I figure that if I just keep typing, something profound will eventually come out of all this -

Thursday, November 17, 2011

King Lear and STD's

Goneril and Regan. 

    Hearing those names just makes you angry doesn't it? I mean, we have two sisters who turn against their sister, their father, one's husband, and ultimately each other because of their hunger for power and lust for the same man. Because of this I had to wonder if there was any significance to their names (see another entry by Katie for other moments that Shakespeare insinuates character traits based off of names)
    Also both are twisted and reflect her sisters evil thoughts and desires, so they might as well be the same person. So maybe if I combine the names I'll get something a little bit more significant...

    Goneril + Regan

    Yep, these two are like a sexually transmitted disease. I first thought about this as we started reading the play but never really felt like the moment was right in class to ask about sexually transmitted diseases and their possible significance to Shakespeare. So I looked it up.
    As it turns out, I'm hardly the first person to make this connection. In fact, a lot of people figured this out. Frankie Rubinstein has a book called A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Sexual Puns and Their Significance. He points out Act 2 Scene 4 in which Lear says to Goneril:

      "But yet thou are my flesh, my blood, my daughter;
      Which I must needs call mine; thou are a boil,
      A plague-sore, or embossed carbuncle
      In my corrupted blood..."

    Each of these physical characteristics are consistent with a variety of diseases, especially STD's. The implication that Shakespeare makes here is that Goneril is like an STD or more specifically, spreads the effects of these diseases around -- in other words, like a prostitute.
    Gonorrhea has potentially been around since the 1100's and would have been a problem for folks in Shakespeare's time - especially prostitutes. Thus, it seems possible that one reading for Goneril and Regan is to view them as working girls -- someone who sells themselves out for a living.
    This reading can be immediately seen in Act 1 when Lear says:

      "Give me the map there. Know that we have divided
      In three our kingdom; ...
      ... Tell me, my daughters --
      Since now we wil divest us both of rule,
      Interest of territory, cares of state --
      Which of you shall we say doth love us most?
      That we our largest bounty may extend
      Where nature doth with merit challenge."

   So, in the very first act, we have Lear offering to purchase his daughter's 'love' and Goneril and Regan are more than willing to sell out their "love" for material wealth. Two Acts later the sisters have sold out their father control. Goneril later attempts to sell out both her husband and her sister for Edmund.
    Thus, we see Goneril and Regan playing the roles of whores throughout the play, selling that which is most precious and important for temporary gain.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Analysis of 1968 Version of Romeo and Juliet

Alright, I'm going to start focusing on specifically unique elements found within this version.
What major themes are strongly represented?
    -Violent Hate
    -Love vs. Lust
How true to the text does the film remain?
    -Large chunks of text are pulled from the film. Entire scenes are removed at times. I'd approximate that 70% of the text is still found within the film.
How true to the plot does the film remain? 
    -Extremely true. Despite the removal of certain scenes, the overall tone and tenor are accurate. Paris lives, but I can stomach that.
What is lost/gained by diverging away from the plot?
    -Time Gained - The film is meant for a modern audience, so the film needs to last only 2 hours, instead of 3.5. This also impacts the overall feel of the play because while the first 3 Acts have sufficient time to build and develop, the last 2 progress extremely quickly, feeling slightly rushed. Romeo and Juliet's love builds strongly, but suddenly everything comes crashing down within the last 20 minutes
    -Juliet's depth Lost - Act 4 Scene 3 (When Juliet takes the poison to feign death) is reduced to Juliet going to bed and taking the poison. Her soliloquy is eliminated completely which I found to be a shame, because it shows a little more maturity and foresight to be scared. I find myself relating to Juliet a bit more during her musings because it shows that she does think somewhat ahead. Before I'm constantly frustrated because she never takes a moment to consider the consequences of her actions, except for in this one scene. Hence, I was disappointed to notice it's removal
What minor characters receive more screen time and how does that affect the play?

