Friday, May 14, 2010
I have always loved watching these videos just because I thought they were funny and ironic, but looking at it the second time, I saw that it was really doing other things as well. I know it's hard to tell, but it sort of gets to the point and calls us out on everything we're always searching for as scholars, like when Claudius says his bit about foreshadowing. Why are we always searching for the things that are right in front of us in Shakespeare's plays? Is it because he causes us to search for them by making his plays so interesting to us? Are the minor characters really important to the plot, or are they just there to draw it out?
First of all, allow me to apologize for the profanity. =)
I chose this clip from Billy Morrissette’s modernized Macbeth retelling, Scotland, PA, which stars James LeGros, Christopher Walken, and as the clip shows, the colorful Maura Tierney. I was able to catch a viewing of this underrated Sundance film a few years ago, and since then, I’ve had a hard time separating my love for Macbeth from this ridiculous movie. The scene here is fairly obvious; Pat McBeth (or Lady Macbeth to all of you) is losing it following the murders of Norm Duncan and Banko (King Duncan and Banquo, respectively), and much like the play’s “blood spots,” she’s hallucinating a burn mark on her hand.
This version focuses on the story of Macbeth taking place in a greasy, fast-food restaurant in Pennsylvania in 1975. The McBeth’s are an underachieving married couple who work as fry cooks for their boss, Norm Duncan, until “Mac” (Macbeth) has one too many drinks one night and wanders off to meet up with three hippies who tell his fortune. Naturally, Mac and his wife conspire to murder their boss and take over the restaurant.
1. What do you think is the effect of modernizing Lady Macbeth’s character into a slightly deranged, emasculated and dirty-mouthed fry cook? How does she measure up against the real Lady Macbeth? Is there a significant correlation?
2. Do you think modern adaptations of Shakespearean works do their written counterparts justice?
I'm including a link to the trailer in case anyone's interested. It's totally worth it:
-Did Wells mean to not have his actors speak in Scottish accents to create an air of uncertainty? Like this kind of prophecy and situation could happen in any country?
-What do you think Wells intended by having the witches be disguised in the shadows the whole time they were speaking the prophecy?
-If the film was meant to be set in a more Scandanavian location, how would that change the meaning of the play?
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Sorry I'm not technologically advanced and have been waiting for my video to process for the last half and hour. So there is a link above that you can click to watch the video.
This video is a director's commentary about the play Macbeth. The director really raises some key points that I wanted to elaborate and question. There is mention of the witches and the role that they play. In his production, the director decided to make the witches mortal women that just happen be into witch craft. When I initially read the play I had it in my mind that the witches were associates of the devil and immortal beings. By the director purposely making these human women I began to wonder how much a person's thoughts and positive/negative energy can affect someone else. Society talks about karma and not wishing bad upon someone. But can negative energies, like these witches, really affect people? Or are people their own driver of their destiny? That also made me question how exactly did Shakespeare intend for the witches to be portrayed (mortal/immortal). If these women weren't witches would audiences still think they had some contribution in Macbeth's actions/fate?
But is Macbeth's fate really fate? It is the witches who first hint to Macbeth about the title of Cawdor and king. We as an audience already know at this point in the reading that King Duncan has chosen Macbeth for the thane title, nonetheless the status of king is not announced. Can knowing or the belief that you know your fate cause you to ultimately destroy it? For all we know maybe Macbeth would've ended up becoming King due to whatever circumstances, yet after hearing this fate he is so eager to obtain the title that Macbeth cannot let life run it's course.
Another thing that is touched upon is Macbeth's conscious. The director discusses how Macbeth tortures himself mentally over the murder of Duncan. It is not the first time he has killed someone but the previous ones can be justified. This idea of murdering with a conscious is very intriguing. I wonder how a character and even people today can be so selfish yet so aware of what they are doing. It also brings me back to The Merchant of Venice and Shylock. I wonder if Shylock was able to retrieve his debt from Antonio if he too would have a conscious afterwards. Feelings are different when the act is being construed and when it is all over and done with.
A few questions I pondered while watching this video include:
1. How would Shakespeare feel about this performance? Angry? Interested ?
2. How would the Macbeth rap be as a played out performance on stage?
I think these are interesting to think about considering Shakespeare obviously never heard of rap before. In addition, rap as a modern form of art an expression possesses extreme amounts of passion in the same sense that Shakespeare illuminates in his plays.
Yes, this IS what you think it is: an anime based on Romeo and Juliet called Romeo x Juliet. As Wikipedia says, it's LOOSELY based on the Shakespeare classic. These videos feature the famous balcony scene and the opening credits to the show (I tried to put them together and upload it, but it failed, so it had to be two videos). Just one look at the opening and one can see why "loosely" is such an important word. If I may again quote Wikipedia:
In the fantastical aeropolis of Neo Verona, the noble house of Capulet had ruled peacefully for generations - until fourteen years ago, when the ancient grudge held by the rival house of Montague led to a mutiny, and the Capulets were deposed and all wiped out in a bloody coup. Now, as Neo Verona suffers under the thrall of its new masters, the fates of two star crossed lovers are about to become tragically entwined... As the citizens of the city suffer, the Capulet clan struggles to strike a blow against their enemies, and the Montagues tighten their grasp on power, an unlikely love blossoms between Romeo and Juliet - but in the face of such adversity, this ill-fated love may be doomed from the outset. Triumph or tragedy; only fate knows what awaits Romeo and Juliet...
