Author Archives: Hannah Middlebrook

Digital Webtext Draft

How can I organize my site by both theme and title of play (configure the menu to have both)?
Draft of Webtext

Hello and welcome to Shakespeare: A Modern View of a Renaissance Playwright. My name is Hannah Middlebrook, and I am a student at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. This website documents my trek into the depths of Shakespeare’s plays with a modern lens. The plays here are discussed through the lens of the modern world, relating the texts to current environmental issues and social culture, as well as offering in depth analysis and close reading of five of Shakespeare’s plays.

As well as being a student, I also am an actor and have performed Shakespeare’s works, most recently as Ophelia in the New American Shakespeare Tavern’s Intensive production in June 2014. Though I do not overtly go into detail of the texts specifically through an actor’s perspective, all of the analyses and ideas are explored with my stage experience and acting knowledge in mind.

The goal of this website is to foster a connection between media. The different angles used to present each project on this website are meant to create multiple and interesting, modern ways to talk about 400-year-old texts. The projects range from infographics to essays to video presentations to attempt to draw attention to the depths of Shakespeare in a variety of ways. By exploring Shakespeare with a modern lens through the use of a range of media tools, the essence of the ideas in Shakespeare’s works are communicated to the audience.

Shakespeare’s text proved problematic in certain areas, especially when delving into the expression of more modern concepts. For some of the plays, such as The Tempest, eco-environmental criticism is rampant, allowing a clear discussion of similarities in the text and in the current environment. Other plays were more complicated, only offering an indirect connection between a theme of the text and environmental trends. These difficulties were able to be resolved by widening the scope of the modern lens. Although this class’s focus was mainly towards eco-environmental criticism, it also provided an outlet to discuss the text’s relationship with other modern concerns, such as social and political issues. The Taming of the Shrew blatantly discussed feminism in society, and Richard II and King Lear reflected ideas concerning the powers of the head and body of the state. Other problems regarding the projects have to do with the nature of the projects rather than the text itself. Each assignment asked for a different form of presentation, ranging from textual to visual. The difficulty in this was determining the most beneficial display of data and analysis. This required meticulous maneuvering between pedantry and simplicity in order to communicate the ideas in the most successful way to the audience. The projects required often serious subjects to be presented in a slightly more casual, yet still professional way.

Throughout the projects, creativity was essential. Each assignment required a different angle of expression. Creating the infographic called for a balance of text and visual images, in order to communicate ideas to a particular audience, and resourcefulness was necessary to find concise images and data to explore the ideas without being overbearing or pedantic. The digital gloss was wholly different in that it required a weightier analysis and elevated data presentation. The gloss and subsequent analyses were presented mainly with textual data only, which required precise language to develop a theme. In the presentation, image was used as well as audio data to heighten the effect on Shakespeare’s text. Shakespeare was meant to be seen and heard on stage, so providing a vocal presentation was necessary, especially in my topic of the structure of the verse in Richard II.

By taking text and reproducing it in images, sound, and other forms of media, more connections can be made concerning the text. As aforementioned, Shakespeare was meant to be seen and understood on the stage. While purely textual analyses are useful and meaningful in their presentation of information, Shakespeare requires visual and audial tools to convey meaning. These tools force the audience to pay attention to the crumbs of rhetoric in the verse and the countless images that the text conjures. Also, using digital means of presentation for the projects, beginning with a website to display all the projects and blog posts and continuing with a digital gloss, a YouTube video, and an infographic, allowed Shakespeare to transfer easily into the modern world. As this class aimed toward connecting Shakespeare to modern issues in the environment, society, and politics, a modern approach to viewing the material was essential.

In this class, Shakespeare’s relevance in the modern world was easily recognized. The essence and themes of the eco-environmental issues of today are constantly found within Shakespeare’s text, written 400 years ago. Environmental problems such as flooding and natural disasters and pollution are related to the happenings in the plots of the plays, not only plainly related, such as in The Tempest, be also indirectly related, such as in King Lear and The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare also draws hierarchies of man and nature in many of his plays. With these hierarchies, the environment, as well as more vague concepts such as fate and the supernatural, can be easily explained in regard to humanity. Interestingly, in my study of the plays in this light, I found that Shakespeare often changed the hierarchy in different plays. In The Tempest, man controlled nature. In King Lear, man succumbed to an uncaring universe. Each of these ideas concerning man and nature mimic today’s standards. Man can control nature through their use of natural resources, yet nature also has the upper hand, easily able to destroy man with natural disasters and the like. The weaving themes in the text all lead to a representation of the modern day world.

