A crucible is a situation or place that forces people to make difficult decisions. It can also mean a situation of severe trial in which something is created through the interaction of different elements. This links to the play as
Rebecca Nurse advises Proctor and Putnam that they should ‘rather blame ourselves’ for the sickness of Betty than chase ‘loose spirits’. This shows that she feels that, if they start a witch hunt, the hysteria that will take over the town will be damaging. This shapes our reaction to Hale’s entrance as Rebecca tells us ‘I fear it’ – making the audience believe that Hale is a fraudster, looking to make any ailment into a symptom of witchcraft.
Comparing Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with a range of Browning poetry, this essay will discuss and compare the devices used to present these, as well as the generated effect and the portrayal of the message that love and hate lead to each other. Whilst Shakespeare uses symbolism to present these themes, Browning uses other devices such as personification and metaphor, and this is a key point of discussion.
One such example of Shakespeare’s use of language to represent love and hate as two extremes of passion, leading to each other, in Julius Caesar is through Brutus’ interactions with Cassius. During a confrontation between Cassius and Brutus in the third scene of act four, following tensions caused by Mark Antony’s stirring of the Romans following Caesar’s assassinations at the hands of a conspiracy lead by Brutus and Cassius, this portrayal is shown through metaphor in Brutus’ speech. ‘I’ll use you for my mirth, yea, for my laughter, when you are waspish,’ taunts Brutus, using the term waspish to reference – what he perceives to be – Cassius’ spitefulness. This links in with an instance in the first scene of the final act of the play, in which Antony and Octavius meet face-to-face with Cassius and Brutus. Here, Brutus warns Antony to ‘very wisely threat before you sting,’ and, although this is a reference to Cassius’ earlier taunt that Antony had left the Hybla bees honeyless, the connotations of this are very tightly bound with Brutus’ waspish comment. The common denominator is the sting; a representation of blind rage and hatred. In the play, the idea of a sting becomes a symbol of this hatred. This, however, is only a potential reading, as these uses of figurative language could be interpreted as entirely separate. With this interpretation, the idea of a bee only being able to sting once before its demise would be the main point of reference and for the other part, the term ‘waspish’ was used to highlight connotations of ineffectuality. A counter-argument to this would be that, although these are entirely valid readings, it is the idea of the sting which is key, as these are surface-meanings. The difference between the idea of the bee and wasp can be explained by the differing relationships between the recipient of the comments; whereas Brutus was on the side of Cassius, when he spoke to Antony the idea of death was literal, as they were preparing for battle.
On the other hand, an example of how love is presented through Brutus’ interactions with Cassius is again through the use of symbolism, in the third scene of the final act, when Brutus is shown the body of Cassius. ‘The last of all the Romans, fare thee well!’ This is Brutus’ proclamation as he is shown the body, and his final goodbye. Whilst on the surface, this is the key line, the following line contains an important piece of symbolism. In contrast to the earlier discussed idea of a sting, this presents an image of love to the audience. ‘It is impossible that ever Rome should breed thy fellow,’ continues Brutus. Similar to the term ‘waspish’, the term ‘breed’ holds connotations linking to animals, but in this instance they are decidedly opposite to those discussed above. In this instance, these links are to birth and the love shared between two people. This also links in with the idea that love and hate lead to each other, which implies that they are in fact linked, as two extremes of passion. Additional symbolism is also used earlier in the play, during Brutus’ soliloquy, as he attempts to justify of participating in the conspiracy against Caesar (2:1). ‘And therefore think him as the serpent’s egg and kill him in the shell.’ Through the use of this metaphor, Shakespeare manipulates the audiences’ opinion of Caesar’s character, and creates a more sincere connection with Brutus, as it is a soliloquy. This would have resonated particularly strongly with Shakespeare’s audience, because the image of a serpent was used as a representation of evil and a depiction of Satan in seventeenth century art.
