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By play’s end, Macbeth expresses the Situation in a nutshell :


To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow


The Globe Theatre’s troupe of actors will perform the play Macbeth over and over again during its theatrical run.


Creeps in this petty pace from day to day


A recognition of the running time of the written play’s metrics. (Jack in The Shining : “A little slow tonight, isn’t it?”)


Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more


Macbeth’s metaphor hits the mark multidimensionally. (a) He philosophizes on the activity of being alive. (b) He senses a larger Frame of Fate—his existential position inside a staged play. Somehow he is “almosting” this beyond-vision comprehension. (c) These lines are stingingly relatable to the actor pronouncing them onstage. (d) The audience is reminded of participating in the spectacle—and therefore of the feeling that they, too, will one day be gone.


it is a tale Told by an idiot


Shakespeare, making light of himself. 

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


The character of Haakon Chevalier is equivalent to the character of Creon in Οἰδίπους Τύραννος. Both are reasonable men sensitive to personal opportunity in a social world.




We first meet the affable Chevalier at a house party in Berkeley, CA. He seems very interested in what Oppenheimer has to say on Oppenheimer’s work (“Do stars die?”). However, while Oppenheimer rhapsodizes on his life-subject, Chevalier suddenly responds off-topic : “If you’re sending money to Spain, do it through the Communist Party . . .” (25)


A first clue?


Later, Chevalier agrees to watch infant Peter for a while, and asks for nothing in return. (47)


Then comes the Chevalier incident. During idle chit-chat while Oppenheimer mixes martinis in the kitchen, the Chevalier invites him to commit treason. (65)


Finally, in a casual way, the moment to strike, the quid pro quo—what Haakon Chevalier has been amenable to, or inclined to, the entire time of their friendship?




Creon enters Οἰδίπους Τύραννος similar to Haakon Chevalier in Oppenheimer : affable and optimistic; an aid and encouragement to the protagonist.


Later, Creon presents a long-winded case to the public why he wouldn’t want to assume the responsibility of kingship (512–677). What happens? By the end of the play, Creon is installed as king. Worse, in Antigone, he seals up Oedipus’ daughter Antigone alive in a cave, effectively giving her a death sentence. Creon takes to cruel leadership easily. So perhaps his long-winded dismissal of kingship was, in fact, say, a political campaign speech?




Creon and Chevalier are two examples of the “realistic person of the social world”.  A person sizing up Situations for opportunities of self-gain. A person projecting kindness, yet always looking out for number one. A person who dispenses favours, but always with the thought of eventual repayment. An Inhuman shows interest equivalent to an estimated degree of return.




The hero breaks through by taking a second look, a closer look, by devoting more than a moment’s concentration. The hero discovers the multitude in the unity, and approaches its human heart.

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


Windows (and doors) contribute considerable thematic content throughout Oppenheimer.


Theory : At least fifty percent of the character Oppenheimer’s shots include a window in the frame.


A comprehensive commentary on this subject would require considerable time and a considerable word-count.


It was mentioned earlier in this thread that the use of windows in Oppenheimer has a predecessor in Bresson’s Journal d'un curé de campagne. In both films the use of windows conveys a (numinous) quality of inner sight of the protagonist.


Please consider the following Sophoclean Dream Density :


3:33. A young and troubled Oppenheimer lies uncomfortable in his bed, haunted by images in his head (visual approximations of his celestial calculations). Concerned for his uncertain future, he sees before him a window, rain dappling its panes. Character and window occupy two separate shots.


4:02. Oppenheimer is chastised by Professor Blackett in the lab. Here, Oppenheimer is positioned far from windows—they occupy the other side of the frame. Close to Oppenheimer, however, is an open passageway (a doorway), which is, ominously, completely black. A reverse shot on Oppenheimer (4:06) reveals a second passageway in the same style : more ominous black. These blind passages are associated with the dark decision Oppenheimer is about to make (the cyanide apple) : their ominous darkness suggests wrong directions and failure.


5:20. We meet Niels Bohr, who stands between two chalked-over blackboards and is dwarfed by two tremendous windows. Bohr, to Oppenheimer, is both example and opportunity.


6:16. Back in Professor Blackett’s classroom, Oppenheimer meets Bohr up close. Visible once more is the ominous black passageway in front of Oppenheimer. But as soon as Oppenheimer and Bohr begin their friendly conversation, Oppenheimer blocks out that black passageway for the rest of the scene—a subtle hint of hope. Oppenheimer has been given a reprieve from entering down a blind passageway of failure.


