Learning in the Light of Dr. Burton

Monday, October 31, 2011

      This post is for my Shakespeare class and  mainly for my professor. The contents should not make you feel like I am simply posting because I am assigned to. Another warning - this is a self-evaluation so I will seem very self-centered and critical. I would instead read a different post in which I actually discuss Shakespeare instead of discussing myself.

Learning Outcomes:

   Shakespeare Literacy:    
      As I think about all that I have learned over the summer, I realize that Shakespeare has really come alive to me. I don't only think of Shakespeare as a playwright, but as I think about him, I think of different pieces of literature that he has expressed his ideas and his creativity through. Before the semester I had read all of the pieces that we read in class, but I felt (especially in the case of the Tempest and Love's Labour's Lost) like I had simply glanced over them and hadn't put in the time and effort to make the plays come alive to me until this semester.

   Analyze Shakespeare Critically:
      I am now more fully able to analyze the plays now through examining the text and different productions as well as through other styles and pieces of literature being read during Shakespeare's time. This is demonstrated in my blog posts, especially the one about Macbeth (post). I have been able to analyze some of the deep messages that are taught in the plays and have realized that the more I learn about these plays and about Shakespeare, the more I realize I can never finish analyzing his works. I have explored many themes in Shakespeare including the religious symbolism in the Tempest, the play within a play in Love's Labour's Lost and in Hamlet, and the amazing images Shakespeare adds to convey his messages in The Winter's Tale, Hamlet, and in The Tempest.

   Engage Shakespeare Creatively:
      I have not had many chances to perform Shakespeare, but I have been able to draw up a few landscape designs that would visually and symbolically represent the individual play and convey some of the themes found in the particular play. I was thinking of doing something different for my final project though, as it has to be a group project. Yet, this hasn't stopped me from trying to focus more on the imagery that Shakespeare uses in his plays and the important messages that these images portray.

   Share Shakespeare Meaningfully:
       I have also been able to spread my knowledge and develop my writing skills through online sources, such as blogging, goodreads, and twitter. Before this class, I had never used blogging or twitter and had never written a review on goodreads.  Now, halfway through the semester I have learned different techniques to not only use blogspot, but to also create an attractive, appealing blog and posts. I still have more to learn about twitter (to shorten my comments and punctuate correctly, or incorrectly), but I have started tweeting and am learning a great deal. I have also posted a review of Macbeth on goodreads and am more confidant than before. Also, doing a blog search through google, I found a blog of LDS women who have formed a book group in order to continue learning. They just finished reading Macbeth and I was able to leave my comments and have a great discussion with them about it. I got their permission to link to their post, where you can see some of my comments. I feel that I have learned a great deal in different methods of writing and sharing through technology today.

Self-directed Learning:
      Through this class, I have actually been excited to post on my blog. This is not just because I like getting my assigned post out of the way, but it gives me a chance to go back over the play that we have been reading and to look at it in different ways that I can then portray in my post. I love being able to comment on others' blogs as well as seeing their comments on my own posts as it helps me to better develop the ideas present there. I have found a real sense of accomplishment through this class and through my discoveries and blogging about Shakespeare.

Collaborative and Social Learning:
      I believe that everyone in my group has brought great insights into our discussions as they each have different aspects of the play that they are looking at. Speaking of the members in my group, I would mention Austin for some great insights in class, and Mason for his great comments and conversations he starts on posts. Justin likes to sit back and listen to our conversation, but when he puts in his two bits, they are usually well thought out and insightful. I would describe Gabe as fitting the clown role through his bringing a lot of humor into the group, which is good because it usually gets us to converse in the first place. It has been fun getting to talk with others about these plays. I was also able to talk with my mom about Hamlet as she is taking a writing class and is reading it for the first time. I referenced her to my blog in order to help her get some thoughts forming concerning Hamlet's relationship with Ophelia (the topic of her essay).