Humans and Animals

Titus Andronicus suggests that humans, regardless of their preconceived notions of civilization, are no more refined than animals. The play’s numerous references to animals and hunting draw many parallels between the humans and the predators. The characters of the play are constantly showing animalistic tendencies. The predators, Chiron and Demetrius, prey on the chaste Lavinia. Tamora is often referred to as a “tiger” (2.3.7) and Aaron as an “inhuman dog” (5.3.14). The constant violence and perceived barbarism between the Romans and the Goths are what relegates them from civil prominence.

The lack of divide between humans and animals becomes apparent in the following passage.

“Suffer thy brother Marcus to inter

His noble nephew here in virtue’s nest,

That died in honour and Lavinia’s cause.

Thou art a Roman; be not barbarous:

The Greeks upon advice did bury Ajax

That slew himself; and wise Laertes’ son

Did graciously plead for his funerals:

Let not young Mutius, then, that was thy joy

Be barr’d his entrance here.” (1.1.419-427)


In this quotation, Marcus intervenes when Titus refuses to bury his son (that he only just slew) with the honor of his house. He emphasizes a particular distinction in his speech: “Thou art a Roman; be not barbarous” (1.1.422). In Marcus’ eyes (and Titus’ for that matter), Rome is antonymous with barbarism. Rome is the ideal, the civilized, and anything other than Rome is less than that, on par with animals and beasts. Marcus then goes on to make a specific reference to mythological Greek figures in the play Ajax by Sophocles. In this play, the hero Ajax is found impaled on his sword from the cowardly act of suicide. The remaining characters debate what to do with Ajax’s body as it is not right to bury it. Then Odysseus, “wise Laertes’ son” and the sworn enemy of Ajax, steps in and convinces the others to bury Ajax’s body. He proves that he is noble because he respects his valiant enemy, even in death. Marcus similarly tries to convince Titus that the noble and honorable way to show respect for Mutius is to bury him with his ancestors.

However, Marcus’ persuasion and allusion to Greek tragedy remains ironic in terms of Titus’ behavior. Marcus casts a positive and noble light on the Romans and expects Titus to act with respect and valor, yet Titus just slew his own son and refused to bury his body, which was considered savage in Roman society. In this example, Titus shows the same barbarism in his actions that he condemns in the Goths.


Regardless of status and identity, the characters in Titus Andronicus show on multiple levels their savagery and barbarism. As each side condemns the other, Shakespeare makes a point of showing that human nature is not above animal nature.

Website Reflection


The general idea for the design of my website is an even mix of textual and visual media. The appearance I chose for this site reflects this idea well because it devotes a third of the page to visual media and the rest to text. I also wanted to make the site clean and easy to read, so the white background and colored text works well in that regard. The problems I found with my site extend from the navigation. The way that the posts are presented puts them in a dilapidated order. The blog posts are all in one place but are somewhat unrelated in play and topic and the larger projects that are presented as a separate page on the menu bar are not specifically identified from the menu title. Ideally, I’d like to develop an effective way of presenting the motley information that inhabits my website. I am not sure if I should separate the pages by individual play and organize blog posts and projects under those headings, or if I should generate organization through topics. For example, there are similarities between my first Tempest blog post where I determine that man has power over nature and my King Lear post where I determine that man is subservient to nature. These contrasting ideas would be good to look at together, but I don’t want to sacrifice organization to do so. Perhaps the way to satisfy both connection and organization would be to organize by play and then connect related pieces with text, images, or hyperlinks. The site overall is relatively easy to navigate, so I don’t want to make too many changes to make it more confusing. The pages themselves look good, but I want to add some more visual media within the post itself and not just on the side of the page. Perhaps a solution would be to insert visual media to the titles of each page. The pictures from the presentation would probably not fit in to the individual pages on the site, but I could make more use of them in the presentation page itself. Overall, I am happy with the site that I have produced thus far, and will only make changes that increase the organization and themes of the project.

Rough Draft of Beginning Portion of Reflection Essay

Hello and welcome to Shakespeare: A Modern View of a Renaissance Playwright. My name is Hannah Middlebrook, and I am a student at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. This website documents my trek into the depths of Shakespeare’s plays with a modern lens. The plays here are discussed through the lens of the modern world, relating the texts to current environmental issues and social culture, as well as offering in depth analysis and close reading of five of Shakespeare’s plays.

