Great Figures in Shakespeare: Part 7 – Helen to Michael Cassio

cassio

Here is Iago giving a beer to Michael Cassio. Soon he’s going to have Roderigo provoke him into a brawl that will result in Cassio getting punished by Othello. This is later followed by Iago planting Desdemona’s handkerchief at Cassio’s house. Remember, everyone, friends don’t let friends share a beer with Iago.

Yes, I know seeing Lavinia in the last post might make your stomach churn. Yes, I know Titus Andronicus was written when Shakespeare was going through a Quentin Tarantino phase. But come on, a lot of his plays are pretty gory. After all, almost everyone dies in Macbeth, Hamlet, and King Lear. Also, most of his history plays contain a war of some sort being fought. So expect a body count of some sort. However, a battle scene isn’t going to look as gruesome on stage as it is in screen. After all, stage productions tend to have limited resources, Shakespeare included. So he probably wouldn’t have been able to do a reenactment of the Battle of Agincourt the way Kenneth Branaugh would. Anyway, in this selection, I bring you more Shakespearean figures like Helen and Bertram from All’s Well That Ends Well, Touchstone from As You Like It, Sir Toby Belch from Twelfth Night, Hermione from The Winter’s Tale, Horatio from Hamlet, Mariana from Measure for Measure, Richard of York, Duke of Gloucester, Octavius Caesar, Bassanio from The Merchant of Venice, Roderigo and Cassio from Othello, and Troilus and Cressida.

 

91. Helen

"Great floods have flown/From simple sources; and great seas have dried,/When miracles have by the greatest been denied./Oft expectation fails, and most oft there/Where most it promises." - Act II, Scene 1. Yes, but this doesn't mean you should try to get yourself pregnant to get your man to stay. And I don't care if you're married to Bertram.

“Great floods have flown/From simple sources; and great seas have dried,/When miracles have by the greatest been denied./Oft expectation fails, and most oft there/Where most it promises.” – Act II, Scene 1. Yes, but this doesn’t mean you should try to get yourself pregnant to get your man to stay. And I don’t care if you’re married to Bertram.

From: All’s Well That Ends Well

Pro: Almost everyone thinks she’s a great girl who’s smart, beautiful, and more than worthy of some decent guy’s love. Is able to hold her own by talking dirty back to an aggressive guy and doesn’t back down from a fight. Scores a husband in Bertram by curing the French king of his illness.

Con: She’s in love with Bertram who treats her like garbage and doesn’t love her back. So she stalks him and tricks him into staying with her by getting pregnant. She might come off as a social climber since the king gives her a new title and a bunch of money after she and Bertram get married. And she’s still willing to stay with him even when he deserts and cheats on her.

Fate: Married to Bertram and pregnant with his baby. However, whether all’s well that ends well is the question.

 

92. Hermione

"It shall scarce boot me/To say Not guilty; mine integrity/Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it,/Be so receiv'd. But thus, — if powers divine/Behold our human actions (as they do),/I doubt not, then, but innocence shall make/False accusation blush, and tyranny/Tremble at patience." - Act III, Scene 2. Unfortunately, all hell breaks loose for Leontes that he ends up regretting his jealousy that destroyed his family.

“It shall scarce boot me/To say Not guilty; mine integrity/Being counted falsehood, shall, as I express it,/Be so receiv’d. But thus, — if powers divine/Behold our human actions (as they do),/I doubt not, then, but innocence shall make/False accusation blush, and tyranny/Tremble at patience.” – Act III, Scene 2. Unfortunately, all hell breaks loose for Leontes that he ends up regretting his jealousy that destroyed his family.

From: The Winter’s Tale

Pro: She’s a lovely wife and doting mother who’s unfairly accused of cheating on her husband, thrown in prison, and stands trial for treason. While standing on trial, she remains eloquent and poised as she calmly denies any wrongdoing. Her son’s death breaks her heart.

Con: However, possibly faking her death for 16 years is a great way to punish her husband for his cheating accusations.

Fate: Supposedly comes back to like from a statue and is reunited with her daughter and husband. However, her son Mammilius is still dead.

 

93. Horatio

"Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;/And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." - Act V, Scene 2. Boy, Horatio's going to have serious PTSD after dealing with all the dead bodies.

“Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;/And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.” – Act V, Scene 2. Boy, Horatio’s going to have serious PTSD after dealing with all the dead bodies.

From: Hamlet

Pro: He’s the voice of reason in this play and he’s basically hanging out just to give his friend Hamlet much needed emotional support. Is the only one in Hamlet’s life who he can really trust because he doesn’t have any reason to betray him in some fashion. Is the only person Hamlet is consistently nice to. He’s smart and is very good with keeping secrets. Also has his head screwed on just right and is not part of the action.

Con: For one, he mostly doesn’t do anything. Second, due to all the crap that happened in this play, there’s a chance he might suffer from PTSD. Third, has to deal with the dead bodies in the end.

Fate: Survives the play so he lives to tell the tale. Not that it helps him.

 

94. Touchstone

"Ay, now am I in Arden; the more fool I. When I was at home I was in a better place, but travelers must be content. " - Act II, Scene 4. Looks like he misses court already. Well, perhaps he's not used to camping in the woods.

“Ay, now am I in Arden; the more fool I. When I was at home I was in a better place, but travelers must be content. ” – Act II, Scene 4. Looks like he misses court already. Well, perhaps he’s not used to camping in the woods.

From: As You Like It

Pro: He’s brilliant with a quick wit as well as insightful about human nature. Accompanies Celia and Rosalind in the Forest of Arden after Rosalind’s exile just to comfort them. Can say wise things in an amusing way without sounding like a drone. Laughs at himself as easily as he laughs at others.

Con: Can drive listeners to frustration if they’re not as sharp as he is. Loves to twist any argument and nitpick over any little thing. Falls for a dull witted woman named Audrey and threatens to kill a romantic rival in 150 ways.

Fate: Marries Audrey in a wedding ceremony with Orlando and Rosalind, Oliver and Celia, and Silvanus and Phebe. However, judging that he and Audrey don’t have a lot in common, it seems the relationship isn’t going to last.

 

95. Octavius Caesar

"He calls me boy; and chides, as he had power/To beat me out of Egypt; my messenger/He hath whipp'd with rods; dares me to personal combat,/Caesar to Antony: let the old ruffian know/I have many other ways to die; meantime/Laugh at his challenge." - Act IV, Scene 1. Seems like young Octavius really doesn't like being seen as a little squirt any more. And he wants to take over Rome for himself.

“He calls me boy; and chides, as he had power/To beat me out of Egypt; my messenger/He hath whipp’d with rods; dares me to personal combat,/Caesar to Antony: let the old ruffian know/I have many other ways to die; meantime/Laugh at his challenge.” – Act IV, Scene 1. Seems like young Octavius really doesn’t like being seen as a little squirt any more. And he wants to take over Rome for himself.

From: Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra

Pro: Maybe young but is no pushover. Helps Antony defeat conspirators against his adoptive father. Later manages to defeat Antony and Cleopatra in battle and becomes emperor as well as one of the greatest Roman rulers ever. So he’s pretty pragmatic, determined, and smart. Extremely fond of his sister that he’s absolutely pissed when Antony abandons her. Is as menacingly an adversary as well as convincingly human.

Con: Unfortunately, once the conspirators are out of the way, “the let’s rule Rome together” thing doesn’t quite work out and he later turns on Antony. Is absolutely ruthless in getting what he wants. Disapproves of everything Antony stands for and thinks he’s squandering his duties during his time in Egypt. Is rigid and puritanical as well as a massive control freak. Also, he tends to use his sister as a pawn and doesn’t really consider that Antony may have an Egyptian squeeze. Not above trickery and willing to lie to get Cleopatra under his control. Has Lepidus done away with on spurious grounds and doesn’t seem overly concerned with keeping his word if it gets in his way. Orders those who’ve deserted Antony to fight on the front lines.

Fate: Becomes the first Roman Emperor. However, he doesn’t relish in Antony’s death and mourns the loss of a great soldier as well as buries him with Cleopatra.

 

96. Richard of York

"Is all our travail turned to this effect?/After the slaughter of so many peers,/So many captains, gentlemen and soldiers/That in this quarrel have been overthrown/And sold their bodies for their country's benefit,/Shall we at last conclude effeminate peace?" - Act V, Scene 3 in Henry VI Part 1. I guess he wasn't happy with losing a war with France. Well, there's always the Wars of the Roses.

