“The wedding chain” is an extract from « The Awakening » written by Kate Chopin in 1899. It takes place in New Orleans in the 19th century. It's about the Pontelliers who are having dinner. Mrs. Pontellier is bringing her husband food but as he doesn't like the cooking of the fish they start to argue. Throughout the extract, her husband treats her like a mere servant and if something is not done according to his demand, he gets angry. Mrs. Pontellier looks calm when they argue but once she is alone she becomes furious and wants to break her wedding ring, unsuccessfully.
As early as the first lines of this text, Mr. Pontellier uses a high number of negations when talking. It shows a natural inclination for contradiction. We can compare this attitude with that of a capricious/whimsical child. The « scorched » fish and « manner » with which vegetables are served seem to be minor problems. And yet, the expression « would not touch it » implies that he is disgusted. It contrasts with the expression « in some way » which is very vague and shows that he doesn’t even know what he doesn't like. We can assume that he would actually never be happy. He is just being whimsical. In addition, the word « fancy » emphasizes the idea that the plate is not to his liking but that there is no rational justification to this negative attitude. The fact that he does not tell the cook about the problem himself shows he doesn't want to lower himself and wants to keep his « self-respect ».This is why he lets his wife go instead of him. Clearly, his wife is nothing more than a go-between, a sort of servant in chief, but a servant all the same.
We can conclude that Kate Chopin is criticizing the capricious character of Mr. Pontellier and of such husbands as him. The author uses irony to insist of this:« retain his self-respect ». Indeed, it is ironic and hyperbolic because the meal seems fine. We can see that Chopin is creating the stereotype of the man who does not care about his wife's happiness and finds excuses to go to the club instead of staying with her.
We have indications in the text that show us that this is not the first time that a scene like this happens during dinner. Indeed, the sentence « she was somewhat familiar with such scenes » tells us that this is her daily life. During dinner, Edna stays very calm and polite. She keeps all of her emotions inside of her and doesn't say anything to prevent her husband from leaving. So she's quite submissive. We understand that she must have felt guilty before about her husband's behavior as she once « studied the cookbook during an entire evening ». This is a good strategy from Mr. Pontellier because to make her feel guilty is the best way to keep power over her. However, “that evening”, things might be starting to change as we have some signs of rebellion at the beginning: « Edna said she did not mind a little scorched taste ». It shows that she is giving her different opinion for the first time. What's more, we have the word « indifferently » that also suggests rebellion and shows that she doesn’t want to seem affected.
After this failed dinner, Edna goes to her room and throws a fit of anger. We can notice the lexical field of fire: « flushed », « flamed », « fire », and «lighted». Moreover, the alliteration in « f » enhances this idea of fire as Edna is about to explode. Lines 31 and 32, we can see that she is thinking about taking action: « she began to walk to and fro down its whole length without stopping without resting ». Then she wants to break something because of years of frustration so she tries to destroy her wedding ring but fails, so she compensates with a vase. The wedding ring symbolizes marriage: it's indestructible (at this time, divorce was hardly an option for desperate housewives). Furthermore, throwing it away is useless, it won't lead her to anything, it might even cause her more wrong than good: when the maid walks in, she warns Edna she “might get some of the glass in [her] feet”, so Edna puts the ring back on, as a symbol of her present failure. Historically speaking, it's too early for Edna to commit herself into feminism. But we can consider Edna as the grandmother of the feminist movement as she's one of the first women of her time to show signs of rebellion. The maid can also represent the repressive society, lines 40 to 46: she reminds Edna of where she belongs. It's quite ironic for the oppressed to remind each other to behave and to bend the knee.
To conclude, Mr. Pontellier is whimsical and disgusted by small details, he is the archetype of the self-assured, patronizing patriarch. As we saw in this extract, the author introduces hints at what will grow to become feminist ideas in the future. She foreshadows the rise of women's rights. As divorce didn't exist, she can't complain about her relationship but the sparks of rebellion are slowly being enkindled in her heart.
Guil, Ariane, Bertrand
The text is a short story called ‘’Laura’s choice’’ extracted from Nightmares and Geezenstacks written by Frederic Brown in 1961. This is a very surprising text, for different reasons. Firstly, because of the title, we expect a woman’s point of view; however we enter into a man’s head. This man, William, has made what he calls ‘’a big decision’’ and encourages himself to implement it. He is married to a woman stronger than himself, who beats him at everything, even at love as we find out in the final twist. Fed up with this situation, William decides to ask her for a divorce. He wants to marry Laura, a sweet but weak girl he will be able to protect. But as usual, his wife precedes him and destroys his plans when she announces that she and Laura are in love…
First, we are going to see how Laura is the perfect woman for William, and then we will see how she changes the story but also William’s life.
