While people in the English Renaissance wore different clothes and had no access to digital technology, their artistic expressions and the experiences these embody still have an impact on human beings living in the 21st Century.
I have learnt a new language and become immersed in another culture much different from my own, but at the same time so similar.
The culture and language are Shakespearian. When I first started the unit “Shakespeare and Renaissance literature” I was lost. I had no idea how to read or decipher the words or phrases on the page. The culture of the English Renaissance seemed far removed to culture today.
I soon learnt that there are many similarities between then and now, between that culture and my own in modern day Australia. Indeed much of our own language and culture evolved from the English Renaissance period.
It was Mr Shakespeare who invented many of our composite words, and other words which have become commonplace in our language today. People attribute Donald Trump in making up the word “Bigly” but it is used in a few of Shakespeare’s texts including Othello. It was however an obsolete word from the Scottish language meaning of great importance or size. It can also mean boisterous or loud, something I think you would agree that describes Donald Trump accurately.
Shakespeare tells the story of a deformed man seeking love and acceptance through his play “Richard III”. In the time of Richard III the deformed and different were cast aside from family and community, to try to survive any way they can. For Richard, his survival was reliant on his usurping his brother, in fact killing him in order to get the throne of England. Did he have a lust for power? Or did he merely seek to be loved and valued as a human being? The question of the origin of Richards evil ways was the topic of a blog I penned called:
I also wrote a poem, that perhaps may have been the thoughts of Richard, in a blog I entitled:
I truly believe that the story of Richard would have been different if he was loved by his mother and family and included more in the family life. Poor Richard was hidden away, treated differently, looked down upon for his disabilities. Are we in the 21st Century treating our disabled or mentally ill any better? I think we are trying on this account but we still have a long way to go.
I liken some of the world leaders today to Richard III. Instead of working with others, certain leaders want all the power. They kill anyone who gets in their way, much like Richard did. Some of our world leaders today are downright evil, and we still ask the question: Is the evil they have in their hearts inherent or learnt behaviour?
From there, I went on a sidetrack and looked at the life of Sir Walter Ralegh and the monarch of the time, Queen Elizabeth I. We studied Ralegh’s poem “The Lie” in class and I wanted to uncover the context in which it was written. I did this in the post:
Raleigh knew too well that people were two faced, saying one thing in front of your face, then turning around and chopping your head off with their next breath. But wait, James said, I will free you if you go back to the Americas and bring back more riches. When he returned it was learned that he had a fight with a Spanish dude. The Spanish King said to the English King, “If you don’t chop his head off, I wont be your friend anymore”. Isn’t this how children in the playground act now? have we learned anything?
I wrote a poem to woo Queen Elizabeth I, to make her see that she needs to give England an heir. We know from history that I was unsuccessful.
King Lear is the second play we studied in class. We saw again in this play how people don’t value each other and how even family turns against family when they are seeking importance, power and money. Cordelia, the youngest daughter of Lear does not bend her fathers ear or lick his boots. She is content with her lot in life, whether that means inheriting part of the kingdom or not.
For King Lear, I wrote a bit of a frivolous entry, which compared the behaviour of Lear’s daughters to my dogs and cat. Just a bit of fun really, but I do think it is a good analogy:
I wrote a poem for my father, comparing my relationship with my father to that of Lear and his youngest daughter. I then got a little soppy and wrote a Sonnet to my partner, which he loved by the way. Perhaps it was looking at Shakespeare’s poems and Sonnets that allowed me to express my love for Sam and my father. Maybe Shakespeare is still teaching the world how to love, through the legacy of his writings.
I did a sidetrack and studied the sonnets further, especially after the wonderful lecture we had from Professor Spurr. I for one didn’t know who Petrarch was, or the style of sonnets he wrote. I didn’t know they differed from the majority of sonnets written by Shakespeare. I went digging and wrote the following blog entry in response to that research.
We then studied The Twelfth Night and discovered that this was an ancient equivalent to the modern day Rom/Com. There is lots of Romance in it and the comedy comes in the form of making us laugh at the stupidity of the drunks. However it made me look at the temporary nature of life and love. It was true in this play and is true in today’s world. In this poem Love or lust knows no boundaries. there are women in love with women, men in love with men. One can see that deception reigns as a teenage boy plays the role of a woman, who disguises herself as a man. Confused? so was I. But again I looked at Love as a theme and created the blog:
We sometimes confuse love with lust, or is it just infatuation?
The Tempest is also something we may describe as a Romance. Certainly the end of the story and the solution to the dilemma lays in the Romance between Prospero’s daughter Miranda and the King’s son Ferdinand. The play again looks at deception. Prospero is usurped from his dukedom by his brother and exiled with his daughter to this island. When Prospero arrives on the island, he wants to take control. He frees the spirit Ariel from the tree, only to enslave him and make Ariel do his bidding. He takes the deformed and cast aside person of Caliban and teaches him language, so they can understand each other. Prospero seems to think he has done Caliban a great favour by teaching him language. Caliban is enslaved to Prospero, for now that Prospero has shown Caliban that life could be different, easier, Prospero says that without him, Caliban would be nothing.
The Tempest shows us the evils of colonisation. The western world takes on an air of superiority and thinks that anyone who is not at their standard of living, is substandard. In fact the natives of a land prior to colonisation, know more about the land than the colonisers. Without the natives, the colonisers would perish. I think we really need to remember that. I wrote further feelings about this subject in my final blog post:
So what from Shakespeare is still relevant today? I have learned the truth in that power is something that men (and women) want at all costs. I have learned that disabled people were treated as bad in Shakespeare’s time as they are today; but I think we are getting better at that. I have learned that love takes many forms, that gender is fluid, and love as well as life are temporary. I have learned that deception was a major theme in many of Shakespeare’s plays, but that deception was not limited to the stage. Deception was rife in the courts of Britain during the English renaissance. Deception is also rife now. People are confused about what is true. What the heck are alternate facts if they are not indeed lies? What is fake news?
I have learned that language is evolving. Shakespeare made up words in his time. We make up words, and meanings in ours. When I was a child, hardware is what you bought from Nock and Kirby’s and software was not even a word. A mouse was something not wanted in the house. A screen is what you used to keep the flies out. a Monitor was someone who volunteered in the school library. A browser was someone who went window shopping. The young people of today don’t know what a walkman is, or a discman. Records are something to be broken, not to be played. Even the term CD is becoming obsolete as we download, upload, stream music.
These three remain, Faith Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is Love. Love was a theme then, it is relevant now, and it will be forever, whatever form it may take.
Thank you for coming on this journey through the writings of Shakespeare and the Renaissance. See you all again next Semester when I study Reading Australia and American Writing.