February 18, 2007

Tempt Me...With Your Words

"The play encourages its audience to scrutinize the linguistic and structural patterns for meaning, but it stoutly refuses to yield those meanings easily or fully" (McDonald 105).

You have to love a text that teases. In McDonald's "Reading 'The Tempest'" (creative much?) he explains how "The Tempest" is a text full of secret meanings that Shakespeare is in no hurry to offer up easily. Is the repetition important? What does it mean? How does it help us in understanding the text?

This was an excellent formalist reading since it examined the play piece-by-piece, letter-by-letter. As Keesey explains in the Introduction to formalism, "...formal critics appear to be simply pointing to features or patterns in the poem that we might have overlooked" (78). And overlook we did. Even while trying to study a text in-depth, we may gloss over non-obvious patterns or words or sounds, missing the purpose behind each. The meaning is found through Shakespeare's words in this instance, not his life. The text is standing alone, as an entitity unto itself, and any interpretation stems from the word choice and the flow of the text, not a historical background.

This is what makes "The Tempest" so frustrating when looking soley at the language. As McDonald states, "...the text never fulfills the expectations of clarity in which the discovery of such patterns engenders" (105). We search and search for a meaning beneath Shakespeare's intricate web of words, and yet never seem for fully grasp what he is intending. It is like he is teasing us with the repetition and the rhythmn of the words to see if the reader can understand the meaning behind them. It's a test- are the readers adept enough to find the interpretation in his works? All words have a purpose, yet it might not always be on the surface of the text.

McDonald, ''Reading The Tempest'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by VanessaKolberg at February 18, 2007 12:50 PM | TrackBack

I wondered as I read McDonald's text whether or not an Elizabethan audience would get what Shakespeare was saying. I thought about it in terms of modern day comedy. If I watch a comedy on BBC, I get about 5% of the jokes because British humor just does not resonate with me. I think it is because despite my grasp of English, the nuances that make the language funny in England is foreign to an American ear. I wonder if this is how Shakespeare's largely illiterate clientelle felt as they watched his plays. They got the obvious stuff, but did they really get the deeper political messages Shakespeare may have intended?

Posted by: Dave Moio at February 21, 2007 9:11 PM

I am laughing hysterically at my comment about McDonald. I talk about having a grasp of the English language and follow it immediately with a subject/verb agreement error!

Posted by: Dave Moio at February 21, 2007 9:12 PM

I like how you closed this, words having purpose, because I feel that the words hold the most power. The thing with McDonald is he really feels strongly about Shakespeare's words. I thought this essay, for me at least, drew upon the importance of the words in this play. Because I know I never really read this play that deeply, so it helped put the play into better focus. If that makes any sense.

Posted by: Mitchell Steele at February 22, 2007 4:12 PM
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