–in a parody of legal language–whether or not she, an apparent suicide, deserves a Christian burial.  Did she intend to drown, or was her fall into the brook an accident?  In any case, it seems unfair to the clowns that a woman of high birth can kill herself and still be considered Christian.

Hamlet and Horatio appear.  The second clown leaves, while the first continues digging while singing merrily.  Hamlet can’t imagine how the gravedigger can be so cheerful in such a ghoulish setting; Horatio assumes he’s simply inured to it.

As the clown is picking up skulls and tapping them with his spade, Hamlet thinks it grossly disrespectful: after all, those could have been the skulls of lawyers, politicians, or courtiers, men of much higher social standing than that of the clown.

Hamlet asks the gravedigger whose grave it is: after a stretch of comically equivocal questioning and answering, the clown says it’s a woman’s grave.  At one point in their conversation, the clown shows Hamlet the skull of Yorick, the king’s old jester.  Hamlet asks to look at it.

Now with Yorick’s skull in his hand, Hamlet tells Horatio about the jester (Quote 21).  Hamlet reminisces about how witty and beloved Yorick was, and meditates sadly on how death has reduced the jester to nothing, as it also did Alexander the Great.  Hamlet tosses down the skull.

A funeral procession is approaching: Hamlet and Horatio hide while watching.  They see, among the mourners, Claudius, Gertrude, Laertes, and a priest.  Hamlet wonders who has died.

Laertes is annoyed with the priest for making a brief ceremony of Ophelia’s funeral.  The priest insists that he cannot do any more, for her death may have been a suicide.    She is interred.

As the dirt is being poured on her body, Laertes jumps in the grave in a fit of passion.  Imagining his sister a better angel in heaven than the “churlish priest” will be one day, Laertes demands to be buried alive with his sister.

Horrified to know that it’s Ophelia who has died, and enraged by what to him seems excessive grief on the part of Laertes, Hamlet emerges and jumps into the grave.  Laertes and Hamlet briefly grapple before being separated.  They come out of the grave.  Claudius tries to calm Laertes by reminding him of Hamlet’s madness.

Hamlet rants of how he loved Ophelia more than forty brothers could.  He could far outdo Laertes in the proof of his love, including live burial with her.  The two men calm down, and Hamlet, not yet understanding why Laertes attacked him, leaves with Horatio soon following (Quote 22).

Inside the castle, Hamlet tells Horatio what happened in the boat with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  Unable to sleep, Hamlet groped about in the dark and found the commission Claudius had written to the authorities in England.  It demanded that they execute Hamlet!

The prince wrote a new commission, with all the pompous, flowery language conventional in such writing, to replace what Claudius wrote: it asked, instead, for the execution of the commission’s bearers, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!

Hamlet feels no guilt over sending those false friends to their deaths.  Horatio is shocked at so evil a king, though Hamlet isn’t surprised, knowing he killed Hamlet’s father and shamed his mother.

Hamlet regrets, however, his rage against Laertes, since he knows the son of Polonius has the same cause for revenge as he has.

Osric, a foppish and loquacious courtier, enters with news of Laertes’ challenge to a sword-fighting game with Hamlet.  The prince and Horatio sigh in annoyance with Osric’s prolix praises of Laertes, but Hamlet accepts the challenge.  Osric leaves.

A lord then enters, asking if Hamlet would play with Laertes now, or later.  Hamlet is at leave to play at any time.  The lord leaves to tell everyone to get ready.

Horatio is worried that the game is a plot to kill Hamlet, who assumes the same thing.  Nonetheless, Hamlet must confront his fate, as long as he’s ready for it (Quote 23).

Everyone in the castle assembles in a large room for the sword-fighting game.  Before choosing their rapiers and daggers, Hamlet apologizes to Laertes, using his madness as an excuse.  Laertes says in as gentlemanly a way as possible that he will accept no apology.  They choose their weapons, Laertes ensuring that he has the sharp, poisoned rapier.

Claudius tells Hamlet that if he wins the first or second hits with his sword, the king will drink to Hamlet, put a pearl in the cup of wine (the pearl is poisoned), and pass it to Hamlet to drink.  The game begins.

Hamlet is clearly the better swordsman, winning every time and frustrating Laertes.  Claudius drinks to Hamlet, drops the pearl in the cup, and has it passed to Hamlet, who sets it aside, not wishing to drink yet.

Gertrude goes up to him and with a handkerchief wipes his brow.  She picks up the cup to drink; Claudius tries to stop her, but she still drinks from the poisoned cup…it’s too late for her.

As the two young men continue playing, Laertes cheats and scratches Hamlet with the poisoned sword; rightly suspecting treachery, the prince now angrily fights with Laertes, managing to switch swords with him.  Now Laertes is nervous.

Claudius tries to have them separated, but Hamlet wounds Laertes.  Gertrude, sick from the poison, collapses.  Claudius lies, saying she’s fainted from all the blood, but she in a weak voice says the wine is poisoned.  She dies.

Hamlet demands that the doors be locked to catch the villain poisoner, but dying Laertes confesses his and the king’s plot to kill Hamlet with Laertes’ unblunted, poisoned sword, now in Hamlet’s hand.  The prince hasn’t even a half hour to live, and no medicine can cure him.

Finally, Hamlet takes his revenge and stabs the king.  Everyone shouts, “Treason!  treason!”  Then Hamlet takes the cup of wine and forces Claudius to drink it, killing him.  Hamlet and Laertes exchange forgiveness before the latter dies.

Now feeling the effects of the powerful poison, Hamlet is weakening.  He says he would explain everything to all the shocked onlookers, but his imminent death won’t let him.  He asks Horatio to explain for him.

Horatio would rather drink any remaining poison in the cup and die with his friend; Hamlet begs him not to, but first to tell everyone all the events that led up to all these deaths.

The sound of an approaching army is heard from outside.  Osric tells everyone Fortinbras is coming in conquest.  English ambassadors are also coming.  Hamlet assumes Fortinbras will be the next king.  After a few final words, Hamlet dies (Quote 24).

Horatio grieves for his friend (Quote 25).

Fortinbras and the English ambassadors enter.  The Norwegian prince is shocked at the sight of so many bodies, as are the ambassadors, who assume they will not get the thanks they deserve for executing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Horatio explains that, had Claudius still been alive, he wouldn’t have thanked England for their deaths, having never ordered them.  Then Horatio tells Fortinbras and the ambassadors that he will relate a shocking story “Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts.”  Fortinbras will eagerly hear.

Horatio would have Hamlet be given an honourable burial; Fortinbras agrees, sadly taking the throne of Denmark.  The new king has the bodies taken out and the soldiers will shoot for them.

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Detailed Synopsis of ‘King Lear’

Act One:  King Lear, an octogenarian monarch of pre-Christian England, has assembled all of his nobles to discuss the future rule of his kingdom after he relieves his aged self from its burdens.  Before he arrives with his daughters and their husbands, the Earls of Kent and Gloucester discuss how they think Lear will divide the kingdom.  Will it be equally divided?  If not, which son-in-law will be favoured with a better portion?

Edmund, who is with the two earls, now becomes the subject of discussion.  Gloucester tells Kent that Edmund is his illegitimate son, describing with lustful glee how much he enjoyed the night he slept with Edmund’s mother.  All Edmund can do is quietly, patiently listen to his father speak disrespectfully of his mother to Kent (one can safely assume Edmund’s had to put up with this kind of thing his whole life).

Lear and the others arrive.  Lear tells Gloucester to get the King of France and the Duke of Burgundy, suitors to Lear’s youngest daughter, Cordelia.  Gloucester leaves to get them.  Lear announces his plan to retreat from the burdens of rule (though he’ll keep the title and dignity of king), and to give those responsibilities to his daughters and their husbands.  Whichever daughter loves him the most, and can thus express that love the best (see Quote 1 from my ‘Analysis of King Lear‘), will receive the best third of the kingdom.

Goneril, the eldest, speaks first, giving a flowery speech about how she loves her father more than words can say, more than any of the most basic human needs.  Flattered and contented, Lear gives one third of the kingdom to her and her husband, the Duke of Albany.

Nervous Cordelia doesn’t wish to flatter her father with phoney speeches of love just to gain land.  She’d rather “Love, and be silent.”

Regan, the middle-born daughter, is next to speak.  Like Goneril, Regan gives her father a honey-tongued speech of her ‘love’ for Lear, going so far as to say Goneril’s speech describes Regan’s very love of her father, though her own love surpasses Goneril’s by far.  Regan says nothing else gives her happiness but Lear’s love.

Again pleased, and not at all aware of how fake these speeches are, the vain king gives Regan and her husband, the Duke of Cornwall, their third of the kingdom. Though Cordelia doesn’t want to flatter the father she so dearly loves, she’s confident he’ll know the sincerity of her love well enough to overlook her laconic expression of it.

Unfortunately, she’s wrong, for he turns to her and, since she’s his favourite daughter, he expects an even more poetic speech from her, resulting in the best third of the kingdom.

She insists that she has “Nothing” to say; he warns her that the lack of a pretty speech will result in the lack of a third of the kingdom (see Quote 2 from my ‘Analysis’).  She says that she returns his love as is fitting a daughter, “no more nor less.”  She adds that when she marries, half of her love will go to her husband; she finds it odd that her married sisters give all their love to Lear.

Angered by Cordelia’s bluntness, the vain king suddenly disowns her.  Shocked, the Earl of Kent intervenes and passionately pleads for her, saying she loves Lear no less than Goneril or Regan, but rather doubtlessly loves him much more, given the phoniness of the elder sisters’ speeches.  Lear warns Kent not to continue, but Kent does, arguing that Lear’s actions are dangerously foolish, and Kent has always done everything he could to protect his king, faced every danger, and even now does so, risking the king’s displeasure, to protect him from his “hideous rashness.”

Lear can no longer endure Kent’s upbraidings and banishes him, giving him five days to leave England.  Kent leaves after wishing Cordelia well and hoping, though doubting, that Goneril’s and Regan’s treatment of Lear will match the words of their gushing speeches of love.

Gloucester enters with the King of France and Duke of Burgundy.  Lear offers Cordelia to them, but with no dowry, indicating only his “hate” for her as his reason.

The King of France is shocked to hear this change in Lear’s attitude, for the French king knows Cordelia was always Lear’s favourite daughter, and he wishes to know what monstrous thing she could possibly have done to deserve no dowry and such hate.  Cordelia says it is no sin not to flatter, and that, though she’s unhappy to have displeased her father, she’s glad she has no glib tongue.

Impressed with her virtue and honesty, valuing them over a lust for land and power, the French king would happily have the dowerless bride.  He asks Burgundy if he would have her, for “She is herself a dowry.”

Burgundy will have her only with the dowry, but Lear coldly says, “Nothing.”  Burgundy apologizes to Cordelia, regretting that she must lose a father and a husband in himself.  Knowing he wants only the dowry, she sees no loss in Burgundy’s ended suit.  He leaves with Lear.

The King of France accepts her as his queen, and before they leave, he’d have her say goodbye to her sisters.  She asks them to take good care of Lear, though she has every reason to believe they won’t.  When Goneril and Regan tell her not to prescribe to them their duty, we see the evil daughters’ true colours for the first time.  Cordelia and the French king leave; then Goneril and Regan discuss Lear.  They worry about how rashly he has disowned his favourite daughter, knowing it’s because his aged mind is going, and that he has little knowledge of his true self.  They plan to correspond regularly with each other, informing each other of any volatile changes in his mood that could be a danger to them.  They leave, as does everyone else.

Edmund is alone in Gloucester’s castle, expressing his resentment over custom’s unfair preference of legitimate children over those, like him, born out of wedlock.  Envying his legitimate brother Edgar, Edmund plans to cheat him out of his inheritance from their father.  Edmund holds a letter he’s forged, one imitating Edgar’s handwriting, one that purports to persuade Edmund to help Edgar kill their father and take all of his land and property.

Gloucester enters, and Edmund hides the forged letter, doing so in a way so as to attract Gloucester’s curiosity about its contents.  When Gloucester asks what the letter is, Edmund guiltily says, “Nothing,” and continues to seem reluctant to have his father read it, though of course he very much wants Gloucester to read it.

Gloucester insists on reading it, and Edmund sheepishly gives it to him, saying he hopes Edgar is merely testing Edmund’s loyalty to their father by writing it.  Gloucester is shocked when reading the contents, calling Edgar an “Abominable villain!”  He then hopes Edgar doesn’t really feel the way the letter makes him seem to feel.  Edmund pretends to hope the same thing.  They will note Edgar’s future words to see if they match his words in the letter.

