Saturday, December 8, 2012

Candide's Historical Commentary Validity

During the debate we discussed reading "Candide" without having any external influences regarding Voltaire, and the social/political history at the time. I believe that it is necessary to have all of the historical details side by side with Voltiare's "Candide" because Voltiare's certain biases towards groups such as the Jesuit for personal reasons would lead the typical reader to be misinformed about Jesuits during the Enlightenment Era. By reading "Candide", a reader would think that the Jesuits were a terrible group of people, when in reality they were not.

Interpreting the Story of Candide

After the debate, we brought up the idea that there may be a reason for which the ending of the novella is so difficult to make sense of. I can perhaps relate this to the fact that there is never any real expressed goal or aim of Candide's journey. So what does it all mean? Well, we also brought up the potential that it might not mean anything at all, and that lack of meaning is actually the meaning itself. Perhaps, the story could be interpreted as a means to explain how any meaning determined about any story is always a matter of interpretation itself, by the readers nonetheless. Just as I am doing now, many others attempt to interpret the meaning of this novella. If this is the case, then I really have to ask: is there any real meaning intended? Or do we subconsciously reach the meaning (the lack of meaning) by not understanding? Is the fact that we don't understand mean we in fact do, at least unawarely? So, is nothing actually something?

Friday, December 7, 2012

"I think, therefore I am."

Descartes once said, "I think, therefore I am." Descartes was a big proponent of deductive thinking and reasoning. This type of thinking was used a lot in the sciences, and is still used a lot today, in almost every aspect of life. I feel that the Old Woman and Cacambo were definitely deductive thinkers and Voltaire for sure portrayed his support of this type of thinking in his "Candide". Through the use of the characters Cacambo and the Old Woman and their pragmatism. They are practically thinking individuals who make decisions on what to do based on the situation they are in. Whatever is best for them or the people around them at the time they do. They do not try to "fluff" things up regarding their life stories and what they see happening in society. They are "straight-shooters" and I think the reason Voltaire uses them in his novella is to show his readers that sometimes in life, people have to be like Cacambo and the Old Woman.

Frederick the Great and Voltaire

I find it sort of childish that Voltaire would pull such a move as putting mean allusions to Frederick the Great in "Candide". He and Voltaire were such good friends back in the day before they had a little falling out. The problem they had was that he accused Frederick's army of pederasty, a sick crime. The reason for bring this point up in his “Candide” is to not only get back at Frederick for exiling him from Germany, but to also show that other armies, as well as Fredericks, can get out of hand and out of control and end up doing things that were not originally planned (raping people, sacking cities, etc.). I don't care what Ol' Freddy did to Voltaire, that was a low blow, a place where he shouldn't have gone, especially since Voltaire was himself thought to maybe be part of Voltaire's "summer home" in Sanssouci, where it was thought that most this pederasty went down. 

The Grass Is Always Greener

Ben made a point in class today that got me thinking. He said that Voltaire basically made all of his points before he made it to Eldorado and he could have ended the novel there. I don't know about y'all, but I was actually angry when they decided to leave Eldorado. They had it made in the land of dreams, it may not have been what they wanted at the time being, but they should have thought "Wow, the world outside of Eldorado is really quite awful, we have had no luck in our lives up to this point so we might as well just stay here and be happy." But instead they go and blow it all away to bring these sheep so they would be richest people in the world (outside of Eldorado.) and why? Just so they could impress everyone else with how rich they were and marry a woman who Candide ends up not really wanting to marry anyway. They wanted to be leaders of the world, but instead it chewed them up, stole their money, killed their friends, swindled them, and spit them out onto a farm. It was the moment they left Eldorado that I stopped liking the novella, I still enjoyed reading it, but it made me angry that they threw away the perfect life and they don't even act like it was a bad idea.

Could the city of Eldorado be compared to the Allegory of the Cave?

The people in Eldorado have never seen the outside world.  They live in a perfect Utopian like society deep in a valley wedged between two cliffs.  The people here are so used to perfect life that they probably take it for granted.  They have no idea what life is like outside of Eldorado.  I think this is very similar to the Allegory of the Cave that we read in the beginning of the year.  The prisoners are tied up in the cave and have no idea there is an outside world.  One of the prisoners is eventually released and shown the outside world kind of like Candide leaves Eldorado in Candide.  Even though Eldorado is much more glamorous the being trapped in a cave, I think the ideas between Eldorado and the Allegory of the Cave do parallel.  People should not always rely on their senses because life might be much different then what you think it is.

Commentary on Women in "Candide"

I find it interesting that Voltaire commented on the treatment of women during the Enlightenment Era given that women did not have much of a role, or impact during this period. As a whole, women were still treated typically treated as they were in the past, however Voltaire decides to confront Europe about how they treated women. Voltaire illustrates how women were "semi-eaten", raped, and beaten through Cunegonde and the Old Woman whose difficulties (like rape) were so common, that they were not even worth mentioning. Is Voltaire advocating a change in the treatment of women?, or is he simply adding the the plot of the story.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Real life events play a part in Candide

After hearing some of the presentations in class today, it is really interesting how effectively Candide uses actual historical events that were going on during the time Candide was written.  For example, one group talked about what the Bulgars and the Abares stood for.  The Bulgars were the Prussians and the Abares were the French.  This makes perfect sense as Voltaire is alluding to the Seven Years' War that was going on during the time Candide was written from 1756-1763.  Voltaire is able to tie Candide's journey into real life events when he is forced to fight for the Bulgars (Prussians).  Voltaire basically writes Candide into the Seven Years' War and provides a tie between the novella and what was going on in the current times back in the 18th century.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Voltaire in relation to Montaigne

I feel like Candide's experience in El Dorado relates to Montaigne's Of Cannibals quite well. Candide asks how the society works and he learns that the people thank God, not pray to him, that they have no courts or prisons, that everything is free, and that everyone practices the arts. In the way that Montaigne says that all different societies have different "normal" things for their life, often quite different from those of another society, Candide seems amazed that the society doesnt have organized religion and that there is no crime. Also, relating to the point even more, the old man who provides candide with this information is also amazed himself that Candide's society doesnt have those norms.