6:22. Moreover, the creepy black passageway behind Oppenheimer is also no longer completely dark. Now, sunlight and telephoto highlights enliven it, further suggestions of hope and forward movement into a brighter future.


7:48. Student Oppenheimer gazes attentively at a professor gesturing at equations on a chalked-over blackboard. 7:53. Oppenheimer gazes up at stained glass windows. A blackboard presents similar dimensions to a window—and like a window, a blackboard is an entry into a new domain.


8:23. The student Oppenheimer is sitting in his room, off on his own, “following the ball”, listening to Stravinsky, and thinking things through. Framing him are two closed doors—the student thinker is still struggling to find a way forward.


8:46. Oppenheimer working diligently in mind and effort, figuring equations on a blackboard.


8:56. Fusion! The effortful Oppenheimer reaches a breakthrough. Now the imagery in his head overlaps the window from 3:33. The window and his thoughts now occupy one and the same shot.


14:00. Oppenheimer sits in a train compartment, staring out of a window. The window is very similar in spirit to “the breakthrough window” of 8:56. (a) It is raining. (b) The predominantly blue colour of both Situations. (c) Imagery visible outside the window recalls the superimposed “mind” imagery visible at 8:56. // This connection and recapitulation suggests that Oppenheimer is now ready to “lift the stone”—his studies are leading him in the right direction, and what was once difficult to achieve now comes matter-of-factly. Oppenheimer’s creativity is now second nature, and he sees the All in Everything, effortlessly.






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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The Waste Land (1922)


By the end of stanza 1 the reader realizes that any responsible content is available only to strong concentration.


Concentration is interactive.


An artwork mirrors the workings of the self. One puts one’s head under the hood in order to perfect the running of things. The more concentration devoted to the work, the more perfect the running.


What is explored by the concentration is the facility to explore. “Meaning” is the map one traces through the topography of the artwork.


The shape of the map is the ongoing drawing of the shape of the self.


The map is the pathway to responsibility and ethics. The effort expended in drawing a map is an indicator of the degree of humanness.




As a document Οἰδίπους Τύραννος leaves so-called scholars in a ludicrous position : how to get solemnly serious about a text that has suffered so many depredations that one doesn’t know what is what? Similarly, Macbeth has been transmitted to us in a terrible state, as if Shakespeare couldn’t have cared less about posterity. Textual evidence suggests that what exists of Macbeth is a cobbled-together version, possibly with missing and/or discarded elements, and bits written by who-knows-who. And so now, too, The Waste Land : it is babblement in which one seeks meaning, if one wants to. And just like Οἰδίπους Τύραννος and Macbeth, The Waste Land doesn’t take itself too seriously—its endnotes are a comical reminder that the poem has already been automatically averaged down to nothing.


The endnotes also suggest that the poem’s fragments, a “heap of broken images” which were whipped into shape by another poet (Ezra Pound), have joined into a unity of a “finished artwork”—but this, too, is comical. The joke is on everybody, author included. The Waste Land very knowingly lays bare the readerly operation of drawing a map of meaning through a contrasting topography.


Meaning is not a destination. Meaning is made in the moving through . . .


Making meaning is a measure of humanness.




The Waste Land is akin to a Stockhausen composition in which the composer turns a radio dial this way and that, and in this manner random sounds appear in the work. The Waste Land is a gathering of discontinuous voices. Fancifully imagine overhearing a warm murmur of earth-sounds from, say, the cold comfort of the moon. The poem zooms-out from the history of Western literature, and from the insane position of the twentieth century makes light of self-importance. The Waste Land, in the manner of Sophocles, cruelly reminds us of what we are (i.e., “mad againe”).




what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish?


The Waste Land is a lunatic mishmash of vibes. Echoes from many centuries sound out in a cacophony. And the endnotes perversely suggest an imprimatur of academic cerebration to it all.


What does it mean? Seek, and find what you will. As you seek, you follow the map of your own making toward yourself. What you find in a mirror is a shape of yourself.




And so.


The Waste Land reminded the world back in 1922 that experiencing art is interactive.






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Femme assise aux bras croisés (1937), at 8:10.




The Oppenheimer Picasso memorializes the character’s parents Julius and Ella, ca. 1900–1903 :


“A lover of art, he spent his free time on weekends roaming New York’s numerous art galleries. It may have been on one such occasion that he was introduced to a young painter, Ella Friedman. . . . Julius fell in love with her. . . . On March 23, 1903, Julius and Ella were married.”


