Tag Archives: renaissance

Summative Entry for Shakespeare and the English Renaissance.

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:

Richard III. Evil: Inherent or learned?

I also wrote a poem, that perhaps may have been the thoughts of Richard, in a blog I entitled:

Would it be: A poem for Richard

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:

Walter Ralegh said the world is a Liar.

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.

Marry me?

 

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:

Modern analogy of King Lear opening?

 

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.

Petrarch and the Sonnets

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:

What is Love. Twelfth Night

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:

Colonisation and “The Tempest”.

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.

Dave

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Shall I compare Thee

A sonnet after Shakespeare, for my lover Sam.

 

“Shall I compare thee to a summers day?”

 

That day is pale in comparison to you

The sun may warm our skin today

your love warms my whole life through.

Your smile is bright like the stars at night

Your eyes shine as bright as the moon

Your embrace makes everything right

I hate that you must leave so soon

 

The busyness of our days prevent

the time we can  spend together

our last time together came and went

I pray such times should end never .

A time when we can together dwell

Will cause me to shout, All is well!

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I am in awe, and so grateful.

On Friday 31st March 2017, My class and I visited first, the Renaissance rooms at the Art Gallery of NSW and next the Mitchell Library in Macquarie St Sydney to look at the Shakespeare room.

I am so grateful for the people in the library for making all of their resources and providing staff to educate us, not only about Shakespearean Literature but the Architecture of the building.

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Looking at the first folio of Shakespeare’s work.

I was totally amazed that each little aspect of the Shakespeare room at the Mitchell Library was painstakingly planned. There is a reason behind the design of every little piece of woodwork, windows, and plaster. I can only imagine the tedious hours of discussion the committee had to have to come up with each aspect. Sometimes we think of meetings as boring and unnecessary. However, we see now the legacy of those meetings in the architecture of the Shakespeare room.

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The class in the Shakespeare Room at the Mitchell Library 

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This is a section of the ceiling which depicts the end of the War of the Roses, the Tudor Rose of  Henry VII

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In this picture, we can again see the Tudor Rose in the woodwork. Even the vertical lines in the woodwork have a meaning. These represent drapes. If we think that Shakespeare was renowned as a playwright, then drapes (or curtains) depicted in the woodwork design is quite suitable.

The detail taken in design showed me that when planning this room, and also the collection of the artworks that we saw; the committees overseeing these works were not just thinking of their own time, but were thinking of the generations future who may enjoy such works.

I am extremely grateful for the foresight that these people had.

I wonder if designers today put so much thought into the legacy that they are leaving, rather than just getting something done quickly to appease the people supplying the finances. Iconic buildings today soon loose their usefulness and are torn down to make something bigger, so called better.

I think of Cricket and football stadiums for example. There are areas of the Sydney Cricket Ground, and also Adelaide oval, where tradition has been forgotten and have been rebuilt to fit more people in, chasing for the almighty dollar. Melbourne Cricket Ground has not escaped this. The Notorious Bay 13, which was made very famous by Merv Hughes gym class, no longer stands. Pity.

Today we have corporate sponsors for everything. Recently the Sydney Entertainment Centre, which was renamed QANTAS centre was sold off and torn down to build a new centre. This was an iconic building. As was the Sydney Convention centre at Darling Harbour. This was completed in 1988 but later demolished to make was for a bigger ‘better’ centre.

Function has won out over art and beauty.

Sad but true when the old saying “They just don’t make em like they used to”.

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Walter Ralegh said the world is a Liar.

 

Walter Ralegh was not a suitor of the Queen, however she fancied him.  He flirted and presented the Queen with gifts from his explorations, and trophies from his wins in battles. Walter and Elizabeth Throckmorton had found that they were with child and decided to marry. The Queen who was jealous for Ralegh and disappointed at her servant Bess, through them both in the tower for not asking her permission to marry. The first child, a son named Damerei, dies early in life. Subsequently there were  two other sons Walter and Carew. Walter died in a battle, but Carew led a full life before being killed and buried with his father in 1666.

Walter Ralegh served in Parliment as well. The Queen was somewhat moody. At one time, she knights him and asks for him to be Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard (the head honcho bodyguard). At other times he was out of favour with the Queen and was returned to the Tower of London, then a Royal prison.  He was released a number of times because of his skill in the military and he was needed to lead in battles against the Spaniards.

Sir Walter Ralegh is credited with having bought potatoes and tobacco to England, products which he found on his explorations of  South America. With hindsight, one can look back and ask if he did a favour to the ‘ civilised world’ by introducing Tobacco, but the potato became a staple in the British diet.

Ralegh was sent to the tower in 1603 by James I for an alleged plot against the Throne. He stayed there until he was pardoned in 1617 when he went again to South America. He attacked a Spanish outpost when out there. James I was friends with the Spanish. The Spanish ambassador was upset by the hostilities and asked James to have Ralegh beheaded. He complied with the request, to keep the peace.

What is the central complaint that underlines Ralegh’s poem “The Lie”?

Walter Ralegh had an epiphany in the tower, as he awaited his head to be separated from his body. He figured that there is no real pleasure, no good in the world. If there are moments of pleasure or good, they, or the ones who administer it,  have hidden agendas. Every smile is painted over a smirk, every tickle has darker intentions.

Walter wrote many poems in the Tower. The Lie being one of them.

The Lie tells of discoveries that Walter made that are perhaps not documented elsewhere. It explores and discovers the truth about the world and those in it. To Walter, the affections and admiration of those close to him, save perhaps his sons and wife, were all false. The favours people were showing him were conditional. Conditional on his allegiance and devotion to a religion, a monarch or a cause.