The Dutch

Contrary to our discussion yesterday, I believe that Voltaire was specifically satirizing the Dutch. It cannot be a coincidence that Voltaire consecutively makes three Dutchmen look greedy: the ship's captain, the judge, and in a way Martin all appear to be greedy. All three are obsessed with money, and the common belief at the time was that the Dutch were indeed greedy. The Netherlands is one of the birthplaces of capitalism though, so it would make since that their revolutionary economy be perceived as fostering greed. It wouldn't be beneath Voltaire to aim such blows towards specific groups of people. He was, as we already know, an openly anti-Semitic and anti-Jesuit man.


Candide, Martin, Pangloss, and other chacters spend the entirety of the narrative arguing about philosophy and never really getting anywhere.  Martin's pessimism is never shaken, Candide never seems to be certain of Pangloss's philosophy, and Pangloss, even though he realizes he is wrong, maintains his position simply out of stubborness.  Voltaire repeatedly mocks the philosophers of his time directly and indirectly, particularly Leibniz.  In the last chapter Martin says, "Let's work without speculation, it's the only way of rendering life bearable."  In this, Voltaire seems to be satirizing human nature and, by consequence, the Enlightenment.  The fact that the characters are stagnant and never truely change their opinions and that the reclussive Turk they meet in the last chapter seems to be the only content character in the entire story seems to imply that the idea that there is no limit on human progress or human understanding is intrinsically false.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Clergy and Sex

I find it extremely ironic that in Voltaire's Candide so many of the clergy and church figures are engaged in sexual actions, aka. "experimental physics". For example, the monk that Paquette is seducing is not supposed to be having sex, but he is and is engaged in acts such as that with his brothers back at the monastery. Also, the church figures seem to be corrupted in other ways than sex such as stealing and hoarding money. For example, the Franciscan friar that stole the jewels from Candide and Cunegonde was completely in the wrong to do such a thing. I could have understood almost anyone else but a church member stealing jewels and having sex when they are strictly prohibited.

Pope Urban X and Palestrina possibly represent Voltaire's attempt at bashing the Clergy

In class the other day we discussed Voltaire's repeated attempts at bashing the Clergy throughout Candide and how he had previously gone to jail for it.  One thing we did not discuss that I realized was that it seems ironic that Pope Urban X and Palestrina had a child, the old woman in Candide.  I thought it was against church rules for a Pope or any other Clergy member to either be married or have kids.  Since Pope Urban X is the father of the old lady, he therefore broke Catholic Church rules.  Voltaire is bashing the Catholic Church by putting this in Candide.

Cannibals in both Montaigne and Voltaire

I find it interesting that in both Montaigne's commentary and Voltaire's Candide there are aspects of the cannibals. This makes me wonder whether or not there were actually cannibals in the New World at this time. According to Voltaire and Montaigne there were. In Voltaire's Candide the cannibals exhibit characteristics that are almost admirable from the stand point of human beings, as some humans do not show as much compassion as the Biglugs actually allowed Candide and Cancambo to live after they rationally figured out that the two were not Jesuits. Montaigne, in his "Of Cannibals", uses the cannibals as a point to expound upon when he discusses how human beings are essentially worse than the cannibals in that they are extremely critical of people doing things different from what they are doing. I would imagine that some form of cannibals did exist out there in the South American jungles. What do you think?

Tabula Rasa

I think that Locke's theory of Tabula Rasa (that everyone starts off as a blank slate and then is molded by their environment) could apply to Candide. Candide is shaped initially by Pangloss, who preaches his theory of optimism. Candide spends the first half of the book being naively optimistic. The naivety of Candide seems almost childlike, as though there are still remnants of his initially blank slate, but then he has also been affected by Pangloss's teachings. But then, as Candide ventures out in the world, he gains new experiences and listens to the philosophies of the old woman, Cacambo, and Martin, Candide's slate is shaped by them. At the end of the book, I think Candide learns from his own experiences and starts to form opinions of his own. He realizes that Pangloss is wrong and from observing the man cultivating his garden, Candide learns about life. Candide is shaped by his surrounding, but he also uses the enlightenment idea of experience and observation to express himself. 

Go On, Candide, Go On

Okay, I don't know if any of you have seen the TV show Go On (they had a bunch of commercials for it during the Olympics), but basically it's a TV show about a help group. The main character comes in and decides they should have a competition to see who has the most unfortunate story because all humans, when we hear people tell their sad stories, we are all secretly thinking our story is worse. I get the same feeling from Candide where Cunegonde says she is the most unfortunate being and then the old woman say "Nope, that would be me." Then on the ship Candide has a competition to see who has the most unfortunate story and he pays for the fare of the person who is most miserable (Martin). I feel like Voltaire is also making a point that while we hate suffering, we want our suffering to be worse than anyone else's. 

Martin and Candide are Opposites

Candide and Martin seem to have philosophies essentially different at the core. They argue throughout their time together over just about anything. On page 222 they disagree on basically every question that the other asks. A quote that just about sums up their ideas can be found on page 235 when Voltaire writes, “Candide, who had been trained never to judge for himself, was much astonished by what he had heard; and Martin found Pocourante’s way of thinking quite rational.” Here Voltaire shows how Candide is more or less of an optimistic simpleton, while Martin agrees with Pococurante’s pessimism. Candide borrows much of his logic from Pangloss, no matter how flawed it may seem. So what do you guys think? and who do you agree with?

