Twisted Governments, Characters, and Intentions: The Tempest

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We began our talk of The Tempest with some much needed plot clarification as this is one convoluted story. Prospero (the rightful Duke of Milan), Miranda (his daughter), Caliban (his slave) and Ariel (a spirit he freed, also a slave) have been together on this uninhabited island for 12 years or so. Prospero and his daughter were shipwrecked here, but don’t seem to have intentions to leave which we discussed in class as a bizarre choice. Caliban was born on the island to the witch Sycorax, who was sentenced to death but couldn’t be executed because she was pregnant. So she was exiled to the island. Antonio (Prospero’s brother) and his gang of ignorant misfits are now shipwrecked on the island as well, thanks to Prospero’s magic. The final plot point I would like to make is Antonio usurped his brother Prospero as the Duke of Milan, and Prospero left the situation only to be marooned on this island and now is seeking revenge.

We hit a range of topics regarding the story and its characters. In this protokoll, I would like to discuss the three kinds of government that are found on this island and the notion of a hierarchy. Government and politics is something we cannot get away from, even in a story of a shipwreck on an inhabited island. This was something I did not see right away but was appreciative that it was brought to the attention of the class. I would also like to discuss Miranda’s role in this play and the power dynamics that exist between Prospero and his slaves. It is interesting to see how Ariel wants more agency and to be completely free, while Caliban is fine with just having a new master.

The idea of a hierarchy on the island is an interesting one I would like to explore as I believe it is Shakespeare demonstrating that even in a dire situation people will perhaps try to work together, but struggle or even manipulate others to achieve power. All of our readings so far have had this theme of a hierarchy being created. In Arabian Nights, the hierarchy was of the royals and their subjects as well and men and women, but women had a way of finding power in an unexpected way. In The Canterbury Tales, the author harshly judged many of the characters, but we could also create a hierarchy in that text of the different professions and beyond that the gender dynamics were something we explored at length. Women and their strength was also an interesting point in these tales. In The Treasure of the City of Ladies as well as The Battle over Free Will, God is at the top of the hierarchy. In The Treasure of the City of Ladies a hierarchy of women is created as Pizan addresses women from all walks of life, giving them life advice while ranking them in the process. All these texts mentioned had a lot of people in mind regarding the hierarchy that was established so I ask, who is there to even rule on this island?

In terms of ruling people, Machiavelli had very forceful points about how to rule, but the way that Antonio talks isn’t reminiscent of a thirsty power grab. He already achieved that by throwing his brother from his rightful place. It feels more like a sense of entitlement and pretentiousness that propels his discussion and that of his gang what kind of power they will gain while on this island. The three types of government that were brought to light were: Machiavellian – Stephano with his wine, hedonism – Gonzalo with power politics, and Prospero with restoring the kingdom through marriage. Is the idea of creating this system easier because they can start fresh and build upon it due to the lack of people here? From this question I think of the process of colonization due to Prospero wanting control of the spirit and the person that was there before he was. The two that must suffer as a result are Caliban and Ariel, although interestingly, only Ariel seeks freedom.

Caliban and Ariel are the two (person and spirit) that were there previously to Prospero. It seems very unjust to automatically wish to enslave people or spirits upon arriving at a new place. Through history, we see this behavior of conquering, so while unjust it is not surprising. In class, there was talk of the defiance of both Caliban and Ariel in subtle ways but I do not see that happening in this play. While they can push against their master, they must ultimately submit to his wishes. There are two different people here to consider and they want different things from their lives. Caliban is disobedient to Prospero but when Antonio and his gang appear, Caliban seems oddly willing to having some new masters that aren’t any better than Prospero. Ariel, in contrast, was freed from a tree that Sycorax locked him in, and Prospero is really milking that situation unfairly. Ariel wants true freedom but Prospero wants Ariel to continue doing tasks for him and reminds Ariel how he freed him. Another point to consider is that both the slaves are grateful to the master, one for all he learned from Prospero, and the other for being freed. As the story unfolds, we will see how these two characters develop further and we shall see about Caliban’s ridiculous idea to attack Prospero with his new masters. Another character connected to Prospero is his daughter, Miranda.