Gloucester then mentions Kent’s banishment for the crime of “honesty”; he imagines an unfavourable astrological influence is to blame for everyone’s recent misfortunes.  Gloucester leaves, then Edmund speaks contemptuously of people’s foolish faith in astrology.

Edgar enters, and Edmund now speaks as though he himself believes in astrology.  Then he tells Edgar that their father is mad at him.  Edgar rightly assumes someone has done him wrong; Edmund, of course, agrees that there’s an unknown villain among them, and advises Edgar to avoid their father for his safety.  Edgar leaves, knowing he’ll stay in Edmund’s home; Edmund gleefully contemplates his imminent inheritance of Gloucester’s land.

A month later, and in Goneril’s castle, she complains to her servant Oswald about the noisy, troublesome hundred knights Lear has with him; she also tells Oswald to slacken in his service to Lear, as should the other servants.

Kent has shaved, changed into the clothes of a poor man, and will speak in a different accent to disguise himself while in Lear’s presence; thus he’ll be able to continue to serve his king.  He’ll call himself ‘Caius’.

Lear enters with his retinue of one hundred knights.  ‘Caius’ introduces himself to Lear and offers the king his services.  Lear accepts, and asks where his fool is; the Fool is so saddened over the disowning of Cordelia that he’s avoiding others’ company for the moment.  Oswald walks by, and Lear calls to him, but he ignores the king.  Furious, Lear has a knight fetch Oswald back, but the knight returns without Oswald, and sadly tells Lear that he doesn’t believe the king is any longer being given the ceremonial respect he deserves.

Oswald finally comes back, and Lear stops him angrily, asking him who Lear is; Oswald impudently says Lear is Goneril’s father, rather than the king, which angers Lear even more.  ‘Caius’ then trips Oswald and scolds him for his lack of deference.  Oswald runs off, and Lear pays ‘Caius’ for his service.

The Fool enters, offering his coxcomb to ‘Caius’ for following a foolish king.  The Fool continues to indulge in a series of witticisms, indicating how Lear is the real fool for giving all his power to Goneril and Regan, and for disowning Cordelia, the only daughter he can really trust.

Goneril enters, complaining to Lear about his noisy, riotous hundred knights.  Lear insists they’re well-behaved, but she would have half the number dismissed, leaving Lear with fifty to follow him.  Lear is enraged at this.  The Duke of Albany, having just entered the room, is at a loss as to what has angered Lear so.  Lear curses at Goneril, wishing either sterility on her, or for her to bear children as cursed with thanklessness as she is; then he leaves her for Regan’s castle.  ‘Caius’, the Fool, and Lear’s knights follow, ‘Caius’ to rush ahead with letters for Regan and Gloucester, preparing them for Lear’s arrival.

The Fool continues his witticisms with Lear, explaining that Lear shouldn’t have gotten old till he’d become wise.  Lear hopes he won’t go mad.

Act Two: In Gloucester’s castle, Edmund warns Edgar of their father’s wrath, and before Edgar runs away, he and Edmund act out a brief sword fight, Edmund yelling for help.  Alone, Edmund cuts his arm, and when Gloucester and his servants arrive, Edmund tells his father that Edgar has wounded him.  Gloucester tells his servants to chase after Edgar.

Regan and her husband, the Duke of Cornwall, arrive.  Gloucester expresses his grief at Edgar’s apparent disloyalty; Regan tells of how she doesn’t wish to receive Lear at her castle, having received letters from Goneril of Lear’s rage, something with which neither daughter sympathizes.

‘Caius’, having already arrived at Gloucester’s castle, sees Oswald come, and he speaks abusively to Oswald, knowing the knavish servant of Goneril is no friend to Lear.  ‘Caius’ then threatens physical violence against Oswald, who cries for help like the coward he is.

Gloucester, Regan and Cornwall arrive, asking what the matter is.  Oswald claims that ‘Caius’ is a ruffian whose life he’s spared out of respect for his age; ‘Caius’ says Oswald is a cowardly knave.  Having no sympathy for ‘Caius’, Cornwall asks what Oswald’s fault is, then says ‘Caius’ is the real knave, since he affects “a saucy roughness” and is proud of his bluntness.  Cornwall and Regan have him put in the stocks, his legs bound; ‘Caius’ says it’s a shocking thing to stock the king’s messenger, but Cornwall will gladly take responsibility for that.

Everyone leaves ‘Caius’ after Gloucester has apologized for Cornwall’s excessive punishment.  Alone, ‘Caius’ takes out a letter he’s received from Cordelia, one which says she’s raising the French army to invade England and restore Lear to the throne.  He falls asleep.

Having run a long time to escape his father’s pursuing servants, Edgar is in the open country, and in a soliloquy discusses his plan to remove his clothes and cover himself with mud.  He’ll pretend to be ‘poor Tom’, a mad Bedlam beggar, so no one will know his true identity.

Lear, the Fool, and the knights arrive at Gloucester’s castle, shocked to see ‘Caius’ in the stocks.  Lear can’t believe his daughter and son-in-law would dishonour him by stocking his messenger, but ‘Caius’ insists they have.

Lear has Gloucester fetch Regan and Cornwall, so they can explain themselves; Gloucester returns, saying they say they are tired from travelling long (a feeble excuse not to obey their king) and won’t come at the moment.  Enraged that he is being treated with the same lack of respect he received in Goneril’s castle, Lear demands that Gloucester go back and fetch them.  Embarrassed, Gloucester goes back to get them.

‘Caius’ is released from the stocks, and Lear is angry to know that Cornwall, having finally arrived with Regan, is indeed responsible for stocking ‘Caius’.  When Lear complains of Goneril’s attitude, Regan rationalizes her sister’s actions and asks Lear to return to her castle with only fifty knights.  When furious Lear says Goneril has his eternal curses, manipulative Regan tearfully complains that he’ll curse her when he’s again in a rash mood; but he reassures her that he never will.

Goneril arrives, to Lear’s dismay, and he is further chagrined to see Regan hold her sister’s hands, loyal to her rather than to him.  He says that Goneril is his only in the sense that a disease or a boil on the skin belongs to someone, out of unfortunate necessity, rather than out of love.

Goneril and Regan rationalize the reduction of knights to fifty, saying it would be almost impossible to provide for one hundred men, and that fifty should be more than sufficient.  Furthermore, Goneril’s and Regan’s servants should be sufficient to attend to Lear’s needs.  This upsets the king all the more.

Regan finds attending to even fifty knights to be too burdensome, and says she’ll reduce Lear’s number to twenty-five.  Since Goneril’s love seems to double Regan’s, he says he’ll return to her; but even Goneril won’t accept fifty knights now.  She and Regan wonder why he needs even twenty-five knights, or any at all!

Now without even one knight, Lear knows he has lost all power and authority, and in his feelings of having been betrayed, he’s even losing his sanity.  In a fury, he leaves the castle with ‘Caius’ and the Fool.

A rainstorm has begun outside, and Goneril, Regan, and Cornwall fear that Lear and his dismissed knights may storm the castle.  Gloucester is ordered to lock his castle doors, leaving the old king homeless in the storm at night.  Gloucester reluctantly does so.

Act Three: Out in the rainstorm, Kent tells a gentleman about the division between the Dukes of Albany and of Cornwall, and about the plan to take Lear to Dover, where the French army will be, to help settle the dispute.

In his madness, Lear rants and raves while being soaked in the rain and wind.  (See Quote 3 from my ‘Analysis’.)  He insists that he finds no fault with the inclement weather, since he gave nothing to it, as he gave Goneril and Regan, who should be grateful.  He “will be the pattern of all patience”; he will endure whatever harshness the wind and rain hits him with, for his daughters’ wickedness is far more insupportable.  (See Quote 4.)  ‘Caius’ and the Fool urge Lear to find shelter, but the mad king insists on braving the weather still.

In Gloucester’s castle, Gloucester tells Edmund of the plan to restore Lear to the throne, the French army having landed in Dover.  Though Gloucester assumes Edmund won’t tell Goneril and Regan about what they will consider treason, he of course will.

Still standing in the storm, Lear imagines the suffering of the homeless during this night; his heart aches to know that he, their king, has done too little for them.  To be in their wretched condition seems therapeutic to Lear, for he can truly pity them, and by becoming their equal, he knows justice is finally being done for them.

The Fool goes into a hovel where he and ‘Caius’ hope Lear will soon take shelter, but the Fool is frightened by a madman in there; both come out.  The madman is really Edgar, covered in mud and calling himself ‘poor Tom’.  He rants and raves wildly about all the devils he’s known and been possessed by.  Lear assumes ‘Tom’ is mad because his daughters have betrayed him, as Lear’s have him.  As ‘Tom’ continues ranting about devils (Quote 5), Lear is impressed, imagining the madman to be a “Noble philosopher.”

Gloucester has come out to them, and he leads them to an outhouse nearby his castle, where they can sleep for the night.

When Cornwall learns of Gloucester’s colluding with Lear and the French army, Gloucester is deemed a traitor.  Cornwall promises to make Edmund the next Earl of Gloucester; Edmund pretends to be sad about betraying his father.

In the outhouse, Lear gives an imaginary trial for Goneril and Regan.  Edgar, noting the real insanity of Lear, finds relative comfort in how his own sufferings aren’t as severe.

In Gloucester’s castle, when Goneril and Regan learn of Gloucester’s treason, the former suggests plucking out his eyes.  Goneril, Edmund, and Oswald leave, while Gloucester is searched for.

Gloucester, now apprehended, is brought in and pinioned to a chair by two or three servants.  He demands of Regan and Cornwall why he, the host of his castle, is being so mistreated by his guests.  Regan and Cornwall call him a traitor; Regan plucks his white beard contemptuously.  She and Cornwall ask where “the lunatic king” is being sent.

Gloucester tells of receiving a letter from “a neutral heart”, and of sending Lear to Dover.  When they angrily demand why to Dover, Gloucester says he’d not have them pluck out poor old Lear’s eyes.  Though he hopes to see the day of Lear’s revenge, Cornwall says he never will.

Cornwall puts out one of Gloucester’s eyes, leaving him with only one.  One of the servants fights with Cornwall, trying to stop him from putting out Gloucester’s other eye.  Cornwall is mortally wounded, but Regan takes a sword and kills the rebelling servant.  Cornwall goes back in pain to Gloucester and puts out his other eye.

In his agony, Gloucester calls out for Edmund, but Regan tells him that Edmund, having informed them of Gloucester’s treason, hates him.  Now Gloucester, like Lear, despairingly knows which of his offspring to trust, and which not to.  Regan has him thrown outside.  Cornwall dies of his wound, though Regan, secretly in love with Edmund, doesn’t care.

The servants, pitying Gloucester, will get flax and egg-whites to apply to his eyes.

Act Four: Outside, Edgar is horrified to see an old servant guiding blind Gloucester, who in his despair doesn’t want any help.  Gloucester has no way to go; having distrusted the wrong son, he stumbled when he saw.  If he could only have Edgar with him again, it would be as though he had eyes again.

The heaviness of Edgar’s sorrow returns to see his father in such a wretched condition.  Still all covered in mud, he’s still known to everyone as ‘poor Tom’, the mad beggar.  Gloucester imagines a similar cruelty inflicted on ‘Tom’ as on himself, a cruelty the gods inflict on all of us (Quote 6).  He tells the servant to find clothes for ‘Tom’, since he wants the madman to lead him from now on.  After all, only a madman would willingly lead Gloucester to a cliff in Dover, from which the suicidal blind man hopes to jump.

Before Albany’s palace, Oswald tells Goneril of how the Duke of Albany, her husband, is gladdened by the arrival of the French army, and saddened by her coming.  She assumes Albany acts this way out of cowardice and weakness.  Secretly in love with Edmund, as Regan is, Goneril gives him a love-token and a kiss.  Edmund leaves, and Albany enters; the latter has even more contempt for her than she has for him, knowing what she, Regan, and Cornwall have done to Lear.  He’s then horrified to learn that Gloucester’s been blinded, and though Albany must help fight against the French invaders, he hopes to avenge Gloucester for his eyes.

Kent and Lear have arrived at the French camp near Dover.  Kent speaks with a gentleman about the current situation, and about Cordelia, who is deeply distressed for her father.  They must prepare for the armies of Albany and Cornwall; Kent will take the gentleman to where Lear is.

Also in Dover, Cordelia has her men search for her mad father, whose head is crowned with weeds, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers, etc.

Regan, aware of Goneril’s love of Edmund, and therefore jealous, tells Oswald to give Edmund a note she’s written.  She says that since she is now a widow, Edmund is more appropriate as a husband for her than for Goneril, who obviously doesn’t love her husband.  She also tells Oswald that if he should find Gloucester, he should kill him–he’ll be rewarded for such service.

