Tag Archives: shakespeare

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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Colonisation and “The Tempest”.

Say whose side you are on in the contest between Prospero and Caliban as it appears at the end of Act 1 Sc 2.

How do humans live without so called civilisation?  How do tribes of nomadic indigenous people even survive without the internet, mobile phones or the golden arches of a favorite fast food place.

Fast food for Australian indigenous people was an emu who could travel at 50km per hour or a kangaroo capable of speeds up to 70km per hour. The calling of a relative involved travelling to see them and spending time with them. Instead of Facebook, they had face to face.

We in the western world think that we are far superior to the natives of lands whom we rape for resources and riches. Natives of North America were conned into giving away precious land and resources in exchange for coloured beads. Now the American government just takes the land that has been in traditional ownership for centuries in exchange for nothing. This is sacred land. Land of great importance to the natives. Western man’s greed is greater and to him, more important, than a natives man’s sacred spots. For more on this issue follow the link.

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/01/us/standing-rock-sioux-sacred-land-dakota-pipeline/

Nauru is an island nation that was raped of its resources. The phosphate that was here was a result of an abundant bird life.here The Island has been inhabited by Polynesian and Micronesian people for over 3000 years. Prior to colonisation, this was a land which was plentiful. The people farmed the land growing fruits and vegetables and catching the fish in the waters that surrounded the nation. Then the Germans colonised it and began to rape the land of the phosphate to make their grass green in their own backyards. It continued under British,Australian, and NewZealand administrations after WWI.

nauru-phosphate-mining-1

Tall pillars of coral is what remains after the phosphate is removed. © PHILIP GAME/ALAMY

Nauru gained its independence in 1968 but by then the land was barren, the waters polluted and the people reliant on imported canned goods from the western world to feed themselves. This introduced obesity and disease to the land.

In The Tempest, by William Shakespeare we see Prospero come to the Island that was inhabited only by Caliban and Ariel. Ariel was a spirit, trapped in a tree by a witch who had since died and so had no way of release. Prospero released Ariel but placed the spirit in servitude to do his bidding.

Caliban was the son of that same witch. He was born with deformities and was seen in his state to be less than human. He wandered the island and knew it like the back of his hand. He reminds Prospero in his speech in Act 1 Scene 2

“…show’d thee all the qualities o’ the isle,
The fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile:”

Before Prospero came, Caliban was King of that Island, although he had no subjects. He would have not been able to procreate, and the Kingdom would have died with him.

Prospero was the coloniser, albeit an unwilling one. Again from that same speech, Caliban states:

“This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother,
Which thou takest from me. When thou camest first,
Thou strokedst me and madest much of me, wouldst give me
Water with berries in’t, and teach me how
To name the bigger light, and how the less,
That burn by day and night: and then I loved thee”

and Prospero reminds Caliban

I pitied thee,
Took pains to make thee speak, taught thee each hour
One thing or other: when thou didst not, savage,
Know thine own meaning, but wouldst gabble like
A thing most brutish, I endow’d thy purposes
With words that made them known.

Caliban sought to procreate with Prospero’s daughter, whom at the time was quite young. Caliban did not know the harm he could cause to the girl, or the social graces of courting, wooing and consent. He sought to take her and thus gained the wrath of Prospero and indeed his daughter Miranda.

So the blog question is…Say whose side you are on in the contest between Prospero and Caliban as it appears at the end of Act 1 Sc 2. Is colonisation a good thing? I would have to say no. Colonisation occurs and did occur on the island in The Tempest, to the detriment of the natives who already inhabit the land.

Without Prospero, Caliban would have happily lived on the island, using its resources wisely, respecting and knowing the land intimately. Prospero spoilt that with his attitude of superiority over Caliban.Because he could speak a language which he thought others should be able to speak, and hence communicate, he thought himself better than Caliban whom he couldn’t understand himself.

The western world think they are so much better than the native people who inhabit a place before colonisation. The Australian Settlers deemed the land uninhabited when they landed, even though the natives of the land were clearly evident. The settlers did not think of the natives as human.

We boast our civilisation is a better way if living. In Whose eyes? We say that western medicine is good for helping the natives live longer, free from pain and disease. It was the white man who bought the diseases in a lot of cases. It was also the white man who introduced the indigenous people of Australia to alcohol, and tobacco. It was the white man who bought petrol vehicles to the country and allowed the young people to sniff it, infecting their minds.

There are very few areas in the world not colonised. I believe there are areas in South America and New Guinea who don’t know white man. North Sentinel Island near India, has inhabitants who shoot arrows at airplanes who come to close. Leave them be I say. These people do not need out western society with all the politics, greed and corruption.The people of North Sentinel Island have survived without modern man for 60,000 years. They are doing alright without us.