How does the costume/setting/language/cultural representation affect the themes in the play?
    -Directors Interpretation - I found that the directors emphasis of certain elements played up the theme of fate more strongly in this version than others.
      -Romeo and Juliet meeting at the party was established as a twist in the dance, not them meeting eyes across a crowded room, but more happy luck putting them together in a dance.
      -The friar, while looking a statue of Christ has the sudden inspiration to marry Romeo and Juliet, suggesting divine intervention.

      -When the Prince states that the hour Romeo returns to Verona he shall die, the clock begins to gong, providing a foreshadow that the hour is near to Romeo's death.
      -As Romeo leaves to go to Juliet's tomb, he passes by the messenger from the Friar, suggesting that had he waited 5 minutes he would know the truth.
    All these contribute to a much stronger feeling of a higher power at work here. Romeo and Juliet are doomed by fate from the beginning and that is more  dramatically represented.

    -Setting - In this instance, the fighting in Verona is portrayed as a literal riot. In my mind I pictured a street scuffle or a brief brawl between the two familes. Understandly, I always thought the Prince was being a little dramatic when he threatened the families about the consequences of fighting. In this version, however, the two families literally cause a riot when they fight. There's no doubt of the hate between these two families. It's not just a small feud, but on the level gang wars that escalate. Little wonder the Prince of Verona declares martial law.

How do the actors portray certain characters? Again, how does this affect the themes represented?
Would Shakespeare be rolling over in his grave if he knew about this interpretation?
    -Negative. In most instances I feel that the portrayal of fate and hatred are more strongly represented than in other adapations-elements I think are necessary to the overall strength of the play.

What kind of interaction is there between main characters?
    - Romeo & Juliet - There's a whole lot of phyiscal passion between these two. Throughout the entire film they are passionately embracing, kissing, necking. I'm surpsied Juliet isn't covered in hicky's. Joking aside, the amount of physical interaction between the two is double or triple what other films show. (including a rather scandalous bedroom scene, especially considering the PG rating) This changes the theme of love quite dramatically, causing the audience to question whether this love is an enduring love based off of mutual respect and friendship or simply a couple of hormonal teenagers. You want to believe that their love is a truly epic, enduring sort - worthy of being immortalized through suicide - but it really doesn't seem that way. It's hard to get past the image of two teenagers making out every chance they get.

Analysis of 'Love Story' Music Video

Alright, so Love Story is a song written by Taylor Swift that presents the tale of Romeo and Juliet with a happy ending. Prepare for some analyzing.
What major themes are strongly represented?
    -Onia Vncit Amor - Love conquers all
    -Individual vs. Community
How true to the text does the film remain?
    - Not at all
How true to the plot does the film remain? 
    - Uh...I'd say about 20% true. Romeo and Juliet meet at a dance and get married. Everything else seems to be left out.
What is lost/gained by diverging away from the plot?
    -More money. Alright, that's a little rude, but you lose a lot
What minor characters receive more screen time and how does that affect the play?
    -No minor characters at all. Father gets brief mention. You lose a lot of character development between Romeo and Juliet. But it doesn't seem too necessary because she's relying
How does the costume/setting/language/cultural representation affect the themes in the play?
    -No tights for the men, I can appreciate that.
How do the actors portray certain characters? Again, how does this affect the themes represented?
    -Taylor Swift is Juliet.