Bird & Sherwin, American Prometheus, ch1.




The collage element


In the manner of handling a prism, each inspection generates further perspectives.


Generation = renewal = strength.  


The key to generation is concentration.


(Theory : Why does storyteller Nolan favour physical home media? Oppenheimer is intentionally engineered for extensive concentration.)




The New Physics


“The idea that the universe has multiple histories may sound like science fiction, but it is now accepted as science fact.”

The Universe in a Nutshell (London : Bantam Press, 2001), 80.


Hawking adds :


“It was formulated by Richard Feynman, who was both a great physicist and quite a character.”


Feynman appears in Oppenheimer—“The glass stops the UV.” (129)




“Multiple histories” = the theoretical infinity of maps available for manufacture while moving through the topography of the artwork.




Picasso : a first-string multiverse artist


“Interactive art”? “Generative music”?


Art has always been interactive. Art has always been generative.


The technology required to unlock these assets is concentration.


*         *         *


Picasso : “You have to wake people up to a world that’s not what they think it is.




We think of the key, each in his prison


The keys to. Given! A way a lone a last a loved a long the


first line of the posthumous Hughie by Eugene O’Neill : “Key.”






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


It is time to get up and shoulder a day much like yesterday, a day that his animal optimism assumes to be the first of a sequence stretching endlessly into the future but that his cerebrum—hypertrophied in the species Homo sapiens—knows to be one more of a diminishing finite supply.

John Updike, Villages, ch1.


Please consider the phrase the first of a sequence stretching endlessly into the future.


Theory : The eternal recurrence structure of Oppenheimer is attractive to the unconscious.


(Eternal recurrence structure. Various time periods interweave throughout the narrative without one time period prioritised over the others as the foundational footing. The temporal cyclicity evokes the “multiple histories” concept of Feynman : different time periods occurring simultaneously in an eternal present.)


Why is an eternal recurrence structure attractive to the unconscious?                                            


The magic circle is a denial of exit.


A narrative structure of eternal recurrence incorporates the unconscious hope of readjusting the past.


The ending of Oppenheimer, however downbeat, is, surprise, concurrently upbeat—The film’s eternal recurrence structure is a trace of Homo sapiens animal optimism. The cerebrum of Homo sapiens prefers eternal presence.





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Irreverent audiences


Oppenheimer’s Crowd of the Stamping Feet (2:06:43) shares a spiritual vibe with Divine performing on the trampoline in Female Trouble (1974). “You came here for some excitement tonight, and that’s just what you’re going to get!” (1:17:33)

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


Shot 1 of Lawrence of Arabia and shot 1 of Oppenheimer share a similar visual quality : the various concrete slabs joined together in the first recall the grouted paving slabs of the Cambridge courtyard in the second.


(Yet another evocation in at least the Oppenheimer shot : a suggestion of film frames cut together. . . . )





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


Prince Feisal : “Gordon of Khartoum.” The association apparently energizes Lawrence inside.


The character Oppenheimer, however, has to be convinced of things in a comical manner via the 1930s-Capraesque Ernest Lawrence : “Because you’re not just self-important, you’re actually important.”


Things change.


“Thank God for that, anyway.”

“Yes, thank him.”

“Lawrence, I do not think you know how you have tempted him.”

“I know.”


Oppenheimer : “The atomic bomb will be a terrible revelation of divine power.”

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


Clearly drawn geometry of extensive location + large cast of characters + audience doesn’t get lost = Directorial genius.


The unspeakably breathtaking feat of the Trinity test : 1:47:54–2:00:15.


The whole area of combat was one complete area—it actually exists. One of the things I tried to do was give you a sense of where you were, where everything else was. Which, in war movies, is something you frequently don’t get.

               Kubrick in Tim Cahill, Rolling Stone Interview : Stanley Kubrick in 1987


I constantly point out whenever I’m asked about these long visual sequences and why they work—and I never quite realized I was doing it—when you have an action sequence, you’ve got to lay out the geography. The trouble is with 99% of directors, they don’t. Hitchcock knows how to do it. I know how to do it. (Steven) Spielberg knows how to do it. (Stanley) Kubrick knows how to do it. You have to lay out the geography of the location so the audience knows where everything is before you set the action going, whether it’s two armies colliding, it’s a shootout in a train station or it’s Cary Grant at a crossroads in the Midwest. The key is that you’ve got to slow everything down. If you look at every shootout you see, you have no idea where anything is. I’ve said this a thousand times and I think I’m the last practitioner.

