Monday, December 12, 2011

To BE!!!

Learning outcomes:

Well, apparently even Shakespeare didn't have Shakespeare literacy, because why would he have Juliet ask where Romeo was, but be referring to why his name had to be a Montague...?

Everyone decided "TO BE!!!" on the night of Engaging Shakespeare.  Each group savored the simple, in addition to sharing deep incites (which can be the same thing) from their semester and final projects.  

The ENTIRE process (the beginnings...) we went through to have been able to present "Lovers of Shakespeare" last Friday night, along with all the other final projects, was quite extensive.  It was worth every minute and, usually, alot of fun.  I can easily say I have spent more time on Shakespeare than Biochem, which is a big deal seeing as I have that final exam tomorrow afternoon...  so wish me luck everyone.  And just because I know everyone is wondering...

Romeo and Juliet are like the anaerobic pathway of/following glycolysis because the rate of ATP production rate is incredibly high, but it only lasts for about 60 seconds before pH levels fall, ionic balances are disrupted, and ATP levels fall--they both die.

Berowne and Rosaline are like the Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Complex because they just keep going around in circles and can't decide if they want to be oxidized or reduced!!!

Hamlet and Ophelia are like gluconeogenesis because they insisted on using unusual pathways to produce glucose for ATP, talk about complicated!!!  (As a side note--Why would anyone EVER go on a no carb diet? You're basically imposing diabetic symptoms on yourself--you saw what happened to Ophelia).    

WE HAD SO MUCH FUN; but it did take alot of inconvenient work as well.  It's just a good thing we were able to keep each other sane throughout the preparation process.  "The night of" was a blast; I think it was the best we had done; probably because of the audience.  I remember going to Macbeth a couple months ago, and they definitely fed off of the audience.  This is what got me thinking for the first time why live performances can be night and day different from films.  

I thoroughly enjoyed watching each group go; each group worked very hard.  I liked the question and answer session the best.  It seemed that those who weren't from our class didn't have as many questions as we hoped, but the members of our class were able to ask questions that in a way put on a show for our guests.  I enjoyed that part of perhaps the best. 

The experience I had with my personal play seems to parallel what each group went through in preparation for Engaging Shakespeare.  My personal play was Macbeth.  I found a theme early on and wanted to trace that thread deeper throughout the play.  This is a rewarding process that I think each group expressed in their own ways throughout the evening. 

  1. How have I gained Shakespeare literacy?
    1. We worked hard on our script in at least two ways.  We needed a brief but thorough representation from each of the three plays we included in our one act play (Hamlet, Love's Labour's Lost, and Romeo and Juliet).  Averill and I read about 90% of the play to come up with our script.  This began the process of studying, choosing, and cutting; then we had to figure out how to express our lines in such a way that an audience would appreciate the meaning.  Though hard, it is much easier to read a play for yourself, than to express yourself so that someone else can understand it first time.     
  2. How have I analyzed Shakespeare critically?
    1. In our effort to create a one act play from scratch, we had to decide on a theme to analyze.  Welding three different plays into a single 15 minute act took alot of thought and discussion.  Through critically analyzing not only the raw text from the plays, but our individual scripts as well, we were able to create a cohesive script that represented the theme of broken love.  
  3. How have I engaged Shakespeare creatively?
    1. We wanted to keep our audience engaged on several levels.  First, we had a meaningful theme, second, we wanted a few laughs, and third, we wanted the collective and isolated lines from the text itself to not get lost between the actor and audience.  This took alot of practice with timing, inflection, and emotion.  
  4. How have I shared Shakespeare meaningfully?
    1. I hope that others were able to see the serious and not so serious themes we tried to portray.  We put alot of time and effort into our production because it is difficult to try to share so much in such a short block of time.  This is especially true when much of what you are sharing is symbolic; you hope it will sink in--in real time.  
I am going to miss this class; it has been personally rewarding, in addition to the camaraderie we felt as a class, and especially as a final project group.  We are definitely planning a cast party mid-finals week!!! Hopefully we can make that happen.  