I just love the flying-horse-beast-thing in the opening that looks like Falkor from The Neverending Story. Plus, that Romeo's got some pretty impressive jumping skills. But, all joking aside, I find it amazing and yet expected to see something like this. Shakespeare completely transcends cultures and time periods, allowing something like anime to reproduce his work (albeit LOOSELY) successfully. Look also at Romeo + Juliet and West Side Story to see examples of the play in different cultures and time periods. Of course, all of the plays we have read this semester can be easily placed in different time periods or cultures. For example, Toshiro Mifune starred in an adaptation of Macbeth called Throne of Blood, which was set in feudal Japan. A movie called My Own Private Idaho, starring River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves, is based on both Henry IV plays and Henry V, but it is set in the 1990s and takes place in Idaho and Italy. Finally, the Akira Kurosawa film Ran is based on King Lear, but set in the Sengoku era of Japan. Shakespeare's plays can easily fit any culture, time period, and medium and still make complete sense because his themes are timeless.
My questions about these clips are:
1) Does this anime represent an acceptable adaptation of Shakespeare? It may not be completely faithful, but is it right to put Shakespeare in anime?
2) What about Shakespeare's themes is timeless? Does that timelessness come through in these clips?
This 1979 production of Shakespeare has already been referenced at least once in this blog, due to Ian McKellen's role as Macbeth in the performance. This segment, however, does not feature him, but rather excellent interpretations of what I always considered two of the most moving scenes in the play. The simplicity of the set-up in this production has always captivated me, always having struck me as being more true to Shakespeare, where there was very little in the way of scenery other than the actors upon the stage. Simple too are the outfits, largely made of white and black, relatively modern but not jarringly so. The white dress in which Lady Macduff is clothed, as well as Prince Malcolm's sweater, seem to glow against the dark backdrop, emphasizing the purity and relative innocence of the individuals presented, at odds with most of the characters in this tragedy. The actors themselves are compelling, pulling interesting interpretations out of the text. The death of Macduff's son comes across as even more shocking when paired with the child's youth and the playful way in which his murderer handles him--the boy's proclamation that he is slain almost doesn't register, until he topples to the floor. Malcolm, on the other hand, is brilliantly played, desperate to "convince" Macduff of his own villainy, yet all the while betrayed to the audience by his earnest demeanor and, of course, the glow of his white sweater. There is far more to this production than Ian McKellen, and everyone in it deserves a close look.
Oh Sesame Street...! I really do appreciate how they make the show watchable for both children and their parents. Obviously, a child isn't going to understand the allusions made in "Monsterpiece Theater: Waiting for Elmo," but they get the basic idea of the play, just as they do here. The concept of tolerance is communicated more clearly here than in Merchant of Venice itself which, I believe, Shakespeare was getting at in some respects. This show does an excellent job of getting kids used to hearing the name Shakespeare and associating him with entertainment, which will become important once they grow old enough to read the real thing. I also have to chuckle at the fact that they turn Shylock into a monster (wonder what exactly the commentary is there) and that they include the Carnival detail. Best of all, they adapt Shakespeare's dialog for children but keep the sentence structure intact: "If you tickle us, do we not laugh?" This really helps with listening and reading comprehension later on.
I found this to be very witty and entertaining. It didn't have much to do with the plays that we read during the course of this semester, except for the mention of King Lear, really. But for me, it did bring in some insight and questions that I had about Shakespeare, (Bill or Shakey) in general. I wonder if Shakespeare did have an editor? Or if he ran his work by a friend for some insights or comments. I also wonder if he took into consideration the lenght of his plays, when they were actually performed? Like the "editor" mentions in this video, he states that the audience sits on these uncomfortable wooden seats, with no backs to them for hours at a time. I wonder if Shakespeare ever took that into consideration or cut certain points of his works out. Through this comedic video portraying "Shakespeare getting his work edited, it did bring some questions to mind, like the ones I stated. It's hard to fully understand what went on in the true mind of Shakespeare, because of how long ago this all happened. We can only ask questions and make inferences of what really happened. This video, though funny, can be a true testiment of what might have happened with Shakespear and his editor; if he even had one. We can only wonder....
I chose this video first and foremost because the idea of disguise has always been interesting to me. I never really made sense to me how Shakespeare created plays where characters could simply put on a hat and their identity was hidden. The Merchant of Venice was my favorite play that we read this semester and the courtroom scene with Portia was a key plot changing scene in this play. This is also a scene where Portia disguised herself as a judge and changed the fate of Antonio. Personally, I do not understand how Portia wearing those clothes would hide her identity, but as it is often said, the audience understands and it is an element of comedy. This scene was one of my favorites, despite the poor disguising of Portia.
The questions I have regarding this clip is...
How did audiences feel about the element of disguise in Shakespeare’s plays?
Why was Portia displayed at strong and independent women in The Merchant of Venice, when Shakespeare’s plays most often displayed women as reliant on men?
I chose this video because I thought the performance by Laurence Olivier as King Lear was an excellent one. In the scene, we see Lear slowly losing his sanity and being disrespected by his daughters. The way he continuously raises and lowers his voice during the scene works very well. There are, however, several times during the scene where I'm not sure if I should be laughing for not. Maybe it's just me, but the way Olivier delivers some of the lines is very comedic, which is an interesting choice for the scene, but also effectively shows his sanity degrading.
