For you, and you, and you...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
So, we're back to Hamlet! Joy of joys, let's go for it.

Anyone who has read Hamlet before (and probably several of you who haven't) knows that after Polonius is killed, Ophelia goes crazy. Literally crazy. However, sometimes there is method in Shakespeare's madness (as stated by my blog). So, does Ophelia actually make sense in her madness, or is it just a random babble that seemingly happens to touch on some truth?

I think the greatest way to tell is in her flower choices. I know many other people have analyzed her floral arrangements, but here's mine:

First, she gives rosemary...

- symbolizes: remembrance & fidelity
- used greatly in funeral wreaths to remember those who have passed on
- also used greatly in wedding bouquets to remind couples of their vows to each other
- interesting rumor: if you touch a lover with a sprig of rosemary, they will always be faithful
Then Ophelia hands out pansies. 

- symbolizes: thoughts (you occupy my thoughts) & merriment
- one of the main ingredients in Celtic love potions

In "A Midsummer Night's Dream" it is shown as a love potion when "with pansy juice on her eyes, sleeping Titania fell in love with the first creature she saw when she awoke."

Next, Ophelia hands out fennel and columbine.

- symbolizes: foolishness & flattery 
- once fennel is picked, it wilts very quickly 
- quote: "Sow fennel, sow sorrow"

- symbolizes: male adultery & foolishness, ingratitude & thanklessness 
- shape of the flower imitates a Jester's cap and bells, showing the foolishness

Next, Ophelia hands out the rue.

- symbolized: genuine repentance & everlasting suffering
- rue has a very bitter taste
- was the major cause for abortion in its day
-tied with adultery in that it shows repentance of transgressions for women

Then, Ophelia skips over the daisy.

-symbolized: innocence, purity, & forsaken love
- it is also tied to the keeping of a secret; "I'll never tell"

- Celtic legend: 

Daisies come from the spirits of children who died at birth. To cheer up the parents of these children, God sprinkled the flowers over all the Earth. This is why daisies stand for innocence.

Then, Ophelia mentions that all the violets are withered.

- symbolized: modesty, virtue, affection, faithfulness, & fidelity 
- used as a charm against evil because of its purity
- also shows a returning of love

      So, was Ophelia truly mad? Was she simply pretending to have lost her wits just as had Hamlet had? Was she doing this so she could confront the King and Queen without the fear of them killing her for treason? 

Is there method in her madness?

Off to the show!

Monday, September 26, 2011
So last Saturday was the big day. Six hours driving for a three hour long play. Now, the question stands...

Was it worth it?


There is truly something about watching a play that adds depth to the words preciously read. While watching it, I found that there were many times I had simply overlooked the vast emotion that was created by the actors. I was able to connect with the characters more emotionally as I was able to hear their distraught voices and see their faces expressing the wide range of utter unhappiness to the purest of joys. I hope that I can bring my reading more to life in the future with this added sense of the actors performing.

The director went for a more serious tone for the play, choosing a dramatic romance instead of the comedy that was discussed earlier. I felt like this was a good choice through looking at the audience. The majority of the audience appeared to be 50+ in age, which meant that the good majority of them had been married for a long time. As opposed to a group of college-aged students, an older audience would find the married relationships to be more serious as most of them have gone through struggles in their own lives with their marriage. I don't believe that they would have been as humored making light of Leontes' concerns regarding his marriage. However, because of this heavy drama, the humor in the characters of the Clown and the Old Shepherd were greatly appreciated as almost a stress-relief to the audience. It was almost as if the Shepherd's    first lines cursing youth's idiocy gave the audience a moment to exhale and realize that the rest of the world was still untouched from the madness of the Sicilian court.

Now, not so analytical...

Another interesting aspect about the play was that it had more of a modern style choice that I personally felt was a genius move. The second half of the play was made more credible (being that it jumped sixteen years into the future) because the styles had changed. The men went from wearing waistcoats with tails to the more modern-cut suits we have today. This idea of showing the passage of time through fashion really impressed me.

I don't know about you, but this screamed later in time to me. It was something unexpected, but in a  pleasantly surprising way. 

