Friday, May 20, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
Another post that seemed to slip by was the one I had to do on King Lear: Act V. This should be a little fun because this play had such a ridiculously sweet ending. I want to focus on a piece of dialogue that reminds me of something I saw on The Daily Show with John Stewart the other day:
EDMUND: I pant for life. Some good I mean to do,
Despite of mine own nature. Quickkly send,
Be brief in it, to the castle; for my write
Is on the life of Lear and on Cordelia:
Nay, send in time. (5.3.242-244)
The guest John Stewart had on was a man named Jon Ronson (author of The Men Who Stare at Goats). Ronson recently released his latest work, The Psychopath Test, in which he summarizes what he has found in pursuing interviews with psychopath's to get a more overarching view of their influence. Studies show, says Ronson, that 1 out of every 100 people in the world are socially integrated psychopaths, while 4 out of every 100 CEOs fall into this category. Now, he suggests, that the criteria for the psychopath is a recipe for ruthless success, in that some of the key characteristics include: lack of guilt; love of manipulation; ability to lie to peoples faces; bouts of bullying; superficial charm; unrealistic fantasies; and the list goes on and on. In reviewing King Lear, I would like to focus on Edmund's existence as a full blown psychopath, in that, he decides to walk the walk and talk the talk of a King (or at least one of significantly higher power than he—just or unjustly—deserves), regardless of what he was born into, and because he will do it by any means necessary, constantly. But I want to focus in that dialogue I quoted above on the line, “Some good I mean to do,” because this is where I see the most obvious parallel between Edmund and what Ronson sees as typical psychopathic behavior. Ronson states that a psychopath constantly constantly wants people to like them, is constantly in the business of manipulation, that Edmund, on his deathbed, proclaiming that he means to do good is a perfect example of this kind of action. I haven't read Ronson's book, but I mean to, and I also mean to revisit this idea with another reading of King Lear. This could turn into a really interesting paper for me in the future.
One of the blogging assignments that I missed was the midterm one which was supposed to consists of looking back onto our posts and writing some sort of response. Well, I've just read through them and I find most of the time that my opinions are pretty interesting yet, that I'm usually intimidated by Shakespeare, especially when required to post before beginning class discussion. I found that to be the most difficult thing about posting; I mean, it's tough to just come up with your own opinions about an incomplete reading of a work, but I guess it's an important concept. You can only read something for the first time once, and that may be the only unbiased reading that you can ever truly have. But I found one of my blog posts in particular to be really funny, because I saw that professor Mulready was the only one to comment on it, and you know, of course he has read the play before (a million times), but there I am making this conjecture that turns out to be the primary plot of the story:
“I have a question though, would I be correct in suggesting Claudio's desire for his sister Isabella to flirtatiously insinuate sexual desire for Angelo? I mean, the tick-tack comment is explained to us by the Norton Anthology's footnotes, but does he wish her to do absolutely anything she must in order to keep him alive?”
I think it's pretty funny to look back and see myself wrestling with this idea that ends up being the main conflict of the rest of the work. But as for other observations, I'm pretty satisfied at least with my ability when not able to grasp a work, to still look to those things which I can understand by focusing on little things in the dialogue and such, showing that I'm not inept because of my inability to understand things (I think it proves that maybe being a little confused doesn't mean much). It's comforting, in retrospect, that I can still make decent observations even when I'm stuck. And that's encouraging.
This presents a couple of problems, especially when King Duncan promotes Macbeth to Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth suddenly becomes fascinated by the prophesy and obsessed with the idea that he's becoming king. It's unclear of how the prophesy would have played out if the witches have never told it to Macbeth. Maybe King Duncan would've died of natural causes or something similar and somehow his son wouldn't be able to inherit the throne. Maybe it would've taken decades for Macbeth to ascend the throne. The witches leaving so suddenly seemed an evil act because it left Macbeth highly ambitious to become king.
Macbeth, of course, tells his wife about the prophesy, as a good man tells his wife everything. This however, leads to the revelation that the other major woman character, Lady Macbeth, is evil. In a monologue she claims Macbeth has too many feelings about the whole situation to act, acting would involve Macbeth murdering King Duncan. She says: “Yet I do fear thy nature. / It is too full o'th' milk of human kindness / To catch the nearest way” (2587). She later tells Macbeth to just suck it up and kill the king when he stays over their estate for a night of dinner and drinking: “O never / Shall sun that morrow see.…To beguile the time, / Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye, / Your hand, your tongue; look like the innocent flower, / But be the serpent under't” (2588). So, even she is the convincing factor that leads to Macbeth stabbing King Duncan in the temple. He blames in on his Duncan's servants, and Duncan's sons Malcolm and Donalbain flee because they are afraid of being murdered as well. Their escape make the brothers an easy scapegoat in their father's death.