A couple of questions:
Would the scene be more effective if it was more serious? Or maybe more comedic?
Should we be feeling pity for Lear during this scene?
Orson Welles' Macbeth
I am both a lit snob and a movie snob, so when I see the name "Orson Welles" and "Macbeth" together, I get very excited. I haven't yet seen the whole movie, but if it it anything like the opening, then, well... it's definitely an Orson Welles movie. Only Orson Welles can read MacBeth and decide that it screams "film noir". Also, can anyone else figure out what it is that the witches are holding in the end?
I am not sure exactly how I feel about his interpretation of the witches; certainly, it is not the same as my own. However, the interesting thing about theater is that people can interpret the same scene in completely different ways, while still remaining true to the story. After seeing this scene, I definitely plan on seeing the rest. If he interprets the opening in this way, I can only imagine how Lady Macbeth will be portrayed.
A. Many of Shakespeare's plays can be viewed reflecting his own time as well is remaining interesting now. Does this come across in this video?
B. Are the witches in Macbeth the same as witches from a horror story, or are they something else?
C. Shakespeare's plays were originally performed with little to no set. Does the setting and the usage of the smoke enhance this scene, or is it distracting?
Is this an effective teaching method? I chose this video because I find the various mediums implemented to teach students Shakespeare’s plays (and educational material in general) very interesting. I mean, what do we think of this? At times the lyrics are decent enough and the writers include actual lines and speeches from the original text. At other times, words and phrases seem to have been chosen thoughtlessly. For example the line, “This greed be easy to sip like green tea”. Moreover, there may be a potential problem in using a material for educational purposes which is rampant with grammatical and stylistic errors. After all, this video is most likely geared toward high school English classrooms. Do teachers need to, and should they, dumb down the language of Shakespeare to make the material easier and more accessible to students? I was reading a funny article the other day in The Onion, which was written by a mock English professor who describes her attempt to relate Shakespeare to the pop culture her students are immersed in by presenting him as “the ultimate rapper” (here’s the link: http://www.theonion.com/articles/shakespeare-was-like-the-ultimate-rapper,11161/). Though this article is meant to be facetious, I think it accurately demonstrates the teaching approach taken by many instructors in classrooms across America. Flocabulary is a legitimate teaching company whose educational raps have been endorsed by various celebrities, news companies, and institutions, and which has been praised as being a revolutionary teaching aide (go check out their site: http://www.flocabulary.com). This Macbeth rap comes out of their Shakespeare is Hip-Hop teacher resource book. I’m not sure that educational materials such as these encourage critical textual analysis. I’m afraid instead they encourage students to shy away from grappling with the linguistic and thematic difficulty of Shakespeare. On the other hand, teaching aides such as these may be what’s needed to engage students and get them interested in Shakespeare. However, at what point are we sacrificing the integrity of Shakespeare’s writing and trivializing it until it represents something that would have made Shakespeare blush? At what point are we undermining the education of students in our effort to make material more appealing and stimulating to them? After all, isn’t Shakespeare pretty good as is? If we have competent teachers, do we really need all this to make Shakespeare exciting to students? So what do you think guys, Flocabulary: desultory doggerel or perspicuous pedagogy?
This clip is from a 2005 adaptation of Macbeth staring James McAvoy. Although I haven’t seen the whole movie, from this clip I can determine that this adaptation is set in a present day restaurant, and I’m guessing instead of becoming king, Macbeth became head chef or owner of the restaurant etc. What I’m really interested in is what occurs after 2:54 in this clip, after Joe/Macbeth finds out that his wife Ella/Lady Macbeth has committed suicide. Joe/Macbeth explicitly states that he is devoid of emotion and feels nothing. I also find it really interesting that at the end of this scene I expected Macduff and Joe/Macbeth to really fight but they don’t. Joe/Macbeth actually says that he will not fight Macduff. It seems to me that Joe/Macbeth has really given up.
1. When Joe/Macbeth says he feels nothing, does he really feel nothing? Or is there some evidence in his body language and facial expressions that suggest otherwise?
2. What was the director trying to accomplish by excluding a powerful fight scene between Joe/Macbeth and Macduff? Does it seem like Macbeth simply gives up all hope?
This performance of King Lear comes from a 2008 remake of the classic Royal Shakespeare Company performance. The 2008 version was directed by Trevor Nunn, and stars Sir Ian McKellen as the maddened King Lear.
Ian McKellen delivers an incredible performance, and I chose to use this scene because it shows his versatility as an actor. We see him fall from old and royal to decrepit and senile in one scene as his daughters reveal their intentions of betrayal. Lear begins the scene, looking aged and out of health, but still kingly. He demands to know who put his servant in the stocks, and Regan avoids the question and tries convincing Lear that he is the one who is in the wrong regarding Goneril. Lear's grows outraged, and once Goneril enters, seems to lose control. His voice starts cracking, his hair becomes disheveled, and at one point he looks like he's about to give his two daughters a good ole fashioned belt-whuppin'.
