Thursday, April 14, 2011

Looking Back Over My Work on Hamlet

The time has come for class to end, and for me to evaluate my work here on my blog. It's been fun talking about Hamlet and how Hamlet has been an inspiration and a sort of cultural reference point, and also my less focused topic of Shakespeare and popular culture.

A. Posts: I feel that I have written a respectable number of posts that relate to my topic, and that they tie in pretty well to my Thesis:  "Shakespeare’s play Hamlet has been an inspiration and a source of cultural reference points for the people that have gone before us and it still is for us, the people, now." Most of my posts do have some sort of related image, though most of my posts do not have any other sort of media. I don't know if I could say that I spent a lot of time analyzing primary sources. I do a little bit in my post Ophelia, Her Death as Mad and as Picturesque as Our Imagination Paints It which is probably my best and most varied post. I do spend some time analyzing Hamlet movies and references in a popular TV show, though the actual analysis is not spectacular. I do think that they are formatted well, with useful titles, pagebreaks, and tags. I probably should have rewritten my hub post to incorporate Some Supporting Quotes from the Epilogue of Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare's Hamlet and a further discussion on the article
"Whither Shakespop?" ... though my hub post took me ages and I really did want to rewrite it.

B. Research: I possibly could have done a better job researching. I do think that I eventually reached a fair Thesis and was able to draw support for that Thesis with my own work and the work of my peers. My process is fairly well documented and you can see if you go back through my blog how my thoughts jump from one place to another but dwell most on Hamlet, Popular Culture, and Shakespeare's Legacy, and I did show how I was struggling to come to a coherent thesis in my posts In Search of a Focus and Thesis. I have a sources page where I think all of my resources are gathered, in a style that is not MLA, and most of them are properly linked to something related (if it's a book, it may link to the Amazon page for that book, which is what seemed like the best idea at the time). The last few sources are not linked because of technical difficulties in editing the page.

C. Personal and Social: I feel that my personality and connection to my posts is pretty clear through my side-content, and my voice, and probably my design too. There are posts, which I talked about and linked to in the paragraph above, that were explicitly me talking about my process. My hub post shows a pretty clear connection to my peers.

D. Design: I think my design is good. I like the background, and the side-content, and all of my design. I don't think any of it detracts, and I think some of it, like my tags, should be very useful.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Some Supporting Quotes from the Epilogue of Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare's Hamlet

I found some phrases I really like in the epilogue to the book Approaches to Teaching Shakespeare's Hamlet which is "Cheating Death: The Immortal and Ever-Expanding Universe of Hamlet" by Maria M. Scott.

The first of these great quotes is:  
Perhaps more than any Shakespearean text, Hamlet is embedded in our collective cultural consciousness long before we actually encounter the gloomy Dane in the pages of his play. The question "To be or not to be?" is as over-determined as the direction to "have a nice day." However, the original text has been reinterpreted and retransmitted so many times that what we receive sometimes only vaguely resembles the original message.
This passage is exactly in line with my thesis that Shakespeare has seriously influenced our culture, both serving as an inspiration for new ideas and as a commonly known set of ideas that can be easily referenced.

Another great quote follows close after that one "If the dilemma facing Shakespeare scholars today is that there's just not that much more we can say about him, surely that dilemma is doubly pronounced in relation to Hamlet." This dilemma is one that I sympathize with, since I too was trying to say something about Hamlet, and there is so much already said that anything else just seems superfluous.

There's one more quote from this epilogue that I like and that echoes and reinforces my own ideas about Hamlet and society is "we have the opportunity to show that Hamlet remains relevant as a cultural icon and continues to evolve." Of course, this book is written for teachers as an aid for them, but I think it applies just to the simple studying of the play. "We have the opportunity to [see] that Hamlet remains relevant as a cultural icon and continues to evolve" and that it continues to evolve both in how we view the original text and in how we adapt it and make use of it for new creative performances and works.