Miranda is the only female character we encounter and she is intriguing. She is Prospero’s daughter but she seems to have a sense of strength about her. She is inquisitive and curious about what brought her and her father to this island. She is the first to speak in the play before her father, and I wondered if that had any significance in the play or if it was an arbitrary fact that I noticed. Miranda could have developed far more as a character, but upon seeing Ferdinand the only man she had ever seen in her life, she becomes overwhelmed with love and he does as well. I wonder if her father is creating this forbidden love story so they fall more in love is to help her, or if it is his way of maintaining control over her like he does over his slaves. If Ferdinand did not come, I would be curious to see what kind of character Miranda would become. It seems like she was a strong character, until she finds love. Then, she becomes a slave to that love. That concept is particularly interesting because Dido is referred to in the play, and she is a goddess that also was very powerful, until her love for Aeanus and his abandonment of her destroyed her in The Aeneid. Hopefully, there is a happier ending for Miranda. Given this is a Shakespearean comedy I have a hunch that things will work out just fine for Miranda. It seems to be a running theme that when a woman has agency, she loses it, blinded by love. In the conclusion of this play, we have to see what will become of her love and of Caliban’s foolish plan, as well as the building of a hierarchy as the play progresses. What will be the outcome for Prospero’s plans and will Ariel be free? There is a lot to resolve but there are three acts remaining so I have faith Shakespeare will accomplish just that. Perhaps, Miranda will continue to be a strong character despite her new found love.

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Pondering on Hamlet

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In Act One, I thought it was foolish for the watchmen to get Horatio for the ghost to talk to. It is interesting because before reading this play, I assumed that only Hamlet saw the ghost, and to find out others could see him too makes things very interesting yet very dangerous for Hamlet. But back to my point, the watchmen, simpletons, must call Horatio, a scholar to talk to a ghost. Give me a break! I don’t think that there is a very high intelligence requirement and that a simpleton may be better because the ghost may confide better in a common person, then a learned person who stands to gain from the information the ghost may have to bestow. Horatio, being intelligent, could manipulate the information somehow. Furthermore, I do not find it plausible that a ghost needs a well educated person to talk to. It is stupid, and makes me think of my parents who have not finished college, yet they know much more than me who is on the journey. There is world experience that they chose to ignore and focus on education. While I think education is vital to the existence of a better world, I also stand by the belief of we are learning all the time and some life lessons are taught outside the classroom.
They are desperately trying to pull out a meaning for why the ghost is here and what it wants to say. Again, for the time frame the symbol of a ghost meant trouble. I am glad I learned that because I was thinking, why are they spending all this time? Another thing that bothers me is this soap opera. Claudius marries Gertrude. Yuck. Why you ask? Because Claudius was old Hamlet’s brother who is dead. So he married his brother’s wife. They all wonder, why Hamlet is so upset? Hello, red flag! Then, Hamlet suddenly has something else on his mind because Horatio tells him of the ghost in full armor is his father! I think Shakespeare invented the Sophisticated Soap Opera. In this Soap Opera, Hamlet finds out from his father, the ghost, that he did not die but was murdered! By Claudius. Hamlet’s world keeps getting worse. I really feel badly for him.

In the Second Act, there is an unbelievable amount of manipulation I cannot stand or wrap my head around. Claudius is such a jerk and a terrible stepfather. I don’t understand why it is not okay for Hamlet to have feelings and just be human. I get it, he is the prince. He must be normal at all times. Everyone is pushing Hamlet and I feel like no one is on his side. They want him to behave normally to save face and not because they actually care about his well being and that makes me furious because I can completely relate. I have a medical condition that physically manifests itself and my mom hurries me inside. But this is not to help me or calm me down I discovered. I think it is wrong to hide pain and emotions, but in this play and in my real life hiding emotions is a big part of life. Everyone does it, pretending things are fine when they are not. It is a dangerous game that everyone plays, everyone except Hamlet. I admire him for being a male and not being this annoying macho guy who hides everything.

In the Third Act things get really interesting when Hamlet has a play put on to extract guilt from Claudius. He needs the proof. The ghost wasn’t enough for him. In some ways this is clever. But I think, why the proof? However, I was delighted when Claudius left very upset and Hamlet knew he was guilty. There is one part of Act 3 that I disagree with. Hamlet has a chance to kill Claudius, but because Claudius is praying Hamlet does not kill him, because if he kills him and he is absolve of his sin Claudius will go to heaven and Hamlet wants him to burn in hell for what he has done. Since I have not come across such circumstances, I do not know what I would do. Truly, I do not think I have the ability to harm another individual let alone commit murder. I worship peace and the value that violence solves another. Isn’t it sick then how suddenly I am cheering Hamlet to get this revenge that is eating away at him? How I am suddenly morphing into this monster that approves of murder? I just discovered that it is easy to tell someone else to go ahead and do awful things. When it comes to it, it is just a play, isn’t it? However, maybe this behavior of immediately saying Claudius should die begs the question; do two wrongs may a right? Does Hamlet killing his uncle repair the fact that Hamlet’s father was killed? There are moral dilemmas that are very deep here that Hamlet probably ponders as well.

