The book presents a nightmarish vision of a future society. Brave New World is set in ce , which the novel identifies as the year AF The novel examines a futuristic society, called the World State, that revolves around science and efficiency. Huxley begins the novel by thoroughly explaining the scientific and compartmentalized nature of this society, beginning at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre, where children are created outside the womb and cloned in order to increase the population.
The reader is then introduced to the class system of this world, where citizens are sorted as embryos to be of a certain class.
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The embryos, which exist within tubes and incubators , are provided with differing amounts of chemicals and hormones in order to condition them into predetermined classes. Embryos destined for the higher classes get chemicals to perfect them both physically and mentally, whereas those of the lower classes are altered to be imperfect in those respects. The Alphas are bred to be leaders, and the Epsilons are bred to be menial labourers. Bernard Marx, an Alpha, is one of the main characters of the story. When the two arrive, they see people living there engaging in unfamiliar rituals.
They also stumble upon a woman Linda and her son John, also referred to as the Savage who Marx correctly assumes to be the lost family mentioned by the Director. The Director had recently been threatening to send Marx away for his antisocial behavior, so Marx decides to bring the two home with him. She eventually dies because of it, which causes John to go on an anti-soma rampage in the hallway of the hospital.
John becomes angrier and angrier with this society, until eventually he runs away to a lighthouse to live in isolation. He is able to evade tourists and reporters for a while, but eventually they find him and gawk as he engages in self-flagellation.
The intensity of the crowd increases when John whips not only himself but a woman as well. Crowds descend from helicopters to witness the spectacle.
Another woman appears who is implied to be Lenina , and John attempts to whip her too. John is soon overcome with passion, and, after coming under the influence of soma, he falls asleep. The next morning, appalled at his complicity in the system, he hangs himself.
Huxley picked up on such optimism and created the dystopian world of his novel so as to criticize it. Much of the anxiety that drives Brave New World can be traced to a widespread belief in technology as a futuristic remedy for problems caused by disease and war.
Unlike his fellow citizens, Huxley felt that such a reliance was naive, and he decided to challenge these ideas by imagining them taken to their extremes. When he died in , he left Anne out of his will, bequeathing her only, as an apparent afterthought, his "second best bed. Greenblatt interprets Shakespeare's plays and poetry in light of this likelihood; his works show mixed feelings, at best, about marriage. They suggest a pessimistic view in which couples meet, fall in love, marry, and fall out of love.
Beatrice and her lover, Benedick, are perhaps the only couple in Shakespeare's principal comedies that actually seem to have a good prospect for the future; other couples seem ill-matched. In the plays considered as "problem comedies," such as Measure for Measure , characters are forced to marry against their will—as Greenblatt suspects was the case with Shakespeare.
Perhaps this is why Shakespeare stresses the importance of avoiding premarital sex in plays like Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest. Those mature married couples in his plays who do maintain intimacy, such as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, have disturbingly warped relationships. However, Shakespeare's sonnets show that he did experience love—but only outside of marriage. What brought Shakespeare, in the mids, to leave Anne and their three small children to go make his fortune in London?
Greenblatt explores a story that emerged in the late seventeenth century that Shakespeare was seeking to escape punishment after having been caught illegally hunting, or poaching, for deer on the property of his powerful neighbor, Sir Thomas Lucy. He suggests that this story might have been a front for a more serious clash with Lucy, who was a devoted Protestant and a persecutor of secret Catholics. Lucy was involved in the arrests and investigations that led to the deaths of Shakespeare's distant relations, John Somerville and Edward Arden, both condemned as Catholic traitors.
It is possible that Shakespeare, too, had something to fear. It is also possible that he had the opportunity to join up with a prestigious troupe of players, the Queen's Men, who were in Stratford in and possibly had an opening for a young actor. His arrival in London would have been exciting. It was a teeming city, dangerous, rapidly changing, with impressive architecture and sights. It would become the model for the urban settings in Shakespeare's plays. It is likely that Shakespeare's point of entry into the city was London Bridge , where he would have seen the heads of Somerville and Arden still on spikes.