To begin with, there is a strange description of Laura. William says that she is “lovable, sweet, adorable, fragile, dainty, helpless” and this could actually sound like the description of a china doll. It is a huge contrast with his wife’s description who is almost seen as a man. This can make us think that for William, the perfect woman is an object, a toy that needs protection, which is why Laura is the perfect woman for him. The alliteration in [L]: “Lovable little Laura” can suggest that she is like the song, the music of perfection. Furthermore, we learn that Laura is “everything that his wife was not”, which shows the obsession, but also that the two women are poles apart. Lastly, William is “mad about her”, not just in love but mad about her. “Mad” is more powerful, and could sound much more negative than positive but it has more sense because Laura is an obsession, and she is like the perfect woman that he cannot have for the moment because of his wife. Thinking he can have her is madness.
Laura isn’t just a perfect woman, she also changes the story and William’s life. As we can see, the sentence “until now, until Laura” (l.22) evokes that Laura is the turning point of the story; we can see that it is a decisive and dramatic moment with suspense and tension. William then says that if he marries Laura, he would be “a man again” suggesting that he would have the power. He wants to be able to protect, to feel needed, the opposite of his situation with his wife. We can even wonder, if he would be “a man again” then what is he now? William wants to control everything, for example “she had to”, he doesn’t leave her any choice, and thinks he has everything planned. However, we can tend to think that William isn’t so sure, since it evolves from “could” to “would”. We can see that William is in a constant competition with his wife, he wants “to win”, but we know that his wife always wins, so not only is it ironic but it also foreshadows William’s defeat.
The repetition of “the decision” shows that something important is about to happen. It shows suspense and tension. It is a kind of cliffhanger.
On the third and fourth lines, the sentence “The decision that he must hold to without weakening if ever again he was to think of himself as a man, a whole man” may express that the author is trying to tell us that the man had already failed asking for a divorce in the past. It does not show any sign of courage from him, maybe he is not entirely sure about his decision.
In this text, there is the lexical field of duty and heroism, expressed by the words: “must” (twice), “firm”, “demanding man”, “courage”.
This lexical field is the opposite of the one conveyed by the words: “helpless weakling”, “hopeless mouse”, “a fool”, “bruised and battered”, in the second paragraph, which is the lexical field of a loser, a victim.
Therefore, we can say that the first and the second paragraph are antithetic because the first one is about braveness and the second one about submission.
Now, if anyone is capable of heroism related to their extraordinary achievements, it must be William’s wife, since the expression “she could” is repeated several times. It expresses her superiority and outstanding capacities.
The man finds it intolerable because the situation with his wife is the complete opposite of the expectations that people had for a couple in the 1960s. The “traditional” roles are not respected.
The fact that the woman’s name is not mentioned makes her even more powerful because it is as if she had the power of all women to fight the patriarchal rules, she is representing the feminine cause, she could be any one of them, just any woman could be like her, the threat is everywhere.
For him, what he considers the “worse”, (l.17) is the fact that the woman is superior to him in terms of financial affairs. Money is usually what justifies men’s power over women; breadwinners are entitled to rule the home they feed. But here, it is the woman who is capable of earning the most. There again, the roles are switched.
The word “ego”, line 19 does not only have one meaning. Indeed, it does not just mean pride and dignity but also masculinity. He is trying to save his masculinity in front of a woman who is more competent than him.
The final twist is that the woman tells William that she wants to leave him for Laura, a woman. It is a shock for him because he was not expecting her to leave him, especially for a woman. He is disoriented.
To conclude, this short story is a modern text, presenting three interesting characters which can be seen as well as caricatures. William is the caricature of the man who wants to have control over everything, especially his wife, otherwise his ego feels hurt. Laura seems to be the caricature of the perfect woman for him and for the patriarchal standards of the time: she makes us think of a china doll, too fragile to be human. We wonder if it is because we see through William’s unreliable eyes who may idealize her according to his own criteria, as she represents his only way out to escape from his wife. The wife, powerful and autonomous, assuming her sexual orientation, symbolizes free women. Her character raises some questions: does a woman need to be ‘’like a man’’ to be his equal? And from a man’s point of view, are all strong women frightening and dangerous rivals?
Tom Sawyer is a novel written by Mark Twain in 1876. In this excerpt, Tom trades tickets for objects and toys during Sunday-school in order to receive a Doré Bible from Mr Walters, his teacher. As a matter of fact, pupils who manage to recite 2,000 verses of the Bible are rewarded with a Doré Bible, and the tickets are proof that he or she has been able to recite all these verses at once. He succeeds in winning one but, unsurprisingly, we finally discover that he can’t answer a simple question about Christ’s disciples.