Voltaire and Religion

Why does Voltaire criticize organized religion throughout the book and then have Eldorado, a Utopia-esque society, seem like a religious place? He does halfway maintain this criticism by cutting out the popes and priests and bishops, but they still pray to God everyday. I think it would be interesting to see a place untouched by religion, and see if it is true when people say religion has cause many wars. I personally think that people would find something to fight about, regardless of whether or not religion is involved. But essentially why do you guys think Voltaire maintained this reference to God, and what do you think a place without religion would be like?

Not quite done processing Hamlet...

One thought that has been percolating in my head is: was Hamlet about Hamlet becoming a man and finding courage? Claudius insults Hamlet by calling his apparently excessive grief “unmanly.” I feel like that calling a prince or any man a girly-man would be extremely offensive for any time period but perhaps especially during Shakespeare’s time when gender roles were soooo rigid. Throughout the play Hamlet struggles with cowardice when he contemplates suicide and perhaps when he is about to kill Claudius. Then he has to test his strength against Laertes in a sword fight (would Freud have things to say about this pertaining to a man-part fight? I think so.) So this man-to-man duel is another piece of evidence that supports my case that Hamlet is about hamlet becoming a man and bucking up. Finally! he died, accomplished his father’s wishes and succeeds in dying, which he was too scared to try before. Then he was given a soldier’s funeral, which suggests that he ultimately succeeded in manning up, at least in Fortinbras’ eyes since he saw him as honorable and respectable enough to go through the ceremony.

Enlightenment- period of Self- Awareness

The Enlightenment was a period of great self awareness. I think I remember us saying that the people of the time called the period the Enlightenment.  I think the choice naming it the Enlightenment, instead of the Enlightened, or something of the sort, is important because “Enlightenment” suggests that they were continually on a quest for knowledge, they were enlightening themselves.  They appreciated the constant growth/learning process and weren't arrogant about it saying they were the Enlightened Ones….though I do think a bit of confidence helped some writers and philosophers share their ideas.

On another note, perhaps the conquests in foreign parts of the world and information sent from the New World and the Far East to Europe enhanced their own view of themselves.  They began defining themselves in opposition to other cultures they had not previously had contact with.  They could point out the flaws in other’s civilizations, and comparatively (at least in their minds) they were further along intellectually, emotionally, scientifically, etc. By seeing different cultures, they saw their own society differently. Social commentators could either say that European society trumps others because "blah blah blah", and others like Voltaire could point out that Europeans are just as corrupt as others, even more in some case because "blah blah blah." In sum, European contact with foreign lands had a strong influence on the way they viewed themselves. 

Candid as a Buildingsroman

I think Candid’s intellectual and philosophical view changes as he travels across the world, experiences new cultures, and meets other people.  Before he was expelled from the castle, he lived a life of luxury and ease and deprived of suffering. It was easy for him to believe Pangloss’s theory of “best of all possible worlds.”  Once he is banished he encounters manipulative soldiers that conscript him into the Bulgar army, presumably against his will.  The wars and his exercise of free will cause him pain and suffering.  He meets corrupt, selfish, cruel, arrogant, and hypocritical people harming one another for no reason other than for personal gain, amusement, or another.  He begins to question Pangloss’ philosophy and gravitates towards the philosophy of Jacques, then Cacambo, the Martin and finally of the dervish. Candid maintains some of his naivety (he’s still centered on Conegonde and tries to cling to Pangloss’ theory) but I think it is lessened because of his experiences.  He doesn’t seem to produce his own philosophy but he adopts, or at least listens to others and finds some of them reasonable, which is a step in maturity. His journey outside the castle inherently involves suffering and risk and Candid tries to understand the purpose of suffering. I think that because he fluctuates between different philosophies and seems to adopt another belief besides the original “perfect, predestined” Pangloss vision, he grows intellectually and philosophically.Ca 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Montaigne's Views on Auto-da-fé in Candide

After reading the first 12 chapters of Candide, we have already had several instances of sinners being burned alive on the stake which is also called Auto-da-fé.  For example, the two Jewish men were burned for not eating bacon and a man was burned for marrying his god mother.  Montaigne in "Of Cannibals" talked about the Europeans' cruel ways of punishing by burning sinners alive.  He completely disagreed with it and felt that burning people alive like it was done in Europe was much more barbaric than eating people once they were dead like it was done in the New World.  It is interesting that we can see Montaigne's description of European barbaric punishment in action throughout the beginning of Candide.  At the end of chapter 12 of Candide, we see the characters Candide, Cunégonde, and the old lady are on a boat to the New World.  It will be interesting to see if anything is mentioned in the upcoming chapters of Candide of people being eaten by cannibals after they are dead in the New World like Montaigne talks about.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Post

After taking the multiple choice part of the "Hamlet" test today, I realized the importance of a character giving exposition. Without this background information it would virtually be impossible to know the reasons behind some of the things authors like Shakespeare write about. A person would have to be versed in almost all aspects of history to comprehend some things authors make allusions to. For example, Horatio's exposition on the preceding events in the beginning of the novel really come in clutch, because as readers we do not know some of the history behind Denmark's war times with Norway. Also, credit must be given to critics that analyze and expand the imagination of readers such as Tillyard in his critical analysis of Elizabethan times titled "The Elizabethan World Picture." 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Figaro in The Barber of Seville

Well, I was at quizbowl earlier today and one of the questions was "who is the beaumarchais character who, in the beginning of the opera, repeats his name over and over?" Well, of course, I immediately buzzed in and answered "Figaro" for 10 points. That made me even more interested in the character of Figaro, so idid some research. Figaro was the illegitimate son of Dr. Bartholo and his maid Marceline and he waskidnapped by gypsies who named him figaro. he was a servant in the house of almaviva which is how he became friendds with the count of almaviva. he worked with that almavivq family as a surgeon and the Barber pf Seville is a story of part of his life. Sory for my  bad typing, it is the cast's fault.