These actions lead to a chain reaction where more killings must take place: Banquo becomes murdered under Macbeth's order, and so does Macduff's family. Macduff being a character proclaimed to be an enemy of Macbeth through the witches. Macduff's wife is the only character who isn't evil in the play, and she dies before there's any real chance of character development.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Fast foward to 4:39 in this video to see the good stuff. I found that this clips takes stage direction high level. I was particularly fascinated in the eye gouging scene in King Lear not because it was gruesome, but because that sounds like a very difficult scene to portray well. This clip presents the scene as a dialogue-less flashback, but still work well to show the amount of horror meant to go into the scene. This makes me think of how more major productions of the play handle this particular moment, one of Shakespeare's most brutal.
I love how the first rehearsal is all about opening up a dialogue between the acting ensemble (which also includes the play's co-directors, designers, and the TFNA artistic director and staff.
They're just shooting the shit, and I love it. I hope you do too.
A guy named Dallas Bill discussing The Merchant of Venice. I think it's pretty interesting, he recites a few lines. Gives a little history surrounding the play. Plus I think it's always nice to see a guy in a cowboy hat talking about Shakespeare. He has a few of these videos where he addresses different plays by Shakespeare.
There is a little fault in his discussion--he refers to Portia as Shylock's daughter, but he apologizes in the little information box thing below the video.
This link is a link to The Shakespeare Video's Society Production of Macbeth. As much as I enjoyed the movie we saw clips of in class of Macbeth when I had to watch the whole thing in a different class it put me to sleep. So this is a more theatrical version of the play. It is more colorful, sexualized, and a little over the top in some parts. I chose this video because I think that it is more entertaining, it's what one would see if they actually went to see a production of the play on stage. This particular production however, portrays Lady Macbeth to be more sexual than she seems in other productions and in the reading of the play, so maybe not appropriate for some high school levels if anyone was thinking of using this in the future for teaching. This clip illustrates the major themes in Macbeth and it also addresses the role of Lady Macbeth and depicts her in a different light. This video would be good to use in the classroom because it's not old and stuffy but at the same time it still follows the traditional Shakespearean language and doesn't go into modern realms that take away from the essence of the plot and storyline.
This is a link to a pretty silly trailer for Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, which is based on King Lear. The trailer doesn’t do the film justice, but I couldn’t find any short clip that was better. I chose this film because I think Kurosawa offers an interesting take on the story of King Lear and perhaps gives credence to Ben Johnson’s claim that Shakespeare is for all time (as the film is set feudal Japan). The visuals are quite striking and Kurosawa maintains a raw dramatic energy throughout. For anyone who is interested in Shakespeare and Japanese cinema, Kurosawa’s a good director to look at. He also adapted Macbeth in Throne of Blood (and has adapted other works by western authors, like Maxim Gorky’s Lower Depths). For those of you who are interested, here’s a link to a pretty good quality (and free) streaming of the full length film:
I chose this video because I thought a cartoon version of Macbeth would be fun to watch. It actually turned out to be pretty great. I think turning Macbeth into a cartoon is a fabulous was to entice young people, especially those in middle school or high school. The simple fact that it's animated makes it more intriguing. I remember being in high school and seeing an old film that the teacher would put on and saying to myself "ugggggh not again". This is a version that will make younger crowd more apt to wanting to read Shakespeare. I'm going to continue looking to see if there are any other Shakespeare plays that have been animated in this way.
I saw this film before I ever read King Lear, so a lot of these characters and settings looked like this film when I imagined them reading it. More than anything, the actor who plays "Lord Ichimonji" (King Lear) does a fantastic job of portraying his insanity. In this scene, we see as he sits in silence while being shot at it and while the building he is in begins to burn to the ground. At about the 3 minute point, he suddenly erupts into a fury, desperate to grab a hold of anything and escape the inferno, eventually sinking back down into his sitting position. This actor's portrayal is what I had in mind while reading King Lear, and I think it does well to add some depth to Lear's insanity that doesn't necessarily come through on the page.