The first paragraph of the text shows Tom “trading” tickets with his comrades: “exhibited” “equaled” “buying” “pay” (l. 1-5). The vocabulary of trade suggests that he is corrupted. He is not even able to win his tickets by himself. In addition, a contradiction is created between Tom cheating and the fact that the scene takes place at Sunday-school: it gives more gravity to his sin.
Furthermore, Tom doesn’t really care about receiving the Doré Bible: “Tom had never really hungered for one of those prizes”. He only wants to be rewarded for the prestige: “his entire being had longed for the glory and the éclat that came with it”. Fame is better than spiritual gratification.
The expression “the new hero” is ironic for its part because Tom hasn’t accomplished any heroic act. He is just cheating; he doesn’t deserve it at all”. Moreover, it seems that he really wants to win the Bible. Indeed, the word “demanded” (l. 26) in fact means “to ask for urgently or peremptorily”. So, it appears that he nearly forces the judges to give him the Bible, as if it was a rightfully deserved reward.
Tom is also “showing off” (l. 18) in front of Becky Thatcher, a young girl. The expression “art” is crucial; it suggests that he is just acting. He commits another time a sin by being insincere. Thus, he can represent his own fakeness.
Tom seems embarrassed when he gets the prize: “his tongue was tied, his breath would hardly come, and his heart quaked”. In addition, he can’t pronounce a sentence without stopping, as alliteration in [g] (“gasped” “got”) evokes: “Tom… Thomas… Tom Sawyer, sir”. It shows that he is not used to this type of situation. But he feels much more uncomfortable when the Judge asks him the question about the disciples: “Tom blushed and his eyes fell”. In fact, the reader already knows that Tom has no idea of what could be the right answer. It implies obviously a funny outcome. Indeed, he answers “David and Goliath” which is clearly absurd and ironic, and confirms that he is ignorant. It is even more ironic when we realize that Tom is living in St Petersburg: the name of the city is linked to religion (Peter is indeed one of the apostles) and all the characters considered themselves as religious but they all commit the sin of excessive pride. Arguably, this text can be linked with the theme of Evil as Lucifer was sent to Hell because of his pride.
THE OTHER CHARACTERS
Mr. Walters is “Sunday School teacher”, he teaches religion. He is teaching his students how to do right and be good with the use of religion.
The teacher shows them in a kind way, he is nice with them and tries to make them confident but he doesn’t teach them religion.
Lines 10-14 show his teaching methods are wrong and counterproductive. In fact, the pupils only learn to be rewarded, which has nothing to do with humility. They probably don’t understand what they are saying. They just learn by heart. Tom is doing everything he can to get the Bible, just to gain the prestige of having it. His goal is not to learn but to be rewarded. This is the reason why he doesn’t learn. His children learn more how to trade than how to understand religion and respect its principles. As it is too difficult to have the Bible, the only way to get one is to trade and cheat, not to mention the boy who became mentally deranged after managing to memorize 3,000 verses! These children become either stupid or wicked, truly Mr. Walters should change his ways!
The author uses this remark with irony, he criticizes the American society. The children will become similar to the judges, the adults, everyone…
Walter is like Tom and Tom is the result of Walters’ educative methods. He knows that Tom doesn’t know anything but he is still rewarding him. He just wants to impress the judge by showing him he is a good teacher. If “the prize was delivered to Tom with as much effusion as the superintendent could pump up under the circumstances” (l. 31), it’s because Mr. Walters’ “effusion” has to be “pumped up”, meaning that it is by no means spontaneous. Tom and Walters just want to be known, they want to impress by “showing off”, and they are both caught up in their own lies.
The judge and the lawyer both want to “show off”. They look similar and have quite similar characters too. They all want to show off and to be considered as the best even if they are not. It is superficial; it is all about what others will think about them. The sin of pride is blatant.
The reaction of the other boys is not surprising they are jealous of him: “envy” “suffered” “hated splendor”. If they don’t give him away or expose him, it’s because they agreed to change their tickets against marbles and fish hooks, thereby showing they are more materialistic than interested in religion.
To conclude, this text illustrates the corrupted side of the American society. Indeed, all the characters want to “show off” to impress the others and so, they all commit the sin of excessive pride. They try by all means to be glorious even if it means that they would corrupt people and cheat. Thus, it is possible that Mark Twain may have wanted to denounce corruption cases that happened often in America in the 1870s. In fact, the author would not write about Tom Sawyer as an adult because he didn’t want to deal with an ignorant and corrupted man. Finally, Tom is a young boy so he could represent the USA as it is was a young country in the 1870s. They both make mistakes and need to learn.