Q&A: Brian De Palma, AP, 18 March 2020


last practitioner—not quite.


Oliver Stone is another director who has spoken on this point. On the DVD commentary of Any Given Sunday, Stone recalled the storytelling necessity and editing complications of organising for the audience the locations of the large cast of characters populating the climactic game sequence.


For a movie that doesn’t clearly draw the geography for its climactic battle, so that the action sequence is simply a series of shots, see My Darling Clementine (1946)—(a film with technical-structural links with Scorsese’s latest), 1:28:15–1:33:10. Post-production shenanigans (with director John Ford frozen out of the editing) led to a hazy cinematic Situation.


The Trinity test is storytelling on the largest scale—and Oppenheimer pulls it off to perfection, going on the evidence of an unanticipated global word-of-mouth of $953.2 million.

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


When they saw him coming in the distance,

one to another they said,

“Look! The Dreamer is coming.

We will kill him

and drop him into one of the pits.

Then we’ll see

what becomes of his dreams.”

Genesis 37:18–20


“Members of the Security Board, the so-called derogatory information in your indictment of

me cannot be fairly understood except in the context of my life and work.”

Oppenheimer (1)


Room 2022 : Both dropped into the pit and questioned at the gates of Heaven.


“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,

and whoever is permitted toward God

will be permitted to Heaven.”

Matthew 16:19


I drifted up to a gate with a swarm of people, and when it was my turn the head

clerk says, in a business-like way—“Well, quick! Where are you from?”

Mark Twain, “Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven”


Judgment Day in Oppenheimer. Who judges? The audience.


Privately he was convinced that God looked further than the pit, that He had far-reaching things

in mind as usual and had His eye upon some distant purpose, in the service of which he, Joseph,

had been made to drive the brethren to the uttermost. They were being sacrificed to the future,

and he suffered for them, however badly things went with himself.

Thomas Mann, “In the Pit”

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


The second half of Lawrence of Arabia—the shots in which actor Peter O’Toole is optically indistinct in the role, whether captured as a moving shadow across the sand, or backlit by the sun in silhouette. These shots obscure the actor’s personality, to offer an uncanny eyewitnessing effect of actual history, as if we’re seeing through a window back in time, via willing suspension of disbelief, to a revelation of the historical character of Lawrence himself, visual in his flesh-and-blood being.




The long shot of the character Oppenheimer meeting Einstein at 11:27.

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


Colonel Nicholson : “Take a good look. One day the war will be over. I hope the people who use this bridge in years to come will remember how it was built and who built it.”


Oppenheimer : “If atomic weapons are to be added to the arsenals of a warring world, then the day will come when people will curse the name of Los Alamos.” (151)

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


The character Oppenheimer is Lawrence of Arabia and Colonel Nicholson at once. He is self-drunk both with the Divine and with Reason. But storyteller Nolan goes beyond this. The character Oppenheimer is also Clarity.


The character Oppenheimer carries out an epic act, then spends just as much running time exploring the consequences.


His journey through the narrative is his exploration of responsibility and ethics.


He is a brainy character of a questioning age (to come?).


This is a character our world needs—to survive. Storyteller Nolan has engineered an original character of our time.


 A thinker.


(“The most thought-provoking thing in this thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking.”/ “Thinking is what we already know we haven’t started yet.”)


The character Oppenheimer : symbol of Responsibility.






Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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Rainbow lens flare


at a death : Bridge on the River Kwai, 2:37:04.




τέκ(ν)ο(ν) τυφλοῦ γέρο(ν)τος Ἀ(ν)τιγό(ν)η, τί(ν)ας

χώρους ἀφίγμεθ᾽ ἢ τί(ν)ω(ν) ἀ(ν)δρῶ(ν) πόλι(ν);

τίς τὸ(ν) πλα(ν)ήτη(ν) Οἰδίπου(ν) καθ᾽ ἡμέρα(ν)

τὴ(ν) (ν)ῦ(ν) σπα(ν)ιστοῖς δέξεται δωρήμασι(ν);

σμικρὸ(ν) μὲ(ν) ἐξαιτοῦ(ν)τα, τοῦ σμικροῦ δ᾽ ἔτι

μεῖο(ν) φέρο(ν)τα, καὶ τόδ᾽ ἐξαρκοῦ(ν) ἐμοί:

στέργει(ν) γὰρ αἱ πάθαι με χὠ χρό(ν)ος ξυ(ν)ὼ(ν)

μακρὸς διδάσκει καὶ τὸ γε(ν)( ν)αῖο(ν) τρίτο(ν).

