Monday, December 12, 2011

The End of the Shakespearean Semester

Engaging Shakespeare

First off, I thought the Engaging Shakespeare event went off marvelously. Every group seemed genuinely pleased with how they were represented there, and I was super impressed with all of the different projects. I am definitely excited that we have our own class website for the event to refer back to.

When you have a class split up into groups and design their own projects, sometimes some groups or some people in the groups try to slide by and do the bare minimum. Not here. I was impressed by everyone's effort in my group, as well as the efforts of all the other groups. We definitely did college-level work, and it was apparent.

A little side note on my specific group, I am still so excited that we did as much work as is apparent. I think the artwork shown was really cool, and had a lot of variety. Plus, it was not ten pieces of art total. It filled both aisles of the room. I think the average was about 10-12 pieces of art per over 50 works in total. When we first talked about doing an art gallery, I was not thinking that it would be that large in scope. And then to have them all up online, AND to have them all correspond to lesson plans, which are also on the web? It was great, and I am really glad that we got to share with the participants on Friday, as well as the online world.

Learning Outcomes

1. Gain Shakespeare Literacy
This learning outcome was covered throughout the whole class. For breadth, I have now read Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, The Winter's Tale, Love's Labor's Lost, As You Like It, The Tempest and King Lear.

I feel like now I have two plays that I have really gone in depth with since the final project: As You Like It and Hamlet. For As You Like It, I have posted about the details of the play, as well as contemporary connections for the play. For Hamlet, I created artworks for all five acts of the play, as well as the play as a whole and the theme of madness.

For performances, I saw The Winter's Tale, as well as Macbeth live. And, I watched the film adaptation of As You Like It, as well as small clips of various plays, such as the "To be or not to be" soliloquies that we watched in class.

For contemporary and visual culture, I have seen parallels between characters, the use of titles, missionary work, and my own life in quite a few circumstances. And, by doing research for the final project, I found others who are applying Shakespeare to their own lives, like the Hobart Shakespeareans.

2. Analyze Shakespeare Critically

I really tried to work on textual analysis this second half of the semester, both with my own readings, as well as applying it to our final project. For some examples of textual analysis, I looked at the use of the "the man in the moon" in The Tempest and by comparing Hamlet and Laertes, I compared some of their lines and the words that they used in order to discuss their motives. There was a blog post where I compared the banished dukes of As You Like It and The Tempest, which was fun. I also did a long blog post about King Lear and the quote by Gloucester: "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for sport." In this post, I discussed Shakespeare's word choice and imagery as a result of this poignant line. I also did textual analysis through creating art about different themes and quotes from Hamlet. For each of my works of art, I attributed the work to a quote, as well as wrote an artist statement about the quote and how I portrayed it through art. Here is an example:

“Oh that the earth which kept the world in awe should patch a wall t’expel the winter’s flaw!” (Act 5 scene i)

Digital Print

In this quote, even before the bloody fate of most of the main players in the castle, Hamlet realizes the doom of everyone’s fate – to patch a wall in a grave. This is a major moment for Hamlet, where he comes to grips with death, and therefore accepts his fate. After that, he is willing to act, but his actions are too late to stop the mortal fates of so many. This images conveys that sense of wintry death that I imagined Hamlet was so afraid of throughout the play.

For contextual analysis, I was able to analyze the productions of As You Like It, The Winter's Tale, and Macbeth. I also compared themes of Nature vs. Nurture and Romanticism (especially the Romantic paintings of J.M.W. Turner) to the beginning of The Tempest. In the final project, I think the best concise example of contextual analysis is in our lesson plans. In this blog post, I started brainstorming ideas for lesson plans, and here I posted my individual lesson plan on decisions.

3. Engage Shakespeare Creatively

I think our final project blog speaks for itself in this category, but I will explain a bit. For an actual performance, I did not perform a Shakespeare work on stage, but I did talk about our work for our final project on a YouTube video and we created a script and everything for it. As a side note, while I was posting the YouTube video, I came across another video introducing a site, which I thought was pretty neat. We also had to present all of our work on stage at the Engaging Shakespeare event. For the project, we not only read Hamlet, but created artworks about each of the acts, and lesson plans for major themes of the play. This definitely helped me understand Hamlet better, which is what we wanted students and teachers to be able to do in classrooms where Shakespeare is taught.

On other creative fronts, I was also able to connect Shakespeare to painting and art history, and to contemporary life through a video I made about the theme of "All the World's a Stage." That video actually made it on the "best of" posts for this class, which I was excited about. I also did a small literary imitation through an alliteration I did about Love's Labor's Lost.