Turning to Browning’s The Laboratory-Ancien Régime, there is a similar depiction of love and hate, as the poet shows that love leads to hate. ‘He is with her, and they know that I know,’ starts the speaker in the second stanza, showing a deep-seated jealousy towards the relationship between another man and a woman. From this, it can be inferred that there was an unrequited love between the speaker and one of the other parties, presumably the man, because later it is implied that the speaker is named Pauline. This jealousy appears to grow as the speaker continues and, moving into the third stanza, a sense of hatred become more pronounced. ‘Grind away, moisten and mash-up thy paste, pound at thy powder,’ the verbs ‘grind’, ‘mash’ and ‘pound’ all hold connotations of violence, which is the first sign of destructive intentions within the poem. Through this, Browning hopes to evoke a feeling of unease within his readers, in order to set up the reveal that the speaker intends on poisoning the woman, Elise, as well as herself. ‘Soon, at the King’s, a mere lozenge to give, and Pauline should have just thirty minutes to live!’ The King, in this case, could well be a reference to God. If indeed it is, this would show that the speaker sees nothing wrong with her actions, which in turn implies that either they are mentally unstable, or that they have been driven to these lengths by such a strong hatred, or in fact that the latter lead to the former. The prominence of the female character in this poem is in direct contrast to the women in Julius Caesar, who occupy very minor roles. This could well be due to the beginning of the up-rising of women in the nineteenth century, which later lead to the Suffragette movement, whereas in Shakespeare’s time, the oppression of women faced a much lesser resistance, with acts such as witch trials having been carried out at the time. Whether this signifies Browning’ support of the rise of women, or whether he sought to appeal to male readers who would have seen the speaker as a portrayal of mental weakness is unclear. The two different interpretations could affect whether the reader sees Browning’s portrayal of love and hate as leading to each other, or whether the hatred comes from a mental instability.
Switching to Browning’s Porphyria’s Lover, a potentially alternative depiction of love and hate can be seen. The speaker explains to the reader the reasons for what will take place further into the poem; the killing of his lover, Porphyria. ‘She too weak, for all her heart’s endeavour, to set its struggling passion free from pride, and vainer ties dissever,’ the speaker says, explaining his anger at the fact that Porphyria would not give herself to him and sever herself from vainer ties. Whether these ties are her family, a husband or something else is not explained, although it makes little difference. The factor of importance is that there is an obstacle between their love and this has driven the speaker to a condition of rage and hatred. This is similar to the unrequited love in The Laboratory, which would imply that Browning’s message about love and hate is that they lead to each other, but also would disprove any inferences that Browning was showing a hatred coming from mental instability, as discussed previously. Furthermore, the final line links to Brutus’ act two, scene one soliloquy, in which he attempts to justify his participating in the conspiracy. ‘And yet God has not said a word!’ Here, the speaker justifies his actions, exclaiming that God had not reprimanded his actions and thus he had done no wrong. If ‘God’ here is a symbol, as the serpent represents Caesar, is open to interpretation.
This idea of a lack of action from God ties in with another Browning poem – Soliloquy of The Spanish Cloister. In this, the text is the inner-monologue of a jealous monk, showing his hatred towards a Brother Lawrence. ‘If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence, God’s blood, would not mine kill you!’ This intense hatred could potentially come from life as a monk; devoting oneself to God, renouncing earthly pleasures, and with nothing to show for it. Perhaps this shows Browning’s ideas on theism, but in the text it is interpreted by the speaker as neglect from his God. If indeed this did show Browning’s thoughts on theism, it would imply that he was an atheist and therefore that, in Porphyria’s Lover, the line ‘And yet God has not said a word!’, actually shows Browning expressing to his audience that reliance on a God is dangerous, when basing one’s morality on their beliefs. This could be seen as a form of unrequited love, which could show further Browning’s message that love leads to hate. Moreover, this is shown in the poem by the speaker’s hypocrisy, as he accuses Brother Lawrence of being lustful. It is the speaker, in fact, who owns a ‘scrofulous French novel’ and therefore exhibits one of the ‘twenty-nine distinct damnations’. Outlined in Galations, theses sins would send a perpetrator to hell. Driven by rage, the speaker attempts to trick Brother Lawrence into committing one of these sins, but forgets that God supposedly is omniscient. This forgetting shows that has fallen from loving his God to hating those who are still close to God.