Acts Four and Five
So I was just pondering the many facets of murder in my previous journal. How it is something I could never do. I hope it would never come to a point where I would have to decide between killing someone and them killing me. It is the ultimate cold act, to take a human life. And mostly importantly, how Hamlet ponders and pours over not only whether to kill Claudius, but how to kill him and when he is praying was not the time because he would not burn in Hell. Then suddenly, a monkey wrench is thrown in all my thoughts when the castle is in turmoil because Hamlet has killed Polonius because he was hiding behind a curtain and Hamlet just stabs him. What happened to contemplation and carefully planning out your steps, Hamlet? You just stab someone who is hiding and then drag them out of the castle? This is madness. Hamlet in pretending to be crazy seems to really have lost all his marbles. Maybe since it was the queen’s chambers he assumed it was the king listening in on his conversation. Well, it was not, and Hamlet has killed someone. He has committed that act that I wondered about myself, and I was even cheering for him to do. Now, Hamlet is to be sent to England? What if he just kills more people? His behavior is irrational and this is a tragedy after all. Maybe he has really snapped.
Now, the Final Act is occurring. I have been waiting so long to see what happens. I don’t believe Gertrude deserved to die. She did not know about the plot. Throughout the play, while she does not speak out for Hamlet, she does act like a loving mother. So, she married Claudius her late husband’s brother. People do crazy things in grief. Maybe she had a motivation I do not yet understand but I do not believe she should have died. She should not have been around for the fight period. I don’t understand what she was doing there. It seems being a woman would have played to her favor. Maybe one would say, “Oh, this is no place for a woman!” She didn’t need to be there. This just speaks of Claudius and his character and if he wanted his wife out of danger he would have made sure she was.

Is it a coincidence perhaps that their happiness is achieved in the fairy world?

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Despite its length, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream proves to be able to carry its weight in whimsy and wisdom on a plethora of topics. There are different settings or worlds in this play, such as that of the mechanicals (the lower class workers), the mortal lovers (the upper class Athenians), but perhaps most notably the land of the fairies. All the problems of the entire land are brought front and center into an earth scattering level of events deep in the land of the fairies. It is a world that we can nor explain or understand in terms of how in the woods this land just exists. For the sake of the play, the fairy world is where the main events occur and magic is vital to the comprehension of the story. The juxtaposition of the unbelievable so close to reality helps greatly in considering and bringing the real actions of the characters into the limelight although some are sparkled with magical elements. The fairy world in A Midsummer Night’s Dream serves as a place where the most reality actually happens despite the magical qualities of the fairy world. Through the magic that exists in this world, many realities about the characters’ true intentions (good or bad) are revealed causing balance to be restored in the most unlikely of places. Through the four lovers as well as Oberon, Puck and several other key characters the plot is able to burst out in ways we would not be able to see in the other two worlds.
Oberon’s intentions are able to be made true, as only in the fairy world they could be. He wants the changeling from Titania, plain and simple. She refuses because she was meant to take care of the child. (II,i,86) But what Oberon wants he shall get. Here in the land of fairies, Oberon can get what he wants through magic, instead of directly breaking the law. Puck, or Robin Goodfellow from the fairy world does Oberon’s bidding where Titania falls in love with Bottom (a mechanical) who has been changed into a half-ass, half-man. This is actually perfect to Oberon’s master plan that while she is distracted, she will not been able to protect the changeling while under a deep love spell that he is only too happy to devise.
The imperative element to grasp from this is Puck is someone else, a fairy this time, whose intentions come out rather early although they can be blurred at times. He had the free will to say no, or create a nicer creature for her to fall in love with in the least. Puck wants to have these bad intentions masked with oh, Oberon made me do it. Although extremely subtle, Puck has the ability to say no. He is nobody’s minion and Shakespeare tries to have the reader fooled that he is indeed such. Also, Oberon’s intentions end up being perfect and working very well into the sequence of events in the play. The funny, whimsical ending where Titania is no longer in love for the potion is countered off of her through magic, could only be pulled off in the land of the fairies where disbelief does not exist and the spice of life is to simply go along joyously in your life.
Oberon’s intentions although cruel for he does successful kidnap the changeling can be seen mischievous like that of Puck’s. When he causes Lysander to love Helena and Demetruis to also love Helena through the love potion, Hermia does not understand what is happening and she is terrified and close to despondent. For previously she and Lysander were running away together to escape her father, and Helena did love Demetruis. Now, she wakes up and he loves her back somehow. It is such a complex feat to have someone you love to love you back that while it first seems awful that Demetruis is now permanently in love with someone not by choice. This is something the audience profoundly struggles with. It feels like a curse no human or fairy would want or deserves. The conclusion one may come to is that yes, it is better to have that love. Maybe he wakes up and truly loves her. There are so many variables. Perhaps it should be looked as a better life for Helena. However, while Oberon seems like this menacing, cruel character he actually for better or worse strongly influences the plot in many ways. Ultimately, he creates joy despite being cruel; again it seems this level of vast change can occur in the already wacky world of the fairies.
The women in this play are made to be simple and perhaps not the most intelligent and being in the land of fairies causes us to see a potent version. This is Shakespeare’s not so subtle way of displaying gender differences. We have Titania who doesn’t even care when her changeling is stolen. We have Helena chasing around Demetruis (II,i,202 -210) Helena is completely okay with Demetruis treating her like a dog as long as she loves him and he loves her back. So the women’s intentions are not that complicated to analyze and interpret for the women themselves are created by Shakespeare to not be that intelligent thus have no depth of character. Titania had such a great chance to be the exception; however she puts up no fight and it appears she does not even care about the child in the end. This makes her seem like a complete airhead for lack of a better term, again discovered deep in the fairy world.
Lysander and Demetruis’s intentions are clear but distorted by the powerful love potion inflicted upon them. Lysander wants to do much more than sleep next to Hermia at first. Hermia insists that he sleep on that rock over there, way over there. This is comical but it shows that Lysander will be patient to win Hermia’s trust so that they can consummate their love once they are married. Demetruis, however, wants nothing to do with Helena who is chasing and begging him to love her. Shakespeare makes the women look pathetic and devout compared to the men who have the power in this play. It is something about the time period where the men and women are clearly parallel to one another. Compared to the mortal world, things are too normal and calm. We get a background which is important, but the real action happens in the land of fairies.
In conclusion, there are so many factors that go into this play, William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The three areas in which the play takes place all shape different elements of the play, but none more powerful than the land of the fairies. In this land, through love potions and complicated plots and a large cast of characters one can discover the true intentions of all the characters because they are in the fairy world and it seems so many things change and become clear once one is in this magical world. Oberon and Puck, our cruel man and our lovable prankster show their true colors. The analysis of how women are dealt with and treated like second class citizens can be seen through not only their treatment by males but by how they themselves behave. Finally, there is that juxtaposition to consider. The fairy world is so close to the mortal world. Does this perhaps cause the world to be more believable, because while being so different on the surface maybe it is not? It is a world where people want to be happy. That is what the four lovers wanted by coming there unintentionally. It is what Oberon wanted. It is what Titania wanted. Is it a coincidence perhaps that their happiness is achieved in the fairy world? No, it is clearly intentional that the fairy world represents closure and resolution. It does this flawlessly; one simply needs a bit of the magic for themselves to see it clearly.

