Monday, October 31, 2011

Midterm Assesment

Attention all faithful few readers, this blog is mostly an assignment for my Shakespeare class. Written as an assessment of myself to see my Shakespeare progress, a little self-reflection, and also for my Professor.

Learning Outcomes:

Gaining of Shakespeare Literacy:
I feel that through this course I have increased in my Shakespeare literacy. One thing I have enjoyed about the lectures is the history of Renaissance writing and society which really helps explain why the plays are written like they are. Things like literary tools commonly used then but unknown to most now have helped me understand the text and canon better. Something else that has helped is just reading Shakespeare a lot, practice makes perfect and we have gotten plenty of practice with the text.

This increase literacy has made Shakespeare even more interesting for me. Which has made me read it with increased attention, making the stories come alive even more. Also this closer reading teaches me a lot. I wonder if Shakespeare meant to tell us all of the things he does.

How have I analyzed Shakespeare critically:
One thing that I have been able to do is put Shakespeare in different settings and seeing how his works apply in those contexts. Religious settings, modern popular culture, the art world. Seeing Shakespeare in all of these lights has really made me understand the works better and how great they can be. Some things don't hold up in certain lights, Shakespeare only gets better.

Another thing I feel I've done to analyze critically is not just by consuming the plays but letting them inspire me to create as well. Poems, paintings, sketches, etc. This process of creation helps me to analyze and process Shakespeare in unique ways, teaching me differently than if I was just consuming the works.

How have I engaged Shakespeare creatively:
I talked about this in the above section. How I've processed and analyzed Shakespeare by making my own things. Writing poetry about characters, sketching scenes, or painting pictures. This blog is also something creative that I have used to engage Shakespeare. A mixture of text, and picture media put together to explain what is Will Shakespeare to me.

Sharing Meaningfully:
In my most recent post I explain how I shared with my room mate Jeff (who tonight, organized a group to see Macbeth again while I sit at home doing homework). I also mentioned how I posted about Othello and also on other blogs about what I think of Shakespeare. Again this blog is another example of sharing. I've tried to tell my family and friends to look at my blog and see what I've been learning and from this have been able to have some good conversations with them.

Self Directed Learning

Things I have done to take control of my learning are again, this blog. Posting at least twice a week, usually on anything I have been learning or thinking. I have tried to make myself see things or come up  with things that others would find engaging to read about. Another thing I think I have done to direct my learning is the drawing of Shakespeare which helps me think more in depth towards what is going on.  I have to think of what symbolized the scene best, in one image. I have really enjoyed blogging about these things and sharing it with people. I thought blogging was silly before but I have found myself excited about what I'm learning and I have found that blogging is a great place to share those things and insights I would normally keep to myself.

Collaborative and Social Learning

The group learning idea is an interesting one. I usually like to do things on my own but have learned a lot by getting other peoples opinions and insights. At first our group seemed pretty withdrawn towards one another. Gabe was really good at getting us going on our conversations and collaborative learning. Angela has great insights on her blog and I learn a lot of cool thing I would not have thought of. Then Austin always seems to come to class with a great insight to the reading we've been doing that really progresses our group conversations. Justin helps a lot in his ability to process everything we've been saying and bringing it together in a really good application. The only thing that could be improved with this group learning is that it makes it difficult to connect to the whole class. We are in these little cliques of group learning.

Milton's Paradise Lost, cool, but not
quite up to par with Will
Something I've been doing to involve others outside my class is talking to my room mate, or getting groups together to go see plays. I have a cousin and we playfully bicker about who is better, Shakespeare or Milton (I'm right, it's Shakespeare). It is just fun to talk to others about what I learn and also talking to other people via the Internet. This is a practice I'm going to use more now.