The Ghost and Gertrude

The ghost appears to Hamlet to prevent him from insulting his mother to greatly. He doesn’t want Hamlet to hurt her. It is different from other appearances because he appears in front of other people and engages Hamlet in conversation, in front of his mother! Hamlet, Horatio, Guildenstern, and Rosencrantz saw him then, now only Hamlet sees him now. His message to Hamlet is that he needs to be more “revengeful” and his anger should be sharpened by the innocence of his mother.however, my question is, why can Gertrude not see the ghost when Hamlet's friends can?

The Opera...

The Opera is not at all what I expected it to be. It was extremely long, however; I can not say that I didn't enjoy parts of it. It was comical at times, and sometime it was a bit over the top, however overall i liked it. I was absolutely amazed at the ability of the musicians and singers to be in sync in every possible way as music was an emphasis upon the singers' movements. I found a parallel, yet difference between operas and plays: While they both tell a story through actions, it was was interesting to see how at certain times when the actors wanted to emphasize the current part of the story taking place they would do it through their voices, while still acting. Whereas in a play, the emphasis would have been drawn out through facial features or body gestures. (I'm quite aware of the obvious difference between the two, but its intriguing to see how each performance expresses dramatic things in different ways)

Hamlet Commentating on Horatio and Their Comparison

Hamlet says he likes the way Horatio is very cool, calm, and collected about things and does not jump to conclusions. He methodically thinks his way through problems and analyzes things. Hamlet sees Horatio as different from himself because he simply jumps to answers and accuses people quickly of things, whereas Horatio would take his time and figure out the real reason why someone is acting the way they are. He want Horatio to observe Claudius with him, so that he does not falsely accuse him of murdering his father.

Hamlet's Bashing of his mother Gertrude

While reading, I started to wonder why Hamlet seemed to bash Gertrude so much when his Uncle Claudius was the one who killed his father.  Throughout their encounters, Hamlet talks violently to her bashing her for basically committing a form of "treason" against his father and the former king.  If I were Hamlet, I feel like I would have had more anger toward my uncle who actually committed the murder than towards my mother.  I was wondering if this was just the time the play was written in and how women were viewed in society.  Possibly people's feelings about women in real life at this time played a role in Shakespeare's writing of Gertrude in his play.  I know in previous literary works we have read that women are viewed as adulterous.  Maybe Shakespeare and people of the Elizabethan Era still shared some of the same views.  What do you think?

Hamlet's Fourth Soliloquy

I find it interesting that Hamlet debates suicide, which at the time would seem like a "no-go" for many people because of the religions they believed in. I think Hamlet, being a noble lord and prince, should be the last person to consider suicide because he could always have some servants do something for him. Hamlet debates on which is nobler, to live and fight, or die and give up. So he is essentially questioning suicide and asking about it as a way out. He compares death to a dream and sleeping and comments that a dream could be a nightmare, or a good dream, but we don’t know which, and this is why most people do not commit suicide; they are afraid of what might lie ahead. He also goes into a dualistic analysis of humans, saying that the brain thinks and the body acts, and sometimes his brain thinks to much because he cannot bring the courage necessary to kill Claudius. This speech is different from the others in the fact that he kicks himself for not killing Claudius, whereas in the others he does not talk directly about his plans for killing him. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Get Thee To A Nunnery!

"Get thee to a nunnery." I was kind of confused by the phrase when I first read it, so I googled it and found a discussion forum that talked about the meaning of the phrase. There were multiple interpretations. One person brought up that in Shakespeare's time the word "nunnery" had two meanings: 1) a convent 2) a brothel. Well, those were two very different meanings. So either Hamlet was telling Ophelia to turn to a life of chastity or he was degrading her and calling her a common prostitute. Either way, the phrase means that Ophelia should never marry and have kids. Another person talked about how Hamlet had realized that Ophelia was deceiving him for the sake of her father and the king, and he was enraged at her for siding with his enemy. Insulting Ophelia by telling her to go to a nunnery (I'm assuming this is the brothel interpretation) is the offended and betrayal Hamlet lashing out at Ophelia. Then, another interpretation said that Hamlet was seeing his mother (who married her husband's brother and murderer) reflected in Ophelia. His rage against Ophelia is actually his rage against his mother. Also after seeing his mother's remarriage, Hamlet loses all respect for marriage and now has no desire for his beloved Ophelia to marry him or anyone else. 
There are so many interpretations of that line that I wasn't sure which one was right. I think it is a mixture of all the factors that causes Hamlet to say this. What do you think?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hamlet Senior's Murder by Claudius seems to represent Biblical Stories

Hamlet Senior was murdered by his brother Claudius while he was in a garden laying down.  Claudius came and poured poison in his ear to kill him.  This sounds a lot like two biblical stories that we are all familiar with.  The first is the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the garden.  A serpent came and told them to eat it.  Claudius also blames Hamlet's death on a serpent that bites him in the garden.  The other biblical story this reminded me of was Cain and Abel.  Just as Cain killing Abel was the murder of one's brother, Claudius also murders his brother.  I found it interesting that the play of Hamlet included elements that reminded me so much of Christian Biblical stories.  It made me wonder how much religion influenced Shakespeare in his writing.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Human Condition

In class the other day we talked about the human condition and how it originated from the original sin of Adam and Eve. This got me to thinking. I started to wonder whether or not the four humors would have come around without this fall on Adam's and Eve's part and their original sin. Apparently the four humors, melancholy, phlegm, blood, and choler, determine a person's personality. So, if it had not been for Adam and Eve, would there have been no humors? Would people all be the same today? Would people have unique personalities?


In Act I, scene v, Hamlet Jr. learns the truth behind his father's death (Hamlet Sr.). I find it ironic that this tragedy is not just your average tragedy, in fact it is a revenge tragedy. A characteristic of a revenge tragedy is that the character had no part in making his own tragedy, and he must respond to something that someone else has done, causing a tragedy for the unsuspecting character. I find this a very intriguing aspect of Shakespeare play and I also believe that this was one of the reasons why lords, kings, and queens alike loved his dramas so much...because they're very catchy and keep your attention! I believe part of this interest comes from the particular characteristics of a revenge tragedy. They are unique and different from you're everyday, I-can-guess-what-happens-next drama.

