I quite liked 2022…

Perhaps I have blocked out all the shitty parts (like everything related to COVID), but in all honesty 2022 was a pretty fantastic year for me. I can’t decide if it’s because I’m just being positive in hindsight, and that all years have their awesome qualities, or if 2022 really was exceptional in its own right. Regardless, I’m writing this post as a reminder of what was, with the hope that penning my gratitude for the brilliant bits will keep me focused on the good as I move into and through this new year.

Thinking about this year – and this post – earlier today, I realised that I haven’t written here about the publication of my book On Teaching. Perhaps I’ve referenced it, but I didn’t write a post devoted to it. To be honest, it made me reflect on how I’ve neglected writing in this space – apart from a couple of truncated drunken posts at high altitude – and I think I’ve missed it. Actually, a couple of weeks ago a lovely human who I had not met before approached me at a work thing and told me she loved my blog. It really just took me by surprise. I probably looked like a goldfish who’d been slapped by a piece of wet bread… just like unable to say much and sort of mouth gaping. My colleagues were bemused, I don’t think any even knew I had a blog, and I felt sort of embarrassed like an ego secret had been unveiled. But the compliment was genuine, and honestly reminded me that this is a space not just for me, but for the (very occasional) reader to (maybe?) get something (even just a giggle or an empathetic moment) from my ramblings. So, yeah, that’s what made me think about my latest book, On Teaching, cos it’s basically a collection of my ramblings about teaching… perhaps even the written closing of a chapter in my career as a teacher. Have you read it?

Besides publishing a new book, I completed the writing of another one – it’s a co-written book for teachers about Shakespeare – which interestingly I was given the opportunity to write because of my posts about Shakespeare’s plays right here on this blog. It should be out early this year, as it’s currently in the hands of my incredible editor. My desperation to write more – it really is an addiction – prompted me to initially pitch another book idea to my publisher, but he wisely told me to sit on it for a while. Of course, I tend not to listen to sage advice and another chance opportunity has lead me to some further study at Sydney Uni in 2023 which will (hopefully) ultimately lead to the publication of that next book – fusing two of my passions, but I can’t give any more information about that just yet.

Aside from my writing projects being fertile and fruitful in 2022, my home life was full of beautiful growth and change. We lumbered ourselves with our first mortgage purely for the joy of supporting our eldest son’s blossoming – seeing him move out of home and into that new property with his girlfriend was one of the proudest experiences of my life. My youngest worked hard (enough) in his final year of schooling and was rewarded by impressive results in his HSC. I’ll never forget our gasps in unison when his ATAR finally popped up on screen after an anxious, but also perfect, delay thanks to the UAC site being swamped by thousands of similarly anxious teens. He’s still trying to decide how to ‘spend’ his unexpected boon of ‘points’, but quickly realising that the higher the points, the more boring and linear the degrees. That’s my boy. Other highlights of the year were our two trips to Cairns – especially our October trip with the whole family. It was extra special because both our sons are adults now – oh yeah, two more amazing things being their 18th and 21st birthdays. I’ve had those events – only two weeks apart – in my imagination since the year Baz was born. 42 with an 18 and 21 year old. I couldn’t really imagine it, except for the silly image of a huge shared party – completely dumb though considering Lee and I are pretty introverted people, hence our children are too. The party was very small and perfect, 18 years of imagining could never have conjured it as it was.

For me though, just for like the secret, private me, the one that’s there always, the one I am always alone with, well, she got therapy in 2022. It was quite literally life-changing. After a bundle of life bits and pieces pushed its weight a little heavier than usual, I found myself sobbing on the phone to my GP and getting a referral to a psychologist to provide me with some CBT. Whilst it was only six sessions (I kept telling myself I’d go back after different events passed), they have given back myself – or even maybe given me a new self? I think Maynard James Keenan says it best in 46+2, I think I found myself stepping through my shadow and coming out the other side. I certainly am not perfect or healed or whatever it is that people see as end game for mental health treatment, but I think that teleological idealism is a false narrative anyway. I just know now that I am, that I can, that I will, and that I want to be me. I’ve got strategies that actually work to cope when I’m anxious – the main one is that I know I can call up and book an appointment with my therapist and start working consciously on self shit at any point that I feel myself slipping out of myself. It’s a really, really good feeling. And so now I’m a therapy pusher. I’ve got my best friend going, and I’m nagging my dad to give it a go but so far unsuccessfully. It’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of doing in 2022, and it’s probably the choice to prioritise myself in this way that lead to so many other really great moments over the year too.

I told myself that this year I’m going to write a blog post every day. It’s unlikely that I will, and I’m saying that now because I want to be kind to myself when I don’t achieve some task or goal that I’ve set. Perfectionism can be a bitch. So, let me just say, that if you’ve made it this far, if you’ve read this much of my self-indulgent, pat-myself-on-the-back drivel, well you might get to read more of it this year than last year. Perhaps.


What’s a title anyway?

Last time that I wrote a post here, I was drunk on a flight to Cairns. Well guess what mutherfuckers?! Yep. Air bound and feeling ready to over-share.

If you’re a Twitter person you’ll know that I’ve been AWOL for some time now. The concept of ‘some time’ is relative – subjective, even – but for me it means more than a couple of weeks. I mean, I think it has been. Probably closer to a month of detoxing from that anxiety prison. I wish I could say that it’s been a hard time, but honestly it hasn’t. Is that a reflection of my settled mental health, or more a reflection on the curse that Twitter is as a social media platform? I literally don’t know the answer.

So why bother blogging right now? Obviously the synchronicity of the last post, but also my sense of commitment to disengagement from a space that doesn’t seem to reflect who I am now. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps my current non-teaching role, or maybe the peace of mind I currently have. I’ve never felt so at peace. I’m not worried about the content that I have or haven’t produced. I do fret a little about the future. The looming question of WHO AM I doesn’t elude me a single day. Not a single day. But… I’m here. I’m a cliche. I’m this: I am, I am, I am. I’m reading. Not always the classics, often the junk (regency romance is my bag) but it’s giving me mental space. I feel like next year could be my year.

I’m wavering between academia, non-fiction, and fiction. I’ve got ideas. I need spurs. Prick me, will you? Haha. Without Twitter, I have to trust myself. I trust that this experience is liberating and terrifying. Not sure why anyone would give a shit, but here I am sharing that story anyway.

