Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Innocence = Stupidity ??

When I first read Candide, Candide came across to me as very trusting and naive. I thought that Candide was very childlike in that he so easily trusted everyone and brushed everything off as just another bump on the road. Although Candide is traveling the world and faced with many imposing problems, to him it just seems like a happy, carefree adventure.
This was the picture I had of Candide. Then we started discussing Candide's character a little bit in class and most people seemed to believe Candide came across as dull and unintelligent. After some discussion, I agreed as well. However, I still thought that Candide was very innocent and trusting of others. I don't really like how Candide's innocence leads to his stupidity. I guess Blake was right, we can't always stay in a state of innocence. That naive, ignorant bliss is only appropriate for a small window of time in childhood. Everyone, including Candide, must mature into a state of experience. Since Candide is still in an innocent state, he came across as dumb.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Weapon of Choice

Today, we were talking about how Claudias usually chooses poison as his weapon for murdering others and how poison seems to be a more feminine choice. I just wanted to share that I've once heard that in suicide, women tend to choose poisoning, for example carbon monoxide or overdosing, while men tend to choose hanging or shooting oneself. Just to back myself up, I found a little blurb summary of an intensive study on this topic which i have linked below. It's interesting to note that many of the articles I read just now on this topic say that many women choose poisoning because they are hoping for a chance that someone will save them. I guess in sharing this information about suicides, I'm just trying to exhibit that poison really is more of a feminine choice. What does that say about Claudias?

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Globe Theater

The plays during Shakespeare's time were extremely different than today. It was interesting that the one specific group of actors would stay together for most of their career and the playwright would travel with them. Whereas today the director has most of the power and has the ability to choose which actors to cast. But, often times the writer will write scripts fit for specific actors. I found that Shakespeare's Globe Theater was fascinating in the presentations Tuesday. I did not understand why the public theaters were open and the private ones were closed. Does it cost more money to create a closed theater? Maybe I am just overthinking it. Nevertheless, it is all very interesting.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Withnail and I

Hamlet has been really influential on Western culture. I saw Withnail and I last week and it's one of my new favorite movies; it's about a failed actor his roomie, a struggling actor, and it's hilarious. It's an English comedy and George Harrison produced it (Harrison also produced Monty Python; he took a mortgage on his house to do it, and without him Monty Python would never have existed.) This is the final scene in the movie where Withnail, finally realizing he's never going to be a lead actor, drunkenly delivers one of Hamlet's Soliloquies to caged wolves. In some ways this is kind of a crazy movie; watching this scene wont ruin the ending or anything.

Anyway it's interesting to me that Hamlet references are still popping up in modern culture.

Don't know if anybody's ever seen this movie/cares but this is the trailer:

Mary Poppins is very unrealistic...

Besides the never-ending bag aspect, and floating around with an umbrella, Mary Poppins has other fantastic qualities. For example, chimney sweeping seems a lot more harmless from Disney's point of view. Basically, paupers sign off their children (some as young as four) to chimney sweeping apprenticeships. It's low paying, dirty work. And very fatal. Supposedly, they wore top-hats and tails because they got most of their clothes as cast-offs from funeral directors. Also, it gave an air of distinction to the demeaning work they performed. The scariest/saddest thing about it to me, it how these little children could die from either inhaling too many poisonous substances, or getting stuck like in this picture (the one on the right).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why I am basically Hamlet...

