Ploce: It Is What It Is!

One of the catch-all phrases of the 21st century is “It is what it is.” On the surface, it seems like a no-brainer, but when you think about it, it’s a statement that can indicate acceptance, resignation, or simple acknowledgement of a thing or situation. It can communicate “that’s all you’re going to get” or “that’s the best I could do” or “that will have to do. Despite its apparent simplicity, it’s a versatile statement to keep up one’s sleeve.

The repetition in this phrase is known as ploce, pronounced plo-chay .

Photo by Cristian Rojas on Pexels.com

Ploce is a very old word which came into English from Latin from the Greek work plokē meaning complication or twisting, which came from the ancient Greek word plekein which means to plait or weave.

That in itself is fascinating, as it gives a clear impression of the words twisting or weaving around themselves as they are repeated. It’s quite a visual image of what the language is doing.

Ploce is a literary and rhetorical device by which a word is repeated for emphasis.

  • It can be simple repetition, like Popeye saying “I am what I am, and that’s all I am”.
  • It can involve a change in the meaning of the word: 
    Examples:
    “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
    “I don’t want to hear you talk the talk, I want to see you walk the walk.”

    Note: This is also called antanaclasis, but you’ll probably never need to know that unless you’re studying Rhetoric, Classics or Shakespeare.
  • It can involve a change in the form of the word.
    Example:
    “She cried until there was no crying left in her.”

    This is also called polyptoton. You’ll probably never need to know that either, unless you’re studying… you get the idea.

Shakespeare made regular use of ploce in his plays, but my favourite examples are to be found in speeches by Queen Margaret in Richard III:

Screenshot made using Shakespeare Pro v.5.5.2.3
Screenshot made using Shakespeare Pro v.5.5.2.3

Margaret often makes use of elegant imagery and rhetoric in her speeches, and her use of ploce is certainly eloquent.

Sources:
Silva Rhetorica
ThoughtCo.
Britannica.com

Ploce: It Is What It Is
#words #vocabulary #Shakespeare

Shakespeare Nerd: Valentine’s Day Edition

This Valentine’s Day edition of Shakespeare Nerd is brought to you by the brilliant Mya Gosling, creator of Good Tickle Brain.

Image reproduced here with permission.
Image reproduced here with permission.

Shakespeare Nerd Valentine’s Day Edition via @goodticklebrain
#ShakespeareSunday #ValentinesDay

Shakespeare’s Baubles.


Because it’s December and Christmas decorations are everywhere, I wrote last night about the meanings and etymology of the word ‘bauble’ on WordyNerdBird. I wondered then if it were a word used by Shakespeare. To my delight, it was indeed!

Interestingly, Shakespeare references one of the continued senses and the obsolete sense of the word, and creates double entendre with it for extra credit.

In ‘Cymbeline’, the queen refers to Caesar’s ships bobbing around on the sea as ‘ignorant baubles’, describing them further as being like egg shells, being thrown and broken against the rocks.

A similar reference to boats as ‘baubles’ is made in ‘Troilus and Cressida.

In ‘Othello’, Cassio shows his disregard for Bianca by describing her as a bauble that follows him around and tries to make him fall in love with her.  That his companions laugh with him demonstrates that this use of the word to describe a pretty but not-so-valuable woman was easily understood at the time.

In ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, ‘bauble’ is used to refer to Kate’s hat – a decorative item of clothing, which is of little value in the play other than its use as a prop in her surprising demonstration of obedience to her husband, Petruchio.

‘Timon of Athens’ references a bauble as the staff of a jester or idiot, although in this instance, Aaron the Moor is suggesting that a king holding his sceptre and claiming to be faithful to God is the equivalent of his fool holding a bauble and pretending to be the king.

This sense of ‘bauble’ is extended in All’s Well That Ends Well, where the Clown refers to cheating on a man with his wife and giving her his bauble “to do her service”.  Clearly, this is a pun on the jester’s staff, used to reference an altogether different kind of rod with a special ending on it.

This is Shakespeare’s trademark wit in action, taking common language and creating word play loaded with double entendre that would delight the masses and the ‘gentlemen’ alike.

Shakespeare Halloween Party

Last year, I wrote a number of posts about the best Shakespeare scenes for Halloween.

This year, Mya Gosling has very kindly given permission for me to share her Shakespeare Halloween Party cartoons.