I chose this resource because I wanted to find something out of the ordinary that might help someone who is Shakespeare "illiterate." This source is a decent starting block for those who find Shakespearean plots and/or language overly convoluted. This video in particular breaks down King Lear for us in manageable chunks, although it at times becomes unmanageably annoying. The major questions it raises for me are ones of Shakespeare's complexity versus his accessibility. Are Shakespeare's plots simple but portrayed in a convoluted way or are they convoluted inherently in the amount of levels they operate on? At least this puts the plot in terms that those of us who find the Elizabethan wordplay a bit much to start with. Is it best to understand the plot first and then dive into the text or is it better to derive the plot from the text to better understand it? I tend to believe the prior, or else Shakespeare would not give us all this exposition in the form of asides and soliloquy. This is a pretty useful resource for those just starting on reading King Lear, but becomes obsolete when one needs to consider deeper meanings in the text.
This video presents a very strange rendition of Measure For Measure in a stop motion picture. What was most interesting to me was the way that they were able introduce the main ideas of the play, but in a contemporary dialogue. This helped to show the way language has evolved, but there is nothing new that can be shown for it. The same words, phrases, and depictions are there, but there are only new ways of expressing it. These types of changes occur everyday, but it will be interesting to see how dated Shakespeare's language will seem in the future. If it does not already seem foreign, just wait.
Monday, May 16, 2011
The Beatles are more connected to Shakespeare than we thought! (You know, besides both being English)
At the very end of “I Am the Walrus” (starting at 3:30) there is a chorus of people loudly chanting in high pitched voices “smoke pot, smoke pot, everybody smoke pot…everybody smoke pot, everybody smoke pot!”. At 3:52, the chant decreases in volume and we hear voices that are slightly muffled. These voices are actually dialogue from the BBC broadcast of King Lear!
Here’s the exact part:
Act 4, Scene 6, lines 249-259:
Oswald: Slave, thou hast slain me. Villain, take my purse.
If ever thou wilt thrive, bury my body
And give the letters which you find’st about me
To Edmund, Earl of Gloucester. Seek him out
Upon the English party. O, untimely death!
Death! [He dies]
Edgar: I know thee well: a serviceable villain,
As duteous to the vices of thy mistress
As badness would desire.
Gloucester: What, is he dead?
Edgar: Sit you down, father. Rest you.
Link to Youtube Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7uuLzSeyw4&feature=related
Why did The Beatles do this?
No one will ever know, but I believe that since the song is about death, this excerpt would be appropriate to include. Furthermore, this of course contributed to the whole “Paul is dead” rumor/scandal/conspiracy (many people started pulling out ridiculous evidence and claiming that Paul was dead. Instead of the Beatles stifling this bizarre rumor, they decided to have fun with it and do things to go along with it/screw with people’s minds). Or perhaps they were paying homage to their homeland’s most famous playwright. But above all, they used King Lear as a tool to demonstrate a point, and that’s pretty significant.
Why else does this matter?
It shows how Shakespeare is prevalent in popular culture, no matter what era. It’s interesting to see how his work has been incorporated in various forms of entertainment such as movies, literature, and music. His work has shown to be flexible: from basic adaptations, to videos like “Sassy Gay Friend”. If you don’t like Shakespeare, you’re S.O.L. because this man’s legacy has proven to never fade.
Sesame Street does Monsters of Venice
It has been said that the work of Shakespeare is "for all time." I was skeptical of the accuracy of this statement until taking this Shakespeare course. In this course, I have learned that even now, thousands of years after Shakespeare's death, he is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language! I believe this to be the reason why Shakespeare is still so widely studied and the reason why adaptations of many of his most famous plays can be found in different forms of media like television and film. For this reason, I wanted to share with all of you a modern adaptation of a play that we read during our coursework. I found, on youtube, a video of a parody that Sesame Street did of The Merchant of Venice.
This video, while filled with humor, also teaches us another very valuable lesson. That is, that Shakespeare is still relevant in our lives today and his works have truly transcended from his time into ours. I am very confident that this will continue to happen far into our future, and even the future of our children and grandchildren. It is amazing to me that through the vast language that Shakespeare used in his works, we turn to him for entertainment and to learn valuable lessons about our past that can be carried through to our present and our future!
