A Final Review of Class

Going into this course I was not much of a Shakespeare fan – he was more of someone I was forced to read in high school, and never took an interest into his work. However, after this semester I have learned a great deal about Shakespeare and all his works. Through the several plays we read and the presentations I learned that Shakespeare had messages about life in all of his plays, and was not blandly telling a story. His plays dealt with life, death, love, jealousy and several other major aspects of life. The fact that someone could write so effectively hundreds of years ago and can still be the most popular author today is no longer baffling. Shakespeare is deserving of his title “the greatest author of the English language” because he not only mastered the language and storytelling aspect of literature, but he also understand life as well as anyone could. His plays – as well as his sonnets – not only provided a sense of entertainment, but they also provided messages for society.

I would have never learned as much as I did about William Shakespeare if our entire class was not so enthusiastic about the topic as a whole. From the teachings to the class discussions, this semester made William Shakespeare interesting to me, and I am very happy I took the course and was shown the reasons the world still study Shakespeare today.

Michael

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Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Through the years I have never read nor studied a sonnet by Shakespeare. While he is more famous for his plays, his sonnets are equally important, so I decided to read a few and create an analysis and opinion of them.

To start, sonnets are based on the structure of a “little song”. They are rhythmic, melodic and flow to give the reader a sense of pace and smoothness. All of Shakespeare’s sonnets were published in groups and these groups all presented an overall message. For example, sonnets 1-17 all urged a young man to marry and have children to continue his family name through generations. This direct message is how Shakespeare aimed to impact the society he lived in. Furthermore, most of Shakespeare’s sonnets had identical structures. The majority contained three four-line stanzas (called quatrains) and a final couplet written in iambic pentameter (like his plays). This structure created a sense of continuity between his poems as well as giving his publishing a trademark Shakespearean trait. The similarities in poems allowed Shakespeare to create a structure, and a common voice, in his poems that the population could related to.

Lastly, after reading several sonnets and looking into their background as a whole, it is evident Shakespeare did not only take pride in his plays. The language and message in his poems – which are much shorter than his plays albeit – is just a powerful for the reader. The collection of sonnets as a whole lends yet another hand to Shakespeare’s mastering of the English language, which is why he is still read hundreds of years later.

Michael

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Why Shakespeare Has Stood The Test of Time

At quick glance, William Shakespeare’s literary works seems similar to any other play or sonnet; however, upon deeper analysis, Shakespeare is a true genius. The majority of his works were written in the late 1500’s during the Elizabethan Era – and today, he is the most read author around the world. All of his plays are unique in their own individual ways, such as characterization, structure, meaning, and genre. Shakespeare’s writing ranged from historical accounts, to comedies and tragedies. His plays are still read because they tell stories of love and jealousy, while also sending messages of depicting life in today’s world as well as the world in the 1500’s.

In addition to the various messages and different types of plays Shakespeare wrote, his plays were also well ahead of his time in terms of structure. In most of Shakespeare’s early  classical and Italian-styled comedies he used double plots and precise comic sequences to keep the audience on their heels, while also providing an unseen sense of entertaining through humor. However, in the 1590’s Shakespeare began to publish Romantic comedies. It was through these new form of plays that Shakespeare gained the fame is he recognized with today.

The 37 plays & myriad of sonnets from Shakespeare have stood the test of time because he not only published his plays early in history, but also during an era that allowed him to become well-known for his entertainment. Plays in his era were the most popular form of entertainment, and Shakespeare is the greatest in English literature because he successfully embodies every aspect and ability to catch and keep the audience’s attention.

Michael

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“BOATSWAIN!”

Shakespeare’s play The Tempest has a long list of notable characters. Strangely, the one described in the first line of the play is only given the role of a minor character. Boatswain is not only mentioned in the first line – but he is only in the first and last scene. Why would Shakespeare, who is known for making the first lines important, discuss a minor character…?