Looking Ahead:
      As I mentioned earlier, I know that learning about Shakespeare is never complete. I used to wonder how there could be English majors who study Shakespeare all their lives as I thought that there would be a point in which you would simply know everything. I now know how these great works can lead to a life full of study and learning. As I also mentioned earlier, I was going to complete a landscape design of each play, but as it is a group project, I have now thought of playing a game for my final project. It is no ordinary game, but is called In the Manner of the Adverb. We would film it of course, or perform it in front of the class. It would include several different scenes from various plays and will have each scene played out in the manner of the adverbs. I believe that this will bring greater insight into the particular scenes as you will be able to look at the scene from a different perspective. What will change and what will stay the same as Prospero tells Miranda of their past in an excited manner. What about a spontaneous Hamlet? Sure, he is in some scenes, but would it fit in his 'to be or not to be' speech? I believe that this will give a greater understanding of each character and will show how there are several different interpretations of character, but that their actions usually fit with a certain attitude of character.

Connecting with others... through Macbeth?

So this week we have been challenged to go beyond our own little bubble and try to connect with others through our personal Shakespeare play. This, for me, means Macbeth.

Now I was thinking, how can you connect with someone through Macbeth? ...

      ... So... have you had any run-ins with evil Scottish tyrants lately? ...

      ... So... what do you think about murdering for your own personal gain? ...
   Not quite right...

      ... So... how well do you know Shakespeare? ...
   Eh, getting closer, but the nerd factor is still high.

I tried convincing my brother to come see Macbeth with me (you can check out my previous post to see how I liked it) yet, he wasn't all too interested. He thought it was going to be a bunch of men in tights.

Not exactly.

The closest thing was a kilt. I told him about the action-packed plot, but he said "so, pretty much everyone just dies." Close, but not everyone dies, or we'd have a Hamlet repeat. I was able to share with him, however, about Macduff and his challenge to Macbeth. I was able to explain that Macduff wasn't simply trying to take over the throne hemself, but that he was revenging his family's cruel murder. That got him thinking, but he still refers to Macbeth as 'the play where everyone kills each other'.

That wasn't the most thought-provoking or positive message.

So then with my boyfriend Ian. He was thoroughly interested in Macbeth after watching the trailer for the Patrick Stewart production of Macbeth. So, we watched it together and his curiosity was piqued. Then, reading my previous post in which I compared Macbeth to Oedipus, we were able to have a great discussion concerning the role of fate and whether or not Macbeth could have escaped the witches' prophecy or if the only thing that sealed it was his hearing about it. This helped me to solidify my own opinions concerning Shakespeare's tragedies.

And on the topic of fate...

As I tried to expand my horizons and reach out to people I don't know, I stumbled upon a blog that contained a review of Macbeth and broke it down into distinct themes that were found therein. This blog was perfect as it was created by a group of women who share my faith and who have formed a book club in order to further their learning. I was able to comment about some of the points that this fellow blogger made about the relevance of the themes today and she was flattered that I had found their site. We really were able to connect with our similar beliefs as well as through our shared goal for continual learning. I was also amazed at some of the connections she had made on the religious aspects of Macbeth which I had never thought of before. It was great being able to see our common interest and viewpoints as well as to learn from each others' different insights.

So... am I just rambling on now? I think so. I just want to say that if anyone has any thoughts concerning Macbeth, or needs any sort of help understanding it, feel free to ask. It's really all together that we figure things out.

The Fall...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
      Reading through the final words of the Tempest, Prospero does something that can be looked on as strange - he gives up his power and asks the people for compassion on him to take him back to Naples.

      I asked myself why he would do this and why Shakespeare would end his play with the submission of his all-powerful character and I kept coming back to the idea of agency. Throughout this whole play, Prospero has been seen as a god-like character in that he goes around watching and leading all the others. Through this, he tries to reveal each person's true character - that of the scheming Antonio, the true Ferdinand, and the plundering Stephano. Yet, at the end when he unveils everyone's true characters he does not pass any judgement. Then, with his last words he asks the people if by their own good will they will free him from his prison (the island) and take him back to Naples.

      I believe that in this play, even though it is filled with spectacles and unusual happenings, the true principle is the power of choice. Antonio chose to scheme and plot to kill the king. Gonzalo chose to be a loyal subject. Ferdinand chose to marry Miranda, and Caliban chose to follow a new master that led him to attempted murder. Prospero is the one who unveils these acts, but realizes that he cannot then force his power upon people to take him back to his named freedom. It is their choice to free him and to accept him as who he is - not an all-powerful being, but as an old man whose strength is weak and whose choices were only meant to help everyone.

