Monday, April 4, 2011

Hub Post: Looking at Love through the Sonnets and Romeo and Juliet

Thesis: Shakespeare's sonnets most likely reveal what his actual opinions were on true love and romance, while his plays often portrayed the opposite and were written for the primary purpose of making money. The play Romeo and Juliet specifically contradicts the ideas found within sonnets 18. 116, and 130.

Points to prove my thesis:
1. Shakespeare's audience: through a bit of my own analysis and research within the world of criticism, I found that the Elizabethan audience was much like we are today. Also, that Shakespeare's main motive for writing the content he did was to become popular and make money. His sonnets, however, were written for a much more private audience and can be trusted much more when it comes to analyzing what Shakespeare really thought about love.
Post of my own analysis
Post involving criticism
Post on Shakespeare's motives

2. Sonnet 18 vs. Romeo and Juliet: After establishing some things about Shakespeare's audience, I went to the text. In the analysis of sonnet 18 and Romeo and Juliet, I considered whether or not Shakespeare believed in love at first sight. My main message was:
It seems to me, knowing that Shakespeare’s sonnets were targeted towards a much smaller audience and probably reflected more of his real opinions, that Shakespeare is an advocate of reason, temperance, and moderation, rather than extremities and love at first sight.

3. Sonnet 116 vs. Romeo and Juliet: In analyzing these two particular works, I tried to find out if Shakespeare really believed in the swiftness and easily transportable love found with Romeo and Juliet or if he believed in the unchanging and constant nature of love found within sonnet 116. After reading up on what other scholars had to say, I determined that Shakespeare believed the latter. Sonnet 116 is an isolated work within the sonnets and it seems to be addressed to no one in particular, but a poem on love's nature in general. I took this as solid evidence that this was his true opinion.

4. Sonnet 130 vs. Romeo and Juliet: In Romeo and Juliet it seems that much of Romeo's love is based on Juliet's beauty. I talk about the idealized beauty of the Renaissance and how this play fits right along with it. However, sonnet 130 completely contradicts these ideas. I believe that Shakespeare was making a statement that no woman is ideal and true love has nothing to do with ideal beauty.

5. If you're looking for some contradiction to these ideas, I made a post much earlier on about how Shakespeare himself just might have believed in love at first sight. I have since changed my opinion, but this might be a good argument I make against... myself. Or it might be interesting to read to see how my ideas have developed.

Main messages of what Shakespeare thought about love:
True love is temperate
True love is unchanging
True love has little to do with ideal beauty

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Idealized Woman

The woman has always been idealized, and during the period of the Renaissance there was no exception. Shakespeare, in Romeo and Juliet, makes it clear that Juliet's ideal beauty was a big part of why Romeo fell in love with her. Romeo says when he first sees her:

Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night.

The idealizing of women usually revolved around physical appearance and often in poetry, different parts of the body were featured and described. Shakespeare does this in sonnet 130:

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

This sonnet, however, is very different from most poems and art work depicting women because it emphasizes this woman's unideal features. I've already established in my previous posts that I believe Shakespeare was catering to a different, larger audience with his plays, and therefore did not usually implement his actual beliefs about love into his plays. His sonnets, however, are much more revealing, and I believe sonnet 130 reveals Shakespeare's opinion that true love really has little to do with beauty, especially the idealized kind. In Shakespeare's Sonnets, the author says:

"This sonnet interrogates the notion of a casual or necessary relationship between ideal female beauty and male desire and instead presents the radical idea that there may be a disjunction between them. The point of the poem is not only that this particular woman does not meet the ideal standard of blonde Petrarchan beauty, but that no woman does."

So, I think Shakespeare is trying to make the point that ideal beauty doesn't exist. And even if it did, it would have little to do with true love.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sonnet 116 v.s. Romeo and Juliet

In my last post I discussed whether or not Shakespeare believed in love at first sight. Now, I would like to discuss what else he really thought about love, including its duration and constancy. I'm taking a look at sonnet 116 and comparing it to Romeo and Juliet. Mandy made a post about this and I found it very useful. And I'd like to explore the topic as well.