Would Shakespeare be rolling over in his grave if he knew about this interpretation?
    -Distinct Possibility. Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy. If Shakespeare felt his message could be adequately represented within a romance, they would live. I'm not hating on Taylor Swift, she is entitled to her opinion about the play, but I don't think it appropriately represents the main themes.
What kind of interaction is there between main characters?
    -Parents & Juliet - A primary difference in the story told by Taylor Swift is the fact that the parents know about the tryst and forbid their children from spending time with one another. Despite this she states that she won't let them decide how she's going to live her life. In this instance, she borrows heavily from the theme of love (Love Story) and Individual vs. Community. Rather than obey their families, they choose to continue to see one another and let love overcome.
    -I think this essentially encapsulates what Romeo and Juliet has become to society. A powerful love story that somehow had the wrong ending written in. It's fodder for Romantic Comedy. We don't want a tale of hate and bitter resentment, with passionate but potentially foolish love. We want a tale of slight rivalry with a love that makes everyone come to their senses. A lot of the themes and lessons of Romeo and Juliet are lost in this version. Again, I recognize that Taylor Swift wasn't trying to perform a strict interpretation of the play, but rather saw similarities within her own life and the story. Yet, I still think it shows that a lot of people miss much of what actually happens in the play. Too much spark notes, not enough real reading of the text.

Romeo and Juliet: THE WAR!!!

    While cruising around cyberspace today, I discovered another interpretation of Romeo and Juliet...

Romeo and Juliet: The War
    Imagine for a moment, a Verona in which the Montagues are butt-kicking cyborgs and the Capulets are genetically enhanced humans and they're duking it's like the X-Men vs. Transformers! or near enough anyway.
    Stan Lee, the creator of X-Men and Spiderman is teaming up with Terry Dougas to create a graphic novel version of Romeo and Juliet. Now, unfortunately this won't be coming out until Nov. 30th, so I won't be able to analyze it for class. But it definitely presents some interesting possibilities for a visually dynamic interpretation of the story. I am curious to see how true it will stay to the original, you know, minus the laser beams and super-powers...
    Hopefully it's not just a lot of hype...let's just say I'm hopeful

Analysis of Gnomeo and Juliet pt. II

-Continuation of previous post-
What major themes are strongly represented?
    -Individual vs. Community

How does the costume/setting/language/cultural representation affect the themes in the play?
    -Garden Gnomes - Because of the cartoon quality and the setting of living, talking garden gnomes, we excuse elements of sheer ridiculousness that we wouldn't accept in a more standard adaptation. However, because of this, the themes can be more excessively blatant. We can see the hate that the gnomes have for one another because of the insane lengths they go to in order to gain revenge. (I.e. ordering an overpowered lawn mower and destroying both gardens in the process) However, this excessive hate only allows the theme of love overcoming all to be that much stronger. Because they hate one another so much, the love between Gnomeo and Juliet has to be that much greater to conquer. 

How do the actors portray certain characters? Again, how does this affect the themes represented?
One Sassy Lady
    -Juliet -Independent and chafing at the restrictions placed upon her. Because of these two major qualities, it seems much more plausible for Juliet to fall for Gnomeo, also it adds slightly more depth to her character and making it seem like less of an impulsive decision.
    -Gnomeo -Family oriented, obedient son. Because you see a side of Romeo not normally seen, the dutiful son, you can relate more to the difficulties faced by Gnomeo when he falls in love with Juliet. However, this may not necessarily be what Shakespeare was aiming for in the original play. By making Romeo more impulsive, and even potentially less likeable, it creates a greater inner conflict for the audience over whether or not they truly wish Romeo and Juliet to have a happy ending. By making characters that everyone roots for, such a tragic ending would not go over well.
Would Shakespeare be rolling over in his grave if he knew about this interpretation?
    -I'd like to think that Shakespeare had a relatively good sense of humor, and considering the number of references to other Shakespeare plays, he'd have a good I don't think the ol' bard would mind this version to much
What kind of interaction is there between main characters?

    -Gnomeo & Mother - I mentioned this with Gnomeo, but I think it deserves some follow up. Gnomeo and his mother really do have a good relationship, which isn't originally portrayed in the play. It adds to the themes, because you can really see that Gnomeo loves and respects his mother, and when she tells him to hate the Reds, he really does. She eggs him on in seeking revenge and encourages him in all he does. It really shows how it's the parents hate that causes all this contention. In turn, this helps the slightly religious theme of "Sins of the parents upon the heads of the children." Before this, I had never really thought of Romeo and Juliet in that context, that the death of their children is really the parents punishment for their hate and malice. Because of this interaction between Gnomeo and his mother, this theme can come out, even if Gnomeo and Juliet don't die at the end.