Now also in Dover, Edgar leads Gloucester to what he says is a cliff; to look down at such a deep fall, Edgar says, is frightening.  Gloucester gives ‘poor Tom’ a jewel in a purse and tells him to leave.  Edgar steps back, whispering that his plan is to cure his father of his despair by pretending to indulge it.  Gloucester says some loving words for Edgar, then jumps.

The ‘cliff’ that Gloucester has fallen from is nothing of the sort; he’s done little more than fallen down.  Edgar, now pretending to be a man in the country (for that’s where they actually are), comes over to Gloucester and praises the gods for preserving him after such a long fall.  Gloucester is confused as to whether he’s actually fallen or not; Edgar says that a vile-looking devil at the top of the cliff was with Gloucester when he fell.  Edgar says the gods, in preserving Gloucester’s life, surely want the blind old man to continue living.

Edgar and Gloucester find mad King Lear, dressed in weeds.  Lear rants on and on about how Goneril and Regan lied in their professing of their love for him.

Gloucester, recognizing Lear’s voice, asks if he’s the king; Lear affirms this, as if it were obvious (Quote 7).  Lear continues ranting insanely, imagining he’s forgiving men for adultery, since illegitimate Edmund seemed better to Gloucester than legitimate Goneril and Regan were to Lear.  Besides, he needs soldiers, so he would have “copulation thrive”.  Edgar can only pity Lear’s “Reason in madness!”

A gentleman and attendants come to get Lear and take him to Cordelia; but first they have to chase after the mad king, for he suddenly runs away.

Oswald then finds Edgar and Gloucester, and brandishing a sword, prepares to kill the blind old man, who welcomes the thought of being put out of his misery.  Edgar fights Oswald and mortally wounds him.  Before Oswald dies, though, he tells Edgar of a letter Goneril has written for Edmund to read.  Edgar reads it, scowling from learning of her plot to kill Albany and marry Edmund.

In Cordelia’s tent, Lear has been bathed, changed into clean clothes, and tended to by doctors, who have used medicines to treat him.  He is sleeping.  Cordelia thanks Kent for his efforts to take care of her father; he doesn’t want her to reveal that he’s Kent until he deems the time fit to do so.  She continues to worry about her father.  The doctor would have Lear wake, since he’s been sleeping for a long time.

Lear wakes up and looks at her; he’s not sure, but he thinks she’s Cordelia.  She tearfully affirms this, while he assumes she hates him for disowning her; she, of course, can easily forgive his rash treatment of her at the beginning of the play.  He now knows that, underneath all the kingly pomp, he’s just a foolish old man.

Act Five: At the British camp near Dover, Goneril and Regan continue in their jealous rivalry over Edmund, bickering with each other, with him and Albany present.  The sisters and Edmund leave.  When Edgar, still in a poor man’s rags, has a chance to speak alone with Albany, he gives him Goneril’s incriminating letter.  Albany reads the letter, and is horrified at his wife’s treachery.  Edgar says a man will challenge Edmund to a duel after the war; he leaves Albany.

Edmund has promised himself to both Goneril and Regan.  Whichever sister he chooses, he knows the power he’ll acquire mustn’t be threatened by Lear or Cordelia, whom he plans to have executed after the war.

The war happens, and the French lose.  Edgar tells Gloucester they must leave, for Lear and Cordelia have been taken prisoner.  Gloucester is still in bad thoughts, and his son must continue to try to comfort him.

Though Lear is Edmund’s prisoner, he’s content to have Cordelia’s love, and so he says that, in prison, they’ll “sing like birds i’ th’ cage.”  She asks if he wants to see Goneril and Regan; he says emphatically that he doesn’t, and guards take them away.  Edmund gives a captain a note, telling him to have the two prisoners executed.

Albany enters, demanding to have Lear and Cordelia under his protection.  Goneril and Regan continue in their bitter rivalry over Edmund, though Regan is ill.  (In an aside, Goneril admits to having poisoned Regan: see Quote 8.)  Regan, growing sicker, leaves.  Albany accuses Edmund of treason; if after a trumpet blows, and no man appears to challenge Edmund to a duel, Albany will.

The trumpet blows, and a masked man appears, accusing Edmund of disloyalty to his family and to his country.

The two men fight, and Edmund is mortally wounded.  Goneril is hysterical over dying Edmund.  Albany produces her incriminating letter, and she runs away to kill herself.

Dying, Edmund asks who the masked man is.  The mask comes off, and it’s Edgar, who then tells the story of how he took care of their blind father; then, when he finally revealed himself as Edgar, Gloucester died of a heart attack, being caught between extremes of joy and grief.

Edmund is actually moved to hear the story of his pitiful father.  A gentleman holding a bloody knife informs all that Goneril has killed herself with the knife, and Regan has died of the poisoning.  Kent appears, no longer as ‘Caius’, and asks where his king is.  Edmund tells them that Lear and Cordelia are to be executed; in spite of his nature, Edmund will do some good in reversing the order of execution.  A servant rushes off with Edmund’s sword as proof of the order’s reversal.  Edmund is borne away.

While Lear has been saved, it’s too late for Cordelia.  A wailing Lear enters carrying her lifeless body (Quote 9).  Lear would have a glass put by her mouth; if by chance the glass fogs up with her breath, she’ll still be living.  He killed the servant who hanged her.  Kent, Edgar, and Albany watch the king in horror and profound pity for his suffering.

A messenger enters, mentioning the death of Edmund.  Albany dismisses his death as a trifle in comparison to the tragedy he’s watching with Kent and Edgar.

Lear says his “fool is hanged”: is this the Fool, or his daughter (i.e., his ‘foal’)?  He asks why an animal should be allowed to live, but not Cordelia.  Then suddenly, Lear thinks he sees her lips moving; in a confusion of joy and grief similar to that of Gloucester, Lear dies of a heart attack.

Kent is amazed that Lear was able to endure for so long.  Albany imagines the rule of England will be divided between Edgar and Kent; but Kent, hearing the voice of Lear’s ghost, must kill himself to continue serving his king in the afterlife.

Edgar concludes the play by saying we must “Say what we feel, not what we ought to say.”

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Detailed Synopsis of ‘Julius Caesar’

Act One: The citizens of Rome are celebrating Caesar’s defeat of Pompey, having Caesar’s statues “deck’d with ceremonies”.  Flavius and Marullus, tribunes sympathetic to Pompey and annoyed with Caesar’s growing power, rebuke the people and tell them to disperse and end the celebrations.  After the people leave, the two tribunes start taking the “trophies” off the statues.

Caesar, his wife Calpurnia, his friends Brutus and Mark Antony, Cassius, and Casca enter, triumphant after Pompey’s defeat.  Mark Antony is to run a race in the celebratory games of the Lupercalia.  A soothsayer warns Caesar of the upcoming March 15th (see quote 1 of my ‘Analysis of Julius Caesar‘), the day Caesar was murdered in 44 BC.  The soothsayer is ignored, and Mark Antony goes to run the race, being followed by all except Brutus and Cassius.

Cassius asks Brutus why he seems not to show him friendship as he had before.  Brutus insists he’s never grown cold to Cassius, but rather is preoccupied with his own personal issues.  They hear, from over where the race is being run, cheers for Caesar.  Brutus says he fears the people will make Caesar their king.  Emboldened, Cassius begins discussing Caesar’s alarming rise to power (see quote 2 of my ‘Analysis’).  He tries to convince Brutus of Caesar’s unworthiness of such ascendancy, citing two examples of weakness in a younger Caesar: once, Caesar in a swimming race with Cassius, gasped for help when almost drowning; another time, Caesar complained of sickness.  “And this man/Is now become a god,” gripes Cassius.

Brutus, a good friend of Caesar’s, says he will consider what Cassius has said.  Caesar and all the others return.  Caesar looks with suspicion on Cassius, and tells Mark Antony of his misgivings.  Mark Antony tells him not to fear Cassius.

Casca meets with Brutus and Cassius. He tells them of what happened during the race.  When Brutus and Cassius ask Casca what the cheering was about, Casca explains that Mark Antony three times offered Caesar a small but kingly coronet; Caesar refused it each time, though each refusal was weaker and weaker.  Casca, as much as Cassius, fears Caesar’s rise to power.  He says that Cicero gave a speech in Greek, something some of the others understood, but not Casca (see quote 3).  Then Casca mentions the arresting of Flavius and Marullus for having removed garlands from Caesar’s statues.

Casca, leaving, accepts an offer to dine with Cassius and further discuss these matters, if the meal is good.  Brutus also leaves.  Cassius, alone, tells of his plan to forge letters complaining of Caesar’s disturbing rise to power, and to have them delivered in the windows of Brutus’ home; this deceit, Cassius hopes, will convince Brutus to join the conspirators.

On the night before the ides of March, there is a terrible, frightening storm, full of omens portending the assassination of Caesar.  Casca fearfully discusses these portents with Cicero and Cassius.  Cassius has fellow conspirator Cinna cause a few more forged letters to be in Brutus’ possession.

Act Two: Brutus, troubled and unable to sleep, walks about his home, thinking about his friend Caesar and his problematic ascent to dictator.  While Brutus sees no actual evidence of ambition in Caesar, he recognizes the reality of ambition in most politicians, and their contempt for those below them.  Lucius, Brutus’ young servant, gives him one of Cassius’ letters; the boy then confirms that the next day will be the ides of March, and he goes to the door to let in the just-arrived conspirators.

Cassius introduces them to Brutus: they include Casca, Cinna, Trebonius, Decius Brutus, Metellus Cimber, and Ligarius.  Cassius suggests killing Mark Antony along with Caesar: Brutus rejects this idea, preferring to minimize violence and seeing no need to fear Mark Antony.  They agree to this and leave.

Brutus isn’t alone again for long; Portia, his wife, comes to ask him what’s troubling him.  He denies feelings of inquietude.  She insists that if he truly honoured her as his wife, he would tell her: though regarded as women are in this patriarchal society, she is of noble birth.  She proves her constancy to him by showing him a wound she’s given herself in the leg.  He wonders how he can be worthy of such an honourable wife.

The next morning, in Caesar’s home, Calpurnia complains to her husband of a terrible nightmare she’s had.  Reminding him of the recent ill omens, she begs him not to go to the Capitol that day.  Caesar insists he has nothing to fear; she insists he’s over-confident (see quote 4).  The entrails of a slain animal are examined for omens: the beast has no heart.  Finally, to allay her fears, he says he won’t go.

Decius Brutus arrives in Caesar’s home to take him to the Capitol, but Caesar refuses to go.  Decius Brutus asks for a reason: not wishing to seem weak, Caesar says, “The cause is in my will: I will not come.”  Then Caesar tells him of his wife’s dream–a statue of Caesar spouting not water but blood, in which many Romans wash their hands.

Decius Brutus reinterprets the dream, saying it symbolizes how Caesar will suck reviving blood of Rome; he need fear no danger at the Capitol, where the Senate will offer him a crown.  They may change their minds, however, if he doesn’t go: this piques Caesar’s ambition, and now he is embarrassed at having listened to his fearful wife.  He is resolved to go to the Capitol.

The other conspirators arrive, as does Mark Antony.  They go with Caesar to the Capitol.

Artemidorus, a Sophist, has written a letter for Caesar to read, warning him of the conspirators.

Portia has her servant, Lucius, go to the Capitol to see if Brutus is well.  She speaks with the soothsayer about whether Caesar is at the Capitol or not.  The soothsayer wishes to warn Caesar again.  She continues to fear for her husband and his plot against Caesar.

Act Three: Caesar, Brutus, Cassius, Casca, Decius Brutus, Metellus Cimber, Trebonius, Cinna, Mark Antony, Lepidus, Artemidorus, and the soothsayer are before the Capitol.  Caesar says to the soothsayer, “The ides of March are come.”  The soothsayer says, “Ay, Caesar, but not gone.”

Artemidorus tries to give Caesar his letter, but Decius Brutus stops him by having Caesar read a letter of Trebonius instead.  Cassius then tells Brutus his fears that the conspiracy is publicly known; Brutus reassures him that all is well, for Popilius Lena is taking Caesar aside.  Trebonius similarly takes Mark Antony aside, distracting him.  All preparations are being made to ensure that the assassination runs as smoothly as possible.  Caesar and the conspirators enter the Capitol.

Metellus Cimber begs Caesar to repatriate his banished brother Publius; Caesar refuses to.  The other conspirators kneel before Caesar one by one, asking of him the same repatriation; of course, they’re really distracting him.

