Monday, November 17, 2008

Wilson, Fences

The presentations on Fences today were wonderful and very thorough.  We have some remaining issues to consider, nevertheless.   For a moment, let's think explicitly about gender roles in Wilson's play.  What is the role of the patriarch?  How does the patriarch's role in the play correspond to what had emerged, by the 1950s, as the archetypal role for a male head-of-household within the stereotypical American nuclear family?  How do Troy's accommodations to or refusals of this archetype propel the action of the play?  Also, in the home as a domestic space in the play, what is Rose's role?  In what ways do the expectations for/of the American nuclear family and the realities of life for the 1950s urban African American family intersect in Wilson's play?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hamlet, in conclusion . . .

Today was our last full class on Hamlet. I thought that as a class you all did an excellent job of scrutinizing the posted "introductory paragraphs" on Hamlet that we have on our blog. Bear these ideas in mind, and the suggested improvements the class made, when you are writing your next essay.

I would like you to address some of the lasting impressions of the play Hamlet, particularly one set in relief by the assessment many students give of the play (which I joked about in class). When asked what "happens" in the play Hamlet, many students reply "everyone dies." I suggested that this is sort of a timeless claim, a universal dictum, not unlike Hamlet's famous pronouncement "to be, or not to be, that is the question" (3.1, line 57). So, if the play contains many timeless or universal messages, what might be the most lasting message of all contained in the play? One group suggested in their posting that this is a play, above all, about honor. If we collapse this message into the idea that "everyone dies," what does that tell us -- about us as readers, about the play itself, about (with apologies for using such a hackneyed phrase) life itself?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Joe's group

During Shakespeare's time, playwrights could not rely only on the physical stage, but had to use scripts and narration to convey details about the plays setting. The plain Elizabethan Playhouse required audience members to imagine scenes for themselves. Shakespeare was skilled in using the few things the stage had including the trap door, music, the pillars, and certain other special effects to show scenes like the majestic, royal castle. Forests and private rooms also had to be recreated in the script and shown with effects. Even the events such as, the disappearing and reappearing ghost in Hamlet was done via the hidden trap door. Characters also have to add blatant comments about the scenes to show the transition. In conclusion, play writers must use scripts, dramatic special effects, and narration in order to get the audience to visualize the plays setting.

Shea, Roy, Lucio

One of the most famous lines from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “To be, or not to be, that is the question” (1154), summarizes the main conflict for young Hamlet throughout the entire play: the matter what the most honorable course of action to take after his father’s spirit reveals that Claudius killed him is. While determined to avenge his father’s death, the morality of killing another person, especially a king, and the role it will have in determining where his soul will go certainly play a part in Hamlet’s decision. In fact much of Hamlet’s indecisiveness and uncertainty can be tied back to a conflict between Hamlet’s impulsive desires and society’s standards based on religious views, familial expectations, the law, and what subjects expect from a future king. Shakespeare relies of many subthemes and key decisions that Hamlet is faced with to explore his prevailing theme questioning what determines whether or not one’s actions are honorable.

Kristen, Matt, Sonnee, and Aaron

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet was first performed in 1600, although the Quartos were not published until several years later. At that time interest in violence and vengeance were on the wane, but despite their diminishing popularity, Shakespeare uses these components in an attempt to distinguish himself from his competitors; this meant that not only did his plays need to be engaging, but they also needed simple enough settings that the actors could convey their invisible surroundings to the audience. The reason for this is because at the time scenery could not be quickly changed, and even if it could it would be too costly for the theater or the actors. The stage itself was frequently set up with pillars that could be used as trees, doorways, houses and so forth depending on what the scene called for; it was not uncommon for there to be a balcony above that for the actors to use in necessary scenes, such as the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. The audience itself was split into two groups; the standing audience which was closer to the stage and cost less, and the sitting audience who had to pay more money. Attending plays was considered a sort of luxury; although inexpensive, it was a treat as the money was usually saved for other things such as food and clothes. Because of this going to plays—especially if one could afford a sitting seat—was seen as a sort of social-status elevator. All these aspects of theater had to be taken into consideration when Shakespeare wrote Hamlet, because if the play was a failure the negative publicity could easily cast him from favor in the competitive industry.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Heather McNeil, Jordan Power, James Delaney

In Shakespeare's tragic play _Hamlet_, the characters and
setting have a definite somber and deathlike tone. Death
is almost an antagonist and a continued driving force in
the play from beginning to end. We are presented with an
opening of the death of the king of Denmark who then
speaks from the dead. The play continues with the inner
struggle of young Hamlet with life and death, including
his struggle with his gloomy attitude. We also are
presented with a young girl driven mad by Hamlet's
attidutinaly intricacies and eventually leads to her
self-destruction. Finally, the play ends with a general
curtain with the death of the royal family as a
foreshadowing of Denmark's coming demise. Overall the
characters speak and act with a feeling of dread that
mirrors the surrounding tragedy.

Aaron Bentley, Michael Roesemenn, Danielle Chavez-Davis, Justin Cole

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, like in other contemporary works, poetics play a pivotal role. Not only does Shakespeare use rhymed couplets at the end of certain scenes to add emphasis and drama, but he also switches from the ordered iambic pentameter lines to prose (and "paragraph form") in several places throughout the play. This change is more visible to the reader than it is to an audience, however, the lack of order contributes to the frenzy of the spoken lines. These changes in meter are used to signal the reader/audience to potentially important details, namely, Hamlet's decline into madness.

Alejandra, Edward, Santiago, Micah

In William Shakespeare's tragic play "Hamlet", Character motivation plays a large part in the development of the story. We see most of the story unravel through conflicting motivations between characters, such as Hamlet and Ophelia or Hamlet and the King. There is a conflicting love interest betweeen Ophelia and Hamlet, and there are conflicting ambitions between Hamlet and the King. Hamlet has a hard time dealing with his father's death. When the ghost comes and talks to Hamlet, it gives Hamlet the motivation to pursue his uncle for the revenge of the death of his father. This character interaction serves as a catalyst to the story's events as it helps strengthen Hamlet's resolve and forces him to act by replacing Hamlet's indicision with motivation.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I think we had a great day with Act One today. In his introduction to the Barnes and Noble Hamlet, Jeff Dolven writes of the "three spheres" of the play, "family, state, and theater" (3). The issues that dominate these three spheres are "solitude and company, autonomy and longing" (3). In the play thus far, what reminders of the existences of each of these spheres has Shakespeare given you, the reader/viewer? Further, how do the set of binaries of "solitude and company" and "autonomy and longing" inhabit the play thus far? How are these issues evident in the words the character say? Can you offer any examples?