Translating Shakespeare, into a different language is always a challenge, that challenge becomes multiplied when that language is not even spoken. American Sign Language is a beautiful, kinetic and literal language how does Shakespeare's language so ripe figurative language translate?
American Sign Language is not just English codified into a manual form. It has its own grammar, vocabulary an anything else a language may have. Unlike English grammar, ASL grammar is loose and flexible. A simple example of an American Sign Language sentence is MORNING FINISH SEE I DOG BROWN RUN . Although to us it reads like caveman speak when really it translates to This morning I saw a brown dog run. In english this sentence would seem, elementary but the fantastic thing in ASL the descriptions can be worked in by playing with rhythm, fluidity, and hand shapes. It is due to this flexibility that while it is impossible to fully capture all the magnificence of Shakespeare's language, some of the poetry can still be translated!
What can I say, I'm a sucker for Kenneth Branagh. I know we didn't read Othello this semester, but it was stated that we can post a clip that has effected our readings of Shakespeare on a whole and this bit from Kenneth Branagh has influenced me more then any other I've seen. The way he turns from jovial and flippant to totally sinister amazes me every time I see it and the suble change in the music score always gives me chills. It was this speech that made me so enthralled with Shankespeare's villians and has influenced the way I've read them ever since. Out of the all characters we've read this semester it was Edmond of "King Lear" I found most compelling and I have no doubt that it was this version of "Othello" and it's portrayal of Iago that influenced me to appreciate the chess master villains like those two in Shakespeare and many other fictional works.
I chose this video because I thoroughly enjoyed this monologue. I feel this speech is really rateable to real life, and as it was an issue back in Shakespearean times I feel that some still find it in issue today. What Macbeth is saying here is that life isn't always a bed of roses, and his case he is finally realizing he is no exception and never will be. And rather than living a miserable life, unable to escape hell he would rather but an end to his misery. The major theme being demonstrated here is that no matter who you are, you will always have struggles in life. As Shakespeare clearly illustrates, to be a king or a person in power is no exception to this rule. In fact, I feel as though Shakespearean works illustrate quite the opposite; meaning if you are a king or are in a higher power your life struggles tend to be that much more challenging than the norm.
Another attribute that could suggest the Fool and Cordelia are one in the same is because the Fool vanishes from the play, and during the death of Cordelia, Lear holds her body and cries that his fool is dead: notes from the Norton Shakespeare suggest that Lear was speaking about Cordelia. Cordelia and the Fool have commented on the other, however, with each one calling the other a fool, respectively. It was common in Shakespeare's time for actors to play more than one role simultaneously, and since the Fool and Cordelia never had any time together on the stage it could be implied they may have been the same character.
If you want to read along, this is Act V, Scene 1.
From the costumes, to the props, to the acting and the animals, this rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream makes me wish that the Beatles performed every play we read for this course. Not to say that reading the plays or watching the more modern film versions weren't enjoyable, but I think watching the Beatles take on Shakespeare adds a whole new dimension to the play.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
I had a hard time finding just one video clip for this assignment. I ended up choosing 2 clips that interested me, and the third is just for a good laugh. I hope to become a teacher one day and I thought this first clip, BBC Shakespeare Animated Tales, was great for teaching Macbeth to children. Children love cartoons, and they are more engaged in animations rather than just reading a book. I have never watched a cartoon of Macbeth, but this 9 min video does a good job telling the story. Some parts are too gruesome for children to watch, such as when Macbeth kills Duncan, so this may not be good for younger children. This is also great for anyone that has a hard time understanding Shakespeare.
I also chose BBC’s Blackadder “Don’t mention Macbeth” because I found it hilarious and Macbeth is one of my favorite plays we read. Blackadder is a historical sitcom on the British Comedy Channel. I remember watching this in another class and I thought it was hilarious. Saying “Macbeth” is considered by those involved in acting to be very bad luck. This legend started with the death of a boy playing Lady Macbeth backstage on opening night in 1606. In this episode, every time Blackadder mentions “Macbeth,” the two gentlemen scream: “Aahhh how potato, orchestra stalls, puck will make amends.” The men tell Blackadder that he is “exercising evil spirits” by mentioning the name of the Scottish play.
All right, no laughing (out loud anyway, because you don't want to hurt my feelings) at my pick for this final post.
