Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Gathering of Riddles

This is mainly for anyone that might be wandering over from Facebook via my post. My Shakespeare class here at BYU is approaching the world and literature of the Bard in a new way: the Digital Way. This blog is apart of it, but now I have to get technical! We're going to be writing a research paper that includes information that we've posted and gathered via digital-socializing, which is where you lovely Facebook people come in!

I'm most likely going to be writing about riddles, not only in works by Shakespeare but literature as a whole. Modern media also counts, because it starts with a script (a.k.a., the written word, thus making it literary). I need to gather examples of literature and media that uses riddles, which is how you can help. Either here or on Facebook, please leave a post about the piece of literature and/or media that you are thinking of. They can be related to Shakespeare (one of his plays), from olden times (such as before 1900 a.d. or even 1300 a.d.), or anything modern. Also, try to be specific as possible: if you use an episode from a TV show, try and find out the episode title, air date, season number, etc.

Just so that you are aware, I already have at least a few examples, so please don't repeat these:

1. The Hobbit
2. Harry Potter
3. Batman--The Riddler

In a previous post (scroll down) I've talked about how Harry Potter and the Riddler are applicable, if you want to check it out. I really appreciate any help I get with this, and I'd love if you'd keep checking in on my progress. Thanks! Cortnie

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Venice and Riddles

The Merchant of Venice is certainly a new, nerve-racking experience for me. Unlike Henry V, which I studied in high school, and The Tempest, which I've done costuming for in the past, Merchant is foreign territory for me. It's somewhat like standing at the lip of the airplane doorway waiting to try skydiving for the first time: you know it'll be fun and new and DEFINITELY interesting, but right now it's down-right TERRIFYING!!!

So in an effort to dispel some of my initial trepidation about the play, I started with some basic prereading on Wikipedia. Most of the synopsis was simple, an outlining of the plot and a brief character manifesto that included a few of the different themes the play had to offer. I did find it interesting, however, that the plot synopsis went into a fair amount of detail about the riddle that Portia's father put in to play. It contained each of the characters that tried to win her hand by way of the chests, as well as the rhymes located within each casket. It was a great attention-getter, as riddles are.

Well, the riddle got me thinking about past literature and modern media. I mean, the first thought that popped into my head was Odysseus facing the challenge of stringing his own bow to win his own wife's hand. That was also a riddle with an unlikely solution. And, just like Odysseus, the prize that Bassanio sought was that of a woman. Shakespeare may have been doing a bit of adapting himself.

Of course, the idea of a riddle is not entirely unheard of. Take today, for instance. I can think of at least three examples where puzzles are used in modern media and literature. One I'm sure you will all recognize is in Harry Potter: Harry has to answer the sphinx question (Spoiler alert: it's a spider!) in order to reach the ultimate prize. Another is from Batman. Albeit the idea's a bit cheesy, but hello? The Riddler? Not only is he in the comics (the epitome of modern literature), but he was also in that really dorky adaption of the Batman.... Batman Forever, I think. As for the media, many of the recent crime dramas like to take at least one stab at a home-made serial killer. More often than not, they turn to signature pieces and misleading puzzles in order to portray an intriguing psychopath.

So riddles seem like something to work with. Hopefully I'll have a bit more luck finding scholarship on this than I did on Fluellen... As for a hook: Which of the poetic-answers/riddle-answers do you think would be the most titillating to look into and/or analyze?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Henry V Scholarship: Fluellen

I meant to have the scholarship about Henry V and Fluellen posted a few days ago, but I've honestly had a bit of trouble finding anything. It appears that most scholars label the Welshman as the figure of "ethnicity and Welsh pride" represented in the play, and leave it at that. Well, that wasn't enough for me. I finally found a few different articles that seemed to perform at least SOMETHING of an analysis on Fluellen; I thought I'd post a brief annotation about each one and then provide you the links. They each differ on topic and opinion of Fluellen's worth, so it would probably be hard to pull a research paper out of these, but they are still interesting reads.