Finally, Casca says, “Speak, hands, for me!” and gives Caesar the first stab.  The other conspirators brandish their blades and stab him; Brutus, the last one, stabs Caesar, who gasps his feelings of betrayal before dying (see quote 5).  The conspirators triumphantly proclaim liberty for Rome, promising no harm to any of the stunned senators still in the Capitol.

Brutus tells the conspirators to bathe their hands in Caesar’s blood.  Cassius imagines actors in the future performing plays of this great moment in history.  The conspirators plan to go outside to appease the terrified citizens and explain why they killed Caesar.

Mark Antony enters the room and coolly shakes the hands of the conspirators; though outraged, he must hide his fury for the sake of his safety.  He claims to be their friend, asking only for a just reason for Caesar’s murder.  Brutus promises to be generous with such reasons, and allows Mark Antony to honour Caesar’s memory in his funeral, so long as the conspirators aren’t vilified.

Cassius takes Brutus aside, saying it will be dangerous to allow Mark Antony to address the crowd.  Brutus reassures him that allowing Caesar’s friend to speak for him in his funeral will make the conspirators look generous.

The conspirators go outside to speak to the people and to calm them.  Alone, Mark Antony finally expresses his rage, begging Caesar’s pardon for being “gentle with these butchers.”  Over Caesar’s wounds, he prophesies all of Rome rising in civil war to avenge Caesar’s murder, killing scores of men to appease Caesar’s ghost (see quote 6).

Outside, Brutus addresses the people, explaining that while he was friend to Caesar, he was more friend to Rome in killing him, out of a fear that he would turn tyrant.  Only those un-Roman enough to want to be slaves to Caesar would be offended at Brutus’ slaying of him.  The easily manipulated crowd now sympathizes with Brutus.

Mark Antony comes out with Caesar’s bloody body.  Brutus asks everyone to stay and listen to Mark Antony; Brutus leaves.

The angry crowd, now hating Caesar, at first refuse to listen to his friend’s cries for their attention (see quote 7).  In a masterstroke of political rhetoric, Mark Antony turns the crowd’s sympathies back to Caesar and away from the conspirators by only sarcastically calling them “honourable men/Whose daggers have stabb’d Caesar” (see also quote 8), and reminding the people of Caesar’s generosity to them.  By the end of Antony’s speech, when he’s disclosed Caesar’s will–giving all Romans the freedom to enjoy walking about his private parks and orchards, and giving each Roman 75 drachmas–after teasingly delaying the will’s revelation, the people riot in the streets.  Mark Antony is content to have this disorderly rage, for he can use it to his political advantage.

The rioters find a poet who, after revealing his name to be Cinna (unluckily also a name of one of the conspirators), is killed by them.

Act Four: Mark Antony, Octavius (the future emperor Augustus) and Lepidus form the Second Triumvirate, and check off a list of those to be executed for their involvement in the conspiracy against Caesar.  After Lepidus is sent off to Caesar’s home to fetch the will, Antony disparages him as the weakest of the three triumvirs.  Octavius defends Lepidus, calling him “a tried and valiant soldier,” though Antony won’t acknowledge this.  (In the interactions between Antony and Octavius, there is a hint of the antagonism that would be fully developed in another Shakespearean Roman tragedy, Antony and Cleopatra.)  They will prepare their armies to fight those of Brutus and Cassius.

Cassius comes to where Brutus’ army is, and angrily enters Brutus’ tent.  He says Brutus has done him wrong in accusing soldiers in his army of taking bribes.  Brutus is not at all moved by Cassius’ sword and threats, for Brutus is “arm’d so strong in honesty”, and despises all corruption, be it that of Caesar or of Cassius.

Cassius is thus put in his place, and shocked when Brutus speaks of Portia’s suicide by swallowing fire, after worrying so much of her husband’s fortunes.  Titinius and Messala enter the tent, and the four men discuss the coming battle: Cassius believes they should wait for the enemy to come, tired from marching, while their own armies are well-rested; Brutus, not wanting the enemy to gain the aid of the men “in a forc’d affection” between the armies of the enemy and those of Brutus and Cassius, would have their armies march ahead to meet the enemy (see quote 9).  Messala tells Brutus of Portia’s suicide: Brutus responds stoically.

Brutus is left alone in his tent at night; his weary servant, Lucius, plays a tune on his harp, but falls asleep in the middle of playing.  Brutus, wishing to be kind to the boy, lets him sleep, then begins reading a book.

Caesar’s ghost appears to Brutus, saying they’ll meet again in Philippi.  Frightened Brutus wakes the boy and two other servants of his, asking if they’ve seen or heard anyone: they haven’t.

Act Five: Antony and Octavius meet with Brutus and Octavius, exchanging harsh words before preparing for battle.  Brutus and Cassius say farewell, knowing this may be the last time they see each other.

The battles begin, and though Brutus’ army is fairly successful at first, Cassius’ is clearly losing.  When he mistakenly thinks his best friend Titinius has been captured by the enemy, he feels ashamed to be still living, and has Pindarus stab him with the sword he used on Caesar.  Titinius returns with good news of the battle, but seeing his good friend Cassius dead, kills himself.  Brutus comes by and sees the two dead men; he notes the power of Caesar after death, causing his enemies to kill themselves.

In the final battle, Brutus’ army is losing, and he asks soldier after soldier to hold his sword while he runs on it; all of them refuse except Strato.  As Brutus is dying, he hopes Caesar’s spirit will rest in peace (see quote 10).

Mark Antony and Octavius arrive and look down on Brutus’ body.  Antony praises Brutus, the only conspirator to act not out of envy of Caesar, but for the good of Rome.  Octavius calls for rejoicing over their victory.

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Detailed Synopsis for ‘The Taming of the Shrew’

Induction: Christopher Sly, a drunken tinker, rudely refuses to pay for his ale in an alehouse in England, annoying the hostess.  He falls asleep at his chair.

A lord and his men come to the alehouse after a hunt.  They see Sly asleep, and regarding him as contemptuously as the hostess has, the lord decides to play a trick on him.  He tells his men to carry the drunkard to his bedchamber.  There, they will trick him into thinking he’s a lord.

The lord has his page, the boy Bartholomew, dress up as a woman and pretend to be Sly’s dutiful, obedient wife.  When Sly wakes up, he finds himself wearing a lord’s bedclothes, and lying in a luxurious bedchamber.  Naturally confused, he insists he’s Christopher Sly the tinker; they say his identity as a tinker is the result of a dream he’s had during a fifteen-year coma, from which he’s just woken, to the tears of joy of his long-suffering wife.

The lord says Sly will now watch ‘a pleasant comedy’ that a group of actors has prepared.  Sly’s doctors say the entertainment will be good for his recovery.  The play begins:

Act One: Lucentio and his servant Tranio are entering Padua, since Lucentio is to study at the university there.  They see Baptista Minola and his two daughters, the shrewish Katherina and her younger sister Bianca.  Two suitors to Bianca, the elderly Gremio and foolish Hortensio, are disappointed to hear that Baptista won’t allow any wooing of Bianca until a husband can be found for Katherina.

Lucentio falls in love with the pretty Bianca instantly, forgetting all about his studies while focusing all his energy on winning her love.  Though Baptista won’t allow her to be married until the ‘too rough’ Katherina is wed, he wishes to find music and poetry teachers for both his daughters.  Lucentio thus plans to disguise himself as a Latin poetry teacher, calling himself ‘Cambio’.  Tranio is to pretend he’s Lucentio, and woo Bianca in the real Lucentio’s stead.  Master and servant swap clothes in the street, when Biondello, another servant of Lucentio’s, arrives, all confused to see his master dressed as Tranio, and vice versa.  Lucentio explains the whole plan to Biondello.

(The actors note that Christopher Sly, bored with the play, is nodding off.  He politely insists that he’s enjoying the performance, asking if there’s more…Actually, he wishes it was already over.)

Petruchio and his servant Grumio enter Padua.  Petruchio would have Grumio knock at the door of Hortensio’s home; and when Grumio grows argumentative over Petruchio’s ambiguous words, Petruchio threatens to knock his servant over the head.  When Grumio shouts in fear of his ‘mad’ master, Hortensio appears.

Petruchio and Hortensio greet each other, and Petruchio explains that his father has died, and he, without money, hopes to marry a woman and get a generous dowry.  He doesn’t care what the bride is like, as long as he gets lots of money.  The fact that Petruchio is Hortensio’s good friend is a deterrent from Hortensio telling Petruchio about the shrewish Katherina.  Still, Petruchio would get a good dowry from Baptista, so he willingly accepts.

Delighted with the hope of Katherina soon being married off, Hortensio tells Petruchio of his plan to disguise himself as ‘Licio’, a teacher of the lute.

Gremio comes with ‘Cambio’, hoping the would-be Latin teacher will woo Bianca on his behalf.  When Hortensio tells Gremio of Petruchio’s intention to marry Katherina, Gremio worries that Petruchio will change his mind when he learns of “all her faults.”  Petruchio reassures the others that he, being used to the harsh sounds of war, has no fear “of a woman’s tongue.”

Tranio appears, calling himself ‘Lucentio’ and telling everyone of his plan to woo Bianca, to the annoyance of Gremio and Hortensio.    All the men go to the Minolas’ house.

Act Two:  Angry and envious Katherina has Bianca’s hands tied, and demands that her sister tell her which man she loves the most.  Bianca says that she doesn’t love any particular man yet.  Katherina hits her.  Baptista comes over to break up the fight, pitying poor Bianca and unbinding her hands.  She leaves.  Katherina grows more enraged, imagining their father loves Bianca more, and that Bianca will be married first, thus shaming elder Katherina, who leaves in a fury.  Baptista laments his ill fortune as a father.

All the suitors arrive.  Gremio greets Baptista, and Petruchio asks about Katherina, praising her “beauty and her wit,/Her affability and bashful modesty./Her wondrous qualities and mild behaviour.”  Everyone hearing these words cannot believe his ears.  Petruchio introduces ‘Licio’ to Baptista as the girls’ music teacher.

Gremio introduces ‘Cambio’ to Baptista.  ‘Lucentio’ introduces himself as a suitor to Bianca.  A servant leads ‘Cambio’ and ‘Licio’ to the girls to begin their lessons.  Petruchio asks Baptista of the dowry he’ll receive for marrying Katherina.  Baptista offers a generous dowry, which more than satisfies Petruchio.  The only challenge will be gaining the shrew’s love.  Petruchio has no fears of not gaining it.  (See the first quote from my ‘Analysis of The Taming of the Shrew‘.)

‘Licio’ enters the room, his head beaten.  He explains how he tried to explain the proper fingering of the lute to Katherina, who’d gotten it wrong.  Angry with his corrections, she broke the lute over his head.  Petruchio is delighted, saying he loves her all the more, and eagerly wishing “to have some chat with her.”

Baptista goes to send her over to meet Petruchio.  As he is waiting, Petruchio goes over his plan to deny her every word of nastiness or unwillingness to marry him.  He’ll insist she’s sweet and gentle instead, as well as eager to marry him.

Katherina arrives: Petruchio addresses her as ‘Kate’.  She says she’s known as Katherina, but he insists she’s ‘Kate’.  She scoffs at his plans to marry her.  The arguing between them escalates till she slaps him for making a lewd joke.

When Baptista returns with Gremio and ‘Lucentio’, Petruchio denies Katherina’s reputed shrewishness and unwillingness to marry him, claiming her nastiness is all just an act she puts on in public, while privately she’s sweet and mild (and the only time to know a woman for real is in private).  They’ll be married on Sunday.  (She’d have him hanged then instead.)

The others would much prefer Petruchio’s story to hers, so the wedding is settled.  Now gleeful Baptista is ready to accept the best dowry offer of Gremio or ‘Lucentio’.  The latter offers a better one, so as long as ‘Lucentio’ can prove that his father can pay the dowry, Baptista prefers him as a husband for Bianca.  Baptista and Gremio leave.  Now Tranio must find someone to pretend to be Vincentio, Lucentio’s father.

Act Three:  ‘Cambio’ and ‘Licio’ are vying over who gets to teach, and therefore woo, Bianca.  ‘Cambio’ wins, slipping in his wooing words between Latin phrases; meanwhile, ‘Licio’ is tuning his lute.  Bianca tells ‘Cambio’, in Latin phrases alternating with her responding words, that he must try harder to win her heart, but not give up, for she clearly prefers him.  ‘Licio’ increasingly suspects him to be a suitor rather than a teacher; he also increasingly realizes he’s losing the suit.

On Sunday at the church, everyone is waiting for the very late Petruchio to arrive.  Katherina complains that everyone will say, “Lo, there is mad Petruchio’s wife,/If it would please him come and marry her!”  Indeed, Baptista acknowledges that she has good reason to be angry.

