February 18, 2007

Musical Poetry

For about 12 years of my life I thought that God intended me to be a music major, and then I took British Literature in high school and that changed everything. What does this have to do with the reading for today? Well I found that all of the musical training in the rhythm, repetition, and patterns has come back to haunt me in McDonald's essay. He states, "Although the structural and narrative replications are more likely to be the subject of critical interest than the aural, most listeners find themselves beguiled by the musical repetition of vowels and consonants, reduplication of words, echoing of metrical forms, and incantatory effect of this musical design" (102). All I could think of as I read this part of the essay was, "Why didn't I ever see that before?"

I always knew that Shakespeare's plays were looked at as a sort of poetry in performance form, however I never thought that Shakespeare could have been employing similar characteristics to his plays that master composers or muscians used when they played a piece of music. When you are playing a piece, for example Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, there are rhythmic patterns and reptitions that make the listener feel as if he or she is sitting on a sandy beach in the summer or playing in the leaves in the fall. What McDonald is arguing is that Shakespeare is using reptition to bring his audience into the play and show them the importance of a scene, much like Vivaldi would have repeated a section of music to emphasize to the listener the feel of the piece.

In his essay, McDonald uses several passages of Shakespeare's The Tempest to show how the text is very important for a true understanding of the play. It is McDonald's way of criticizing the work that Shakespeare completed. He attempts to show the reader that by looking at the text of the play instead of the cultural background, one can get more out of the play. I can honestly say that in all of the close readings I have done with this play I never even thought that the languaged used in the play had a musical quality. I knew that when I watched it on a video that the scenes were well acted and that the words made the watcher feel as if he or she was looking in on the characters through a window, but never that the words and their various repetitions or meterical workings fell so easily on my ears because of the way they were written. Nor did I think that my high school band days would come back to haunt me. Who knew?
McDonald, ''Reading The Tempest'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by Tiffany Brattina at February 18, 2007 4:04 PM | TrackBack

Haha high school band days will always haunt us, Tiffany. Always.

I too have a somewhat musical background (although I knew God did not intend for me to be a music major of any sort. I wrote my first "story" at 5- it was Creative Writing or nothing for me) but have never been one to pick out musical patterns and rhythmn in poetry (and often in music. I have no rhythm). I liked McDonald's essay for doing exactly what I could not- by exploring a text in a way that I normally wouldn't have considered, in order to draw a new meaning from it. Sometimes it takes a new perspective to see the various parts of a familiar work.

Posted by: Nessa at February 19, 2007 3:12 PM

I have no musical background....

Due to the fact that I have absolutely no talent whatsoever....

But I understand where you are coming from Tiff. Poetry and music both rely on style, repetition, and rhythm. In my European Liturature class last semester we discussed that Gustav Mahler and Thomas Mann had made distinct pieces of work that modeled after the notion of obsession. Mann's "Death in Venice" is about a man who is obsessed with this little boy. I know it is prevese, but the story stems from Mahler's 5th Symphony. You can feel something drawing you into the music as it plays and you just can't get enough of it.
"The Tempest" is kind of like that. In the version I watched, Ariel was singing his lines to draw Ferdinand to his destination. It is weird to see how closely music and literature come together.

Posted by: Kevin "Kelo The Great" Hinton at February 20, 2007 1:18 AM
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