Both writers use pathetic fallacy as a symbol of events to come – specifically, acts of hate. This use of foreshadowing is used to emphasise the idea that love and hate can lead to one another, through showing that hateful acts will be committed whilst it is most likely that acts of love are what’s taking place at the time when pathetic fallacy is used. An example of this is in Julius Caesar, in act 2 scene 2. Here, Calpurnia attempts to convince Caesar to avoid the Capitol as a storm rages. It is the conventions of a tragedy that mean that so close to avoiding death, Caesar’s hubris allows Decius Brutus to exploit him. ‘If Caesar hide himself, shall they not whisper, ‘lo, Caesar is afraid’?’. It is through this line that Caesar is exploited and through his hamartia, his hubris, reaches his downfall. The use of pathetic fallacy in this scene contributes to the conflict between Calpurnia’s love for Caesar and the conspirators’ hate, which, following the genre’s conventions, will always triumph. Linking to Browning’s Porphyria’s Lover, the writer shows this technique through personification of a storm. ‘It tore the elm-tops down for spite, and did its worst to vex the lake.’ Through the terms ‘vex’ and ‘spite’, connoting hatred and enragement, Browning foreshadows the death of Porphyria. These connotations allow Browning to show that love will turn to hate in the poem, moving from ‘and made the cheerless grate blaze up’ to ‘and strangled her.’
In conclusion, both authors present love and hate in a very similar way, but through differing language devices. Whilst pathetic fallacy is a constant, due to the similarity of genres, Shakespeare tends to use symbols and the conventions of the tragedy genre to show the link between these emotions, as opposed to Browning’s exploitation of connotations to show his readers the themes of his work. This could largely be due to the difference in the periods in which they were written; in the seventeenth century animals were used as symbols in art and Shakespeare uses this to manipulate his audience, whereas Browning’s readers would not relate to these symbols.
A little over seven years ago, John Humphrys penned an article titled ‘I h8 txt msgs: How texting is wrecking our language’. Tinged with irony, Humphrys’ title alluded to his fears, as brought about by the rise of texting. Within the article, Humphrys spoke of his love for the English language and how he felt that it was being ripped to shreds.
‘Ripped to shreds’. This is an example of the hyperbole with which Humphrys’ article is littered. It is similar emotive language which, along with hindsight, create the perceived paranoia which shrouds his own argument.
Humphrys’ love for the Oxford English Dictionary is admirable and it is a shame that the OED ‘has removed the hyphen from no fewer than 16,000 words’, but there was reasoning. Texting was fast becoming the most common long-range communication tool and at the time it relied on a nine-key pad, which required multiple presses in order to enter a hyphen. This meant that it was inconvenient to enter a hyphen mid-word, undermining Humphrys as he asks ‘can we not afford the milli-second it takes to tap that key?’. Perhaps, however, it is a shame that the OED made these changes only shortly before the QWERTY keyboard was adapted for the mobile.
Although the above holds true, this does not mean that the OED ‘has fallen victim to fashion’, as Humphrys claims. It was, in fact, through insight that the changes to the dictionary were made. Whilst on this occasion the changes may have been rash, editors were able to spot the evolution of communication, and a skew towards telecommunications. Recognising this, they attempted to cater to those who were pushing the boat out – which is not a terrible thing, as Humphrys may want you to think. Actually, it is quite the opposite.
Currently, I am writing my coursework online, allowing a vastly superior platform than would have been accessible writing it out by hand. On a computer revisions can be made neatly and quickly, without the need for writing everything out again for every draft. This means that time can now be conserved for improving the quality of one’s writing, and not re-writing everything for the sake of a simple revision.