The Tempest …thoughts

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Act 1- Act 3 of the Tempest I realize that this is unlike the other plays we have read and in a good way. Not that the other plays weren’t enjoyable, this play just had so many unique layers that I liked peeling apart and seeing what would come next. I really like the many dimensions of Prospero and see the perception of him change throughout the play. Wizard and loving father are two hats interesting he wears that I really like and enjoy watching develop through the first three acts.  He must think of how to regain power that has been usurped by his own brother (an annoying theme in many plays) while still keeping his daughter in mind. This is complex because he must make sure his daughter is raised properly given where they are, while still using magic to control whatever he wishes starting with the name of the play, the Tempest, or the storm he creates that Miranda begs him to get rid of because it is frightening.

I love the act of crashing a ship on this island so he can plot a way to fix his problems but at first that concerned me that a seemingly evil man has a young daughter. (No one was harmed so it is ok. If there were deaths because of the crash I would feel much differently.) I also adore the idea of being secluded from much of the world. It creates a certain mood through the novel and I think Shakespeare does this to create a land like this island where Prospero can perform his magic and it is more accepted because of the tone.

There is this concept of white magic and black magic. Something that is not addressed but is very important is that both light and dark magic can be used for wrong such as when Prospero tortures Caliban. However, when I discovered that Prospero wanted good for Miranda when she falls head over heels in love with Ferdinand I knew he was not the evil man he was portrayed to be in the beginning of the story. I also think it is an interesting concept that Miranda had never seen another man before Ferdinand. Also, I do not like how Prospero treats Caliban and Ariel. He threatened Ariel with twelve years of being in a tree when the floating figure asks for freedom. It is sad that Prospero is such a kind, tender, and loving father but he treats others with cruelty. I understand the colonial ideas thrown out by Shakespeare but it creates a character that swings between kind and cruel and I do not care for it one bit. Caliban and Prospero have a complicated relationship because he claims the island belonged to him because it was left to him by Sycorax. And Prospero took the island and tricked him with kindness and now is his slave. Caliban does not make himself very likeable. Finally, despite the gender implications of not allowing Miranda to work, I really enjoyed the little back and forth between Miranda and Ferdinand. I thought it was cute and a break from all the serious topics going on around them.