“Is all our travail turned to this effect?/After the slaughter of so many peers,/So many captains, gentlemen and soldiers/That in this quarrel have been overthrown/And sold their bodies for their country’s benefit,/Shall we at last conclude effeminate peace?” – Act V, Scene 3 in Henry VI Part 1. I guess he wasn’t happy with losing a war with France. Well, there’s always the Wars of the Roses.

From: Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3

Pro: Loves his kids and is devastated by the death of Edmund of Rutland. Not afraid to fight and is no person to mess with. He’s calculating, smart, and strong. Would probably make a better king than Henry VI if he ever made it that far.

Con: His claim to the throne once he becomes Duke of York kicks off the Wars of the Roses. Hires a guy named Jack Cade to do his dirty work for him while he’s away in Ireland under the king’s command but he went back with that army. May not always be sincere so it’s probably not best to make a deal with him. Because he’ll probably break it.

Fate: Is stabbed by Queen Margaret of Anjou who taunts him with the death of his son.

 

97. Duke of Gloucester

"So long as I am loyal, true and crimeless./Wouldst have me rescue thee from this reproach?/Why, yet thy scandal were not wiped away,/But I in danger for the breach of law." Act II, Scene 4 in Henry VI Part 2. Now I guess this guy isn't going to be husband of the year. Even more surprising is that this guy's Lord Grantham.

“So long as I am loyal, true and crimeless./Wouldst have me rescue thee from this reproach?/Why, yet thy scandal were not wiped away,/But I in danger for the breach of law.” Act II, Scene 4 in Henry VI Part 2. Now I guess this guy isn’t going to be husband of the year. Even more surprising is that this guy’s Lord Grantham.

From: Henry VI Parts 1 and 2

Pro: Is a kindhearted guy to his nephew Henry VI and genuinely loves him like a son. So he’ll only give up his Protector title when Henry wants him to. Is totally not abusing his power and doesn’t want more. Stands up for himself when he’s wrongly accused of treason and strongly believes in justice.

Con: Denounces his wife after she breaks a law and goes on a walk of shame. He also likes his power as Protector but becomes a very vulnerable assassination target. Also his advice to Henry against marrying Margaret eventually got him killed.

Fate: Assassinated in a plot involving Queen Margaret, Duke of Suffolk, Duke of Somerset, and Cardinal Beaufort.

 

98. Mariana

"Now I come to't my lord/She that accuses him of fornication,/In self-same manner doth accuse my husband,/And charges him my lord, with such a time/When I'll depose I had him in mine arms/With all the effect of love." - Act V, Scene 1. Well, at least Mariana's sex with Angelo helps solve everything in this play.

“Now I come to’t my lord/She that accuses him of fornication,/In self-same manner doth accuse my husband,/And charges him my lord, with such a time/When I’ll depose I had him in mine arms/With all the effect of love.” – Act V, Scene 1. Well, at least Mariana’s sex with Angelo helps solve everything in this play.

From: Measure for Measure

Pro: Well, her willingness to sleep with Angelo in a bed trick gives Isabella one less thing to worry about. You also can’t blame her for wanting to get back at her ex for dumping her after her dowry was lost when her brother’s ship sank.

Con: Isolating yourself by living in a farmhouse surrounded by a moat is no way to handle a traumatic breakup. Also, by sleeping with Angelo, she runs the risk of having to marry the guy who dumped her for being broke. Then again, she might be aware of it and is willing to deal with the consequences. But even so, you’d have to wonder why she’d take him back after what he did to her.

Fate: Marries Angelo. Hope she’s happy with her decision. Then again, to her this is more like sweet revenge.

 

99. Bertram

"Go thou toward home; where I will never come/Whilst I can shake my sword or hear the drum.— /Away, and for our flight." - Act II, Scene 5. Well, maybe I can understand him. But still, he shouldn't really ditch a girl like Helena. Also, he's an absolute prick.

“Go thou toward home; where I will never come/Whilst I can shake my sword or hear the drum.— /Away, and for our flight.” – Act II, Scene 5. Well, maybe I can understand him. But still, he shouldn’t really ditch a girl like Helena. Also, he’s an absolute prick.

