Monday, November 14, 2011

Fantasy and The Tempest

So it's been just over two weeks since I went to the Pioneer Theatre Company in Salt Lake to see their production of The Tempest.  There was a good amount of analysis done the next week by those of us who went.  Being two weeks in the past, really only the strongest impressions remain, so I will share them.  It is necessary to mention that several of us arrived late, due to traffic, so we completely missed the first scene, the shipwreck.  I was pretty disappointed in missing that, but I had a good detailed recap of what happened, so that was nice.  Naturally, upon getting into the theater, the first thing I noticed was the stage and how immovable it seemed.  I thought a fairly static stage was an interesting idea in contrast to the ever shifting walls and occasional 'grass' floor that was seen in Cedar City.  Also, the stage had three tiers, and I was excited to see how all would be used.  Unfortunately, there wasn't much use of anything but the bottom.  Had I made it to the play on time, I would have witnessed the use of the top tier, but otherwise I noticed it wasn't used near as much as I hoped.
I see Caliban as an earthy goblin--cowardly,
carnal, disrespectful to authority, etc. Props
to whoever did this Warhammer figurine.

How I envision Ariel to be
I also noticed how mechanical the magic was in this depiction of the play.  Somebody called it steampunk, which I find to be a very accurate label.  Fun fact: I've always loved the fantasy sub-genre of steampunk, but I didn't know that the word existed until seeing this play.  Speaking of fantasy, here's my take on a few characters.

After having plenty of time to think about this play, and being a lover of fantasy books and video games, I look back and see the elements' roles play major parts to the aesthetic feel of the play.  When it comes to characters, Ariel is obviously air, it says so in the list of characters.  This is where I was somewhat disappointed and even disagreed with PTC's depiction of her as steampunk, as air elementals (if you will) are not metallic in the traditional fantasy way.  I also see Ariel as a more feminine character, as again, the usual depiction of sylphs is feminine.

What is the opposite to air?  Earth.  The opposite to female?  Male.  Caliban is a stark contrast to Ariel by dedication in serving their master, along with a few others.  Shakespeare was pretty thorough in his contrast of the two servants.  Caliban is base, low and earthy.  Ariel is elevated and airy.  There are others besides these two, but they are the two most pronounced depictions of elements in the play.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Little Name Calling

Just a bit of a list of meanings of names from various sources. I've recently been curious about name choices in this play. As a heads up, here's where I get most of these definitions, I just directly copied what they have at the site. Definitions are marked using a different color.

What's in a name?

  • Lear
    Clearing.  Alternately, "of the meadow."
  • Goneril
    Unfortunately, I find almost nothing on this besides that it's a "Shakespearean name."  However, given her personality, I associate it with other horrible things, such as venereal diseases, namely, gonorrhea. Sorry about any unpleasant images this association might cause.
  • Regan
    My main source didn't have any meaning on this one, but elsewhere I found it means "royal" or "regal."  Ironic?  Well, not necessarily, I'm sure there were many royal folk in Shakespeare's time that he could subtly make a jab at through this character.
  • Cordelia
    The name is of uncertain derivation. Some claim it is from the Welsh name Creiddylad, allegedly meaning 'jewel of the sea', although other reliable sources state there is no evidence for a true Celtic origin. Another theory derives the name from the phrase 'coeur de lion'. It may also be an elaboration of the Latin 'cor' (heart).  
    I particularly like this one, since its origin is uncertain and has a few different possibilities.  I personally like the 'coeur de lion' take, as it means heart of lion in French (hence King Richard the lion-hearted), and Cordelia truly does have a brave heart to still desire to help her father even when he so wrongly disowns her. 
  • Edgar
    From the Anglo-Saxon 'eád' or German 'ôt' - 'good, property, inheritance' and 'gar' or 'ger' meaning 'spear'. This combines in the meaning 'spear of prosperity', 'protector of the good (with the spear)'.
  • Edmund
    From the Old English elements 'ead' (prosperity, fortune) and 'mund' (protection). This concludes in the meaning 'prosperous protection' but another possible meaning is 'protector of prosperity (or inheritance)'.
  • Oswald
    It is of Germanic origin. It might be derived from the Old English elements os "god" and weald "rule".
"King Lear and the Fool in the Storm"
by William Dyce
(Thank you Wikipedia)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bulimic blog posting isn't healthy.

I should start by saying that I'm not a fan of lists, however, the occasion sometimes calls for one, and when that occasion is convenience, I'm all for using one. The list I'm referring to is one concerning my progress in studying Shakespeare (surprise!). This might be lengthy, so I'm not going to mince words. Here it is, my journal entry of sorts for the masses to read, if they so choose.