Who am I?

It’s been so very, very long since I’ve written a post on this blog. I suppose my only (accidental) readers are those who have subscribed long ago (Digital Revolution anyone?) and those bored enough on their school holidays to click the link to this post. So why am I writing here, for you few readers? Well, I suppose I can blame Lady Whistledown… right not I’m on a plane bound for Cairns, watching Bridgerton to distract me from my catastrophising. Oh, anxiety don’t you love it? Well, she’ll be appearing again soon in this random post whether you love her or hate her.

It turns out I don’t have an answer to my titular question. I don’t know who I am. Or maybe I don’t know who others think I am… or even what I am. Human, yes. Always. But given my change in role over the last 18 months, I’m not sure who I am, or where I’m going. I once was known – right here on this very blog – as a teacher. But am I? I just don’t feel included in that role anymore. It’s so very weird. TBH, I’ve been drinking some rather lovely sparkling wine and I’m way up above the clouds (literally) so I guess that’s got me pondering and just vomiting these thoughts. If I’m in a non school based teacher position… am I really a teacher? And what does it even mean to be a teacher? And why do I care so damn much?

Chatting to my psychologist (yes, I actually have one because 16 years of teaching can really fuck a gal up), and she got me thinking about who I am. Or at least how I define my identity. Stupidly I wrote teacher first out of everything. I can’t stop thinking about that unconscious slick of the pen. Why write that above mother, wife, author, human?! I guess that’s what teaching does to us, right? It just takes over our very being. And when you’re not in the classroom anymore… what then? I literally don’t know.

I do know that any time I speak about school I start to get very teary and a bit jittery. That’s anxiety again. The bitch. Super dumb, but I can’t help remembering how it felt to be there and how useless, ineffective, overwhelmed and (honestly) scared that I felt being in that space. I knew I had lost it. I dunno what ‘it’ is but it was gone. Proper gone. Maybe it was hope, optimism, joy, passion… who knows?

So I got an escape and I really feel valued in my current role but it’s not *me* forever. I don’t know who I am, or where I’m going. I don’t know if I’ll return to the classroom even though I fucking love being with teenagers and I cry… literally cry… to be back in the classroom with them. I don’t think that’s going to be viable. Not any time soon. So where to next, right? I don’t know. I really, really don’t know.

Who am I? Where am I going? What will be my contribution to the world? *Shrugs shoulders; glugs sparkling wine*

Have I ever helped you? I’d love your help now!

Hey guys! This is going to be a super short post. I know I haven’t written here in AGES – there are three reasons for this. Shall I share them? OK, I will. Firstly, in 2021 I was working in a non-school based teaching position with the Department of Education. For public school teachers in NSW, this will be known as ‘going corporate’. I wrote about my reasons here in January last year. I’ve actually really enjoyed the role (but missed the students) and have signed up for a second year. I’ll be back to school in 2023, for sure. So, basically I didn’t have any school-related posts to write. I also was unsure how much of my new role people would care about. Secondly, I was writing/editing my new book called On Teaching – it’s sort of for new teachers but also for anyone, full of anecdotes and tips about all stuff to do with being and becoming a teacher. Thirdly, I was writing my next book on Shakespeare for Australian teachers – if you read my blog posts here reviewing Shakespeare’s plays, that led to this book! Crazy, right?! So I never finished those posts because I started on the book.

Now that I’ve given my excuses, I’d like to ask a BIG favour. Tomorrow is my 42nd birthday. I never really bother about birthday presents, just happy to spend time with my family and maybe eat some good food. For this year, I’m actually going to ask for a present – from you! This may seem super forward of me, but allow me to explain. I’d really like it if you would donate to my nephew’s Go Fund Me. At the very beginning of 2021, Cohen was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. They got the big tumour from his leg but unfortunately it spread to his lungs. He absolutely LOVES Japan, and we are desperately trying to raise money to get him there whilst he is stable – the doctors have told us the sooner he goes the better. Charities like Make A Wish aren’t sending children overseas right now because of COVID. We have to raise the money ourselves.

So, if I’ve ever written a post, shared a resource or run a workshop/presentation that’s helped you, it would be SOOO cool if you would maybe give a little ‘gift’ to Cohen as a thank you. It would mean so much to me. I hate to ask, but this is what I am willing to do to help my nephew achieve his dream.

Here’s the linkhttps://www.gofundme.com/f/help-us-make-cohens-dream-trip-to-japan-come-true?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link_all&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet

THANK YOU!! (And I promise to be back to regular school-based blogging one day soon! x)


This list was created in April, 2020, when we first started Learning From Home. This year I am working from home as part of a large writing project for the Department of Education – it’s really awesome and whilst I am not in the classroom myself (or teaching from home as many of my NSW colleagues are), I am still working with teachers. Whilst revising my book On Teaching, I returned to my blog post with ‘lesson plans’ for learning from home (online learning, really, as it assumes students have access to a device). This list of strategies for collaborative learning online was hidden in the post, so thought I would bring it back to life. I think I am going to adapt it (and the lesson plan template) for my chapter On Lesson Design as it reflects how I traditionally structure my lessons as a high school teacher. Note: I’ve just copied and pasted from the original doc from over a year ago, I’m sure the tools teachers use are slightly different now.

Always plan your groups before a lesson, considering students’ interests, skills and needs. It is important to design a collaborative activity that is challenging, engaging, and meaningful and can be completed in 30 minutes. Activities could involve one or more of these cognitive processes/activities: analysing, investigating, creating, synthesising, problem-solving, critiquing, discussing, composing, performing, rehearsing, collaborating, evaluating, researching, designing.   

  • Tools: Encourage students to collaborate in online spaces visible to you: the comments feature or just typing together in a Google Doc, a comment thread in Google Classroom, the small group function in Edmodo, or breakout rooms in Zoom. 