From: All’s Well That Ends Well

Pro: He’s rich, handsome, has lots of friends, and is a great soldier. Honest with not loving Helen and doesn’t think he should marry her because she did the King of France a favor.

Con: In short, he’s an absolute jerk. Now it’s one thing that he doesn’t like Helen as well as loathes being forced to marry her. However, this guy’s a rotten human being who’s mostly unwilling to marry Helen because of her social class more than anything (though she was also raised by his parents). After their wedding, he tricks her into going back to the Countess so he can run away to Italy where he acts like a total player and tries to seduce a girl named Diana. And he lies about it later to the king of France.

Fate: Married to Helen but it’s not exactly all’s well that ends well to him.

 

100. Bassanio

"In Belmont is a lady richly left;/And she is fair, and fairer than that word,/Of wondrous virtues. Sometimes from her eyes/I did receive fair speechless messages." - Act I, Scene 1. Well, at least he lives in an era of institutionalized gold digging. But he greatly desires to marry Portia for her assets.

“In Belmont is a lady richly left;/And she is fair, and fairer than that word,/Of wondrous virtues. Sometimes from her eyes/I did receive fair speechless messages.” – Act I, Scene 1. Well, at least he lives in an era of institutionalized gold digging. But he greatly desires to marry Portia for her assets.

From: The Merchant of Venice

Pro: Well, he has to be nice, smart, and good looking enough to win Portia’s hand and her heart. Loves Portia enough to be married to her (even though she may not be his top priority in his life).

Con: He’s an idiot and what 90’s R&B group TLC would call a classic, “scrub.” Has a lavish lifestyle but is really bad with money that he usually borrows from whomever he could instead of getting a job (luckily he lives at a time of institutionalized gold digging). And it’s clear that he’s been sponging off from his rich friends with Antonio included. But when Antonio can’t give him anything, he goes to Shylock. His plan for getting out of debt involves borrowing even more money so he could hook up with Portia whom he hopes will pay off all his loans and support his lavish lifestyle. So he takes a personal loan from Shylock and puts up a pound of Antonio’s flesh as collateral which is a really bad idea. Of course, he doesn’t take into account that Antonio’s ship going down in a storm that puts him in serious financial trouble, which is what happens and Shylock has Antonio arrested and brought before court. He may love Portia, but he’s more bent on marrying her for her vast disposable assets than anything else since he initially speaks of her as if she’s a cash cow. And even after they get married, he interrupts their honeymoon so he could help out his friend Antonio and gives up her ring.

Fate: Marries Portia in a double wedding ceremony with Gratanio and Nerissa. In Portia he gets everything he wants.

 

101. Sir Toby Belch

"If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction." - Act III, Scene 4. However, I'm sure Malvolio isn't going to find it funny.

“If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.” – Act III, Scene 4. However, I’m sure Malvolio isn’t going to find it funny.

From: Twelfth Night

Pro: Well, he likes to have a good time and knows how important it is, too. He’s also a force of vitality, noise, and good cheer. Whatever his faults, he’s certainly no snob as shown by his love and appreciation for Maria. And he doesn’t care what people think about him. Not to mention, he and Maria seem to be a better model for a relationship than other Shakespearean couples since they’ve known each other for a long time and share a similar sense of humor.

Con: He’s basically Olivia’s uncle who’s an endless source of embarrassment, especially when he goes on a night out drinking. This to the point that Olivia has Feste watching him. He’s also not above to live off someone else’s money whether it be his niece’s or Sir Andrew’s. Oh, and he likes to torment Malvolio for kicks and the fact he wants Olivia to cut him off. But at least he wants to let Malvolio go and move on. But he also tends to egg on Sir Andrew to woo his niece despite that she’s obviously not interested in him.

Fate: Marries his niece’s Olivia’s handmaid Maria. However, the two might be cast out soon for what they did to Malvolio.

 

102. Troilus

"The Greeks are strong and skilful to their strength, Fierce to their skill and to their fierceness valiant; But I am weaker than a woman's tear, Tamer than sleep, fonder than ignorance, Less valiant than the virgin in the night And skilless as unpracticed infancy." - Act I, Scene 1. Seems like Troilus is really preoccupied with Cressida at the moment.