Looking Ahead

Things that I intend to continue doing are blogging. After the course the posts will probably slow down. Also I want to keep up the sketches of Shakespeare. I am excited to read King Lear, a play I have no backround in and I want to see how my reading comprehension has improved as with William. Another thing to look forward to is the final project. I was planning on just doing the drawings but was surprised to hear that the project is a group thing. I was wondering what to do and thought maybe an exhibit of Shakespeare art in a local library or something like that. I have drawings, Angela has landscape sketches, I'm sure other people would like to do something like this. I'll let you all know how this idea progresses.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sharing and Contributing Locally and Globally

In my Shakespeare class we were given the assignment to share what we are learning both locally and globally. Meaning we are to reach out to those near us and also to the world, perhaps on the internet. Here is my experience with both.

Sharing Locally: Jeff

Well, I thought a lot about who I could share with. Hoping not to be the guy who just talked to his room mate. I tried to think of ways to bring Othello into my home teaching, or maybe the Sunday School class I get to teach. With my job I also have the opportunity to have groups of people listen to me talk and teach all day and I tried really hard to think of relevant ways to bring in Shakespeare. In the end I, without meaning to, ended up being the guy who talked to his room mate.
Jeff and I on the Mission

I have a room mate, Jeff, that I have known for years. We met on the mission and are really good friends. We have a kind of teasing relationship, always playfully arguing with each other. He doesn't understand why I love art, I don't understand why he is being so narrow minded, that kind of thing. With the confession of my love for Shakespeare he found something else to tease me about. Why, Mason, do you draw emo pictures of Shakespeare? Why do you love stories where everyone dies? Why do you care what a long dead man wrote? etc. etc.

As we discuss this I have seen a change in Jeff that I don't see often, due to our constant teasing. He has started to agree with me. It all started with Grassroots Shakespeare Macbeth, a fantastic production. I convinced him to come and he loved it. He told me he has never thought Shakespeare could be so much fun. We had a lengthy discussion about it afterwards. He told me he that before thought Shakespeare was stuffy and boring.

Through our talks about what I'm learning I was able to convince Jeff to even come on a quest with me to locate the DVD for the 2010 production of The Tempest. We failed, it took an hour and a half and we had no   success. Yesterday I came home and Jeff informed me that all of his own he had tried to sign up next semester for a Shakespeare class. That was cool, to see how he is starting to love this thing that I love too.

I didn't want to be the guy who talked to his room mate, but I am just really happy to see how my unintentional sharing of what I'm learning has changed my room mates view. Way to go Jeff.

Sharing Globally: Blogs 

A few posts ago I mentioned how I posted on someones blog about Othello and the Bible. I think my post was relevant but it seems like it didn't make it past the review stage and was not officially put on the blog. I'm a little hurt about this but I have learned and since moved on.

I looked for other things people had to say about the world of Othello and found two very interesting blogs. One talks about a production of the play in Washington D.C. and it mentioned some things that I thought were interesting, like the use of the handkerchief in their production which was something I had not thought much about. I posted a comment to them about that, I'm still waiting to hear back, hopefully they won't delete it.

Another blog I found had a post from today even, and explained differences between publications of the play and how this might influence the depiction of the characters. I thought this was very interesting as well because I love the way Othello is shown and his transformation through the play. I commented on this as well and still, have yet to hear back.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sketching Shakespeare: The Tempest Act One Scene One

"Hell is empty, and all the devils are here" 
Act 1 Scene 2

Continuing my quest to make a sketch for every scene of Shakespeare I turn to The Tempest. Inspired by Jackson Pollock and his painting I mentioned before, I decided to get my "Pollock" on and try out a painting like his. It isn't about the drowning after the tempest, but of the storm itself. I tried to portray the feeling of a heavy storm full of pouring rain, wind, crashing bright lightning bolts and the danger or death. Here is the first image of sketching the Tempest, the rest are all still in the very preliminary sketch stage.

Act 1 Scene 1
Now would I give a thousand furlongs of a sea for an
acre of barren ground, long heath, brown furze, any
thing. The will above be done! I would fain
die a dry death.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Othello's Regression

I was wondering what to write about, this week I have the assignment of applying the play Othello to something important to me and also to connect this to a social discovery I was to make. As I was searching for what others have to say about Othello I found something perfect.