      Now my charms are all o'erthrown, 
      And what strength I have's mine own,

      Which is most faint: now, 'tis true, 
      I must be here confined by you, 
      Or sent to Naples. Let me not, 
      Since I have my dukedom got 
      And pardon'd the deceiver, dwell

      In this bare island by your spell; 
      But release me from my bands 
      With the help of your good hands: 
      Gentle breath of yours my sails 
      Must fill, or else my project fails,

      Which was to please. Now I want 
      Spirits to enforce, art to enchant, 
      And my ending is despair, 
      Unless I be relieved by prayer, 
      Which pierces so that it assaults

      Mercy itself and frees all faults. 
      As you from crimes would pardon'd be, 
      Let your indulgence set me free.

Prospero's master plan... or is it Ariel's?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011
As we continue to read through the Tempest, Prospero is looked at as the mastermind and ultimate power behind the plot and the island. Yet, as the play progresses it is left to ask if Prospero is really calling any of the shots. It really seems as if his sidekick, Ariel, is really the one causing all the action.

   In the beginning, Prospero asks Ariel:

"Hast thou, spirit, perform'd to point the tempest that I bade thee?"

   Then, Ariel responds "To every article." and describes in detail the fierce storm.

This seems to have Prospero's plans written all over it. However, did he plan out any of the rest?

   After assuring Ariel's servitude to him, Prospero tells her simply:

"Go make thyself like a nymph o' the sea: be subject to no sight but thine and mine, invisible to every eyeball else. Go take this shape and hither come in't: go, hence with diligence!"

That's it. No special instructions except to make herself like a nymph and invisible. What she does, however, is quite a bit more, such as leading an enchanted Ferdinand into a soon-to-be-enchanted Miranda. For this, Prospero says:

"At the first sight, they have changed eyes. Delicate Ariel, I'll set thee free for this."

and then questions if this is really the best plan:

"They are both in either's powers; but this swift business I must uneasy make, lest too light winning make the prize light."

Then later Prospero seems to be watching over all when before Ariel saves Gonzalo and Alonso she says:

"My master through his art forsees the danger that you, his friend, are in; and sends me forth- for else his project dies- to keep them living."

Yet, after she wakes them and is confident that they are safe, she says:

"Prospero my lord shall know what I have done: so king, go safely on to seek thy son."

These points lead to me questioning if Prospero really knows what is going on. If he could really see the danger of Gonzalo and Alonso, then wouldn't he have seen what Ariel did? Why then was she going off to report? Does Prospero really tell Ariel backstage exactly what he wants her to do, or does he just tell her general acts? Maybe Ariel just goes the extra mile in everything in order to get freed for her service. Either way, I don't think Prospero knows exactly what he's doing, but is sometimes sitting, waiting for Ariel to act and will then respond to however her actions pan out.

Macbeth - Live!

It's not about Last Friday Night, but about last Saturday night. No, I didn't go to a raving party, but to a production of Macbeth put on by The Grassroots Shakespeare Company. Not as awesome as Katy Perry? I would disagree. And no, I'm not a nerd, it was simply an awesome production. Here are some highlights:


The company tried to keep it as realistic to the times as possible, so they kept everything simple - a.k.a. a lot of things that Shakespeare would have had access to. This included the 'mood lights'. Now, I don't know that he would have had light generators, but there were three light settings: regular white, regal red, and royal blue. This separated the play into simple scenes: the normal everyday conversations, the murder and death scenes, and the dark night scenes. Pretty simple, but really easy to follow.


So... there really weren't any cameras. However, there was some gaming. Little Fleance was caught sneaking out his little handheld gaming device. Or should I say her gaming device. Trying to keep it realistic, they had males playing female parts and females playing male parts (even though they didn't have female actors during Shakespeare's time). This lack of technology didn't slow the actors down though as the play became more about the audience than about the grand performance of the actors. And it worked. The audience was much more interactive as they booed Lady Macbeth and cheered on Macduff as he fought. They hid Fleance from the murderers and shook hands with the actors as they were titled to new positions. This production didn't use cameras to provide a physical separation. They literally jumped right in!


As for action, all I have to do is send out the reminder that it was Macbeth. Of course there was action! It would be interesting seeing a production of Macbeth without any. That would produce a very short play... However, fortunately there was some and it kept things moving along and once again produced some laughs, cheers, boos, and general comments from the groundlings. Interestingly enough though, the actors were able to play off of that - using the cheers to buoy themselves up, trying to hide the pointing fingers when they asked who could have killed the king. The actors' actions played off the audience's actions, proving a direct interaction between the two.