Thank you Dr. Burton for teaching Shakespeare in a way that departs from my poor past experiences.  As I look back on the past few months, I have had an increasing number of meaningful conversations outside of class fueled by Shakespeare.  And I have the tools to continue my Shakespeare quest.  It has become apart of me.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Something DOES come from nothing

There is a very specific tone that I've tried to capture in my last two King Lear posts:  "The beginning of nothing," and "The meaning of nothing."  King Lear is full of anger, and is beyond reason at this point.  I am reminded of a verse in Proverbs:  "A soft answer turneth away wrath," (Proverbs 15:1).  But Cordelia's soft answer has not turned Lear's wrath away, it has escalated it.  I have found that this verse, perhaps ironically, applies more to the Prince of France than to King Lear.  I think that this verse is usually interpreted as a means to disarm the anger in another person.  However, perhaps it will most usually apply to a third party--someone who is not engaged firsthand in the argument.  King Lear is the one dealing out wrath; Cordelia is the one receiving it.  The tone of anger is painful, and while all efforts to recover what the king is losing have failed, there comes another voice that we haven't heard much yet.  The Prince of France steps forward, and changes the tone.  The onslaught of angry words feels like a loud waterfall; no real order, just loud and crashing down.  The Prince of France changes that not only with a soft answer, but the way in which he speaks:

France:  Fairest Cordelia, thou art most rich, being poor;
Most choice, forsaken, and most loved, despised.
Thee and thy virtues here I seize upon, Be it lawful I take up what's cast away.
'Tis strange that from their cold'st neglect
My love should kindle to inflamed respect.
Thy dowerless daughter, King, thrown to my chance,
Is queen of us, of ours, and our fair France.
Not all the dukes of waterish Burgendy
Can buy this unprized precious maid of me.
Bid them farewell, Cordelia, though unkind.
Thou loses here a better where to find.

King Lear is like a loud, crashing waterfall

You'll notice that this is the first time for a while that anyone has spoken in prose.  This totally changes the tone of the scene.  If I were directing this scene, I would have the Prince turn to Cordelia, and speak softly for near only her to hear.  Because a soft answer may not always turn off wrath, someone can always turn it away from someone they love.  That's what the Prince of France did here, as spoke in contrast not only to the torrential onslaught of the king, but in measured words of kindness.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The meaning of nothing

In taking a break from working on the final project, I wanted to refresh myself on the thoughts I had while reading King Lear.  If you remember from two posts ago, I uploaded a clip from "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."  I would like to take that thought a step further.  The video clip depicts a conversation between a father and his son, and the way this father feels his place in his son's life should be.  In essence, the conversation between Cordelia and her father is the same.  

Elder Maxwell; who spoke in parallel
terms with Cordelia.  
Last Lear post I focused on the theme of "nothing."  Lear said to Cordelia, "Nothing will come of nothing, speak again," (Act 1, Sc 1, 92).  The nothing that Cordelia was referring to I believe is akin, or even exactly alike, to how we feel about the gospel.  Elder Maxwell once said of the things that matter most to us, "we realize that we [feel] more than we can tell, for the language used is not that which the tongue can transmit," (Patience).  I think that Cordelia felt this way; she said in a voice only for herself:  "Poor Cordelia!  I am sure my love is more ponderous than my tongue," (Act I, Sc 1, 79).  (If you would like to listen to this talk, which has been a special favorite of mine for many years, you can click the download mp3 portion from this page.  You might need to reload the page that is supposed to play it comes up.)  It is very interesting that King Lear didn't understand why Cordelia couldn't find words for her love; that can only mean that he didn't love her as much as she loved him.  

Later in this exchange between Lear and Cordelia, after Lear has risen in his anger, he casts Cordelia out of his life with many harsh words.  Among these heartless words are these:  "Let it so be, thy truth then be thy dower."  

"Truth shall be thy dower," (King Lear's words to Cordelia)
It it amazing how often words spoken in anger are ironically true.  Truth would be Cordelia's dowery.  She held to truth, and truth was sufficient.  The following is another quote from Elder Maxwell.  The entire quote has application to "King Lear," but the part that I have italicized is directly pertinent to the ironic truth that King Lear spoke to Cordelia:  "Another thing we must make no mistake about is this.  we constitute each others clinical material.  We're in the same laboratory with each other.  Agency and all.  This means quite frankly that we endure each others immaturities.  Which when compounded, produces considerable perplexity and frustration as to what is happen about us, and to us.  Therefore there are times when we cannot be sure, and we must give the response Nephi gave when he was perplexed.  'I know that God loved this children, nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things,' (1 Nephi 11:17).  There will be times in each of your lives, have been, will be, when that must be the bottom line.  You don't know what's happening to you or around you but you know that God loves you and to know that for the moment is enough," (If Thou Endure it Well).