When reading the Introduction of our addition of Hamlet, one thing really struck a chord: Hamlet's tragic flaw. I think Hamlet and I may share the same one. The introduction states that it is commonly believed that Hamlet's downfall is procrastination. I can certainly relate to this. Hamlet reasons through every situation instead of acting purely on instinct. I do the same thing. I tend over-think and over-plan. Sometimes, things would be so much easier if I would just do what I ought to do in the moment instead of putting it off indefinitely. I'm sure Hamlet would agree.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hamlet = Freaking Mad Genius

As Ms. King pointed out in class, traps are most definitely a motif in Hamlet. So far my favorite trap by far is Hamlet's when he stages the play. He is a freaking mad genius. As i was reading Scenes 2 and 3 of Act 3, I was super impressed by Hamlet's oratory skill. It even reminded me of Socrates in the Apology of Socrates written by Plato. Of course Hamlet's genius is really Shakespeare's genius.(Well, I guess we'll have to see after the presentation on Tuesday or after watching Anonymous.) I think I've always only been told how amazing Shakespeare is. Now, however, reading Hamlet, I have really realized Shakespeare's genius on my own and how great he really is! I think it's a combination of Hamlet being really awesome and the fact that we've now had several years of English and, at least for me, have come to appreciate and understand literature more and more!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Time Lapsed in Hamlet

So it turns out that Hamlet really does just occur in a few days. According to this timeline I found, the play starts on May 14th and ends on the 23rd. Don't really read into it though, since it tells you what happens.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern..... are dead?

When I was reading the character list at the beginning of Hamley, two names sounded oddly familiar: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern. I have never read Hamlet so I knew I didn't recognize them from their place of origin. So where else had I heard these names? I researched it and I found that they are the protagonists of their own play, Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Stoppard's play was created in the 1960's, so clearly much later than Shakespeare's rendition. The plot is actually really cool. It uses the viewpoint of these  two minor characters that aren't present during all the action that goes on during Hamlet. One source describes it as "in the wings" of Shakespeare. It was also made into a movie in 1990. Yet another one for the list....

WWDT (What Would Dante Think?)

As I was reading Hamlet, I found myself musing over what circle of hell that, by Dante's definition, Claudius might be found in. I came up with the ninth circle - treachery (more specifically, treachery to kin). I thought this classification was the most appropriate, though he possessed some adulterous characteristics, because he slay his own brother. Treachery is worse than lust in Dante's Inferno so I think he would automatically be bumped down into the lower levels. Now where would Hamlet be? It's hard to say because I have yet to finish the play. I'll leave this question unanswered until then.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This is a clip from Sir Laurence Olivier Hamlet circa 1948. It's a good movie; I saw it this weekend. It's interesting there are so many versions Hamlet and that the play is still so influential. I mean, everybody knows "to be or not to be" even if you don't know where it came from. Modern Hamlet references pop up movies and TV shows all the time, it's funny how ingrained it is in our culture.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Power of the Stars

When we were talking about the power of the stars today, we mentioned that monarchs and etc. can more easily overcome fortune. I was thinking that maybe this is why heroes in many stories can sometimes overcome fate (for example, death). This is maybe because they are further up in the "hierarchy" and therefore able to resist and even change their fortune..?

Elizabethan Life

Although Tillyard gives a great idea of commonly held beliefs in Elizabethan times, he never goes into details about life during the Elizabethan era. I think that an important part of understanding people's beliefs is understanding how they lived. I found this video made by a student (I didn't even realize until the end since it was so well made) that I believe illustrates Elizabethan life in a relatively succinct manner.Enjoy!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Elizabethan World Picture

It may just be me (and somehow I doubt that), but the Elizabethan World Picture is not the easiest read. It's not just the wordiness and old British style, as we discussed in class. It's more the allusions to works that I haven't read before. Those make it kind of hard to follow...