The fate of these relatives might give a clue to the lack of information now available for Shakespeare's biographers—in that dangerous political climate, Shakespeare learned to be secretive and private. Londoners looked outside city limits for entertainment, to the less regulated "liberties," or suburbs. Some of the suburban pastimes were violent and gory, such as the popular spectator sport of bull- or bear-baiting the animals were tied to stakes and attacked by dogs.
The suburbs were also home to whorehouses.
Shakespeare assuredly also witnessed the severe physical punishments and executions of criminals that were a routine spectacle on London streets. That these sights drew Shakespeare's interest is evident in his plays. Among the spectacles that he would have seen were the theaters themselves, which were just emerging during the late sixteenth century. Religious and civic authorities felt the theaters, like other entertainments, were immoral and dangerous, and they tried to close them down. To make enough money, theaters had to draw repeat customers with a large repertory of plays; thus, there was considerable demand for a productive playwright.
Shakespeare was inspired by his contemporary Christopher Marlowe , who was the same age and of similar background. Marlowe's Tamburlaine would have been one of the first plays that Shakespeare saw in London. Tamburlaine , with its exotic setting, its ambitious scope, its disregard for conventional morality, and its high poetic language, was utterly different from the plays he had seen in his youth.
Shakespeare's first plays, especially the Henry VI trilogy, were clearly influenced by Marlowe. While Shakespeare lacked Marlowe's formal education and scholarly reading, his friend Richard Field, a printer, would have given him access to source material. Shakespeare's early history plays are inferior to his later work, but they were quite popular, and announced the arrival of a new major playwright. As he began to make his reputation in London, Shakespeare would have come in contact with the University Wits, the social circle of poets who wrote for the stage.
The members of this group came from a variety of class backgrounds, but they had in common their degrees from Cambridge or Oxford, a fondness for drink, and a tendency for reckless, even criminal behavior. The group included the brilliant Christopher Marlowe , and Robert Greene, whom Greenblatt describes as "larger than life, a hugely talented, learned, narcissistic, self-dramatizing, self-promoting, shameless, and undisciplined scoundrel.
But whether by their choice or his, he did not join the group and did not adopt their lifestyle.
He was an outsider and a rival. As his career was soaring in the early s, the University Wits were meeting premature deaths from disease, violence, and dissipation. In a posthumous book attributed to Greene, the author insulted Shakespeare, calling him "an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers.
This chapter focuses on the poetry that Shakespeare wrote apart from his plays—especially his sonnets. These were circulated in manuscript form well before they were printed as Shake-speares Sonnets in While the speaker of each sonnet "I" is unambiguously Shakespeare, the addressee "you" and other persons referred to are cunningly cloaked, so that scholars have been guessing at their identities for centuries.
This effect was intentional.
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Shakespeare wrote the sonnets with the intention that only a very limited audience would understand them in their specific meanings. Greenblatt speculates that the first seventeen sonnets were commissioned for Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southhampton, a beautiful young aristocrat who was resisting considerable pressure to marry.
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These sonnets take the unconventional approach of encouraging the addressee to marry not out of love for a woman, but out of self-love: to replicate himself by having a child in his own image. In the process of making this argument, and in many of the sonnets, the poet evinces his own love for this "master-mistress.
The highly sensual former poem, one of the few works Shakespeare purposively had printed, was a popular success. Greenblatt suggests that in seeking an aristocratic patron, Shakespeare might have been trying to offset his loss of income from the temporary closings of the theatres because of civil unrest and the bubonic plague. Even though Jews were the sources of Judeo-Christian tradition, the evil figure of the Jew filled a crucial "symbolic role" as the ultimate outsider: anti-Christian and even inhuman.
Barabas in The Jew of Malta , with his boundless hatred of Christianity, fulfills this role precisely: he has no redeeming characteristics. In that play and in his other work, Marlowe seemed to speak to his audience's fear and hatred of foreigners.