All posts by sohong

Argument Badge – 2 Sources

Why was Shakespeare Obsessed with Time?

This entry investigates how Shakespeare uses time in his sonnets to express the frenzied cycle of carpe diem and futility associated with humanity. I will two sources, along with my close reading of sonnet 12 and sonnet 60, to elaborate my statement.

First, it is important to note that Shakespeare’s sonnets were not categorized to reference the calendar. Time is an “abstract category” rather than playing an integral, direct role in each of Shakespeare’s sonnets (Callaghan 115). To further explain this, time has a very fluid, subtle quality in the sonnets, due to it being presented in seasons, age, beauty, and clocks, as I will further explain at the bottom of this entry. That being said, interestingly, Dympna Callaghan argues, “Notably, two of the poems most keenly concerned with time in Shakespeare’s sonnets are given symbolically significant numbers: Sonnet 12 is about the twelve hours on the clock face, while sonnet 60 reflects ‘our minutes’” (109). At first, I did not understand what Callaghan was trying to prove until I compared sonnet 12 and sonnet 60 together by underlining few important words that evoke time imagery.

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence (12. 1-14).

As you can see from what I have underlined in sonnet 12, the speaker literally counts the hours on the clock (12.1), which support Callaghan’s stated argument above. The imagery of the “brave day sunk in hideous night” suggests to the audience that a day —or, the 24-hour cycle on the clock— has passed (12.2). Interestingly, the images of nature and a man’s beard are assorted in different layers of each line. First, the speaker notes that the violets are wilting (12.3), and that the black curls of a man’s beard are now extremely white to suggest that death is near and inevitable for all living elements and creatures (12.4). The speaker then skips again back to nature imagery, where leafless trees no longer provide shades for herds, to signify that summer has passed (12.5-6).

The next line’s tone becomes darker, as the speaker notes that the summer’s crops are tied up in bundles, and carried off like the corpse of an old man (12.7-8). The speaker in last quatrain then doubts his beloved’s beauty, since even beauty in nature flees quickly in due time (12.9-12). The couplet informs his beloved the statement of leaving heirs since he cannot defend himself against “Time’s scythe” (12.13), or literally death (12.14). Overall, sonnet 12 is a poem about humanity’s futility against time, and that the only salvation against the inevitable death is through having children.

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,
And Time, that gave, doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth,
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow.
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand (60. 1-14).

Sonnet 60, as Callaghan argues above, reflects the minutes of the speaker and his beloved’s lives inching toward death in languid motion, contributed by the subtle imagery of “the waves [making way] towards the pebbled shore” (60.1-2). The words “changing place” and “sequent toil” all suggest that time is never constant, but progressively moving forward with arduous fervor, which strangely and strongly contrast with the calm tone of the first two lines (60.3-4). The speaker recalls the languid tone of the first lines by tying it with “nativity” —that is, babies— and “light” (60.5). However, the innocence of “nativity” is lost as they crawl toward maturity, or fight in the real world for glory and fame as represented by the crown imagery (60.6). I suppose that from the first and second quatrain, Shakespeare sort of hints the futility of humanity and all its hard work through the cyclical nature of life and death. This is further supported in the third quatrain, where the speaker tells his beloved that Time can give and take away beauty and youth any day with his “scythe to mow,” which gives us the impression that Time is ruthless and not empathetic toward humanity (60.9-12). Yet, Shakespeare ends this sonnet with some positivity in his couplet, chiming carpe diem in hopes that his poem will stand against time and continue to praise his beloved’s worth (60. 13-14).