The first is actually one I found for Alicia--she noted the strangeness of Fluellen's name and suggested looking up some of its origin. Well, I didn't find anything to do with the Flu or with an Ellen (or a female character at all), but this article does have a number of great historical insights to the Welsh name. The author states that Fluellen's name is "readily comprehensible as Llywelyn", a variation that, with the double 'L', becomes difficult for the English to pronounce. He says this makes Fluellen a member of importance, because the other famous "Llywelyn" was the last Prince of Wales. Time is also spent discussing the fact that Fluellen, though Welsh, does not a patronymic name (meaning multiple names that give the lineage of his patriarchal line). This is of note because it makes him something of an illegitmate son, just as King Henry is also struggling to find his place in a role that is not 'rightly' his.;hwwilsonid=HRKLXP4HRPDIDQA3DIMSFGOADUNGIIV0

The next is actually a chapter in a book called Essays on Shakespeare's Dramatic Characters with an Illustration of Shakespeare's Representation of National Characters, in that of Fluellen. The chapter I am specifically going to be focusing on (and which you will need to select in the topic section if you wish to read it) is called--ironically--"The Character of Fluellen". To save a lot of your time, skim down to Part III; that's when his FINALLY starts talking about Fluellen. Richardson focuses on Fluellen's ethnicity and his pride as a Welshman, speaking lightly about the geographic natures of Wales that would make him so profoundly proud of his country. The author also refers often to the Welsh as a whole, giving a deeper insight into the nation that Fluellen is meant to represent.

The last is another book that I had to do a bit of digging for. I located the specific article on the Shakespeare Bibliography, but couldn't open and read it until I found the full-book preview on Google books. It's called Reading the Early Modern Passions: Essays in the Cultural History of Emotion. The section you'll be looking for is called "English Mettle". Much of the entry has to do specifically about the English's (supposed) superiority (not just by themselves, but also--as the battle goes along--by the French), but she also focuses on Fluellen for a time. Specifically, Floyd-Wilson talks about three things: Fluellen's military discipline, his knowledge of history, and his representation as the "England that was Before", the untamed one. Ironically, Fluellen's discipline also demonstrates the tempermental nature that the author believes was once shared between Wales and England.

Hopefully there is something of interest there. Although the section on Fluellen is perhaps the smallest in that selection, I would highly recommend the third. Floyd-Wilson brings up a number of valid points about the possible purpose for why Shakespeare would created such a gripping, show-stealing "fool".

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Henry V Character Analysis: Fluellen

I don't know about you, but Fluellen has quickly become MY favorite character to read. And it is not just because he's funny, or easy to laugh at, or even simple enough to follow. I like Fluellen because he becomes that "character-conundrum" that adds that extra flair to any artistic work. Fluellen may come across as simple, but I believe Shakespeare meant to do much more that create a ''stereotypical fool".

So, first things first: what does the Bard present the Fluellen as on the surface? --Remember, Fluellen is meant to be a stereotype of the Welsh people.-- I would say:
  • That he is exhibited as having a personality inclined toward exaggerated seriousness
  • Frequently misprounces words in a Welsh accent and/or fashion
  • Comes across as unintelligent, uneducated, and even downright simple
  • Is generally loud-mouthed and long-winded
Well, for heaven's sake, that portrayal could fit any modern missionary struggling over a foreign language! And yes, that applies to stateside elders as well--have you ever tried to listen to a South Dakotian talk? It's like French, only not as pretty.

Well, if Shakespeare didn't mean to make him out as the equivalent of a fresh-out-of-the-MTC missionary, there must be something more. This is were the indepth analysis comes in. Now, I haven't done any scholarship on this yet--that comes tomorrow--so this will probably come across as basic and ''duh''-worthy. Well, too bad. Fluellen, on a deeper level, is shown as :
  • Using his ''clownish'' behavior to keep moral up in a hard, discouraging time. This shows him to be optimistic.
  • Strategic, or at least far more perceptive than one would believe, when the time calls for him to be so.
  • Proficient at the duties he is meant to fulfill, even if he has a round-about way of getting to it.
  • Finally, one should consider the fact that Shakespeare made Fluellen likable. The Bard gave him a personality that steals the show for a reason, one that I believe is to cast aside the common negative perspective of ethnic stereotypes as a whole.
So what is the point of this information? What does knowing this about Fluellen have to do with the modern world of literature and the arts? At first I wanted to show an adaptation of Fluellen from a reworking-and-remodernizing of Henry V, but I ran into a problem: with the exception of the Christmas speech, there have been no ''updates'' to the play. Fortunately for you, I came up with the perfect example of a modern-day Fluellen: Dory!
Now, this may seem like a stretch, but stick with me. Dory covers nearly all of the traits that Fluellen does, both on the surface and in the true depth of her personality. She:
  • Mispernounces words ("es-cah-pay", any variation of Nemo's name, etc)
  • Comes across as unintelligent and simple ("And, well, I... I don't believe I've ever eaten a fish...")
  • Is DEFINITELY loud-mouthed and longwinded ("You want to know where I'm goin'? I'll tell you where I'm goin': P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, that's where I'm goin'...")
  • Lifts moral ("Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming..."
  • Helps reach Nemo, even if it is in a round-about way ("It's a whale. Hey, I speak whale! H---eee----lllllllll---ooooo...."
  • And finally, Dory always steals the show.
So there you have it, a modern-day Fluellen remade for the media. What do you think? Who else do you think plays/is a good representation of the stereotype-conundrum?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Plan