This is a selection from one of my favorite children's shows, Jimmy Neutron. And, specifically, Jimmy Neutron's "Out Darn Spotlight" which is a Riff on Shakespeare's Macbeth. I say riff because it doesn't really include much from Macbeth, the episode is really about a school production of Macbeth called "Macbeth in Space," that includes some lines from Macbeth, but which really includes a number of other iconic Shakespearian lines from a number of other Shakespeare plays, including lines taken from Richard III and Romeo and Juliet. (It also includes a few Shakespearian sounding lines from Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz for flavor.)
For me this shows just how pervasive Shakespeare's works are in our society, especially when you consider that this is a kid's show and yet it uses so many well known lines from Shakespeare's plays.
Plus, I just love Jimmy Neutron.
Also, one of the best parts is toward the end when the keyboardist begins to solo and the metal really "comes in" with the King.
I'm not exactly sure how Shakespeare would react to this. Would he be insulted? Or think it's somewhat clever and humorous? To me, it's just another way to look at the play and appreciate the timeless work.
I picked this video because I feel Shakespeare should be introduced to a younger age. This may be slightly too scary and raunchy for elementary school kids, but middle school kids would enjoy this. I thought it would be cool to share this video since a lot of us in the class are majoring in education. This cartoon video of Macbeth shows some main points to bring up in a class discussion. They take a lot of the language out and narrate it in modern english, but the words they leave in are important like "double trust." Bringing up these parts of the play can strike up different conversations and engage the students more into a Shakespeare play.These days a lot of poeple look over Shakespeare and don't appreciate the art he created for us. Some of us don't understand it and choose to give up before trying. Videos like these can help a person grasp a concept a little better. A lot of students are visual learners, so instead of shoving a written play in their face, they can watch it in a video. How would an animated film be more appropriate for a classroom? I think it gives a bigger picture in a students mind and helps them understand the play better. I think this video touches on a lot of great points about the play and is a good example of how a tragedy is played out.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
When studying Shakespeare, it is so important to utilize several different interpretations. Although this is clearly a valuable source, it must be used in accordance with studying the text and at least one other visual interpretation of the play. For me, this video brings to light how important it is to look at Shakespeare's plays from as many different angles as possible to garner the full experience, and draw your own conclusions.
I picked this video simply because it is hilarious. I also love Hugh Laurie, he's a very funny actor and plays this skit well. The video is funny, but at the same time is exemplifying a possible editing strategy that Shakespeare had. The skit also pokes fun at some of Shakespeare's plays like King Lear and Hamlet, saying how long they are and how long the soliloquy's are. The editor also is making fun of the theater and how people do not want to sit for 5 hours on wooden seats with no bathroom. This video, even though mostly poking fun at Shakespeare's plays has us questioning whether Shakespeare actually had editors giving him this kind of advice about pleasing the King and the run time being too long. I, myself also question what Shakespeare actually liked people to call him because in this skit he is "Bill," sometimes he is "Will" and other times William. So which is it? Or maybe all three? This video most importantly somewhat helps us understand the reason for Shakespeare's writing and his strategy to it, which is something we have discussed in class. Just as the description says, this is a bit of comic relief which Hugh Laurie and Rowan Atkinson play out very well.
Friday, May 13, 2011
This is a performance of Macbeth done by the Reduced Shakespeare Company. What they do is they take an entire Shakespeare play and they condense it down into one small sketch. They also pay it out for comedic effects. I first learned of these people when I was a freshman in college and they were hilarious.
What makes this video, and this company, important is the fact that to all the people who are afraid of Shakespeare or they just are not into him, will be able to still learn about him and his plays through this company. By re-performing the plays in a small amount of time, they are making his plays easier to understand or more approachable for many people. When many people hear Shakespeare they might think difficult to understand language and bad clothes/costumes. They will completely miss the point of his plays and just how universal they are.
By performing these short scenes to comedic effects, the people that were once put off by Shakespeare, will find it funny and they may begin to notice the universal themes that many people can relate to - love, betrayal, comedy, lust, revenge, guilt, murder...etc. They will be more enticed to read his plays and they may find Shakespeare much more approachable because of this company.
