Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Reflecting on Shakespeare; or, The End...? Hopefully Not...

Since this is my last blog post for this class, I thought that I would take the liberty of reflecting on some of the things that I've enjoyed about engaging Shakespeare. 

I think that one of my favorite things was the group/social aspect.  Working with other people provided great opportunities to interact with ideas that I might not have come up with and to experience Shakespeare's works in a variety of media.  It was interesting and useful to have a chance to engage people who had different talents and approaches to Shakespeare. 

The Engaging Shakespeare project really brought home to me the fact that Shakespeare is not meant to just be read.  It is meant to be experienced. And that means watching, performing, reading (out loud), acting, everything.  The best thing about the project was that it brought a little of all of these things to the class and to each of us individually.  I enjoyed getting a chance to take part in creating an e-audiobook.  I'd never done anything like this before, and acting and thinking about how I was going to portray my characters helped me form new opinions on Hamlet

As I mentioned above, seeing all the other exhibitions/performances was great as well.  The art curriculum, music video, and play/documentary all did a great job in not just presenting their own interpretations of Shakespeare but making his works applicable to modern life.  It's easy to think that Shakespeare is meaningless in a modern society, but the project, in my mind at least, helped show that that conclusion is erroneous. 

Learning Outcomes:
So, now it's time for a personal moment.  With me.  At the beginning of this class, we discussed our four learning outcomes, our canon of how to measure our growth in the class and our Shakespeare knowledge:
1. Gain Shakespeare Literacy
2. Analyze Shakespeare Critically
3. Engage Shakespeare Creatively
4. Share Shakespeare Meaningfully

In a previous post, I discussed how the learning outcomes were going, and how I felt I was meeting them.  I believe that I can honestly say that I have improved in all of them, especially the last 2, which were slightly lacking the last time I posted. 

I feel as though my Shakespeare literacy has increased as this class has gone on and we have studied more plays together.  I've been able to see more connections between past experiences in my life and Shakespeare's works, and to find references to Shakespeare in outside media.

I feel as though analyzing Shakespeare critically has always been one of my strengths in this course.  I've been able to explore themes in many of my posts, and I've been able to tie these themes back to my interests in history. 

Engaging Shakespeare creatively is the outcome where I feel like I have improved the most.  Creating the audiobook was a learning experience for me.  It took all of us in our group sometime to get comfortable with recording and with playing our characters effectively (I definitely tried too hard the first time that I did the Ghost's lines).  But we got much better and much more natural as we recorded more (and struggled through our technological impairments). 

Completing the final project also helped me share Shakespeare meaningfully.  I'd been able to share some things before-in some unconventional settings-but the project helped our group reach out to others both online and in the classroom.  I thought that the project was a great success in that regard.  Even my roommate who attended it expressed his jealousy over the fact that our class did such a fantastic set of projects (he's in another section of ENG 232), which is a mark of success in my book. 

All in all, I really feel as though I have grown personally and in my knowledge of Shakespeare, and that is why I believe that I have met the learning outcomes from this course.  I hope to be able to use the knowledge and skills that I have gained elsewhere, so I can benefit myself and others.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Almost done with the project!

On Saturday we recorded (and re-recorded) the last parts of our cut of Hamlet.  The only things left to do now are the editing-we have to remove some extra sounds, and add some others-and the distribution.  Honestly, I'm excited.  I played two roles in this audio production, Claudius and the Ghost, and I am very interested to see how my portrayals of them both turned out. 

I had a great time playing two kings of Denmark, and this project gave me a firsthand look into the world of acting, introducing me to the nuances of tone, voice, and character. 

I also learned how to effectively abridge a story so that it still communicates the original's essence.  I feel that each of our group members did a great job editing and compiling our own individual parts (each person had an act). 

Can't wait for the finished product!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Is it ironic that so often in plays or novels or other literature characters end up saying or doing something by the end that they disdained so much in the beginning? 

Let's take Edmund.  When he is first introduced and discusses the idea of omens and fate with his father Gloucester, he tells us after the conversation: "This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are
sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion/knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical pre-dominance/drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforc'd obedience of/planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on (1.1.443-449).  Edmund is a skeptic, to say the least. 

His attitude reminds me of Hotspur in Henry IV, part 1, who I mentioned earlier in one of my musings. 