As well as being a student, I also am an actor and have performed Shakespeare’s works, most recently as Ophelia in the New American Shakespeare Tavern’s Intensive production in June 2014. Though I do not blatantly go into detail of the texts through an actor’s perspective, all of the analyses and ideas are explored in a way that I would try to explore them as an actor.

The different takes on each project are meant to create multiple and interesting modern ways to talk about 400-year-old texts. The projects range from infographics to essays to video presentations to attempt to draw attention to the depths of Shakespeare in a variety of ways. The different ways of presenting the analysis were slightly challenging to maneuver through. The projects required often serious subjects to be presented in a slightly more casual, yet still professional way. Also, the variety of methods allows for a greater use of visual media which can add to comprehension and interest. By taking text and reproducing it in images and other forms of visual media, more connections can be made concerning the text.


Proposed Revisions:

  • Adding more visual media to pages
    • Title design
    • Specific pictures
  • More organized pages
    • Organize by play or theme? Or both?
  • Add more works cited
  • Add connections between projects

The Depravity of the Senses


I argue that the downfall of man, as suggested in King Lear by Shakespeare, stems from the deprivation of the senses. This motif echoes throughout the play. The two most prominent examples of this deprivation are Gloucester’s actual blindness and Lear’s metaphorical blindness, his madness. In both of these cases, great men have lost their sensory of the world, as they similarly lose their status in the world. Both of these men’s blindness begins with their misplaced trust in their children. Lear banishes Cordelia, arguably his only daughter who truly cares for him, and places his life in the hands of his scheming elder daughters. Gloucester likewise trusts the wrong offspring. He believes Edmund’s claim that Edgar is threatening his life, while Edmund rallies against his father. Edmund even physically causes his father’s blindness, although indirectly. By putting faith in unfaithful hands, Lear and Gloucester are symbolically blind to the evidence before them.

Another use of sensory deprivation in King Lear is that of confusion. Edgar is confused as Edmund tells him to flee the castle. Lear is wandering around the heath, mumbling strange words in the middle of the storm. The Fool speaks complex and bewildering lines. This overarching confusion within the play foreshadows each character’s downfall. As the character’s lose touch with the reality of their world, they begin the slow spiral to tragedy.

Lear begins to notice his lack of clarity in his mental capacities as he is chastised by the Fool. He expresses his fear of losing his mind as he begs the divine, “O let me not be mad sweet heauen!/I would not be mad,/keepe me in temper,I would not be mad” (5.42-44). This is his realization that his grip on both his kingdom and his mind is loosening. His loss of his senses is his loss of his identity. This loss of identity leads to his destruction. Similarly, when Edgar takes on the identity of the mad beggar, he loses his own, saying, “Edgar I nothing am” (7.186). However, because he is not completely insane, he is able to regain his identity at the end of the play.

Critical Responses

“I Stumbled When I Saw”: Interpreting Gloucester’s Blindness in King Lear

Glossed Text

Enter Gloster brought in by two or three,
Reg. Ingratfull Fox tis hee.
Corn. Bind fast his corkie armes.
Glost. What meanes your Graces,good my friends consider,
             You are my gests, doe me no foule play friends.
Corn. Bind him I say,
Reg. Hard hard, O filthie traytor!
Glost. Vnmercifull Lady as you are, I am true.
Corn. To this chaire bind him, villaine thou shalt find—
Glost. By the kind Gods tis most ignobly done, to pluck me
Reg.    So white and such a Traytor.
Glost. Naughty Ladie,these haires which thou dost rauish from my chin
             Will quicken and accuse thee, I am your host.
             With robbers hands, my hospitable fauours
             You should not ruffell thus, what will you doe.
Corn.  Come sir, what letters had you late from France?
Reg.    Be simple answerer, for we know the truth.
Corn.  And what confederacy haue you with the tratours late
             footed in the king dome?
Reg.    To whose hands you haue sent the lunatick King speake?
Glost. I haue a letter gessingly set downe
             Which came from one,that’s of a neutrall heart,
             And not from one oppos’d.
Corn.  Cunning. Reg. And false.
Corn. Where hast thou sent the King? Glost. To Douer.
Reg.    Wherefore to Douer? wast thou not charg’d at perill—
Corn. Wherefore to Douer? let him first answere that.
Glost. I am tide tot’h stake, and I must stand the course.
Reg.    Wherefore to Douer sir?
Glost. Because I would not see thy cruell nayles
             Pluck out his poore old eyes2, nor thy fierce sister
              In his annoynted flesh rash borish phangs,
             The Sea with such a storme of his lou’d head
             In hell blacke night indur’d, would haue layd vp
             And quencht the steeled fires, yet poore old heart,
             Hee holpt the heauens to rage,
             If wolues had at thy gate heard that dearne time
             Thou shouldst haue said,good Porter turne the key,
             All cruels else subscrib’d but I shall see
             The winged vengeance ouertake such children.
Corn. Seet shalt thou neuer, fellowes hold the chaire,
            Vponthose eyes of thine, Ile set my foote.
Glost. He that will thinke to liue till he be old
            Giue me some helpe, O cruell, O ye Gods!
Reg.    One side will mocke another,tother to.
Corn. If you see vengeance—
Seruant. Hold your hand my Lord
             I haue seru’d euer since I was a child
             But better seruicehaue I neuer done you,thẽ now to bid you hold.
Reg.     How now you dogge.
              on this quarrell,what doe you meane?
Corn. My villaine.
draw and fight.
Seru.   Why then come on,and take the chance of anger.
Reg.    Giue me thy sword, a pesant stand vp thus.

