I finished this book yesterday. This particular Shakespeare play is set in 44 BC starting at the time of the great Feast of Lupercal. A festivity in Rome conducted annually on February 15. The origins of the festival are obscure, although the name is possibly derived from lupus (Latin: “wolf”) - It is further suggested there is a connection or correlation with an ancient deity who protected herds from wolves and with the legendary she-wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus. As a fertility rite, the festival is also said to be associated with the god Faunus.
The play concludes shortly after the Battle of Phillipi. The source of the play is most likely the histories written by Plutarch. Shakespeare has dramatized many elements and added such memorable lines as: "Et tu Brute?" The play was written c1599, a time when the aging ruler of England, Queen Elizabeth had not yet named her successor and the nation was on the verge of civil war. The drama and emotions noted in the play actually reflect much of the tensions of the time. It was at once a success with the audiences.
Here is the abbreviated plot summary: Julius Caesar is a highly successful leader of Rome whose popularity seems to model that of a king's. Although Caesar is loved and supported by his citizens, some begin to grow concerned of his increase in power. Soon, these suspicious citizens conspire to assassinate Caesar before he becomes king thereby turning their republic into a monarchy. Cassius, the leader of the conspirators, convinces Marcus Brutus, Caesar's most trusted friend, to join the conspiracy. During a celebration, Caesar is warned by the Soothsayer that he must "beware the Ides of March". The next morning, despite his wife Calpurnia's appeals, Caesar travels to the Senate House where the conspirators stab him to death. Caesar's friend Mark Antony provides the famous funeral oration and incites the crowd to riot leading to a civil war. Antony and Octavius, Caesar's heirs, join the fight against the conspirators. Antony and Octavius defeat the conspirators avenging Caesar's death and restoring order back to Rome.
Notable quotes for me were: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars but in ourselves, that we are underlings". – Gaius Cassius (Act I, Scene II)
"Cowards die many times before their deaths, The valiant never taste of death but once".
– Julius Caesar (Act II, Scene 2)
"The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones". – Mark Antony (Act III, Scene 2)
26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616
Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England
Sources: Encyclopedia Britannica. Lupercalia. Nov, 8 2018. Oct, 27 2020
For the final book of this challenge I read the 1818 edition of Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. I would think everyone knows the plot by now, but here's the short version; Dr. Victor Von Frankenstein creates a simple creature from various body parts. The creature turns into a monster when Dr. Frankenstein rejects him. Let me say this before I continue. I have no interest in modern-day horror stories and somehow thought this book similar. I stand completely corrected and admit my error in judgement. Not only was it much better than expected, but it has become my favorite read thus far in 2020!
Having never read Shelley before, I thought perhaps her prose would reflect that of her late Mother and her best known work (A Vindication of the Rights of Woman 1792). I was wrong again. Frankenstein was simply gorgeous to me. I was so surprised by how exceptional and pleasing to the ear her prose remained throughout the novel. The eloquent descriptions of the human condition really captured my interest.
I noticed immediately the many references to the Bible, and it's worth noting that many of those are references to the early chapters of Genesis and particular the events of creation as told in this Old Testament Book. The Old Testament story is relevant to Frankenstein on several levels:
The novel was structured in an epistolary framework...which I dearly love! Shelley's writing really resonated with me. I enjoyed her ability to weave emotion, I enjoyed the plot momentum, and my heart shattered often for the 'monster'. The monster was so well described and portrayed that he became for me the emotional strand for the entire novel. This is just my opinion, but the 'Wretch' is among the finest literary creations ever penned. Victor Frankenstein was of course the villain of the work. His treatment of the monster was detestable, and despite this, I still found myself irresolute and vacillating over Frankenstein. Shelley masterfully helped me see past my disgust and disdain for him. In fact, I came to understand and appreciate Frankenstein’s very human position - though not enough for me to disregard his lack of compassion, but I did find him a very tragic though egotistical figure.
You should most certainly take the time to read this classic novel. It will forever be on my all time favorite list. The excellent prose, the imagery, the emotion and the characters are all supremely extraordinary. I'll leave you with a few of my favorite quotes:
“Solitude was my only consolation — deep, dark, deathlike solitude.”
“My heart was fashioned to be susceptible of love and sympathy, and when wrenched by misery to vice and hatred, it did not endure the violence of the change without torture such as you cannot even imagine.”
“Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it.”
“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851
Somers Town, London
As stated in the previous blog post, I took up the R.I.P. challenge (R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril) - The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle was first. A legendary curse has claimed one more victim. Sherlock Holmes is called in to examine.
Sir Henry Baskerville is the heir of his late Uncle Charles' Estate in Dartmoor. Sir Charles Baskerville is dead with no signs of violence; notwithstanding the terrified face displayed on his lifeless body. Dr. James Mortimer, the uncle's personal physician comes to Holmes to ask for assistance. Local legend is that Sir Charles was killed by a ghostly hound that haunts the moor to avenge the sins of one of the Baskerville ancestors. That ancestor was Hugo Baskerville, and the rumor is that a hideous and devilish hound-like beast had torn out the throat of Hugo many years before. Mortimer confides to Holmes that he found a hound’s footprint at the scene of Charles death. Has the ghostly demon attacked again? More importantly, is Sir Henry Baskerville now in imminent danger?
Intrigued, Holmes takes the case, and it becomes more interesting when Holmes spots a man following them in London and someone steals one of Sir Henry’s boots. Surprisingly, Holmes doesn’t go to Dartmoor, instead he sends Watson to investigate and report his findings. Watson indeed finds strange occurrences: suspicious-acting servants, a dangerous convict loose on the moor, and of course, the legend of the hound.
Doyle marvelously manages all of the intricate relationships in this story. I especially enjoyed the dynamics of the partnership between Holmes and Watson. I was ceaselessly amused by the two detective's dialogue and their quirky interactions. The characters of Holmes and Watson are truly iconic in this tale. The creepy plot was also brilliant and the atmosphere was quite suspenseful. It may be my favorite of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I'll leave you with a few memorable quotes.
"The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes." (p. 31)
"The devil’s agents may be of flesh and blood, may they not?" (p. 32)
"The setting is a worthy one, if the devil did desire to have a hand in the affairs of men." (p. 32)
"There's a light in a woman's eyes that speaks louder than words." (p. 94)
"Evil indeed is the man who has not one woman to mourn him." (p. 143)
Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle
22 May 1859 - 7 July 1930
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
“It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones. Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books.”
–C.S. Lewis, “Introduction” in St. Athanasius, De Incarnatione Verbi Dei (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1944/1993),