To know that for the moment is enough.  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How do we feel about a common blog for our final project?

Love's Labours Lost
Romeo and Juliet

Love's Labours

Hey everybody, if we like the idea of creating a common blog for our final project, I entitled the name of our blog as "Lovers of Shakespeare."  GET IT???  Hopefully the pun isn't to hard to catch seeing as we are casted as lovers of Shakespeare and also happen to collectively be lovers of Shakespeare...

The URL is:

Anyway, last night Averill and I spent a couple hours watching a classic version of Romeo and Juliet and ate some incredibly buttery popcorn... and now have a great foundation for our script.  We focused on the classic lines that pertain to the way we have divided up the material for our three 1 1/2 minute scenes.

I liked Matt's idea that he brought up in class on Tuesday, and thought this could be a great way for our group to inform each other on our progress, address road blocks, and a put up and develop ideas we have for our final project.
Hamlet and Ophelia

Lastly, in class today, I can give everyone the passwords etc. associated with everything if this is something we are interested in doing. 

The beginning of nothing

Where in the play do you think Lear's
expressions would fit this picture?
There seems to be a recurring theme of "nothing," that began in the first scene when King Lear said:  "Tell me, my daughters, which of you shall we say doth love us most, that we our largest bounty may extent.  Goneril, our eldest-born, speak first," (Act 1, Sc 1, 52).  

Soon, after Goneril and Regan have had no trouble "heaving their hearts into their mouths," it is Cordelia's turn to wax eloquent.  Lear bids her speak:

Lear:  What can you say to draw a third more opulent than your sisters?  Speak.

Cordelia:  Nothing, my lord.

Lear:  Nothing?

Cordelia:  Nothing.

Lear:  Nothing will come of nothing, speak again.

Cordelia:  Unhappy that I am, I cannot heave my heart into my mouth.  I love your Majesty according to my bond, no more nor less.

This is a clip from the movie, "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."  This depiction of the scene is about 4 minutes long, and shows a relationship with some similarities to King Lear and Cordelia.  

I have spent time thinking about this scene since first I saw it; the son, Dr. John Prentice, played by Sidney Poitier, is in his way telling his dad that he can say nothing of how much he loves his dad beyond their bond as father as son. It is a poignant scene very nearly follows the theme of where nothing has a place in the closest of relationships.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Midterm Self-Assessment

"words, words, words..."
Unlike Hamlets sardonic remark to Polonius about what he was reading, "words, words, words..." I have grown to love all of the "words, words, words" we have read from the assortment of plays we have been reading.  Separate from my like or disdain for a particular character, I appreciate the art and skill of powerful verbal (Shakespeare was intended to be spoken) expression for deep feelings, complicated thoughts and clever ideas.    


1.  How have I gained Shakespeare literacy?

I have learned that Shakespeare himself did not comment on his own plays, except by virtue of writing more plays.  In other words you cannot get the big picture by extensively studying just one play.  To study Shakespeare inherently means reading, discussing and analyzing many plays.  For this reason, breadth is important.  Finding connections within and between the plays our classes spectrum of Shakespeare has been important.  As we have discussed, Shakespeare comments through his plays on the attributes and tendencies that grace and plague our society; love, forgiveness, hatred, power, ambition, etc., are but a few of the themes Shakespeare addresses in the plays we have read in our class. 

In addition to the necessity for having a large scope in our Shakespeare experience, it is important to have depth.  Reading Shakespeare is like a road trip.  You could drive from coast to coast to get a feel for what you will find in our country; but you could also spend hours at the Lincoln Memorial, or spend a week hiking in the Rocky Mountains.  In other words, you could spend a lifetime pondering and experiencing the brilliant details of a single act or scene from a play.  In this case, it is good to be a sponge.  I have focused on Macbeth this semester.  One evening in the library, I was studying with a friend.  We had a great conversation about Macbeth.  I got to share some of my excitement for the characterization found in this play.  The characters are very complex, and it’s incredible to think about the relationship between thoughts and actions of relative to the evolution of character.  It is a tragedy that in small degrees we see all around us in the lives of individuals and our society.