Corentin, Fany, Nina
William Faulkner wrote this text in 1942. It presents to us the childhood memories of Edmond McCaslin. We will see how the extract is intriguing from the very beginning, how the writer manipulates the reader and what impact the context has on the text. Moreover, we will see how Faulkner employs many effects and literary devices in order to confuse us once again and manages to criticize society throughout his characters. Then, we will see that this text can evoke another kind of artistic expression which was a new kind of story-telling for the time.
The title is very vague and mysterious; indeed, it is only a conjugated verb and gives us no information about the story, making it already quite unusual. However, “was” can evoke the past and memories. Faulkner persists on confusing us in the next few lines. At first, we thought that the main character was Isaac McCaslin since the author starts by revealing his surname “uncle Ike”, his age – near eighty – as well as information about his family. But then, we realize that the writer has given us pointless information: Uncle Ike has simply been listening to his cousin’s stories, Edmonds McCaslin. It is his story we’ll be reading about, Isaac has no particular interest for the readers.
Likewise, Faulkner starts with a negation, which is not a common way to start a story. This suggests again the idea of delivering useless information – here by telling us what the text is not about.
In the second paragraph, the repetitions of Uncle Buck and Uncle Buddy are once again confusing, as if the two were in fact one person. The two uncles are closely linked by the way they are referred to. This is not purposeless: we will learn later on that the two uncles are twins, which makes them flat, interchangeable characters, almost archetypes.
Also, the lack of punctuation and vocabulary enhances the fact that the narrator is a child, as if he was just blabbering about something, giving an oral aspect to the text. Furthermore, this absence of punctuation accelerates the rhythm of the text. It is as if we were attending the race and even running with these hilarious characters. Then, the text finishes with ‘it was a good race’ showing that everybody enjoyed it: the readers, the public, and the author. The two uncles are the only ones upset from this race, making them the “bad” ones of the story, or the ones to laugh at.
We can also notice the sibilance “six sticks” which adds to the fast rhythm of the text. Then, the extended metaphor of the firewood: we keep adding wood sticks, making the fire bigger just like the problem of the slave’s escape. The uncles started off by trying to find him, which led to a series of new troubles.
Starting through the first paragraph, we feel that the story is told with word of mouth communication: Edmonds tells his story to Ike who tells the story to the narrator who then shares it with us. It is like a child repeating what he saw or heard in a fumbled way, making the information in the text not completely reliable.
Faulkner also presents his vision of one group of the American population at this time, the southern farmers in their small counties. He seems to consider them as close-minded and not very smart. Uncle Ike being “uncle” to almost half the region may be a hyperbole; it is also very evocative of a population that doesn’t really care for contacts with the outside.
The way the second paragraph is described can make us think of a cartoon. Indeed, the dates coincide since cartoons appeared in the 1930s and the text was written after that, in 1942. The characters are all chasing each other, Uncle Buddy, Uncle Buck, the dogs; everything is pandemonium. It is so muddled up that they end up forgetting the slave, their main issue. The slave then appears like the clever and amusing character. Moreover, adding to the cartoony aspect of this text, the word “kitchen” appears several times. The characters keep rushing in and out of it, just like a tumultuous cycle. This strong image reminds us of a cartoon known of all: Tom and Jerry. The cat keeps running after the mouse, too clever to be caught. In these two examples we can find the marked presence of animals, adding to the general amusement. “Through the dogs’ room” shows that the dogs even have their own room, therefore being personified as normal human beings. The two uncles can’t even manage to control them; if they can’t keep simple domestic animals, how can they keep a slave? This underlines their stupidity. Then again, Uncle Buddy is compared to a steamboat, we imagine him full of anger. The author has the intention of making fun of him, clearly showing that he is one of the disliked, laughable characters of this story. Plus in every race there is a winner and a loser; we are pleased that here the slave and the funny animals are almost the winners and that the two uncles have lost sight of them, turning them into losers depicted by children. Finally, just like most cartoons, it ends well leaving a pleasant feeling to the readers. The fact the very first listener of the story was a young boy –Uncle Ike as a child – makes now more sense: funny stories such as cartoons are supposed to be meant for children.