Why was Shakespeare obsessed with time in his sonnets? Georgia Brown argues that perhaps it was due to the pre- and post-lapsarian narratives that were prevalent in Elizabethan times (237). For example, Brown refers back to Milton’s Paradise Lost, where “love-making is leisured and unhurried” before the Fall (237). Adam and Eve lived in the Garden of Eden, which was a paradise where they could both live in languid pleasure. However, the post-lapsarian experience that extends to all humankind destroys leisured love that Adam and Eve once shared. Post-lapsarian love, as Brown argues, is “hurried, desperate, passionate, and impelled by restlessness, ” and that “the apprehension of time’s restless pressure introduces the mode of carpe diem” (238). This is clearly evident in my close reading of sonnet 12 and 60, which both reveal the anguish that the speaker feels due to the cutthroat, cyclic nature of life and death. Both sonnet 12 and 60 reflect on seizing any opportunity to leave mementos, such as heirs or works of art, to remember the beloved’s worth on earth. Shakespeare’s sonnet 12 and 60 reveal how precious time is to all inhabitants of earth, whether they are plants, animals, waves, stones, or humans, since nothing lasts forever.

So where does sonnet 12 and sonnet 60 exactly stand regarding hope and despair that time brings to everyone? Through my comparison of both poems, I believe that sonnet 12 is ‘macroscopic,’ while sonnet 60 is ‘microscopic’ in terms of how we can all view life. What I mean by macroscopic and microscopic is that macroscopic is more of a worldly view, which can be somewhat cynical. Microscopic reveals the speaker’s intimate thoughts, which can be hopeful or cynical. I argue that sonnet 12 is macroscopic since Shakespeare writes about the passage of life in more wholesome view through his incorporation of seasons, dying plants, death in old age, and leaving heirs on earth to carry on your spirit. Sonnet 60 seems macroscopic too, due to nature and ‘cradle to grave’ imagery. However, the couplet of sonnet 60 is actually microscopic because it peers through the intimate, inner desires of the speaker, which is to have his testimony of praising his beloved stand against the conventional time.

In conclusion, Shakespeare’s obsession with time highlights the powerlessness and futility of humanity against time, no matter how much  effort we put into glory and fame. However, it is also important to note that it is not such a bad idea to perhaps leave mementos — such as a collection of poems— for your beloved ones and the future generations to read, meditate upon how precious time is for all earth’s inhabitants, and gain inspiration to write more sonnets.

 

Works Cited

Brown, Georgia. “Time and the Nature of Sequence in Shakespeare’s Sonnets: “In sequent toil all forwards do contend.”” How To Do Things With Shakespeare: New Approaches, New Essays. Ed. Laurie Maguire. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008. 236-254. Print.

Callaghan, Dympna. “Confounded by Winter: Speeding Time in Shakespeare’s Sonnets.” A Companion to Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Ed. Michael Schoenfeldt. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell, 2007. 104-118. Print.

Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 12.” The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems. Ed. Colin Burrow. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002. 405. Print.

Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 60.” The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems. Ed. Colin Burrow. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 2002. 501. Print.

 

Argument Badge – My Pro-Shakespeare Argument Post

Why Do We Still Care about Ol’ Willy? – My Pro-Shakespeare Argument Post

All rise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a mock trial blog entry, where I will argue to defend my client, William Shakespeare.

Just kidding! Actually, this post is nothing nefarious. I will write on why Shakespeare still matters in 2015, based on my personal  experiences with Shakespeare in the past and this course. Of course, to support my statements, I will bring a few outside sources.

I was first exposed to Shakespeare’s classics such as Romeo and Juliet when I was in elementary school. The book was loosely translated in Korean, so it was easy for any children ages 8 and over to read. However, much of its content was lost since it was a simplified version of the original.

An accurate portrayal of my 8-year-old self’s reaction to just about anything in life.

 

I also remember not enjoying that version of Romeo and Juliet. The simplified version was boring and heavily over-romanticized —yes, I can’t stress how saccharine the translation was— and tragically, I never picked up Shakespeare again….

….Until high school rolled in. Again, I was not able to enjoy Romeo and Juliet due to my dismal rendezvous with it in the past. In spite of that, Macbeth, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Taming of the Shrew all profusely entertained me. To this day, I still love all those four plays.