Example activities: 

  • Collaborative questions: Put students in pairs or small teams. Give them a question/problem/challenge and have them add their response in a Google Doc table that the whole class can access. 
  • Collaborative presentations: Put students in pairs or small teams. Have students create a team presentation based on a given topic. They can create this using Google Slides, and put the link in a Google Doc shared with the whole class. This presentation could be delivered live via Zoom in the next synchronous lesson, or read through by students in the next asynchronous lesson.
  • Collaborative videos: Put students in pairs or small teams. Set students a topic to explain or skill to demonstrate and have them make a 2-3 minute video for the class. Individual student rolls would include writing the script, choosing images or short video clips, and editing the video together. This video could be delivered live via Zoom in the next synchronous lesson, or read through by students in the next asynchronous lesson.
  • Collaborative essay plan: Put students in pairs or small teams. Give students an essay question and have them work together to write a thesis and an essay plan, including evidence to support the thesis. Students can write collaboratively via Google Docs, and share a link to their plan in a Google Doc table shared with the whole class. 
  • Socratic seminars: In your asynchronous lesson allocate each student a text to read/view from a set of four or five. In a Google Doc shared with the whole class, have each student write one open-ended intellectual question they would like to discuss with their peers. In your synchronous lesson, have the students with the same text spend 10 mins discussing the questions set by their peers. Students not speaking in the Socratic seminar are to listen and take notes. Do this over a series of synchronous lessons until all teams have discussed their text and questions.
  • Collaborative text analysis: Put students in pairs or small teams. Set students a text to analyse using a set of questions. In a Google Doc table with headings (e.g. for English it might be characterisation, plot, setting, conflict, theme), have students work together to fill in examples and analysis.
  • Mini project challenge: Put students in pairs or small teams. Set students a creative challenge using the Discover/Create/Share structure and have them collaborate to complete it within the 30 minute timeframe. For example (Philosophy): Discover – biography of David Hume. Create – a 60 second bio doco. Share – link to video at the end of the lesson. 
  • Peer-assessment: This task assumes that students have a draft piece of work that they have worked on during their asynchronous lessons. Put students in pairs or teams of three. Provide the students with a marking criteria or product checklist via a Google Doc or PDF. Set each student the task of providing feedback on the piece of work using the provided criteria. If the work is typed in a Google Doc, feedback can be provided using the ‘comments’ feature. If the work is not written, students can use the criteria/checklist to give written feedback. Alternatively, students could go into a Zoom breakout room to give oral feedback. 
  • Project work: Put students in pairs or small teams. Set students a project that may take a few lessons or a few weeks to complete. A project outline or brief is recommended to help students chunk and manage their learning. Have students create a ‘to-do’ list for their project and use negotiation skills to allocate roles and responsibilities to team members – doing this via a Zoom breakout room is encouraged. This should be created in a Google Doc shared with the teacher. During the activity time, students work on tasks they have been allocated, collaborating when necessary. 

Love’s Labour’s Lost – and so was I!

Three comedies in a row gives me the opportunity to see both Shakespeare’s development as a playwright, and his diversity. Three comedies, and they are all quite different. Of all of the plays I’ve read so far, this is the one that tempted me to jump on the Internet and read the No Fear Shakespeare version. I didn’t, of course, because I am stubborn. This meant that there were quite a few scenes where I wasn’t exactly sure what was happening. This has, I think, more to do with the fact that a lot of this play relies on contextual knowledge, like it is really grounded in the time and place (late 16th century England) for a lot of the gags. My son was telling me that he’s starting to read bilingual manga (he is studying Japanese) and it reminded me of how I approach reading these plays of Shakespeare for the first time. For the most part I can easily understand what’s happening but then sometimes there is a reference, an image or a line that just totally bamboozles me. Instead of looking it up on the Internet (yes, I am stupidly stubborn), I just keep reading until it eventually makes sense from the rest of the dialogue. Unfortunately that approach didn’t help me at times with this play (pretty much the whole deer shooting scene went over my head).

What’s the play all about? Well, essentially it’s about a king and three of his mates who have decided to take an oath of celibacy and abstinence for three years. Deferring the pleasures of the flesh for pleasures of the mind (rationalism vs empiricism maybe?) Unfortunately for them a princess arrives with her three beautiful mates and this spells trouble for their oath. Given that, again, this is a comedy, we have the expected mistaken identities, silly slapstick moments, lots of witty banter, and some lower characters who are actually more insightful than their superiors (Moth and Costard are brilliant). Whilst we expect the play to end with the lovers all happily pairing off, Shakespeare does a super cool self-reflexive ‘gotcha’ moment and the men are sent off to retry their vow of abstinence for 12 months before their loves will accept them. Honestly, the ending moment with the poems about winter and spring when right over my head, which makes me feel a bit dumb but also just reminds me how complex Shakespeare can be. I will be reading up on that bit once I finish this post (yeah, sorry, you don’t benefit from my late Sunday night nerdy research).

One thing that fascinated me with this play was the use of the ‘three’ motif – like, everything is always about the number three. Again, I’ll have to read up some interpretations of this (numerology, anyone?) but it sure got me thinking about Lear right from the outset when King Navarre requests his three friends to swear to his oath of three years’ abstinence and study. From this opening scene, it’s clear that Shakespeare worked out that he can really deepen the ideas he explores even in comedy, giving really wonderful lines to (arguably his most developed character of this play) Berowne. Berowne’s wit is on display in his ‘Why, all delights are vain’ speech which is just so pretty to read with its twisting and turning of language (what is done with the word light really is remarkable) and this use of the language of reasoning continues throughout the play. I have found it really cool how central rhetoric is to comedy – it makes me think a lot about how I teach John Donne’s early poems – they really are so very light-hearted and it’s helps me better appreciate how well-loved those poems would have been by his small group of admirers. The word ‘conceit’ comes up a lot in this play, as each man and woman tries to outdo the other with more ridiculous lines of argument. Super fun! Of the words related to argument that I found used often, I list these: reasons, follows, manner, matter, form, define, contents, figure. I wish I knew more about the rhetoric taught to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, as I bet Shakespeare has his characters use all of the different devices in this play!

I found the characterisation of Armado the Spaniard to be very, very amusing. Having read Wolf Hall, I can’t help but think of the Spanish ambassador who Cromwell (sort of) befriends. I imagine Shakespeare either watching or interacting with Spanish ambassadors in the pubs of London, and using this experience to inform his Armado, much to the amusement of his audience. His ridiculous overwrought style of language in his letters and even in his dialogue is just brilliant. The bit that made me snort was this: ‘Assist me, some extemporal god of rhyme, for I am sure I shall turn sonnet. Devise, wit: write, pen, for I am for whole volumes in folio.’ Shakespeare is totally taking the piss out of terrible sonneteers.

