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...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Shakespeare Abridged

So in addition to reading King Lear (holy cow.  Can anyone say brutal! Poor Gloucester...) I worked this weekend on a cut of Hamlet, Act V for an audio recording.  I discussed in a previous post how an audio recording becomes effective, but reading through the act and deciding what to cut out made me think about it all over again. 

How does an abridgement still manage to adequately get across the point of the story while still retaining its "integrity?" (Is that even the right word?)

I ended up cutting most of the first scene, only keeping the lines about Yorick, because they are so well known, and the funeral of Ophelia.  I cut most of the scenes with the clowns (seriously.  What is Shakespeare's thing with clowns?  Maybe I just have the thing with clowns after It and The Dark Knight.  But I digress), a lot of the dialogue between Horatio and Hamlet, and the discussion of Hamlet going to England.  Hopefully this will be sufficient to get the point across...guess I'll have to see on Tuesday!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Power of the Word

I joined a new group yesterday!  I am now part of the group that will be doing an audio recording of the play Hamlet.  Our group discussed what exactly makes a good audio recording and asked us all to do some research...

Here's the first one that I found, from LibriVox:

The second sample recording, from

And last, a recording of the Richard Burton Hamlet from Amazon:

The goal of an audio recording, similar to that of a text, is to create images in the mind to substitute for a lack of visual material.  In my opinion, the sample from LearnOut Loud is the best because it incorporates background music and effects, which enhance the listening experience by helping the listener get a sense of what is happening. 

For us to create an effective audio recording, we need to create images inside the head of the listener by setting tone and mood with good voice acting and sound effects.  Enjoy the samples!

Monday, November 7, 2011

King Lear

You try and stay awake through
a 3-hour Japanese movie.
"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is/To have a thankless child!"

-King Lear (1.4.815-16)

I've never read King Lear before.  Here are the ways I've interacted with it before:
1. I've had the above line quoted to me by my parents when they don't feel like I'm grateful enough.
2. I saw most of Ran, Akiro Kurosawa's famous Japanese adaptation about a Sengoku-era warlord.  I fell asleep 2/3 of the way through. 

It seems like an interesting play so far, with Lear's renunciation of the only daughter who really loves him and his fights and quarrels with the other two, who tell him they love him so they can get his land.  The fault isn't only theirs though...Lear doesn't seem to realize who really does care about him, and he doesn't value true virtue, unlike the king of France, who agrees to marry Cordelia without a dowry because he's so impressed by her character. 

Here's what I've noticed about tragedies and comedies in Shakespeare-the only way they seem to differ is the ending.  The Tempest and The Winter's Tale both had some potential issues-thinking a family member is dead is not fun, but everything was okay in the end.  It's almost as though a tragedy is a comedy that doesn't quite make it. 

Along with that, I noticed that most of Shakespeare's plays tend to deal with family relationships and their difficulties.  That made me think about the line I quoted at the beginning of this post.  A serpent's tooth.  Out of all the animals that attack people, Shakespeare used the metaphor of a serpent to describe the pain of betrayal.  Snakes that are known for biting people are usually venemous, and in many cases snakebite will cause agonizing death if untreated. 

Poisonous relationships cause emotional, spiritual, and mental agony to those who are trapped in them, especially those who are blameless in them (Lear isn't really without blame, but that doesn't mean his pain isn't real).  This metaphor drives home the point that family can bring us our greatest pain as well as joy. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Prospero's Redemption in the Production

On Saturday, I went with my class to Salt Lake City to view a production of The Tempest, which was put on by the Pioneer Theater Company.  I really enjoyed the production.  It was well done and brought out some motifs in the play that I hadn't thought of before. 

The biggest thing that I noticed was the theme of redemption.  It had been brought up previously in class discussion, but I never noticed till I saw the play that the character who needed redemption the most was Prospero.  He was shown as consumed by his anger and desire for revenge, at least until he had his conversation with Ariel and came to his senses (the one in the play where he almost hit her, from Act V, scene 1). 

Case in point.

Sure, his change felt a little overdramatic, but it made me think.  What's so great about forgiveness?  I've found in my life that the person most changed by forgiveness is the person who was wronged.  Those who can let go of their anger can find peace that those who continue to hold grudges never discover. 

On a more serious note though, I felt like this production treated a much more serious-and difficult-side of redemption than did The Winter's Tale.  In that play, Leontes was seeking forgiveness.  He had to be penitent and humble and receive it from others.  Prospero, on the other hand, had a harder test in front of him.  It's relatively easy to ask others for forgiveness, but difficult to grant to them.  That's the true test of our own mercy, when all is said and done.  Can we forgive other people?