Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Subversion of Anit-Semitism

Throughout my experience with the Merchant of Venice, I have seen the most famous scene (“hath not a Jew eyes”) preformed or quoted on film so many times it is difficult to count. From The Pianist, to Man Without a Face, to the full version of Merchant of Venice that we watched in class, this is probably one of the soliloquies that I remember most as a Shakespearean quote. Especially while we were reading this play in our English class, I had already begun thinking about the answer to this question. In response, I believe that Shakespeare was trying to subvert the idea of anti-Semitism through this play.

In Elizabethan England, it would not have been possible to come right out and say that you did not support anti-Semitism, so Shakespeare had to be more creative in his ways to express his forward ideas. As Shakespeare was a businessman, he was constantly writing things that he knew would be liked. Romantic comedies or histories that exaggerated the greatness of the current ruler were some of his large crowd pleasers. Shakespeare, being an artist who was incredibly successful during his life, had to write plays that appealed not only to the highest of nobility, but also the lowest of peasants. To do so, he often cracked jokes that were extremely popular at the time, including taking many anti-Semitic jabs throughout many of his plays. I do not believe though that this had any influence on his ideas.

Throughout the play Merchant of Venice, Shylock is portrayed as an incredibly human character. Though in the end, Shakespeare makes sure that he appeases the large majority of his crowd, there are times throughout the play when he completely changes the role, and makes Shylock a character that the audience is meant to sympathize with. For example, when Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, runs away and leaves him, it seems much more understandable why a character like Shylock might seek his revenge through Christian flesh. He was not as driven to take his bond until he had lost something so incredibly great.

I believe that Shakespeare presented a subverted idea of anti-Semitism in his play, Merchant of Venice. Shakespeare gives us a character to relate to in Shylock, and I also believe that this play was truly meant to get this point across. Not only did Shakespeare create an incredibly dynamic character in Shylock, but he also set these very controversial ideas inside of a romantic comedy. I believe that Shakespeare hoped that the lightness of the general plot of Merchant of Venice would help to really bring home his point of anti-Semitism. Though Shakespeare did end his play by punishing Shylock, I do not believe that he could have honestly ended the play any other way. His audience would have never accepted a Jew winning the bond, and it does not exactly fit within the guidelines of a romantic comedy. What Shakespeare did do though, is to at least put his ideas out there about anti-Semitism. For a playwright who was so well known, this is an accomplishment that is not easy to do. (519)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Gibson vs. Pacino

As I was viewing the film of Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, I found myself making comparisons between Al Pacino’s version of Shylock, and Mel Gibson’s portrayal of the character in his self-directed film, Man Without a Face.

Gibson’s film portrays a young boy in the 1960s that wants to attend a military academy for high school. To do so, he must pass an examination, and unfortunately, though he is extremely intelligent, he has a very difficult time learning things for academics. To pass the exam, he must be fairly well versed in Shakespeare, Latin, and mathematics. That’s where Gibson comes into play. His character is a man who has been in a terrible car accident, leaving half of his body burned (man without a face). He is something of a town hermit, but at one time, he was an excellent tutor. He begins to tutor the boy.

There is a scene in the movie where the boy is attempting to read poetry, in fact, it is the first scene in the Merchant of Venice, but he is butchering it. He is reading it allowed, and is so monotonous that Gibson explains that these plays are meant to be played for an audience. They begin to hash out the play, switching characters between the two of them, and the film only pans in on the more famous lines of the play.

Gibson plays Shylock, and they show his famous “Hath not a Jew eyes” speech. This is the first time that I ever experienced listening to this speech. Gibson performs it with such conviction and passion, and his voice is so incredibly musical, I could barely stand it when I was forced to listen to Pacino’s version.

Pacino, to me, did not possess the same magical quality that Gibson brought to the stage. Because of the disability that Gibson allegedly had, his character was incredibly passionate about this speech. No one in the town accepted him, and in many ways, he felt exactly like Shylock. He was an outsider, someone that the entire town made mocked constantly, and something of gossip. Gibson’s character so perfectly portrayed Shylock that this picture of the character is constantly imprinted in my mind.

Though I believe that the film we watched of the Merchant of Venice was an excellent rendition, I found it difficult at times to completely believe it. I believe that when a person views a play for the first time, that is the way the characters will always be portrayed in his/her eyes. There is no question that another actor could recite the lines, and act it out very well, but to me, there will never be another Shylock other than Mel Gibson. (451)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

King Leer

As I read Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Leer, I was once again shocked at the complexity of the subplot, but also of how all of Shakespeare’s plays seem to be similar to some aspect of life that I can relate to. This story, in fact, left me with similar feeling that The Death of Ivan Illyich, due to the fact that it was the end of an old man’s life, and he was so wrapped up in his work he could not see the important things in life. King Leer, on the other hand, was not blinded by his work but instead by his vanity in the beginning of the play.

