Look! My "Did You Ever..." moments are back! I know you are all so excited, I can see you dancing in your seats. It's been awhile- I just haven't had the time to blog for fun.
Anyway, did you ever worry that all your emotions are just going to spill out oneday without notice? Let me clarify- I'm the sort of girl that keeps everything inside. My anger (for the most part...well...sometimes), resentment, love (that's too strong of a word), etc. It isn't like I don't show any emotions at all- if I didn't I would not have friends! But the big things I've learned to keep inside through experience (my big mouth has gotten me into trouble and any admission of love has ended badly in the "I'm going to be alone the rest of my life with 50 cats" way). Yet it isn't exactly a good thing to keep everything inside all the time. One day I know I'm just going to lose it. The flood gates will open and I'm just going to let people have it- for the good or for the bad. So if you see me ranting and raving on like a crazed person someday kindly pull me aside, lock me in a closet, and leave me there until I've stopped before I really mess things up. :)
As I have learned from reading Foster's book (it always goes back to him, doesn't it?), Shakespeare is everywhere. His quotes and themes are immersed in our culture and can be seen almost daily. His most famous works are also being retold several times in highly different forms. Sometimes they are movies based on his plays such as “O” or “Romeo and Juliet”. Yet the plays are also transformed into novels that, while not exactly acting as a direct copy of the work, contain the same key elements and themes.
In Elizabeth Reitz Mullenix’s “The Tempest” she notes that the famous play may have come from real events that occurred in the early 1609s. This is not to say that on some island in the Mediterranean there lives a magical man, his virginal daughter, their deformed slave and band of spirits. No, the “The Tempest” was taken from the storm that blew a ship off course and into an island. Shakespeare borrowed the basic plot from history and then added his own elements to make it interesting.
As with any literary work, “The Tempest” has come under academic scrutiny about its inner themes and symbols. Is it feminist? Anti-feminist? Political? David Dabydeen examines these interpretations and other reworkings of the play. There have been several authors that have taken “The Tempest” and made it their own, adding a different slant to the story such as a class conflict, feminist view, and racial theme. It is truly interesting to see how one play, hundreds of years ago, has influenced authors to rewrite their own versions.
Paul A. Cantor’s article “Shakespeare- for All Time” introduced other interpretations and views on “The Tempest” as well. I found it interesting that he did not exactly agree with the view of ‘New Historicism’ and instead found other ways of looking at the play. He says that those learning the New Historicism viewpoint sees “The Tempest” as showing the prejudices of the time such as Elizabethan ideology and the limitations placed on women.
Cantor also notes that “The Tempest” can be seen as a “complicit in the evils of European colonialism” and “the racial biases of the European against the non-European”. Caliban is the non-European and is seen as a threatening figure because he is not like everyone else (European).
Another argument against New Historicism that Cantor makes is that “students are made to feel superior to Shakespeare…”. They are delving so far into the text that they feel they can criticize him freely. They are, in a sense, demeaning his work.
Once again I have completely missed the religious meaning in a text and had to read something like David N. Beauregard's "New Light on Shakespeare's Catholicism: Prospero's Epilogue in The Tempest" to understand it. I don’t know why I just don’t see the religious aspects in works- they are so obvious once pointed out.
I did not know there is such a debate on the religion of Shakespeare. To me, it really doesn’t matter but to understand the religious meanings in his works, I suppose it is helpful to know.
Beauregard tries to make a convincing case that there is a strong Catholic theme in Prospero’s epilogue. He cites passages supposedly about death and prayer and their relation to the Catholic religion. While I understand his point, I do not exactly agree with it. I am more for the school of thought that thinks the epilogue is Shakespeare’s good-bye to theater. I agree with what Valerie wrote, “I had assumed that it was just Prospero asking forgiveness of the audience, and not of God. If you think about it though, any audience is sort of like God, being that they can see everything that's going on in the play.” The religious elements may be in the speech in some way yet is not the main point I think he was trying to make. If Shakespeare was so Catholic, his religious background may have just slipped in, even unbeknownst to him. When anyone writes their background and convictions sway the writing in some way- and not always intentionally. Shakespeare used the religious images in the epilogue as just that, imagery. It helped convey his real intent of bidding farewell to the audience.
Yes, another Shakespeare play down. I can add it to my list which brings my total to, sadly, four. (I really must read "Hamlet". I feel like I am such a waste for not have read it by now. And I call myself an English major...)