Unlike Hotspur, however, Edmund apparently has a change of heart when he is dying.  Edgar tells him: "The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices/Make instruments to scourge us/The dark and vicious place where thee he got/Cost him his eyes," and Edmund comes back with, "Th' hast spoken right; 'tis true/The wheel is come full circle; I am here." 

So...Edmund fulfills his own words.  When he's in charge, fate is something to be laughed at.  When he's dying, obviously "the wheel" brought him to that place. 

How often do we do the same thing?  It's easy to think we're in charge when things are going our way.  However, it's just as easy to blame others when things don't. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Becoming Claudius

Before I get started, apologies to all for not really posting anything over the Thanksgiving weekend.  I've only recently (yesterday) emerged from a turkey-induced stupor that left me completely unable to analyze King Lear (kidding...mostly...)

The game is up, Patrick.  We know.

Anyways, I've been looking over my group's script and deciding how I want to read my lines.  I see Claudius as a sort of wannabe puppet master in this play.  He thinks that he's committed the murder very smoothly and gotten away with it, so for the first half of the play (at least) I have to be imperious monarch who is congratulating himself on a job well done. 

KHAAN! Sorry, wrong captain.
The second option might look like this though.
But in the last part of the play, some kind of other emotion has to come into it.  For example, Claudius' aside, "It is the poison'd cup; it is too late" (5.1.3944) could be taken either as simply regretful, as in "Oh well, she's dead too.  Now I have to find another wife and son..."  or it could be "No!  My plan is coming undone right in front of my eyes!  It's claiming unintended victims! Hamlet really is crazy!"  You get the point. 

So which Claudius is more realistic?  Dispassionate egomaniacal killer or...emotional egomaniacal killer? 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Attitude of Gratitude

Since it is Thanksgiving weekend, I thought that I would say a few words about gratitude...It's necessary to be happy.  Think about what you're grateful for not just this weekend, but always...and don't let your wants eclipse your needs. 

If Lear and his family had attempted to cultivate true gratitude for one another, things might not have ended as they did.  But nearly everyone in the play (except for Cordelia, Kent, and Edgar) puts their own desires above the people whom they should treasure most, and tragedy results. 

It might seem a little facetious to use fictional examples for an exhortation towards thankfulness, but the example of Lear and his dysfunctional family invites all of us to examine ourselves and how we treat our fellow human beings.  Think about it. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Recording pt. 2

It didn't look quite like this.
So this last week I found out that recording is tons of fun!  Our group went to a recording studio in the first floor of the JFSB to make the first part of our audio presentation. 

The first thing we discovered:  We don't really know how to run recording software.  But the front desk people were very nice and helpful, so we got off the ground eventually.

The other thing that took some getting used to was doing the actual recording.  I did the roles of both Claudius and the Ghost, and I tried to change my tone for each one (not too sure how I did at that, by the way.  Hopefully Amy will be able to change up the Ghost just a little bit). 

I also learned that knowing the lines is important.  Yes, we can bring the script into the studio.  No, that does not mean I know how to pronounce all of the Elizabethan-era terminology.  I still don't know how everyone else in the group knew what a "matin" was.  So over the break I'll be working on reading the script and getting up to speed...wish me luck!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Was Blind, But Now I See

King Lear.  Yeah.  I think that I found Shakespeare's most depressing and most profound play.  King Lear is about what happens when innocent people have to deal with tragedy inflicted on them by circumstances beyond their control. 

The particular tragedy that drew my attention was Gloucester's loss of his eyes, which we discussed in class.  Firstly, kicking someone's eyes out is a ridiculously brutal thing to do, and would inflict a large amount of physical pain.  Secondly, Gloucester has realized that he believed the wrong son and that Edmund has betrayed him, which would cause mental and emotional agony.  All in all, this guy's life is terrible. 

Gloucester then utters the famous lines we discussed in class: "I have no way, and therefore want no eyes;
I stumbled when I saw." (4.1.68-69)  When I read this, I thought of Christ's words to the Pharisees who asked him if they were blind after he healed the man blind from birth in the Gospel of John: "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth."  Christ said that he came to give sight to the blind, and that those who claimed they saw were those who were truly blind. 

Gloucester didn't see until he was made blind.  Until he was forcibly humbled, he was unable to percieve the reality of the situation around him.  We're so often the same way...we don't realize what is happening until it is too late.  At least Gloucester gets a happier ending than Lear does...