It's obvious that Romeo's feelings for Rosaline were very fleeting and left as quickly as he fell in love with Juliet. This swift storm of emotion seems to discredit Romeo's feelings of love. Is this what Shakespeare really thought of love? That it is able to change and transfer from one person to another. I'm guessing not. After reading and analyzing sonnet 116, I'm thinking that the content within this sonnet is what Shakespeare really thought.

In a book called Shakespeare's Sonnets, the author, Callaghan, says:

In 116, if we approach the sonnet in terms of an unfolding narrative, the poet seems to be separated from his beloved. Strangely impersonal in its tenor, this sonnet constitutes a proposition about the nature of love rather than a declaration of love to another person.

Knowing this, we can assume that this sonnet is Shakespeare's opinion on love in general.

Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

Love is constant and cannot easily come and go.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Does Shakespeare Believe in Love at First Sight?

This week I’m comparing sonnet 18 to Romeo and Juliet to continue with my theme of love and romance. Within this post I am claiming that Shakespeare himself did not believe in love at first sight. I’m making a few assumptions, but I think you’ll agree that there is just enough evidence to reasonably make this claim.

In an article called “The Imagery of Romeo and Juliet”, Caroline F E. Spurgeon points out a lot of useful information. Romeo and Juliet fall in love immediately and their relationship moves extremely fast; they get married the day after they meet. However, they are both dead three days later. Before their deaths Juliet says of their marriage:

too rash, too unadvised, too sudden,

Too like lightning, which doth cease to be

Ere one can say ‘It lightens’;

The soft, beautiful images of light previously used in the play are transformed to dangerous manifestations of light, such as lightning. Also, the Friar says in regards to their hasty marriage:

These violent delights have violent ends,

And in their triumph die; like fire powder

Which as they kiss consume.

From these lines, it would seem the Shakespeare is not advocating the idea of love at first sight, but more so the dangers of getting wrapped up in this mindset. Comparing these lines to sonnet 18, this becomes even clearer.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

In this sonnet Shakespeare is describing someone’s beauty (probably a young man’s) and uses words like “temperate”. A website I found defined “temperate” as “evenly-tempered; not overcome by passion.” So, this person’s beauty is found in his temperance or his moderation of passion. It is contrasted with other phrases within the poem, such as “rough winds”, “too short”, “too hot”; his temperance is much more beautiful than the extremities of summer. This correlates back to Juliet’s words of “too rash, too unadvised, too sudden, too like lightning”, and the Friar’s words, “violent delights.”

It seems to me, knowing that Shakespeare’s sonnets were targeted towards a much smaller audience and probably reflected more of his real opinions, that Shakespeare is an advocate of reason, temperance, and moderation, rather than extremities and love at first sight.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Elizabethan Audience

suberabundant energy
soaring imagination
puffed with pride
reckless daredevil
sensuous and sensual
furious in hate and love
avid of swift sensation
primitive savagery of manners
violently passionate
frankly brutal

Just to recap, my focus is love and this week I'm comparing sonnet 18 with the play Romeo and Juliet. But first, I wanted to research Shakespeare's audience to hopefully shed some light on what was going through Shakespeare's head when he wrote on the topics of love. Alfred Harbage wrote an essay called "Shakespeare's Audience: Modern Appraisals" and in it he quotes Brander Matthews who uses the red phrases above to describe Elizabethan audiences. When I read this I thought, "I didn't realize Elizabethans were such intense, obnoxious people." However, Harbage goes on to explain:
Were Shakespeare's contemporaries truly such galvanic creatures? . . . Nothing we can discover from examining their daily routine, their frugal expense accounts, and their quiet and sensible letters suggests that Elizabethans, individually or collectively, were vastly different from us. . . We ourselves live in a spectacular age, without being individually spectacular.

I think it's useful to know that Shakespeare's audience was a lot like we are today. So why did the Elizabethans and why do we today thrive on such dramatic, extreme entertainment, especially when it comes to love and romance? I made a post about this at the very beginning of the semester and I compared and contrasted sonnet 18 to the modern trends in movies and literature. Check it out if you're wanting more on this topic.