“Paradise Lost” is an epic poem written by the 17th century English poet; John Milton. It was originally published in 1667 in ten books but a second edition followed in 1674, re-divided into twelve books. The poem concerns the Christian story of the fall of Man: the temptation of Adam and Eve by the fallen Angel, Satan, and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The specific extract we worked on is located before Satan’s arrival on earth and talks about whether or not he regrets the acts that led to his own downfall and explains his ambitions for power and revenge on God. Destroying or corrupting this new world, our earth, could be a great opportunity for him to take his revenge. We will also explore Satan’s feeling towards his own power and adversity with God.
In this extract, we learn that Satan was God’s favourite angel: “How glorious once above thy sphere” and that he led a rebellion against God, and lost his fight against him: “Warring in Heaven against Heaven’s matchless King”. Admitting his rival’s superiority is not a frequent characteristic of the regular figure of evil. We also learn that the major causes of his rebellion and fall are pride, envy and ambition: “Lifted up so high, I disdained subjection, and thought one step higher would set me highest”. With this quote we can see his state of mind before leading the rebellion against God, which leads to his fall: He thought that as he was already a powerful angel, he could have even more power.
“What could be less than afford him praise, the easiest recompense and pay him thanks” We also see with this quote what feelings he experienced before revolting and why. In a beautiful model of selfish alliteration, Satan regrets what he did: “Me miserable” and confesses, which is quite unusual too, except for Marlowe’s demons in “Doctor Faustus”: “Till pride and worse ambition threw me down”. Furthermore, he even wishes that he was an inferior angel: “O, had his powerful destiny ordained me some inferior Angel, I had stood then happy; no unbounded hope has raised Ambition! Yet why not some other power As great might have aspired, and me, though mean Drawn to his part” He knows that even if he was a weak angel, his addictive ambition would lead him to evil all the same, and then asks himself “why me?” when he sees that other powerful angel have not been tempted. Lucifer clearly implies that there is something wrong in him, whereas he was created as a model of goodness “he created [me] in that bright eminence”. Why was he tempted to rebel while other great angles were not?
We see that Hell, like in The Tragical History of Dr Faustus”, is a state of mind: “Which way I fly is Hell, myself am Hell”. Moreover he knows there is worse: “Still threatening to devour me opens wide, to which the Hell I suffer seems a Heaven”. The suffering is not physical; it comes from the sense of loss and the permanent frustration, anger and self-hate that follow, “cursed be though”. . He knows that behind his suffering, there is worse suffering, meaning that hell has no limits in space or in time.
Satan knows that God is invincible, but the other fallen angels think that Satan is able to defy God and beat him. “With other promises and the other vaunts than to submit boasting I could subdue the Omnipotent”. This sentence shows us that he promised that he would beat God and if he renounces and asks for forgiveness, he will lose all the respect and adoration of the other fallen angels.
He is ashamed: “under what torments inwardly I groan”. This line shows us how bad he feels and the word “inwardly” emphasizes his interior pain. His pain and misery aren’t known of the other angels and aren’t usually let on to readers either.
In addition he has too much pride to beg pardon. He considers repenting but he is too ashamed to submit to God. He confesses to us that inside him part of him wants peace with God. Nevertheless, he definitely knows that God will never forgive him: “this knows my punisher; therefore as far from granting he, as I from begging peace”. The idea of them having an explanation is clearly impossible. They are like a couple that have too much pride to ask pardon to each other.
After many doubts and questioning about whether or not repentance is what he might do, Satan decides to embrace evil: “Evil, be thou my good”. With the repetition of farewell: “Farewell, hope; and with hope farewell, fear; farewell, remorse!” Satan decides to permanently give up all good in him and dedicates himself to evil and his cause. He knows he is in no position to defeat God at the moment therefore he resolves to corrupt mankind, God’s “new delight” and creation. He plans to confront God in a more subtle way than before and intends on turning all of his enemy’s creation evil: “As man ere long, and this new world, shall know (evil).” It is after this decision that Satan goes to the Garden of Eden as a snake and introduces evil and temptation to mankind.
We discovered that Satan is puzzled in this extract, he at first is guilt-ridden and very unsure of what he should do, very insecure as he becomes aware of his many weaknesses. He faces a dilemma: whether he should ask for repentance or take his revenge on God. His disloyalty and addictive ambition for leadership make him envy God’s power and this jealousy brings back his thirst for power. Satan is well aware of the fact that if he asks for repentance, he will lose all his power and influence on the fallen angels. Again it shows his excessive thirst for power. This extract shows Satan in a surprisingly weak state of mind, he admits his inferiority and seems to be about to give up on his plan to defeat God, before eventually becoming the Satan we are more used to seeing or reading about, the ultimate figure of evil.
But is it a reason to give up on forgiveness? Reconciliation is undoubtedly not worthy of an eternal war.
