Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Official End?

My reading of Shakespeare won't end, but this blog will probably end for a while. I just graduated from college, I've undertaken a job and I've been busy getting written works published, so there's a chance I probably won't be working on this blog for quite a while. I did leave an "end post" at the end of the 2008 Shakespeare class, but I will give this blog the "official ending."

I thank Linda for her help on the blog and to Dr. Clemente who showed me the ropes to making effective blog posts. I know I won't stop blogging in the future, but for now, I will need to concentrate on new interests and tasks.

Till then, goodbye for now...

- Kristopher

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"Othello's" Star Schemer is...

So...can anyone list off one of Shakespeare's most insidious (and complex) villains to grace the stage? Don John the Bastard? Right, right, the "sinister" level based on his namesake is laughable. Puck? He's as antagonistic as a housefly harassing a trash can. The Three Weird Sisters? Fairly insidious but too ominous to really cause damage. Lady Macbeth? Pretty close but the wife of the troubled title protagonist is still beaten at the "Star Schemer" spot. Caliban? Oh sure, he's a vicious character who does bad things but he ends up being pitied more than despised.

No, ladies and gentlemen. I believe one of Shakespeare's greatest villains is also a character who followed through the course of creation in the same area as Sir John Falstaff of King Henry IV Part I and Shylock of The Merchant of Venice. He's a character who gained a life of his own that he stole the pen away from the Bard himself!

That villain, on the subject of Othello, would be none other than the infamous Iago. I believe no other villain in Shakespeare's writings would have single handedly manipulate the protagonist towards tragedy. Iago is a racist and a sexist whose sinister nature allows him to use his cunning to the fullest. He has more lines than the other characters in Othello and rival's the title character's presence.
But what would motivate Iago to move as the antagonist? At first when I read the play, Iago appears to feel he was denied promotion from his general, Othello. Other people who studied Iago have come up with their own reasons why he enjoys trickery and emotional destruction (homosexual love for Othello, sadistic tendencies, high intelligence, etc.) but Shakespeare I believe wrote Iago initially to play the role of the hand that manipulates the scenes. If Iago were observed on a level outside his character and persona, he would symbolically resemble Fate's cruel hand moving events towards the worse for Othello and company.
Iago is highly successful in his mission to ruin lives and possibly has more reasons for revenge other than his role and and bigoted, jealous personality. We can see how Othello might have been viewed as an outsider for his time based on Moorish roots and why Iago, ironically his trusted ensign, could be racist due to his superior receiving more respect and acclaim. Yet could Iago had more reasons for possessing so much hatred and destroying the lives of everyone around him? The reader is free to interpret and decide.

Many actors have portrayed the vile Iago. Andy Serkis, best known for portraying Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, gave his take and interpretation on the villain:

"There are a million theories to Iago's motivations, but I believed that Iago was once a good soldier, a great man's man to have around, a bit of a laugh, who feels betrayed, gets jealous of his friend, wants to mess it up for him, enjoys causing him pain, makes a choice to channel all his creative energy into the destruction of this human being, and becomes completely addicted to the power he wields over him. I didn't want to play him as initially malevolent. He's not the devil. He's you or me feeling jealous and not being able to control our feelings."

Iago in a way is tormented by his desire for power and revenge:

"It seems not meet, nor wholesome to my place,
To be producted-as, if I stay, I shall-
Against the Moor. For I do know the state,
However this may gall him with some check,
Cannot with safety cast him; for he's embarked
With such loud reason to the Cyprus wars,
Which even now stands in act, that for their souls
Another of his fathom they have none
To lead their business; in which regard
Though I do hate him as I do hell pains,
Yet, for necessity of present life,
I must show out a flag and sign of love,
Which is indeed but sign. That you shall surely find him..."

Iago gives out several monologues expressing his intentions, but he also subtlely conceals them through speech:

"And what's he then that says I play the Villain?" Apparently, Iago enjoys his vengeance a little too much!