When Leer asked his daughters to shower him with praise for a better piece of land, I found myself with almost as bitter of a taste in my mouth as Cordelia. Cordelia refused to do something for her father because of the deep love she felt for him. Anyone who attempted to advise Leer about his actions (such as Kent) were severely punished. As Cordelia stood up for herself in front of her father, even as he was billowing curses in her name. At this point in the play, Leer is so caught up in himself that he can not make decisions clearly. I wonder what he must have been like as a king if he let his vanity be caught up in his decision of how the kingdom was divided. It is amazing that he was even held in any regard by his advisors. Leer was unable to decide the proper course for his kingdom’s fate because he wants to hear how wonderful he is.

Kent is one of King Leer’s most devoted and noble advisors, yet he is not afraid to speak his mind for the betterment of the kingdom and Leer’s fate. When Kent realizes that Leer is making an incredible mistake by banishing Cordelia and placing Reagan and Goneril in control instead, Kent says something. Instead of being rewarded for his excellent advice, Kent is punished for disagreeing with the king. I wonder if Leer had not become slightly senile and already begun to lost his mind at the beginning of the play. If he was such a well loved king, these sorts of decisions would never have been acceptable.

King Leer is a perfect example of what happens to older people. Sometimes they revert back to their childish ways, leaving their children to care for them. This is especially true for Leer. All he wants to hear is how wonderful he is, and then he will give you anything. King Leer is a wonderful play, with an incredible plot. (445)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Love Hate

As I read the play, Much Ado About Nothing, I finally found the character that if Shakespeare had known me would have written for me. Beatrice seemed to me like the kind of person I am. She is strong-willed, “one of the boys”, too quick to open her mouth, and caring toward the people she loves. Beatrice is a trusting person when you first meet her, but if you lose her favor, it is almost impossible to regain her trust. She is a woman of strength in these times, and someone that I greatly admire.

My favorite scene in the play is that between Beatrice and Benedick at the party. I love how we can never truly know if Beatrice knows that it is Benedick under the mask, or if she is just sending a message to him through his friends. I love how she is able to anger him so easily, and that he is just steaming over it even after she has left his side. This

Friday, January 25, 2008

Page d'écriture: Jacques Prévert

Deux et deux quatre
quatre et quatre huit
huit et huit font seize…
Répétez! dit le maître
Deux et deux quatre
quatre et quatre huit
huit et huit font seize.
Mais voilà l’oiseau-lyre
qui passe dans le ciel
l’enfant le voit
L’enfant l’entend
l’enfant l’appelle:
joue avec moi
Alors l’oiseau descend
et joue avec l’enfant
Deux et deux quatre…
Répétez! dit le maître
et l’enfant joue
l’oiseau joue avec lui…
Quatre et quatre huit
huit et huit font seize
et seize et seize qu’est-ce qu’ils font?
Ils ne font rien seize et seize
et surtout pas trente-deux
de toute façon
et ils s’en vont.
Et l’enfant a caché l’oiseau
dans son pupitre
et tous les enfants entendent sa chanson
et tous les enfants
entendent la musique
et huit et huit à leur tour s’en vont
et quatre et quatre et deux et deux
à leur tour fichent le camp
et un et un ne font ni une ni deux
et un à un s’en vont également.
Et l’oiseau-lyre joue
et l’enfant chante
et le professeur crie:
Quand vous aurez fini de faire le pitre!
Mais tous les autres enfants
écoutent la musique
et les murs de la classe
s’écroulent tranquillement
Et les vitres redeviennent sable
l’encre redevient eau
les pupitres redeviennent abres
la craie redevient falaise
le porte-plume redevient oiseau.

Two and two four
Four and four eight
Eight and eight makes sixteen…
Repeat! says the teacher
Two and two four
Four and four eight
Eight and eight makes sixteen.
But there is a lyrebird
Who flies through the sky
The child sees it
The child hears it
And the child calls to it
Save me
Play with me
So the bird descends
And plays with the child
Two and two four…
Repeat! says the teacher
And the child plays
And the bird plays with him…
Four and four eight
Eight and eight makes sixteen
And what’s sixteen and sixteen?
It makes nothing, 16 and 16
Especially not thirty-two
In any case
And it leaves
And the child hides the bird
In his des
And the children hear his song
And all the children
Hear the music
And 8 and 8 leave in their turn
And 4 and 4 and 2 and 2
And in their turn clear out
And one and one don’t make 1 or 2
And 1 to 1 leave equally
And the lyrebird plays
And the child sings
And the teacher cries:
When you are done acting like clowns!
But the other children
Listen to the music
And the walls of the class
Crumble gently
And the glass panes become sand again
And the ink becomes water again
And the desks become trees again
And the chalk becomes cliffs again
And the quill becomes the bird again.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Lifelong Love Affair

I had a very difficult time beginning this week’s blog. Not because I don’t have any experience with Shakespeare literary genius, far from it in fact. I simply could not sit down and describe how much Shakespeare has been a part of my life even before I began reading his plays, poems, and sonnets. My first introduction to Shakespeare was completely unknown; I went to see the new Disney film, The Lion King. The basic plot of The Lion King is that of Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet. It tells the tale of a prince to be, whose father is killed by an evil uncle: Scar. Like Claudius, Scar assumes Mufasa’s (King Hamlet’s) throne, and Simba (Hamlet) must reclaim the kingdom that is rightfully his. Though I did not know that the story unfolding before my eyes was based off of the marvelous work of Shakespeare, my love for his slightly twisted plots began to grow.

