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.