Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hamlet vs. Laertes - Righteousness

People often compare Laertes and Hamlet, and both do have a lot of similarities, but I would like to point out a difference that, I think, at least casts Hamlet in a little more favorable light in this instance. In Act III scene iii, Hamlet resolves that he will kill Claudius, and goes to the king's chamber to find him "praying" (we find out a few lines later that he was trying to pray but to no avail). Anyways, Hamlet decides that he cannot kill Claudius right then, because he was doing something righteous and "And so he goes to heaven, And so am I reveng'd. That would be scann'd. A villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send To heaven."

Laertes, on the other hand, does not care about righteousness or wickedness, he just wants revenge. Claudius asks him how far he would go to kill Hamlet and he responds, "To cut his throat i' th' church" (Act IV scene vii)! Obviously Laertes is a little more bloodthirsty than Hamlet, and goes as far as not worrying about his own soul as well as others. Which character is the better person? I say neither, for many reasons.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Winters Tale Live

I loved seeing the Winters Tale performed instead of simply reading it. I sure am glad that I already knew the ending because it still was semi-annoying to me how "happily ever after" it was all of a sudden to end it. I feel like I could go on for a long time about what was well done, and what choices were interesting about the play, but I will make a list of a few things:

The setting: Interesting that they chose to have it set at a later date. It was hard to get over everyone in tuxes still going to the oracle at Delphi, but I think they pulled it off pretty well.

The concept: I thought the interactions between characters were very good, especially Leontes moving about the stage when furious with one of the characters. I think they made use of the whole stage quite well.

Art production: I really liked the set, especially the large moving window-like structures that dominated the set while in Sicilia. Bohemia seemed a little more contrived, but I guess that was to lighten the mood.

Acting: Leontes was probably my favorite. He is a very passionate character in the play, and the actor did a great job of showing lots of emotion. When reading, it is hard to have the characters yell in your head, so that was definitely a shock, but a good one, when Leontes started yelling at everyone in court. Also, for how tricky Shakespeare's lines sometimes are, I thought the actors delivered them quite well.

Overall, I felt drawn into the play (more than when I was just reading it) and felt for the characters as scenes unfolded. They made me laugh in Bohemia when I was supposed to, and tense up in Sicilia when I was supposed to. The only emotion I did not feel happiness in the end. I did not expect that to be so annoying since I had already read the play, but being invested into these characters for hours, and then see them "magically" get almost everything back in the very end of the play left me frustrated. It was a great production, overall, though.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Nature vs. Nurture

Florizel: "each your doing,
So singular in each particular,
Crowns what you are doing in the present deed,
That all your acts are queens." (Act 4, Scene 4)

What is all of this talk about Perdita behaving royally even though she is a shepherd's adopted daughter? This harkens back to the nature vs. nurture debate that has been going on with developmental psychology, and I think it is pretty obvious that in Shakespeare's time, they were all about nature (that the reason why you do what you do/who you are has to do with heredity) instead of taking nurture (who you are has to do with your environment) into account. I would like to argue that Perdita would have some traits of the royal family of Sicilia, but her actions would also reflect her shepherdess upbringing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Parental Spying

In both Hamlet and A Winter's Tale, the parent(s), mostly the dad, spies on their son. I'll be interested to see if this theme keeps happening in more plays that we read. In Hamlet, things don't work out for them when they spy. I mean, Polonius is murdered, and so are Gertrude and Claudius.

Since Winter's Tale is a comedy, I don't see Polixenes dying, but I do see him having to dig himself out of a hole. Shakespeare is definitely telling parents to just be straightforward with your kids, and then you will have a better relationship (and not be accidentally killed...). It is interesting to note that in Hamlet, no one ever comes out of hiding willingly, but Polixenes and Camillo do in the 4th Act of Winter's Tale, so maybe since they were a little less deceiving, they don't have to die for their trouble.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hermione vs. Hermione

I'm sure a lot of you have noticed that Leontes' wife's name is Hermione. Blame pop culture / J.K. Rowling but I immediately thought of Hermione Granger of Harry Potter when I read the play summary... So who is better? Here are their strengths:

Shakespeare's Hermione: Even though her husband is so cruel to her and accuses her of adultery with his childhood best friend, she doesn't speak out against him; she gives birth to two kids (props to any mom); she doesn't stuff it Leontes' face when he is wrong; she is good at persuasion, she comes to life after being a statue

Hermione Granger: super smart, can do magic even though her parents are muggles, has kids (see epilogue of the 7th book), keeps a ton of people alive especially by helping defeat the most evil wizard ever, has a ton of guys crushing on her....