In my next post I'm planning on comparing the text of sonnet 18 to the text of romeo and Juliet and drawing some conclusions about what Shakespeare really thinks of love and the idea of love at first sight. But I think knowing these things above about his audience for the plays will help in drawing those conclusions.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Inside Scoop on Much Ado About Nothing

For those of you who went to see Much Ado About Nothing last week, one of my friends interviewed the girl who directed it for her senior project. I have her notes here, if you're interested in knowing what this girl envisioned and what she was going for:

Senior Project for Theatre Art Studies Majors- This project done by
Ronnie Stringfellow
Auditioned all majors, with different interests and types of people

Ronnie's concept for the show- We are one small adjustment from seeing
the truth in our own lives. This is what she wanted to get across to
the audience. She wanted to have Ah-ha moments for the audience.
Observing and recognizing truth. Applicable to everyone, She says
Shakespeare can often be distant, but she wanted to use it in the WWII
format to show the happiness and men coming home from war
-Beautiful lights, 1940's dresses, army suits, music from that time
period, in the Shakespearean verse.

Some people mentioned that some of the characters weren't played by the best actors. But knowing that they all came from different majors and such might give you more appreciation for the performers.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Schedule for the Semester

My topic is love/romance, and I think I've finally narrowed it down! I want to draw conclusions of what Shakespeare really thought about love by comparing three specific sonnets with the play Romeo and Juliet. So, here is my schedule for what I'll be doing for the rest of the semester (for each of these I'm going to be trying to include textual analysis and any criticism that supports my arguments):

  • March 21-27: Compare sonnet 18 with Romeo and Juliet
  • March 28- April 3: Compare sonnet 116 to Romeo and Juliet
  • April 4-10: Compare sonnet 130 to Romeo and Juliet
  • April 11-17: Memorize a passage from Romeo and Juliet and a sonnet and perform them

Friday, March 11, 2011

Trying to Write a Sonnet

Here's what I found out tonight: IT'S HARD TO WRITE A SONNET.

My broader topic is love/romance, and I chose to write a sonnet this week, in hopes of gaining a new appreciation for the sonnets and to try and get into the mind of Shakespeare a little. Although it was a little frustrating for me (I'm more of a free verse person), it was also a lot of fun. But as of right now, I only have the first four lines. It's my goal to finish it this weekend. But here's what I've got so far:

Sometimes I get so full of flame I blurt
While Formality blushes. However
I soon play off my passion as mere flirt
Or flatness- I love you!. . . or whatever.

If any of you have some suggestions of how I can push through my frustration/writer's block, please let me know!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Quick Update

My topic, just to remind everyone, is love/romance in Shakespeare. Some of you have suggested that I narrow my topic to just one play, or one specific idea. I thank you for your contributions. I don't think I've narrowed things down enough yet, but there are three main areas I'm interested in. Dr. Burton told me to contact Bruce Young, one of BYU's professors, to request some good sources for my topic. These are the things I told him I would like to research:

  • The societal beliefs and customs concerning sex before marriage and how that topic was usually addressed on and off stage. I want to relate it to the sexual conditioning of our day.
  • The difference between Shakespeare's audiences of his plays vs. his sonnets. I'm trying to figure out what Shakespeare really thought about romantic love. The themes within his sonnets seem to differ greatly from the themes in his plays, and I'm hoping this could give me some insight into what he really believed.
  • And then basically any reliable information on Shakespeare's audience in general. I want to relate his audience to that of Hollywood's and draw some conclusions on what this says about each society.
He hasn't gotten back to me, but for this week I am choosing to focus on the sonnets, specifically sonnet 116. Because the sonnets were directed towards a much more private audience, I'm hoping that they will give me more insight into what Shakespeare really thought about love. I don't trust his plays so much because with those he was just trying to make money.

My main source for becoming acquainted is Shakespeare's Sonnets by Dympna Callaghan. This book is meant to be an introduction to the sonnets and explores a few prominent themes, as well as some history.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Shakespeare and Controversy

As I've been thinking about The Winter's Tale, I've been trying to figure out why Shakespeare was advocating the idea of sex and its benefit through the strong, triumphant character of Hermione (I talk about this in my previous blog post). At first my thought was that maybe Shakespeare was trying to break the mold a bit and introduce a taboo topic on the stage to try and spark a bit of social change. However, after doing a little research, I don't think this was his motive.