Mya is the creative genius behind Good Tickle Brain, where she turns Shakespeare’s characters and plays into insightful and amusing cartoons. I hope you enjoy her work as much as I do.

Used with permission.
Used with permission.
Used with permission.
Used with permission.

Shakespeare Halloween Party
#cartoons #Shakespeare #halloweencostume

“Thou art too malapert…”

Peacock malapert know-it-all overconfident showy
Image from PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay

Malapert refers to a person who acts like they know everything and is confident that they are always right. 

While there are a number of characters in Shakespeare’s works whom we might consider to be malapert, Shakespeare uses the word only three times in his plays.

In Henry 6, Queen Margaret and her son, the young Lancaster Prince Edward, engage in a contest of insults with their captors: Clarence and Gloucester. As sons of Richard, Duke of York these two are the Lancastrian King Henry’s enemies, as the two houses are rivals for the English throne. Clarence calls the young prince malapert, highlighting his youthful confidence by calling him an “untutor’d lad”. 

Almost as proof of Clarence’s assessment, the prince responds by insulting them again. Despite the clevernesand bravery of his words, this proved to be a bad move, as “perjur’d George” and “misshapen Dick” respond by stabbing him to death. End of argument. 

In Richard III, the same Queen Margaret tells the Marquess of Dorset that he is malapert and warns him that his newly found nobility won’t protect him from being destroyed by the Yorks, particularly Richard (Gloucester) whom  she describes as a “bottled spider” and a “poisonous bunch-back’d toad”. Richard turns the insult back on Margaret, and Dorset promptly turns it right back on him. 

In the comedy Twelfth Night, Sir Toby Belch and Sebastian are engaged in an argument when Sir Toby insists that he “must have an ounce or two of this malapert blood” from his rival. 

Malapert
#words #Shakespeare #ShakespeareSunday

Book Review: The RSC Shakespeare – The Complete Works

The Complete Works, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company and edited by Jonathan Bale and Eric Rasmussen, is a brilliant book. 

Having read and enjoyed several of the RSC texts of individual plays,

As always with RSC editions of individual plays, the notes provided are excellent. Each play has a thoughtful introduction that explores key ideas and themes, as well as providing insights for dramaturgy, performance and production.

The printing is clear, and of a good size —  not so small that it is almost impossible to read, as with many collected works editions —  and the paper quality is beautiful.

In addition to the texts, there are pages of annotated photographs and illustrations to give added context and to highlight RSC performances of the plays.

Physically, it is quite a big book, so it is  most comfortably used on a desk or table. The paperback is lighter in weight, but I am a little disappointed that I did not buy the hard cover edition, as that would make it more durable.  

Even so, I’m delighted with this volume and have found it very useful thus far.  Should I find that my paperback does not stand the test of time and regular use, I will definitely invest in a hard cover copy, as this is a book I will want to read and make use of for many years to come.

Desdemona’s Lament

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Often when I see a willow tree, I think of the  desperately sad song sung by Ophelia as she prepares for bed in Act 4, scene 3 of ‘Othello’.

‘Willow’ is a folk song that tells of lost love and resulting tragedy, although Ophelia doesn’t quite get that far in the song before she stops to talk with her maid, Emilia. The song was not written by Shakespeare, and it seems to have been widely enough known for the audience to have understood the gravity and foreboding of it being sung by Ophelia. 

Shakespeare did, however, make one significant change. The original song was about a man dying as the result of the cruelty of a woman, but when Ophelia sings it, the song is about a woman suffering at the hands of the man she loves. 

The poignancy of the song is heightened by Ophelia’s revelation to Emilia that her mother’s maid, from whom she learned the song, died tragically while singing it. 


The song takes another tragic twist when Emilia herself sings the song as she, too, dies from injuries inflicted by her own husband. 

Shakespeare uses this song to evoke pathos,  tragedy and foreboding in abundance. 

It seems to me that he willow tree, graceful and mournful at the same time, is a most fitting image for achieving that effect.


Desdemona’s Lament.
#Shakespeare #Othello #willow #tragedy #ShakesepeareNerd #blogpost

21st Century Ways to Entertain Yourself in the Shakes-sphere

Contrary to what some people might think, enjoying Shakespeare isn’t all about seeing performances of plays, being academic, and knowinf your “thees” from your “thous”.