Finally, Petruchio and Grumio arrive, but they are dressed absurdly.  Biondello describes Petruchio as wearing “a new hat and an old jerkin; a pair of old breeches thrice turn’d; a pair of boots that have been candle-cases, one buckled, another lac’d…”, et cetera.  The others chide Petruchio for his clothes, and offer him better ones to change into.  He insists Katherina’s marrying him, not his clothes.  She very unwillingly goes with him into the church.

The comical goings-on during the ceremony are described by Gremio.  Petruchio “swore so loud/That, all amaz’d, the priest let fall the book;/And as he stoop’d again to take it up,/This mad-brain’d bridegroom took him such a cuff/That down fell priest and book, and book and priest.”

Petruchio and Katherina come out of the church, but he refuses to attend the wedding party, claiming he has urgent business to attend to back home.  Katherina won’t go with him, and the others sympathize with her; but he insists she’s his ‘goods’, his ‘chattels’, his ‘any thing’.  Acting like a madman, he pretends the others are trying to take her away, and he and Grumio, brandishing swords, claim to be protecting her as they take her with them to Verona.  An exasperated Baptista allows them to go.

Act Four: In Petruchio’s country house in Verona, Grumio arrives first, telling Curtis, another servant, of Petruchio’s mad, ungentlemanly treatment of Katherina during the journey from Padua to Verona.  She fell off her horse and into the mire, and he wouldn’t help her back on; he beat Grumio instead.  Grumio then tells Curtis to have all the servants ready to meet their master and Katherina.

Petruchio soon arrives with his filthy, exhausted, and starving bride.  He bullies his servants into making dinner quickly for them.  Dinner is served, but Petruchio rants and raves like a maniac that the meat is burnt (it isn’t).  A terrified Kate tries to reason with him; he then throws all the meat at the servants.  Poor Kate must now do without supper.

He plans to be similarly abusive when he sees the condition of her bed, not letting her sleep in it.  In a soliloquy, he tells of his plans to tame Kate (see quote 2 of my ‘Analysis of The Taming of the Shrew‘), saying that all of his depriving her of food and sleep is out of perfect love for her, since the rejected necessities haven’t been worthily prepared for so fine a wife.  He’d be happy to see if anyone knows a better way to tame a shrew, for “‘Tis charity to show.”

Tranio (still pretending to be Lucentio) and Hortensio (no longer pretending to be Licio) speak of how ‘Cambio’ is successfully courting Bianca: they watch the two lovers walk by.  Hortensio speaks of his plans to marry a wealthy widow instead, then leaves.  Tranio is now speaking with Lucentio and Bianca, and all three are happy to be “rid of Licio.”

Biondello comes, telling of a pedant whom they can use in their plans.  The pedant arrives, saying he’s from Mantua; but Tranio tells him “‘Tis death for any one in Mantua/To come to Padua.”  For the dukes of each city have a ‘private quarrel’ now publicly proclaimed.  The pedant, to protect himself, must disguise himself as Vincentio, a man of Pisa, and help Lucentio in promising to pay the dowry for Bianca’s hand in marriage.  The pedant agrees to do so.

In Petruchio’s country house, poor Kate continues to go hungry and without sleep.  (See quote 3 of my ‘Analysis’.)  Grumio tortures her by speaking of delicious meats, then denying her the food, claiming “it is too choleric a meat.”  She begins beating him when Petruchio and Hortensio arrive with meat.  Petruchio offers her the meat, which he has lovingly prepared himself for her; he is sure his ‘diligent’ work deserves some thanks.  She reluctantly thanks him, but he’d have Hortensio eat it instead.

Since Bianca is about to be married, Petruchio and Kate are to wear their finest clothes and go to Padua.  He’s had a tailor and haberdasher prepare a gown and hat for her to wear; she loves the clothes, but he is quick to find fault with them.  She insists that all gentlewomen wear hats like the one made, but he won’t have her wear one until she learns to be gentle.

When he says the gown hasn’t been made in accordance with his instructions, the tailor insists that it has, and even shows Petruchio and Grumio them in writing; but they both deny this.  So Kate won’t have the dress, either.  She and Petruchio will have to go to Padua in their modest attire instead; the clothes don’t make the man (or woman), anyway.

Petruchio claims it is seven o’clock, but when she says it’s about two, he says they won’t go to Padua unless she agrees with his incorrect estimation of the time.  Defeated, she agrees with it.

In Padua, the pedant as ‘Vincentio’ helps Tranio (as ‘Lucentio’) with the promising of payment of the dowry in a scene with Baptista.  Plans are made for the real Lucentio to marry Bianca in a church.

On the road to Padua with Hortensio, Petruchio looks up at the sun and calls it the moon.  When Kate says it’s the sun, he threatens to take her back home unless she says it’s the moon, which she now does.  Then he corrects her, saying it’s the sun, and she says it’s whatever he wants it to be.  Hortensio is impressed, hoping he can similarly tame his shrewish new wife, the wealthy widow!

They see an old man approaching, and Petruchio calls him a pretty young maiden.  He tells Kate to “embrace her for her beauty’s sake”.  Kate immediately greets the “Young budding virgin, fair and fresh and sweet”.  Petruchio now corrects her, saying she’s spoken to an old man.  She begs his pardon for her “mad mistaking”.

The old man, having overcome his surprise and confusion at the ‘merry’ woman,  then introduces himself as Vincentio of Pisa, on his way to Padua to visit his son.  Since Petruchio and Kate are going there too, they all decide to go there together.

Act Five: In Padua, Lucentio and Bianca prepare to get married, when Petruchio, Katherina, Vincentio, and Grumio arrive.

Vincentio is enraged to find the pedant pretending to be him, and even more so to find Biondello, Tranio (dressed in Lucentio’s clothes), and Baptista all confirming that the pedant is ‘Vincentio’, while Tranio is ‘Lucentio’.  Convinced of his servants’ villainy, Vincentio accuses them of having murdered his son.  Tranio, wishing to protect himself from getting into trouble, calls for an officer to have Vincentio arrested.  Baptista agrees with ‘Lucentio’ that the old ‘dotard’ should go to jail.

Lucentio and Bianca, now married, arrive, apologizing to Vincentio and explaining away all the disguises and deceit.  Now Baptista is angry that his daughter has married a man without her father’s consent.  All will be explained and resolved when they go.

Kate wishes to follow them and watch the resolution: Petruchio agrees, but wants her to kiss him first.  She is too shy to kiss in public, so he threatens to take her back to Verona.  She now agrees to kiss him.

Finally, all are in Lucentio’s house, celebrating at the wedding party.  Bianca, and especially the widow, prove themselves to be even more shrewish than Kate.  Indeed, Kate is quite annoyed with the widow’s meanness.  At one point, the three women leave the room, and all the men assume Kate to be still the most shrewish of the three.  Petruchio denies this, confidently entering a wager with Lucentio and Hortensio.  Each man will call his wife back into the room; the first wife to come, thus being the most obedient, will cause her husband to win the wager.

Overconfident Lucentio goes first, telling his father he’ll pay in full if he loses.  He has Biondello fetch Bianca; the servant returns without her, reporting that she says she is busy and cannot come.  All are shocked.

Hortensio nervously has Biondello entreat his wife to come.  Biondello returns, saying the widow refuses to come; she’d have her husband come to her!

“Worse and worse; she will not come!” Petruchio says to this.  The other two husbands insist, though, that Kate will be the most disobedient of all.  Petruchio is sure she will obey, and he tells Grumio to tell Kate that he commands her to come.  Grumio fetches her, and she comes immediately, in all submission.  Everyone is amazed.

Petruchio tells her to get the other two wives, and bring them back, by force if necessary.  She goes to get them.  Petruchio promises to show the stunned spectators more proof of the obedience of his transformed wife.  She returns with Bianca and the widow.  Petruchio tells Kate to remove her cap, as he doesn’t like how it looks on her, and drop it at her feet.  She immediately does so, to the continued amazement of all in the room.

Bianca and the widow find Kate’s obedience silly; Lucentio wishes he’d gotten such silliness from Bianca, so as not to lose the large sum of money he’s lost in the wager.  Bianca calls him a fool for relying on her obedience.

Petruchio tells Kate to tell “these headstrong women/What duty they do owe their lords and husbands.”  The widow will hear none of it; Petruchio demands she listen.  Kate chides Bianca and the widow in a long speech about why wives should obey their husbands.   (See quote 4.)

Petruchio is touched and appreciative of Kate’s love and duty (quote 5).  He triumphantly leaves the party with Kate, while the others are left wondering how he succeeded in taming her.

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Detailed Synopsis for ‘Macbeth’

Act One: Three witches are in an open place, discussing how they’ll meet again before the sun sets, after Scotland wins a war they’re waging against Norway and Ireland, when they’ll meet Macbeth.  (See first quote from my ‘Analysis of Macbeth’.)

King Duncan, his sons, and some Scottish nobles discuss the outcome of the war with a wounded soldier, who praises Macbeth’s valour; he mentions how Macbeth confronted the enemy and killed him with his sword–he “unseam’d him from the nave to th’ chaps.” The king has the soldier taken away to be treated for his wounds.

The Thane of Ross discusses Scotland’s victory against Norway and Ireland, the heroism of ‘Bellona’s bridegroom’ (Macbeth), and the traitor Macdonwald, Thane of Cawdor, who has been captured and will be executed.  Duncan tells Ross and the other nobles to confer on Macbeth the title of Thane of Cawdor.

The three witches meet again on a blasted heath, waiting for Macbeth to appear.  One speaks of a woman who munched on some nuts.  When the witch asked for some, the woman shouted at her to go away, calling her a witch.  The witch will have her revenge on the woman by causing her husband to suffer in a tempest at sea.

Macbeth and Banquo walk together towards where the witches are.  (See second quote of my ‘Analysis’.)  The witches accost them, each greeting Macbeth with the titles ‘Thane of Glamis‘ (his original title), ‘Thane of Cawdor’, and ‘king hereafter’.  He is shocked, even frightened, by such a ‘prophetic greeting’.  Banquo asks of his future; the witches predict that he will beget a line of kings, though he himself will be none.  The men demand that the witches explain their meaning more clearly, but the three mysteriously vanish.

The Scottish nobles greet Macbeth with the title ‘Thane of Cawdor’, thus confirming one of the witches’ predictions.  Macbeth is dazed with his growing ambition to be king, and his fear of it.  (Quote 3)  The nobles explain that Macdonwald, the original Thane of Cawdor, gave aid of some sort to the enemy, thus deserving execution for treason, and making Macbeth his replacement.  They leave to meet the king.

With the king now, Macbeth and Banquo are honoured for their valour during the war.  Malcolm, Duncan’s son, tells of the execution of Macdonwald.  Malcolm is made Prince of Cumberland: Macbeth knows this appointment is an obstacle to his becoming king.  They will go to Macbeth’s castle to celebrate the victory and stay the night.

At his castle, a letter he’s written is being read by his wife, Lady Macbeth.  She reads of one of the witches’ prophecies coming true, thus making that of his becoming king also quite possibly true.  Now her ambition has been fired up; but she knows her husband is “too full o’ th’ milk of human kindness/ To catch the nearest way”, so she must be especially ruthless to compensate for his weakness.  She calls on devils to fill her “from the crown to the toe, top-full/ Of direst cruelty.”

Macbeth arrives at his castle, greeted by Lady Macbeth as “Great Glamis!  Worthy Cawdor!”  They plan to kill Duncan that night in Macbeth’s castle.  This is too perfect an opportunity to pass up.

When Duncan arrives, he says, “This castle hath a pleasant seat.”  Lady Macbeth cordially greets him, and a feast is prepared.  During the banquet, Macbeth goes off alone, and in a soliloquy expresses his doubts and fears.  He notes the kindness of the king, who’ll plead for mercy like angels if Macbeth cruelly kills him.  He realizes that only his ambition pushes him to want to kill Duncan. (See fourth quote.)  He resolves not to do it.

Lady Macbeth finds him and asks him why he isn’t with the others.  When he remorsefully says he won’t kill Duncan, she questions his manhood and reassures him that they can succeed.  The men guarding Duncan’s prepared room for the night will be given drugged wine, which will knock them unconscious when Macbeth is to kill Duncan; Macbeth is to put the bloody daggers in the sleeping guards’ hands to incriminate them.  Macbeth is turned back toward the plan.

Act Two: There is a brief scene between Banquo and his son Fleance; then Banquo and Macbeth chat about the witches.  Banquo speaks of dreaming about them, while Macbeth lies that he doesn’t even think about them.  Banquo and Fleance leave to go to sleep.