Shee takes a sword and runs at him behind.

Seruant. Oh I am slaine my Lord,yet haue you one eye left to
                  see some mischiefe on him, oh!
Corn,       Least it see more preuent it, out vild Ielly.
                   Where is thy luster now?
Glost.        All darke and comfortles, wher’s my sonne Edmund?
                    Edmund vnbridle all the sparks of nature,to quit this horred act.
Reg.           Out villaine, thou calst on him that hates thee, it was he
                    that made the ouerture of thy treasons to vs, who is too good to
                    pittie thee.
Glost.       O my follies, then Edgar was abus’d,
                   Kind Gods forgiue me that,and prosper him.
Reg.          Goe thrust him out at gates, and let him smell his way to
                   Douer, how ist my Lord? how looke you?
Corn.        I haue receiu’d a hurt, follow me Ladie,
                   Turne out that eyles villaine, throw this slaue vpon
                   The dungell Regan,I bleed apace,vntimely
                   Comes this hurt, giue meyour arme.3
Seruant. Ile neuer care what wickednes I doe,
                   If this man come to good.
2 Seruant. If she liue long, & in the end meet the old course
                    of death, women will all turne monsters.
1 Ser.         Lets follow the old Earle,and get the bedlom4
                    To lead him where he would, his madnes
                    Allows it selfe to any thing.
2 Ser.        Goe thou, ile fetch some flaxe and whites of egges to
                    apply to his bleeding face,now heauen helpe him.

King Lear and Nature

A strong theme running through King Lear is that of man’s weakness against nature. The natural ways of the world are constantly outmaneuvering the wills of the characters. This is especially prominent in the characters of Edmund and Lear. Edmund’s first soliloquy begins with, “Thou, nature, art my goddess” (1.2.1). Edmund worships nature as being more worthy than manmade policy. He thinks himself just as noble and valuable as his legitimate brother Edgar, but due to social constructs, his bastardy makes him of a baser nature. His goal in the play is to thwart nature by overthrowing his father and brother and becoming the Earl of Gloucester. His plan fully depends on nature to aid him in this quest by proving Edmund to actually be worthy enough to accomplish it. Yet Edmund is still doomed by nature. His plan ultimately fails and leaves him dead, and in his final moments, he feels regret for what he has wrought. Nature has condemned him as apparently weaker than the loyal and true Edgar and has punished Edmund for it.
King Lear also experiences the overpowering strength of nature. As Lear wanders around the heath in the rain, he yells to the heavens,

“Blow, wind, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow,
You cataracts and hurricanes, spout
Till you have drenched the steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head; and thou all-shaking thunder,
Smite flat the thick rotundity of the world,
Crack nature’s mould, all germens spill at once
That make ungrateful man. (3.2.1-9)