Anyway, before I left high school, I remember being questioned in grade 12 on why we still read Shakespeare in this postmodern world. In fact, the question made me wonder why we still study any texts from many ancient civilizations, and if they were still relevant to humanity in this digital age.

I mean, seriously, why read Shakespeare in our globalized, electrically dizzying, hurly-burly, heap-of-a-mess planet, where we are constantly bombarded with advertisements and TV shows, in a world that tells us to get rich or die trying, in a world where culture is society and vice versa?

Fast forward to 2015, and on week 1 of this course, we were asked two questions, or at least something similar in the following:

1. Is Shakespeare a great writer? Is he the greatest writer of all time?
2. Why do we still read Shakespeare in 2015?

I remember my answer being “No” to the first question since I thought of other writers such as Oscar Wilde, Homer, Virgil, Virginia Woolfe, Al-Hallaj, Charlotte Bronte, and Haruki Murakami… The list was endless!

For the second question, I thought that we still read Shakespeare now because the themes in his plays were still relevant to us. But “How?” was the question that I couldn’t answer.

First, I found it difficult to agree that Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all time since that is a very subjective statement. I could perhaps say that Shakespeare is the greatest writer of all time, but someone living in Poland or Djibouti could say “Nay” to that.

Just like how there are different ways to say “Neigh.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still, is Shakespeare a great writer? The Oxford English Dictionary defines “great” in the following:

11. Of long duration; lasting, or having lasted, a long time.
a. Of a period of time.

13. Having significant effects, importance, distinction, etc. (Of things, places, actions, events, etc.)
a. Of considerable importance, significance, or distinction; important, weighty; distinguished, prominent; famous, renowned; impressive. Also in weakened sense: highly commendable, praiseworthy (“Great.”)

 
Did Shakespeare’s works last for a long time? Well, it’s been over 500 years since he wrote his plays, and we still read and watch his works come alive on stages and films. I suppose that means he’s great. Also, he does have important significance in our high culture, so I guess he’s double great…?

Still, does the OED’s definition of “great” have specific requirements? How long does a work have to last in order to attain prominence in a culture? Through these questions, I think that the definition of “great” is also subjective, and even nebulous.

That doesn’t mean that I can’t deny Willy’s masterful use of language, which poetically justifies the near-immortal essence of his art. For example, in Sonnet 55, Shakespeare writes:

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory. (491)

Shakespeare never said, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” but his sonnet here might as well have with its hard-hitting points.
Skyscrapers and statues can erode and crumble. Money can lose its value. Political systems can be rebuilt or destroyed. Politicians can be overthrown or brought back in power. Flowers can bloom and fade away in short period of time.

But words can leave records of our memories in this mortal realm. Words, which speak to the heart of the human condition, can last for a long time if they still matter to us. Alan Crevan argues that “[Shakespeare’s] language is rich, the characters are complex and many of his basic themes – love, treachery, honor, bravery and political intrigue – still resonate today” (“Why Do We Still Care About Shakespeare?”).

I have to agree with Crevan here. All of Shakespeare’s plays and poems that we’ve studied in this course have themes and characters that we can relate to. Perhaps we can’t relate to all the characters in Shakespeare’s works, but there is always someone out there who can.

Take for example, Lucrece. I’m sure that many people out there in the world can relate to her story of rape and empowerment. Perhaps others could relate to Perdita and Florizel, who are in love with each other but social hierarchy demands them to separate. How about wars between Troy and Greece that tears peace apart, and instills double standards and hypocrisy? What about Viola’s agency in regards to masculinity and cross-dressing?

Shakespeare made me question a lot of our civilization’s ethics, morality, and current events. After reading Shakespeare’s texts, I can see Marias, Cressidas, Troiluses, Malvolios, and so on scattered throughout our postmodern era. There are still people in 2015 that deal with the same struggles people in Shakespeare’s time went through.

Again, why read Shakespeare in our globalized, electrically dizzying, hurly-burly, heap-of-a-mess planet, where we are constantly bombarded with advertisements and TV shows, in a world that tells us to get rich or die trying, in a world where culture is society and vice versa?