Sadly, Humphrys’ arguments then pass the point at which his defence of ‘the old way’ turns from noble to ridiculous. Describing ‘the relentless onward march of the texters’ through comparison to the tyrannous ways of Genghis Khan is absurd and the implication that texters are tearing apart of the English language is even more so. Such an attack on those wishing to communicate efficiently and cheaply is indefensible, especially since – at the time – typing out a grammatically correct sentence would have been an arduous task.
‘Pillaging our punctuation; savaging our sentences; raping our vocabulary,’ continues the writer, spreading the air of paranoia through the use of the aforementioned hyperbolic descriptions. Yes, omission of punctuation is rife in texting and it can become a mouthful to read, but is this ‘pillaging’? Do their omissions really prevent others from using punctuation?
Of course not. The use of this intentionally overly-emotive language is not sheerly out of anger or fear, but to provoke hysteria from readers. A blatant use of scaremongering in order to bring the public onto the writer’s side. Having fallen to scaring readers onto his side, Humphrys has shown again that it is fear, and not reasoning, that fuels his war with the texters.
This failure to provide actual reasoning is backed up by failure to provide actual proof. Claims that abbreviations and acronyms – as created by the texters – are destroying our language are false. This is largely because many of them were not in fact created by the texters. OMG, possibly the most common acronym within texting, can be dated back to a 1917 letter from a Lord Fisher to one Sir Winston Churchill, one of Britain’s great defenders – a role that Humphrys desperately attempts to emulate. Furthermore, many common abbreviations used in texting were detailed in a 1942 dictionary of abbreviations. The implications of this are such that they not only undermine the very title of Humphrys’ article, but also the ironic claims such as that answer-phone (corrected from answerphone by spell-check) should well be the grotesque ‘ansafone’.
Closing out his article, Humphrys speaks of his regret over the death of the hand-written letter, as it was enveloped by the email. He also claims that the ever-changing abbreviations of texting will come to dominate. This won’t be the case, and whilst some abbreviations may be adopted, if we all attempted to prevent the evolution of language then we never would have reached the stage which some so wish to defend. Besides, no one has ever intended to press the colon, dash and bracket keys in succession without wishing to type an emoticon.
The hypnotic rhythm of waves beating against the terrain conquers all sound other than its own, echoing outwards into the all-encompassing darkness. Behind the cover of darkness and locked in confrontation, the waters are thrown against the dense vegetation hemming of the icy lake, which struggles against the immense might of the lake as it attempts to sustain itself by partaking of the murky waters amidst the ongoing battle.
A glare of moonlight provides the only clear view within the night, with no more than a few inches into the gloomy lake’s depths illuminated. Below the surface no movement is visible, except for the occasional flicker of moonlight reflecting off of a stray ice crystal drifting freely in the water’s current. The only other motion of noticeable proportion as to be visible to the eye is at the centre of the sullen waters, as reeds lurch to and fro with the shoves of the water.
Under the shroud of darkness frost creeps over the undergrowth, comforting each blade of grass with its icy embrace. Encrusting the turf with a perfect spread of crystallised ice, the night’s sculptures begin to take shape, as nature once again captures a singular moment with perfect precision. As each blade takes its place in the wintery image, a cover of sparkling frost takes its own atop the vegetation.
A single bead of frozen water sits still, suspended in the air by the night’s swift swoop. Perfectly formed, the frozen droplet should have fallen from its mantel hours before, but nature forbids its plummet to the earth below. The intricately formed droplet, crafted in ice, balances delicately on the tip of a leaf protruding from the vegetation. Yet still, unique in its curvature, it is poised to lose form at any moment.
But now, in the distance, the sun rises over the horizon illuminating the sky with an illustrious blend of gold and scarlet. The masterful brushwork of the sun paints its way across the sky, proceeding hastily through the heavens. With clouds banished from the firmament, the sun’s illustrations dance across the blank canvas, creating a unique masterpiece, and adding to their work with every movement.
Dispelling the shadows of the night, the roaring beauty of the dancing flames of the sky descends to the earth’s crust and envelopes the landscape once again. As it rises further into the sky, the majestic sun takes command of more and more land, warding off the night’s frozen touch. Providing the glimpse of shimmering warmth that had been expelled by the night’s grasp, the sun’s masterful stroke brings rejuvenation to the land.