Major props to the director for this one!

Interesting imagery...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011
      So this week I finished reading a Winter's Tale. It was surprising at the end, but also very nice and happy. So, thinking of the end reminded me once more of the beginning and of how different it is from the ending. Trying to make a better comparison I re-read the first two acts and pulled out the imagery and symbols used in these acts. It was no wonder that I found several images of decay and rot, but something that was surprising was a couple of references to time and shepherds, which was foreshadowing some of the aspects of the second half of the play. Here is some of what I found:

"They were trained together in their childhoods; and there rooted betwixt them then such an affection which cannot choose but branch now."   

"Yet, good deed, Leontes, I love thee not a jar o' the clock behind what lady-she her lord."

"We were as twinn'd lambs that did frisk i' the sun, and bleat the one at the other."

And then came Leontes' accusations:

"How accursed in being so blest! There may be in the cup a spider steep'd, and one may drink, depart, and yet take no venom, for his knowledge is not infected: but if one present the abhorr'd ingredient to his eye, make known how he hath drunk, he cracks his gorge, his sides, with violent hefts. I have drunk, and seen the spider."

"There is a sicknesss which puts some of us in distemper, but I cannot name the disease; and it is caught of you that yet are well."

    "How! caught of me! Make me not sighted like the basilisk: I have look'd on thousands, who have sped the better by my regard, but kill'd none so."

                  "For as the case now stands, it is a curse he cannot be compell'd to't - once remove the root of his opinion, which is rotten as ever oak or stone was sound."

"If it be so, we need no grave to bury honesty: There's not a grain of it the face to sweeten of the whole dungy earth."

      I found that the imagery really changes the mood of the play. The audience finds that the characters are suddenly disagreeing and they can tell not only through their darkened faces, but also through the distinct images that are being described to them. Interesting, huh?

Policies about Cyborgs

Monday, September 19, 2011
"Are you all just robots? Because we have policies about cyborgs."

Sometimes the things said in Shakespeare class are surprising. But sometimes they're not. Like the never-ending debate about Hamlet's mental stability or the two star-crossed lovers that somehow end up running away from their problems. One thing that I've particularly noticed, however, is the fact that a lot of the conflicts occur because of a lack of information. It's either a huge miscommunication, or simply people assuming the worst about others because of their lack of communication. I wonder what would happen if these people had better technology. Maybe then they wouldn't have had so many problems. But seriously - would Hamlet have been able to find the truth about his uncle any other way? What about Polixenes? Would he have simply texted his son and asked him where he was instead of finding out from Camillo that he was seeing Perdita?

You know, I think that these situations would still occur. Even with the wonderful technology that we have today, I feel that there are miscommunications occurring all around us. It's like when you receive a rude text message that the other person meant as a total joke. I believe that Leontes would have become even more jealous had Hermione called up Polixenes and asked him to stay over the phone. I think he would have thought Hermione was going behind his back in a situation such as that.

Also, had Hamlet simply looked at the security cameras placed around the palace gardens, he would have known the truth about his uncle without the mental and emotional turmoil that led from his seeing his father's ghost. So I guess what I'm trying to say is that sometimes our technology can help us to avoid miscommunication, but it also provides a greater opportunity to be misled.

The Winter's Tale Acts II - III

Wednesday, September 14, 2011
So those of you who haven't read Justin's comment on my last post should. He brought up a great point about Shakespeare's characterization of Leontes. This made me start thinking of Leontes and I wondered what could possibly convince Shakespeare to create such a character. It seems like Leontes' character fails to be the believable human being that Shakespeare is known for - the ones that we can all relate to as we see their inward struggles and challenges.

Leontes seems to have no inward struggles. He is quick to blame and sticks with his anger. Imagine what would've happened had Hamlet been like this. He would've killed Claudius whether he was the real murderer or not. Then the play would end by Act II. I think that Shakespeare's point in this is to say how blinded we can be in our anger and jealousy that we could become a being like Leontes, who through his anger becomes less like a true character. I believe that Shakespeare is trying to show that true character is built through thoughts and reason.