So, I like the epilogue to this book, it agrees with me.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Evalutating Mandy's Blog

I was assigned to review Mandy T's blog, The Little Corner of Shakespeare in My Life.

A. Posts: There seems to be a sufficient quantity and quality of posts related to Mandy's focus of Love and Shakespeare. Another post or two linked to in the hub post wouldn't hurt, but everything seems fine. She varies what and how she talks about well enough, though the number of bullet-points kind of got to me after a while. The media is related and the embedded videos are discussed.She also has analysis on different kinds of media, primary, and secondary sources. Her titles tend to be nicely informative, and she doesn't have many posts that exceed a page-length without a jumpbreak. Tags could make it a little easier to visually see what she has been posting about, but she does have a search bar so that you can find key word of your choice.

B. Research: The focus of the blog is made perfectly clear through the hub post, the multitude of thought-gathering posts preceding it, the supporting posts, and the design of the blog. The hub post does a fine job of linking back to posts that support the claim that Shakespeare used his own love life to help him explore love in different situations and circumstances in search of how to best capture the essence of what true love is. The Works Cited page also shows, in nice and properly formatted, all the formal sources Mandy used.

C. Personal &Social: Mandy's personality is all through the blog, in her colorful background, in her sidebar information, and in her posts. She discusses her own learning process... frequently. She also has a lot of friendly discussion in the comments-sections about what she's discovered and where she can go to find more information.

D. Design: I think the overall design of the blog is good, and reflects nicely on both the romance theme and a bright personality. Of the sidebar content only the Pandora struck me as a little non-contributing, though now that I think about it, you could say that the songs up there count as love songs and so fit back to the theme.

Hamlet Shows Shakspeare's Long-Lasting Cultural Effect

Pondering the Definitions of Popular Culture, Again.

What is Popular Culture? The definition in “The Introduction” by Stuart Gillespie and Neil Rhodes to Shakespeare and Elizabethan Popular Culture seems like a good definition to me “cultural products created of the people… for the people.” But who are “the people?” In this introduction they say that “citizens and yeomen were frequently were frequently classed together as ‘the middling sort of people’, divided between town and country and it is these groups rather than those who ‘have no voice nor authority in our commonwealth as Smith puts it, who would usually have been referred to as ‘the people’.” To me, this is an insufficient definition of “the people.” Everyone, from the Queen down to “those who ‘have no voice nor authority’” are people and are therefore part of “the people.” Sometimes it is useful to look at the different aspects of a culture, the types of literature that make it into textbooks, films that win awards and praise while being perhaps a little too aware of their own artsy-ness and other praise-able qualities, art that is found in museums, to the generally enjoyed books, movies, and TV… and other aspects of a culture that are less snobby and may or may not have plenty of their own merits. Shakespeare wrote for and was appreciated by the snobby elite and the groundlings and the in-betweens of his own day, and he has returned (if he ever left) from the realms of the snobby elite to being accessible and enjoyable to all of the people from the snobby elites to the couch potatoes. Shakespeare’s play Hamlet has been an inspiration and a source of cultural reference points for the people that have gone before us and it still is for us, the people, now.

Monday, April 4, 2011


My current thesis and conclusion are:

Shakespeare is still popular in popular culture, the kind of culture that is of the people and for the people, but he belongs not just to the popular or just to the high-brow but he can be found comfortably fitting in throughout our culture as a cultural reference point and an inspiration for new art and literature and this can be best seen in his best-known play, Hamlet.