Featuring Ian McKellen speaking about his experience playing King Lear with the Royal Shakespeare Company for Trevor Nunn's film adaptation of the play, this clip includes McKellen's valuable insights about King Lear which are supplemented by carefully chosen excerpts from related scenes. Here, McKellen emphasizes King Lear's relationship to the gods that changes from from full faith to a loss of faith in the final scene where after hearing of Cordelia's death, he compares the human state to that of the lesser animals. By analyzing this progression of the ultimate devaluation of King Lear's faith, McKellen comments upon how we, the audience, must also notice the the advancing of Lear's aged state that his daughters Goneril and Regan take advantage of. In pondering upon King Lear's age, McKellen also imagines what he believes to be the "backstory" of Lear's life. While he understands that Shakespeare intentionally did not mention King Lear's past, since he is not creating a retrospective but a play that takes place in the present and causes the audience to accept Lear for who he is at this stage in his life, McKellen's interesting analysis as an actor needing to imagine a "backstory" in order to more successfully play his part, offers valuable insights into understanding King Lear's reactions to his daughters' actions. By imagining Lear as a man who has been widowed three times, with his last wife, the mother of Cordelia, being his true love, McKellen attempts to understand how Cordelia's refusal to publicly speak her love for her father could be taken as such an offense, considering that Lear would be metaphorically looking into the face of his wife, presumably the same age and image as her daughter when she died, as making her inability to express her love all the more burdensome for his aging heart. By finally describing his playing of this role as reaching the "Everest of Shakespeare" McKellen emphasizes the importance of the King Lear as a character, and King Lear as a whole, which gives great gravity to our reading of the play and our as both students and audience members either reading or viewing this monumental play.
I am posting this video because it is simply hilarious, but also and mainly because I think it shows the collaboration that must have went into the work of each of Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare the man has become a legend that no other author has been able to supersede. What most of us forget is that he did not reach this status alone. He worked with an entire company of actors who during the process of performing must have discussed the changing of lines or speeches that are now immortalized in Shakespeare’s folio. It’s crazy to think that some of the most famous words ever written could have been someone else’s ideas but it does sound more realistic. After all, a whole troop of actors and writers are better than one. If nothing else it is ridiculously funny to think about a group of actors drunk in some pub in London fighting over lines.
The other issue that is brought up in the video is the fact that Shakespeare was a successful play write that was out to make money. In order to make money he had to appeal to his audience and sometimes pander to the will of the masses. While there is nothing wrong with this, it does take some of the romance out of the myth that is Shakespeare. I am not trying to say that the man didn’t have integrity, but it is always interesting to think if there are other motives for writing. We have already seen this pandering when it came to impressing King James when Shakespeare presented his lineage in Macbeth. We also know that Shakespeare wrote an entire play for his popular character Falstaff mainly because his presence would fill the Globe. I’m not trying to portray Shakespeare as a bad guy, after all the man was just trying to make a living. I just think that there are more realistic views of him. He was brilliant and along with his acting troop made some of the most profound works to ever grace the written page. That being said it is still important to remember that Shakespeare was a man, a human being with faults.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
It's Act two scene four of Measure for Measure, done using a hand-held movie camera. It's shot to look like the actors are just people in a private area, unaware that someone is watching them (sounds like an actual movie, I know; you will understand when you watch the clip).
I think this is a good video to share with people because this scene is crucial in Measure for Measure. This is a turning point for both characters -Angelo has to admit that he has sexual feelings (feelings at all) for a woman, and Isabella must confront her values over saving her brother's life. I think this take on the act is perfect: Tennant plays this slightly awkward but intelligent Angelo, and the actress who plays Isabella (can't find her name) is so strong and yet naive. It's important to see different actors and actresses playing these roles: every person brings something new to the character.
My question for the video in general is this: How exact can any actor be in portraying a character of Shakespeare's plays? He doesn't give much description or stage directions within his plays; are the characters not one fluid person? Is everyone's portrayal of the characters correct?
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
I know this series of videos is more for entertainment than education, and I would sound ridiculous trying to seriously analyze these videos. However, I will say that the satire that Sassy Gay Friend brings to Shakespeare is important. For one thing, it is another way of making Shakespeare accessible to a larger audience. Satire sometimes helps in our understanding of a play and forces us to question it. But also, in all of his videos, he asks the questions that I always ask while reading Shakespeare; I know that part of theater is always about the suspension of disbelief, but sometimes I can't help but wonder how/why characters in Shakespeare's plays do what they do. Yes, Shakespeare's work is amazing, but really, it's also sometimes ridiculous and over-dramatic. I think a lot of Shakespeare's characters would benefit from a Sassy Gay Friend.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
I mentioned this video in my last post about Lady Macbeth. Judi Dench plays an amazing role here. It shows just how creepy it really was to have Lady Macbeth up walking around, in her sleep, talking and spilling the beans about everything.
