death

A “Rache” for his lover or himself?

In A Study in Scarlet, it seems to us that Hope had spent so many years of planning and plotting to avenge his lover Lucy Ferrier. However, there is a possibility that he killed Drebber and Stangerson because he refused to give in and accept the fact that they had ruined his engagement.

When he got back to Salt Lake City, Lucy had already married to Drebber. Nonetheless, he did not plan to elope or have a runaway with her. It is skeptical that he did not look for Lucy immediately. Instead, he “strode off down the gorge and so away into the heart of the mountains to the haunts of the wild beasts” (Conan Doyle 107), heading to nowhere. If he was so in love with Lucy, he would have gone to find her right away when he knew that she was forced to marry Drebber. On the other hand, the author described him as more “fierce” and “dangerous” than the beasts. I doubt if he was in rage only for Drebber ruining his engagement and marrying the woman he loved. I also expected that he was sorrowful more than angry because Lucy had married a guy who did not love her at all and only aimed at her father’s properties. Until a month after the marriage of Drebber and Lucy, when Lucy pined away and died, Hope reappeared on the day before her funeral all of a sudden. Again, I expected that he would have at least taken her body with him and buried her at somewhere else. However, what he did was just kissed her, took away her wedding ring and then fled. Interestingly, the wedding ring appeared again in a later chapter. Hope “held the wedding ring in front of his eyes” and forced him to think of Lucy before he died (Conan Doyle 119). I suspect that the ring was being symbolized as Lucy by Hope. He used this ring to tell Drebber that he could never take her away from him. In this man-to-man war, Drebber has lost and he was going to die. In conclusion, Hope is a man with a strong possessive personality and his revenge is only a tool mainly to fulfill his urge to kill people who had blocked his way.

 

Reigniting the Flame

Despite nearing his departure for England in the beginning Act 4 Scene 4, Hamlet is motivated to finish his revenge. This change of thought is caused by an encounter with the captain of Fortinbras’s army. In this encounter, Hamlet realizes that twenty thousand men are facing “imminent death…for a fantasy and trick of fame.” The deaths of these men are merely for a worthless plot of land. This causes Hamlet to take a moment to reflect back upon his underlying goal of revenge. He reasons that his “honor’s at the stake” if he does not carry out his plan to completion. The fulfillment of his plan will not only be for his late father, but for his mother as well. Hamlet’s image in the mind of Gertrude is “stained” by what she has witness. Hamlet does not want his mother’s last recollection of him to be as a killer of the innocent. This soliloquy in larger context could be seen as Shakespeare’s critique on war and living life. War is viewed an “imposthume”, or an ulcer, of wealth and peace. The seeds of violence is scattered throughout history. Whether it is the result of internal or external conflicts, war eventually leads to loss of lives. The expense of these lives many times are often the result of meaningless confrontations. As for life itself, Shakespeare states that everyone have “capability and godlike reason”, but many times these characteristics are wasted by not being used. For Hamlet, the distraction with the disposal and the subsequent conversation with Polonius puts his plan on hold. With the rejuvenated idea in mind, the flame of revenge is once again reignited.

The Uncertainty of Life After Death

Although Hamlet seems suicidal throughout the play, it is not only revenge that is keeping him from committing suicide. Hamlet is somewhat religious and he fears what may be in store for him when he dies. Even though his current suffering is immense, he is not sure that it is worse than what is waiting for him when he dies.

“…Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

 The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

 No traveler returns, puzzles the will,

 and makes us rather bear those ills we have,

 than fly to others that we know not of?” (pp 64, lines 76-82)

Hamlet widens the scope of this fear of death and includes it as a part of the human condition. His word choice is very specific and the use of the words grunt and sweat creates an image of a poor working person. This person must have extreme anxiety about what follows death because the person has a miserable life but prefers living to death. We do not actually know if there is a heaven or if there is a hell and we do not know what entitles a person to go to either of them. The fear of a worse situation after death inspires a more accepting view of his current reality.

Claudius Slips Up

My claim is that Hamlet’s uncle and new stepfather, Claudius, unmasks the contempt he feels towards Hamlet, revealing the dark nature of his character, and therefore alerting the audience to the potentiality of foul play from Claudius regarding King Hamlet’s death. While previously in the play we see Claudius as a gracious king (despite a couple moments at which his true nature slips through), the true, vicious side of Hamlet’s stepfather and uncle is revealed to the audience with starling clarity as he uses his words as spears to pierce into Hamlet’s mourning of his deceased father. In doing so, the audience is given the first warning signs of Claudius’ ulterior motives. In the text, Claudius states, “’Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,/To give these mourning duties to your father….. But to persevere/In obstinate condolement is a course/Of impious stubbornness. ‘Tis unmanly grief./It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,/A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,/An understanding simple and unschooled.” (Shakespeare 13) While at first Claudius appears to be playing the role of understanding stepfather, he immediately shatters this illusion by disguising his contempt as “tough love”. At this point the audience is unaware that Claudius is responsible for King Hamlet’s death, but in this chosen passage, we as audience begin to see the underlying conflict taking place between the two characters. Telling Hamlet that it is “sweet and commendable” to be grieving his father’s death before turning around in the next breath to attack Hamlet’s basic human qualities (his masculinity and intelligence), Claudius’ passive-aggression runs rampant. In this passage, Claudius demonstrates his willingness to hurt others in order to achieve his goals; goals which in this case include suppressing any thought of the former king and his, in addition to removing any threats to his rule. Having said that, in doing this Claudius only further makes himself more vulnerable as he shows Hamlet and the watching audience a mere fraction of the damage of which he is capable.