Suggested guidelines and tips.
Analyse Lucifer's reflections on:
-what he did, why he did it, and how it makes him feel.
-what he might do now and why he can't - or won't - do it.
-what he eventually resolves to do.
You should be able to identify the following themes, in random order: loss, regrets, pain, doubt, self-hate, addictive ambition, weakness(es), confession(s), loyalty/disloyalty, hell, God, leadership, fear, shame, evil and maybe more.
Group Work with adjustments.
The Tragical history of Dr Faustus
“The Tragical History of Dr Faustus” by Christopher Marlowe was published in 1604.
Dr Faustus desires to learn magic. Some of his friends show him dark magic so he can meet Mephistophilis, Lucifer’s messenger. Faustus agrees to trade his soul for 24 years of power and glory. For example, he can be invisible or he can go back in time. After 24 years, Faustus will have to join Hell.
In scenes 3 and 5, there is a full description of Hell with some surprising remarks. Mephistophilis talks about the greatness but also about the implicit limits of Satan’s power. We can compare these scenes with The Monk because of Faustus’ attitude.
All these elements show that humans also have a hellish part in them.
I) Description of Hell.
At first, we can see an ordinary description of Hell. Indeed, Mephistophilis says that Hell is “under the heavens” which suggests that hell is inferior compared to heaven. He also describes Hell as the place “where we are tortured and remain forever”. This description shows a universal image of Hell that has not changed much with time and such as we can see it in paintings, novels and movies …
In addition, Mephistophilis claims that Hell is everywhere. When Faustus asks where Hell is, Mephistophilis answers “this is hell, nor am I out of it”. Marlowe also makes a hyperbole talking about “ten thousand hells” which enhances this idea that there might be more than just one Hell. As Hell is considered as everywhere, it probably means that all the people have a part of it in them. This is the reason why Faustus is not afraid of Hell; he knows that it is everywhere so nothing is going to change. Furthermore, there is a contradiction between the two descriptions. The first one is saying that there is a special place for Hell whereas the second one says that Hell is everywhere. Unless this is the reflection of the Puritan point of view of the time according to which earth as we know it is a fallen place in the hands of the Devil.
II) Satan’s past and power
A) His past.
This text informs us about Satan’s past. Indeed, we learn that he was “[once] an angel”. In fact he was the “most dearly loved of God”. At some point in his existence, there must have been a great deal of good in him. Yet, his “pride and insolence” led him to become the “prince of devils”: as a matter of fact, “God threw him from the face on heaven”. Afterwards, he wanted to take revenge on him so he became his worst enemy. These two moments of his life contradict each other. That’s why we can be surprised by such a shift in his life.
B) Satan’s greatness.
Throughout the text, Lucifer is showed as powerful: Mephistophilis describes him as “great”. Indeed, he has many powers. For instance, he can grant Faustus all his wishes: “And then be thou as great as Lucifer”. God doesn’t share his power with others whereas Lucifer does, so he has powers that God doesn’t have, or maybe he is portrayed as more generous and less selfish.
Likewise, he shares his torture with others: he claims speaking in Latin “Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris” (Mephistophilis speaks Latin to show that he is educated) which means “It is a comfort in wretchedness to have companions in woe”. This is not only a warning from Mephistophilis to Faustus to turn back from his intended course of action, since it implies that hell is miserable. He wants to show him that everybody shares extreme suffering, which is again something very unusual to say about demons: not only do they suffer a great deal, but also, like humans, all they need is a little bit of comfort…
C) The limits of his power
Nevertheless, Satan’s power has also limits. For example, Lucifer is an “Arch-regent” and the “prince of devils”. Implicitly, he has not all the powers compared to a king: he is a temporary leader. In addition, when Faustus asks him why he is the “prince of devils”, he admits his fault (saying “by aspiring pride and insolence”) which refers to an important event in the life of the Christian: the act of confession. Somebody usually confesses when they consider they have committed a sin: we can suppose that Lucifer regrets the old time when he was an angel and that he considers himself as a sinner. Devils are rarely inclined to self-repentance; usually they boast of their crimes, they enjoy committing them. In the same way, Mephistophilis may arouse the audience’s pity when he declares for instance: “Think’st thou that I, who saw the face of God, and tasted the eternal joys of Heaven, am not tormented with ten thousand hells”. Moreover, those demons of high rank still consider God as their God with the expression “our God”. It contributes to show that God is still somehow revered by the likes of Lucifer, which again can only puzzle the audience or even shock them. Finally, the expression “enlarge his kingdom” means he doesn’t have enough subjects in his “kingdom”. He needs to manipulate people so that they agree to join him. Alone Satan is powerless.