I think the choice is clear. Even though Hermione is a pretty good character, Hermione Granger wins. I mean, she can do magic.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


There is a definite theme of loyalty in A Winter's Tale, even just in the first act of the play. I think that Shakespeare is making a commentary on loyalty, as well as trust, because right at the start we have loyalty issues. Leontes suspects Hermione of not being loyal to him ("too hot, too hot!") just because she persuades Polixenes to stay longer in Sicilia and Leontes could not. Then, he accuses Camillo of being disloyal to him ("you lie, you lie!") because he says that Camillo had to have known that there was something going on between Polixenes and Hermione. Camillo tells Leontes that he will poison Polixenes, and then goes on to tell Polixenes without much persuasion of Leontes jealously and the plot against his life.

It is interesting that simply in this one scene, there is so much loyalty and disloyalty being thrown about. I would be interested to see if this theme pervades throughout the play, and if Shakespeare has an overall positive message about loyalty that comes out stronger as the play unfolds.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"What is this quintessence of dust?"

"And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?" This question, posed by Hamlet in Act 2, scene 2 to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern suggests a thought that pervades human history. First, we should figure out exactly what this all means. The dictionary states that quintessence is "the most perfect embodiment of something." So, Hamlet is comparing life to dust, and therefore wondering if there is any value in life if it is just dust. If we just live and die, and return to the earth as dust, then why live at all?

This theme of dust reminds me of King Benjamin's address in the Book of Mormon. It is a very powerful and well known section in Mosiah about humankind being "less than the dust of the earth." He shows his people, and us, that we need Jesus Christ's Atonement in order to become better than the "natural man" who is "less than the dust of the earth." However, Hamlet takes this idea of being dust in the completely opposite direction. This is where the missionaries should come in and say, "Yes, you are humble, yes humankind is carnal, sensual and devilish. Here is a message we have about Jesus Christ and His Atonement."

I like studying at BYU because we can find gospel corollaries and share them freely in an academic setting.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shakespeare's Parenting?

After reading the first three acts of Hamlet, I cannot help but notice the common, interesting parenting styles in the play. There have been so many instances of parents admonishing their children do things that are pretty contrary to what society now thinks is "good." The play starts off with the ghost of Hamlet's father telling Hamlet to avenge his murder by killing his brother Claudius. It is interesting that a parent is telling his child to kill someone else...

Then throughout the play, all of the parents are spying on their selective children in order to find out information about them, instead of just being open with their children. Gertrude and Claudius spy on Hamlet through a few different means. For example, Claudius and Polonius hiding while Hamlet is in the room talking to Ophelia and having Rosencrantz and Guildenstern come to the court to find out what Hamlet is up to. Polonius also sends Reynaldo to spy on Laertes by spreading false lies about him, and tells Reynaldo that "Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth."

Is this the kind of parenting that we should emulate? Ha. No wonder all of the sons and daughters in this play are either super depressed or extremely volatile. It would certainly be hard to "honor thy father and thy mother" if they were always stabbing you in the back. I wonder if all of these terrible parenting strategies have some reflection of how Shakespeare feels about parenting....maybe he was scarred in his childhood by his parents or something?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Shakespeare Experiences

I haven't had very many experiences with Shakespeare apart from reading Hamlet, Taming of the Shrew, and Romeo and Juliet in High School. My favorite of those three was probably the Taming of the Shrew because we read the whole play out loud in class and my teacher was quite excited about Shakespeare.

I did go to an outdoor theater once with some friends to see a production of Hamlet. The actor playing Hamlet was really good, and I remember that during one of his soliloquies, a torrential rainstorm came down on us. So, we saw the rest of the production soaking wet, but I thoroughly enjoyed the last scene even though I was soaked. In that production, Gertrude coughs up the poison goblet that she drinks and it looked so real!

Other than that, I have not had a lot of exposure to Shakespeare, but I have always liked his wit and the depth of his works. I am super excited to study more plays with greater intensity!