    -Overall, I'm pleasantly surprised at some of the ideas that came from this analysis. Definitely not the most profound versions of Romeo and Juliet, but it does serve it's purpose. It's the first step for people to get involved in the world of Shakespeare, and isn't necessarily a bad step.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Analysis of 'Romeo & Juliet: A Monkey's Tale'

Alright, a little background before I jump into this analysis:

What is Romeo & Juliet: A Monkey's Tale?

Romeo & Juliet (Romeo on the left)
     -This film is a documentary about two tribes of Macaw monkies in a city in Thailand. the One tribe resides in the marketplace and the other in an abandoned Temple and the two are seperated by a busy street, ensuring they don't interact. the story is told from the point of view of Tybalt the monkey.
    -One of the female temple monkeys (named Juliet) begins to mate with one of the marketplace monkeys (named Romeo).
    -Romeo crosses over the street to the temple and he and Juliet spend the night together. When the other monkeys find out they attack Romeo who returns to the Marketplace. Juliet then crosses to the marketplace and gets attacked by the monkeys there. Romeo protects her but she is still attacked, which causes the temple monkeys to freak out. The temple monkeys attack en masse.
    -After Romeo is literally kicked out of his tribe and gets on a train - no joke, the monkey literally climbs aboard a train and goes to the countryside. A famine and some other documentary stuff ensues.
    -Juliet remains a very depressed monkey and goes down to the train tracks everyday, presumeably to wait for Romeo. Everntually Juliet hops onto a truck and ends up being reunited with Romeo in the countryside. Yup. Monkeys.

Tybalt the Monkey

    -So, our theory is that these documentary folks saw all this unfolding while filming the monkeys and realized, "Holy Cow! This is like Romeo and Juliet!" Which, all things considered, it works out fairly well. Also, Tybalt frequently uses lines from the play to emphasize the correlation. Lines such as "They did bite their thumbs at us" and "The drought made wormsmeat of us."

So, with all this in mind, it's time for a little analysis. I won't analyze much, because ultimately it is a documentary, with monkeys, but it does still allow for a little bit of study

Themes found in Romeo & Juliet: A Monkey's Tale
    -Hate - You could argue that these two tribes of monkeys really do hate one another, but I think it's more of a survival thing and won't get into that as much.
    -Love knows no bounds - It really is interesting to see how two monkeys who should never interact still manage to come together, and continue to spend time with one another despire their tribes outrage. Even more impressive is that they do find eachother in the end (although I suspect some intervention by the producers since they film Juliet jumping on the truck and then riding in the truck and the truck miraculously goes to where Romeo ended up) But still, this monkey got on a truck with the faith that she would find her mate. It really does warm your heart with the concept of love knowing no limit.

Analysis of BBC Romeo and Juliet pt. II

-Continuation of previous post- 
What major themes are strongly represented?
    -Individual vs. Community

How does the costume/setting/language/cultural representation affect the themes in the play?
    -Ancient Verona, complete with full costumes and and streets. Overall, I don't feel like the any of these where used as a vehicle for thematic interpretation. It seemed more of an effort to maintain historical accuracy.

