Monday, November 22, 2010

Frederick the Great's Relationships

I found the mention of Frederick the Great's intimate relationship with Voltaire to be quite interesting today.  I discovered a little more information about this relationship in my research and learned about Frederick's other questionable relationships. Because Frederick showed no interest in his wife and was speculated to have a romantic relationship with Hans Hermann von Katte, historians believe that he was either bisexual or homosexual. In fact, Frederick's father was aware of his relationship with Katte and had both men arrested when he heard about their plan to run away. Consequently, the King ordered Katte to be beheaded outside of his son's prison window. Following this execution, the King forced his son to marry a woman who he truly did not love. Voltaire, Frederick's contemporary, became his lover and moved in with him in 1750. Despite their contentious disagreements and arguments, the men were "passionate lovers."

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Candide- Best of All Possible Worlds
I found this video of a 2005-"Live on Broadway"-version of Candide, with the New York Philharmonic conductor Marin Alsop. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

This made me lol.

Just thought I'd share this bit of humor with y'all since the role of women and feminism is often discussed in class.

I hope it makes you (Eric Fabio) lol too.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Voltaire's Theism

Today in class we discussed this quote of Voltaire's: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him." In this quote, Voltaire asserts that people need something to cling to; they need faith in a greater being to overcome the misfortunes in the world. Voltaire was a “theist” and therefore believed that God exists and is involved in the world. Theists believe in a personal God who is present and active in overseeing the universe. I think theism is a very interesting doctrine that Voltaire supports in his "Candide." Can you all think of any quotes in which Voltaire advocates his theist beliefs?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Voltaire and Swift

The more I read Candide, the more I discover similarities between Voltaire's rhetorical devices and those of Jonathan Swift. In  "A Modest Proposal", Swift completely satirizes British authority by using irony and extreme examples of hyperbole, especially when he sardonically suggests that Irish children should be cooked and eaten. Similarly, Candide makes absurd references to cannibalism and satirizes religious structure. Both writers make statements about their respective views of society through comedic (and often horrific) details.

Rape- War Crime

As we have recently discussed in class, rape is a huge aspect of Candide thus far. I can't believe that rape is such a common element during the war. Cunegonde and the Old Woman both have experienced rape. I think it is horrible that woman are used to hurt men of a certain country. I think that this is a clear example of how women are thought of as property.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Voltaire on Women

I found this great article online that describes Voltaire's various critiques on society, including his views on women.

The author states that although it may seem progresive that Voltaire portrays women as subject to violent male desire through stories of rape, enslavement, and submission, it is more likely that Voltaire believes women are weak and incompetent. Cunegonde and the Old Woman are repressed by men and are strangely represented in the novel; Voltaire depicts them as helpless victims which also show strength in the facing adversity. The author of this article write, "It seems however, that the 'strength' that these women show might not be a statement on the internal powers of women, but rather that they have no choice than to adapt to a gruesome and misogynistic situation." What do you all think? Was Voltaire portraying women as strong figures or as weak creatures who adapted to their environment?

Hamlet Reference?

As I was reading Candide over the weekend, I noticed that one of the old woman's quotations sounded extremely familiar. At the end of her story, the old woman explains how her life's suffering has been so painful that she has at times contemplated suicide. Like Hamlet in his "To Be or Not to Be" Speech, she explains that the decision not to commit suicide is a great act of cowardice. She asserts, "I wanted to kill myself, but always I loved life more. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our worst instincts; is anything more stupid than choosing to carry a burden that really one wants to cast on the ground?" I thought it was such a coincidence to come across this line so soon after reading Hamlet. Do you all think Voltaire intentionally alludes to Shakespeare's "To Be or Not to Be" Speech?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bernstein's Candide Overture

Since we are reading Voltaire's Candide, I thought I would include a link to a video of Leonard Bernstein conducting his Candide Overture. Bernstein, who composed the music to West Side Story, also composed Candide as an operetta in 1956. The music in the overture, though contemporary, somehow maintains a feel proper to Voltaire's novella. Perhaps one could relate this to how Candide ought to be disconnected from any time period or context. Anyway, enjoy!

Friday, November 12, 2010


I find it interesting that quite a few famous writers and philosophers have spent time in exile. Ironically, this is where many often felt inspired and produced some of their greatest works. As we learned in class today, Voltaire spent 3 years in exile in England, because he criticized the French aristocracy. Obviously this expulsion did not stop him from writing satiric verses; instead, many of his experiences during this time probably encouraged him to continue and even sparked new ideas. What other writers or philosophers that we have discussed benefitted from exile?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Sistine Chapel

This site is so friggin cool. One of my friends just found it and posted it on Facebook. If you've evre been to the Sistine Chapel, this site will give you some nostalgia. If you've never been before, it will give you a great virtual view of the Sistine Chapel's interior. Minus the other several hundred people crammed in.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Descartes: Mind and Body

I think our discussion about the mind and body being two completely different entities is a very interesting concept. The belief that the mind is non physical substance, is a very different belief than what we think of today. We usually think of the mind as part of the brain. This whole concept is remarkable to me. What do yall think about the seperation between mind and body?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Descartes vs Freud

In his "Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences," Descartes asserts that humans, as rational beings, should not value their dreams since they are illusionary. He states, "For, in fine, whether awake or asleep, we ought never to allow ourselves be persuaded of the truth of anything unless on the evidence of our reason." Descartes gives an example of this when he writes about the sun, and how we should not think that the sun is only as big as we perceive it.
In contrast, Freud wrote his "Interpretations of Dreams" in which he suggested that the unconscious exists and is important in understanding actions. Freud called dreams the "royal road to the unconscious," meaning that dreams show the "logic" of the unconscious mind.