ἀλλ᾽, ὦ τέκ(ν)ο(ν), θάκησι(ν) εἴ τι(ν)α βλέπεις

ἢ πρὸς βεβήλοις ἢ πρὸς ἄλσεσι(ν) θεῶ(ν),

στῆσό(ν) με κἀξίδρυσο(ν), ὡς πυθώμεθα

ὅπου ποτ᾽ ἐσμέ(ν): μα(ν)θά(ν)ει(ν) γὰρ ἥκομε(ν)

ξέ(ν)οι πρὸς ἀστῶ(ν), ἃ(ν) δ᾽ ἀκούσωμε(ν) τελεῖ(ν).


The first fourteen lines of Oedipus at Colonus, the posthumous play by Sophocles.


Remember the repetition of the letter “m” in Macbeth 1.2?


Note the 53 uses here of the letter “ν” (equivalent to the English letter “n” in sound).


The sound-repetition helps to sustain, in the words spoken by Oedipus, a fine, calm stability.




Old-school visual effect in Macbeth


Macbeth is full of visual tricks of the theatrical trade—e.g., The witches hovering in 1.1, the visible stage mechanics of the three prophecies of 4.1, and the following :


Is this a dagger which I see before me,

The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.

I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.


Scrooby theory : The glimmering dagger was attached to a pitch-black pole that dangled into sight and dazzled the audience, which saw the blade as if it were floating mid-air in darkness.




“If it were up to George, we would have hung a black backing, and put the ships on broomsticks and waved them around.” (John Dykstra in Easy Riders, ch11)


“We’re suckers for this absolute depth of resolution that IMAX gives us. But when you go to VFX, you have to scan it, and the moment you do that, it loses half of its resolution.” (Hoyte van Hoytema in Variety, 22 July 2023)

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


White sheets FLAP CRAZILY in the wind. . . Kitty comes out . . . notices a JEEP . . . (122)


recalls MARGARET RYAN (Rodat, 11)—

and therefore an entire women’s world back at the home front of WWII

and therefore of Hollywood’s colossal war-themed output during WWII


Amid the flapping sheets Kitty says, “Break a leg.” (122)


A common expression that in this context has multidimensional meaning.


Just one point here.


By hoping for the best, Kitty at the same time wishes what may be the worst not undone.

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Eugene O’Neill : master of the Indirect


Long Day’s Journey into Night begins with this dialogue exchange between a husband and wife of thirty-six years :


TYRONE. You’re a fine armful now, Mary, with those twenty pounds you’ve gained.

MARY (smiles affectionately). I’ve gotten too fat, you mean, dear. I really ought to reduce.

TYRONE. None of that, my lady! You’re just right. We’ll have no talk of reducing.


What are these characters actually saying?


TYRONE. I’m so glad you’ve kicked the morphine habit. Now you’re regaining your health.

MARY (threateningly). Oh really? You want me back on morphine?

TYRONE. No talk of morphine! Everything’s been going so well of late! Please don’t speak of reverting back to all that badness!

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Artists and critics misunderstanding what they’re talking about

for a spectacular example :



TL;DR. (a) Paradise Lost is as much a religious epic as Oppenheimer is a biopic. But since the glorious English is in desperate need for an epic poem in order to celebrate itself, Paradise Lost is—surprise!—now first and foremost a religious epic. (b) The glorious English, realizing that a great epic artwork is a fine requirement for representing and encouraging the strength of a nation, requires such an artwork as Paradise Lost. Ah, if only too-many talking heads of the English-speaking world understood that last point with regard to Oppenheimer.


1. Fission


Milton, embarking on the creation of Paradise Lost, had Seneca in his sights. At the outset of Book 1, Satan, in his envy, his ambition, his contempt, his wickedness, his ‘deep despair’ and ‘endless misery’, in his exile, his ‘study of revenge’ and seductive evil and perverse nature of ‘stedfast hate’, is a quintessentially Senecan character; and Satan remains Senecan throughout the whole of Paradise Lost.[1] In Book 1, the imagery Milton uses and various techniques of his poetry, as well as the tenebrous gloom[2] of the narrative, all recall Seneca’s plays and their language. Yet why is a learned scholar provoked to support the probability of Milton having read the works of Seneca by providing evidence, in a paper in Notes & Queries, in 2019?[3] Hundreds of years of readers of Paradise Lost haven’t understood Paradise Lost. Milton is intentionally embodying Seneca in Book 1. Moreover, at the outset of the poem Milton has chosen to compete with Seneca. Furthermore, Milton plans to swiftly surpass Seneca. In the creation of Paradise Lost, Milton’s strength of storytelling—according to his own plan (1.12–16)—would be peerless. And Seneca would be the first domino to fall.