Is this a good or a bad thing? "Does familiarity breed contempt?" (which is a question asked and discussed in “Introduction: whither Shakespop? Taking stock of Shakespeare in popular culture” which I intend to talk more about soon) Perhaps, but most of the people who despise it now, would still, I think, not appreciate it without all of the cultural strings attached, without the “decontextualized appropriations solely for commercial gain”(another quote from Wither Shakespop) and without all the parodies. I don’t necessarily think that everything that’s attached itself to Shakespeare is good, or anything of the sort, but I do think that new interpretations and spins inspired from and working off of Shakespeare’s work themselves benefit from using Shakespeare as a source and that they can also benefit a study of Shakespeare’s works by breathing new life into the old texts.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Reference to Hamlet in General Conference

Today I was pleasantly surprised to hear Elder Lynn G. Robbins in the 181 Session of General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints quote Hamlet's famous soliloquy "To be or not to be" and to hear him say that this is actually a very important question and base the rest of his talk on the importance of being and doing good. Shakespeare's best writing is still awesome, applicable, quotable, and well enough known and liked that quoting him is at times the best way to say something.

So, we have an answer to that old question, and the answer is "Be".

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Shattered Mirror is Multi-faceted

One of the most interesting, though perplexing, images in David Tennant (and Patrick Stewart and Penny Downie)'s Hamlet was this broken mirror. I recognized that it was probably an important symbol but I didn't bother trying to figure it out until today. I've come up with several theories now though. My favourite one connects to my general interest in Shakespeare, especially Hamlet, in the eyes of Popular Culture; Hamlet is one of the best remembered of Shakespeare's plays, but people remember it in very different ways and not always clearly.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Search of a Focus

I'm afraid that I don't really know what the focus of my research is. I've tried to concentrate largely on Shakespeare and his relation to popular culture, or to culture in general, and I have found Shakespeare in many places.

So far I've discussed how: in both the movie and the book versions of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility MaryAnne and Willoughby quote Shakespeare's sonnets, I remember quite a few references or allusions to Romeo and Juliet, I found that the British TV show Doctor Who has an entire episode relating to The Shakespeare Code and a TV charity called Comic Relief had a comedy skit with both Doctor Who jokes and Shakespeare jokes,  a simple google search of the phrase "all the world's a stage" turned up tons of hits in all sorts of places, in Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov I found more than one reference though I've only yet written about the first instance, and even the names of Uranus's moons are Shakespeare-themed. I've looked into how Shakespeare was influenced by the popular culture of his own time, and the example of the similarities between Hamlet and Tom a Lincoln.

I've found myself slowly drawn towards Hamlet, as I've found connections between that play and life. In the same class discussion which led to my post on Justice and Mercy about The Merchant of Venice, we talked about Hamlet and the Reformation. I've watched two different film adaptations which each connected to other ideas that interest me (such as fanfiction to Branagh's in a vague way which really had more to do with the play than anything particular and Doctor Who to Tennant's though Jessica's post does a better job of showing the connections). I've done two posts on Ophelia on impulses, the second one spinning off an insignificant painting in the first. But I have become rather interested in the characters of Hamlet and Ophelia, what influenced their creation and how they've influenced people (mostly writers of one sort or another) and become an allusion to illustrate ideas.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

David Tennant's Hamlet, and what I thought

I've just finished watching the David Tennant version of Hamlet. As you may know, David Tennant played The Doctor, in the Doctor Who TV show, which is why I was interested to see this version. There were a couple of things that struck me as I watched it.

1. It's exceedingly odd to see David Tennant playing somebody who is not The Doctor. When he first shows up on screen his hair is all... brushed back and too neat and tidy looking, though he soon musses it up and it looks natural again. Also, sometimes his facial expressions would throw me off when he'd make some expression that I associate with The Doctor.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Was Ophelia Ever There At All

Was Ophelia ever really there? I was suddenly struck yesterday that you could easily argue that this picture here, which I had just put up on my recent post about Ophelia because it's mildly interesting looking, gets to a potent point of the absence of the actual Ophelia.