So Iago plans his revenge against Othello which succeeds in many ways:
- Iago plans for Othello to demote Michael Cassio who earned the higher promotion instead. He manipulates Cassio into a drunken fight securing his demotion. He also plots another fight for Cassio to "lose," only this time it is against Rodrigo. Rodrigo ends up dying by Cassio's hand while Cassio suffers an injury.

- Iago's greatest offense comes from convincing Othello that his beloved wife Desdemona had been having an affair with Cassio behind the general's back. Iago has his wife Emilia steal Desdemona's handkerchief away. Iago misinforms Othello that Desdemona's handkerchief was given to Cassio, instigating an idea of the false affair. Othello ends up accusing Desdemona of sleeping around behind his back and smothers his wife with a pillow. Desdemona's death and uncovering her innocence drives Othello to despair and suicide, allowing Iago's revenge to conclude in a full bitter circle.

The reason why Iago is a great villain in Othello (and the greatest villain in Shakespeare's rogue's gallery) is because Iago possesses the capability of existing with us right now in this crazy twenty-first century. There will be a great figure utilizing great power with another figure below to plot the power house's demise. There will just be that person who will always hatch a plan when no one expect it to happen, who will escape suspicion while causing significant physical and emotional damage in the long run. Iago will remain fresh in people's minds as he is a villain who may endure for years to come.

P.S.: I have also decided to show a video to further illustrate Iago's villainy. This guy in the video recites Iago's dialogue from Act I Scene II in Othello. All I have to say is that the fedora and the cigarette make nice touches to this interpretation of Iago's malice.
- Kristopher

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Othello - A Tragedy Currently in Reading

I've covered most of William Shakespeare's well known plays but I have only begun to uncover Othello. Othello tells a story of the main protagonist under siege from racial discrimination, personal insecurity and betrayal. The tragedy is based on a short story by Italian novelist and poet Giovanni Battista Giraldi, also known as Cinthio.

Othello is a Christian Moor who is highly renowned as a general fighting against the Turks for the Venetian military. He is secretly married to the beautiful Desdemona, the daughter of Senator Brabantio. The antagonist is Othello's advisor Iago, whose mix of jealousy, bigotry and sinister cunning help drive Othello's life into the dust.

For now, Othello, its characters and themes will be under study in "Much Ado About Nothing and Everything Else Shakespearean." I shall end this note with a quote from the infamous Iago:

"The Moor, howbeit that I endure him not,
Is of a constant, loving, noble nature,
And I dare think he'll prove to Desdemona
A most dear husband. Now I do love her too;
Not out of absolute lust, though peradventure
I stand accountant for as great a sin,
But partly led to diet my revenge,
For that I do suspect the lusty Moor
Hath leaped into my seat, the thought whereof
Doth, like a poisonous mineral, gnaw my inwards,
And nothing can or shall content my soul
Till I am evened with him, wife for wife;
Or failing so, yet that I put the Moor
At least into a jealousy so strong
That judgement cannot cure. Which thing to do,
If this poor trash of Venice, whom I trace
For his quick hunting, stand the putting on,
I'll have our Michael Cassio on the hip,
Abuse him to the Moor in rank garb
(For I fear Cassio with my nightcap too),
Make the Moor thank me, love me, and reward me
For making him egregiously an ass
And practicing upon his peace and quiet
Even to madness. 'Tis here, but yet confused:
Knavery's plain face is never seen till used."

Ah, this quote alone appears to set the dark tone of the play. So I shall venture in and see what tragedy unfolds!

- Kristopher

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Titania and the Foolhardiness in her Wake

Well, it has been quite a while since I have posted anything on this blog! There is a lot more to Shakespeare than what we explored in the class and the blog can serve a continuing interest.
One character from A Midsummer Night's Dream that I thought of covering is Titania. The queen of the fairies, Titania is regal in her manners and appearance. She goes against Oberon, the King of the Fairies, to secure an Indian boy in her care. For a while Titania has the edge over Oberon...or does she?

Oberon's edge is Puck, whose mischievous nature manipulate's a donkeyfied Nick Bottom to fall for Titania. So why would the Queen of the Fairies ball for a buffoon now officially an ass? Because Puck inserted magical juice from a flower into her eyelids.