Consider the final speech of the chorus in Seneca’s Thyestes. The chorus imagines the stars of the zodiac falling from the sky into the sea (ll. 835–74). It is a passage that the youth of today would idiomatically call ‘epic’, and it seems to be the model for Milton’s use of the word ‘fall’ that runs like ostinato throughout Book 1 of Paradise Lost. In one passage of this choral speech Seneca uses a verb for ‘fall’ nine times, and the adjective ‘fallen’ once, in quick succession (ll. 841–67).[4] Milton uses the word ‘fall’ or a variation thereof in Book 1 eleven times in 715 lines.[5] For comparison purposes: in Book 1 the name ‘Satan’ occurs four times,[6] the noun ‘light’ seven times.[7]


According to Milton’s plan, in outdoing Seneca he would thereby outdo Shakespeare, and all of the Elizabethan authors. And the poetry of Paradise Lost would be the culmination of a lifetime’s mastery of Latin. Samuel Johnson marvelled at Milton’s command of classical Latin. When Milton was young, ‘he is said to have read all the Greek and Latin writers.’[8] When Milton was in middle age, one of his prospective employments was ‘a dictionary of the Latin tongue.’[9] Dr Johnson relayed Milton’s posthumous reputation on this point: ‘In Latin his skill was such as places him in the first rank of writers and criticks.’[10]


If Milton the author was a last vestige of the English Renaissance—the plays of Seneca had been a powerfully fructifying force to the playwrights of the Elizabethan stage—what about his contemporary readers? Some number of readers holding the fresh first edition of Paradise Lost would have made the Senecan connection. Milton’s contemporary readers, however, didn’t write literary criticism.


2. Fusion


In the eighteenth century Seneca was out of fashion. Joseph Addison published eighteen essays of literary criticism of Paradise Lost between 31 December 1711 and 3 May 1712 in The Spectator. The names of Homer and Virgil, Ulysses and Aeneas, appear numerous times in Addison’s 137 pages. Close to three sequential pages are devoted to Virgil alone.[11] Ovid appears twice.[12] Aeschylus and Sophocles appear in passing;[13] as do Spenser and Ariosto.[14] The name of Seneca, however, appears only once—and not as the poet and playwright, but as a prose epigrammatist: ‘Seneca’s Objection to the Stile of a great Author, Rigot ojus oratio, nihil in ea placidum nihil lene, is,’ Addison reports, ‘what many Criticks make to Milton.’[15] In his eighteen essays Addison keeps the context of Paradise Lost in the specific category reserved for ‘the Odyssey, the Iliad, and Aeneid’.[16] It is as if Seneca the playwright had never existed.


If nothing in Milton reminded Addison of Seneca the playwright, nothing from Addison’s own words did either. At one point he describes as a ‘fault’ Milton’s ‘frequent use of what the Learned call Technical Words. . . .  When he talks of Heavenly Bodies, you meet with Eccliptick, and Eccentric, the trepidation, Stars dropping from the Zenith, Rays culminating from the Equator.’[17] Addison had evidently forgotten the large-scale set-piece of the Chorus’ final speech in Thyestes. For example: ‘Monstraque numquam perfusa mari/merget condens omnia gurges’. Seneca has us imagine the fabulosities of the constellated figures of the zodiac, never before dampened by the sea, now plunged into the immersion of raging waters.[18]


Dr Johnson followed Addison’s lead and placed Paradise Lost among the ‘heroick poems’ and thereby faced no interpretative complications.[19] Dr Johnson doesn’t mention Seneca in the context of Paradise Lost and attempts to shut the door on any inquiry altogether: ‘of all the borrowers from Homer, Milton is perhaps the least indebted. He was naturally a thinker for himself.’[20]


The nineteenth and twentieth centuries were no friendlier to Seneca: he remained essentially in oblivion, a skeleton in the closet of literature. T. S. Eliot noted: ‘in modern times, few Latin authors have been more consistently damned.’[21]


Seneca’s plays have been too perverse for Europe since the Elizabethan era—until now. We are understanding Paradise Lost all over again.