As the heavens ignite overhead, the morning’s warmth thaws the frigid sculptures of the night’s glacial chisel. The radiating warmth brings back the delicate balance of life to the sprouting flowers along the water’s edge. Highlighting the diverse beauty of the encircling pastures, the sun brings a colourful depth to the terrain, as specks of colour project from the luscious green of the tall grass.
Reflecting the sky’s dancing patterns, the shimmering waters glisten with a tint of life as they gently lap onto their grassy surroundings. Glowing with a vibrant blue, the swashing waters provide a brilliantly beauteous hue for their own interpretation of the sun’s graceful resplendence, providing the sun with a mixing palette for its rays.
Leaving its perch, a single water droplet falls from the tip of a protruding leaf, plummeting to the earth below. A gust of wind crosses the bead’s path, veering it off of its course as it tumbles through the air, sending it towards a green patch. Crashing against the layer of vegetation sprawled across the earth, the droplet disperses, splitting into miniature beads, which in turn trickled to the turf below. The water seeps slowly into the earth, replenishing the surrounding plants’ water supply.
Now that the icy bonds are lifted from the land, the shrill chirping of crickets begins, pervading the – what had been – near-silence. As the chirps grow more distinct, not only do the crickets emerge, but lifted in the blustering breeze, a beguiling butterfly glides gently through the air, cutting through it with its decorated wings. It lands upon the tip of a leaf, pauses for a moment, and flies away, wings fluttering elegantly.
In act 3 scene 2, Antony sways the crowd’s loyalty towards him and away from the conspirators, by discrediting Brutus and his attempts to brandish Caesar as overly-ambitious. After Brutus’ speech at Caesar’s funeral, Antony switches the crowd’s allegiance back to the side of Caesar and stirs them to mutiny. ‘We’ll burn his body in the holy place and with the brands fire the traitors’ houses’. This quote from a member of the crowd is symbolic of Caesar’s power, as after death he has still lit the flames that will fight against his killers. This references Antony’s line from his soliloquy in the previous scene about Caesar’s ghostly revenge.
Personification is used to portray the sun in two different tones, which highlights the shift in tone between the first and second stanzas of Futility. In the first stanza, ‘the kind old sun’ is shown to be gentle, as shown by the line ‘Gently its touch awoke him once’. The term ‘gently’ has connotations of compassion and tranquillity. However, in the second stanza the tone switches sharply, and the sun is described as a ‘cold star’, an oxymoron. This emphasises the change in tone of the poem, as the theme changes from hope to despair. Also, the sunbeams are described as ‘fatuous’, which is in direct contrast with the description of the sun as ‘the kind old sun’.
Nature and death are presented alongside each other in the poem because connotations of nature can be manipulated throughout a text, allowing the poet to implement a change in tone between stanzas. In the opening stanza, the nature imagery represents hope and life, but as the tone alters in the following stanza, the imagery seems to emphasise the meaninglessness, or futility, of life and the lack of effect we have during life.
Screams filled the darkness, echoing through the abyss. Situated at the epicentre of the fearful cries, sat Vaudevue, alone and cold, as the moonlight glistened off the shimmering cascade of black hair flowing from her head. The surrounding terrain had been eroded by the tides of war and the trees razed by the constant battering of waves of firing. Now only she pervaded the eerie vacantness in the wake of war.
Realising that no one was out there with her, the girl reached for her upper-left arm, where she could feel a deep throbbing sensation. Lifting her sleeve up to the base of her shoulder revealed a small puncture wound in the skin. She dragged her sleeve back down to her wrist, unsure of what had left the wound. It was as if her mind had been shrouded; hidden from her. She could feel the strength draining from her. Panicked, the girl tried to jump from atop the rock on which she sat, but she couldn’t garner the energy to propel herself far enough. She tumbled forwards, falling into the dirt.