To conclude with, all these elements enhance the fact that Lucifer, despite representing the “devil”, is still strongly linked to heaven and God other than by the traditional hate we know of.
III) Faustus’ attitude.
During his meeting with Mephistophilis, Faustus has a strange attitude compared to most of the people who meet the messenger of Hell. Indeed, he seems very interested in what Mephistophilis says and doesn’t seem to be scared at all. He even asks questions about the “prince of devils” and Hell. Furthermore, he directly agrees to give his soul to Lucifer. Even after stabbing his arm, he says cheerfully “Lo, Mephistophilis, for love of thee, I cut mine arm, and with my proper blood assure my soul to be great Lucifer’s Chief Lord and regent of perpetual night”. He already admires Lucifer, even if he doesn’t know a lot about him. More importantly, his “love” for Mephistophilis shows that devils need not always be feared…
We can compare these scenes with the extract of “The Monk” we studied. In fact, the monk, Ambrosio, and Faustus live the same experience but don’t react the same way.
First, Ambrosio is so scared of Lucifer that he doesn’t have the choice to agree to Lucifer’s pact whereas Faustus is very enthusiastic to go to Hell; he is the one who wants to be damned there.
In “The Monk”, Lucifer has to lie to Ambrosio for him to accept the pact whereas Mephistophilis says the truth about Hell, which is the place “where we are tortured and remain forever” and Faustus even accepts to give his soul. This difference is what makes the comparison interesting and probably confusing for some.
This extract acquaints us with Faustus’s state of mind. He is completely devoted to Lucifer. Indeed, he acts courageously to become a devil because he needs to cut his arm himself. We can suppose that for him, whatever the hardships he must go through, he will still want to be part of hell. His determination must intrigue the reader because his behavior seems unjustified: as a human, Faustus should be terrified of such the horrible destiny that awaits him. The truth to the matter is that the description of hell and of its inhabitants has little to do with the “sulphurous” lake of fire hinted at in “the Monk” and when it does, it is only to insist on the fact Lucifer and the other “denizens of Hell” are going through a lot of pain and do not really seem to have such a good time “torturing others”. There is a touch of dark romanticism in that attitude and some people might actually be touched by and sympathize with the devil...
This text is an extract from the play Macbeth written by the famous English dramatist William Shakespeare. One of the most important themes of the play is omnipresent in these extracts: evil. It is shown at many levels.
First, evil is used to satisfy the characters’ political ambition. Lady Macbeth is the character who shows the most ardent ambition even though she is a woman. Indeed, the fact that she isn't a man doesn't prevent her from dreaming of glory. It is not enough for her that her husband has been named thane of Glamis and Cawdor. She wants him to be more powerful: to take the king's place in other words to take the crown even if it means to kill him. Expressions such as « thou art not without ambition but without the illness should attend it » prove that she is ready to commit crimes to reach her objective. Furthermore when she answers « o never shall sun that morrow see » talking about the king we understand that she is merciless as she wants the king to be eliminated. It echoes to the universal rule of politics where nobody has friends and where nothing is possible without a touch of evil. Lady Macbeth also evokes the duality and the hypocrisy of all political men when she advises Macbeth to « beguile the time » by looking like «an innocent flower » while being vicious like “a serpent under it”
The harsh reality is that it isn't only in politics where we can find evilness, but also in daily life in different fields.
Lady Macbeth’s thirst for power is so strong that she would even kill her own baby. It leads us to think about her nature; is she really human, does she have the ability to love? She doesn't show any maternal instinct.
Furthermore she is merciless and cruel: she wouldn't just kill her baby quickly in his sleep but awake « while it was smiling in my face ». She describes how she would kill it « dash'd the brains out » which is very violent.
Lady Macbeth is determined to have the king murdered. She feels superior as she has the right of life and death on him. She places herself above God. Indeed, the act of stealing life from someone is against the laws of God.
Lady Macbeth doesn't like being a woman. Indeed, she can't become king and have a lot of power. But she doesn't want to be a man either. She asks to be « unsex(ed) » she wants to give up all humanity, as her hypothetical infanticide suggests. By refusing to belong to one of the sexes she goes against the laws of human nature.
Line 45, Lady Macbeth asks the night to hide her crime from heaven: « nor heaven peep through the blanket of the night ». We can see that she is afraid of God’s judgment, even if she defies him, and she is ashamed of herself. So, she’s more human than she thinks. What also shows this are the references to different body parts: eye, hand, tongue… We understand that their bodies are completely dedicated to evil, but their souls are not, at least not entirely.