Macbeth is alone, about to go to Duncan’s room.  He hallucinates, seeing a dagger hovering in front of him.  (See fifth quote.)  It seems as real as the daggers he has to kill Duncan with, but it seems to be “a dagger of the mind”, a product of his stress and fear.

As he continues on to Duncan’s room, Lady Macbeth is emboldened by the wine she’s drunk, though an owl’s hoot briefly frightens her.  Nonetheless, all is ready: Duncan’s guards have drunk the drugged wine, and they’re unconscious.

Macbeth returns with bloody daggers, shaking after having murdered Duncan.  (See sixth quote.)  Lady Macbeth tries to calm him, but is shocked to see the daggers in his hands.  He doesn’t dare return to the murder scene, so Lady Macbeth takes the daggers from him and puts them in the hands of the sleeping guards.  Now her hands are as bloody as Macbeth’s.  They hear a knocking on the front door of the castle, so they must quickly wash the blood off their hands and remove all evidence linking them to the murder.  Still, Macbeth is too scared to move, the loud knocking continues, and Lady Macbeth must push him to action.

A porter goes to answer the knocking.  His scene is one of comic relief.  He jokes about being porter to the gates of Hell, and speaks of a damned ‘equivocator’, among other unrepentant sinners.  He opens the door and in come Macduff and Lennox who, needing to speak with the king, ask why the porter is so slow to answer the door.  The porter explains how everyone in the castle was drinking wine and celebrating till late; then he jokes about how wine equivocates by provoking sexual desire, but taking away the male ability to perform sexually.  Macbeth appears, and takes Macduff to Duncan’s room.

Horrified to see the king murdered, Macduff shouts and wakes everyone up.  Lady Macbeth feigns fainting to hear the news, and Macbeth confesses to having killed the guards out of a fit of passion (actually, to silence them).  Now plans must be made to learn who “suborn’d” the guards, and to crown Duncan’s successor.  (Speaking of whom, the king’s sons, Malcolm and Donalbain, plan to flee immediately to England and Ireland respectively, for fear of their lives.  Later this will cause them to be suspected of plotting their father’s murder.  The way is clear for Macbeth to be the next king.)

Act Three: Macbeth is now king.  Banquo is impressed with the accuracy of the witches’ predictions, but he wonders if Macbeth “play’dst most most foully for’t.”  He also remembers the prophecy that his descendants would be kings.  He tells Macbeth he has urgent business to attend to, and will be late for a banquet Macbeth has invited all the nobles to that night.  Banquo leaves.

Macbeth also remembers the witches’ prophecy about Banquo, and he fears the future of his own rule.    Macbeth hires two murderers who, hating Banquo for past injuries he’s done them, are to kill him and his son Fleance when they approach Macbeth’s castle that night.  Lady Macbeth worries about how Macbeth has changed from a good man into a power-obsessed ruler.

That evening, Banquo and Fleance are nearing the castle while the murderers, suddenly and awkwardly joined by a third, lie in wait.  The three murderers surprise Banquo and Fleance, killing the father while the son escapes.

One of the murderers tells Macbeth at the banquet that Banquo’s ‘throat is cut’ (which the reporting murderer himself did), “With twenty trenched gashes on his head”, but Fleance escaped.  Macbeth is not pleased with the latter news.  He joins his guests and drinks a toast to Banquo, who he says sadly isn’t with them.

The Thane of Ross asks Macbeth to sit with them, but Macbeth sees someone sitting at the chair Lennox gestures to.  No one else sees anyone sitting there, but Macbeth insists the chair isn’t vacant.  He looks closer, and is shocked to see Banquo’s ghost.  Everyone is surprised at Macbeth’s wildly fearful reaction, since only he sees the ghost.

Lady Macbeth takes him aside, demanding that he control himself.  She makes up an excuse to their guests that Macbeth has suffered a psychological condition from childhood, causing momentary fits that will soon pass.

The ghost disappears, and Macbeth is calm again.  He confirms Lady Macbeth’s excuse about his ‘infirmity’, then he drinks another toast to absent Banquo, whose ghost suddenly reappears.  Macbeth’s manic reaction shocks everyone so much that Lady Macbeth tells everyone to leave.  The guests wish good health on the king before leaving.

As Macbeth is calming down (the ghost is gone), he wonders why Macduff never attended the banquet.  Macbeth also says he wants to visit the witches again.

(An apocryphal scene has the goddess Hecate reprimanding the three witches for using their art on Macbeth without involving her.)

Lennox and a lord discuss the current, wretched state of Scotland: word is out that Macduff has joined Malcolm in England to raise up an army to invade Scotland, kill the increasingly suspect King Macbeth, and give Malcolm the crown.

Act Four:  The witches prepare a spell, throwing such ingredients as ‘Eye of newt’, ‘Nose of Turk’, and ‘Liver of blaspheming Jew’ into the cauldron (Seventh quote.).  One of the witches says, “By the pricking of my thumbs,/Something wicked this way comes.”  “Open locks, whoever knocks,” when Macbeth arrives.

He asks them of his fate.  Their ‘masters’ tell Macbeth, in visions, three prophecies: beware Macduff, the Thane of Fife; none of woman born will ever kill Macbeth; and he won’t fall until Birnham forest moves to high Dunsinane hill, where his castle is.  The second two prophecies give him a false self-confidence, since he imagines it impossible for them ever to be manifested.

Then he asks of Banquo’s future.  The witches reluctantly show him a vision of Banquo’s descendants, a long line of kings that seems to stretch out till the end of time.  This upsets Macbeth terribly.

He learns, from Lennox, of Macduff joining Malcolm in England: this makes Macduff a traitor.  Macbeth would have Macduff’s castle surprised, and his family slain.

At Macduff’s castle, Ross has informed Lady Macduff of her husband’s flight to England.  She is upset that Macduff could abandon his whole family so suddenly.  Ross leaves.   She talks with her son about Macduff.  The boy’s clever remarks about traitors are touching to hear; this makes the coming tragedy all the more heartbreaking.

A messenger warns her of hired murderers coming to kill them; he leaves, making her wonder where she could go.  She imagines that, being innocent, she needn’t fear danger; but in this corrupt world, it is often the innocent who are harmed, while the guilty prosper.

The murderers arrive and call Macduff a traitor.  The boy angrily calls his father’s accuser a ‘shag-ear’d villain’, and is stabbed.  Then they kill Lady Macduff.

In England, Macduff tries to convince Malcolm to fight for his right to the crown.  Malcolm, testing Macduff’s loyalty, pretends to be unworthy of being king.  He claims his lust and greed are limitless; then Macduff says they can find plenty of willing women and gold to satisfy Malcolm’s thirst for them.  Malcolm then insists that he has no virtues to compensate for his vices.  Macduff despairingly laments the dismal fate of the country he’s exiled himself from.

Satisfied that Macduff has proven his loyalty, Malcolm disavows all the vices he’s claimed to have had.  Macduff, surprised, finds it difficult to reconcile these opposing self-characterizations.

Ross arrives with bad news from Scotland, still mired in Macbeth’s tyranny.  When Macduff realizes evil has come to his family, he demands Ross tell him quickly.  Ross delays as best he can, then finally tells Macduff his whole family has been “savagely slaughter’d”.  Malcolm tries to comfort Macduff, who in his shock at first can’t seem to believe what he’s heard.  Malcolm advises him to “let grief/ Convert to anger”.  They all resolve to raise an army to invade Scotland.

Act Five: At night, a doctor has been asked by a gentlewoman to watch Lady Macbeth, who has been sleepwalking and confessing her and Macbeth’s crimes.  The doctor and the lady watch sleepwalking Lady Macbeth enter the room; she seems to be washing her hands in imaginary water.  Her eyes are open, but she sees only her dream.  Guilt is overwhelming her.

She despairs that she can never get the blood off her hands (8th quote).  The doctor and lady are shocked to hear Lady Macbeth confess to the murders of Duncan, Banquo, and Lady Macduff.  Lady Macbeth imagines she’s hurrying Macbeth out of the room, as she had on the night he’d killed Duncan.

Lennox and other nobles have shifted their loyalty away from ‘the tyrant’ and towards “Malcolm,/ His uncle Siward, and the good Macduff” in England.  They know that Macbeth’s men obey him only from fear, not from love.  They plan to meet the English army at Birhnam wood, and join them in the invasion of Scotland.

In his castle, Macbeth receives messages of the army from England coming to challenge him.  Macbeth is still overconfident, remembering the second and third prophecies of his fate.  He asks the doctor why he can’t cure Lady Macbeth of her “mind diseas’d”.  The doctor says only she can do that for herself.  Macbeth curses medicine as useless.

Malcolm leads the English army to Birnham wood, where he tells them to cut off branches of the trees, and carry them to Dunsinane, to hide their soldiers’ numbers.  The men do so.

As Macbeth and the men in his castle prepare for war with the English, the cry of  women is heard.  Seyton goes to find out what’s happened.  He returns, telling Macbeth, “The queen, my lord, is dead.”

Macbeth gives a speech on the meaninglessness of life (9th quote).  A watchman calls out that he sees trees from Birnham forest moving as a group toward the castle.  Macbeth threatens to kill him if he’s lying.  Now he begins to see the worthlessness of the witches’ equivocal prophecies.  He tells his men to prepare for battle, knowing that at least they’ll die bravely.

Malcolm, Macduff, and the English soldiers arrive at Dunsinane.  Malcolm tells them to throw away their branches.

The battle begins.  Macbeth, though fighting fiercely, wonders in frustration who wasn’t born of woman.  Macbeth fights young Siward, who, fighting bravely, is soon killed by Macbeth.  The king says, “Thou wast born of woman.”

It’s clear that all is lost for Macbeth.  Macduff, knowing the ghosts of his family will haunt him forever if he doesn’t avenge them, frantically searches for Macbeth.  They find each other.

Macbeth remembers he must beware Macduff, and after fighting awhile, Macbeth proudly says he bears “a charmed life, which must not yield/ To one of woman born.”  Macduff tells him to despair of his charm, for Macduff was born of Caesarean section.  Macbeth now is too afraid to fight.  Macduff says Macbeth will thus be publicly shamed as a coward before the rabble.

Now Macbeth’s pride is piqued, and he’ll “try the last”, that is, fight to the death, preferring that to dishonour.  They fight, and Macduff kills him.

In the final scene, Macduff brings the severed head of Macbeth to Malcolm and the others to see.  They note that Lady Macbeth is also dead, a presumed suicide.  Sympathy is shown to old Siward for the slaying of his son; the father, however, is comforted knowing young Siward fought bravely.  Malcolm will be crowned king at Scone.

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Detailed Synopsis of ‘As You Like It’

Act One: Forced by his elder brother, Oliver, to do menial work, Orlando complains of him to Adam, the family’s aged servant.  Though Orlando’s late father, Sir Rowland de Boys, gave an inheritance to all three of his sons, Oliver, the eldest, refuses to let Orlando, the youngest, have his share.  Orlando will no longer endure this unfair treatment.

Oliver enters, scorning Orlando when he demands his inheritance.  The brothers fight, and Orlando has Oliver in a headlock, not letting him go until he says he’ll give Orlando the inheritance.  Let go, Oliver speaks abusively to Adam, who protests the abuse.  Oliver leaves angrily.

Elsewhere, Oliver meets with Charles, a big, strong wrestler who’s killed men in wrestling matches.  Charles mentions the usurped Duke Senior and his men, who are living like Robin Hood in the forest of Arden.  Charles also says that Orlando wishes to fight him in a wrestling match, and warns Oliver that Orlando will most likely be killed in the fight.  Oliver, though saying he will try to dissuade Orlando from wrestling Charles, secretly would like his brother to die in the match, of course.

In the next scene, Rosalind complains to her cousin and good friend Celia of how sad she is that her father, Duke Senior, has been usurped and banished by Duke Frederick, her uncle and Celia’s father.  Celia tries to cheer her up by speaking with her about love.  Touchstone the jester enters and makes some witty remarks.  Then Le Beau, a courtier, arrives, and tells them all about the wrestling match between Charles and Orlando.  They all go over to watch it.

The girls meet Orlando and try to dissuade him from fighting the much bigger and stronger Charles.  Orlando says he doesn’t care if he dies, for he has no friends, nor anything to live for, and his absence will give more room to the rest of the people of the world.  He and Rosalind are already beginning to have feelings for each other.  Charles arrives, as does Duke Frederick.  The match begins.

At first, Charles is clearly winning, though Orlando won’t give up.  Celia wishes she could be invisible and trip Charles.  Orlando, however, gets lucky and wins the match, injuring Charles badly enough that other men must life the heavy wrestler and carry him off.