To thine own self be true

On page 21 of Act 1, Polonius gives some last minute advice to his son Leartes before he leaves for France.  He said something which I thought I had heard before: “to thine own self be true.” I think that’s a famous line.  I think this resonates humanistic ideas and individualism because it suggests that you first have to have some self awareness (know who you really are and what you really want) in order to be true to yourself.  The rest of his advice is about self control and being good and just to others. I think it’s kind of interesting that he doesn't blatantly quote the bible or say something like: “remember to say your prayers,” or “Remember to go to church.”  Although his advice may have some grounds in the bible, his advice is really universal for anyone in I think any society.  Any other takes on Polonious’ advice or specifically about “to your own self be true?” 

Great Chain of Being

When I think of the great chain of being I think of a ladder. The ladder very ridged, and defined. The king is at the top, supported by god, and everyone else is below him in a hierarchy going from beggars to lords. There was some fluidity within English society though, and people were able to improve their social and financial circumstances, especially with the rise of the merchant class. When the fluidity of society is juxtaposed with the great chain of being, the two seem to be opposites. But the fluidity of society did have a mold. A beggar could become a farmer, and a farmer could become a merchant, but not anyone could claim the throne, and not anyone could possess a title of nobility.

Light in Renaissance Art

As we discussed in class in the past week or two, the role of light in art was one of the main things that grew in the renaissance period. Cimabue, Giotto's mentor, did not really use much light at all, but then when you look at Giotto's art, you can start to see a source of light in his artwork. Then, when you look at Massaccio's  Expulsion from the Garden, there is an obvious source of light and an obvious use of perspective. Then, continuing on the Michelangelo and Raphael, the use of light is basically perfected. They both used it masterfully, and to see how much art changed in 2 centuries is quite amazing.

Hamlet: Defining "Man"

Last year, I remember one of the themes of Macbeth was “What does it really mean to be a man.” In the first act of Hamlet, I found 3 pretty strong examples of manhood.  First, Claudius thinks Hamlet’s lamentation over his father is excessive and “unmanly.” According to Claudius, Hamlet’s behavior is evidence of his weakness.  This would have probably been a really offensive insult to Hamlet. Later, Horatio says Hamlet Sr. was “a goodly king” and Hamlet says “he was a man…I shall not look upon his like again.” If I am interpreting this quote correctly, he was one of a kind, which speaks to his upright character. Finally, after Hamlet learns that Claudius killed his own brother (King Hamlet Sr.) and then married his sister-in-law Gertrude, which was incestual, Hamlet degrades Claudius by calling him a beast.  He dehumanizes him and doesn't see him more as a cold-hearted beast than as a respectable man. 


Kind of interesting the differences between the middle ages and the English Renaissance/ Elizabethan Era. I really see the most dramatic change, however, regarding the idea of revenge, an idea welcomed and obligatory, if not mandatory during the middle ages, dating back to the classical ages. During the Elizabethan Era however, revenge was wholly frowned upon, as reflected in the great care put into justifying revenge in literature and popular culture when the opportunity presented itself.

Neoplatonism in English Renaissance

The four humors in English Renaissance were each considered to be embodied by a respective body fluid and our unique personalities were the results of the many different concoctions of these fluids in our bodies. To the greatest degree, there was also an attainable ideal state, in which there was perfect balance and harmony between each body fluid in relation to the body and each other. Likewise, chronic emotions were supposedly derived from the fluids and optimal emotions were similarly suggested upon.   Interestingly enough, the sensation we know as ecstasy is one of these optimal feelings. But it is also reminiscent of the neoplatonic view point of transcending reality to momentarily come in touch with god. Such was ecstasy that one's happiness was no longer any derivation of happiness, but instead superseded all joyful rapture as a true form of bliss, considered god-like or angelic.

Aristotle and Great Chain of Being

In class, we discussed the four, or five, elements that compose of objects, beings or things, animate or inanimate, that make up the great chain of being. These elements, air, fire, water, earth, and ether, perhaps coincidentally were what the ancient philosopher, Aristotle similarly presumed to maker up the objects and world that surround us. He believed that ultimately, all things were made of fire; the implication can therefore be made that he placed fire above all else, as did the great chain of being in the english renaissance. Similarly, he suggested that fire resides at high altitudes and that earth, considered the lowest element hierarchically, was also the lowest element literally.

The Statues of David

I was studying the 3 statues of David that we looked at by Danatello (1430), Verrochio (1472-1475), and Michaelangelo (1501-1504), and began to wonder why all three had very different influence (which is unsual since the statues by Danatello and Verocchio were both made during the Renaissance peirod in Florence, and the statue by Michaelangelo was created during the Italian Renaissance which was highly impacted by Florence as many of the artist simply flocked their after Florence was taken over in 1494). Why are these three statues so different? For example, Michaelangelo's "David" has a very Hellenstic influencee to it given the idealized body, where as Verrochio's "David" is realistic in the actual size David would have been and has a more classical influence.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Order in Dante Inferno

Since we were talking about the Great Chain of Being in class and how fixated Elizabethan era was on order, I was thinking about how Dante's Inferno also contains a strict order. So, even though there is a time gap between Dante's Inferno and Queen Elizabeth's reign, the value of order is still present. Dante's Hell contains nine circle, with each circle containing a certain type of sinner. Even Dante's writing style (terza rima) is extremely ordered with a specific rhyme scheme and a specific meter. As Ms. Quinet said in class, there was no sudden change from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. The Elizabethan era still contained strong medieval influences.