Lady Macbeth can represent two Biblical figures. Indeed, she represents Eve: she’s tempted and commits a sin. But she can also represent the serpent, which tempts Eve, or here Macbeth. So Lady Macbeth is both temptress and tempted.
The metaphor « O, never shall sun that morrow see! » line 56-57 can have various interpretations. It can mean that the King will never see the sun rising again because he will die soon, and it can also mean that the King’s murder is not only a regicide but also a deicide and such a horrible, unnatural sin that the sun itself cannot recover from it and will stop rising. In the pre-Cartesian belief of the time, cosmic life and terrestrial, human life were closely interdependent, problems in one caused problems in the other.
She addresses her strange wish to the spirits. It seems that they are on her side: they are allies. Line 16, she says that she will use them to convince Macbeth to murder the king « that I may pour my spirits in thine ear » (this expression is also a reference to the play Hamlet, written by Shakespeare too, where the King is poisoned in the ear). They are as evil as her. She asks them for help so as to become queen of viciousness « fill me from the crown to the toe top full of direst cruelty ». They are like her source of inspiration and courage. There is another supernatural reference at the beginning of the passage. Lady Macbeth talks about « what thou art promised » to Macbeth. She is thinking about the enigmatic prophecy delivered by the three witches. They are foreshadowing Macbeth's arrival to the throne. They are the source of evil. Without their prophecy, Macbeth would never have thought of becoming king and he would never have killed him. However, one can argue that they may have seen some potential for evil in Duncan’s favorite general…
The witches use dark magic. We know it because the word « witches » is pejorative. The witches are the symbol of evil and their prophecy is an ill omen for humanity. Another ill omen in the passage is the « raven himself is hoarse that croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan ». The raven is a messenger of bad news, he announces death. The unpleasant musicality of the alliteration in « h », « s », « r », these aggressive sounds enhance the fatality: the king will die. The atmosphere is dark, sinister.
In this passage, evilness is shown as a poison, a disease, an “illness” or a contagious infection which can be transmitted from one character to another.
Lady Macbeth symbolizes the poisoner, the person who administrates the poison. Indeed, she is the brain, the person who badly influences Macbeth. She seems to be wearing the pants in their couple, as she gives him strong advice, almost orders. She talks to him using the imperative mode: « look », « wear », « be ». It shows her manipulative side. Her goal is to erase his doubts; she thinks he will become a man only when he has done what it takes to become king. For her, a true man – or maybe a true king- is one who accepts to forget his own humanity for a while as long as it fits his interests. The problem is that this fatal couple tends to forget about it a bit too long.
The effect of the poison is not immediate. At first, Macbeth is full of scruples, he resists to his wife’s arguments and she doesn’t manage to convince him. The expression « We will speak further » indicates that he hasn’t made up his mind yet and this use of « will » proves that he is still master of his intentions.
Slowly, Lady Macbeth poisons him with her eloquence, displaying arguments, provoking him by questioning his virility. Macbeth is tortured between good and evil. The path to make a decision is long and painful but the outcome, once infected, is always the same: death. Macbeth, attracted to power, is fully contaminated: he chooses to follow Lady Macbeth’s vicious ideas.
But we can say that it is not a free decision as he has been under influence, contaminated. The word « settled » shows that there won’t be any coming back; the poison has reached his heart. He is totally infected.
Moreover, Lady Macbeth says « take my milk for gall », line 37. The Sweet milk is usually for the breeding of innocent babies whereas the bitter gall is the poison meant for the breeding of ruthless, evil murderers. This is additional evidence to her intended loss of humanity, however incomplete as we said.
So, this extract represents well the theme of evilness, which is present throughout the passage. We can find it through the question of political ambition, the supernatural, the sacrileges to God and Nature, and of the contagious disease infecting Scotland until the death of the tyrant and the return of the lawful King.
Posted by Ariane
For the "Macbeth group", here are some of the questions asked by the class. Try to add the answers to your written work.
-the difference between "milk" and "gall" line 37 (milk = for the breedding of innocent babies / gall = for the breeding of ruthless, evil murderers)
-explain the multiple references to body parts (their body totally dedicated to evil, but not so sure about the soul...)
-why does LMB ask the night to hide her crime from heaven, line 45?
-the various interpretations of the metaphor line 57 (top of the second column)
-the problem(s) posed by the fact she could kill her own son.
-LMB as a Biblical figure (two options)
-the reference to "Hamlet" line 16.
Thanks for your cooperation, your work is expected by saturday 11/28 6pm. Don't forget to blog happily.
Final prep on "Macbeth". Presentation and questions next Wednesday.