[1] ll. 126, 142, 58, 107. Compare, for example, Satan’s plan (‘who overcomes/By force, hath overcome but half his foe’ (648–9)) with Atreus’ in Thyestes (‘quod est in isto scelere praecipuum nefas, hoc ipse faciet’ (285–6)). Atreus’ continuously articulated resolution in his vile schemes is identical to Satan’s continuously voluble plans for evil in Bks 1 and 2; compare also the exhaustive catalogue of horrors delivered by the Fury in Act 1 of Thyestes.

[2] Milton’s Hell is described as a ‘gloomy Deep’ (152): gloominess is the preferred ambient atmosphere of Seneca (e.g., Thyestes, 17, 106–21, 665–79, 896–7, 994–5; and Medea, 11, 741).  The dismal twilight of Milton’s Hell, the ‘darkness visible’ (1.63) and ‘seat of desolation, voyd of light’ (1.181), recalls the passage beginning ‘Solitae mundi periere vices’ in Thyestes (813–827) and the entirety of Act 5; also ‘aeterna nox permaneat’ (Thyestes, 1094) and ‘noctis aeternae chaos’ (Medea, 9). ‘The Sun, as from Thyestean Banquet, turn’d/His course intended’ is found in Bk 10 (688-9). The flaming swords illuminating Milton’s Hell (664–6) recalls ‘iam flammis agros lucere et urbes decuit ac strictum undique micare ferrum’ in Thyestes, 182–4. There are, however, so many Senecan elements in PL that I will leave it for a future scholar of this theme to enumerate the totality.

[3] Russell M. Hillier, ‘Comparable Apocalypses of Barrenness and Superabundance: Seneca’s Phaedra and John Milton’s Comus, or A Maske Presented at Ludlow Castle, 1634’, N&Q 66:4, 535–7.

[4] ibit  (l. 843), lapsa (847), labens (847), ibit (850), trahet (854), cadet (856), cadet (857), cadent (858), trahent (859), cadet (864).

[5] fall (l. 30), fall (76), fall’n (84), fall’n (92), downfall (116), Fall’n (157), falling (174), fall’n (282), fall’n (330), fall (643), falling (745).

[6] ll. 83, 192, 271, 757.

[7] ll. 63, 73, 85, 181, 245, 391, 729.

[8] Samuel Johnson, Lives of the English Poets (London: Cassell and Company, 1901), 143.

[9] Ibid., 164.

[10] Ibid., 194.

[11] CCCLI.


[13] Such as in CCLXXXV.


[15] CXCVII.



[18] ll. 867–8. Also, in Bk 1 Milton’s use of ‘flood’ (six times) and ‘whirlwinds’ (once) evokes the Senecan note, for those two marvels are among Seneca’s favourite visual imagery.

[19] Johnson, Lives, 230.

[20] Ibid., 230.

[21] T. S. Eliot, ‘Seneca in Elizabethan Translation’, in The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot 19271929 (John Hopkins University Press, 2015), 195.

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Rainbow Lens Flares : Priscilla (2023)


Similar to the Oppenheimer situation, why not, in this case as well, discard the concept of “biopic” and simply call this film an account of a relationship of two people—any two people.


Is the digital photography in this film state of the art? Seems so. Dream team Sophia Coppola and cinematographer Philippe Le Sourd bring digital photography ever closer to the softness and texture of a film image.




Theory : The four uses of the rainbow lens flare that Scroob noticed are not random but intentionally engineered in to the dreamy, delicate tapestry of the narrative.


3:09 / 3:30. The first flare is the first shot following the opening credits. Both rainbow flares, appearing in the same sequence, are associated with burgeoning love.


43:42. Visually complex.


1:08:57. Visually complex.




Theory : Four rainbow lens flares engineered into one film may be a noteworthy number.  


Question : How many films in cinema history have begun with a rainbow lens flare?




Sophia Coppola and her expert crew weave a sweet and dreamy vibe throughout. The film is gentle and reflective, with lovely touches, such as the following four moments :


10:38. Young, naive Priscilla unknowingly wears a questionable, ill-fitting dress.


14:53. The romantic intimacy of . . . simply holding hands.


42:18. “You will be graded on penmanship, as well as spelling and grammar.” Scroob hasn’t heard this edict since the third or fourth grade.


1:13:00. Priscilla looks straight into the lens as if to challenge the women in the audience with the question : What if this were you? What would you do?