Humor and Greed

“You jest,” he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. “But let us proceed to the Amontillado.” (555)
In The Cask of Amontillado, Poe showcase the conflict between two friends, Fortunato and Montresor. This conflict had escalated to a point such that Montresor wants to silence Fortunato for good. Although short in length, the passage above sums up the story fairly well. While Fortunato is showing some hints that he’s being led into a trap, he himself could not resist the temptation of tasting the Amontillado. There is an ironic use of the word “jest” in this passage. Although being stated by Fortunato, it is Fortunato that is the jester in this story, both physically with his costume and symbolically. His sense of humor and greed eventually led to his death by the hands of Montresor.
Fortunato could be describe as a humorous individual. In light of the carnival season, Fortunato dressed himself in a comical jester costume. When being led down the dark and cold chambers of the catacombs, the bells on top of the costume provide a stark contrast upon the dead souls that populate within the confine of the catacombs. The costume itself further enhances Fortunato humoristic qualities. In fact, Fortunato utilize humor until the very last moments of his life when calling out to Montresor and with the final sound of bell signaling his death. In a larger scheme, it might be his humor that led to his demise. Montresor remarked that he started to plan his revenge as soon as Fortunato’s comments “ventured upon insult (553).” A man such as Fortunato might not realize when some of his comments might have been taken out of context and viewed as insults in the eyes of Montresor. Fortunato might also not realize that Montresor was offended and thus kept on comically insulting him until Montresor has pass his breaking point. Even within his death chamber of the catacomb, Fortunato’s expression of humor via a low laugh haunts Montresor by “erecting the hairs (557)” on his forehead.
Although humor might have killed Fortunato in the long run, it was his greed that cause him to walk into Montresor’s trap. Taking pride upon his knowledge of wine, Fortunato quickly pounced on the idea of getting a sip of the Amontillado. He had so much confidence in himself that eventually turn into arrogance when he denounce Luchesi’s ability to distinguish wine. Throughout the text, Montresor give Fortunato many chances to back out of this situation by commenting on Forunato’s health. Fortunato neglected these comments and keep on pushing further and further into the eventual chamber of his death. It was not until Fortunato slowly sober up that he realized that his quest for a sip Amontillado has led to his confinement.
As for Montresor, his plan for killing Fortunato is representative of the Montresors’ coat of arm. In the text, Montresor recall that his family coat of arm is represented by a foot crushing a serpent whose fangs are in the heel. This along with the motto “No one wounds me with impunity (555).” The coat of arm and the introduction passage in which Montresor remark about his hostile relationship with Fortunato foreshadow what was to come in the text. For Montresor, his goal will not be satisfied until he has gotten his complete payback. There is nothing for Montresor to lose “you are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter (554).” Therefore, Montresor, who is deeply entrenched in his plan, had no regrets or sadness in ending the life of Fortunato. In the end, it was Fortunato’s greed and lingering humor that lead to his death while Montresor executed his plan thoroughly. Once again, Poe’s stylistic writing around the theme of death and suspense had led to a remarkable story in The Cask of Amontillado.

Art vs. Life

“…she a maiden of rarest beauty, and not more lovely than full of glee: all light and smiles, and frolicsome as the young fawn; loving and cherishing all things; hating only the Art which was her rival; dreading only the pallet and brushes and other untoward instruments which deprived her of the countenance of her lover.”

The theme of The Oval Portrait is perfectly disguised in the above quote. The painter can choose either his bride or his canvas, but not both. There is a clear relationship between arts and life – rivals. When the painter has chosen to work on his painting for days and nights, his wife was doomed to death. He was once a “passionate, studious and austere” person (Poe 291). However, after he had started to portray this young lady, there was a great difference in his personality. He was still passionate towards arts but he had also become “wild and moody” (Poe 292). This coincides with the worries and fear of the bride: the artwork would take away the love from his husband. The painter did not even realize how the portrait has withered her wife’s beauty and health because he rarely turned away from it.

This makes me think of The Birth Mark, which we read in previous class. In The Birth Mark, the passion for science of Aylmer killed his wife, just like the passion for arts of the painter killed his bride. Both female characters in the story were in subordinate position and manipulated by the male characters. Maybe I should not use the word “manipulated” as both of them were willing to die for their lover’s passion in other stuffs rather than themselves. In The Birth Mark, Georgiana risked her life just to fulfill Aylmer’s desire to experiment on removing her birth mark. In The Oval Portrait, the young bride sat in the dark room and smiled without any complains for countless weeks just to help the painter finish the portrait, no matter how weak and tired she was. Maybe both authors think that selfless love is something praiseworthy but why the victims in both stories are women? This can be a coincidence but I have another view regarding this question. We can see that the relationship between the wives and the husbands were extremely unequal. The wives devoted so much in the relationship while the husbands rarely did. In addition, we can notice that the authors never writes about the husbands appreciated the personality of the wives. Instead, both authors use a lot of words to depict how the husbands were obsessed about the beauty of the wives. In short, there is a possibility that both authors want to mock at the patriarchal society during that period.

Another aspect that I want to discuss here is whether the whole scene in The Oval Portrait was just a delusion of the narrator. He narrated in the beginning of the story that he was “desperately wounded” (Poe 290). He also admitted his “incipient delirium” might have caused him to have great interest towards those paintings.  It is possible that there were no connections between the book and the portrait of the young girl. The book was just a book that recorded the life of a painter and his wife and the portrait was just an ordinary painting that depicted the beauty of a young lady. He made connections between the two because his mental status was too chaotic due to his severe injury and tiredness from his journey. In a nutshell, his interpretation in all the things he saw in the chateau could be different if he was more conscious.