The questions that this video brings up are mostly related to how Shakespeare actually transfers to the stage. What choices does Ian McKellen make that determine how King Lear is portrayed in this version of the play? How else could he have handled the character? There are also questions of the stage and set that affect the play. For most of this scene, the characters are shrouded in darkness. What stylistic choices does the director make, and how does that effect the play?
When I was a senior in high school a troupe performed a version of abridged Shakespeare for us and watching this clip reminded me of how entertaining it was. For scholars and people relatively well versed in Shakespeare, an abridged performance can act as a light and farcical break from the traditional reading, studying, interpreting, etc. of the Bard's plays. For people who aren't necessarily as acquainted with Shakespeare, an abridged version can still be an entertaining and enlightening insight to Shakespeare. If you search on youtube, I'm pretty sure you can find the entire Royal Shakespeare Company's abridged performance and I definitely recommend checking it out.
The merchant of Venice contains a multitude of great speeches on human character, but Portia's speech on mercy and justice is fantastic. Although sympathy for Shylock is created by his daughter's betrayal, the loss of his wife's ring, and his ever famous and continuously used speech on his own humanity, the tempering of justice with mercy puts him in an unfavorable light. As a side note: although Portia looks as if she could be a man, her voice gives here away. Is it not possible to disguise this a little with a deeper tone?
This scene is from the 1979 tv version of the Trevor Nunn production by the Royal Shakespeare Company starring Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth. This is Act 5 Scene 1, the scene where the doctor and the waiting gentlewoman witness Lady Macbeth sleepwalking. I picked this clip because it is the point of no return for Lady Macbeth, her actions in the play have finally caught up to her and she is starting to show signs of going mad. Her conscience is going into overload for the death of Banquo among others and this scene sets up for her suicide later on in the play. Throughout the play she is the person who is most willing to kill people in order for Macbeth to gain the throne. She pushes Macbeth to commit numerous crimes and when he is reluctant she questions whether or not he is truly a man. In the end the guilt was too much for her and she spirals into madness.
Did the performance of this scene match what you pictured in your mind as you read the text? What was the same and what varied?
During this scene in the play there is a part where Lady Macbeth exclaims, "O,O,O!" which Judi Dench turned into a prolonged screech(4:10) of anguish. Which do you thing was more effective?
This is perhaps my favorite speech from any of the plays that we have read this semester. King Henry’s St. Crispin’s Day speech is so moving. The rhetoric that he utilizes prompts the unity of England (so much so that it even makes me want to fight for England). His attention to lasting honor, and his references to his soldiers as “brothers” just oozes English pride and cause a willingness to fight. I think that this speech shows the true power of language, and how words have the power to inspire people and accomplish greatness.
Questions that this clip might raise:
What is the true power or language? We see that in this speech, language is used for the greater good of the nation of England, but can powerful language also have “bad” intentions as well? What constitutes effective rhetoric? Do leaders nowadays still rely on the power of language? Currently, are more or less people in the world able to effectively utilize language as a means of power and control?
I chose this clip, because it tied into our class discussion about the supernatural and the mysticism surrounding Macbeth and its “curse.” It was really fun to listen to my classmates’ stories about their experience with the play, and the mishaps that occurred. With that in mind, this video talks about occurrences in the history of the play, and of course, how to lift the curse.
Is it necessary to talk about the history of the “curse” of Macbeth, while teaching the play to students? Do you believe in the curse?
I chose this scene because I was always curious with how the witches and this scene (4.1) in particular would be portrayed in a film or production of Macbeth. This isn't really how I pictured it in my mind, but I still think it is an effective production. I almost laughed as the witches were reciting there spell or curse...It kind of reminded me of a cult or some reason. The mirror part also stuck out to me more in the film production than it did while I was reading the play. The first thing I noticed was how Macbeth enters at the beginning of the scene instead of in the midst of the what the witches are doing. I've always been one to notice when lines are switched around in the film versions of plays.
So I guess that would be my question: Does changing the order of the lines change the play or the outcome of that scene? Also, is it an effective scene?
I chose this because I think it's an interesting interpretation of Macbeth, and probably the first time I've seen Shakespeare animated. I like how the witches are kind of trippy, and it almost paints them in a hallucinatory light, as if they all might have been imagined. Also the "unsex me" visuals are epic. This is off youtube where they have a collection of these old BBC animated Shakespeare plays. I don't like the summations though, where they kind of fill in for what they're cutting out. There are obviously lines cut, and I think that is unfortunate as I hate to see any of Shakespeare get the axe. For the purposes of the animation I understand that this is probably aimed toward children, but I felt it could use a little more Shakespeare and a little less summary. I also wonder why they're aiming Macbeth at children. I understand adults want to introduce Shakespeare to children because they think he's a great writer, but that doesn't mean that what he's writing is appropriate for young children. My questions about this would be:
1. Is Macbeth really suitable material for children?
2. How does summary hurt or help the plot progression?
3. Is animation an appropriate medium for a Shakespeare interpretation?
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
How great is this?! This clip is The Beatles performing the skit from "Midsummer Night's Dream". I love this clip, I think they do a great job of being goofy and funny and bringing Shakespeare to life in an accessible way. The sound quality is a little lacking, which makes the crowd sometimes too loud to hear the play, but this version of it has been digitally restored so it's cleaner sounding than some of the others.