Sentinelese tribespeople, holding javelins, gather on the shore of North Sentinel Island, located in the Bay of Bengal 

Sentinelese tribespeople, holding javelins, gather on the shore of North Sentinel Island, located in the Bay of Bengal

So it is a good thing when Prospero is restored to the Dukedom and returns to Milan, leaving a freed Ariel Spirit and Caliban to inhabit the island alone. Perhaps no major damage is done and Caliban is able to restore the Island to the former beauty.

Dave

 

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What is Love. Twelfth Night

“What is love? ’tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies no plenty;
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.”

The above is an excerpt from the song that Feste the sings to Sir Toby and Sit Andrew when they are drunk and making a raucous on the patio of Lady Olivia’s house.

All are in a fairly jovial mood and Toby asks for a song of Feste. Feste, being a fool, but being wise, knows that laughter and merriment will not last forever; and love does not last eternally.

Who knows what the future holds, he says. Have fun now, for fun and things and love will not last. Kiss while you can. The things of youth… Love and merriment will not continue.

I think we can be sure of the truth of these words. Love for someone changes over time. First it starts with infatuation. This is the type of love described in the opening speech of this play, when Orsino says “If music be the food of love, play on”.

“If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour!”

And again when Antonio is speaking to Sebastian.

“If you will not murder me for my love, let me be
your servant.”

Orsino is madly, deeply in love with a woman who is in mourning and unatainable. I think that Orsino feels safe in expressing his love, as he knows that it will be rebuffed for the moment. But for him, he loves the idea of being in love, instead of being in love with Lady Olivia herself.

Antonio rescued Sebastian from the sea when the vessel he was aboard was sunk. Sebastian could not have been on board the ship for long, but in that time Antonio has fallen truly, madly, deeply in love with him. In the line mentioned above, he bravely expresses his love for fear it would be rejected “If you will not murder me for my love…” It was indeed not rejected but Sebastian has a greater mission, and leaved Antonio to grieve the love that was lost.

Related image

After infatuation, when love is both accepted and welcomed, one can grow weary of love. We take the other person for granted. We get disappointed when the object of our desire does undesirable things (like leaving the toilet seat up, or clogging the drain with hair).

One must accept the ever changing nature of love. It cannot always be “on heat”. It slows down and becomes comfortable. sometimes people fall out of love with actions and think they have fallen out of love with the person.

I love to see old couples holding hands, kissing… a gentleman pulling a ladies chair out, or opening the door and helping her in or out of a car. My own Sam is very loving like that, treating me with the utmost gentleness and love. Sam is very considerate when we are together. We are both very busy people so don’t get to spend as much time together as other couples might. We value the time we have together. After four years together we are still truly, madly deeply in love. I think we always will be.

I feel that Feste may have had a bad experience with love, and so the love song he sings is more like a dirge or requiem. He is remembering how sweet love once was but remembering with regret that it had to end. Poor Feste, does he really know what love is?

Dave

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Petrarch and the Sonnets

Last week we had a wonderful lecture by Professor Barry Spurr on the Sonnets of Shakespeare. Professor Spurr mentioned this fellow named Petrarch. Since few of us knew who he was or his style of Sonnet, I thought I would give you a brief biography, and explain a little about Petrarch Sonnets.

Francesco Petrarca or Petrarch was born in 1304 in Tuscany. He devoted his life to the study of Classical Literature. It was his devotion to the church and becoming a cleric which allowed him to travel and study the ancient texts in Latin and Greek.

When Petrarch was a child, the family moved to Avignon in France. It was here he met the subject of his desire and his sonnets,  Laura, in 1327. He wrote many sonnets and poems and this girl was one of the main themes for them. It is rumoured that Laura died in the Black Death in 1348.

The doctrine Petrarch espoused was that humankind can again “reach the heights of past accomplishments”, which he read about in the sometimes forgotten ancient and classical texts. The Doctrine was called Humanism and bridged the Gap between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Petrarch’s writings were much loved in his day and his poems led him to be named Poet Laureate of Rome in 1341. He worked tirelessly until he death at age 69. The legacy he left behind was a collection of his writings called Rerum vulgarium fragmenta—also known as Rime Sparse (“Scattered Rhymes”) and as Petrarch’s canzoniere (“Petrarch’s songbook”). This included 366 poems in the common language of the people and a further 317 sonnets.

His poems helped to shape modern day Italian language. But it is the Sonnets which I wanted to concentrate on.

Petrachan Sonnets have 14 lines. They are arranged into 2 stanzas.  The first is 8 lines (Octave) and the second is 6 lines.The rhyme sequence is abba, abba, or cde,cde or cdcdcd. A Petrachian sonnet has 3 parts:

  1. Question or Problem. First 6 lines
  2. Turning or volta. This is the next 2 lines and prepares us for the counteragument or answer to the question posed.
  3. This is the counterargument or the answer to the question presented in the first 6 lines.