How do the actors portray certain characters? Again, how does this affect the themes represented?
    -Juliet - Juliet’s youth is portrayed very accurately. She looks like she is 13, which was appropriate for the time period, but I feel with more modern audiences it creates issues because you automatically associate her youth with immaturity. Thus, the theme of love becomes a more cautionary tale, one in which it seems that poor decisions only lead to pain. She's too young to be prepared to know what love really is.
    Juliet, however, is also portrayed as extremely independent. She chases for Romeo just as fiercely, as he pursues her, and is just as willing to abandon family times as Romeo. She passionately refuses to marry Paris. She readily agrees that she should pretend to be dead (causing her family unspeakable anguish) so that she can be with Hamlet. These actions make the film emphasize the theme of Individual vs. Community more strongly than any other theme. Juliet will do anything for love (i.e. Romeo) and doesn’t care who she leaves behind. She doesn’t even think about the pain she’ll cause her family, but instead only seeks her own gratification. Which is a very Western approach, I would be very curious to know what Middle-east/Eastern cultures think about Romeo and Juliet ignoring their families wishes.
    -Romeo - Romeo is...rash. Romeo can be portrayed as being passionate without being Rash, but in this interpretation he is extremely rash. He kisses Juliet in the middle of the dance floor. He tries to scale the balcony and ends up falling flat on his back. His fight with Tybalt is brutal, he kicks Tybalt in the groin while fighting him, which is just dirty fighting. When going to see Juliet's grave he  doesn't even think twice befroe killing Paris, and is extremely unemotional when he does it. All these add up to a Romeo who I have a hard time relating to. The tragedy isn't causes because of fate, but because of his own poor choices. It seems less like a tragedy and more of a cautionary tale. Don't be like Romeo otherwise you'll end up dead...

Would Shakespeare be rolling over in his grave if he knew about this interpretation?
    -Unlikely. I may not have thought it too well done but it was completely true to the letter of the law if not necessarily the spirit.

What kind of interaction is there between main characters?
    -Friar John & Romeo - It becomes impossible to take Romeo serious in this play when he is set against Friar John. The friar is an older, wise man who calms Romeo down every time. This is especially evident when Romeo is banished from Verona and he goes to talk to the Friar. Romeo threatens to commit suicide, whines like a child, and then throws himself on the ground throwing a tantrum. The image of Friar John trying to lift Romeo off the ground like he's child whose mom won't buy him a candy bar, ruined my opinion of Romeo (which wasn't all that great before) Whether or not this was the directors intent, it seriously affects the portrayal of love - I can't take it seriously anymore. If Romeo isn't able to act maturely then he shouldn't be able to love maturely and their love is simple, weak, and hardly worth the whole hubbub.
    -Juliet & Tybalt - I didn't imagine too much love being lost between Juliet and Tybalt, hence, I didn't see why everyone thought she would freak out over his death. However, in this film, it shows several pleasant interactions between Juliet and Tybalt (especially at the dance, you see them dancing and smiling together) This affects the theme of hate because it makes Tybalt more likeable. In turn, it becomes harder to imagine this likeable young man being so full of hate and spite. Overall, this interaction between the two reduces my dislike of Tybalt, which reduces the feelings of conflict and hate, making hate a less powerful theme.
    -Juliet & Romeo - First, I need to get this off my chest. Juliet looks like she's 13. Romeo looks like he's 28. Uncomfortable. Yes, typically I think not taking liberties with Shakespeare is important. However, when this was written the practice of young/old marriage was more acceptable. It's not anymore, so I am perfectly okay with a director making them closer in age. The reason isn't because I'm slightly creeped out by this (which I am) but because as a 24 year old I can't even imagine feeling any of the emotional, mental, or physical connections towards a 13 year old. These connections are necessary to foster enduring love. Therefore, because I can't conceive feeling this form of love, it seems highly unlikely for Romeo and Juliet to have a love that will endure the difficulties of life. This creates a serious problem for the theme of love. I can't imagine it being a powerful tale of tragic love, when I can't conceive these two individuals being in love. 

    -Even though this wasn't my personal favorite film. I am glad to have watched it first, it's adherence to the text and cultural setting definitely give me a baseline to compare other films with. Already, I've noticed that other films emphasize the same theme differently because I compare it to the BBC version. If nothing else, I'd say it's worth watching because it provides such a traditional rendering of the play. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Analysis of Gnomeo and Juliet pt. I

What major themes are strongly represented?

How true to the text does the film remain?