Dr. Burton reminded me of one of his former students, Becca, who contacted Phyllis Rackin and got some feedback from her. (Becca's blog). Here is a part of what Phyllis said:

"I doubt that the players were using their stages as platforms to advocate for social change. I think they were trying to make money and that their choice of plays that raised touchy questions about gender was largely dictated by popular interest in those questions. I think drama thrives on conflict, sensationalism, and social anxieties, and I think the big point to remember about the playhouses is that they were commercial."

After reading this, I'm thinking that this topic if sex is good or original sin was a controversial topic, and Shakespeare explored this to spark intrigue and make a few bucks. I want to further research this idea and what the common belief was during the Renaissance, and I think I'm well on my way. Hopefully my next post will include some solid research.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Chastity, a China Plate, and The Winter's Tale

My focus for the rest of the semester will be love and romance. It's a little broad, I know, but as I explore and research this topic, I'm hoping that my topic will narrow down a bit.

While reading Act 3, scene 2 in "The Winter's Tale" I found some criticism on the sexual love aspect and how it relates to the character Leontes.

In Peter Lindenbaum's essay, "Time, Sexual Love, and the Uses of Pastoral in The Winter's Tale", he suggests that Leontes looks back on his childhood with a wistful fondness:

"Leontes, like Polixenes, quite understandably looks back to his youth as a time of joy and safety, and he is quite consciously expressing a wish to be back in that happier period; he too wishes he could stop time's movement."

He then goes on to explain that the thing which ruined Leontes blissful childhood was the introduction of sexual love. Within the play Polixenes classifies sex as original sin and the cause of the defilement of innocence. It seems that both Leontes and Polixenes have a fear of sex.

What I thought of while reading this was my Marriage prep class. The professor said that in Mormon culture, a lot of our analogies and object lessons concerning chastity are actually quite damaging. For example, you may have heard of the broken china plate lesson. A sweet, caring beehive adviser will stand up in front of a group of impressionable 12 year old girls and show them a carefully crafted china plate and emphasize its beauty and wholeness. Then, with a sudden swing, she smashes the plate against the wall and it shatters into hundreds of pieces while the poor little beehives look on in terror. The adviser then explains that having sex before marriage is like breaking your one and only china plate. This object lesson teaches that sex is inherently bad. Well, just as this damaging analogy within Mormon culture can negatively affect a person's attitudes toward sex, Polixenes' connection of sex to original sin is just as damaging, and negatively affects Leontes, who slips into a fit of sexual jealousy.

In contrast to this fear is Hermione. Lindenbaum explains:

Polixenes has been unconsciously betraying a disapproval or even fear of sexual love. It is a fear that Hermione clearly does not share. For in telling Polixenes to go on, she even welcomes the charge of being a devil or a temptress, if it is only her participation in sexual love that makes her the offender."

Hermione is innocent and reasonable and secures the reader's confidence with her character. Thus, with her acceptance of sex (made obvious by her conspicuous stomach) she makes clear that Leontes' perceptions of sex and his fear of it are unhealthy and incorrect.

Lindenbaum, Peter. "Time, Sexual Love, and the Uses of Pastoral in The Winter's Tale." The Winter's Tale: Critical Essays. Ed. Maurice Hunt. New York: Garland Publishing, 1995. Print.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Peer Review

Brooke Randell:
1. 19 posts
2. I think most of Brooke's posts are adequately substantial. She employs thoughtful analysis, does a good job linking, and refers to a lot of outside sources. I think her blog is excellent.
3. A strength I noticed is her ability to interest her audience. Her subject matters are very unique, in comparison with other blogs within our class, such as costume design. Her language and humor make it very accessible. It doesn't feel like work to read her blog, and I'd say that's a very good thing.
4. One of the only things I noticed that Brooke could do to improve her blog is to refer more specifically to the learning outcomes. Maybe she could create tabs for each post and label it as a particular learning outcome (And I feel like a hypocrite saying this because this is something I could do better as well).