For me, I think —as corny as this may sound— it’s so that we don’t lose our shred of humanity in life that can turn into a race where excessive competition runs rampant in our culture. I think that Shakespeare’s works has underlying themes of humanity that we can analyze to comprehend the complex system of the human condition.

Either that, or we probably read Shakespeare for Internet’s sake:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

“Great, adj., n., adv., and int.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2015. Web. 2 April 2015.

Shakespeare, William. “Sonnet 55.” The Complete Sonnets and Poems. Ed. Colin Burrow. London: Oxford UP, 2002. 491. Print.

“Why Do We Still Care About Shakespeare?” Ovations. The UTSA College of Liberal and Fine Arts. Cindy Tumiel. Web. 2 Apr. 2015.

Genres + Modes Badge – Movie Poster

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I created this movie poster for The Winter’s Tale. It is 8.5 x 11 inches on watercolour paper, and is painted with gouache and watercolour. I chose to paint this poster in Renaissance-esque mode to reflect the Medieval fairy tale/Shakespearean nature of the play.   In the centre, Perdita’s face overlooks Bohemia and Sicilia. Bohemia is represented on the left in mauve with roses, and Sicilia is covered with ice and snow on the right. I chose to make Bohemia and Sicilia merge as one to look sort of like the Royal Arms, symbolizing the reunion of the two countries through Perdita. I also chose the quote “Merry or sad shall’t be?” by Mamillius from Act 2, Scene 1 to unify the overall tragi-comic atmosphere of this “problem play,” and also to reiterate the question of whether or not if this play has a “happily-ever-after” ending.

(Personally, as much as I love this play, I was still saddened by the fact that Mamillius and Antigonus died tragically. I really didn’t see that coming, seriously.)

 

Writing Badge – Sonnet

This sonnet was written as a parody. It’s not written for anyone at all. The title makes reference to one of Shakespeare’s plays. I was inspired to write this sonnet from watching a teen comedy film currently out in theaters, as well as reading some of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The moral of the story is, don’t let your friend drag you to watch another teen comedy film, or else a sonnet like this happens.

 

“You’ll Burn, You’ll Pine, You’ll Perish”

To my thoughts, you are as fodder to pigs,
Or quite foul and sloughy as the ill March;
And for you, the grave my confidante digs
Will ne’er have an aureate, marble arch.

Yea, if you read this line, remember so
That e’en Eleos will not much ado
About your soul, the artless map of woe.
E’en Hades calls you unfit for hell too.

But, egad, how ironic that you, egg,
A beslubbering, boil-brained malt-worm, will
Live on in this record like the Black Plague–
Until the Judgment Day, when time stands still.

So long as you act tough, my eyes can see–
You are the DUFF, now burn in third degree.

Writing Badge – Reshuffling Lines

I’ve reshuffled lines from King Lear, Hamlet, and Macbeth to create a new scene.  The back story of this scene is that Hamlet, who is pretending to be mad, has killed a man for his quest to find his long-lost father. Hamlet and his companions run into the mad  King Lear -who bears uncanny resemblance to Hamlet’s father- and three mysterious witches with strange powers and secrets…

 

Enter HAMLET

HAMLET.    Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on.

ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.  [Within] Hamlet! Lord Hamlet!

MARCELLUS and HORATIO. [Within] My lord, my lord,–

HAMLET.   What noise? who calls on Hamlet?
O, here they come.

Enter ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, MARCELLUS, and HORATIO

HAMLET.   I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is
southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.

ROSENCRANTZ.  What have you done, my lord, with the dead body?

HAMLET.   Compounded it with dust, whereto ’tis kin.

ROSENCRANTZ.  Tell us where ’tis, that we may take it thence
And bear it to the chapel.

 HAMLET. The body is with the king, but the king is not with
the body. The king is a thing—

GUILDENSTERN. A thing, my lord!

HAMLET. Of nothing: bring me to him. Hide fox, and all after.