Ophelia allowed her father to control her, then she went mad, and then she died off-stage. Where was Ophelia, and Ophelia's mind and will, in any of this?  It's almost like all there was to her was innocence, maidenhood, death by drowning, and her not being there and in control in any of the crucial moments of her life and death throughout everything we see of her in the play.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shakespeare in the Sky

Most of the planets, constellations, and heavenly bodies we see in the sky through our telescopes are named after the gods, goddesses, heroes, and heroines of the old classics, mostly the old Roman classics. But there are also some heavenly bodies out there that are named after Shakespeare's characters (Pope's too, but who cares?). The planet Uranus has 27 moons, or satellites, named Cordellia, Ophelia, Bianca, Cressida, Desdemona, Juliet, Portia, Rosalind, Mab, Belinda, Perdita, Puck, Cupid, Miranda, Francisco, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, Oberan, Caliban, Stephano, Trinculo, Sycorax, Margaret, Prospero, Setebos, and Ferdinand. Most of these moons are very very small.

But they are there, and the fact that they were named mostly after Shakespearean characters shows that while most heavenly bodies are named after the old classical traditions, Shakespeare is part of an important tradition too.

This picture is one I got from the Astronomy Picture of the Day site, which has lots of lovely astronomy pictures and information.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ophelia, Her Death as Mad and as Picturesque as Our Imagination Paints It

Discovery in Unrelated Reading

Today I was reading Brothers Karamazov for one of my other classes (Honors 202, a Civ 2 class, called The Bible in Western Literary Tradition) and I was surprised to find a Shakespeare reference. At the bottom of the first page and the top of the second in Part One, Book One, there is an interesting passage
And so she died, entirely to satisfy her own whim, and to be like Shakespeare's Ophelia. If this precipice, a chosen and favorite spot of hers, had been less picturesque, if there had been a prosaic flat bank in its place, most likely the suicide would have never taken place. This is a fact, and there probably have been a few similar cases in the last two or three generations.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

All the World's a Stage, and Everybody Knows That

After a lengthy discussion with my mother about how common some of Shakespeare's phrases have become in our culture I did a google search for the phrase "all the worlds a stage" and with the advanced option asked it to exclude the word Shakespeare. I got 11,600,000 results. The hits were as varied as can be. There were blogs (like Joanna's but not hers), theatre groups, and ad for World of Warcraft, a book titled "All the World's a Stage", a NASA article about the movement of dust across the world, an announcement of an art exhibit for a museum, random news, a wiki-page for a book about Tom Cruise with "All the World's a Stage" as part of the title, and that's not even all the types of things that showed up on the first two pages. High-brow, low-brow, its a phrase that has permeated every level of our culture.

The painting is a James Christensen painting called "All the World's a Stage" and is one of my favourite paintings. I even liked it before I found that it also happens to be the first image that shows up when you search that phrase.

I also noticed today this line is very close and most likely the inspiration for the description Prakash Raj, one of the Indian actors I follow on Twitter, has for himself "The world is also a stage."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Dr. Who, Shakespeare, and Popular Culture

I like connections. I like connections between the literature and culture of Shakespeare’s time, and his work, and I like finding how people have played with Shakespeare’s work ever since. One of the most fun connections between Shakespeare and popular culture that I’ve run across recently is the Dr. Who episode “The Shakespeare Code.” Dr. Who is an important part of modern British pop culture, and Shakespeare has been an important part of the culture for a long time, seeing the episode play with the quotes and allusions to Shakespeare's life and works (as well as to other cultural references) is great fun whenever there's a new reference that you catch.

Wikipedia has a long list of the references to Shakespeare and his work in their article on “The Shakespeare Code” episode.  Some of my favourite references are described here
There is a running joke throughout the episode in which the Doctor creates an apparent ontological paradox by inspiring Shakespeare to borrow phrases that the Doctor quotes from his plays. Examples of this include the Doctor telling Shakespeare that "all the world's a stage" (from As You Like It) and "the play's the thing" (from Hamlet), as well as the name Sycorax from The Tempest. However, when Shakespeare himself coins the phrase "To be or not to be", the Doctor suggests he write it down, but Shakespeare considers it "too pretentious". In a different version of the joke, the Doctor exclaims "Once more unto the breach", and Shakespeare initially likes the phrase, before realizing it is one of his own from Henry V, which was probably written in early 1599.
 I feel like I ought to be doing some analyzing here, but I'm not quite sure how you analyze something like this. I do see that Shakespeare taking up so much time in a popular modern TV show episode is both proof that people still, to some degree, appreciate Shakespeare and also that seeing the Shakespeare references gives them a new way to appreciate and remember his works.