Midterm Evaluation

1. I am meeting a few of the goals I've set for myself, but most of them are overshadowed by the goal of achieving breadth within my reading. In addition to breadth I'm delving into textual and contextual analysis by reading the introductions to each play found within our textbook and keeping an eye out for formal devices and then blogging about my findings.

2. I have read Henry V, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, and The Tempest. In addition to the original text, I've looked up critical essays on the BYU library website. I've also researched the web, of course, and have founds a lot of informal, yet useful information.

3. I do make reference to other texts, but I could do better with linking to other learners and blog posts.

4. I am noticing a trend within my studies, though it's a bit general. I'm noticing that when I read a play I tend to focus on lessons and themes that directly apply to my life, and then try to find some sort of application. For example, when I read a Romeo and Juliet, I focused on the idea of light and darkness and the virtues and vices of Romeo's two loves, Rosaline and Juliet. This is because I was currently trying to decide between two opportunities I had in the dating world, and I was hoping Shakespeare's words on love could provide some sort of counsel. So, my interests vary from play to play, but I find consistency in that I want to learn lessons that apply to my life. And it isn't hard to find those lessons because at the core of Shakespeare's plays is timeless human experience.

5. What I've done best so far, sadly, is just reading the plays. Now, I need to focus on going deeper or expanding my modes of learning and connecting.

6. Rebecca Ricks: She made an amazing comment on my latest post and gave me some useful information.
Brooke Randell: She makes good comment in class, as well as on my blog.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Light vs. Dark

I wanted to try and answer my own question of whether or not Shakespeare was advocating this idea of young, swift love or not. And I attempted to answer it through the motifs of light and darkness found within the play. In the beginning when Romeo is pining over Rosaline, his life is full of darkness. He wanders around before the sun comes up and his father explains:

Away from light steals home my heavy son
And private in his chamber pens himself,
Shuts up his windows, locks fair daylight out,
And makes himself an artificial night.

In opposition to this permeating darkness, Romeo meets Juliet, whom he describes as a "bright angel". She is the light seeping through his chamber, which causes Romeo to ask, "what light through yonder window breaks?" The fact that Shakespeare created this metaphor of Juliet being an angel and Rosaline only creating darkness in Romeo's life is a clear message that the love between Romeo and Juliet is real, even divine.

Now, it's easy to mock this idea that two strikingly young people could really fall in love so instantly. However, maybe we should reconsider. In the movie Bright Star, the character John Keats says to his friend who is mocking his feelings for a girl, "There is a holiness to the heart's affection which you know nothing about!" This goes along with what Romeo utters just before he sees the light from Juliet's room, "He jests at scars that never felt a wound." Could it be that these emotions of love, infatuation, or whatever you want to call them, are in and of themselves valid? And that you can't mock them until you've felt them yourself?

I have one last question. Why did Romeo seek after this darkness in the beginning? When thinking about this my mind went to a little insight from Nietzsche in his book The Gay Science:

"Those who seek rest. -The spirits who seek rest I recognize by the many dark objects with which they surround themselves: those who want to sleep make their room dark or crawl into a cave. -A hint for those who do not know what it is that they seek most, but who would like to know."

With this in mind, how can we make sense of Romeo welcoming darkness and even creating for himself "an artificial night"?

Questions about Romeo and Juliet

To all of you who are reading Romeo and Juliet, I found a very useful website in regards to study helps (click here). This website asks a lot of questions concerning the different themes within the play. After viewing this website and considering my own curiosity, I came up with a few questions of my own that might get your wheels turning. Let me know if you have any input.