So, because it has become quite clear that I need to give myself more direction in how I'm going to manage this blog (or else an empty week like the last one will occur once more), I've decided to finally come up with my "PLAN". And, just as a short reminder, I figured it would be a good idea to post the learning objects, just to make sure that I'm covering all of my bases.

1. Gain Shakespeare Literacy
Demonstrate mastery over fundamental information about Shakespeare’s works, life, and legacy
     a. Breadth (knowledge of a range of Shakespeare’s works)
     b. Depth (more thorough knowledge of a single work)
     c. Performance (stage and screen)
     d. Legacy (history, scholarship, popular culture)

  • 2. Analyze Shakespeare Critically
    Interpret Shakespeare’s works critically in their written form, in performance (stage or screen) and in digitally mediated transformations. This includes 
         a. Textual analysis (theme, language, formal devices)
         b. Contextual analysis (historical, contemporary, cultural)
         c. Application of literary theories 
         d. Analysis of digital mediations

  • 3. Engage Shakespeare Creatively
         a. Performance (memorization, recitation, scene on stage or video)
         b. Individual creative work (literary imitation, art, music)
         c. Collaborative creative project


  • 4. Share Shakespeare Meaningfully
    This includes engaging in the following:
         a. Formal Writing. Develop and communicate your ideas about Shakespeare clearly in formal and          researched writing and through a format and medium that puts your ideas into public circulation.
         b. Informal Writing. This mainly means through regular online writing
         c. Connecting. Share one’s learning and creative work with others both in and outside of class.

  • 5. Gain Digital Literacy

  •  Students use their study of Shakespeare as a way of understanding and developing fluency in 21st century learning skills and computer-mediated modes of communication. Those skills are grouped under the following categories.
         a. Consume - Effective and independent selecting, searching, researching,
         b. Create - Producing content that demonstrates learning and which can be shared for others to profit from.
         c. Connect - Engage with other learners within and outside of the class to develop thinking and share more formal work.

  • I believe that this blog covers the main concepts of the last two learning outcomes, so I'll focus primarily on what I can do to accomplish the prior three.

    Gaining Shakespeare Literacy involves reading and studying the Bard's works, so the current set-up of class--reading a different genre of Shakespeare a week--helps meet this requirement. When we break down into smaller concepts and more focused study, the literacy concept will probably become a bit more complex, but this works for now.

    Analyze Shakespeare Critically calls for an indepth look at characters, settings, all of the seperate little elements that make up his works. Because I intend to focus more on these minut details rather than a play as a whole, the 'critical-ness' of this requirement becomes something more of a 'direct-ness'.

    And finally, the part I am most interested in: Engage Shakespeare Creatively. Creativity is what I do best, so I've decided to show the varying adaptations and alterations of Shakespeare's plays. Furthermore (because I'm a writer and an actor and all that jazz) I want to demonstrate how it is possible to take an element of his work--a single character, for instance--and adapt it into a new revenue or work of literature so that it becomes something not only Shakespeare but me, as well.

    So, in order to be a bit more specific, here's how the plan will work. Mind you, this will probably change in the second half of the semester once we start on our ebook or such.

    3 Posts a Week
         a. One analyzing an Element of the current play and presenting current adaptations.
         b. One reviewing an current scholarship available concerning the above Element.
         c. One demonstrating how the Element can be changed and/or used in a new piece of literature from a writer's stand-point.