Dante's Inferno is Spiritual due to being written during the Middle Ages

According to the chapters about order and the Chain of Being in the Elizabethan World Picture, the Middle Ages represented a time of great spirituality.  Knowing this makes Dante's theology and beliefs while writing his epic, The Divine Comedy make a lot more sense.  Dante clearly demonstrates his strong belief in Christianity throughout the Inferno canticle of The Divine Comedy.  He claims that the only way to make it to paradise is through God.  The Divine Comedy, more specifically, Dante's Inferno displays such spirituality because it was made during such a spiritual time, the middle ages.  We  will next be reading Hamlet, which was written during the Elizabethan Period.  The Elizabethan World Picture warns us not to assume that the Elizabethan Period is solely about humanism.  It claims that the Elizabethan Era is actually also very spiritual and picks up where the Middle Ages left off.  It will be interesting to see if Hamlet displays spirituality due to being written in the Elizabethan Period.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Evolution of Art Through the Ages

Reflecting on all of the art we have studied so far this year, i notices a really drastic change in the use of color from the Greek times to the Renaissance. In the Greek times, though we can no longer see it, the colors they used were bold colors like red and blue and purple. Though it has faded away by now, they painted their temples with these colors. When the Roman time came, color changed a bit. Though most Roman art was sculpture, the Roman paintings used more shades of color and experimented with it a lot more. Finally, during the Renaissance times, the use of color changed drastically. Artists really started to experiment with color, mixing different hues and really creating a new style of painting. And then comparing the renaissance art to today, color had been continually experimented with and has changed completely over the ages.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Neo-Platonic Aspects of Dante

Layer's of hell epitomize humanity at its worst-its absolute worst. You can't really be "more lustful" than a lustful sinner within the Lustful layer of hell. The concept of having a perfect, or in this case anti-perfect form of an action, or object, or even person is very neo-platonic. Just as Plato had perfect forms of humans, or art Dante has "perfect sinners" so to speak. You cannot get lower than the lower depths of hell. Lucifer is bed-rocked into the ninth layer of hell, and he cannot be moved. The adaption of Plato's concepts by Dante, whether purposeful or not, represents the adaption of classical literature by early Italian Renaissance writers.

The Medici's

I think it is sort of comical how the Medici family came to get their name. Apparently they were "medics" and helped bandage people up and fix their wounds. Because of this their family shield was in turn red and white, which stood for the blood and bandage. The red referred to blood, and the white referred to the white bandage they used to bandage up the people. They were essentially doctors for people, and later in their lives they continued to provide for their citizens as they did when they first came into being. Like doctors, as signoris of the Florence, they provided for their citizens in money, trade, and exports. Even though they were not literally doctors later in their history, they still acted as such for their beloved Florence.

Society Portrayed in Dante's Inferno

In his Inferno, Dante represents society in some interesting ways. Through the sinners we meet and the people he talks about in his Hell, we see that men played a large part of society but were maybe not always the most clear-minded thinkers. We see men from the church, but they are usually not always the best role models, merchant and business men, religious leaders, political leaders, military leaders, and rulers of cities, those who are misguided by women, and writers dabbling in Epicurean philosophy. All of these people and their actions, of which is way to much detail for me to go into in a blog post, give the reader an insight into what society was like and what Dante saw. Dante also gives the reader insight into the values and beliefs that were held at the time through the actions of his sinners and the beliefs that previously held and still hold when in conversation with Dante.


In Dante's Inferno the Canto XXII talks about Mahomet, better known as the Prophet Muhammad to the modern day person, and I believe that he can represent two different things. First off, he represents the religion of Islam and how this was  a diversion from traditional Christianity. In Dante's Hell Muhammad represents those people who followed the branches of Christianity and those who followed a different religion all together. He can also represent a schism between the church and society, a secular society.


Each period has its own style of artwork, which influences the next form to come, however it seems to me that each period has a distinctive style in their interpretation of a "perfect representation" of figures. Starting with the hellenistic period which believed in ideal forms and rationalism, then to the hellenic period that was focused around realism, to Roman period which combined characteristics of the periods before and used pictorial images to represent figures along with a focus of family life, and finally the Renaissance period that depicted divinity with vanishing points and emphasis on light as a metaphor for the greater being, shows how each era had an ideal way to depict the beliefs at the time. I find it interesting how the social circumstances of the time influenced the type of art work created and caused it to progressively change.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is Dante mocking Hell as well as representing the Trinity with his use of "3?"

It seems to me that not only does Dante use the repeating pattern of three in the Inferno to represent the Trinity but to also mock Satan.  For example, Satan, down in Judecca is stuck in the ice holding the three sinners in each of his three mouths.  However, this is all he can do.  He is stuck from the waist down in the frozen water of Cocytus.  This basically leaves Satan powerless against God and Christianity as a whole.  Could Dante's use of the "three pattern" also represent Satan being subservient to God?  Dante's use of "three" does not give Satan the power that it gives the Trinity.  Satan is just frozen in place punishing the three sinners.  He is powerless against God and the Trinity as a whole.  This could have something to do with Dante's firm ties to Christianity.  What do you think?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

An Odd Description of Cerberus

As I was reading about Cerberus guarding the gluttons in the Inferno, I was surprised at Dante's description of the monster. What i have heard of the monster is that it is a three-headed dog, but in the Inferno it seems as if it is a 3 headed dog-like man. Maybe i am wrong, but i thought that Cerberus seemed like a person.  I had never encountered a description like this and it surprised me. I read up on Cerberus and found that he ate anyone who approached hell, making him a glutton, and therefore he is with the gluttons in hell. I don't know why but the description really stood out to me, andI think it could possibly symbolize something, but I don't know what. Anyone have any insight?