Two other scenes that gave me the giggles were Berowne’s rather unflattering description of Rosaline (‘two pitch balls stick in her face for eyes’ again reminding me of My Mistress Eyes) and the scene where all the lovers come on stage and read their (bad) love poems. I can only imagine that this scene is brilliant when performed on stage, and is testament to the playfulness and genius of Shakespeare’s stagecraft. Where are all the lovers hiding? Behind the pillars on stage, ducking down behind some cloth? I also am impressed by the variety of the poetry – it’s not all the same form, showing off Shakespeare’s own poetic skill, even if the poems themselves are a bit average. And of course, to continue the wit of it all, Shakespeare has his main character very self aware when it comes to the tacky poetry that love produces, with Berowne mocking himself in ‘Taffeta phrases, silken terms precise, Three-piled hyperboles, spruce affection, Figures pedantical–these summer flies Have blown me full of maggot ostentation.’ I don’t know why, but the ‘three-piled hyperbole’ just cracked me up – probably because I often make fun of Shakespeare to my class regarding his need to have his characters tell us the same thing in three different ways, just in case we miss it the first time.

Finally, Shakespeare ends his play with an anti-climax, refusing to adhere to the expected ‘all’s well that ends well’ trope, leaving his audience a little aghast but also laughing with his self-reflexive quip about comedies typically ending with love matches. Personally, I feel like this is Shakespeare testing the waters, seeing just what he can get away with in a play as he becomes more confident with his craft. This is not an ‘old play’ this is something new. Very cool.

Our wooing doth not end like an old play.
Jack hath not Jill. These ladies’ courtesy
Might well have made our sport a comedy.
Come, sir, it wants a twelvemonth and a day,
And then ’twill end.
That’s too long for a play.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona – I didn’t hate it!

Currently I’m in the guts of a bunch of comedies as per the ordering of the plays in my copy of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. It’s fine because they are pretty quick to read, and I’m pushing myself a little as I need to start focusing on writing my chapters of the Shakespeare book I’ve agreed to co-author (yes, I am insanely excited about this). I’ve set myself the goal of writing two chapters per month, starting August 1st – that’s tomorrow. Each chapter is about 5000 words, but I feel really confident I can do it. The first chapter is on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which is just one play away in The Complete Works. I will *just* miss my goal of having read and blogged on all the plays before AMSND, so I can’t be too hard on myself.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is one of those plays by Shakespeare that you can have no knowledge of even existing, and yet I think it’s actually an important one. Why? Well, the title might give a bit of a clue – Verona. Which other famous play of Shakespeare’s is set in this fair city? Romeo and Juliet! I feel like a lot of the themes, characters, images and scenes from The Two Gentleman of Verona are recycled later in Romeo and Juliet – and also some finds their way into A Midsummer Night’s Dream! Unlike The Comedy of Errors, I thoroughly enjoyed this play. It’s a comedy, as I mentioned already, so you know it’s going to be a quirky story with some mishaps, mistaken identity and resolve itself in happy love matches. To that end, Shakespeare does not disappoint. However, what I like about this play is how he develops his characters a bit more than in CoE, and also definitely gives his characters more interesting, elaborate dialogue as they engage in discussing thematic issues. I mean, it still lacks the complexity of his tragedies and histories, but that’s to be expected since this is a comedy. Alright, let’s get into it.

The play opens with the two gentlemen of the title sparring over love – not over a woman, over the concept of love. Valentine thinks love is silly and distracts from a man’s ability to develop himself, and Proteus thinks love is what makes life worth living. The latter’s argument rests on the fact that he is in love with a noblewoman, Julia. When we meet Julia, we find her sparring with her maid, Lucetta, who has tried to deliver a love not from Proteus to Julia. This is a very funny scene involving a bit of slapstick with the letter – Julia ripping it up as she pretends to be disinterested in Proteus, only to throw herself on the floor and kiss each piece when Lucetta leaves the stage. The dialogue of the two women as they discuss the qualities of the ideal man reminds me of Austen, a lot. Later when we learn that neither parent of Julia or Proteus supports their love, we start to get strong Romeo and Juliet vibes, especially when Proteus climbs up to her balcony to say farewell (his father sends him off the Milan to follow Valentine who has gone there to spread his wings like all young men should, according to Valentine and Proteus’ father) and Julia refers to herself as ‘a true devoted pilgrim’ and Proteus gives her his hand instead of a kiss.

In terms of characterisation, I really enjoy the character of Speed, the servant of Valentine. Here Shakespeare again demonstrates his capacity to give great insight to his ‘lower’ characters, with Speed giving us the famous line ‘love is blind’ – an idea that runs through the whole play. Speed surely has some of the best lines in the play, and would easily have been the audience favourite if it wasn’t for the gorgeous clown-like Launce and his dog. Is there another dog in a Shakespeare play? I can’t recall there being one, but his dog Crab is easily my favourite. (His scene describing how he tried to give his dog to Sylvia is so funny – it reminds me of the mechanicals from AMSND.) We get to see more of Launce and Speed as they follow their masters to Milan. Turns out that Valentine has fallen in love with Sylvia, the Duke’s daughter, much to Proteus’ amusement. I like the way with this comedy you don’t know what to expect (CoE was just so obvious) and I feel like Shakespeare’s real genius is in his capacity to confound his audience – he certainly does this when he makes Proteus reveal in soliloquy that he too has fallen in love with Sylvia, and plans to backstab his best friend to win her over. Whilst he does manage to get Valentine banished to Mantua (sound familiar?), Sylvia proves a constant lover and organises to run away to be with Valentine (I guess Shakespeare realises this is too easy an escape, and gives his Juliet the more bizarre idea to drink a potion that makes her seem dead). Before he leaves, Valentine delivers the most ridiculous monologue on love which clearly is Shakespeare satirising the overwrought declarations of love found in the poetry of his contemporaries, reminding me of his sonnet ‘My Mistress Eyes’.