A lot of people complain about Shakespeare and how difficult it is to read. I was one of those people until recently in fact. Yet now, for some reason, his words just "clicked", old English and all. In other plays I would have to read (sorry Dr. Jerz) the Sparknotes or a translated version just to understand the story. Now though, I am proud to say I completed it all without the aid of an outside source, except for the footnotes.
"The Tempest" wasn't my favorite play out of the four I have read however. I agree with the comments of Kristen and Chris that the play did seem to end suddenly. What surprised me the most was the lack of death in the play. Not that I exactly was looking forward to it, but in his other works Shakespeare always kills off half the cast before the last act. Perhaps since it was his (supposed) last work Shakespeare decided to change things a little and keep everyone alive.
I must give credit to Foster here that everything either comes from Shakespeare or the Bible. When I read Miranda's "O brave new world/ That has such people in't!" (184-185) I said to myself "I know that line! I didn't know where I knew it from, but I know that it is Shakespeare!" It is just a common quote that now I finally have the context for. That's how Shakespeare is- you know his works, you know the famous lines, yet you have no idea where they come from until you read the play.
“Tempest” I found I had to finally read
To expand my knowledge of Shakespeare with
That of literature and English writing.
So I read and read this eloquent verse.
With lines confusing and words deceiving
I work to understand this classic tale.
It is not so hard or a daunting task;
I can interpret and do this I see,
With help from the text and others as well.
I am successful in my solemn quest
To understand the play “The Tempest”.
While this doesn't necessarily have to do exclusively with "The Tempest", it is something I've noticed in several of Shakespeare's plays. Apparently he was a big believer of love at first sight. As I've noticed in "The Tempest" (and "Romeo and Juliet". I'm sure there are others too), man sees woman and boom, wants to marry her. With Miranda and Ferdinand it happened almost instantly. While the idea of love at first sight is nice, this is ridiculous! They didn't even talk! Now with Miranda I understand it since Ferdinand is the only man she's seen other than her father so of course she'll want him right away. Yet Ferdinand? He could have his pick of the women. Now, I know that Shakespeare couldn't show the whole drawn out love process is the few acts of his play. This is just something I noticed.
My knowledge of Shakespeare is not exactly grand. I’ve read the requisite high school requirements of “Romeo and Juliet”, “Julius Caesar”, and “Macbeth”. So I, unlike some of my other classmates, had no idea about “The Tempest” when I picked it up. I made the assumption that there will be some death and love, as in all of Shakespeare’s plays. Other than that- I was blank.
Gracias a Dios for the introduction. Although it was a bit lengthy, it provided a nice opening for the play. Without it I probably would have plunged into the text, confused as ever. (Although I did not read the bit about the Globe Theatre. If I have to read about it one more time I might scream. Groundlings, the heavens, we get it already.)
I have to give credit to Foster here. While reading the character list I noticed Caliban as being “a savage and deformed slave”. Ding ding ding! Deformed. Deformed=important as in “pay attention to this character, he’ll come into play in a big way.” The deformity wasn’t just something thrown in by Shakespeare on a whim, it has significant meaning. While that meaning may not be entirely clear in the first two acts, I’m sure something will come of it.
Disfigurements and Blindness- All in the Name of Literature
Foster once again brings up good, if not completely obvious, topics in "How to Read Literature like an English Professor". It all draws on the basic theme of “The author wouldn’t have put it in there if it didn’t mean something”.
Whenever a character has some sort of disfigurement or disability this is a mark of greatness according to Foster. Really, why bother writing in a problem for a character if it isn’t going to be used for something later on? The disability- be it a deformed hand, misshapen back, or any number of other things- could just be the author’s way of incorporating something different into his or her story. It can be boring reading about blonde haired blue eyes perfect characters all the time. Yet, as is often the case, the disability is a symbol of more- much more. This person will do something great or significant, whether he or she has a problem or not. In fact, it is almost ironic. The future king of Spain has one leg? The accomplished painter has deformed hands? It adds something to the story and makes the reader take notice of a character that could easily fall into the background with the rest.
Blindness is another issue mentioned in the book. I’m blind, you’re blind, we are all blind and yet can see. Confusing? A blind character isn’t just another character with a disability. He or she sees things that others can’t. Due to the physical impairment she in more “in tune” with other elements of the world that cannot see- spiritual or psychological elements. So this person can, in a way, “see”. And for the sighted characters- they are just as blind sometimes as anyone. They do not see the obvious solution to a problem because they are consumed with something else or will not acknowledge something they have done wrong for fear of being caught. These characters are “blinded” by something, rendering them similar to the truly blind.