As I grew older, I realized that many of my favorite films centered around Shakespeare’s works. The Renaissance Man, for example, takes place on an army base. Danny DeVito, an unemployed business man in advertising, goes to the base to teach English to some select students who will not pass out of boot camp without some knowledge of the English language. One thing leads to another, and DeVito is teaching a group of soldiers Hamlet. Their comprehension of the play, and Shakespeare’s prose, in such a short period of time is incredible. Some of my other favorite films include West Side Story and Shakespeare in Love.

My experience reading Shakespeare dates back to summer reading the year I moved from Colorado. Having never read Shakespeare, I was expected to comprehend The Tempest. Unfortunately, I really struggled being able to fit my head around this play, and scored miserably on the test. It was not until later that year when my love affair with Shakespeare’s writing began. My eighth grade class read Macbeth. Though people in the class did not enjoy the play as much as I did, I was suddenly able to understand what was being said throughout the play–an incredible improvement from my attempt with The Tempest.

In the ninth grade I made my move to Phoenix Country Day, and I read Macbeth again in my freshman year. The Christmas of 2005, I received a gift that I still hold very close to my heart. My grandparents English presented me with a full collection of Shakespeare’s works that my grandfather used in college. This slightly tattered schoolbook has become my bedside companion for months. Due to my busy schedule, I have only had time to read one or two of the plays, but I love when I have the chance to pick it up and read the same pages my grandfather did over sixty years ago.

Though I did not begin reading Shakespeare until the very last year of middle school, his stories have been a large part of my life for years. The beauty of his words has lasted for centuries, and I am not the first to be completely spellbound. I hope that my love of Shakespeare will continue throughout my life, and I believe that my education at PCDS has paved the way for this lifelong affair. (545)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Men and Women in 1950s Columbia

While reading Gabriel García Máquez’s novel, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, I was very interested with the culture presented in the story, especially that between the roles of men and women. As we discussed these ideas in class, the cult of machismo, and the cult of virginity came up in our conversations. My interest level spiked. I had heard of “Latin macho” but I never fully understood it until I read this book. Pedro and Pablo are the prime examples of the Latin culture. They must stand up for their family honor, and kill Santiago Nasar. What is interesting about this story is to look at all of the different types of expectations of the culture on all of its people.

Women as a whole are not taken seriously in this culture, but class plays a large role in the expectations for women. Upper class women in a small town in 1950s Columbia, were expected to be mothers and wives when they grew up. They were taught important skills from their mothers, such as embroidery, cooking, childcare, and any other skill that might be necessary to take care of a family after they left their homes. They are expected to be pure on their wedding nights. Working class women are viewed as men’s play things, but they are also not taken seriously at all. Clotide Armenta tries multiple times to help Santiago Nasar. She even attempts to enlist the mayors help but he does nothing as well. She is powerless to help Santiago, because no one will take her seriously. Santiago Nasar is also guilty of treating women with no respect. He assumes that Divina Flor will very soon be an extension on his desires. He treats her with no respect, but also feels no guilt for his actions. Angela Vicario, on the other hand, can not be treated like that. When Bayardo San Roman was courting Angela, he did not ever touch her. She was a lady of prominence, and he would wait until the wedding night to take her. When she is not pure, it not only disgraces her family, but also disgraces Bayardo. He had spent thousands of pesos on the wedding, and he was humiliated to have to return his bride. He even did it in the middle of the night, and did not start up his car so that no one in the town would know for at least a couple of hours.

Men of this time are another story completely. They are expected to uphold their family honor, and be well versed in the bedroom. Young men often lose their virginity to the local prostitutes. The narrator, in fact, was in the arms of Maria Alejandra Cervantes when Santiago Nasar was murdered. I believe that the Vicario twins show the most obvious example of the Latin expectation for men. After Angela is disgraced and returned to her family, they must redeem the family honor. To do so, they either must kill Santiago Nasar, or threaten to do so, and be stopped in an honorable way. This would restore the honor, but keep their hands clean of blood. Pedro and Pablo do their best to be stopped by someone. They tell everyone they know that they are going to murder Santiago Nasar. Unfortunately, no one takes them seriously except for Clotide Armenta, and she is powerless to stop their actions.

The differences between men and women in this culture are absolutely fascinating. Women take a very primitive role, having no voice, and no rights. Men are expected to hold up the family. Honor is incredibly important to this society, and it is for this reason that Santiago Nasar was killed. The ideas that Gabriel García Márquez presents in this novel is an inside view to a culture he loves. (635)