Meanwhile, Julia has decided to run away from home in Verona to go and see her love, Proteus, in Milan. She’s worried about being caught by her father, so she disguises herself – wait for it – as a boy named Sebastian! Another idea to be recycled later by Shakespeare! Of course when she gets to Milan she is very shocked to find her man trying to woo another woman – literally singing to Sylvia, musical theatre style. Shakespeare does an excellent job of making us feel very sorry for Julia and very cross at Proteus. At this point I couldn’t really work out how I wanted the play to end. Somehow we end up with all the main characters in the woods (Valentine having been randomly asked to be the king of a band of outlaws who see themselves as Robin Hood characters) and it all feels very much like AMSND – lovers chasing lovers. I didn’t much care for the scene where Proteus tried to make Sylvia love him ‘like a soldier’ – forcing himself on her – and it reminded me of Demetrius telling Helena he was going to use her like a dog. Again, this character and scenario is recycled in AMSND but made more ‘believable’ by (ironically) adding in the ‘fairy’ element of the love potion. I liked how Julia stands up for herself for a moment (after unmasking herself) and tells Proteus that he’s an inconstant dog. Unfortunately she accepts his justification that men are always inconstant (sigh) and forgives him. Valentine unites everyone, even getting the Duke’s approval to marry Sylvia and allow the outlaws back into the city of Milan. So, I guess all’s well that ends well?

I liked this play because it kept me enthralled and wanting to find out what would happen at the end. I didn’t love the ending because Shakespeare did too good of a job at making me dislike Proteus, but I still enjoyed the experience of reading it. This one felt like a comedy you could read and enjoy, not just watch it performed (like CoE) which I think shows further growth in his skill as a playwright. Picking up on all the little things that he will being together so well in his later plays continues to make reading The Complete Works a genuine delight.

The Comedy of Errors – short, simple and silly

Do I like comedies? In general, yes. Early this year I watched the whole series of The Office, New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. If I miss Mad As Hell, I make sure to watch it on iView, and I am completely obsessed with the 2020 adaptation of Emma which is the most sublime rom-com ever made. BUT, Shakespeare’s comedies? I’m yet to be convinced. And if I’m honest, The Comedy of Errors did not help me move to a positive conclusion. Possibly it did the reverse.

This review will be short, much like The Comedy of Errors (thankfully). I knew when I read the character list that this was going to be a very silly play – two sets of identical twins who (of course) have the same names, how could it not be? Shakespeare loves twins – he even had a pair himself, very clever. As I’ve said before, my little project of reading all of Shakespeare’s plays chronologically is prompted by the fact that I have a bit more time on my hands this year, and because I want to see the development of his skill as a writer. The latter focus was very interesting as I read this play. I just couldn’t get over how simple the play is in comparison to the complexity (at least in terms of narrative and characters, but also, I think, thematically) of the preceding histories and tragedy. It’s just so simple. Obviously there are the two sets of characters with the same names and everyone on stage being confused, but I feel like the audience isn’t confused – right from the start we know what is happening (because Shakespeare has a character tell us) and we have a good idea how the play will end. Being a comedy, it’s going to end with laughter, forgiveness and marriages/new love. Those of us who have read Shakespeare’s more famous comedies (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Taming of the Shrew) know this structure well, but in The Comedy of Errors what is missing is the big ideas and the clever, beautiful language.

If you haven’t read The Comedy of Errors, the plot goes like this: a merchant and his wife from Syracuse have twin sons and on the same day a poor woman also has twin sons. The merchant and his wife agree to take her sons and raise them with their two – presumably to be the other twins’ servants. As the family are sailing out on the ocean (I don’t know why), they get stuck in a tempest which destroys their boat. The merchant ties himself plus one baby son and one baby servant to a mast, and somehow the husband and wife (with their respective babies) get separated by pirates or mean sailors, so the children are raised in separate countries, not knowing if the others are alive. The play starts 30 years later with the father accidentally turning up on Ephesus (where two of the sons are, but he doesn’t know) and getting arrested because he’s from Syracuse and is banned from Ephesus. Little does he know, his other two sons – well, one son and one slave – from Syracuse (the ones he raises on his own) are also on Ephesus because they are looking for the other brothers. The rest of the play involves the identical twins (both the two Antipholus and the two Dromio) running into people who mistake them for the other which causes much frustration and bewilderment (and lots of being beaten for the Dromio slaves). As the audience we know why this is happening, but we also question how the Syracuse Antipholus and Dromio can be so stupid as to not work out what is happening given their purpose for being in Ephesus was to find their twin brothers. I assume that all this silliness being played out on stage would be very funny and whilst it’s obvious the actors would have had fun with the stagecraft (up on the balcony, hiding behind the pillars), I found reading this play far less enjoyable than I wanted to.

The language is very simple (in terms of the type of highly descriptive, inventive, evocative language we have come to associate with Shakespeare), with lots of shared couplets which makes the dialogue quick and presumably very fun to play with on stage. It’s obvious that it’s from the comedies that we get most of Shakespeare’s wonderful ‘insults’ – there are some very funny ones used in The Comedy of Errors, even if the ones about Dromio’s kitchen-hand wife are a bit cruel and fatist. Given that this is a comedy, and therefore it is light, quick and a bit shallow, the conceptual depth we come to expect of Shakespeare is missing mostly, except for a really great scene between Antipholus and Dromio of Syracus about Time. This was not only clever and interesting, but also really funny. It starts off with jokes about bald men (of course Shakespeare has his character advocate for the intelligence of bald men over those with hair, I wonder if that means he had started to lose a bit of his own hair by the time he wrote this play) and ends up arguing that Time is bald (‘Not a man of those but he hath the wit to lose his hair… Why, thou didst conclude hairy men plain dealers without wit… Time himself is bald, and therefore, to the world’s end will have bald followers.’). This reminds me, the interplay between the twins as sort of arguer and interlocutor is one of the strengths of the play – and I quite like that Shakespeare has the servant, Dromio, as the one with the better wit and arguments. There are a lot of references to the language of argument and logic (with the introduction of our common expression today ‘What is the matter?’ being used more literally to reference the ‘matter’ of the argument) and this reminds me of a lot of John Donne. In fact, there were a couple of lines where I was like ‘what?!!!’ is that from Donne or did Donne steal it from Shakespeare? It just really illustrates similarities between style amongst these two young writers. The one that really got me was Adrian’s argument about why she might be able to cheat on her husband if he is cheating on her – it’s basically Donne’s argument as to why he should be allowed to sleep with his love in The Flea, check it out: My blood is mingled with the crime of lust; For if we too be one, and thou play false, I do digest the poison of thy flesh, Being strumpeted by thy contagion. Oh, and Adriana and Dromio of Syracuse pick up on the theme of Time later in their own repartee:
As if time were in debt! how fondly dost thou reason!
Time is a very bankrupt, and owes more than he’s worth to season.
Nay, he’s a thief too: have you not heard men say
That Time comes stealing on by night and day?
If he be in debt and theft, and a sergeant in the way,
Hath he not reason to turn back an hour in a day?