Rene Descartes

Since we started reading Descartes, I decided to do a little bit of research about him. Born in 1596, the French philosopher, physicist, mathematician, and writer is known as the “The Father of Modern Philosophy,” as Mrs. Quinet mentioned today in class. Descartes’ greatest contribution to the world of mathematics was his development of the Cartesian coordinate system. As far as philosophy, his most famous piece of work is his Meditations on First Philosophy. He was a major proponent of the rationalist movement and fought against the empiricists. Descartes died of pneumonia in 1650 in Stockholm, Sweden, where he had been serving as the teacher of Queen Christina of Sweden.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Entertainment for the Masses

I've always found it rather interesting that we consider Shakespeare "high culture" in a modern context whereas the common people of England during the Renaissance found his works entertainment for the masses. I guess because his works are written in an older version of English, his words are considered foreign and must be interpreted and are thus automatically referred to as "high culture". On the other hand, they make witty remarks about societal and cultural issues of the time period, which the common mass would have found hilarious. We can see those sorts of things in witty movies that we often see today. Maybe in another four hundred years our movies will be considered "high culture" elsewhere. Who knows?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hamlet and Le Cid

I think it's interesting that there are so many areas of overlap between the two works. However, there were several differences. In Hamlet, there's a focus on filial piety versus cultural values, while in Le Cid, the characters are torn between filial piety and love. Though the two stories are completely rooted in seeking revenge, the degrees to which they take action are quite different. Hamlet is more contemplative and emotionally distraught, while Rodrigo, Chimene, and the other characters in Le Cid are more rational, straight forward, and logical. Have you guys discovered any more similarities or differences between the two that we haven't already discussed?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sparrow Reference

In class today Mrs. King mentioned that the quote on page 1868 in Act 5 Scene 2 included a Biblical reference. Hamlet says to Horatio, "Not a whit; we defy augury; there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readniess is all; since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes? Let be." This quote not only provides another portrayal of Hamlet as a wordsmith, but also refers to when, in the New Testament, Jesus reassures his disciples that not even a sparrow can fall without God's notice. (Luke 12:6; Matthew 10:29). Why do you all think that Shakespeare alludes to the New Testament here, and what is Hamlet really asserting?
We ended class today unable to identify the biblical allusion in the quote, "Not a while, we defy augury. There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow." I've done some research online and uncovered this exciting mystery. The quote alludes to one of Jesus's parables in Matthew where Jesus states, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your father." I believe that Jesus's parable demonstrates God's awareness of all things and his divine power over all. Hamlet is basically telling Horatio that he is now confiding in divine providence over human initiative.

What do ya'll think?


Although I really enjoyed the movie, I thought it was interesting how Mrs. Quinet pointed out some historical errors today. After some research, I found a few more discrepancies between the movie and history. Firstly, Elizabeth was arrested and sent to the Tower in 1554, but was then placed under house arrest as Woodstock (not Hatfield) for four years. Another mistake is that the Pope did not excommunicate Elizabeth and encourage assassination attempts by Catholics until 1570.

Tudor Family Tree

I found this image of a Tudor family tree. These lineages helped me understand the royal relationships I studied last year in AP Euro. I hope this helps yall!


I found it really interesting in the movie today how the messenger priest was given the message that anyone who would kill Elizabeth would be welcomed in heaven. The controversy of Elizabeth's time was over the different religions, yet the Church was being so hypocritical in its attempt to save its own church.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Virgin Queen

I thought it was very interesting to learn about Elizabeth's relationship with Lord Robert from the movie today. Because Elizabeth is known as “The Virgin Queen” due to her decision not to marry, I did not realize that she was involved in any intimate affairs. Therefore, I decided to further research Lord Robert and the details of their relationship. Robert Dudley was born in 1532, the year before Elizabeth’s birth. The fifth child of thirteen, Robert met Elizabeth when he was only eight years old, and the two immediately established a friendship. In 1550, Robert married Amy Robsart, the daughter of a Norfolk squire. This marriage was most likely arranged, and Elizabeth actually attended the wedding. With Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne, Robert was granted special honors, and their relationship reached a new, intimate level. The people of the state knew about this love affair and some even believed that she carried his child at one point. As a result of this information, I wonder why Elizabeth has retained her title “The Virgin Queen.”