To the court and the church, the poem is saying that while you look good, underneath, your foundations are rotting. The foundation of the court was the history on which it stood, but the reports of historians were all lies, biased in favour of the monarch who was ruling at the time. The church itself was not so much a place of relief and solace, but one in which political decisions were made. The church at the time espoused a virtuous existence where in fact they were a puppet of the politicians.

The poem continues in the third verse, to tell the Kings and Queens not to be fooled when some says they love you. They love you only so far as it can fair them well. It is not a love or a loyalty that can be relied upon. It is merely a fair weather love. The Monarchs say they are serving their people, they want nothing for themselves. Ralegh says that is a lie. This was shown when Ralegh was castigated for attacking a Spanish ship, but was forgiven it when it showed to be a bounty for the monarch.

The poem continues in its revelations. Everything is a lie. With this discovery, he finds he has no reason to fight any longer. He has resigned himself that he is going to die.

The final verse tells the world to kill him then. The body may die but you cannot kill the soul.

The Lie

Go, Soul, the body’s guest,
Upon a thankless errand;
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant:
Go, since I needs must die,
And give the world the lie.

Say to the court, it glows
And shines like rotten wood;
Say to the church, it shows
What’s good, and doth no good:
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lie.

Tell potentates, they live
Acting by others’ action;
Not loved unless they give,
Not strong but by a faction.
If potentates reply,
Give potentates the lie.

Tell men of high condition,
That manage the estate,
Their purpose is ambition,
Their practice only hate:
And if they once reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell them that brave it most,
They beg for more by spending,
Who, in their greatest cost,
Seek nothing but commending.
And if they make reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell zeal it wants devotion;
Tell love it is but lust;
Tell time it metes but motion;
Tell flesh it is but dust:
And wish them not reply,
For thou must give the lie.

Tell age it daily wasteth;
Tell honour how it alters;
Tell beauty how she blasteth;
Tell favour how it falters:
And as they shall reply,
Give every one the lie.

Tell wit how much it wrangles
In tickle points of niceness;
Tell wisdom she entangles
Herself in overwiseness:
And when they do reply,
Straight give them both the lie.

Tell physic of her boldness;
Tell skill it is prevention;
Tell charity of coldness;
Tell law it is contention:
And as they do reply,
So give them still the lie.

Tell fortune of her blindness;
Tell nature of decay;
Tell friendship of unkindness;
Tell justice of delay:
And if they will reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming:
If arts and schools reply,
Give arts and schools the lie.

Tell faith it’s fled the city;
Tell how the country erreth;
Tell manhood shakes off pity
And virtue least preferreth:
And if they do reply,
Spare not to give the lie.

So when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing–
Although to give the lie
Deserves no less than stabbing–
Stab at thee he that will,
No stab the soul can kill.

 

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Richard III. Evil: Inherent or learned?

One of the questions that arose for me when seeing the Peter Evans production of Richard III was: Was Richard inherently evil or is it learned behaviour?

Richard was party to the killing of his father, his  two brothers, his nephews and others. He lusted after his brothers wife even before his brother was dead. He plotted, schemed, undermined authority until he had achieved his life goal; becoming King.

There is no doubt that in this production, Richard was indeed an evil person.However, do we just look at the final product, or do we look at what makes an evil person.

Richard was hated by most people even from birth:

Queen Margaret in Act 4, Scene 4.
“Then forth the kennel of thy womb hath crept
A hellhound that doth hunt us all to death—
That dog, that had his teeth before his eyes,
To worry lambs and lap their gentle blood;
That excellent grand tyrant of the earth,
That reigns in gallèd eyes of weeping souls;
That foul defacer of God’s handiwork
Thy womb let loose to chase us to our graves.
O upright, just, and true-disposing God,
How do I thank thee that this carnal cur
Preys on the issue of his mother’s body
And makes her pew-fellow with others’ moan!”
Queen Margaret somewhat blames Richard’s mother for giving birth to him. Others throughout the play refer to him as a dog, a toad and worse. His own mother speaks ill of him.
Lady Anne calls him a foul devil, a lump of foul deformity. She called him foul of heart and wishes he kill himself. Anne says he is unfit for any place but hell. She calls him a foul toad and begs him to leave as seeing him infects her eyes. Act 1 Scene 2
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Picture Credit: Prudence Upton, The Guardian.

His initial speech in Act 1 Scene 1 tells me something of the character of Richard.
“And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villian,
And hater the idle pleasures of these days”….. Lines 28-31
and again
“And if King Edward be as true and just
As I am subtle, false and treacherous”….Line 36-37
He has become evil due to his malformation, due to his being hated by a nation, including his own mother.
“I, that am rudely stamp’d and want love’s majesty
To strut before a wanton ambling nymph;
I, that am curtail’d of this fair proportion,
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them”
According to Shakespeare, Richard III was a despicable creature that was ill formed and totally disliked. Richard had tried to win the love of his family, he wanted to be loved. He wanted to win a maiden’s heart but none would have him.
While  I do not agree with his decision to become evil, nor the actions that prove that he genuinely is, I feel empathy toward him. I can understand that if he cannot win the love of the ones he loves, then he is forced to hate… as much as they do.
The difference between Richard, and others of us in society rejected and hated by family, is that Richard chose the route of evil and treachery. I chose the route of ignoring what others say by doing good and achieving unexpected milestones. I don’t hate those who have rejected me, I am upset that those whom I thought were close are not here to share the journey.
Sometimes water proves thicker than blood.
Dave

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