Overall, I was glad this play was short because (as I’ve said in my title) it is silly and a little simple. I would love to see it live on stage as I know it would be hilarious, and I can understand why Shakespeare was such a popular playwright if he wrote scripts like this for his audiences to enjoy on a balmy English day, a little bit drunk, smooshed into a packed house with a bunch of other people, all looking for a good time.

Titus Andronicus – a tragedy, a farce, or a B grade slasher?

**Trigger warning** This review includes references to sexual assault and violence

I’ve never heard anyone speak about Titus Andronicus as a play they love. Maybe because I don’t know the play, I’ve just never paid attention when people talk about it, so coming to this play I had no preconceptions other than the title sounds fancy (Roman name?) and that it was an early play of Shakespeare’s, meaning I would likely be able to see him working through his apprenticeship as a playwright. Well, let’s just say I now have preconceptions! Wow! It’s a bit of a crazy work which took me on a complete rollercoaster and left me literally gasping out loud. Let’s get into it!

The play opens with a bunch of confusing named characters (how very Shakespeare) and a narrative context completely unfamiliar too me – what I gathered from the opening scene was that Titus is a hero, he has a lot of sons (I think 25 – 21 of whom have died in battle for Rome), there are two sons battling over who becomes emperor, and the enemy is a group of people called the Goths (cool name, yes, I don’t know anything about history – just letting myself be taught by a guy who’s been dead for 400 years). By the end of scene i, I honestly didn’t know which character I was meant to like – presumably Titus because he is the titular character, but he is far too arrogant to be likeable, so I decide maybe it was Tamora, Queen of the Goths and Titus’ hostage? Her (unsuccessful) pleading to save her eldest son, Alarbus, (who Titus orders to be killed and dismembered as a sacrifice to his own sons who died in battle – thankfully this murder happens off-stage, but the description is horrible) made me pity her, and she seemed really human. Well, I was wrong, OK? It becomes a pretty typical stylistic device of Shakespeare’s to intentionally disrupt his audience’s allegiance to characters. That’s the beauty of drama – there is often no single narrative perspective, so we see many sides to a story.

So Tamora turns out to be a bit of a snake, just like Saturninus (the brother who becomes emperor). You can see how Tamora fits into what will become a bit of a trope character for Shakespeare – the plotting, vengeful, ambitious, feisty woman – reminding me of Margaret from the Henry/Richard plays. Saturnius initially declares he will marry Titus’ daughter, Lavinia, but then his brother, Bassiamus (another great name) snatches her away (literally) because he loves her. Two of Titus’ sons support this, but Titus is outraged (Lavinia being his property and all) and kills one of his sons. Not even accidentally, full on intentionally and goes after another. Geez. Saturnius doesn’t care because he really wants Tamora anyway, and so the two couples get married. But, don’t get excited, this is no comedy so it doesn’t end with love and happiness. This (I think) is a tragedy so we are going to get blood, blood, blood. Shakespeare quickly introduces another important character, Aaron ‘the Moor’. I was intrigued to see how Shakespeare uses Aaron’s race as a point of characterisation (or not) because the only other play I know with ‘a Moor’ is Othello and as we all know, Othello cops some pretty nasty racism but (despite obvious flaws) he’s shown to be human and his death is really sad – we feel sorry for his downfall. Aaron is different. He’s more of an Iago than an Othello. He is definitely the villain; a mastermind. Aaron, we find out, is Tamora’s lover. What I love about reading these plays in chronological order is how it helps you see Shakespeare building up to his greatest characters – Iago is definitely the craftiness, cunning and cruelty of Aaron and the wit, intelligence and charisma of Richard. I also like watching Shakespeare test out his use of language – in this play he includes quite a bit of Latin. I can’t decide if it’s because the play is set in Rome back in the day, or if it’s because he wants to impress the ‘university wits’ and prove himself as capable as them. Maybe both.

Well, all I can say is that the next bit of action is the stuff of full-on slasher horror – I gasped and covered my eyes, for real. So Tamora has two sons and they have decided that they both love Titus’ daughter Lavinia. Aaron solves their quarrel by helping them plot to murder Lavinia’s husband, Bassianus, and rape Lavinia. Yeah, fucked up, right? So surely Shakespeare is setting us up to feel moral outrage and then show us that something so horrifying couldn’t come to fruition, right? Well, no. He’s following the classical tradition of Greek tragedy – this thing is going to be brutal and all on stage too. The horror-show takes place out in the wilderness whilst everyone is on a hunting trip and we discover that Tamora is in on the plot. Yuck. I don’t want to describe the scene, feel free to go to the source yourself and read it, but let’s just say that Shakespeare holds nothing back, and I can’t even imagine how they would have staged this back in the day. I have been to the Pop-Up Globe to see Macbeth and ended up covered in blood, so I’m guessing this too would have been a messy affair for the audience. The murder of Bassianus was a shock for me and reminded me of the killings in the Henry plays as both of the sons stab him – a duel murder. Then the sons are encouraged by their mother, Tamora, to take Lavinia off and rape her – despite Lavinia’s pleadings to be killed like her husband instead. They do as they are told, with Demetrius uttering a horrific line: ‘First thrash the corn, then after burn the straw’. I mean, Shakespeare? Why? Yuck. You’d think that was enough, right? Well, that is just the start. Next we see Aaron trick two of Titus’ sons into falling down the hole where Bassianus’ body has been thrown. The stagecraft of Maritius in the bottom (presumably down the trapdoor?) and his brother above trying to pull him out would have been impressive and enjoyable for the audience – especially when the second brother falls in head first. The description of Bassianus’s dead body is pretty gross too.

So, I had hoped that the villain brothers would just do their awful work offstage and that would be the end of it, but since Shakespeare had grown up reading the Greek tragedies, he couldn’t leave it there. Bringing the destroyed Lavinia back on stage to stand in her pain and anguish (having had her hands cut off and her tongue cut out) is, I suppose, Shakespeare’s equivalent of Oedipus with the jelly of his eyes tumbling down his cheeks. Vomit. The fact that Shakespeare brings Lavinia on stage whilst her uncle, Marcus, describes what she looks like just adds to the horror. I was so conflicted by this scene, I wanted Lavinia to die because how could she live like that but also why should she die? I don’t know, it’s so hard to read this scene in 2021, and I’m guessing it probably has been a hard one since it was first written and performed. All I know is that I didn’t like it, not one bit.