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Genius Moves : Paradise Lost


Remember the frequency of the letter “m” in Macbeth 1.2? And the similar repetition of the “n” sound in the opening speech of Oedipus at Colonus?


It’s like déjà vu all over again.


The last stanza of Book V of Paradise Lost features an extremely conclusive ending with its musical restatement of the letter “d”.


So spake the Seraph Ab(d)iel faithful foun(d),
Among the faithless, faithful only hee;
Among innumerable false, unmov’(d),
Unshak’n, unse(d)uc’(d), unterrifi’(d)
His Loyaltie he kept, his Love, his Zeale;
Nor number, nor example with him wrought
To swerve from truth, or change his constant min(d)
Though single. From ami(d)st them forth he pass(d),
Long way through hostile scorn, which he sustain(d)
Superior, nor of violence fear’(d) aught;
An(d) with retorte(d) scorn his back he turn’(d)
On those prou(d) Towrs to swift (d)estruction (d)oom’(d).


This is the only example in the entirety of Paradise Lost with this particular structural technique at the end of a Book. Why here? Because a colossal battle sequence is on the way in Book VI. The thudding “d” sound is akin to the sound of an oncoming military march (“O what is that sound . . . drumming, drumming?” W. H. Auden), or, say, Beethovenian “hoofthuds” (Ulysses, 8).


But on this point Milton’s genius isn’t over yet.


After the end of the colossal battle sequence, Book VI completes with these lines :


But list’n not to his Temptations, warne

Thy weaker; let it profit thee to have hear(d)

By terrible Example the rewar(d)

Of (d)isobe(d)ience; firm they might have stoo(d),

Yet fell; remember, and fear to transgress.


The three line endings with the (d) are equivalent to an “eerie trumpet call over a lost battlefield.”

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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


7:23–7:27. Soaring shining mountain vista.

7:28–7:32. Colourful fundamental particles.


Is the second shot a restatement of the first?—a zooming into the visible world to the subatomic level.


Further into the Education Breakthrough Sequence,


the join between a “visible world shot” and a “subatomic world shot” becomes broken. The second shot is no longer a visual restatement of the previous shot.


What breaks the join?


The mind of the Thinker.


This happens a number of times.—A shot of the visible world, then a shot of the fundamental world, but the second shot is not a zoom-in of the first. Rather, the suggestion is of Thinking about . . .


Finally, fusion. The two elements that were previously presented sequentially (visible world, subatomic world) now inhabit the same frame via cinematic superimposition.


The Thinker breaks down the world, then sees anew what is, and inhabits many perspectives at once.


by the way


7.23–7:27. Soaring shining mountain vista.

7:28–7:32. Colourful fundamental particles.


Might this be defined as the closest CU in cinema history?





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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The Oppenheimer (2023) phenomenon


Psychology encoded into character by storyteller Nolan.


Oppenheimer. A bomb, Alvarez. A bomb.

cut to

Tatlock. I told you, Robert, no more flowers.

cut to

Eltenton. I’m Eltenton.


All this, on pages 33–34, is a close congruence : Jean troubling Oppenheimer just moments before Eltenton enters the picture.


Theory : In Oppenheimer’s unconscious is a fusion of trouble : Tatlock-Eltenton.


The trouble worsens. Page 65 :


Chevalier. You know who I ran into the other day? Eltenton.


The trouble intensifies. Page 88 :


Oppenheimer experiences an uncomfortable encounter with Jean Tatlock in room 805 in San Francisco.


Just one screen-minute after this moment :


Oppenheimer. I wanted to give you a heads up on a man named Eltenton. (90)


So when Eltenton enters Oppenheimer’s mind as potential trouble, is this due, in part, to a dreamlike association in Oppenheimer’s unconscious with all his trouble with Jean Tatlock?




Oppenheimer. I wanted to give you a heads up on a man named Eltenton.


What if we approach this line as if written by Eugene O’Neill?


Oppenheimer. I have deep feelings, guilt, and troublous thoughts about Jean Tatlock. Perhaps I require a sort of penance for how it turned out with the two of us—and how it is about to turn out for her—so why don’t I cause some unnecessary trouble for myself?




The concept of Freudian vibe-association in dialogue has been considered before in this thread with respect to TWBB, when Eli unwisely speaks the name “Bandy” to Plainview in what turns out to be the final scene of both their lives.




As Oppenheimer says after “no more flowers” :


It’s not that simple.





Edited by Jeff Bernstein
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