Titania's "romantic" relationship with Bottom appears to parody both the rich and poor. The extreme stereotypes of the self-righteous rich and the self-righteous poor are brought together, much to he humor of the audience!

As far as Shakespeare's female characters go, I would consider Titania is among the least developed. She does not appear to have any strong woes or complications save for safeguarding the Indian boy away from the fairy king. That does not mean she is a "useless" character. The relationship between Bottom and Titania can mirror the comedies involving the average looking dude and the beautiful woman. There's Something About Mary, A Fish Called Wanda and any Woody Allen comedy featuring the bumbling guy trying to get the vixen with success.

In Bottom's case however, his fun with Titania is assumed as a dream.

Titania, like other Shakespearian characters, has touched onto popular culture. The largest moon orbiting the planet Uranus is named after the Queen of the Fairies. The animated TV show Gargoyles also features Titania as a character.

- Kristopher

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Globe Theatre - Shakespeare's Grand Audience Chamber

Shakespeare would have had his large uniplex back in the day with the Globe Theatre. It is an iconic building where Shakespeare's plays were performed to thousands of people. The theatre was not just a theatre in itself, but it was also supposed to be a brothel and gambling house. Like any good movie theatre, merchandise and refreshments were offered.

Before the Globe Theatre, there was simply The Theater constructed in Shoreditch, London in 1576. The owner of the theater was James Burbage who had to deal with an expired twenty-one year old lease. The grounds landlord, Giles Allen, had no taste for theater whatsoever. This prompted the landlord to close it down and capitalize on the building materials. But Burbage spotted a clause that stated he could dismantle the theater on his own. So Burbage and the acting troupe moved the materials over to Bankside in Southwark. The troupe itself was responsible to carrying the wood across the River Thames!

In 1597-1598, the Globe Theatre as we know it was constructed by carpenter Peter Smith and his company. Other theaters sprouted before the Globe, such as Hope Theatre and Rose Theatre. The Globe became the most famous. The Globe's fame was attributed back in its heyday where plays were in constant demand and money was to be made from them. Thousands flocked to the theatre, for attending the latest play would have been a colorful event indeed! The flags on the top of the Globe were a form of advertising, the color of the flag indicating what sort of play would be performed. A black flag would be a tragedy, a white flag would be a comedy and the red flag indicated a history play (To me, this method appears similiar to how pirates signaled their malice by placing either white or black flag on their ships!). Commoners in the audience would sit on the floor while the rich sat in chairs.

On June 29th, 1613 a fire broke out in the Globe. The culprit was the cannon used for special effects, which the gunpowder set flame on the thatch roof. The Globe was rebuilt a year later, referred to as "Globe 2." In 1644, the Globe was demolished again by the Puritans. The Puritans with their religious beliefs believed theatre to be a sinful form of entertainment. After the Globe's second destruction, it was never rebuilt again. The old Globe site was found in the 20th century and rebuilt on the same spot.

For more of an overview of the Globe, click here.
- Kristopher

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Thanks, for the memories!

My little additions to our GREAT Blog in Shakespeare hardly seems worthy of any praise compared to the unrelenting and marvelous work that my partner, Kristopher Miller( remember that name, Fame!), did on this project. I am nothing without him! I must give credit where credit is due. (I wonder if that was one of Shakespeare's great lines?!) This was so much fun! I loved reading all of the other blogs from fellow classmates and must say that they were all wonderful.

Dr. Clemente's Shakespeare class was the best, and was the highlight of this semester for me. My other five classes didn't "hold a candle" (Shakespeare's phrase?) to my Shakespeare class. Not only did I read great Shakespearean plays I had never had the opportunity to enjoy before, but the rewards from the readings are enormous ones for me, too many to speak of now.

I will be graduating in the fall of 2008 and probably will not have any more classes on the main campus at Peru after this week, so, farewell to all of the wonderful people I have met there along the way, as well as those of you who have shared with me the enjoyment of Dr. Clemente's Shakespeare class.

"Fair thee well," Kris, Dr. Clemente, and friends. "When shall we meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain? When the hurley- burley's done (Macbeth)."