Following this the play gets more and more complicated and bloody. We have Titus being tricked by Aaron to cut off one of his own hands (trying to save his two sons) only to be sent his severed hand and the severed heads of his sons in a box. Yuck. One scene I did enjoy is the fly killing scene at the dinner table. I don’t know why, maybe just the absurdity of it? It really is a brilliant piece of absurdist farce.

[MARCUS strikes the dish with a knife]
What dost thou strike at, Marcus, with thy knife?

Marcus Andronicus. At that that I have kill’d, my lord; a fly.

Titus Andronicus. Out on thee, murderer! thou kill’st my heart;
Mine eyes are cloy’d with view of tyranny:
A deed of death done on the innocent
Becomes not Titus’ brother: get thee gone:
I see thou art not for my company.

Marcus Andronicus. Alas, my lord, I have but kill’d a fly.

Tamora gives birth offstage to a son, but a nurse comes on stage with the infant and reveals to Aaron and Tamora’s sons that the baby is black – clearly Aaron’s baby. This isn’t good for Tamora or Aaron – presumably the emperor will be pissed. Aaron plots to take the baby to a Goth family and then suddenly kills the nurse who brought the news – this made me gasp! Fully unexpected stabby stab. As one of Titus’ sons (Lucius) heads to the Goths himself to secure them as allies against Rome, we find Tamora and her sons plotting to take advantage of (what everyone thinks is) an increaingly insane Titus (the fly thing was the first hint he was becoming unhinged). There’s more than a little bit of Lear hiding in Titus. Tamora tries to trick him into believing she is the spirit of Revenge and her sons are Murder and Rape. This is a bit of clever stagecraft and wordplay from Shakespeare – I really liked the sort of horrific farcical nature of this scene. Initially Shakespeare has us too believing Titus has lost his mind, but then he reveals in a little aside (a bit like what we later come to associate with Shakespeare’s heroes and villains, chatting to themselves or the audience) that he knows it is Tamora. He asks to keep her sons whilst Revenge goes off to collect Tamora for dinner (lol) and somehow hatches the grizzly plan to have the sons killed, ground down into powder, and cooked into a pastie which he will then feed their mother. Fully disgusting, surely it won’t come to fruition? The set-up for the audience is glorious and you can just imagine how delighted the original audience would have been to watch and see if the plot comes good.

In a scene that is just beyond disturbing (seriously though, this comes from Shakespeare? The guy who Bloom said invented ‘the human’? Man… this is as inhuman as it gets.) Titus has Lavinia hold a bowl between her stumps to catch the blood gushing from the two men who raped and mutilated her as Titus kills them. I guess my problem is that I see characters as human beings, which probably wasn’t necessarily how Shakespeare’s audience saw them at this early stage of his writing career – they were more like symbols like you’d see in a morality or miracle play. I read this play and just feel awful for Lavinia. So next up is the famous dinner scene (never was famous for me as I hadn’t heard of it at all, but I’m guessing it’s pretty famous, how could it not be?) where Titus dresses as a cook and serves up a pie made from Tamora’s sons. Just before we get that beyond horrifying gratification of Tamora eating her sons (even gross to type out), we are shocked – absolutely shocked, more gasping and eye-covering from me – when Titus stabs and kills Lavinia at the table. Why does he do it? Because looking on her brings him shame. Yep. Messed up. So then he tells Tamora that she ate her sons in the pie before he kills her too, Saturninus then kills Titus and Lucius kills Saturninus. Marcus declares Lucius the new emperor and Aaron (who has been caught by Lucius in an earlier scene) is brought onstage with Lucius ordering him to be buried up to his chest and left to die from starvation. Aaron speaks and reveals himself to be pure evil – the only thing in life he laments is if he ever did a good deed. This is not a human villain like Richard III or even Iago (who has some justification for his evil plots but remains silent at the end) – you can see how much Shakespeare grows by reading Aaron here as being rather a symbolic or stock character more than human. And that’s the thing I take away from the play – that Shakespeare is testing out his skills with character, plot and language. It would have been a riotous play to watch live, and I suppose it still is – not sure I could handle it unless the director really played up the B grade horror elements.

Richard III – a tragic history with a very human ‘villain’

At my previous school, I taught Richard III as part of a comparative study with Al Pacino’s Looking for Richard. I was in the privileged position to select any texts I wanted to teach, and because I wanted to teach Orwell’s essays, it left me with Richard III as my Shakespeare option. Luckily for me, and my students, I loved it. Reading the play again over the last two weeks (I’ve been slack with my reading because the latest COVID outbreak in Sydney has distracted me), I feel like I was reading it for the first time. Why? Because of my reading of the Henry VI trilogy prior, and getting to see Richard in his earlier days and in a broader context. Given that Richard III is so well-known, I’m not going to bother with a plot overview like I did for the previous three plays. What I’m most interested in is how, dramatically, this play is quite a departure or evolution (dare I say improvement?) on Shakespeare’s early histories.

The Henry plays are surprising for how swiftly the plot moves and for how many characters traipse across the page/stage. The compression of time is so great that it feels like the action takes place over a very short period of time – maybe a few weeks – even though it is actually many years. Richard III, similarly feels swift (dramas like this documenting the rise and fall of a king have to compress time necessarily) but it also feels slow. Finally, Shakespeare is allowing himself time to unravel the private life (the interior mind I suppose the fancy thinkers would call it) of a character, and this, to me, is what makes this play so different. In the Henry plays I was impressed by the way Shakespeare juggled the different characters, showing sides both lamentable and likeable and thus making them inch their way towards being human (I actually thought of all the characters, Henry himself felt the most fully developed – having flaws, vulnerabilities, doubts, and being quite honest and authentic) and this was a sensible approach because almost all contributed to the life of Elizabeth I, Shakespeare’s monarch. But Richard is something else entirely. He opens the play talking directly to us, showing us his frustrations, anxieties, vulnerabilities, and his (immoral) desires. We know of what he has done leading up to this moment (his involvement in the death of young Prince Edward, and the killing of Henry VI) but our feelings about these deeds, before this play begins aren’t as negative as they will become. After all, he was working in the service of his king – his brother Edward who was considered more legitimate than Henry. What Shakespeare does, is he makes us question the morality of these actions (even if, as a servant of the king, they could be dismissed as reasonable?) and he shifts us towards a different view of how to determine right and wrong. I don’t argue this is a central theme of the play, rather I think the intrigue comes from how we are taken along with Richard, as his confidants, something not attempted in his earlier plays. For us, Richard isn’t a historical figure rushing from one fight to the next, avenging a king, he is a human being inviting us into his private thoughts, luring us to witness the way in which he quite ingeniously climbs his way to the crown.