4. Share Shakespeare Meaningfully

Prior to the final project, I had this blog that I shared everything on, I shared globally by commenting on another's blog as well as posting a lesson plan that I had created on the web. I also created the video concerning my contemporary definition of "All the World's a Stage" and sent that to family members, who responded positively.

With the final project, we posted all of our lesson plans on connexions, posted all of our art on deviant art, posted a YouTube video about our curriculum, and made a group blog that housed all of our work for the final project.

I really think that I have been able to work with all of the learning outcomes for this class, and in doing so, have had a well-rounded, atypical, amazing Shakespeare experience!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lighting Caterpillars on Fire

I wanted to make an awesome blog post about King Lear. This play is so rich and very different from the other Shakespeare plays that I am sad that I could not spend more time on it and really blog about it in depth as I was reading it. So, I will have to read it again, and this blog post will have to satisfy my thirst for a time.

I wanted to expand on my previous blog post about this quotation, and go into more in-depth analysis. In Act IV scene i, Gloucester says, "As flies to wanton boys are we to th' gods. They kill us for their sport."

General Analysis

I think that this is one of the most powerful quotes in this play the more I think about it, and this quote proves to me once again that Shakespeare was truly a gifted playwright. First of all, Gloucester is at the complete valley of his life. He just got his eyes stamped out, he is kicked out of his castle to wander in the heath by the very people who just blinded him, and he thinks that his beloved son Edgar is out to kill him (but really Edmund is the major villain).

So, on this level, this quote is very telling, and most can relate to this feeling. I know that I have felt picked on in the most terrible way, and felt like there was no way that things could get any worse. Gloucester's quote resonates with most because it is the whole theme of "life isn't fair," as well as being affected by things that you have no control over.

Use of Comparison

Another level that I think makes this quote powerful is Shakespeare's use of comparison. He compares the gods killing him for sport to "flies to wanton boys." Perhaps some people would cry, "generalization!" but to me, this comparison is great. I cannot count how many times I was saddened when my bigger boy cousins would come into our yard after a huge snow storm and "mess it up" by playing in it. Or when they would trap a ton of gypsy moth caterpillars in a mason jar and then light it on fire.

It reminds me of Ender's Game when Peter, Ender's older and sadistic brother, catches squirrels and then pretty much flays them alive. Ender and his sister Valentine are not very pleased with Peter's disregard for life, and he counters that it is just squirrels. Using just a few examples off the top of my head, I think using "wanton boys" as a comparison for the gods is an extremely effective use of comparison, since many can have personal examples to relate to.

Word Choice

And, I think that this quote is effective because of its word choice. Using "wanton" to describe the boys, and thus describe the gods is pretty severe, since wanton means "without regard for what is right, just humane." This word actually comes from a Middle English word between 1250-1300, wantowen, which literally means "undisciplined, ill-reared." Maybe the audience in his day knew the word of origin, but either way, with these ideas in mind, the picture that Shakespeare is painting of the boys and the gods is bleak.

Also, "they kill us for their sport" is pretty condemning. Shakespeare uses "sport" to really underline the lack of regard for life in general by the gods. This sentence makes me think of the games at the Roman Colosseum where everything had to do with death. Animals killing animals, animals killing people, people killing people. Apparently animals were even driven to extinction by these "games." With Shakespeare using this term, I am prompted to realize the sheer horror of a people killing others for enjoyment, especially from history, and therefore realize the absolute depth of despair that Gloucester is expressing.

To conclude, this is the ultimate "Why me?" quotation. Gloucester realizes how subject he is to the "wheel of fortune" and therefore absolves to commit suicide. A fatalistic and fantastic quotation by Shakespeare that we can understand on many levels, even though I'm not sure he watched boys trap caterpillars in mason jars and light them on fire.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Engaging Shakespeare

I am so excited about all of this that I want to share this video about our curriculum here, even though we are going to post it on YouTube and it is already on the group blog. We have worked really hard on our curriculum and artwork and it is all coming together quite well.

Along with posting our Shakespeare curriculum on our blog and on, the Shakespeare class is going to have an event called Engaging Shakespeare in order to show off the class' final projects....including ours! We are going to have a gallery of all of our artwork, and I am pretty excited to see everyone else's projects. JJ put up a nice progress report about our Shakespeare evening, which has a preview for the play/documentary groups and other information. But, here is the basic information:

Friday, December 9
7:00 p.m.

I really hope that people can come and that teachers also take advantage of the curriculum resource that we are making available online!