The Comic Relief skit is another occasion of these two aspects of British culture intersecting, on a different TV show.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hamlet and Tom a Lincoln

I've recently been thinking about Shakespeare and Popular culture, both the popular culture of Shakespeare's day (the culture of the people, manifested in various ways) and though unrelated to this post the popular culture of today. In one of the chapters of Shakespeare and Elizabethan Popular Culture David Margolies suggests that Hamlet may be a bit of a remake of another well-liked revenge play of the day called Hamlet and that a book, or a work of fiction, called Tom a Lincoln by Richard Johnson may have added "new significance."(pg 125) I don't really understand, though, how a book described as "being shallow and disconnected" (Pg. 125) could add that significance. If we knew more about the original Hamlet then it would be a lot easier to say.

There are similarities between the two stories.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pondering Definitions of Popular Culture

Last week I checked out a book from the Library called Shakespeare and Elizabethan Popular Culture and read the introduction and one of the chapters (Shakespeare's Clowns). It's a bit of a slow read, but probably the most difficult part was just wrapping my mind around the definition of popular culture they were using "cultural products created ... of the people... cultural expressions of the people themselves. [Including] the dramatic enactment of Bible stories, the festive rituals associated with holidays, clowning, old romances told around a winter's fire and other products of oral tradition such as proverbs, ballads and songs." (pg 1).

I'm more used to popular culture being in the movies we watch, the music we listen to, religion, and school, or even the definition "contemporary lifestyle and items that are well known and generally accepted, cultural patterns that are widespread within a population; also called pop culture." The actual meanings of these definitions are pretty similar, it just took me a while to relate them.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Little Something

I've been watching some Dr. Who, a very funny British Sci-fi series, recently, and so one of my roommates showed me this very funny comedy skit with two of the main actors from that show and it's just chock full of Dr. Who and Shakespeare references. So, I thought I'd share it with you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Personal Evaluation

1. Learning Outcomes—Well, I’m working on them. I try and make some connection to the learning outcomes with every post, and between the posts. I’ve put tags on my posts to help organize and show what I’ve been doing, though it is by no means perfectly labeled. I haven't posted as much as I should have, and I haven't done much real analysis yet.

2. I’ve read Hamlet, Merchant of Venice, Richard III, Romeo and Juliet, and The Winter’s Tale. I’ve also read some outside history and a critical theory, and lots of blog posts.

3. Links and connections—I have a few links to my own posts and to some others that I’ve appreciated. I also do make a few explicit connections to other learning, learners, and non-Shakespeare texts. 

4. I’ve gotten most excited about the history around the history play, and the stories have been built from and that could be built from the things I’ve read. I enjoyed watching Hamlet and reading Romeo and Juliet (and hearing the echoes of countless references). I like finding links, mental links from one story to another and from life to fiction and back to someone else’s life. That’s what’s the most fun. As far as how this might affect my life-long learning, I’d say that I’ll be continuing to look back to Shakespeare and other great works of literature and historical things for inspiration and spice for my own creative writing, as well as just having fun reading them.

5. I liked my Feeling Hamlet-Like? post, just because it was fun. But as to what my best work has been… I think I agree with Brooke in her evaluation that Justice and Mercy and my Rambling History were probably my best posts, they have inter-textuality, socialness, and proof that I did a bit more reading than just the plays.