Some questions I have: Do you think the Beatles do a fair job of bringing this part of the play to life? Compared to some more traditional versions, does this one do Shakespeare justice? What is the effect of the audience's participation? By reacting to the crowd, they do occassionally deviate from Shakespearean text, does that lessen the effect? Also, Shakespeare's plays always had men performing as female characters. Does John Lennon do a good Thisbe? Is it too silly?
The clip I picked is a scene from the 1971 film, The Tragedy of Macbeth, directed by Roman Polanski. The entire clip is about 10 minutes long, yet the first three minutes are the minutes I want to focus on most (although I think the entire clip is a great interpretation of Macbeth). In the clip, Macbeth just found out his wife is dead. This clip also has the part of when Macbeth finds out that an army (the one Malcolm and Macduff gathered) is coming to fight him.
I picked this clip because I wanted to compare it to the clip we watched in class with Ian McKellen as Macbeth. In class, some people mentioned that when Macbeth found out his wife had died, he showed sincere emotion for her death and that moment was the last straw that pushed him over the edge. I would have to argue that I did not see that when McKellen was playing Macbeth. To me, McKellen had no emotion toward his wife's death until he had ample time for it to sink in, and even then I did not get the feeling he was devastated over it. In my opinion he almost sounded relieved she was dead. In Polanski's clip, you get to see Lady Macbeth dead on the floor and you get to experience Macbeth's reaction. In the clip he is truly devastated his wife is dead. When reading the play, I did not get any vibe that Macbeth cared Lady Macbeth was dead and her death would not have been seen on stage. Visually seeing Macbeth's reaction and seeing Lady Macbeth's dead body makes me rethink their relationship and makes me think that Macbeth actually cared for his wife. We could ask ourselves, "Does Lady Macbeth's death have an impact on Macbeth's sanity"? Then we could also ask ourselves, "Would seeing Lady Macbeth dead instead of just hearing about her death have a bigger impact on the reader, Macbeth and /or the audience"?
However, with both clips, I'm still unsure if Lady Macbeth's death was Macbeth's breaking point. When Macbeth hears that the forest is "moving", he becomes extremely paranoid and fearful. I think that is the exact moment Macbeth realizes that everything he has done is irreversible and that he is going to be defeated. Although I ultimately agree with the fact that Macbeth has elements of both a tragedy and a history, I think the irreversibility of Macbeth's actions and his destruction is what makes the play more of a tragedy than a history. Does this clip have an impact or influence on how you personally view the play?
(the first 4:55 are all that is needed to get my point across)
There was a discussion in class after watching Roman Polanski's version of this scene. In that version, we saw what McBeth saw. The ghost, represented as more than a ghost, being shown as the corpse that he would be after McBeth's men's attack (bleeding, beaten). Not only are we inside of McBeth's head, but also inside of the reality of the situation (Banquo-after the action). The mistake here (and this is of course opinion) is the directness of this version. Too much vision, not enough imagination.
In the version posted, we have a mad McBeth screaming at nothing, while his guests look on -and the creepy music plays. Without seeing the ghost, the viewer's focus is only on the madness, the atmosphere created. The confusion created is obvious, but its source is not. Polanski showed us what MacBeth was reacting to. There was no question. In this version, we only see MacBeth's reaction, and his guests reaction to that. The focus is on the unknown and what grows out of that. That's where the power is.
As you can see, I’ve posted two videos from The Merchant of Venice. The Merchant of Venice was by far my favorite play we read this semester. I’m really drawn to Shakespeare’s comedies—even the more serious ones like The Merchant of Venice. Both of these clips show the same speech given by Shylock in act three, scene 1, lines around forty-five through sixty. The production we see a Michael Radford’s adaptation. The first video is right from this adaptation of The Merchant of Venice. In the second video I’m really only concerned with the first two minutes. We see the same production in the second video, but, who ever created this clip added music by Vangelis to the scene. The music added is a little dark and dreary and to me seems to have a significant affect on the speech Shylock is giving about the lack of differences between the Jewish and Christian people. I feel like the music added to this speech really makes the audience feel more sympathetic for Shylock.
The question I would like to ask to our class or anyone who has watched these two clips is how does the music added affect how they feel about Shylock? Does it make them feel more sympathy for him, or does it not really have an affect at all?
Well, you said we could choose a funny clip.
I had actually never seen these performers before and I think they are actually pretty good. When I was debating whether to include the Macbeth clip or the Histories clip, it was a tough choice. However, I ended up choosing the one about the histories because a lot of our semester was spent focusing on them. This clip demonstrates the confusion and the constant passing of the crown between different monarchs of England. The actors use the analogy that it is like a football game, constantly changing direction with penalties and fouls all over the place. The only part I did not really agree with at first was that King Lear came in so late, from what we know of him, he is supposed to be one of the earliest kings – they did cover their backs by calling him a “fictional character” and dismissing him completely. However, it seems like most of the order of kings is a bit mixed up in this scene. While this group of actors spends their time making fun of Shakespeare’s plays, I believe that they also admire his writings. It is just their way of getting the rest of the world involved in his work.
1. Despite what I said, do you believe that their representations of Shakespeare’s plays are insulting?
2. How accurate are the Reduced Shakespeare’s Company version of events?
3. Shakespeare’s history plays are meant to please the current royalty, how does Shakespeare accomplish this with such a touchy subject matter?