In this speech, Lear acknowledges the superior power of nature, and recognizes his inferiority and weakness, as both a king and a man. This recognition shows that even he, a great and powerful king, is still reduced to a powerless being in the face of the storm. As he ambles through the rough winds, he acknowledges his fall from power and thus tempts the chaos around him to destroy the rest of men as well. His speech condemns man, and gives nature the power to do it. The strong storm in the turmoil of King Lear also shows nature admonishing man for his errors. The chaos of the storm is what Lear deserves after his banishment of perhaps the only loyal members of his court, Cordelia and Kent.
The power of nature over man relates to the current crisis of the flooding in South Carolina. Heavy rains added to high rivers, which in turn flooded residential areas and caused devastation within the state. King Lear’s focus on the power of nature is reflected in this situation. Firstly, the storms and heavy rains that are causing the flooding in South Carolina directly mimic the storm in King Lear. The residents of the state are left to wander without hope of reprieve, just as Lear taunts the storm to continue raging. Secondly, regardless of man’s modern power, the storm in South Carolina was going to destroy people’s homes and lives. Man may be able to predict weather patterns and build structures to prevent such destruction, but ultimately, nature will exceed the power of man. In the light of this tragic reality, the comfort we can find in the text of King Lear is that these feats of nature are barely preventable. Man cannot blame himself for not overcoming nature, even to protect lives and homes, because nature is uncontrollable.


“Mate” in The Taming of the Shrew


In Act 1, scene 1 of The Taming of the Shrew, Katherine responds to an insult from Gremio with “I pray you, sir, is it your will/To make a stale of me amongst these mates?”(1.1.57-58)  In this context, “mate” has the a double meaning. She means both “a habitual companion” and “the final position in a game of chess” (Hodgdon footnote, 163). The former meaning is referenced in Gremio’s response in the next line, “No mates for you/Unless you were of a gentler, milder mould” (1.1.59-60), whereas the latter meaning is referenced in the first half of the line with the word “stale,” meaning a stalemate in chess.



1225- According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word ‘mate‘ was first used as an adjective to mean “overcome, vanquished, defeated, [and] confounded” and a century later to mean “dejected, downcast, sorrowful, [and] discouraged.”

1225-Mate was first used as a verb with the meaning “to overcome, defeat [or] subdue.”

1330-Mate was used as a noun, meaning “a move, or sequence of forcing moves, by which the king is checkmated.”

1380-Mate was used as a noun, meaning “a companion, fellow, comrade, friend” and is now chiefly colloquial.

1509-Mate was used as a verb, meaning “to equal, rival; to be a match for.”

1593-Mate was used as a noun, meaning “either of a mating pair of birds or other animals.”

Mate in Shakespeare

‘Mate’ appears in Shakespeare’s works nineteen times, mainly meaning  ‘companion’, ‘comrade’, or ‘marital partner,’ but often with the underlying meaning of ‘to equal’ or referencing the chess move. It appears in comedies, tragedies, and histories roughly equally.

Ariel and Nature in The Tempest

Prospero commands Ariel

Prospero commands Ariel

Ariel’s first lines spoken in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest serve to immediately show undeniable points of his character. At this point in the play, the tempest caused by magic has tossed a slew of people onto the shore of Prospero’s island, and Prospero recounts how he and his daughter Miranda were similarly tossed onto the island. Ariel then appears to his master with the words,

“All hail, great master, grave sir, hail! I come
To answer thy best pleasure; be’t to fly,
To swim, to dive into the fire, to ride
On the curled clouds. To thy strong bidding task
Ariel and all his quality.” (I, ii, 189-193)

This passage neatly begins with epanalepsis in the first line, beginning and ending with “hail”. This immediately indicates Ariel’s servant status to Prospero. From this introduction, Ariel’s role on the island is clear. He then continues with repetition of tasks for Prospero to command. This list also shows the subservient nature of Ariel to Prospero and fleshes out the elemental features of his character. He is essentially a personification of the elements. Ariel is characterized as an airy spirit and later describes his water and fire powers as shown on the ship. The suggestions of commands that he gives in the above lines correspond with his nature as an elemental being. “To fly” like the wind, “to swim” with the water, “to dive into the fire,” and “to ride on the curled clouds” all are tasks specifically for him. The tone in these lines even goes so far as to show his desire to work magic and tricks; it suggests a sort of duality between his attachment to his duty and perhaps even love for Prospero and his desire to be free.

Prospero and Ariel’s master-servant relationship mirrors a man over nature relationship. In society today, humans take control over the environment, working it for their personal gain, much like Prospero and his revenge. People will go to great lengths to harness nature. From using nonrenewable resources to creating pollutants, humans see their needs over the needs of their servant, the earth.