A boatswain is essentially an unlicensed member of a ship’s crew, but in this instance I think Shakespeare is using this character to act as bookends to the play. His presence in the beginning and end of the play open the play in similar manners. During the ship wreck scene he manages the situation by demanding help rather than feeling sorry for himself and praying. Moreover, in the final scene when he wakes up from a long sleep he is surprised by what he sees but not stunned or shocked. His calmness and sense of easiness acts a perfect foil to the chaos of the plot of the play, which is why Shakespeare uses such a minor character in such major places in his play.

Michael

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What’s in a name?

As discussed in class, Shakespeare knew what he was doing when named characters in his play Othello. OtHELLo contains the word “hell” and DesDEMONa contains the word “demon”. I don’t think this negative inclusion within the names was done by accident. Upon further analysis, Shakespeare included them in the names for these reasons:

Othello – The general 😉 nature of Othello’s character is of a dark man. A dark man, not because is of darker skin tone, but also because he is a very mysterious person. Othello believes there is magic developing everywhere – possibly referring to the devil or devilish ways. While he is dark, he also has a bright, naive side. Iago continually schemes against Othello and tried to corrupt him. The reason Shakespeare included “hell” in the name is because early in the play Othello is constantly naive and is always seen as the great General. However, by the end of the play Othello becomes obsessed with morality and spirituality. He is frightened of going to hell, and Shakespeare uses the name to act as a foil to his personality – at the beginning, hell plays no true role in Othello’s life, but when he kills himself at the end of the play hell is a large part of not only his thought process, but his life and personality as well.

Desdemona – When first reading Othello it seems Desdemona is the perfect woman. She is pretty, upper-class, trusting, and pure. However, her naive personality leaves her susceptible to the lures of scheming men who try to corrupt her. Similar to Othello, she has an open-nature, but this openness will lead to her downfall at the hands of Iago. Yet it is these same seemingly wonderful qualities that turn against Desdemona, blinding her to the realities of society. Her trust in her Othello does not allow her to see the beast he has become. Her loyalty to her friends blurs how the relationship may be seen from outside sources. Overall, this “perfect” Desdemona leads herself to her death, yet has no knowledge of doing so while on her life’s journey. The role of the word demon in her name lends to the explanation that her kindness, led to the evil that resulted in her death. In no way is Shakespeare calling Desdemona a demon directly, however he is merely implying that her perfectness left her susceptible to evilness, which eventually corrupted her personality.

Michael

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Desdemona Lost Her Voice

In Shakespeare’s tragic play of Othello it is evident Desdemona is to blame for initializing the tragic storyline which carries on after her first appearance in the play. However, the fact that she possesses a powerful voice and presence in the play is still an open discussion. From the content given in the story Desdemona’s power in her voice at the beginning of the story is overrated. She never had a powerful voice from the start to the end of the story. A powerful voice can be a very subjective word with numerous definitions. Powerful in this sense, is in the context of being persuasive, and having control of the situation. Desdemona’s character does not display her powerful voice in the beginning till the end of the story. If she actually did have a powerful voice, the tragic storyline would have never occurred. She had a lot of chances in finding out what was wrong with Othello to clear the confusion – or even more convincing to Othello, she had chances to explain herself thoroughly. An explanation would have allowed her to reason with Othello at the end of the story. Instead, her voice was limited and passive. Her fraudulent powerful voice in the beginning of the story was only used to undermined Othello – whom she relied on for a sense of power. However, even with a lack of power, the character of Desdemona is successfully rebellious through the play by arguing with Iago and defending her marriage.

Michael

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Dialogue Form & Use of Feste in “Twelfth Night”

In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare uses dialogue between characters as his central form of the play. In all of his plays dialogue is important, but with all of the different characters in Twelfth Night, dialogue plays a very important role in organizing the plot. Using the form of dialogue Shakespeare dictates the relationship between characters. For instance, the relationship/understanding between Olivia, and her clown-servant Feste, is shown in their dialogue in Act I, scene V.  In the scene Shakespeare shows that both characters are intellectuals by constructing their conversation in strict prose.