Duke Frederick congratulates Orlando and asks him his name.  When Orlando says he’s the son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys, a friend of Duke Senior, Frederick leaves angrily.

The girls go to speak with Orlando, congratulating him.  Rosalind gives him a necklace to remember her by, and they’re already in love, though they haven’t said so.  The girls leave him.

Alone with Celia, Rosalind tells her of her love for Orlando, and that, since her father and his were friends, that makes her love of Orlando all the luckier.  Celia says that her father disliked Sir Rowland de Boys, but that she likes Orlando no less for that.

Duke Frederick enters and tells Rosalind she’s banished from the dukedom.  When she asks why, he says it’s because she’s Duke Senior’s daughter.  Though he tolerated her before, for Celia’s sake, he now feels his power is threatened by the likes of her.  When Celia tries to defend her, he calls Celia a fool for not worrying about Rosalind as a threat to her future power.  He leaves.

Celia comforts Rosalind, insisting that her father has banished her, too, for she has no life without Rosalind’s company.  The girls plan to dress as poor people to avoid being enticing targets for highway bandits.  And since Rosalind is the taller of the two, she’ll disguise herself as a boy, and call herself ‘Ganymede’.  Celia will pretend to be ‘his’ sister, and call herself ‘Aliena’ (foreigner).  They’ll have Touchstone accompany them for protection, go into Arden, and look for Duke Senior.

Act Two: In Arden, Duke Senior speaks with his men of how much better life in the forest is, compared with the phoney court.  With the harshness of nature, one has honesty instead of flattery, and nature can impart much wisdom to us.  (See quote 1 from my ‘Analysis of As You Like It‘.)

He asks of the melancholy Jacques (pronounced ‘JAY-queez’), and is told that Jacques is weeping over the killing of a deer.

Back in the dukedom, Adam warns Orlando of Oliver’s plot to burn down Orlando’s home while he’s sleeping.  Orlando plans to flee into Arden; Adam wants to go with him, and offers him all the money he’s saved from his employment with the de Boys family.  Orlando is touched by the generosity of the older generation, a virtue he feels is lacking among the young.  They prepare to leave for Arden.

‘Ganymede’, ‘Aliena’, and Touchstone have been walking long to get to Arden, and are all exhausted.  They see two shepherds, older Corin and younger Silvius.  Silvius is complaining of his unrequited love for the shepherdess Phoebe, saying that Corin, in his age, has forgotten of the young’s pain from lovesickness.  Silvius leaves.

‘Ganymede’, affecting a boy’s voice and manner, asks Corin where ‘he’ and ‘his’ friends can find accommodation.  Corin tells them of the house of a churlish old shepherd who wants to sell it, and he takes the three tired travellers there.

After Amiens, a singer in Duke Senior’s company, and his backing musicians perform a song, Jacques adds a verse with the word ‘Ducdame’, explaining to them that it’s ‘a Greek invocation, to draw fools into a circle.’  Amiens sings the new verse.

Orlando and Adam are entering the forest in the evening.  Adam is deathly tired, and desperately needs rest and food, which Orlando searches for.

Duke Senior and his men arrive at the camp with the food from their hunt.  Jacques enters, laughing and saying he’s seen a jester in motley clothes going about in the woods.  He chatted with the jester, and Jacques laughed at the fool’s witty remarks.  Now Jacques wishes he were a fool: ‘Motley’s the only wear.’

Orlando, brandishing a sword, surprises them, demanding they give him their food.  Duke Senior gently says he is free to eat with them if he wishes.  Disarmed by their unexpected gentleness, Orlando blushingly sheathes his sword and apologizes for his roughness, saying he assumed rudeness was a universal trait in the forest.  He mentions Adam’s age and weakness, and his desperate need for food and rest.  Duke Senior promises he and his men won’t touch any of the food till Orlando returns with the old man.  Orlando hurries off to get Adam.

Duke Senior speaks of how we all suffer in the ‘wide and universal theatre’ of the world.  Jacques speaks of how we all are actors, playing the roles of seven ages throughout our lives.  (See the second quote from my ‘Analysis of AYLI‘.)

Orlando returns with Adam, and everyone eats that night while Amiens sings a sad song.

Act Three: Back in the dukedom, Duke Frederick is paranoid about everyone leaving the court to go to Arden; he forces Oliver to find and kill Orlando.  Oliver rushes off, glad to do the job.

The next day, Orlando, ecstatic with love for Rosalind, starts carving her name in tree bark and writing love poems, sticking the paper on which they’re written on tree branches.  He does this all over the forest.

Corin asks Touchstone how he likes the rustic life; the jester answers this question with his usual wit, comparing life in Arden with life in the court.  Celia finds one of the poems and reads it to Rosalind.  Touchstone hears, and begins improvising witty parodies of the poem, annoying Rosalind.  Celia realizes Orlando is the poet (third quote), and tells Rosalind, who is upset, since she’s still dressed as Ganymede.

Jacques meets Orlando, and they make a witty exchange, saying how displeased they are to have met; Jacques asks Orlando not to mar the trees with any more of his bad verses.  ‘Ganymede’ finds Orlando, and Jacques leaves.

‘Ganymede’ asks Orlando if he knows what the time is; when Orlando says he couldn’t possibly know in a forest, ‘he’ says that he couldn’t possibly be in love then, for lovesick people can know the exact time anywhere from counting every sad second of the day.  Also, a man in love would be ill-groomed.

Not knowing he’s speaking to Rosalind, Orlando insists that he loves her.  ‘Ganymede’ claims ‘he’ can cure Orlando of his lovesickness by ‘pretending to be Rosalind’ while he pretends to love ‘Ganymede as Rosalind’.

In another part of the forest, Touchstone hopes to marry the country girl Audrey, and he even gets a priest, Sir Oliver Martext, to marry them; but Jacques intervenes, advising Touchstone not to use Sir Oliver’s dubious services, and to find a church instead.  Touchstone thus dismisses Sir Oliver.

Back to where ‘Ganymede’ and ‘Aliena’ are, Rosalind complains of how Orlando hasn’t returned to meet her at the promised time.  Corin comes over and tells ‘Ganymede’ and ‘Aliena’ about a true ‘pageant’ of love.  He leads them to see Silvius complaining of his love to disdainful Phoebe.  ‘Ganymede’ scolds her for not realizing how lucky she is to have Silvius’ love, since she’s ‘not for all markets’.  Though Phoebe doesn’t like the rudeness of ‘Ganymede’, she sure fancies ‘him’, thus shocking Rosalind, who tries to discourage Phoebe’s advances.  After ‘Ganymede’ and ‘Aliena’ leave, Phoebe tells Silvius to help her write an angry letter complaining to ‘him’ of ‘his’ rudeness to her.

Act Four: ‘Ganymede’ and Jacques speak of the latter’s melancholy, whose uniqueness Jacques describes as having many diverse ingredients.  Orlando appears, and Jacques leaves.

‘Ganymede’ chides Orlando for being late.  (As the discussion continues, quote four appears.)  With ‘Aliena’ playing the role of priest, ‘Ganymede’ and Orlando have a mock wedding.  He says he’ll love Rosalind ‘For ever and a day’.  (Next comes quote five.)  Orlando then leaves, having promised not to be late for their next meeting.  Rosalind then tells Celia of ‘how many fathom deep’ she is in love, ‘But it cannot be sounded’.

Elsewhere in the forest, Jacques complains to the lords of their killing of another deer.  He demands they sing a song for the deer.

Back with ‘Ganymede’ and ‘Aliena’, Silvius gives ‘him’ a letter written by Phoebe, complaining of ‘his’ disdainfulness to her.  Oliver then appears; looking on ‘Aliena’, he’s quite taken by her beauty.  He explains to her and ‘Ganymede’ that Orlando can’t be there at the promised time, since he’s been injured by a lioness, having defended then-sleeping Oliver from the beast (and a snake).  Seeing Orlando’s bloody handkerchief as proof, ‘Ganymede’ faints.  Oliver tells ‘him’ to be more of a man.

Act Five: Touchstone learns of a country fellow named William who fancies Audrey.  Jealous Touchstone has a witty conversation with William (see quote six), then scares him off.

Now reconciled to Orlando, Oliver tells him of his love for ‘Aliena’, and of their plan to be married.  Though happy for his brother, Orlando is sad from lacking Rosalind.  He tells ‘Ganymede’ he can no longer pretend; ‘Ganymede’, claiming ‘he’ knows magic, claims ‘he’ can make Rosalind appear.

Silvius and Phoebe go over to ‘Ganymede’ and Orlando.  Phoebe tells Silvius to explain to ‘Ganymede’ what love is; Silvius speaks of the pain and devotion one feels, and that he feels that way for Phoebe, who says she feels that way for ‘Ganymede’.  Orlando in turn says he feels that way for Rosalind, while ‘Ganymede’ says ‘he’ feels that way ‘for no woman’.  ‘Ganymede’ can endure no more of this: ‘he’ promises to fix everything for all of them, saying that if Phoebe can’t love ‘Ganymede’, she must then love Silvius.  Phoebe agrees to this.  They will all meet again the next day.

Elsewhere in the forest, Touchstone and Audrey are visited by two singing boys.  Touchstone doesn’t like their performance.

The next day, everyone comes together where Rosalind will appear.  Duke Senior notes how ‘Ganymede’ looks rather like his daughter Rosalind.  Orlando agrees.  ‘Ganymede’ and ‘Aliena’ go into some bushes.  When Touchstone appears with Audrey, Duke Senior and Jacques talk with the jester, who has many witty things to say.  Jacques mentions again what ‘a rare fellow’ he is, ‘and yet a fool’.

Rosalind and Celia appear, in beautiful dresses, accompanied by Hymen, the god of marriage.  Everyone, especially Orlando, Oliver, Duke Senior, and Phoebe, stare at the three in amazement.  Hymen marries Orlando to Rosalind, Oliver to Celia, Silvius to Phoebe (who clearly has no intention of having a woman for her lord), and Touchstone to Audrey, a comically awkward match.

Celebrations are in order, with Amiens singing and everyone dancing.  Jacques, brother of Orlando and Oliver, appears and tells everyone of Duke Frederick coming into Arden with an army and planning to do war with them all.  Racing through the forest, however, the usurping duke met a religious man who dissuaded him from going ahead with his attack.  Instead, Frederick has given up his power and decided to be a religious man himself.  Duke Senior has his dukedom back.

Melancholy Jacques asks Jacques de Boys of the religious man, and would rather find him and receive his spiritual enlightenment than join the–to Jacques–empty-headed celebrations.  Duke Senior asks him to stay, but he won’t.  He leaves immediately.  The celebrations continue.

Epilogue: Rosalind ends the play with a few words to the men and women in the audience, entreating them, who love each other, to enjoy the play as much as it should please them.  During the speech, indirect acknowledgement is made to the fact that a boy actor is playing ‘her’.  ‘She’ asks the audience to bid ‘her’ farewell.

Detailed Synopsis of ‘Romeo and Juliet’

Act One: In the Prologue to Act One, the Chorus tells of two families in Verona, Italy, who have hated and fought with each other for many years.  The son of one family and the daughter of the other fall in love and kill themselves.  Their suicide ends the families’ fighting, and their story is “the two hours’ traffic of our stage.”  The Chorus then begs the patience of the audience for any imperfections in his synopsis of the play, promises that the actors will fill in any details he’s left out, and leaves.  (See my ‘Analysis of R&J’, first quote.)

On the streets of Verona, servants of the Capulet family discuss their hatred of the Montague family.  They meet servants of the Montagues: a Capulet servant bites his thumb at the Montagues to provoke them.  Tybalt, a Capulet, comes, as does Benvolio, a Montague.  Benvolio tries to stop a potential fight, reminding everyone that the prince has expressly forbidden any more fighting on Verona streets.  Benvolio says he only wants to keep the peace.  Tybalt says he hates peace, hell, all Montagues, and Benvolio.

The two families begin a violent brawl right there on the street.  Even Old Capulet and Old Montague call for their swords so they can join the fighting; Lady Montague forbids her husband to fight.  Finally, Prince Escalus and his men arrive, stopping the fighting.  The prince threatens death to the next ones to start another brawl.

After everyone leaves, Benvolio speaks with Old Montague and his wife about their son, Romeo.  Though glad that he wasn’t involved in the brawl, they worry about him, for he is always sad.  They see him coming, and Benvolio goes to talk to his cousin, to see if he can find out what’s troubling him.

After Romeo expresses his annoyance, in a plethora of paradoxes (see my ‘Analysis of R&J’, second quote), at the recent fighting, he tells Benvolio of his unrequited love for a beautiful girl named Rosaline.  She will live a chaste life, so Romeo has no hope of having her.