My understanding of what to expect and think about when I go to a performance is greatly enhanced.  My enjoyment of an activity goes up the more I have to think about.  To say that something has an acquired taste can be a high compliment.  Baseball for example was BORING!!! until I learned more of the strategy of the game.  I didn’t realize how intense a chess match a pitcher undertakes when he faces the batting lineup.  Likewise, I now like to anticipate how a production will portray certain aspects of a play that I have studied. 

Blogging!!!  This has been particularly intimidating for me.  I feel in some ways that “I was born a hundred years too late,” to quote an old Ned Tucker song that I would always listen to in my grandpa’s truck.   I know how to send an email, and I can change the font of text in Word, but things like facebook haven’t gone airborne for me.  But I am intrigued by this new medium.  I have enjoyed reading blogs, and having a new way to discuss ideas.  In addition to liking the idea, I’ve had to learn how to portray strong ideas with different combinations of words, images, video clips, fonts, background, and other aspects of presentation. 

2.  How have I analyzed Shakespeare critically?

I have approached each play we have read with a pen in my hand.  I have underlined passages in ways that have allowed me to have quick reference in social discussion, and to focus on important lines and that highlight for me the most personally beneficial aspects of the plays.  Through marking various passages in the text, I have been able to find themes that otherwise would have been hidden to me.  For example, in my personal play Macbeth, I was able to focus on a particular theme that intrigued me, but that isn't explicitly spoken of as a classic theme from Macbeth.  I focused on an element of irony that was evidenced throughout the play, and this was at least ground breaking for me, and so I had to try and find some way of clarifying this theme for me, as well as those following my blog.

In The Winter's Tale, I decided to find a scholarly journal for my analysis.  I was drawn to the character Autolycus.  He was an interesting character that had a surprising influence on the development of the plot and the concluding experiences of the characters of the play.  Others in our class have talked about how the names of different characters have significance.  Autolycus is among that category.     

In my most recent post, I talked about how our modern concept of entertainment has perhaps imposed a different cast-audience relationship in a performance than what was expected in Shakespeare's day.  The fact that we went to the University of Utah to be entertained rather than to influence the cast in how they characterized their characters, cause me to think about my role as a spectator.

Because I have focused much of my studies this semester on analyzing Shakespeare, it is becoming apart of my speech.  I with that more people would know what I'm talking about if I make a reference to one of Shakespeare's plays.  

3.  How have I engaged Shakespeare creatively?

Hopefully it's okay that I haven't done alot of memorizing of Shakespeare yet because that is what I will be doing for my final project.  Averill and I had a recent conversation in which we bounced some ideas back a forth for how we can put together a diverse but cohesive one act play.  We will be memorizing lines, but also try our pen at writing a few lines our selves.  I actually just bought the pen Shakespeare used for everyone of his plays on ebay, so I'm off to a great start.

Though I haven't extensively memorized lines from Shakespeare's plays, and can confidently say that I can spell his name now.  In addition to this great spelling feat, there are a few one liners that have made a great impression on me, and have stayed with me.   

4.  How have I shared Shakespeare meaningfully?

This semester has been a good exposure to the medium of social learning.  I have made great strides in learning how to present my ideas in a way that others will actually take the time to read and think about them.  I just went through each of my blogs; my presentation has changed dramatically from day one.  On a piece of paper, I wrote the title of each blog I have done and next to it I wrote a comment on the presentation.  I have evolved from a the very simple and very boring black text on white background to having a few pictures, though disorganized lopsided, to variable text options with balanced and attractive pictures (at least I hope this is the case).  With this evolution of posts in by blog, I hope that the text I have written has been easier to read, and more persuasive for the ideas I am trying to progress.


Because a significant part of our learning this semester is done in class, I have always worked hard to be prepared to contribute to my group as well as class discussions.  This can be difficult at times, and I haven't done it perfectly, but the majority of the time I have a marked copy of the play we are discussing, and ideas to share.  

I have gained something of an intuition for what to expect from Shakespeare; because of this, I can read more fluidly and avoid becoming bogged down with what I don't understand yet.  One way that I have been able to accomplish this, is by watching a performance while I read each play.  Sometimes I have watched two or three different performances as I move through the acts of a play.  I appreciate the fluid speech of those acting the plays.  

Most of my documentation is in my copies of the plays we have read.  I have cross referenced, synthesized, summarized and clarified the plays I have/am reading through my marking of the texts.  
In the past, I have used tabs for quick reference to questions I have.  Perhaps this would be a good idea to apply as I read in our last play of the semester.  This would be a good way to expand what I have already done with my documentation in the text. 