Reading Shakespeare's Macbeth, people can forget the personal aspect of this play. What The Grassroots Shakespeare Company reminded me was the fact that Shakespeare was writing for the audience. He wanted them to gasp in fear at the terrible deed of killing a king, laugh at the drunk porter, feel a sense of triumph as Macduff triumphs over the evil Macbeth. This play was written to give the audience their own personal journey through the story, and let me tell you - Macbeth leads you through one heck of a journey!

'Tis a matter of opinion

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
So we're off reading The Tempest now, and I have to admit, I'm more intrigued in the story line than into analyzing it. I think it's because of the Tempest's amazing scenes that you simply have to imagine in order to understand what is going on. Unlike Love's Labour's Lost where the whole play seems to happen in one little area of a forest, the Tempest spans over a whole island that has the intrigue of being a shipwreck island. Now, as I was reading, I decided to actually get a feel of this island through looking at it through the characters' eyes.

We seem to have some conflicting views though.

Adrian: The air breathes upon us here most sweetly.
Sebastian: As if it had lungs and rotten ones.
Antonio: Or as 'twere perfumed by a fen.


Gonzalo: Here is everything advantageous to life.
Antonio: True; save means to live.
Sebastian: Of that there's none, or little.

Gonzalo: How lush and lusty the grass looks! how green!
Antonio: The ground indeed is tawny.
Sebastian: With an eye of green in't.

So what's up? Are they on two different islands???

It sure seems like it...

I think this just shows the difference between characters. Those with the cup half full, and those who choose to see it as just plain empty.

So here's my list:



We'll have to continue on and see who ends up the happiest!

Friend or foe?

Monday, October 17, 2011
So, after having finished reading the text as well as viewing a movie production of Macbeth, I was intrigued by one of the liberties the movie director (Patrick Stewart) took with the production that made me think twice about Macbeth.

In the movie, the three witches didn't appear as the normal pointy-hat, ugly, babbling old women. Instead, the witches were living among the normal crowd disguised as nurses. This brought them into a much more prevalent role as every time a dead person was rolled by, you saw at least one of the witches.

Now, how does this relate to Macbeth?

In Macbeth's final battle with Macduff, he states that he will never give up, though the witches' prophecies had doomed him. Then, in the movie, he has Macduff beaten and is about to stab him (causing Macbeth's victory), but is stopped by the image of the witches. Seeing them, a look of resignation comes over his face and he halts the blade. Then, as the witches' images fade, you hear a knife stab and an audible moan.

This made me think of another play I've been studying, Oedipus the King.

In this play, Oedipus is told at birth that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Then, to avoid this, his mother sent him to a far away land. Long story short, trying to escape these prophecies, he leaves his 'real' parents and travels far away. This leads him to kill his actual father and marry his mother.

The main theme in this play is that you cannot avoid your fate. Because of Oedipus' 'tragic flaw' of arrogance, he was destined to do these things and could not fight against it.

So, it made me think of Macbeth being like Oedipus. Destined to a pre-determined fate of the gods. Destined to kill Duncan and in turn be killed by Macduff to ensure that Fleance his own destiny. It made me wonder if in the movie he stopped because he finally decided to accept his fate rather than continue to fight against it.

Now, I personally don't share these beliefs of fate, but I wonder if Shakespeare was borrowing from Greek literature and once again bringing up these questions to be asked.

Again with the acting...

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
So, just as Hamlet has a play within a play, so does Love's Labour's Lost. However, this time it is different. It is no longer glorified, but utterly ridiculed.

I find it funny that Ferdinand's crew makes fun of the actors in the play. It is just like the Princess and her ladies were making fun of Ferdinand and his men for trying to act like Russians. I see it as an un-official play followed by a formal play - and both are ridiculed. The Princess of France said about the men's attempt to play them:

   "So shall we stay, mocking intended game, and they, well mock'd depart away with shame."

Then, in the middle of the play with the Worthies, Dumain and Longaville ridicule Don Adriano de Armado's acting when Don Armando says:

   "I am that flower,-"

And Dumain and Longaville respond with:

   "That mint."
   "That columbine."

This is really meant in mockery as mint was thought of as the lowliest of plants, always to be tread on, and columbine represented foolishness as was also mentioned in Hamlet and in one of my previous posts.