Meanwhile, in the Capulets’ house, Old Capulet is with Paris, a count, discussing a big party he will have in his house that night.  Paris hopes to marry Capulet’s daughter Juliet.  Capulet invites Paris to the party and encourages him to speak with Juliet, but reminds him that she is still very young, not even 14 years old.  It remains to be seen if she’ll like Paris.

Capulet tells a servant to go about Verona and invite everyone other than the Montagues to his party.  He gives the servant a list of the names of those invited.  Unfortunately, the servant can’t read.  He leaves the house and walks about the streets, confused.

Not knowing Romeo and Benvolio are Montagues, the servant goes up to them and asks if they can read out the names for him.  Romeo reads while the servant memorizes.  When Romeo comes to Rosaline’s name, he is intrigued, asking about the party.  The servant says it’s being held at the Capulets’ house, and as long as they aren’t Montagues, they’re welcome to attend.  The servant leaves.

Romeo wants to go there to see Rosaline.  Benvolio promises Romeo will see other beautiful girls who’ll make him forget all about her.

Back in the Capulets’ house, Lady Capulet has the Nurse fetch Juliet.  After the Nurse jokes about amusing memories of Juliet as an infant, Lady Capulet asks if Juliet thinks she can love Paris.  Both Lady Capulet and the Nurse speak glowingly of the count, but Juliet will have to see if she will like him or not.

That night, Romeo, Benvolio, their witty friend Mercutio (kinsman to the prince), and other friends go down the streets toward the Capulets’ house, merrily chatting.  Romeo stops, having premonitions about the night because of a dream he’s had.  Mercutio insists that dreams are idle nonsense.  Romeo insists they can presage the truth.

Then Mercutio says Queen Mab has been in Romeo’s dreams.  Mercutio describes her as a tiny fairy that could sit on one’s fingertip.  She rides a tiny chariot and goes into men’s noses, reaching their brains as they sleep.  In their dreams, she makes their wishes come true.  Again, Mercutio insists that dreams are idle nonsense.

Benvolio insists that they hurry on to the Capulets’, for they’ll soon be late and miss supper.  As Romeo goes, he prophesies this night will be a fateful one, ultimately leading to his destruction.  Nonetheless, he charges ahead, embracing his fate, whatever it may be.

Wearing masks, the boys successfully get in the house and look around.  Looking for Rosaline, Romeo sees Juliet instead, and instantly falls in love with her, saying he “ne’er saw true beauty till this night.”

Tybalt recognizes Romeo, and calls for a servant to fetch his sword, for he wants to fight Romeo right there.  Old Capulet asks Tybalt why he’s so angry, and he says Romeo has come to spoil their party.  Capulet tells his hot-headed nephew to be patient and endure Romeo.  Tybalt says he won’t endure him; Capulet, now angry, tells him he will.  Tybalt grudgingly endures Romeo, but secretly promises to have his revenge later.

Romeo, meanwhile, takes Juliet by the hand and compares it to a holy shrine; and though his own hand has profaned hers, his lips are two pilgrims, who will atone for the sin with a kiss.  She, now as in love with him as he is with her, accepts his kisses.

Later, Romeo learns from the Nurse that she, to his dismay, is a Capulet.  As he is leaving the house, Juliet has the Nurse go up to Tybalt and find out who Romeo is.  The Nurse tells Juliet what Tybalt knows: that Romeo is a Montague.  (See my ‘Analysis of R&J’, third quote.)

Act Two:  The Chorus recites another narrative sonnet, about Romeo no longer being in love with Rosaline, but this time being in love with a girl who returns his love.

As Romeo’s friends return home, he goes back to the Capulets’ house, jumping over the orchard walls.  Mercutio taunts him, thinking he’s still in love with Rosaline.

In the orchard, Romeo sees a light from one of the windows (see my ‘Analysis of R&J’, fourth quote).  Juliet emerges: thinking she’s alone, she declares her love for Romeo (quotes five and six).  Romeo is delighted to hear of her love for him.  He reveals himself, surprising her.  They declare their love for each other, then make plans to get married. As dawn approaches and Juliet is being nagged by the Nurse to come to bed, the young lovers say good bye and Romeo leaves (see the sixth quote).

He goes to the humble abode (‘cell’) of Friar Laurence, who’s been contemplating all the medicinal properties of herbs.  Romeo tells the friar he no longer loves Rosaline, but the Capulet Juliet instead.  Laurence chides him for his inconstancy in love, but agrees to marry him to Juliet, hoping to end the family feud.

The next day, on the streets of Verona, Romeo meets with Benvolio and Mercutio, who wonder why he didn’t go home with them the night before.  The Nurse comes to speak with Romeo, but Mercutio taunts and angers her first.  She reluctantly agrees to have Juliet meet with him in Friar Laurence’s cell to be married.

The Nurse goes back to the Capulets’ house, where Juliet is impatiently waiting for an answer from Romeo.  Still reluctant to help Juliet in marrying him, the Nurse delays giving her his answer, using her aches and fatigue as excuses.  Finally, after Juliet gets angry, the Nurse says that if Juliet is free to go to Friar Laurence’s cell that day, he’ll marry her to Romeo.

She goes there, and she and Romeo get married.  Friar Laurence, however, advises them to love moderately.

Act Three: On the streets of Verona during that very hot afternoon, Benvolio worries about getting into a fight with Tybalt, who’s challenged Romeo.  Mercutio would welcome a fight with Tybalt, who arrives with other Capulets.

They ask about the whereabouts of Romeo, who then arrives.  Tybalt calls him a villain, but Romeo, now secretly his kinsman, won’t fight him.  Angrier, Tybalt attacks Romeo, who still won’t fight back.

Furious about Romeo’s “vile submission”, Mercutio fights Tybalt in Romeo’s stead.  Romeo wants to stop the fight and comes between them, but Tybalt mortally wounds Mercutio, who, dying, curses both families (quote eight).  He’s taken away, and he dies offstage.

Enraged, Romeo wants to avenge his friend’s death.  He fights Tybalt, killing him.  He flees before the prince and his men can arrest him.  When the two families and the prince learn of what’s happened, Lady Capulet complains that Romeo must die for killing Tybalt; Old Montague reasons that, in killing Tybalt, Romeo merely did what the prince would have done anyway, as punishment for killing Mercutio, the prince’s kinsman.  Therefore, instead of using the death penalty to punish Romeo, the prince banishes him from Verona, threatening death if he ever returns.

Not knowing what’s happened, Juliet is at home in her room, thinking loving thoughts about Romeo.  The Nurse enters, telling her that Romeo killed Tybalt.  Juliet is torn between her loyalty to her husband, requiring her loving words, and her loyalty to her cousin, requiring her curses on Romeo.

Romeo is hiding in Friar Laurence’s cell, preferring death to banishment, since there is no life outside of Verona, without Juliet.  The Nurse visits, telling Romeo of Juliet’s tears over Tybalt’s murder.  Guilt-laden Romeo wants to kill himself; the friar chides him for his “womanish” tears.  Then Friar Laurence reminds Romeo of how lucky he is: he killed Tybalt, instead of vice versa; Prince Escalus could have had Romeo executed, but he’s had Romeo banished instead.

Next, the friar devises a plan to help Romeo and Juliet.  Romeo will go to Mantua.  Friar Laurence will plead for the prince’s forgiveness for Romeo, and in time, Romeo will be allowed to return and be reunited with Juliet.  This gives Romeo hope.  Romeo will go to Juliet’s bedroom, lie with her that night and comfort her before he has to leave the next day.

In the Capulets’ house, the sadness of the family makes it a bad time for Paris to woo Juliet.  Nonetheless, Old Capulet wants Paris to marry his daughter.

That night, in Juliet’s bed, she and Romeo have made love, and dawn is coming: Romeo must leave.  Juliet doesn’t want to admit that morning has come, and insists that it’s still night.  But he must go.  The Nurse comes in and tells them Lady Capulet is coming.  Romeo leaves, going down from her window into the orchard: Juliet has a premonition she’ll look down on him again one day, but he’ll be dead.

Her mother comes in, and after speaking of having someone hunt down Romeo in Mantua and kill him, she mentions Old Capulet’s plan for Paris to marry Juliet.  Juliet refuses to marry him, and when Old Capulet hears of her disobedience, he angrily threatens to disown her.

A tearful Juliet asks for words of comfort from her mother and the Nurse, neither of whom give her any.  Instead, the Nurse says she should forget Romeo and marry Paris.  After the Nurse leaves, Juliet no longer regards her as a friend or confidante.  She goes to Friar Laurence’s cell.

Act Four: At the friar’s cell, he and Paris discuss Paris’s marriage plans with Juliet.  When Juliet arrives, she and the friar find a private place to speak after Paris leaves.

Desperate to prevent this wedding, Juliet wants to die.  Friar Laurence has another idea to prevent it: if she would drink a medicine of his creation, it would make her seem dead in every way–no breath, no heartbeat, no movement from her body–but she’d really be fast asleep for 42 hours.  Her funeral would be held, and she’d be buried in the family tomb.

Romeo would receive letters from the friar, explaining the plan.  Romeo would sneak back into Verona and to the tomb, get reviving Juliet, and escape with her to Mantua.  She eagerly takes the vial of medicine.

Back at home, Juliet apologizes to her father and agrees to marry Paris.  After saying goodnight to her mother and the Nurse, Juliet is alone in her bedroom, holding the vial and fearing any possibility that the plan may not work.  Fearing marriage with Paris even more, she drinks the drug.

The next morning, with musicians and servants getting the wedding party ready, the Nurse goes to wake up Juliet, but finds her apparently dead.  She hysterically calls for Juliet’s parents, who rush to see her and mourn with the Nurse.  The wedding party has now become a funeral.

Act Five: On a street in Mantua, Romeo speaks of a dream he’s had of Juliet finding him dead, then of him reviving and being an emperor.

Balthasar, a servant to Romeo who knows nothing of Friar Laurence’s plan, tells him Juliet has died.  A mourning Romeo is determined to go back to Verona, to kill himself in her tomb so they’ll be together in death.

He finds a poor apothecary, and wants to buy poison from him.  The apothecary reluctantly takes Romeo’s money and gives him a powerful poison.

In Friar Laurence’s cell, Friar John comes to see him, after trying to deliver Laurence’s letters to Romeo in Mantua.  Laurence asks John if he received any letters from Romeo.  Friar John tells Laurence that he wasn’t able to get to Mantua, for he was detained in the house of a sick man believed to have an “infectious pestilence”.  He hasn’t given Romeo Laurence’s letters.  Friar Laurence must now hurry to the Capulets’ tomb.

That night, at the tomb, Paris goes to pay his last respects to Juliet.  Romeo and Balthasar also arrive.  Romeo tells Balthasar to leave; Balthasar does, but he hides nearby, worrying about Romeo.  Romeo comes to the tomb and confronts Paris, who assumes Romeo wants to do shame to the bodies.  They fight, and Romeo mortally wounds Paris.  Dying, Paris asks to be lain near Juliet.  Respecting his wish, Romeo brings his body near where Juliet lies.

During the fight, a page has called the watch, so a mob of people will soon come.

In the tomb, Romeo sees the bodies of Juliet and Tybalt.  He repents killing Tybalt, then looks on Juliet, amazed that, even though dead, she hasn’t lost any of her beauty.  He imagines personified Death is in love with her, and keeps her beautiful to be His lover.  Sobbing Romeo hugs and kisses her one last time, then drinks the poison, which kills him within seconds.

Friar Laurence arrives and sees dead Romeo, while Juliet is reviving.  The friar tells her the sad news and, saying he’ll make her a nun, begs her to leave with him, for a mob of people can be heard approaching the tomb.  Too afraid to be found there, the friar runs off.

Juliet notes that Romeo’s drunk poison, but left none for her.  She hopes to taste some on his lips; she kisses him, and feeling his lips’ warmth, knows he’s only just died.  This adds to her heartbreak.

Hearing the mob coming nearer and nearer, she knows she must act quickly if she is to die with him. She takes his “happy dagger” and stabs herself, falling dead on his body.

The mob arrives, along with Capulet, Lady Capulet, the prince, and Old Montague, who says that Lady Montague has died of grief because of Romeo’s banishment.  The friar also returns, explaining how Romeo and Juliet were secretly in love, and that he married them.

Once all has been revealed, the prince rebukes Old Montague and Old Capulet for the “scourge” caused by their hate; and because the prince has been too lenient with them, he himself has lost two kinsmen, Paris and Mercutio (quote nine).  The families repent of their hate, and the two grieving fathers promise to have monuments built in honour of each other’s child.

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