These apps for smart phone or tablet will appeal to devoted Bardophiles looking for new ways to enjoy Shakespeare, but also to students looking for ways to enrich and extend their knowledge of Shakespeare’s works.

There are loads of Shakespeare-related apps out there, but of all the ones I’ve tried, these three are the ones I have kept and continue to use.

Emoji Shakespeare has a variety of passages from well-known plays in which one is required to ‘fill in the blanks’ with emojis. It’s a great way to pass a bit of spare time, and definitely more interesting than endless reiterations of Candy Crush.

ShakesQuiz is a multiple choice quiz game that covers the plays, poetry, life and times of Shakespeare. Each quiz is ten questions long. Hints can be purchased if one is unwilling to achieve less than perfect scores. I prefer to think of it as something to improve on next time!

The Shakespeare Pro app offers a digital collection of Shakespeare’s works, analysis, quotes, and the facility to make and save notes. The search function is comprehensive and customisable, enabling a specific search within a particular work or across the entire canon.


If you have an app you enjoy, please leave your recommendation in a comment.

Horror Scenes in Shakespeare: “Out, damned spot!” The Blood on Lady Macbeth’s Hands

While Shakespeare isn’t renowned for writing horror, he certainly understood the power of a macabre scene and the dramatic impact of horror when portraying just how evil a character could be. 
He created a number of beautifully creepy and macabre scenes that hold definite appeal for horror fans, and which make great reading for October and Halloween. 

The horror of Act 5, Scene 1 of Macbeth is subtle, but very real. While there is no real blood on the stage, there is definitely blood on Lady Macbeth’s hands. 

After belittling Macbeth more than once for being haunted by visions and ghosts, the same thing happens to Lady Macbeth – or Lady Macdeath, as I like to call her. She is spared such public humiliation, though – her suffering is is revealed in the privacy of her own rooms, witnessed only by her servant and a doctor. This enables the audience to witness the intensely personal and intimate nature of the psychological horror experienced by Lady Macbeth.

In the chaos of her behaviour, the audience sees the extent of Lady Macbeth’s mental torment: she is plagued by guilt and losing her grip on reality. She walks and talks in her sleep, carrying a candle because she cannot bear to be in darkness, and speaking of fragments of bloody images and events. She repeatedly acts as though she is washing her hands, sometimes for fifteen minutes, yet she can never seem to get them clean. She keeps on finding blood on her hands: “Yet here’s a spot.”

Despair and frustration underscore pronouncements such as “Out, damned spot! Out, I say!” and “What! will these hands ne’er be clean?

In her mind, she can still clearly smell and see the blood on her own hands after the murder of Duncan, observing “Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! oh! oh!”. 

The doctor and gentlewoman who look on within the scene are disturbed by what they see before them, positioning the audience to share in their disquiet. Her macabre imagery and references to blood and ghosts cause the doctor to conclude that  “Unnatural deeds 
Do breed unnatural troubles; infected minds
To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets;
More needs she the divine than the physician.” 


The doctor speaks what the audience already knows: it is Lady Macbeth’s conscience rather than her hands that cannot be cleansed. When he instructs the gentlewoman to watch her carefully and remove anything that she might use to harm herself, he is alluding to things that Shakespeare’s generally superstitious audiences would have interpreted as horrific in itself – spiritual torment as a result of one’s own sins, and the thought of committing suicide in such a state, were appalling and dreadful to those who had been taught of the eternal damnation of one who took their own life or died otherwise completely unreconciled with God. The good folk of early modern England feared many things, but burial in unconsecrated ground and spending eternity in hell were right at the top of most people’s list of things they wanted to avoid. Had it been otherwise, the early modern church would have been far less powerful and prominent in the lives of the English people. 

Throughout this scene, the power of a guilty conscience over one’s psyche is vividly expressed using the depiction and the imagery of horror. 

Shakespeare also uses the Macbeths’ experiences as a distinct reminder of the fact that regicide is never a good idea because the consequences are enormous for the nation as a whole, but it also has significant and permanent spiritual consequences for the perpetrators. Given the number of plots against James I, a Scottish king long before he became an English one, this was a politically expedient message for Shakespeare to deliver to his audiences while at the same time telling a deliciously dark and macabre story. 

You can read the whole scene, or the entire play, here