Tearing Oneself Apart

I was reading CNN the other day and an article caught my eye. The article was pretty gruesome: a nanny killed the two kids she was babysitting and when their mother showed up proceeded to stab herself repeatedly in the neck. I said it was gruesome. After reading the article I read about the minotaur in Dante's inferno that ripped itself apart, which made me think: why do violent people often destroy themselves? Hitler ended up committing suicide as well, although that could be pinned as cowardly and not wanting the allies to capture him. But the minotaur and the babysitter seem to destroy themselves because they truly know justice, and have a moral compass that tells them theyve done something wrong and suicide is their way of punishing themselves. Heres the CNN article:

Isaiah 65 and Dante

I was reading Isaiah 65 for religion homework the other day, and I noticed a similarity between Isaiah's mention of god creating a new Jerusalem and Dante's notion that the second coming shall not initiate until a new Rome is created. In both cases, both cities were prophesied to become places of joy and delight and idealism.

Just thought it was interesting seeing that similarity. Perhaps that could've been an indirect influence on Dante.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Old Man of Crete...Symbolism

So the Old Man’s body is turned toward Damietta (thanks to some research, I found that Damietta is an old Egyptian seaport) and his face is turned toward Rome (where the Pope lives.) He is off balance, placing more weight on his right terra cotta foot, which isn’t a sturdy material compared the other metals that make up his body.  The image I see, is a dude who’s about to turn around perhaps in the direction of Rome. It may represent the struggle between the old and (relative) new cultures, also paganism verses Christianity.  Any other thoughts on why he’s facing Rome but turned toward Egypt?

Also he is crying on hell, above of hell (on Earth), presumably because of the suffering in the world.  Sinners cause suffering, sorrow and pain in this world and the next.  I say the next, meaning hell, because you’re damned to hell as a sinner and the metaphorical tears that drains down to hell translate into sorrow as it they could be part of your punishment. thoughts?

Snake and Angel

I thought it was interesting how the angel who came to give Virgil and Dante entrance to Dis was compared to a snake. Angels are supposed to be holy beings, while the snake was representative of the devil and tempted Eve into the original sin. So why would Dante use a serpent to represent an angel? I thought it had to do with power. We were discussing what power meant in AP Euro the other day. Richelieu defined power as fear mixed with awe. Dante regards the angel with a sort of terrified amazement.  I think the image of the snake inspires the fear required of power. They both inspire terror - for the snake, it is the fear of the devil, and for the angel, it is the fear of God. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Calm Down, Dante

It might just be me, but it seems a bit pretentious of Dante to consider himself "worthy" enough to view Hell and get the 411, if you will, on everyone's sins and punishments. His whole journey through Hell reminds me of Milton's statement of purpose in Paradise Lost of "justifying the ways of God to man". Dante doesn't explain why or how he was chosen, but raises himself to the stature of being able to access superior knowledge of life after death. Additionally, Dante compliments his own writing and influence by considering himself to be on the same level as Homer, Ovid, Horace, and Lucan. Plus, Dante continually throws his contemporaries under the bus by putting them in different levels of Hell, letting his personal and political biases affect their punishments. (And although Dante admitted to straying from the righteous path, I'm sure he wasn't as blameless as he made himself out to be.) It also seems like Dante could have been considered a blasphemer due to his claims in The Divine Comedy of having superior knowledge of the afterlife and the inner workings of God's plan, considering himself an intercessor for the divine. Although he wrote Inferno to emphasize the importance of remaining faithful to God and ultimately improve society, it still seems like he would have gotten in some sort of trouble for writing it.

Politics: Its Role

In Dante's The Divine Comedy, I believe that politics plays a role to educate its readers. The poem is not only a way for Dante to express his opinions on politics, as is seen in is many encounters with political enemies or corrupt politicians, but is also a way for Dante to warn the public and society that if it does not keep a level-head about itself and come to some sort of agreement over political problems, it could cause great dissension, war, and anarchy. This is seen in with the Guelphs and Ghibellines and later when the Guelphs split into the White and Black parties. Through The Divine Comedy and the use of the characters dispersed throughout the many levels of Hell, Dante is able to explore politics as he reasons with some of his arch-enemies and friends and even attacks others. By using both a character form the White Guelphs and one from the Black Guelphs, Dante is able to give his audience an understanding of the viewpoint from both sides of the argument, hopefully shedding light on the fact that society must come to some sort of consensus. 

Dante and Aeneas

I believe the characters Dante and Aeneas can be compared in a similar way. They are both on a quest to find something. Dante searches for the path of Heaven, salvation, and God. Aeneas is also on a quest to find Italy and found Rome. Both quests are somehow destined by the gods. God and the Powers of Above are Dante's guiding light to Heaven and salvation, while the many Greek and Roman gods are the guide for Aeneas's search. Although parallels between these two characters' quests can be drawn, they that each author portrays them is different. Virgil celebrates Aeneas' honor and how he suppresses his individuality by honoring what the gods desired from him. In The Divine Comedy, we see Dante more is more concerned with portraying his individual and spiritual growth and close be becomes to God. These two different writing styles are mainly due to the fact that The Aeneid is a tragedy and The Divine Comedy is a comedy.

How Did Dante Get There?

Is anyone else wondering how Dante got to Hell in the first place? I mean, he's still alive so he hasn't gotten lost on the way to Purgatory after death. I don't know. Maybe Dante the Poet felt that how he got there didn't matter, but rather what he did when he got to Hell. Even then I feel that it would provide better explanation if the reader knew how he got there. The reader would have clearer insight into why Dante was chosen to go on this journey. Did he reach Hell under truly Divine powers or was his arrival more like a coincidence? I don't know, I just kind of wish that went into further detail. Maybe it will later on in the Comedy. Anyone have any theories?/

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mr. Scrooge in.... THE UNDERWORLD