The Winter's Tale

Monday, September 12, 2011
Yes, I know we just started Hamlet but we're going to take a quick detour to read The Winter's Tale in preparation for the performance we're going to see. With that said, forget my last post and be open to meet some new characters.

We open on two lords, Camillo and Archidamus, who then talk about the great friendship between their kings Leontes and Polixenes. By now I should realize that as soon as Shakespeare sets up a seeming life-long friendship it will be broken. And big suprise! It's over a girl. Go figure.

So, Leontes suspects Polixenes of being in a relationship with his wife because he refuses to stay until his wife (Hermione) asks Polixenes to stay. I feel that Leontes is completely overreacting (which is confirmed later in the act). Hermione makes a point to not say anything until Leontes asks her "Tongue-tied, our queen?/ speak you."

Let me point out Hermione's first comment of the play - "I had thought, sir, to have held my peace until/ You have drawn oaths from him not to stay. You, sir,/ Charge him too coldly. Tell him, you are sure/ All in Bohemia's well;" We hear from Polixenes that nothing is happening between him and Hermione, but Hermione's speech here should be proof enough. Notice how she starts off by telling Leontes what he should tell Polixenes. Only after increased stubbornness from Polixenes does she address him directly. This should show that she still respects her husband enough to converse with him first about conversing with Polixenes. I just think that if I were in an unfaithful relationship (hypothetically) that I wouldn't really care about Leontes in the discussion and I would automatically entreat Polixenes to stay from the start.

Bottom line is that Leontes is being a jealous king. The only person ever able to challenging his authority would be the neighboring king, Polixenes, and having such a person in close proximity must make Leontes feel like his own power is slipping. In Polixenes' own words - "This jealousy/ Is for a precious creature: as she's rare,/ Must be great, and as his person's mighty,/ Must it be violent,"

Beginning Hamlet

Saturday, September 10, 2011
Reading through the first several Acts of Hamlet I can really see why this play is so famous. Out of all Shakespeare's plays I find that this one delves into the psycological aspects of the human mind and analyzes human behavior.

That's a pretty big statement, I know, but going through this play for the second time I can really see Shakespeare playing with the different plays found in Hamlet. As you meet Hamlet for the first time he speaks about the ways people really aren't in mourning with their "customary suits of solemn black,/ Nor windy suspiration of ford'd breath,/ No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,"

Hamlet suggests that people might perform the actions, but not truly be in the right emotional state of mourning. He says, "These indeed seem,/ For they are actions that a man might play;/ But I have that within which passeth show-/ These but the trappings and the suits of woe."

This is the first time that Hamlet makes a speech. This is the moment that audiences usually start gathering information about the character and what kind of person he is. Now, I don't think it is any coincidence that Hamlet says the words play and passeth show in his first big speech. Shakespeare is trying to explore at what levels people are living their lives as if in a play to satisfy an audience, or at what point they turn to their own emotions and act as they truly would.

Now the question must be asked. How much of your life are you acting out?

My First Encounter . . .

Wednesday, September 7, 2011
All through my life I've heard of the infamous William Shakespeare. The same William Shakespeare who turned high school English class into a living torture for its unsuspecting students. When my turn finally came, however, I found that it wasn't as bad as it seemed. I'm not sure if it was that I had a knack for actually understanding the language (that was for some reason labelled as English), or if it was the fun, quirky teacher that brought it to life. I'm leaning towards the second reason. My teacher had the courage to introduce a class of thirteen-year-olds to the madness of King Richard the Third. Yet, amidst the betrayals, beheading, and bemoaning of those killed I found that I couldn't wait to see how it all ended. Of course the evil Richard was going to be dethroned, but how much madness could he create before it finally caught up to him? And thus, my curiosity was sparked.

Now, they often say curiosity killed the cat. If that's true, then I should only have myself to blame for signing up to study Shakespeare. By the time high school had ended I had thouroughly studied Richard the Third, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, and Hamlet. And yet, that wasn't enough. I was like the monkey who'd reached into the jar and would rather be caught than let go of the food he'd found. And that's what has brought me here. I'm about to dive head-first into the complex world of William Shakespeare.

I hope I'm up for the challenge.