To me, the greatest miracle, the happiest thing, that which moves me most, is the miracle of a change of heart. The miracle of seeing a person change their life completely and become new, through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Therefore, one of the saddest things is to see someone throw away all that is beautiful in life and turn to base things and become despairing. This is exactly what happens to Othello.

At the start of the play Othello is a man who everyone admires and looks up to. He is calm, well-judging, full of intergrity, and good to the core. When he is accused of stealing away Desdemona he doesn't run from his accusators, but has full confidence to answer for himself saying:

Not I, I must be found:
My parts, my title and my perfect soul
Shall manifest me rightly. 

Through the play I was surprised to read as his words became harsh and hurting. He goes from loving his wife completely to physical abuse within days. In the BBC production of the play I watched as he went from being calm and collected at all times to working himself into a raging fit of epilepsy, it was somewhat disturbing.

Nothing is more beautiful than a man changing for the better, and nothing is more tragic than sin and regression to the natural man. by joshcorris
Searching for what other people have to say about this I found a website about the King James Bible. There was a post about the Bible and Othello which gave some very interesting insights. I left a comment on the post and this is what I said. 

"I really enjoy your post here. In my college course on Shakespeare I am doing a study of the play Othello right now and I am assigned to apply it to something important to me in life. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints the King James Bible is very important to us. I really like the connections between Othello and the gospel.

In my blog about Shakespeare I posted about how he uses his plays as a way of teaching the masses about morality, it seems so evident because so many of his plays have such strong religious undercurrents. The ones that you found in Othello were especially intriguing. Especially the one about Iago’s play on words “I am not what I am” being a connection to God. Iago seems to think himself God in the play, judging who should be punished, what lives should be taken, and he has great power over the world of the play Othello. It shows how twisted Iago is to make that allusion. Unfortunately he is all of these without the love and mercy of our Heavenly Father.

Othello as Judas, then that would make Iago Satan who “entered into Judas surnamed Iscariot” (Luke 22:3). This is one of the greatest tragedies Shakespeare wrote about, how a pure honest love could be so tainted and then destroyed as soon as one allows Satan and his lies into their mind. Judas allowing Satan in allowed his love for The Perfect Individual, Jesus Christ, to become tainted until it led to dead, and his subsequent suicide parallels well with Othello’s. This was a very interesting connection you made as well."

Shakespeare was teaching the masses again about how we should be, and letting them learn vicariously the tragedy of sin and jealousy, letting both consume you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Sketching Shakespeare: Love's Labour's Lost

In order to help us better understand Shakespeare my teacher, Dr. Burton, made the suggestion of writing a one sentence summary of each scene as we read them. In another conversation with my professor he told me of a man who made a picture for every page of the book Moby Dick. I thought that this sounded really cool and so decided to combine both of these ideas together.

To draw a sketch for every scene of Shakespeare!

I went home and counted up how many scenes Will wrote and the grand total is...732 scenes and 2 epilouges. To be perfectly honest I don't know if I will complete the whole works of Shakespeare in sketch form but I'm going to do my best.

May I present to you, a play recently finished.
  Love's Labour's Lost

Act 1 Scene 1
So study evermore is overshot
While it doth study to have what it would
It doth forget to do the thing it should
And when it hath the thing it hunteth most
'Tis won as towns with fire, so won, so lost.

Act 1 Scene 2
I will herein confess I am in love; and as it is
base for a soldier to love, so am I in love  with a
base wench. If dreaming my sword against the humor
of affection would deliver me from the reprobate
thought of it, I would take Desire prisoner, and
ransom him to any French courtier for a new-devised
courtesy. I think scorn to sigh: methinks i should
outswear Cupid. Comfort me, boy: What great men
have been in love?