From Visions
Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374)
Being one day at my window all alone,
So manie strange things happened me to see,
As much as it grieveth me to thinke thereon.
At my right hand a hynde appear’d to mee,
So faire as mote the greatest god delite;
Two eager dogs did her pursue in chace.
Of which the one was blacke, the other white:
With deadly force so in their cruell race
They pincht the haunches of that gentle beast,
That at the last, and in short time, I spide,
Under a rocke, where she alas, opprest,
Fell to the ground, and there untimely dide.
Cruell death vanquishing so noble beautie
Oft makes me wayle so hard a desire.
(Trans. Edmund Spenser)

Shakespeare used a different form of Sonnet. It had 3 lots of 4 lines  followed by a rhyming couplet. Each second line rhymed, but the rhyming couplet was different, rhyming a single line with the next.

We studied Sonnet 130 in class.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

The turn or volta doesn’t occur in the same place as an Italian sonnet. It continues talking unfavourably about His mistress until the rhyming couplet. Then he says… EVEN SO… “And Yet”… i still love her.

Both types of sonnet use the iambic pentameter, or 5 beats to the line as a rhythm.

I enjoyed looking at this unique form of poem. I hope you have enjoyed reading it.

Dave

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/sonnet-poetic-formhttp://www.biography.com/people/
petrarch-943889

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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!

IMG_2174

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Dear Dad

You are the youngest daughter in your family. Your father is demanding that you tell him how much you love him. In your own words, tell him what you really feel about his question. What are you prepared to say in response to his demand?

The above is a suggested blog post for the Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature unit which I am doing at University. This struck a chord with me. My own father died some 10 years ago. It is his birthday this month. I was unable to be with him in the final days of his life. He asked for us not to go down to see him. We had said our face to face goodbyes about a month earlier. I rang every day. My dad was not one to say “I Love You” and did not expect his manly sons to say it either. It was just sort of understood. I could tell my mother, as could my brothers, but to show emotions in front of my father would have been seen as weakness by him.

So, now that I have done a mindfulness course; now that I am in touch with my emotions and stand unafraid to speak them. Here is a poem, that I would write for my father. Or if you like, one that Cornelia would have written to her father the King.

You held me when I was small

kept me safe from all

that scared me in the night

or gave me a fright. 

 

You held my hand on the first day of school

you brushed my hair so I looked real cool

you put food on the table, a roof over my head

you shook my hand when you sent me to bed.

 

You carried me from the car, asleep

you taught me life lessons which I keep

you cheered while I took a bow on stage

at times you scolded me, “act you age”.

 

You gave everything that you could give

I prayed to God that you would live

It’s hard to write now as I shed a tear

we were never close but you were always near.

 

If I had the time to live over again

I would be there to share your pain

“I’m doing alright” you would lie

why did you have to go and die?

 

before I could tell you

I love you.

You see dad, its not the things you gave me that makes me love you. Its that you taught me to be a man.; to be responsible, to have my own opinion and not to follow the crowds. You taught me to be myself no matter what anyone else thinks. You made it safe for me to come out, when earlier in my life I was too afraid. When everyone else deserted me, you were there. That’s why I love you.

I miss you dad.

Dave

 

 

 

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Modern analogy of King Lear opening?

There is a man who lives in a house.

He has 3 pets; 2 dogs and a cat.

The dogs fight for attention. One always throwing herself into his arms, smothering his face with kisses. The other is always bringing gifts, like expensive pieces of wood newly broken from the outdoor lounge, or pieces of ceramic pot. He knows the man love this pot, so the dog brought part of it to the man at the back door.

The third animal is the cat. The cat does what she bleeding well pleases. She sleeps most of the day, comes for cuddles when SHE wants them and scarpers when she doesn’t. She shares the man’s food, although the man doesn’t share hers. The cat does not like the man’s aftershave or deodorant and makes no secret of the fact. The cat loves because that is what is expected every now and then, and doesn’t care if she is ignored when other things are happening. She would more like to curl up in a ball and go to sleep.

Ok, YES. the man is me. The dogs are Buddy and Gracie and the Cat is Brandy…my pet name for her is Puss Puss. It occurred to me this afternoon when I was hanging the washing out just how the two dogs are just like Goneril and Regan, willing to do whatever they thought they needed to to gain my love and approval. They don’t realise I would love them even if they were naughty. The cat is indifferent. She can live without me, however she is annoying when I don’t wish her to sleep on my bed and close the door. She scratches the door very loudly. I have timed her. She can keep it up for 12 minutes straight… and just when you think all is quiet and she has settled for the night…she will start again. I think she is like Cordelia, because she doesn’t let me cuddle or love her more than she is willing to. When she has enough, she pushes away.

The cat knows however, that my love is there for her and she is my favorite. She doesn’t try to win favours by bringing me gifts, or jump into my arms when I am trying to do something else, She patiently waits for me to be ready to give her the cuddles and scratches that she needs.

Hence, I feel like a King, in this palace, my home.

 

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