It is important to note that Shakespeare characterizes Feste as a jovial clown and also a fool, which categorizes him as a clown-jester type in Elizabethan times. Shakespeare describes Feste by saying, “Better a witty fool than a foolish wit [Feste. Act 1, scene 5]”. This line illustrates the clown’s acumen; and exemplifies the way in which Shakespeare uses dialogue form to manifest Feste’s character. While fools were seen as entertainment and jesters in the time of the play, Feste is able to present the audience with a higher  knowledge of the plot than is presented by some of the other characters for the audience. While the description above is an example of Feste’s aloofness, he successfully looks on the unfolding scenario in the play as an outsider – which creates a similarity between he and the audience. Feste is the connection between the audience and the complex plot, and not only acts as a roaming entertainer, but also an active observer rather than participant.

Michael


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“Hamlet” & “The Lion King”

To start, take a look at this character list comparing The Lion King vs Hamlet:

Simba – Hamlet
Mufasa – Hamlet’s father’s ghost
Scar – Claudius
Sarabi – Gertrude
Nala – Ophelia
Timon and Pumbaa – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Disney’s The Lion King is very closely based on the Shakespearean plot of Hamlet, although it has also drawn comparisons with another Disney film – Bambi. In the story, Simba, the son of the King Musafa, goes into exile when his jealous uncle, Scar, convinces him that he was responsible for his father’s death. Simba is, then, befriended by a warthog and a rat-like animal who persuade him that he should adopt a ‘no worries’ attitude and enjoy life instead of facing his responsibility to his pride. By chance, he is reunited with his childhood friend Nala, who persuades him that he has to return to Pride Rock and confront Scar. At the end of the film, Simba and Scar fight and Scar falls off a cliff.

There are differences, however. In typical Shakespearean tragic fashion, the original play of Hamlet does not have a “happy ending.” On the other hand, The Lion King – in normal Disney childhood movie fashion – has a happy ending, with the villain (Scar/Claudius) dying and Simba & Nala living happily-ever-after, while Simba also successfully represents his tribe.

This modern interpretation of Hamlet is a testament to Shakespeare’s masterful storytelling, and how often his plot structures and characterizations are used in today’s world – via novels, films, & plays.

Michael

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To Seek Revenge, or Not to Seek Revenge in ‘Hamlet’

After reading Hamlet, it is clear this play is formed on the notion of revenge. From the very beginning, the purpose of Hamlet and his actions is to avenge his father’s death – which was a murder. However, the driving factor behind the entire plot is Hamlet’s INABILITY to successfully avenge his father’s death. This “delay” on Hamlet’s part not only moves the plot forward, but also costs Polonius, Laertes, Ophelia, Gertrude, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern their lives.

To display Hamlet’s inability to take action, Shakespeare includes a number of other characters capable of taking revenge as asked for by the Ghost of Hamlet’s father. Fortinbras travels many miles to take his revenge and ultimately succeeds in conquering Denmark and Laertes plots to kill Hamlet to revenge the death of his father – Polonius. But, compared to these characters, Hamlet’s revenge is ineffectual. Once he decides to take action, he delays any action until the end of the play, and this crucial delay is what makes Hamlet a masterpiece. Shakespeare uses the delay to build Hamlet’s emotional and psycological complexity. The question still remains though for Hamlet: To act or not to act, to avenge the murder.

Michael

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FAIRIES

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream William Shakespeare includes several fairies in minor characters in this play… why would such a manly, man do this? Well, it’s for two main reasons: The first being that when a person is in control of writing a piece of literature, whether it be a novel, short story, or in this case, a play; he/she is in complete control and their imagination is what creates the play. In this play, Shakespeare included the fairies as a bit of comic relief, who used magic to impact the plot the of play. The fairies magic can almost be seen as another character in the play, and their “spells” impact on the other lovers in the play has an essential role. The other reason Shakespeare included fairies is that they were a popular belief in the Elizabethan era. The majority of people believed in fairies and how they could impact everyday life through magic. All in all, Shakespeare combined his imagination and a common social belief to create GREAT and LOVABLE characters like Moth, Mustardseed, Cobweb, Titania, and Peaceblossom.

Michael

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