Act 2 Scene 1
'Fair' I give you back again; and 'welcome' I have
not yet. The roof of this court is too high to be
yours: and welcome to the wide fields too
base to be mine.

Act 3 Scene 1
A message well sympathized: a horse to be
ambassador for an ass.

Act 4 Scene 1
A mark marvelous well shot, for they both
did hit it.

Act 4 Scene 2
...As it were...

Act 4 Scene 3
In that each of you have forsworn his book,
Can you still dream and pore and thereon look?
For when would you, my lord, or you, or you,
Have found the ground of study's excellence
Without the beauty of a woman's face?

Act 5 Scene 1
Satis quod Sufficit

Act 5 Scene 2
We are wise girls to mock our
lovers so.

Friday, October 14, 2011

May his pernicious soul rot half a grain a day...

I have never hated anyone more.

This week I got to read the play Othello as well as view a film production on it. I thought about how to approach this and decided to first view the play and then to read it. After all, in Shakespeare's day everyone had to watch the play only, I doubt many people were able to obtain copies of the script to peruse at their own leisure.

I watched the film and LOVED IT!!! Fantastic! I was a little skeptical about a low budget BBC film but the talent of the actors, namely Anthony Hopkins, made it magnificent. I found myself sincerely moved and invested in the play. Totally being pulled into the part I was set to play as the viewer. I didn't know how much I would like the play, but this viewing experience has made it one of my favorites. While it is not my favorite tragedy of Will's, it is the most tragic tragedy.

I then read the script and found that this was a lot of fun after viewing the film. I find when I read before I see a production that I don't really grasp the emphasis in sentences or words. Everyone speaks very calmly and fluidly in my head. I didn't get as lost in the language now that I had seen how these lines were handled. Two lines stuck out to me.

He that is robbed, not wanting what is stolen,
Let him not know 't, and he's not robbed at all.
Othello, 3. 3

Someone who has something taken, if he doesn't know it's missing, he might as well not be robbed at all, he doens't know so it doesn't hurt him. When it is pointed out that something is taken then he falls into sadness and want, for he has "drunk and seen the spider" you might say.

This makes me so sad with Othello because nothing has really been stolen, but he thinks it has and that is enough to make him fly into a destructive rage. This tragedy is worse to me that Romeo and Juliet for example, because the cause of the two hormonal teenage tragedy is their own stupidity. Othello had a wonderful, almost enviable realationship with his wife. It was just as it should be, but due to the evil of a calculating devil, Othello lost it all. That is so tragic.

This brings me to my second line I like. The title of my post today, it is a punishment described for evil Iago. It sounds terrible, but it's still not enough in my opinion. I really detest this man who is nothing but pure evil inside, who can laugh when he sees other human beings tormented.

Elder Holland, says it best for me, "In the tale of Othello and Desdemona the sorrow and destruction is calculated--it is maliciously driven from the beginning. Of all the villains in Shakespeare's writing, and perhaps in all of literature, there is no one I loathe so much as I loathe Iago. Even his name sounds evil to me, or at least it has become so. And what is his evil...Sowing doubt and devilish innuendo, playing on jealousy and deceit and finally murderous rage, Iago provokes Othello into taking Desdemona's life--virtue turned into pitch, goodness twisted into a fatal net."

So, may his pernicious soul rot half a grain a day!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Bloody Beheading?

Shakespeare and the visual arts connect again! 

Judith and Holofernes
I was reading Angela's post about names the other day and it reminded me about a character in Love's Labour's Lost who has an odd name. Holofernes, the school teacher. The name Holofernes is from a character in the Apocrypha. He is a leader of a large army who lays siege to Jerusalem. A ruthless evil man.

The city begins to starve and is about to give in or forsake their God. A young widow named Judith decides to take matters into her own hands. She moves to Holofernes' camp, convinces him she is deserting the city. Holofernes finds himself warm for her form and invites her to dine with him. He gets raging drunk, Judith takes the moment and chops off his head and runs to the city, where she gets the army of Jerusalem and they storm the camp and kill everyone!
This one is my favorite. Painted by Carravagio
(that is his self-portrait as the face of  Holofernes.)