1. Is there any evidence that Romeo and Juliet's love transcends mortality?
2. Do the motifs of light and darkness send a message about love and its transience?
3. What is Shakespeare's message about young love? Is he supporting it or bashing on it?
4. What makes this play a tragedy? Is tragedy really within the bounds of destiny? Are these lovers really "star-crossed"? Because tragedy to me is something terribly unfortunate happening that could've been prevented. With this definition destiny doesn't play as big of a role.
5. What are the flaws of Romeo and Juliet that lead to tragedy? Is it mostly unawareness/miscommunication? If so, that is truly tragic!
6. What is the point of catharsis in this play? What would an audience member decide to avoid after viewing this play?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Real World vs. Green World

Movies like Inception, illnesses like schizophrenia, theories like postmodernism, and plays like A Midsummer Night's Dream cause you to ask the question, "What the heck is real?" I've thought about this question a lot this week as I read through this Shakespearean comedy. Something I found interesting as I was reading some background on the play is that in some productions the same actors who play Theseus and Hippolyta also play Oberon and Titiana. This blurs the distinctions between the "real world" and the "green world" as well as the concept of reality.

Along with this, I also thought about the movie Dead Poet's Society in which A Midsummer Night's Dream is performed. So, we go from a play within a play to the level of a play within a play within a movie. This surreal set up runs along side one of the messages of the movie. Neil, the boy who goes against his father's wishes and performs in the play, is ripped away from his dreams of becoming an actor and hits a brick wall of "reality". Instead of conforming to his father's demands he kills himself. This abrupt gun shot swiftly chases away any dream-like aspirations Neil or his friends once had. Neil was attempting to act in a play which takes place in the summer, yet it was winter outside and lightly snowing and by morning the snow had covered everything. So, what could be the message of such an event? Is it dangerous to mix the real and green worlds? Maybe the idea of chaos breaking loose once people venture into the wilderness is something to beware of.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Illusions of Love

Have you ever been in love? Do you think it's really true that love makes you blind and unable to see things clearly as they really are? Well, it would seem that Shakespeare had a few things to say on this topic, especially in his play "A Midsummer Night's Dream". There is a prevalent theme of impaired judgment while in love. At the beginning of the play he warns us, "Nor hath Love's mind of any judgment taste". As we talked about in class, comedies usually involve a venturing into the forest or "greed world" where the characters undergo a transformation or metamorphosis of sorts (if you want a scholarly reference for this idea, click here to view article). The characters of this play go out into the forest and there they experience a series of spells, which make them love sick and this is their transformation.

So, what is it that makes us so unreasonable while in love? I guess I'm not much of a romantic, but as I thought about this idea of metamorphosis my mind went straight to the biological explanation. It's pretty much common knowledge that the feelings of attachment and longing that come with being in love are a result of dopamine flooding the brain (
click here to view website). In a class I took about marriage and relationships my professor said, in terms of impaired judgment, "Alcohol's got nothin on dopamine." So, if you let this love potion be representative of a brain chemical, it's no wonder that our characters are acting so irrational. As Helena says, "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind."

If you look at things from this perspective, yes, it may shatter your illusions of love. But it could also help you to use better judgment in the future. And then when reading this play you may resonate a bit more with the words of Puck: "what fools these mortals be!"

Thoughts on the film Henry V

I watched the Kenneth Branagh version of "Henry V" this weekend, and I just wanted to make a brief post on my thoughts of the film. If you've seen this film let me know what you think!
  • The opening scene was possibly my favorite part with a man walking behind stage and performing the lines of the prologue, telling us to imagine two great monarchies and all the scenery that comes along with it.
  • I was shocked at how much of the original text was taken out. It was appreciated in some places, since some of the lines in this play dragged on and on. But I think that some of it should have stayed, such as the priest's plotting in the beginning and their talk of how King Henry had been transformed.
  • I thought the actors who played Nym, Pistol, Bardolph, and Hostess did a fantastic job. They made their characters likable and entertaining.
  • I realized during the movie that when the three men who betray Henry get executed, I didn't care, due to a lack of attachment that I feel Shakespeare should have secured. I don't really know much about them, therefore I wasn't too torn up when they died. I didn't feel the pain Henry felt at finding one of his closest friends plotting against him.
  • I also realized during this film, or re-realized, that the plot of Shakespeare's plays are heavily reliant on dialogue and not action. There's some movies out there where you can turn off the sound and have a basic idea of what's going on. However, this cannot be done with Shakespeare.
  • Overall, I liked it for what it was. Shakespeare was indeed meant to watched, and I enjoyed watching it far more than I liked reading it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Drama, Drama, Drama

"It was one of those midsummer Sundays when everyone sits around saying, "I drank too much last night." You might have heard it whispered by the parishioners leaving church, heard it from the lips of the priest himself, struggling with his cassock in the vestiarium".