I chose this clip because I think this scene is the beginning of the most pivotal interaction in all of Merchant of Venice. Portia and Shylock only interact this one time, and yet their encounter has the most damaging ramifications. Also, when they meet Portia is in disguise while Shylock is being scrutinized by an audience (both Shakespeare's reading audience and those at the trial, which I think this film interpretation illustrates nicely,) so one is hiding herself and is able to exert power while the other is exposed and can only react to that exercise of power.
1. What do you think about the decision to have so many extras in the scene? Does the trial being so explicitly public affect how you experience it?
2. To whom is Portia speaking? Is she giving the speech to only Shylock, or to another audience?
3. If Portia is speaking to Shylock, do you think he is listening to her (as Pacino plays him)? If you do not think he is listening to her, do you think he is justified in doing so (is this just a case of a failure to communicate, or do you think that Shakespeare creates two worlds - the Jewish one and the Christian one - that are so different that there simply cannot be any real communication between the two)?
Friday, May 7, 2010
The clip I chose is Act 5, scene three, of Michael Elliot’s King Lear released in 1983 staring Laurence Oliver as King Lear. The clip contains the entire scene, but what I am interested in is the last three minutes of the play with Lear speaking to his dead daughter hoping she still is alive followed by his death. I feel Oliver’s performance of crying while speaking his lines and holding Cordelia’s dead body makes the scene more authentic. It shows how much Lear really did love Cordelia and suggests that Lear now realizes he made a mistake when he disowned her earlier in the play. I chose this clip for two reasons. First reason is I simply wanted to see how Lear’s death was staged since he seems to die out of nowhere in the text. Viewing his death on screen opposed to reading a stage direction he dies completely changes the emotions and feelings of the scene for me. While reading it I found it kind of comical that the play simply stated he dies. While watching the scene I felt the emotions Shakespeare probably intended us to feel; sadness, remorse, and even sympathy for Lear. The second reason I chose this clip is because in class we discussed nihilism in the play and debated whether the ending of the play gives viewers any hope for humanity or not. Similar to Shakespeare’s text, this version’s ending also lacks a definitive answer to the question of doom or hope.
The question I would like to get opinions on is:
“Does the ending of Elliot’s version of Lear leave viewers with the sense of doom or a sense of hope for the future of England?
However, it must be noted that Lady Macbeth plays a key part in the whole bloody business. Upon receiving a letter which details the witches' account, she immediately decides that she must help Macbeth in any way she can, and invokes evil spirits to aid her in this. If we take her at face value she calls upon outside forces to literally possess her, turning her into a monster every bit as strange as the Weird Sisters. Then later, when Macbeth would have backed down from his murders, she is there in her new-found cruelty to spur him on. She seems to play as large a part in Macbeth's rise and fall as the witches who originally gave him the idea.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Of course, it is Shakespeare, and therefore, I am left with ambiguous feelings. Lady Macbeth's death, to me, is the most confusing. Am I happy that she's dead? Not really. Certainly, she deserves death, for what she took part in, and what she caused, but yet, I can't help but feel a bit depressed at the whole thing. Perhaps it's because we had to watch her gradually descend into madness, and then, if I interpret correctly, she kills herself? How upbeat.
For some reason, Macbeth's death doesn't seem as disturbing to me. Perhaps, in a weird way, it's because of the way he died. He was beheaded, yes, but for some reason, being put to death as a punishment for regicide is a lot less emotionally disturbing to me than killing oneself because she's going crazy.
Steve Martin once said, "If you're studying geology, which is all facts, as soon as you get out of school you forget it all… but philosophy, you remember just enough to screw you up for the rest of your life." I think that applies to literature, as well, because this play has being screwing with my head for the last few days.
What is it about this character, a horrible woman who persuaded her husband to do terrible things due to her own ambitions, that makes her death seem unsatisfying? Perhaps there is something about her that I can empathize with, though I cannot imagine what. I haven't been involved in regicide lately. Perhaps it is just the magic of Shakespeare.
Or perhaps I really have learned just enough to screw me up for the rest of my life.
I first "read" this play in the fifth grade. Everyone in my grade, consisting of three classes, was assigned to take a role in the scottish play. I was a quiet, secretly sarcastic, shy kid, so when it came to "audition" for the parts, they gave me the role of Malcolm. The teachers in the school had edited the play and number of lines to make it easier to be performed by a group of ten year olds, and I believe I had two lines. Being a girl, the only female roles were Lady Macbeth and the three weird sisters, which I was not qualified for because I didn't speak (the gift of gab emerged later in life for me). I had to play a boy, but I was crowned in the end, so I accepted the role and perhaps it aided in boosting my over-inflated ego today. I remember wanting to be one of the "witches" because they had cool lines and used dry ice, remember, age ten. Yet, even today, if I ever had the courage to act, I would either want to be one of the weird sisters (it's still about dry ice) or Lady Macbeth. I would assume that method acting for that part would be a little difficult on one's social life, and maybe even end in Ledger-Joker fashion, but her progressive breakdown of strength and sanity is compelling.