I like this because this is the scene where Shylock gives his famous speech. Shylock ends the speech with a tone of revenge: "if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" Those who see the speech as sympathetic point out that Shylock says he learned the desire for revenge from the Christian characters: "If a Christian wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by Christian example? Why, revenge. The villainy you teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction."
I feel like this is one of the strongest parts in many of Shakespeare’s plays because it shows true humanity and it confronts all of the criticism he has ever received, especially for being a Jew.
Sunday, May 8, 2011
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Of course being from a syndicated children's show, there's a happy ending, and instead of a pound of flesh the focus is on cake and balloons, but what made me submit this video for my final blog is because it shows that The Merchant of Venice (and Shakespeare's plays in general) can be adaptable throughout different age ranges and issues from the play can still be addressed in current times, such as prejudice and naivety. And finally, I wanted to submit this video because it was a different portrayal of the play than those we have seen in class (and because it's from Sesame Street, a favorite show of mine when I was a child). Enjoy!
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
YouTube - Shakespeare: "Macbeth" Sleepwalking Scene from Shakespeare's Work" (1847) by Gulian Crommelin Verplanck. Dir. Gulian C. Verplanck. Perf. Judi Dench and Denyse Alexander. YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 01 June 2007. Web.
Act 5.5, Seyton tells of the death of Lady Macbeth. Macbeth doesn’t seem to have a reaction other than she was supposed to die later. Lady Macbeth’s character ends when Macbeth gives a short excerpt about life:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (23-27)
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
In both cases, the schemer's whispers are the driving force behind the action. While the source of manipulation is obvious in Othello, in Macbeth, one could argue that the witches' prophecies are what really inspires Macbeth to murder the king; after all, without this prophecy Macbeth would never suspect he could become Thane or King. However, in 1.7, we see Macbeth having second thoughts about following through with the act. First, he recognizes that he has the King's "double trust" and that he should "against his murderer shut the door,/Not bear the knife myself" (1.7.12-16). He also refers to Duncan as "meek" and "clear" (blameless), and describes him as a "new-borne babe" and "heaven's cherubim." It is clear that he is still clinging onto his conscience, while Lady Macbeth is ready to take this new-borne babe and "have plucked his nipple from his boneless gums/And dashed the brains out" (1.7.57-58). After this conversation with Lady Macbeth, Macbeth says, "I am settled." Whatever shred of humanity Macbeth had prior to this conversation has been lost.
Both Iago and Lady Macbeth use careful manipulation in order to achieve their hold over Othello and Macbeth, respectively. In the first interaction between husband and wife, Lady Macbeth addresses Macbeth as "Great Glamis, worthy Cawdor,/Greater than both by the all-hail hereafter." This doting address is obviously ironic to the audience, for it immediately followed her entire speech about how she wishes she could take over for Macbeth, have the spirits "unsex" her and "make thick [her] blood" (1.5.39-41). She also suggests how unmanly her husband is, and how unsuited he is to have such power because he lacks "the illness should attend it" (1.5.18).
This dual behavior is reminiscent of Iago's speech to Roderigo in 1.1 of Othello, when he disparages Othello's choice of Cassio over Iago for second-in-command: "But he (as loving his own pride and purposes)/Evades them with a bombast circumstance/Horribly stuffed with epithets of war,/And in conclusion/Nonsuits my mediators" (1.1.13-17). However hateful Iago is towards Othello, he constantly reassures Othello that he has his best interest at heart when suggesting Desdemona's infidelity.
Furthermore, I find it really interesting that, unlike Othello which focuses on the influence of bonds between men, Macbeth explores the control that a wife can have on her husband; that the female character in one play can be compared to an evil male in the other. I always find Shakespeare's evil characters - especially when they are female - to be the most interesting.
|LADY MACBETH |
Give him tending.
He brings great news.
The raven himself is hoarse
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood.
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murd'ring ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature’s mischief. Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark
To cry “Hold, hold!”