I just find it funny that those who were playing are now making fun of those in the play. Maybe it makes them feel better about their own acts of foolishness by making fun of another's.

Introducing... Macbeth

Monday, October 10, 2011

Now, I'm not going to be talking about these Macbeths...

but about these Macbeths...


   Yep... pretty bloody, I know. But, what can you expect from a play that is centered around murder?  

Some interesting things about this play:

The word "blood" or "bloody" shows up 36 times in the play. Some of these quotes stating it more than once.

This play begins with a war and ends with a war. 

There are three significant murders plus the murder of an entire family (minus one) and a suicide.

This play is thought to be cursed, causing members of the production to call it "the Scottish play"  backstage rather than referring to it by name.

This is truly an action-packed play and it will be my pleasure to cover it over the course of the next month. This will include my thorough reading of it and my listening to an audio recording. I will also be watching a video of it, though I am not sure which one yet. There have been many productions of Macbeth through the years (some amazing, and some critiqued as not so amazing), yet one has been noted to stand out as one of the greatest productions. That is the production directed by Rupert Goold - starring Patrick Stewart and Kate Fleetwood. It is more of a modernized production that can easily be accessed online (see link below). However, through viewing the first scene, I believe that this movie must be watched on Halloween (or in preparation for it) seeing as it left me light-headed after the first 5 minutes. This should be congratulated, though, as I believe from simply viewing the first two scenes, that it has truly captured the nightmarish mood that Shakespeare was searching for.

So there you have it. More to come on Macbeth. But before I go, I just wanted to add- for those men who think that Shakespeare is beneath their manliness- to give Macbeth a shot. I'd say that if you like action and violence, I think you'd be pretty satisfied with this play.

To view a summary of all the action, check out SparkNotes at: http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/macbeth

To view the totally wicked production of Macbeth directed by Rupert Goold, good luck, and check out this link:

or for a short preview, check this out:


What's in a name?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Those ever-entertaining, forever-loved characters.

      Reading through Love's Labour's Lost, we are introduced to a character named Costard, who, we are told, is a clown. Our previous encounter with a clown in A Winter's Tale, however, simply refers to the clown as 'Clown'. Why the difference? Why did they give one clown a name and not the other one? Pondering this question makes me think of another character created by Shakespeare: Juliet Capulet, who we all know asked the question "What's in a name?"

I ask the same thing.

      What is it about Costard that makes him worthy of a name? What is it about the Clown in A Winter's Tale that dooms him to remain without one? Is it simply that Costard needed to be accused by Armado, which would require a name to make sure that the audience know it was truly Costard who is being accused? Yet, couldn't Armado simply (though nothing by Armado is simple) have accused Costard without using his name? Couldn't he have said something like-

   'The one caught in this act- of which I have beforehand made reference- in the which I will now simply refer to as the act of which he has commited; for it is truly him which I have had sent to thee by way of this most highly esteemed man, by the name of Anthony Dull- a man of good repute, carraige, bearing, and estimation- who has delivered and graciously brought forward this aforesaid man; this low-spirited swain, this base minnow of thy mirth, this unlettered small-knowing soul, this shallow vassal whom I have caught in the act- who has been caught with a woman...'

That would pretty much point to none other than the clown, Costard. So... if the audience clearly knows who is being accused here, then why the need for his name?


Monday, October 3, 2011
     As I finished reading the final end of Hamlet, I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed. It's not because the ending was disappointing, but it was because I wanted to actually be able to see it being acted out. While studying Hamlet in high school we were able to watch both the Mel Gibson and the Kenneth Branagh versions of Hamlet. This helped me to visualize the scene and actually see the action being played through. 
      This brings me back to the appeal of the theater. Not only does Shakespeare have amazing personal characters whose speeches can be thoroughly analyzed and still bring up questions as to the human mind and nature, but the fact that it is a play and not a piece of literature is what made it so popular. It is the play with live actors who bring the words to life and help the audience members put themselves into the story. I feel that personally, I am more able to sympathize with difficult situations when the actors are right there, not only saying their lines, but expressing their deeper emotions. Each little gesture can suggest a thousand different things about the character that really brings them to life as a truly three-dimensional character who lives and thinks like you and me.

      I agree with Hamlet when he realizes that words are not enough, but that power comes through theater.

"The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King."