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.