She is just as rash if not more rash and unbeliveable because when Macbeth begins to have doubts it is she who re-convinces him that killing the king is a good idea, she is also the one who comes up with the plan of how to kill the king. Women during this time period aren't supposed to be sneaky and manipulative. Having finished reading the play and knowing from the last time I read Macbeth it begs the question if the conclusion of Lady Macbeth at the end of the play is Shakespeare saying that women can try and act like men all they want but in the end they don't have the stomach for the consequences of their actions like a man might. Shakespeare is saying that women can't play with the big boys, they can try all they want but in the end they just won't be able to handle it.
Who starts Macbeth’s need for power? The witches and his wife. If it were not for the witches then he would never even have the thought of kingship in his head. They are what put everything into motion. They are ambiguous in the play – are they good, bad, or neither? If they did not exist, would Macbeth still go on a conquest to become king? That is a question that is never answered.
More so than the witches, Lady Macbeth is the driving force of the play. She is the one who puts the idea into Macbeth’s head to kill the current king. She is not afraid to call him out on his actions and she is a rather tough woman. After Macbeth kills the king, he cannot take anymore and forgets to place the evidence on the servants. Lady Macbeth speaks to her husband:
Give me the daggers. The sleeping and the dead
Are but as pictures. ‘Tis the eye of childhood
That fears a painted devil. If he do bleed
I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal,
For it must seem their guilt (2.2.50-55).
She seems to be disappointed in her husband and instead of making him do it, she decides that she will plant the evidence instead. She talks to her husband as if he is weak and is not worth her time. She seems to be angry and when she is done she states, “My hands are of your colour, but I shame to wear a heart so white,” (2.2.62-63). That is such a matter-of-the-fact thing to stay after planning a terrible murder of the king. She does not care at the deed she forced her husband to do. It is her fault that Macbeth becomes an evil and despicable human being.
I would say that Lady Macbeth is Shakespeare’s most developed and layered female character he ever wrote. I’ve read the entire play before and as it goes on she falls into insanity. She goes crazy because of her own actions and selfishness. She is the reason that Macbeth becomes who he is and she is the reason that the king is dead. Lady Macbeth is the catalyst of this entire play.
What I enjoy most about Macbeth is the dynamic of the relationships. The relationship between Macbeth and his Lady is unlike any couple I have encountered in Shakespeare’s plays. Lady Macbeth is a powerful woman, one who is dominant over her husband publicly and privately. The third act reveals this truth nicely.
At first, it seems that Macbeth has control over himself, acting mournful about the deaths of the king and his son and planning the execution of his friend, Banquo. However, when he talks to himself about the reasons behind the need to kill Banquo, his speech implies that perhaps Macbeth is a little more shaken about the situation than he lets on (for now). His fear of dying because of the witches’ prophecy reveals the lack of power Macbeth truly has over the entire situation. He states in scene one,
“For Banquo’s issue have I filed my mind, / For them the gracious Duncan have I murdered, / Put rancours in the vessel of my peace / Only for them, and mine eternal jewel / Given to the common enemy of man / To make them kings, the seeds of Banquo kings” (3.1.66-71)
In this moment, Macbeth seems to be blaming these men for the things he has done. There is a repeated use of the term ‘for them’ –“Only for them…” –implies that Macbeth considers himself a martyr of sorts: he is acting out this way for their benefit, and he is willing to sacrifice his “eternal jewel” to the common man for his purpose. There seems to be a resignation within Macbeth even before the sightings of Banquo’s ghost makes him a little crazy.
Lady Macbeth, however, is a different story. Though unfortunately we don’t get any speeches from her in act three, we do have moments alone with her, moments that reveal her true self moreso than the moments with her husband. “Naught’s had, all’s spent, / Where our desire is got without content. / ‘Tis safer to be that which we destroy / Than by destruction dwell in doubtful joy” (3.2.6-9): here Lady Macbeth takes on a realistic view of the situation she created with her husband. She knows that the way to power is not pretty, and she knows better than to think that she and her husband are safe because he is king. In four lines, Lady Macbeth has more power than her husband.
Her power over the situation is most obvious when Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo and makes a scene. Immediately, she gives excuses for Macbeth’s odd behavior, asking them to ignore it, because the king goes into attacks. She then turns to her husband and manipulates him by questioning his status as a man. “Are you a man?” she asks him in scene four, “What, unmanned in folly?” She belittles him for his fear in ghosts, and she verbally attacks him about it until Macbeth settles down, frazzled. By the end of the scene it is she, not Macbeth, the king, who convinces the lords to leave. Her power and strength as a woman in this play is outstanding.