You know what's fun? Messing with blog colors at 9:00am when you should really be doing your actual homework. Yep, it's a good time.
I actually enjoy reading a literary analysis sometimes. (Notice I said "sometimes". The long winded ones I have no patience for.) Reading someone else's thoughts on a piece of writing helps me to understand some of the symbolism I probably would not have found previously. "Love, Life, and Death in Coleridge's Poem 'The Raven'" by Pavlina Hacova (a great name by the way) certainly showed me some elements of the poem I previously overlooked.
I completely understand the life/death element symbolized by the raven. The raven, a traditional symbol of death, becomes one of life as he finds love and has a family. However he is placed back into his traditional role as his family dies. While this isn't exactly an Earth-shattering analysis, what is interesting is how Coleridge interchanges the symbol of the raven throughout the poem. The reader begins thinking one thing- "Oh, scary bird, death, ok" progresses to think another- "Oh, scary bird, life, ok" and then comes back to the original- "Oh, scary bird, death, it's about time".
There were some aspects of the poem that I certainly did not find during my reading. Hacova writes about the religious meaning in the poem. I don't know why, but unless it is blatently obvious, I cannot find the religious symbols in any poem. (No, I'm not a complete heathen. It's just been awhile since my last religion class, ok?) I would have never connected the oak tree as a symbol for life or as "an honest person blessed by God". Often I wonder if the author meant to add all this symbolism (religious or otherwise) to his or her poem. However Hacova mentions that Coleridge's father was a reverend- I can assume the religious symbols were intentional.
When I first saw the assignment and noticed all the love sonnets I thought, "Thanks Dr. Jerz, rub it in". Yet then I read the not-so-lovey poems and breathed a sigh of relief. Not everyone is Valentine's Day crazy.
The first poem, "The Raven" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge definitly doesn't fit in with the sonnets. First thing I noticed was the rhyming. I dislike rhyming poems. They are too sing-songy and the story is often something childish and innocent. The rhyming fools the reader though. I expected a nice light poem about this cute little raven and got a poem about a cute little raven and his dead family. The surprise factor alone made "The Raven" interesting.
"Death, be not Proud" by John Donne again lacks that special lovey feeling. Well, unless you get turned on by death. Donne has made Death almost into a person and called him proud because he is so powerful. Instead, Death is not such a powerful force that people should fear. Too much impact is placed on Death and has made him proud (hence the name of the poem).
Now for the love. Shakespeare's "Sonnet XVIII: Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day?" is such a classic love poem that every knows at least a few lines. He is obviously comparing his lover to a summer's day and saying that really, there is no comparison. She (or, now that I think about it, he. We've all heard the rumors) is "more lovely and more temperate". Summer is nothing at all when compared to this lover. As a hopeless romantic, I'd sure be won over with a poem comparing me to summer...hopefully she (or he) felt the same way.
After the discussion of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot in class I have a much better understanding of the poem. While I had made my own interpretations on the selection it was interesting to hear what everyone else thought. I guess sometimes it takes several points of view to really "get" something.
There is just so much in this poem though to interpret. I wonder, if when the poem was originally published x-number of years ago, if the readers understood it either. I mean, this is a poem which people are constantly examining and studying. What about the original readers? Did they see all the symbolism?
One of the questions I had while reading was about the women talking of Michelangelo. I wasn't exactly sure what this ment. The rest of the poem is the narrator talking about not being able to express his love for another and then Michelangelo comes in. Michelangelo represents perfection. In his time he was a perfect figure and the man is comparing himself to this perfection- something he will never be in his mind.
Another prominent historical figure, Hamlet, was also mentioned. By mentioning Hamlet we know that the man is an educated person to know about the play. However, he does not see how his education is exactly helping his life. He is still stuck in his boring life regardless of whether he knows Hamlet or not.
This was a difficult poem for me to understand, I admit. There is just so much to interpret that it becomes overwhelming when every stanza needs picked apart.