In the art world, there seems to be a period of time to be obsessed with a story and everyone paints it. This same thing happened to the story of Judith and Holofernes.

Now, why did Shakespeare choose this namesake for a schoolteacher in his very light hearted play?

What is going to happen to Holofernes? I'm excited to see this play out.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


In my Shakespeare class I have the assignment of reading Othello. When I saw this I was pretty excited about. A few years ago I was talking to one of my really good friends about Shakespeare and she told me that Othello is her favorite play. I...thought that was weird (everyone loves Hamlet or something else. Nobody says Othello) and so I read a synopsis and planned on reading the play....I never did.

I searched for a synopsis again and some information and found out that Othello is, yet again, a story Shakespeare took from someone else. The original story is "Un Capitano Moro" ("A Moorish Captain") by Cinthio. The play seems pretty complicated and dramatic from the short synopsis I read. Again it is full of deceit and trickery, secrets, and round about ways of discovering them.

I am really interested to read about Iago. First off, his name was used   for a parrot in Disney movie, Aladin, where he also plays a bad guy who has bad advice. Another reason is for what Elder Holland said about him in a talk "How do I love thee", he said, "Of all the villains in Shakespeare's writing, and perhaps in all of literature, there is no one I loathe so much as I loathe Iago. Even his name sounds evil to me, or at least it has become so." I'm really intersted to get into this characters head and figure out why he hates Othello to the point of destroying everything. That's intense.

There are a few film productions I am excited to see. I'm sad to say I don't think I will be viewing Kenneth Branaghs version(in which he plays Iago), but I am excited to view the version with Ian McKellen (who also plays Iago. Why is it that the big name actors play him? Is he going to be more important than the plays namesake?). Gandalf meets Shakespeare.

Also, there is a board game called Othello. I wonder why.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Unwritten Invisible Character in Every Story

The subject of this picture isn't what you see,
but the lens through which this is seen.
The other day in my Shakespeare class we watched a bunch of clips of the "To Be or Not to Be" soliloquy by Hamlet. We observed differences in how the directors or actors gave their own interpretation and what they were trying to say or get across. It made me think about how in every play or movie there is a person that the writer or director has in mind, but cannot directly influence like he does his actors. He has to influence this character through his actors, words, lighting etc. It is a person who is in every movie, who is in every play, who gets to see everything that the characters don't, and who that characters can't see. This unwritten invisible character is the viewer, the spectator of the spectacle.

No one writes a play just to have a bunch of people say lines and move around. The play is written for the audience. Everything that happens in a production is calculated to get an anticipated response out of the viewer. While we, as spectators, have no lines to memorize, or places to stand, there is a part for us to play. It isn't written down and rehearsed, but it is implied and anticipated for us to be taken in and to feel involved in the play or movie. 

When we watch a play production, like A Winters Tale, that I had the opportunity to view recently, the audience and viewers can interact with the actors, and can influence the production. by the responses we give, laughter or booing and so on. The actors can even interact with the audience, say hello to us, throw things at us, grab us and dance with  us, whatever. 

When we view a movie, we play an incredible character. A role that the director forces on the viewer. One that he tries to manipulate to feel certain things and think a certain way. We don't say anything, we can't influence the story in any way, but we are given the role of a powerful avatar that can be anywhere, that is invisible, sees everything, can hear thoughts, can hear music that isn't really there, won't die (what if someone made a movie where the viewer died?). The viewer can be right up in the face of a character (which in real life or a play production would be really awkward and would not produce the same effect) and really see the nuances of their facial expressions and hear the quiet whispers they speak. 

In every production we have a part to play, in a movie, a play, or a book even, we get to be a fly on the wall, we get to become someone else in a story that is not ours, and play a part that is written somewhere, but not on the script.