So, I thought I'd compare "A Christmas Carol" to Dante's "Divine Comedy" with specific attention to the similarities between Dante's inferno and Mr. Scrooge's visions. The first, and most profound similarity between the two pieces is the moral and spiritual growth expected from Mr. Scrooge by Dickens, and moral growth from Dante by Dante when visiting either the ghosts of christmas past or hell. My next comparison is between hell and Mr. Scrooges bed. Not only does Dante fall asleep to enter into the next levels of hell just as Mr. Scrooge falls asleep to progress to the next christmas ghost, but both the ghosts of Mr. Scrooge's visions and the corporeal figures Dante sees are both pitied by the protagonists. The ghosts in Dicken's book show progressively worse sins in the way that the guides in Dante's Inferno show Dante the levels of hell from the "place to be" to "the place not to be". Both are also commentaries on Christianity, and even though Dickens and Dante weren't contemporaries they suggest the same type of sins - gluttony, greed, violence, and in a more general since selfishness itself. //

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blindness in The Divine Comedy compared to Oedipus the King

We first see the image of blindness in Oedipus the King as the blind prophet Tiresias can see the truth while Oedipus who literally still has his vision cannot see the truth.  His stubbornness to solve who murdered King Laius leads to his downfall as he discovers his prophecy.  Tiresias tried to warn Oedipus, but he was too stubborn.  Today in class, we talked about how St. Lucia was the Patron Saint of the Blind.  This makes perfect sense as to why she was chosen as one of the three women that look after Dante.  Dante is in a sense blinded from the correct path to heaven.  St. Lucia, attempts to help him.  St. Lucia in The Divine Comedy plays the same role as Tiresias in Oedipus the King.  They are both trying to help both Dante and Oedipus respectively find the truth.  Oedipus fails to take Tiresias's advice.  Will it turn out different for Dante?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Are the Greeks the original victims of Plagiarism?

It seems that yet again, Dante's The Divine Comedy is ripping ideas off of the original Greek work, The Odyssey.  We first saw the Greeks being copied when the Romans copied off of them as Virgil wrote the Aeneid.  Virgil was asked by Augustus to write the Aeneid to make Roman society seem sophisticated like Greek society was.  Now again, it seems that Dante is plagiarizing many ideas off of both The Aeneid and Odyssey as he takes a "journey through Hell."  It is interesting that works such as the Aeneid and The Divine Comedy are so famous when they repeat many of the same ideas from previous literary works.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Marie de France

I was researching Marie de France, and I found out that she did much more than write a bunch of Lays. She was also the first to translate Aesop's Fables from Middle English to Anglo-Norman French, and she wrote many other literary works such as Legend of the Purgatory of St. Patrick and The Life of Saint Audrey. Not only was she one of the first successful female writers in the western world, but her Lays also changed the literature of the time. She was one of the first people to start the romantic subject in stories, and almost all of her Lays involved some sort of love triangle or love complex. She attributed many of her poems to the minstrels, saying that she copied them down. This also shows the importance of music in courtly life. I just thought it was interesting how a somewhat unknown noblewoman could have such an impact in a male dominated world.

Just Some Universal Themes...

I've noticed some very similar underlying themes within  ancient Islamic, Roman, Indian, and Chinese cultures. The first one that I'll adress is the division between custom and law. Confucius' Analects, The Ramayana, and to some extent One Thousand and One nights all adress this theme. Law is the action on custom, custom is physically manifested in law. Confucius argues that this is harmful, claiming that law could be abused, but custom, if intricately tied to a region's culture, makes law almost unnecessary. For instance, if my cultural upbringing placed a huge emphasis on not killing, then would there need to be a law for me not to kill? The Ramayana adresses the division between law and custom when Sita is held above the fire. This is a crude form of justice to uphold the Indian custom of chastity. Finally, One Thousand and One Nights show that the enactment of custom into law can be detrimental. The idea of one's wife not being chaste leads the king to kill many women through law. The arguement would be made by Confucius that the King's wife's upbringing was the cause of her cheating, but the greater arguement that the custom within Sharazad's world was skewed towards men. Well, I said themes, but that's about all I got.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Private Entertainment

Just putting this out there for everyone else, but there is a similarity between the Roman and later periods in Europe regarding private entertainment, in that both involved poetry and song, as is usually the norm with other cultures, but here we can see how Roman remnants haven't quite yet vanished. In Rome, the wealthier families usually held lavish banquets, where performers sang lines and lyrics. Likewise, later in Europe, Jangleurs, or jugglers, who reflected a similar attribute to Roman private entertainers of being multi-talented, would sing lyrics for the court families and nobility.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Margot and "La Mole"

The movie "Queen Margot" is a french film about the St. Bartholomew Day massacre that incorporates many historical aspects into an entertaining film. One of the more controversial historical figures in the movie is "La Mole" Queen Margot's Huguenot lover who is not her husband- her husband is King Henry Navarre. Queen Margot finds peace in her "true love" with "La Mole" but not with her husband. When Queen Margot is with La Mole she feels truly happy. There is another parralel in the movie between King Charles IX and his lover "Marie". Charles says he is truly happy only when he is with his love. Does this sound familiar to Marie de France's Lanval? There are two similarities. First, Lanval is only truly happy when he is with his maiden, but the more significant comparison is between Queen Margot and the Queen in Marie de France's lay- both look for realy love over their forced arrangement with their husbands.

French Karma?

In Marie de France's lays' good people tend to have good happen to them, even if it takes a while, and bad people tend to have bad things happen. The best example of "French Karma" is in Lanval, were Lanval, who is generous, kind, and loyal, receives love from a beautiful women for his good deeds. The queen, for her evil deeds, gets humiliated by having her lie exposed.

The Pear Tree

In Augustine’s Confessions, one of the sections is titled The Pear Tree. I believe that this invocation to nature is very similar to Rumi and his poetry. In a lot of Rumi’s poems he writes about questions that he has to God or ways in which he can get closer to God. Although Augustine’s Confessions are not poetry, he does have a lyrical feel about his writing, at least in my opinion. Through his Confessions, Augustine constantly deals with his rejection of women’s promiscuity and the fact that he should not be focusing on lust, but rather becoming one with God. Rumi speaks to this belief in his poem, “An Empty Garlic”. Does anyone else feel that The Pear Tree might portray a similar message as Rumi’s writings?