My amusing thoughts on assorted poems-
"Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson- I remember reading this poem years ago, about tenth grade I think, yet sadly did not remember any conclusions made about it. Which is a good and bad thing. Good because I can form my own opinion of it now that I am older. Bad that I don't remember much from that literature class. Anyway, this was not exactly a happy-go-lucky poem. The emphasis is obviously on death (hence the name of the poem. Wow...) and the theme is repeated several times throughout. She mentions that her clothing is light and airy like an angel's. Then she writes about a house which could be more her coffin than an actual home. Very morbid. I would be sort of curious to see what would become of Dickinson if she lived in this time. Can we say antidepressants?
"This is Just to Say" by William Carlos Williams- Again, I read this in tenth grade. And again I didn't remember much about the poem. Yet now that I have reread it I see the symbolism better than before. Of course the plums are not just plums. Instead they represent a forbidden fruit (since the narrator shouldn't really have eaten them. They were being saved for breakfast after all) similar to that in the Adam and Eve story. Actually, all the elements of the Adam and Eve story are in this short little poem- a man, woman (in class we discussed that this is a man writing this little note to his wife in the morning), and the fruit. Instead of the fall of mankind however (all he did was eat some fruit. Not exactly damning behavior), the poem is more about asking forgiveness.
"God's Grandeur" by Gerard Manly Hopkins- One I haven't read before! I noticed that some words were repeated in the poem, such as "trod" which symbolizes an action being repeated over and over. "Trod" especially has another meaning when repeated. The walking is done over and over, slowly and monotonously. Slight yet effective imagery.
Also in the poem is the theme that we pay more attention to our jobs than to God. We need to realize that He is still all around us and in nature although we may not know he is there.
I have to admit, I am not a big fan of poetry. Amazing, I know. I'm an English major. I'm a girl. I'm supposed to like poetry. Yet in general, I don't. Reading it, writing it- just not for me.
Some read poetry as sort of an outlet to escape. Whenever something is wrong or troubling them they crack open some deep poem about the worthlessness of life and release their troubles. Perhaps that is why I'm not a huge poetry fan. The deep inner meanings. I know not all poetry is about the sinister side of life. I'm not a total poetry snob. There are some that I actually like. Yet for the most part, I like to read to be happy, not become more depressed over my life.
I don't enjoy writing poetry much either. Again, so write poetry as a release from life. Just "getting it all out". And that is great- for other people. When I'm upset about life I just keep it inside. My anger does not channel into poetry. Another reason I dislike writing poetry is the fact that I simply have nothing to write about. I live my cute little life in my cute little snowglobe. I've never had the true love, the heartache, the immense depression and death that some poems are based on. Sure, I could write a poem about the general stuff that happens in my life but really, who wants to read that?
I can't say I hate poetry completely. Maybe I've never given it a fair chance. But if I had the choice between a good book and a good poem, you know what I would chose.
I was surprised (in a good way mind you) when I read The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster. As soon as I saw that the story is twenty-some pages when printed out, I thought, “What sort of story is this? What happened to London’s short little ones?” Not that I think twenty pages is a lot to read (I am an English major after all. I’m used to reading) but I knew I wouldn’t have a lot of time to read it since my schedule has been pretty full. However the story went quickly. Very quickly. The writing was easy to understand as Chris also noticed and I honestly enjoyed it, although I don’t usually like technology tales.
Another aspect I was amazed at was the time “The Machine Stops” was written. With all of the sophisticated technology mentioned one would assume it was composed sometime late in the last century. The 60s, 70s, or 80s. Yet Forster wrote “The Machine Stops” in 1909. That’s right, 09. I can’t even imagine thinking of all that technology back then when they barely had electricity and telephones (or maybe they did. I’m not great at history. Either way, you see where I’m going with this).
A strong Biblical element is also in the story. The Book of the Machine is worshiped as dearly as the Bible. The Machine itself acts almost as a separate religion. Words such as “sin”, “heavenly”, and “divine” are used to describe the relationship between man and the Machine. Perhaps the inhabitants have transformed the Machine into a god since their religions were wiped out years before. Humans of most every culture in all lands have created religions throughout the years. It seems part of our nature to have a “higher being” to worship. When regular religion is destroyed, humans just invent another, no matter how far fetched.
The Machine also seems like “Big Brother” to me. It controls all, it knows all. You mess with it and you are homeless. The purpose of the machine could be the governments’ way of controlling all the people in the world before they revolt of become dangerous as in the past.
I could surely go on. “The Machine Stops” has several elements in it that can be analyzed in great detail. Yet not here, not now. Let’s see what everyone else has to say…