Monthly Archives: September 2018

John Henry – Folk Character

When analyzing the story of John Henry, it’s interesting to see how different versions affect the reader’s understanding. I think every version touches on themes of technology and race in some way, so I don’t believe it’s too simplistic to say that this is a story about both. However, each version seems to emphasizes a different theme more than the others, which definitely affects the message readers take away.

In the early version, there seems to be more focus on John Henry competing against the machine. He even says “Before that steam drill shall beat me down, / I’ll die with my hammer in my hand” and repeats a variation of this statement. John Henry is clearly focused on winning against the machine.

However, if you look at the construction crew version, although John Henry is competing against the machine, this version seems to emphasize him proving himself as an African American man. One part of this version says, “John Henry tol’ th’ white man; / Tol’ him kind-a sad: / “Cap’n George I want-a be yo’ fr’en; / If I beat yo’ to th’ bottom, don’t git mad.” It seems like John Henry has to make a case for himself here; he seems to think that even after winning, he’ll still be looked down on by the “white man.” The word choice of “sad” is also intriguing. In the early version, he’s confident about winning and wants to win, but in this version, there seems to be a bit more emotion behind his thought-process.

I also thought it was interesting that his version included the line “White Man turned on steam.” In a way, this almost seems like the blame is placed on the “white man” for the technology that wipes out the jobs done by real people, and African Americans in particular.

I also don’t think technology and race are the only two themes across the stories of John Henry. Every version has some reference to his wife and/or family, and the role of his family is given different levels of prominence in each version. This would be an interesting topic to analyze further as well.

Source: John Henry – Folk Character

Galey, “Signal to Noise”

Alan Galey’s “Signal to Noise” article introduced a lot of complex topics right off the bat. Within two pages, I was confused by this sentence:

“As the editor of an electronic edition of the 1594 quarto The Taming of a Shrew—another play about watching plays—forthcoming from the Internet Shakespeare Editions, I find some encouragement in the idea that bugs can be features, that the badness of a supposed bad quarto may indeed be a virtue, and that there is much to learn from the play’s uneasy relationship with print editions” (41).

Even though Galey goes on to describe this point further, he uses a lot of complex language that made it difficult for me to understand. I started off by rereading the first couple paragraphs of his article a few times, which helped clarify some of the things he was talking about. I also looked up some words and topics I was unfamiliar with. For example, I didn’t know what “quarto” meant, or “bad quarto.” I learned that a quarto was the specific size of the paper that a text was printed on, and a bad quarto seems to reference versions of Shakespeare’s work that are not as reliable. This basic understanding helped me move forward, because Galey goes on to use these terms quite a bit.

I also looked up The Taming of a Shrew because I needed clarification that this was a separate text than The Taming of the Shrew. I learned a little bit more about the similarities and differences between the two plays and the significance of the differences, which helped set up my understanding of the rest of Galey’s argument.

Although this might seem like a simple aspect of the article to analyze, building up my understanding of some terms and ideas before I continued reading helped prevent further confusion.

Source: Galey, “Signal to Noise”

Hutcheon, “From Shrew to Subject”

In Elizabeth Hutcheon’s article, “From Shrew to Subject,” Hutcheon used a lot of specific evidence to back up her claim about education in Shakespeare’s play. She mentioned that Bianca and Kate’s “high level of education was rare for middle-class women in the period the play was written” (317). Although Shakespeare’s play at first glance might portray women as less powerful, this interpretation says that the women in the play actually had more power than women typically did during this time period.

Similarly, taking a closer look at the diction and analyzing it leads to more interpretations. Hutcheon referenced how the word “shrew” was previously applied to lower-class males, who were typically uneducated. In this case, being a shrew could be a negative concept in the play not because Kate was a woman, but because she was uneducated. In Hutcheon’s interpretation, uneducated seems to mean not knowing how to craft her speech, which is a negative concept:

“If, however, we understand that Katherine has learned to speak both intelligibly and innovatively, it becomes clear that Petruchio’s deployment of humanist principles has benefited Katherine, allowing her to become a subject” (318).

Hutcheon’s interpretation acknowledges gender roles, but instead of looking at gender itself, she thinks all the characters have a similar goal to educate themselves to live in those societal roles. Taking a look at Kate’s speech transformation does show how she was able to learn how to speak in a way that people could understand. She was unable to communicate with anyone at the beginning, but by the end, everyone was listening to what she had to say. Although Kate’s transformation could be analyzed under a different lens, in terms of education, she did learn to fit into the role society prescribed for her, which was really her only option.

Source: Hutcheon, “From Shrew to Subject”

The Taming of the Shrew, Act 5

In the final act of The Taming of the Shrew, the tables have turned for everyone.