Learning Outcomes

How have I gained Shakespeare literacy?
A good place to start my self-analysis is the breadth of my Shakespeare literacy.  Growing up I've been familiar with many of Shakespeare's plays, including several that I've read for class.  However, out of the 6 that I'll have read by the end of this lovely class, I've only read one before, Hamlet, and that one is definitely worth re-reading.  In other words, I have taken 5 steps to my goal of reading (or watching) every Shakespeare play before I kick the bucket.
As for depth, I've had experiences where I look more deeply into a work, but not so much with Shakespeare.  My solo experience with The Merchant of Venice was a great experience to help me see what I can accomplish when I focus on a work.  While I didn't necessarily feel super original in my thoughts about the play, I learned what kinds of things to look for, especially implicit things or just things up for interpretation.
One main thing in Shakespeare that is fairly up for interpretation is staging (both live and for the screen).  I grew up watching plays, about once a year.  However, I never really analyzed them as for some odd reason I felt it might detract from my experience with the production.  Nowadays, I've grown out of that idea and find myself not 'full' after the play 'til I've had a good session of not only analyzing a production's staging, but having an engaging, meaningful discussion with friends (or anybody really) about it.
As for the screen, I watched two versions of the play I studied independently of my class The Merchant of Venice.  I really enjoyed the Al Pacino version, as it obviously put religious differences as the major theme to the production.  It's been an awesome realization that so many Shakespeare plays are still relevant today, even if not necessarily fully adapted to today's culture.

How have I analyzed Shakespeare critically?I admit I haven't focused near as much on textual analysis as I thought I would, in respect to things like formal devices.  Part of that is because I've not been the most familiar with some words, i.e. synecdoche, until this class.  However, when it comes to context, I've done the most on that when it comes to my personal studied play mentioned above, researching a little bit of historical context, i.e. Jews in England during Shakespeare's time.  Also, I've had many thoughts about contemporary adaptations of Shakespeare (not just about the merchant), but I haven't written about them yet.

How have I engaged Shakespeare creatively?This is one thing I look forward to doing more of as I'm not naturally artistically inclined.  I hope to be able to participate with a group in class in acting out a scene or two.  Sadly, I don't feel the most creative in my journey with Shakespeare yet.  I have written down ideas to write about, but they're not developed yet, so hopefully I'll get those out there soon.

How have I shared Shakespeare meaningfully?When it comes to sharing Shakespeare, this blog is the main means.  I have, just in the natural course of conversation and life, brought up thoughts I've had about plays to my friends.  I got my roommate to watch the 2004 adaptation of The Merchant of Venice with me recently, and it was fun and good to be able to share what's become an important part of my life.  Not necessarily just the play, but the journey I took to get to the thoughts I had.

Self-directed Learning
When it comes to self-directed anything, it's something I've had to learn to be good at, but it's paid off.  I am for sure not at the point I want to be at yet, but my personal blogging has been a great product of the initiative I've taken to think about Shakespeare and what his works mean to me in my life.  I've learned in the past few years that writing notes down when I have inspiration in spiritual matters is the best way to preserve and later act on feelings I have.  I have adapted this to Shakespeare, and I have a good list in a little notebook of things that I either want to blog about, or just do a bit of looking into whenever, not necessarily for school.  I have decided that Shakespeare's canon is somewhat like a temporal version of the Biblical canon in that people everywhere can use it to find answers to questions in life.  I admit it can be argued either way, but just like religion, Shakespeare means something different to each person.  So to get back to the subject, I feel that I'm on my way to better becoming a self-directed learner because of things like blogging and writing down ideas.

Collaborative and Social Learning
Here I look at and think about how others in my class have affected my learning concerning Shakespeare.  We had groups arbitrarily set up from the beginning of the semester, and those in my group have often brought up issues and different focuses in plays that we've read.  I've enjoyed and learned from these new friends of mine, and am more interested in what they have to say about other things, given I now know more about their patterns of thinking.  I feel legitimized in my writings when they comment on posts I've written, in a way much more scholastic and meaningful than Facebook.  I also have loved the worthwhile conversations/analyses I've had with those in the car I rode in to the plays in Cedar and Salt Lake.  Hours of analytic applied thinking about Shakespeare in a more today context has helped me find myself wanting to share Shakespeare with more of the world.

Looking Ahead
Luckily for me, where I'm at is by no means my final destination, as I haven't fully tapped into every tool I could use to look more into Shakespeare, especially social media and finding out what people have to say about things I'm studying.  I'm also intrigued and excited to think of things I can do for a final project with a group of people.  Unlike earlier stages in my life, I'm pretty open to anything.