The best part about the play, in my opinion, is the psychology of it. Shakespeare involves complex interiority of characters, that do not fall flat as basic archetypes, but involve multi-faceted people that the reader can envision, and the audience of the play can believe. It's interesting to see Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the seventeenth century with Lady Macbeth, and perhaps even Schizophrenia with Macbeth when he experiences stress/trauma related halucinations. I think we generally assume that this sort of character development did not exist until the last hundred years or so, but we are terribly mistaken in that assunption because Shakespeare truly understands the mind and an audience's desire for the subline (pleasurable fear). Kudos.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
It seems that, while the decisions ultimately end up in Macbeth's hands and no one else's, the witches do play a part in his influence. The big question we get out of this is would Macbeth have done any of this on his own if the witches hadn't said anything to him? Of course, the argument could go on forever, but in my opinion, if we are going to say that he was influenced by other people than himself, I think the final push ends up in the hands of Lady Macbeth. She is the one who basically calls him a sissy if he doesn't kill Duncan, what with all the milk talk and everything. She again accuses him of not being a man in the banquet scene when he sees Banquo's ghost. I guess you could say she's a pretty good early example of "tough love".
It just seems to me that the character of Lady Macbeth is all too similar to the characters of the three witches. Even when she calls upon the powers to "unsex" her seems a little reminiscent a sort of witchcraft. So basically, I would say feel free to call Lady Macbeth a "witch" if you really don't like her.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Then we have Macbeth. He has been seeing things for awhile, starting with the phantom dagger in Act 2 scene 1 and then the ghost of Banquo in Act 3 scene 4. Despite his claim that "[Banquo] canst not say I did it" (3.4.49), he obviously feels either guilty or paranoid about the deaths in the first place.
This goes back to Lady Macbeth's comment of her husband being too kind in Act 1 scene 5. How kind is he, and on whose standards? On the one hand, it's Lady Macbeth that's saying this, meaning Macbeth may simply be anything but evil. On the other, maybe she's right. It doesn't seem like he would have attempted to be king had the witches stayed silent. That being said, he must have been as loyal as he claimed he was in 1.4.23-24. Unless I missed something, I don't think anyone's onto him, so his slate may have been clean up until this play.
I don't know if Macbeth loses the throne due to his own mis-step or if someone fairly takes it from him since I haven't read it before, but I'd be surprised if he lasted that long in terms of his mental status. The way he reacts each time he sees some other worldly apperision leads me to think that he's going to make a mistake. The only reason I doubt that he'll pull a Tell Tale Heart and confess is the amount of ambition he does have. After all, you have to have a strong desire to be king to not back out after killing one man.
Believe it or not, I had no idea the rhyme “double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble” (Act 4, scene 1) came from this play! I always just assumed that it was something someone came up with around Halloween to creep everyone out! However, now knowing that Shakespeare was the originator of this rhyme, it is very fitting. This is my first time reading Macbeth, but I did see it performed once in middle school using only two actors and three students from the audience for the witches (honestly, that’s all I remember from that performance. I really don’t understand still how only two actors were used…). It is pretty amazing that Shakespeare’s depiction of witches stirring a cauldron and chanting this has survived through to our own time.
I can name several modern day films that use this phrase, all of them depicting witches. The first that comes to my mind, perhaps because it was the first one I remember seeing, was “Double Trouble,” starring the Olsen Twins (I could be wrong on the exact film title, it has been so long! Sorry!). There was a scene involving a woman dressed as a witch stirring a cauldron and saying these lines while the twins watched. Very creepy, especially for a kid.
The next, and probably best depiction of the typical, Halloween witch, comes from “Hocus Pocus.” Here there are three witches constantly trying to brew potions in the cauldron to suck the youth out of children for their own survival. While these witches use many of their own incantations, I generally picture Macbeth’s witches to look very similar.
A bit surprising, but in the third Harry Potter film, there is a scene toward the beginning, when they arrive at Hogwarts, with a bunch of the students singing a version of this (clipped attached). What is great about this is that every line in this song is from this scene in Macbeth! They even include the line “something wicked this way comes.” When I was reading this scene, in my head the entire time was the tune and rhythm of this song and it was kind of distracting due to the seriousness of the play at hand. Maybe the director’s idea behind using this song was to take away some of the scary effects it has on people? (I am unsure whether or not this song was created for this movie or existed beforehand). Regardless, Shakespeare is clearly using it as a means to frighten the reader/observer and maybe even to get the words stuck in their head.
I never really thought of Shakespeare as a horror writer before, but it may be possible to give him some of that credit in this play. I don’t believe that Europe has the same Halloween customs as we do in the United States (though they do have All Hallows eve, right?) but his influence on it is clear. I wonder if other people walk around on Halloween chanting those words not realizing their origin? This shows Shakespeare’s influence on our society even today. He seems to always crop up in the strangest places, which is great because, as a future educator, I can show my classes how he relates to and make connections with the modern times.
I also love Lady Macbeth! I don’t think she’s a particularly nice woman but that’s what I like about her! I am impressed by a woman with a mission. Lady Macbeth knows what she wants and she will stop at nothing to get it. I’m sure that eventually this ambition will lead her or her husband to do something terrible that I don’t approve of at all, but my initial impression is that she is in fact a strong, smart woman. Like I said, I’m SURE she’s going to mess up somehow. I also so far like the dynamic of the relationship- I have a personal appreciation for a woman who isn’t afraid to tell her husband how she is feeling or make suggestions to him about his life.