6. Jessica V. has made my experience better, by making nice, encouraging, stimulating comments. I’ve also appreciated her post of ideas for posts, which I haven’t yet used, but the idea that there is a list of ideas is an encouraging thought. Brooke R has also helped out by setting up a performance that I can join. Martin M.’s blog has also been very entertaining… I enjoyed Scrambled is the Head That Wears the Crown.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Reviewing Sara's

19 very substantial posts. They are substantial, in depth, focused on the learning outcomes, and the whole nine yards. I remember Professor Burton has mentioned several of these posts as exemplary such as “I just interviewed Ian Mckellen!” post and the “An Actor’s Point of View” post. If I were to make a suggestion, the only thing I could say is to make a smaller lighter post every once in a while. It’s kind of intimidating looking. But, that’s just me. I think Sara seems to be doing exactly what we’re supposed to be doing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Taming Romeo?

Before I started reading Romeo and Juliet, I looked at a few articles of literary criticism on it. One of the ones which interested me most was an article The taming of Romeo in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet discussing Juliet taking charge and “simulating maleness” to sort of tame Romeo and use him as a way of escaping from her own trapped social position. It was a very gendered reading and it rather annoyed me. I was rather annoyed at the author saying that Juliet was acting male because she was realistic and to the point.

He says that he believes that Juliet “demonstrates her independence and masculine mindset” and that “[Shakespeare] inverts the gender roles, making Juliet engage in behavior usually exclusive to men.” He backs this up with the falcon imagery. Juliet is likened to the falconer, and Romeo to the falcon, though normally falconers are male, and the falcons used were female. I kind of see this, since I do see the passages he points out—the clear references such as “O for a falconer’s voice / to lure this tassel-gentle back again”(II. 2. 158-159) and also the references to Romeo being in the dark (like a hooded falcon)—so I do see the falcon imagery that Mansour is talking about here. Mostly I just don’t like him saying that this means that Juliet is “simulating maleness” as he says or even that “Juliet demonstrates her skill at mastering Romeo.”

Also, Mansour talked about Juliet being the falconer related to the earthbound and limited state of women at the time, and that this relates to her being rational and less flighty and speaking in “Juliet does not take wing in her words as Romeo does.” Perhaps, in this scene this is true, but during other parts of the play Juliet certainly has long and beautiful speeches and is just as melodramatic as Romeo is.

It was an interesting article.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What I Think of....

...When I Think of Romeo and Juliet.

I've never read Romeo and Juliet before, but I feel well acquainted with the story. Of all of Shakespeare's plays, this one seems to have worked its way most thoroughly into many different levels of culture.

The first thing I think of when I think Romeo and Juliet is "cliche".

The second thing I think of is a movie called The Magical Legend of the Leprechauns. Despite the frame story dominated with annoying humans, I enjoyed this imaginative Romeo and Juliet retelling.

Then I think of West-Side Story and the Hindi version Josh (I've only seen the Hindi version).

While thinking about Indian references I think of a song in the first Telugu movie I ever watched, Bommarillu.

Also, Romeo and Juliet was also the play the characters in the second Hindi film I ever watched, (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai) were studying in their English class.

As far as books I've read... Romeo and Juliet is also referenced in the second Twilight book, New Moon. She actually makes an interesting question "what if" question based on the play.

Another book I've read which is fairly clearly inspired by Romeo and Juliet is Son of the Mob. Where a mob boss's son falls in love with the daughter of a police chief (or perhaps it was a detective, I don't remember anymore).

But this is not even a significant fraction of different places Romeo and Juliet have gone. It's just a few of the first things I think of when I think of Romeo and Juliet.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Merchant of Venice, Star Wars Edition

I’m thinking about writing a fanfiction story using the basic plot of The Merchant of Venice, altered slightly, and adapting it to the characters and setting of Star Wars, with Obi-Wan having Antonio’s part, Anakin having Bassanio’s, Padme having Portia’s, one of the handmaid’s having Nerissa’s, and perhaps Asajj Ventress having Shylock’s... etc. It could be fun. It might even work.