OOOOH! Witchcraft!

Who doesn't love a scary story from time to time? Shakespeare has a way of incorporating scary characters in most of his plays, comedies and tragedies, keeping his readers entertained as well as on the edge of their seats. There are ghosts appearing in both Hamlet and Macbeth, dark fairies and a crazy, scary little guy named Puck in A Mid Summer's Night's Dream, and Caliban, the deformed slave, along with many, many spirits are found in the Tempest. How much fun is that!

But, for me, the Weird Sisters in Macbeth are my favorite scary and chilling characters of all the Shakespearean plays. How many times did I repeat "Double, Double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble," as a child when playing witches or on Halloween fifty some years ago saying over and over, "Something wicked this way comes," having absolutely no idea where those phrases came from or when I first heard them said?

Shakespeare had not only added brightly colored phrases from his ingenious plays to the English Language, but caused a small child to embrace and add vivid imagery to her simple speech! Thank you, Shakespeare, where ever you are, for that. .........Linda

Mr. and Mrs. Macbeth: Evil is as Evil Does

Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who is the Evilest one of all? Macbeth or his wife? The answer lies with whether one is talking about the beginning or the ending of Shakespeare's tragic play, "Macbeth."

Of course, love is rather blinding to the weaker in a relationship and it sets the stage for all kinds of manipulation by the stronger personality. In this case, the stronger of the two being Lady Macbeth, who also is the Evilest of the two in the beginning of the play. Lady Macbeth taunts Macbeth about doing deeds that will truly make him a man, convincing him to kill Duncan.

Her lust for power is more than ambitious, it is EVIL! Poor Macbeth had misguided ambition from that point on, getting a taste for power more and more after each killing. In the end, he became the greatest villian. I find it hard to believe that in one of the greatest Shakespeare tragedies ever written, one so evil as Lady Macbeth could so quickly get a conscience and go so 'mad' and die so abruptly. Justice? On the other hand, poor misguided Macbeth continued his quest for kingship though murder after murder, with madness on top of madness, until the mirror broke from his reflection. .......Linda

Sunday, April 27, 2008

'Tis Been Fun...

I have enjoyed Shakespeare class for it gave me a whole new perpsective on Shakespeare and how he worked on his plays and sonnets. The class also exposed me to plays that I have never read before (Much Ado About Nothing was a surprise hit with me), or what I have always been wanting to take a glimpse at (King Lear, The Tempest).

The class in Shakespeare had another shining highlight to it: an opportunity to learn how to work with a blog. I have not used a blog before Shakespeare class and it gave me a new perspective on blogs as a whole. I know that blogs can be used for more than just personal purposes. If there is a subject that interests me and if I want to comment on it, I can make a blog exploring the subject. It is fun to use a blog overall; the ability to apply hyperlinks, photos, graphics, videos and other stuff onto posts makes for an engaging experience. It is satisfying when people look at your blog and are impressed by the work you have put together.

Creating a blog for Shakespeare made me realize how many websites there are on Shakespeare and his works. There are literally hundreds of, if not thousands or more, sites devoted to critical analyses on the plays, their characters and what influenced Shakespeare to write the way he did. Looking over famous quotes that have been used in other media, such as movies, comics, etc., has made me realize on how much of a cultural impact Shakespeare made into the English language and global culture as a whole.

Countries which do not have English as an initial language such as Japan and Russia have made their own versions of Shakespeare's plays. Russia has its King Lear. Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa filmed Throne of Blood and Ran, both adaptations of Macbeth and King Lear respectively. It is amazing how one culture who speaks one language influences another that speaks an entirely different language, as Shakespeare's stories have elements that everyone can relate to.

Making the Shakespeare blog has given me a new appreciation for Shakespeare. I hope to keep "Much Ado About Nothing and Everything Else Shakespearean" running with sonnets and plays not explored in the class.

I would like to thank my partner, Linda, for helping me out with the blog and the video performance. I know she has not been able to make as many posts as I had, but her commentary on different plays were welcome.

'Tis been fun!

- Kristopher