I feel that I am always looking at the women in these plays, and how their roles in society are portrayed through the art being produced, and Shakespeare does not usually have any kind of positive female model. I know a little bit about this play, although I have never read it before, and I know of her eventual fate…I can’t help but wonder what brings that on.
While the role of women in this play is important (the witches are women, too!) It’s also important, I think, to discuss prophecy. So far this semester prophecy has played a role in three plays we have read. Before this, there was a prophecy in Richard II, when his uncle was dying, that the way he ruled was wrong and would lead to his eventual downfall. This carried over into Henry IV, and although it isn’t outwardly stated, it plays a big part. King Henry’s downfall was due to the violent way in which he obtained the throne; violence which dying Gaunt had warned against in his final speech. Prophecy was also important in Richard III, which I read last semester.
I find it interesting that the other plays in which there has been prophecy were history plays. I wonder if that suggests something about the nature of Macbeth. Perhaps it was intended to be understood as a history play? Is any of the action historically accurate? I feel that there is a connection between war and witchcraft, but I don’t know exactly what I’m thinking. I will have to ask about this more in class.
In the beginning of Act III when Macbeth speaks to the murdererss, the first one says, "We are men, my liege," to which Macbeth responds,"Ay, in the catalogue ye go for men,/As hounds and greyhounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs,/ shounghs, water-rugs, and demi-wolves are clept" (3.1.92-5).
Conflict is also referred to by another name, in Act III scene II Macbeth refers to the conflict or issue of his kingship as a snake, saying that they have merely maimed it, not killed it, and problems may arise from her "former tooth" (3.2.15-8).
Macbeth refers to Banquo as "the grown serpent"(3.4.29) after having had him murdered.
Lady Macbeth, in her incesant lust for power, doubts her husband's ability to follow through and she repeatedly questions his manhood, wishing herself to have such power that a man is alloted. She asks him, "are you a man?" (3.4.56) when he sees Duncan's ghost and crumbles under guilt and pressure. Composing himself, he says, "I am man again" (3.4.108).
I think that Shakespeare's use of beast imagery plays on the time period- the darkness of a midieval castle, and perhaps the corresponding darkness of the people. The play is wrought with murder and betrayl, and what better place than the cold, dampness of stone walls amidst cold blooded murder?
Question: Do we sympathize with Macbeth? Is he merely a cuckhold? Does he want the power that badly?
Banquo, a Norton footnote tells us, is the famous founder of the Stuart family, from which King James descends. He is also among the few characters who, alongside Malcolm and Donalbain, use religious diction in the play. "In the great hand of God I stand," he says in rallying support for the pursuit of Duncan's murderers (2.3.128), which recalls the image of a "hand-picked" king. By way of contrast, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth mention explicitly that they are no longer able to call on God after their bloody deeds. Macbeth laments, "But wherefore could not I pronounce 'Amen'?/ I had most need of blessing, and 'Amen'/ Stuck in my throat" (2.2.29-32). Even King Duncan's guards have clean enough consciences to speak to God. The best Macbeth can do is name the Devil (3.4.68).
In 4.3, we get an image of England and its "good King," who "solicits Heaven" in curing his people, as a place of security and piety--a Christendom, to use Malcolm's words. This entire scene is filled with religious diction: appeals to Heaven, the naming of sins, allusion to Hell. Such language helps build a good impression of Macduff and his band for the audience.
On the other side of the religious spectrum, we have Hecate and her following of witches. Hecate is a minor Greek goddess associated with magic, witches, and crossroads. The play, indeed, is about transitioning from ill fate and blood-letting to the stable reign of Banquo's progeny, so the evocation of crossroads is apt. I find it intriguing that though the witches throw all these foul, sinister, "ingredients" into their "broth," the end result of the prophecy they present to Macbeth is "firm and good." Perhaps this is to say that even evil forces cannot staunch divine intention. Or maybe it's just another paradox: the evil of one era will give rise to the goodness of another, and vice versa. Hecate and her witches, it seems, have no power over fate; they merely cause trouble by revealing it. Their only power, like the Fool or Madman, is rhetoric, which suggests that God is still calling the shots after all.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
But the main point of this blog is to discuss the importance of the witches. Why are they in the play? Are they strictly in the play to give it the Gothic creepy vibe? Are they there to influence Macbeth and get the story rolling? If the witches did not plant the riddle inside Macbeth's head, would he have still tried to be King?
Although I think some of the acts with the witches in them are not important, I do think that they help kick off the story. How else would we explain that Macbeth wanted to kill the King. I don't think Macbeth would kill anyone unless he got the idea that he really could pull it off from someone, since as we've seen, Macbeth seems to lack confidence in himself. Maybe the witches indirectly give Macbeth confidence? I think the witches are in the play for several reasons, but one of the important reasons is to make a statement about human and the fact that humans always think the grass is greener on the other side. The witches symbolize the paranormal, something beyond humans and more powerful. As we've seen in a lot of Shakespeare's plays, a person wants power and either dies trying to get it, or once that person gets power he or she becomes corrupt. We have also seen that once a person becomes King, they have much more responsibility and have to be more careful about how they trust. It is no surprise to me that Lear and Macbeth both end up going insane. The witches are similar to the fool. Although I do view the witches as evil, and I'm sure the text could support that, they do tell the truth and say what they please. The witches do not directly tell Macbeth to kill anyone. Macbeth took what he heard and made it into what he wanted to hear.