Desperately she tried to stand, but her feeble legs slipped from beneath her, unable to lift her weight. For what seemed like hours, but span only a few seconds, she struggled against gravity, willing herself upwards but unable to escape the ground’s clutches. Defeated, the girl sank back into the dirt’s cradle, her head falling backwards into the rock against which she had been leaning. A warm trickle of crimson blood provided a painful comfort in the midst of a bitter night.
The moon had now slipped into cover, behind the leaden night’s sky, plunging Vaudevue further into darkness. Her once glistening features now appeared pale and dull under the moon’s muffled glow. The dull look in her eyes grew stronger, as she lay eyes-wide and motionless. Fearful and alone, banished even from her own mind, the seeping darkness seized her, encouraging her vision to abandon her.
In and out of reality she slipped, gasping for air as her limp body fought valiantly to sustain itself. She began to reel, agitatedly tossing and turning in the dirt. Down to its last line of defence, her body was battling against the inevitable. And then she fell into perfect stillness. The moon re-emerged from its hideaway, casting its friendly glow upon Vaudevue, and once again her hair shimmered.
Just metres ahead, she saw an inky black pool of water, its ripples highlighted in the moonlight. Lifting her weightless self from the dirt with ease and treading with footsteps that left nothing but the marks of feathers in her tracks, she approached the water’s edge, the moonlight illuminating her path. She stripped of her clothes, brushed the water’s surface with her foot, feeling its pulsating flow, and pushed herself out into the murky water. The waters parted where she swam, offering a glacial embrace. Duly she accepted, allowing the amiable waters above her to close. At last, she was at peace.
As the dew collected on the few remaining patches of grass and the sun rose overhead, casting its warm touch upon the land, the morning’s patrol began to scour the landscape. As the sentinel performed his daily duties, his acute vision, which had been developed during service, sought out the uniform of an enemy soldier. Scurrying to his discovery, he was met by a dumbfounding sense of sorrow upon his arrival at the site, for he knew what horrors had happened.
Propping himself up against the rock where she had sat, the enemy sentinel mourned the death of Vaudevue. Expertly crafting a shepherd’s pipe from the nearby reeds, the man sat by the rock for an hour whittling away, before he began to play. Then, the shrill notes of the pipe rang out ‘Come on, come back’, the favourite song of the soldiers, was the cry. The song, which Vaudevue herself had sung to Austerlitz, brought a heartening sense of warmth to the disparity of the morning.
‘But I am constant as the northern star, of whose true fix’d and resting quality there is no fellow in the of firmament.
In the above quotation, Shakespeare uses a simile to create a comparison of Caesar to the northern star, as Caesar claims that his influence is as permanent as any star in the heavens. The Northern Star is the only star that remains in a fixed position in the night’s sky, so for Caesar to claim that his influence is more lasting than the Northern Star, is a statement that displays his character’s ego. This quote comes from the build-up to the assassination of Caesar, so it is a hugely important hint to Caesar’s impending death. In the speech, we see Caesar’s hubris reach new heights, which is an indication of his approaching murder, or in other terms, his fall from grace.
How is Caesar’s hubris used against him?
Decius Brutus exploits Caesar by playing off of his pride, or hubris. This is done to sway Caesar towards deciding to travel to the Capitol in order for the Senate to meet.
‘Besides, it were a mock apt to be render’d for some one to say “Break up the Senate to another time when Caesar’s wife shall meet with better dreams.”‘
Decius Brutus knows that Caesar’s ego wouldn’t allow him to let people think that he is not a powerful man. ‘It were a mock’ implies that it could be taken as a joke, or indeed that Caesar could be taken as such. Once Caesar has been presented with the possibility of being mocked, his view of the situation changes rapidly, as his next line reads ‘How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia!’.
Furthermore, Decius Brutus ensures Caesar’s compliance by adding ‘If Caesar hide himself, shall they not whisper “Lo, Caesar is afraid?”‘. The use of ‘hide’ plays off of Caesar’s hubris, as ‘hide’ holds connotations of cowardice, by which Caesar would have been angered.