“The Greeks are strong and skilful to their strength, Fierce to their skill and to their fierceness valiant; But I am weaker than a woman’s tear, Tamer than sleep, fonder than ignorance, Less valiant than the virgin in the night And skilless as unpracticed infancy.” – Act I, Scene 1. Seems like Troilus is really preoccupied with Cressida at the moment.

From: Troilus and Cressida

Pro: Is very much in love with Cressida that he declares his undying love for her. Is completely crushed when she hooks up with another guy.

Con: He’s fatally self-absorbed from the start. Obsesses over his own feelings that he forgets to pay attention to Cressida’s personality. Also totally obsessed with her body and talks about how he wants to have sex with her.

Fate: Well, he and Cressida don’t really get back together.

 

103. Cressida

"Yet hold I off. Women are angels, wooing: Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing. That she beloved knows nought that knows not this: Men prize the thing ungain'd more than it is." - Act I, Scene 2. So she's playing hard to get. I know how that goes. So I guess she's either not that into him, leading him on, or very immature.

“Yet hold I off. Women are angels, wooing: Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing. That she beloved knows nought that knows not this: Men prize the thing ungain’d more than it is.” – Act I, Scene 2. So she’s playing hard to get. I know how that goes. So I guess she’s either not that into him, leading him on, or very immature.

From: Troilus and Cressida

Pro: Well, she’s pretty. Also, she might’ve been sincere when she promised to love Troilus forever and remain faithful because she doesn’t seem treated to have a will or desires of her own.

Con: She’s one of the most unreliable characters in literary history. Though she falls in love with Troilus and promises to love him forever, she has a reputation for being a serious flirt who’s very good at mind games. But says she plays hard to get with Troilus because she’s afraid he won’t prize her as much once he sleeps with her. Uses her beauty and sexuality to get what she wants but whether it’s either because she enjoys the attention or feels like she has no choice is hard to say. May be kind of a promiscuous woman because she can’t help herself.

Fate: Well, she and Troilus don’t really get back together.

 

104. Roderigo

" I do follow here in the chase, not like a hound that hunts, but one that fills up the cry. My money is almost spent; I have been to-night exceedingly well cudgelled; and I think the issue will be, I shall have so much experience for my pains, and so, with no money at all and a little more wit, return again to Venice." Act II, Scene 3. Of course, Roderigo has no idea that Desdemona doesn't want him and that Iago is using him as a walking ATM in his evil schemes.

” I do follow here in the chase, not like a hound that hunts, but one that fills up the cry. My money is almost spent; I have been to-night exceedingly well cudgelled; and I think the issue will be, I shall
have so much experience for my pains, and so, with no money at all and a little more wit, return again to Venice.” Act II, Scene 3. Of course, Roderigo has no idea that Desdemona doesn’t want him and that Iago is using him as a walking ATM in his evil schemes.

From: Othello

Pro: He’s rich.

Con: Lusts after Desdemona and thinks he could win her back if he follows her and her new husband to Cyprus and gives her enough presents. Is a complete idiot who Iago plays as a complete pawn by using him as a walking ATM and inciting a brawl with Cassio. Gives jewelry to Iago that he thinks is going to Desdemona but in reality, Iago is selling the stuff for a profit. Iago also persuades him to kill Cassio, too.

Fate: Stabbed by Iago and left for dead.

 

105. Michael Cassio

"Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!" - Act 2. Scene 3. Don't worry, he'll get it back. After all, he's the most decent guy in the cast. Then again, that's not saying much.

“Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have
lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation, Iago, my reputation!” – Act 2. Scene 3. Don’t worry, he’ll get it back. After all, he’s the most decent guy in the cast. Then again, that’s not saying much.

From: Othello

Pro: He’s loyal to Othello and gets promoted for his high manners and theoretical learning. Also, he’s perhaps one of the most decent male characters in the cast.

Con: He’s very immature. Has no practical knowledge of battle. Has a Madonna-Whore Complex as well as treats his prostitute girlfriend Bianca like shit. His flirting with Emilia and Desdemona also doesn’t help matters. Gets tricked by Iago into getting drunk and into a brawl with Roderigo which gets him in trouble and costs him his job.

Fate: Gets to bring Iago to justice but since he got stabbed by Roderigo in the leg, he might be permanently crippled.

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