With drink, sir?

When I read Shakespeare as a teenager, I remembered being particularly taken with the lines about drinking. I didn’t do much drinking myself and watched a lot of people do a lot of stupid things and get themselves into a lot of hot water from the booze. There are a few real good lines for this in Othello – mostly due to Cassio’s relationship to the stuff. I wrote them down in my quote notebook. (I kept a quote notebook. A book in which I wrote down quotations I thought were meaningful and important.) I may have had a whole page of Cassio inspired alcohol quotes.
At the time, I think I thought the Shakespeare was trying to tell us something – that he had an opinion about drinking and he was expressing it through the plays. I see now how specifically character driven each reference to drinking is, Cassio talks about the evils of alcohol because it has gotten him into terrible trouble. Hamlet talks about drinking, mostly in reference to Claudius. That gives us some sense of a) how he sees Claudius or b) how he wants others he’s talking to to see Claudius. He returns to a theme here of a drunken king and again, it’s with a friend. (If we can still call Guildenstern a friend at this point in the play.)

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