I found it interesting how in the first scene, Petruchio and Kate had an exchange that seemed as if they actually might like each other for real. After they kiss, Kate calls Petruchio “love,” and he calls her “my sweet Kate.” Usually, their exchanges don’t end on a positive note, but they both referred to each other in a positive way. Now that Kate is not fighting back, the two might actually be able to develop some type of feelings for each other.

Kate’s speech at the end was obviously a prominent part of Act 5 as well. One of the final lines of the play from Petruchio also stuck out to me:

“We three are married, but you two are sped” (line 201).

In the end, Petruchio ends up “winning” because he has the most obedient wife, which at the time was something people wanted to achieve. At the same time, the length of Kate’s speech makes me wonder if she finally viewed her marriage in an acceptable way. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, marriage was really the only option for Kate during this time period, and so by accepting this, it’s possible that Kate was finally able to find happiness in this role. I think there are definitely more interpretations to this play than simply “women should be subservient to men.”

Source: The Taming of a Shrew, Act 5

The Taming of the Shrew, Act 4

Act 4 of The Taming of the Shrew certainly was a prominent one in establishing relationships.

I thought it was interesting how Curtis, one of Petruchio’s servants, said, “By this reck’ning, he is more shrew than she” (line 79). People originally thought Kate was crazy, and now the tables have turned and people think Petruchio is the crazy one. However, I think the only way Petruchio could get Kate to act how he wanted was by acting similar to her.

Another passage that stuck out to me was when Petruchio said:

“This is a way to kill a wife with kindness. / And thus I’ll curb her mad and headstrong humor” (lines 208-209).

At first glance, Petruchio’s plan seems rude and inconsiderate. However, after thinking about this phrase more, it’s interesting how Petruchio uses killing her with “kindness” as his word choice. Even though he’s still purposely making her unhappy, he’s being very particular about how he does this, instead of just abusing her. I think the fact that Petruchio has a plan at all for “taming” Kate indicates that he understands there isn’t really another option for Kate in society except to be a good wife, so in a messed up way, maybe he really is just trying to help her. It was a little frustrating when Kate finally succumbed to everything and agreed that the sun was the moon, since she tried so hard to stay true to herself this entire time. However, hopefully in the final act, Petruchio will at least be a little kinder to her now that she’s listening.

I haven’t been blogging that much about Lucentio and Bianca, but Lucentio’s entire plan is very confusing. Their entire relationship is built on deception and lies, and I don’t think anything good can come from that. Even if they succeed in getting married, I have a feeling the marriage itself won’t be as great as Lucentio thinks it will be.

Source: The Taming of a Shrew, Act 4

The Taming of the Shrew, Act 3

In Act 3 of The Taming of the Shrew, the exchange that took place near the end of this section stood out to me:

Bianca: “That being mad herself, she’s madly mated.”
Gremio: “I warrant him, Petruchio is Kated.” (lines 250-251)

After Petruchio showed up to his wedding dressed like a mess and was rude at the altar, everyone thought Petruchio was crazy for his behavior. I thought it was interesting how Petruchio was calm and cordial when asking for Kate’s hand in marriage, and is now acting loud and obnoxious, while Kate was the loud one and is now quiet. Regarding the quote itself, Bianca seems to be acknowledging that it makes sense that Kate, who everyone thinks is crazy, is now married to someone equally as crazy as her. With Gremio’s line, Petruchio being “Kated” seems to imply that Petruchio now has become more like Kate and adopted her behaviors. Since these two characters have seemingly switched personalities in a way, it’ll be interesting to see who ends up changing more by the end.

Source: The Taming of a Shrew, Act 3

The Taming of the Shrew, Act 2

As I read Act 2 of The Taming of the Shrew, I was surprised that Kate remained silent when Petruchio told everyone they were getting married. However, I think a combination of factors played into her decision to stay silent.

When Petruchio and Kate were alone, they had a lengthy back-and-forth exchange. Petruchio is truly the first person who is willing and smart enough to talk to Kate on her level of intelligence. It’s also possible that Kate is impressed with Petruchio, which is evident when she asks, “Where did you study all this goodly speech?” (line 277). In this case, “goodly” means splendid, so Kate was possibly impressed or at least intrigued by Petruchio.

Additionally, Petruchio did slightly compliment Kate as he talked to the other men. He said, “For she’s not froward, but modest as the dove; / She is not hot, but temperate as the morn” (lines 310-311). Although he might not have been sincere about calling Kate modest and not angry, Kate is not used to receiving compliments, so hearing Petruchio say nice things about her at all might have influenced her to go along with his plan.