JJ in particular has been really helpful with my blog.  Like I said earlier in my in this post, the concept of social media combined with working with computers has been difficult.  JJ took the time to help me outside of class to organize my blog, and make it easier to read for those who are following my blog.  Matt made a comment one of my early Macbeth blogs that helped to develop where I wanted to go with my theme.  

In class my group always has good discussions that move forward good ideas, and everyone gets involved.  We are good at listening, and sharing, while at the same time discussing differences in opinions and expanding our opinions. 

For me, I've had a few discussions with friends about Shakespeare.  The effects of this class has had outside of class has been how I think.  I appreciate how reading masterpiece literature can expend how I think, and process information. 

The only improvements that I can think of are along the lines of how we make comments.  The moment I started to make more than one comment a day, I felt like I was getting involved in the blogging of others.  It is fun to check a few times a day to see what others are saying.  I don't think there is enough interaction between bloggers and followers with one comment a day.  I do think that 2 posts/week is enough to stimulate conversation on the other days of the week. 

My Macbeth vs Tempest experience

I had two very different experiences last weekend.  I saw Macbeth in a small amphitheater, and The Tempest in a large venue at the University of Utah.  The actors in the Macbeth performance were dedicated to getting the audience involved; to them audience involvement was an integral part of their experience and what they wanted for us as well.  The Tempest up at the U had a much different scope in mind.  They were much more elaborate with set and stage direction.  The set was a main stage surrounded by a three story set.  As you can see in the picture, a huge focus of The Tempest was spectacle.

I was able to have two conversations with Macbeth, one before the performance and one after.  Before they began, the actors in the play spent time walking around and talking to members of the audience; they spent time laying the foundation for what they "expected" of us as an audience.  They wanted us to be a part of that evenings performance.  To the right is man who played Macbeth.  They had their final performance on Halloween night at midnight; I hope some of you were able to go see it.  I imagine that could have been their best performance.

I was wondering how they were going to pull off a few of the scenes with such a simple set.  On the left is a picture of their stage that they set up wherever they are performing.  In our case, they set it up in a amphitheater that felt like a castle.  It was quite perfect actually.  There are several features to this simple stage that allow for a surprising amount of variation.  1-there are three levels; the ground level, the stage and the ladders.  2-there are two trap doors in the floor allowing for some clever entrances and exits and intense scenes.  3-you'll notice that the back drop is a whit sheet.  This allows them to project shadows onto the sheet; they can do a scene that is behind the scenes.  4-there are three slits cut in the sheet for more options in their stage direction/exits; one is in the middle of the stage, and the other two are in the middle of the ladders.

In my conversation with Macbeth before the performance I asked him a few questions; I was wondering how they were going to pull off the scene when Macbeth is debating within himself as to whether or not he is going to kill King Duncan.  In that scene, Macbeth hallucinates as he sees a dagger in the air.  It's an eery scene because of what he is contemplating, and for how he responds to the intangible dagger.  The Macbeth I spoke to said that they would project the shadow of a dagger onto the sheet; he said that they had debated as to how they would do that.  They have no director, because that's how it was done in Shakespeare's day, and so just work things out amongst themselves.

I also asked him about his character; "What was it like for you to portray a character like that?"  "How do you manage to portray a good sane man who goes crazy?"  He stopped me there because he had a different perspective on his character.  He said that his interpretation of Macbeth was that he was driven by fear.  It was not so much that he just went crazy, but that it was the intensity of the fear that Macbeth laid upon himself that drove him to all of the murderous acts he did following his murder of King Duncan.

To bring this back to The Tempest, I have an observation that seems to me a stark contrast to stage performances of our day compared to Shakespeare's day.  It seems to me that it is typical for the people our day to view a stage performance more like a movie than they realize; come to be entertained. From my experience at the Macbeth venue, it seemed that a member of the audience came to be a part of the performance.  Or at least that was what the members of the cast were trying to help us do; to them they were trying to change our mindset of our role as members of the audience.  In a sentence, a member of the audience goes to a performance to be a part of the play, and to have influence on the characterization of the players on the stage.

Both performances were wonderful, but I liked the involvement, and the influence we could have on the actors on the stage, and how they responded to us.