Personally, I find the first half of the play the most compelling. Richard’s famous opening monologue is one of my favourite pieces from Shakespeare, as too is the incredible dialogue between Richard and Anne. It’s not just the quick dialogue between them – which at times is so formal and then so natural – but the stagecraft, with the body of Henry VI on stage bleeding from his wounds as Anne falls for Richard’s wooing. It’s so great, Shakespeare must have been super stoked with himself after writing that scene. Oh, and then Margaret! Honestly, having read the previous plays and knowing her story just makes her entrance and cursing so much more powerful. The conflicting feelings towards her are so well developed – it’s like Shakespeare is delighting in playing with us. How can we like her after what she did to Rutland and York? We can’t. Yet how can we not be moved by her incisive intellect as she describes and dooms everyone on stage? We must be. I love, love, love the scene with Richard and his mother. It’s soooo sad! Richard’s hurt is so evident, and his bewilderment at his own mother’s hatred and scorn clearly comes through. And yet you can’t feel anything but sympathy for her, given all she has lost to the English crown. Gosh, Shakespeare is good!

I do, however, find that some of the scenes are too stylised at times, lacking that authenticity and flow, that naturalism (is that the right word??) of Shakespeare’s later plays. This is evident in his scenes with the weeping women and children – all that formal, repetition and structured verse. Like, on stage it could look great, but it doesn’t work for me in terms of evoking an emotional response. The same can be said for the staging before Bosworth. Like, I get it – the setting up of the tents and the current vs future king being visited by the ghosts of those the former has killed, in terms of stagecraft it’s very cool, but I just feel that it slows the action too much. The first half is just so intense, the language moves so quickly, Richard’s wit dominates, he is an enormous figure right up until he becomes king, and then he just shrivels. We lose him after that, and everything becomes structured, formal, dry. Perhaps it was intentional, but I feel like if you compare it to a tragedy like Macbeth, where the energy and authenticity is sustained right until the end, I think it’s weaker for the diminishing of Richard. We don’t really get any real direct engagement with Richard after he is king – we miss out on a genuinely reflective soliloquy like we get from Macbeth after the death of Lady Macbeth. All we have is a little bit of anxiety and paranoia, a touch of self-pity after his nightmare, and a brief rush of confidence and self-awareness on the battlefield before he is killed. Also, I don’t like Richmond. He is boring and that’s all I have to say about him.

Richard III is easily one of my favourite plays, and it’s almost entirely because of the charismatic titular character. From Richard comes all of the other characters we come to know and love – hiding in his words we have hints of Hamlet, Macbeth, and Lear. I think the representation of women in this play also makes my review of it so positive – those women are badass! So far, having read the first four plays of my Collected Works, I think Shakespeare has done a great job representing women as fierce, intelligent, capable and really just as human as his men. So that’s my review of Richard III – it’s bloody awesome. My favourite quotes from the play are below.

Cursed the heart that had the heart to do it!
Cursed the blood that let this blood from hence!

If ever he have wife, let her be made
More miserable by the death of him
Than I am made by my young lord and thee!

Dead Henry’s wounds
Open their congeal’d mouths and bleed afresh.
Blush, blush, thou lump of foul deformity,
For ’tis thy presence that exhales this blood
From cold and empty veins where no blood dwells;
Thy deeds inhuman and unnatural
Provokes this deluge most unnatural.

GLOUCESTER. Yes, one place else, if you will hear me name it.
ANNE. Some dungeon.
GLOUCESTER. Your bed-chamber.

Speak it again, and even with the word
This hand, which for thy love did kill thy love,
Shall for thy love kill a far truer love;
To both their deaths shalt thou be accessary.

Because I cannot flatter and look fair,
Smile in men’s faces, smooth, deceive, and cog,
Duck with French nods and apish courtesy,
I must be held a rancorous enemy.

I cannot tell; the world is grown so bad
That wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch.
Since every Jack became a gentleman,
There’s many a gentle person made a Jack.

Why strew’st thou sugar on that bottled spider
Whose deadly web ensnareth thee about?

I was born so high,
Our aery buildeth in the cedar’s top,
And dallies with the wind, and scorns the sun.

And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends stol’n forth of holy writ,
And seem a saint when most I play the devil.

Princes have but their titles for their glories,
An outward honour for an inward toil;
And for unfelt imaginations
They often feel a world of restless cares,
So that between their tides and low name
There’s nothing differs but the outward fame.

O, do not slander him, for he is kind.

When clouds are seen, wise men put on
their cloaks;
When great leaves fall, then winter is at hand;
When the sun sets, who doth not look for night?
Untimely storms make men expect a dearth.

Thus, like the formal vice, Iniquity,
I moralize two meanings in one word.

Since you will buckle fortune on my back,
To bear her burden, whe’er I will or no,
I must have patience to endure the load;

O, would to God that the inclusive verge
Of golden metal that must round my brow
Were red-hot steel, to sear me to the brains!

But I am in
So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin.

Where is thy husband now? Where be thy brothers?
Where be thy two sons? Wherein dost thou joy?
Who sues, and kneels, and says ‘God save the Queen’?
Where be the bending peers that flattered thee?
Where be the thronging troops that followed thee?

Thou cam’st on earth to make the earth my hell.
A grievous burden was thy birth to me;
Tetchy and wayward was thy infancy;
Thy school-days frightful, desp’rate, wild, and furious;
Thy prime of manhood daring, bold, and venturous;
Thy age confirm’d, proud, subtle, sly, and bloody,
More mild, but yet more harmful-kind in hatred.

Richard loves Richard; that is, I am I.

My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.

Let not our babbling dreams affright our souls;
Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
Devis’d at first to keep the strong in awe.