ROSENCRANTZ. My lord, you must tell us where the body is, and go
with us to the king.

Enter KING LEAR

KING LEAR. Dost thou know me, fellow?

MARCELLUS. Is it not like the king?

HAMLET. [Aside] The king my father!

KING LEAR. First let me talk with this philosopher.
What is the cause of thunder?

HAMLET. [Aside] But no more like my father

Than I to Hercules

Slanders, sir: for the satirical rogue says here
that old men have grey beards, that their faces are
wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and
plum-tree gum and that they have a plentiful lack of
wit, together with most weak hams: all which, sir,
though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet
I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down, for
yourself, sir, should be old as I am, if like a crab
you could go backward.

GUILDENSTERN. Good my lord, put your discourse into some frame and start not so wildly from my affair.

KING LEAR.              Pray, do not mock me:
I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more nor less;
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.

Storm still. Enter KENT and Fool

KENT. Alack, bare-headed!
Gracious my lord, hard by here is a hovel;

Here is the place, my lord; good my lord, enter:
The tyranny of the open night’s too rough
For nature to endure.

KING LEAR. Prithee, go in thyself: seek thine own ease:
This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
On things would hurt me more. But I’ll go in.

To the Fool

In, boy; go first. You houseless poverty,–
Nay, get thee in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.

KENT. Now, good my lord, lie here and rest awhile.

KING LEAR. Make no noise, make no noise; draw the curtains:
so, so, so. We’ll go to supper i’ he morning. So, so, so.

(Falls asleep outside)

KENT.        Oppressed nature sleeps:
This rest might yet have balm’d thy broken senses,
Which, if convenience will not allow,
Stand in hard cure.

Fool. This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.

Fool goes in

ALL (Three Witches). Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
Hover through the fog and filthy air.

The Fool runs out from the hovel

Fool. Come not in here, nuncle, here’s a spirit
Help me, help me!

KENT. Give me thy hand. Who’s there?

First Witch. When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?

Second Witch. When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.

Third Witch. That will be ere the set of sun.

HAMLET.                 The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.

HORATIO. It is a nipping and an eager air.

KENT. Who’s there, besides foul weather?

What art thou that dost grumble there i’ the straw?
What is’t you seek? Come forth.

Thunder. Enter the three Witches

First Witch. Speak.

Second Witch. Demand.

Third Witch. We’ll answer.

First Witch. Say, if thou’dst rather hear it from our mouths,
Or from our masters?

ALL (Three Witches). Come, high or low;
Thyself and office deftly show!

Thunder. Enter Ghost

HORATIO. Look, my lord, it comes!

HAMLET. Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn’d,
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou comest in such a questionable shape
That I will speak to thee: I’ll call thee Hamlet,
King, father, royal Dane: O, answer me!

Ghost beckons HAMLET

HORATIO. It beckons you to go away with it,
As if it some impartment did desire
To you alone.

ALL (Three Witches).       Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

MARCELLUS. Shall I strike at it with my partisan?

HORATIO. Do, if it will not stand.

‘Tis here!

MARCELLUS.                  ‘Tis gone!

The Witches and the Ghost vanish

HORATIO.              What does this mean, my lord?

MARCELLUS. Look, with what courteous action
It waves you to a more removed ground:
But do not go with it.

HORATIO. Do not, my lord.

 HAMLET. My fate cries out,
And makes each petty artery in this body
As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve.
Still am I call’d. Unhand me, gentlemen.
By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me!
I say, away! Go on; I’ll follow thee.

Exeunt HAMLET

GUILDENSTERN. My honoured lord!

ROSENCRANTZ. My most dear lord!

Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN

HORATIO. O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

MARCELLUS. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

HORATIO. Heaven will direct it.

MARCELLUS. Nay, let’s follow him.

Exeunt MARCELLUS and HORATIO

KENT.            By Juno, I swear,

How unnatural and bemadding.

To the Fool

Come, help to bear thy master;
Thou must not stay behind.

 Exeunt all