Petruchio also said that “she shall still be curst in company” (line 324). Even if Kate wasn’t happy in the relationship, Petruchio was at least giving her the option to still be herself in public, which might have appealed to her.

Finally, it’s possible that Kate simply figured marrying Petruchio was her best option. As a woman in society during this time, she didn’t have many options, so deciding to marry Petruchio might have been the best option to her at that point.

Source: The Taming of a Shrew, Act 2

The Taming of the Shrew, Act 1

Before I began reading The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare, I was a little concerned because I remember how challenging it was to read Shakespeare in high school English classes. However, I think the techniques I learned from my Introduction to Literary Study course last semester and the Reading and Writing about Literature book from this course have helped make my reading more comprehensive.

One passage that I found challenging to understand occurred early in the text, in Act 1, Scene 1, spoken by Katherine:

I’ faith, sir; you shall never need to fear.
Iwis it is not halfway to her heart.
But if it were, doubt not her care should be
To comb your noddle with a three-legged stool
And paint your face and use you like a fool.

This passage confused me at first because of the wording, and I wasn’t sure exactly what Katherine was trying to say. I looked at the context, and Katherine says this in response to Hortensio, who tells her that she will never be married unless she learns to be “gentler” and “milder.” I inferred that because Katherine already showed she was unhappy, this passage was a rebuke to Hortensio.

To further understand this passage, I defined some of the words I didn’t understand. “Iwis” means “certainly,” and the “it” Katherine is talking about is marriage. I think I was also confused because Katherine starts talking about herself in the third person. I realized this when I read this part aloud and understood that she was talking back to Hortensio. The first two lines are basically Katherine saying “You don’t need to worry about me getting married because that’s not what I want.”

In the next line, I replaced the word “it” with marriage again to make it clear what she was talking about. Katherine is saying that if marriage was what she wanted, she would only be interested in causing pain to Hortensio. I figured this out by taking each specific phrase and again replacing it words I am familiar with. Particularly, I was confused about the phrase “To comb your noddle with a three-legged stool.” “Noddle” means head, and “comb” in this sense would mean hit, so Katherine is saying she’d want to hit Hortensio in the head. “Paint your face” in this sense means “scratch until it bleeds,” which is another painful thing to do, and “use you like a fool” more so means to make a fool out him.

By taking the time to analyze this passage line by line, define unfamiliar terms, and read it aloud, I was able to better understand the level of sass that Katherine was giving Hortensio here. This definitely adds to her characterization, and I’m glad I took the time to figure it out.

Source: The Taming of a Shrew, Act 1

RWaL, Chapter 7 (2 of 2)

As I read the section in Reading and Writing about Literature on “How to Read a Play,” there was one passage I found particularly interesting:

“This means that as a reader you must be especially attentive to nuances of language in a play, which often means imagining what might be happening onstage during a particular passage of speech” (Gardner & Diaz 117).

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, although we might have an image in our heads when reading regular stories, plays are meant to be visualized, and in a way, must be visualized. Since most of a play is dialogue, we have to think about what the characters are physically doing when they are saying their lines. Each movement and facial expression is dramatic when plays are acted out, so that’s something you have to visualize yourself when reading the dialogue of play.

Additionally, it’s important to think about how the characters are saying their lines. We can detect tone in plays, but that involves thinking about the actual tone of voice the characters would be speaking in. You also have to consider the volume the characters would be speaking at, and how this would affect their message.

Source: RWaL, Chapter 7 (2 of 2)

RWaL, Chapter 7 (1 of 2)

In the “Elements of Drama” section of Reading and Writing about Literature, there were a few elements I was familiar with and a few that I know I will have to pay more attention to as I’m reading The Taming of the Shrew.

As the authors discussed, plot, character, and theme in plays are similar to the ones in regular stories. Diction can also be analyzed in a similar way, but it requires more attention in plays because almost all of a play is dialogue, what the characters are saying. I thought it was interesting that the authors said:

“As in real life, some characters might be mistaken in what they say, or they may be hiding the truth or even telling outright lies” (Gardner & Diaz 116).

That passage intrigued me because it reminded me of journalism, and how as journalists, we can’t believe something just because someone said it. We have to fact-check our information and make sure it’s accurate and that the people we interviewed were credible sources. I never thought about how in plays, you have to consider the motives of characters and analyze their credibility. I always thought English literature and journalism were very different, so I’m excited that I’m making these connections.

Although I was also familiar with melody and setting, spectacle was something I hadn’t really considered before. However, it makes sense, because plays are written to be performed, and not just read. Even though we often visualize regular stories in our heads, this is particularly important with plays, which are meant to go beyond the written word.

Source: RWaL, Chapter 7 (1 of 2)