These are the first few lines of "The Swimmer" by John Cheever. When I read the first act of Henry V, this is what I thought of. It seems that Shakespeare is emphasizing the violent and bloodthirsty mindset permeating England at this time by highlighting even the priest's focus on going to war. He encourages Henry to "unwind [his] bloody flag!"And just as alcohol and indulgence infused this suburban society, violent dominance was on the minds of everyone within power. What kind of priest encourages bloodshed over such a selfish and frivolous concern? During the relatively peaceful Elizabethan era, Shakespeare's audience most likely enjoyed a dramatization of war, and so it's possible that this bellicose culture is a bit exaggerated.

I also find it interesting that Henry and his advisors are convinced that they're going to war in the name of God and have secured His support. Did Henry believe this to be true because he was convinced to go to war by priests?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Few Words on Tragedy

Here's something I found interesting: In the Introduction before Hamlet, it says that Polonius's advice to Laertes, "This above all: to thine own self be true" is usually taken out of context and is in reality a "worldly gospel of self-interests and concern for appearances." As I thought about this, I assumed that Shakespeare would reveal the flaw behind this way of thinking and prove that characters who resort to selfishness always lose. And while this happens within Hamlet (Claudius and Polonius, for example, are consumed by self interest and ultimately die), the characters who are attempting to be selfless (Hamlet trying to avenge his father's death and Ophelia obeying the advice of her father and brother) also die and sink into a tragic ending.

So, what's the point of a tragedy? What is it supposed to teach us? It seems to me that fate is fixed within these plays and no matter the attempts of the characters, their chain of decisions will inevitably end in ruin. Does anyone have a bit more optimistic outlook?

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Learning Outcomes

I will read:
  • Comedy: A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • History:The Life of King Henry the Fifth
  • Tragedy: Romeo and Juliet; King Lear
  • Romance: The Tempest
Which ever play I like best is the one I will read in depth.
I don't want to bore my readers and write out everything I've decided to do, but here are some of the things I've planned:
  • Shakespeare movie nights at my apartment
  • See 3 live performances
  • Memorize my favorite passage from each play I'm reading
  • Read the entire "General Introduction" from "The Necessary Shakespeare"
  • Read criticism about Shakespeare and attempt to get in touch with the critics themselves
QUESTION: Any ideas of how I can analyze Shakespeare within the realm of popular culture?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sonnet 18

Let me tell you about an experience I had over Christmas break. My mom, my sister, and I watched two chick flicks: The Young Victoria and Bright Star. In the former the two love birds, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were portrayed as two very sensible people who loved each other, but had a healthy balance of romantic emotion and practicality. Well, I was a sucker for it and fell in love with the movie. In Bright Star, however, the characters were obsessive about each other and their lives were consumed with romance. There was even a scene where Fanny, the main female character, slits her wrist because a letter she got from her lover was too short. This movie turned me off, and I was left feeling repulsed by these extreme characters.

So, when I read Sonnet 18 I was intrigued with the idea that temperance is more attractive than extremity. Shakespeare's line, "Thou art more lovely and more temperate" is a contrast with other phrases within the sonnet such as "rough winds", "too short", and "too hot". I agree with Shakespeare on this one. But why does our culture sometimes prefer such fanatical obsession? Why do some people prefer irrational characters who give in too often to their emotions (I'm thinking of Twilight. Are you?)? I think it might have to do with some sort of cultural conditioning. People within the Victorian age highly favored reason. What was the view of people in Shakespeare's time and how is it different is it today? Any ideas?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nice To Meet You

Here's a little bit about me: I love Shakespeare, and I love to dance. I think the title of my blog is a nice combo of the two. I love my English major. I'm technologically inept. My dream is to be an attractive librarian. Superficial? Maybe. I'm pretty sure that's all you need to know.