    That should be concrete enough to keep me on track. Cross your fingers for me! (And, just for a bit of humor, this will be my inspiration for NOT procrastinating. :) )

    Monday, January 9, 2012

    When you're placed into the public school system and expected to be taught Shakespeare, it seems the same old tale is told everytime: Read a little Romeo & Juliet, lament with Hamlet, and then move on into the next unit of literature. This, of course, paints a very dull picture of the beauty of Shakespeare. It's like viewing a washed-out and ragged picture of the Mona Lisa: stale, boring, and overworked. The students are so busy complaining about the stuffy, incomprehensible language that they don't see the action of the play. And when they ARE exposed to a staged version of Shakespeare (as the plays were truly meant to be--they are PLAYS after all) its to the same old hum-and-drum speed. Most of the time it is the students that are expected to act out the roles, stuck in the same old song-and-dance of stubbling over lines and trying to understand just what the Renaissance was like.

    I was fortunate enough to know that theatre can elevate and enhance nearly any written word, but I was participating just as much as anyone else in the big group-groan that occurred when our teachers would mention the words 'William Shakespeare' or, even worse, *shudder* 'Romeo and Juliet'. It wasn't until we got into high school--almost too late, because we'd been thoroughly trained to visibly repell from any work of the Bard--that we were able to experience the laughter and BEAUTY of his works.

    As members of the Honor track at our high school, we didn't get to choose our teacher; there was one and only one for each level. Luckily, the Honors Literature teacher turned out to be a Shakespeare God-send. We walked into class come the dreaded 'Shakespeare Unit' day to a complete transformation. Renaissance decor and music greeted our senses, and we beheld the astonishing sight of our normally level-headed teacher bedecked ... In Real CHAINMAIL! Even some of our classmates had donned Lady-in-Waiting dresses and tunic-and-tights (the former for the females and latter for their counterparts, of course).

    That week was quite possibly the best of our high school experience. At random times throughout the day we would see our H.L. teacher running toward us with plastic-tipped rapiers, and we'd be allowed to have impromptu stages fights (supervised, of course, by the fencing coach--our H.L. teacher!). We memorized scenes from Shakespeare and filmed them--to be viewed in our senior year, which was both hysterical and embarrassing. And members from the local Renaissance company in town came and put on short, outrageous showcasings of Shakespearean comedies. We learned to revel in Shakespeare rather than cower from his works.

    The best moment we had with Shakespeare in high school, however, came in our senior year--after we got over the partial horror of watching ourselves slaughter the Shakespearean language with open glee. The Utah Shakespeare Company sent about the Shakespeare-in-the-Schools ensemble, and we (who resided in Arizona) somehow got lucky enough to have them grace our school stage. They performed The Taming of the Shrew, and I saw Shakespeare the way I can never forget.

    Rather that dawdy old Renaissance where everything is strict and restrained and just a bit dull, they place Katrina and her hoard of comrades in the Mid West! There were gun fights and long johns and Kate being thrown about the stage. It did something to Shakespeare that I had never considered a possibility: they made an adaption. It opened my eyes to the field of opportunities that could be explored. And while they kept the traditional Shakespeare language, I began to question 'What If?'. Why not take only a character, or only a plot, or a theme, and run with it? Why not make a NEW work of Shakespeare? Why not?

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    The 'Influence'

    I came in contact with Shakespeare the same way that anyone does these days: through the Lion King.
    Okay, so maybe that's a little cheeky, but when you consider the impact Disney has on the world today, it's hardly objectable. Of course, I had no idea that I was being EXPOSED to a Shakespearean concept until later--when the name Shakespeare no longer twisted my tongue and made me think of some crazy Indian dance--but hey, I was three.

    I can't remember for certain when I was TAUGHT about the 'Great Bard', but I can remember my first experience of understanding it. Picture this: A fourteen-year-old young woman, blonde, innocent, and naive, playing Lady Macbeth. Not very intimidating. Now I tell you this: my final scene, shrieking at the unseen blood on my murderous hands, was enough to make grown men shudder and not-so-equally-innocent young women confess to repeated nightmares in peer-mediated counseling. Yeah, I learned to grasp that character really well.

    But while acting always has been and always will be a major interest in my life, my fascination with Shakespeare has taken something of a shift. Because of his reputation as quite-possibly the most famous writer in history and of the world, Shakespeare's literature holds an intoxicating power over me. I want to dissect his style, disassemble his characters' inner workings, decipher his plot shifts. Because once I get to the bottom of  the Shakespeare 'essence', I can recreate into something even better. I want his power to become my power: I want my writing to be as timeless and confounding as any line from Hamlet. I want 'to be' the next Shakespeare.