Plato’s Tripartite Soul in Shakespeare

Plato’s Tripartite Soul in Shakespeare

In the Republic, Plato divides the human soul into three parts: the Appetite, the Rational, and the Spirited. The Appetite part of the soul desires bodily pleasures such as food, drink, sex, etc; the Rational part desires to exercise reason and make rational decisions; and the Spirited part desires honor above all else.

Throughout his works, William Shakespeare presents numerous characters who are dominated by one aspect of their soul. For example, the Appetite part of the soul dominates Tarquin in The Rape of Lucrece, the Rational part of the soul dominates Hamlet, and the Spirited part of the soul dominates Coriolanus. Continue reading

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 75

Sonnet 75

            In Sonnet 75, William Shakespeare writes about his love for the Fair Youth, an unknown young man who is the object of Shakespeare’s affection. Through simile, hyperbole, and antithesis, Shakespeare examines his contrasting feelings for the Youth.

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Man’s Brutish Nature in King Lear

            King Lear is a tragedy about a man’s fall from Kingship to madness. King Lear mistreats his youngest daughter, Cordelia, and is then betrayed by his two other daughters, Goneril and Regan. Realizing his mistake too late, he agonizes over his folly until he becomes crazy.

After reconciling with Cordelia near the end of the play, he regains his sanity, but she is tragically killed soon afterwards. In one of the most heartrending scenes in the history of drama, Lear weeps over the dead body of Cordelia, crying, “Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, and thou no breath at all?” The animal imagery present in this lamentation is prevalent throughout the play. Shakespeare uses this motif to explore man’s animalistic nature.

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Love in Othello

In Othello, William Shakespeare presents the tragic story of a Moorish general of Venice. Iago, Othello’s ensign, is indignant about Othello promoting Cassio to lieutenant instead of him. To avenge this perceived offense, Iago deceives Othello, convincing him that Cassio slept with Othello’s wife, Desdemona. Consumed with jealousy, Othello kills Desdemona. Throughout this narrative, Shakespeare uses diction and metaphor to portray the dark and dangerous facet of love.

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The Macbeths’ Fall

The biblical story of the fall of man has been studied for thousands of years. Many scholars have concluded that the serpent was culpable for Adam and Eve’s transgression. Without the serpent’s persuasion, Adam and Eve might never have tasted the forbidden fruit. However, others maintain that Eve is responsible for man’s fall; not only was she too weak to resist temptation, but she also caused the downfall of Adam. Shakespeare seems to agree with this interpretation. In Macbeth, he cleverly portrays Lady Macbeth as an Eve who leads Macbeth into damnation. Continue reading

Hal’s Transformation

Hal’s Transformation

In Henry IV, Part 1, Hal prophetically muses “I’ll so offend to make offense a skill, redeeming time when men think least I will.” Indeed, Hal engages in crime and debauchery throughout the play, most especially with “that villainous abominable misleader of youth, Falstaff.” And then, as Hal predicts, he transforms from an irresponsible, wayward youth to a mature and disciplined King. Hal’s transformation reinforces the theme of the Prodigal Son, which Shakespeare explores in the drama.

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