So far I understand this (brief summary):

intro - the elizabethan times were not as secular and humanist as some people believe

order - I'M CONFUSED ON THIS ONE! Anyone want to chime in?

sin - struggle with sin vs. redemption (and the optimism that comes with the idea of redemption)

chain - everything has a purpose in the universe, nothing is superfluous, and God is at the top

Saturday, November 5, 2011


When I was reading the Inferno, it occurred to me that Dante's since of humor is sometimes pretty raunchy. I think it's sort of funny that such an important work of western literature has fart/butt/poo jokes running through it to break the tension. The Divine comedy is such a collasal, well-written piece of writing that it's sort of funny to me that Dante decided to throw in these not-so-highbrow/aristocratic jokes in there too. Literacy was so low back in the day, it seemed like Dante's only audience would be those from wealthy Italian families or those connected to the church. I wonder if the clergy that read this found this kind of funny or if the "ass-trumpet" sort of turned off the scholastics.
What I'm talking about didn't happen constantly, but it's defiantly in there, hidden among epic similes and poetic language. In the Inferno, gluttons were lying in a river of crap (like pigs,) the butts of head-on-backwards sinners were mentioned specifically because I guess Dante just wanted to put that in, and something weird happened in the snake canto when a giant snake took over a sinners body... I'm not going to go into detail but there was an explanation of the transformation of every body-part, including this weirdly placed penis reference/simile that made the whole horror move feel of the canto seem sort of South Park-like.
I feel like when reading this, we are not filled with horror and we don't fall to our knees in repentance; it seems like a modern comedy. It's certainly funnier and less-scary than some other descriptions of hell like the devout puritanical sermons we read sophomore year. There are a lot of elements of satire in there as well, like putting popes and political enemies in hell for example. Maybe fart jokes were put in there to break the tension making this into more of a dark comedy than a call to repentance (which I think would happen if this were only a description of hell, I think it would read a lot like that bit in the middle of Portrait of an Artist last year and that there would be less "Virgil is awesome" and a lot more fire and brimstone.) I really like the Divine comedy and I'm glad it maybe wasn't deadly serious the entire time, things in the Inferno stayed interesting and readable. I sort of like that and I wonder if Dante was an influence on Voltaire.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Washington National Cathedral

When Ravin bought this up in class the other day, I was thinking the exact same thing! I don't know if you guys remember this from our 8th grade trip, but as we were studying Romanesque and Gothic architecture, the Washington National Cathedral immediately popped into my head. The cathedral is built in the Neogothic style which is essentially a resurgence of Gothic style in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

File:Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D C 1.jpg
Looking at the cathedral now you can clearly see the rose windows and lancet windows below them. They are strikingly similar to Chartres Cathedral.
    Washington National Cathedral                                                            
            Chartres Cathedral                

In the first image of the National Cathedral, you can see other characteristics of Gothic style such as the flying buttresses. The Cathedral also has several vaults.
Finally, due to the earthquake earlier this year, the cathedral is truly Gothic in that it is continually being built.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dante vs. Milton

As we mentioned briefly in class today, I think it is interesting to note the discrepancies between Milton and Dante. In Paradise Lost, Milton wrote that since God was omnipotent, he knew that Lucifer would rebel against him so he already had hell created for them whereas in the Inferno, Dante said that Lucifer created hell through impact from his fall. Another difference is that in Paradise Lost, Satan was free to move around and converse with the other devils and they even built a palace, but for Dante, Satan was frozen still in the center of the Earth.
I used to think that part of why all these epics were such a strong literary tradition was because they built upon one another and thus created a strong set of beliefs to work with in the literary world. However, today I began to realize that this is not necessarily true. Although epics draw on the same conventions and mythological creatures, they most definitely hold differences as shown through comparison of Paradise Lost and the Inferno.


I think our discussion today in class about Satan was very thought-provoking. It's interesting how Dante portrays the devil as such an essentially irrelevant character. One would expect the final level of hell to include a terrifying confrontation with the frightening Evil One. However, it the actual meeting is quite lackluster. He's as scary as, or maybe even less scary than, the other guards of the circles, like Cerberus or Minos. He also seems to have about equal power with these minions. To me, I find that Satan is just another punished soul. The only thing that distinguishes him is that he was the first to betray God. He's so powerless which leads me to believe that he is more just the "face" of hell than the real power behind it. I think in Dante's Inferno, God actually determines punishment and merely uses Satan as a guise in order to evoke fear... and maybe even keep his reputation??