Category Archives: Tragedy

Wheel of War

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In Troilus and Cressida I keep seeing the image of the wheel when it comes to the main conflict. Each character is a rung in the wheel and is responsible for some action or another that plays a role in the larger battle.  The seven rungs each represent a character who played a part in what lead up to the destruction of Troy. It isn’t a single event that brought on Troy’s destruction, but rather a series of events starting with Paris stealing Helen and ending with Hector killing Patroclus.

Paris

Paris has allowed his lust and desire for a woman to cloud his judgement. All he wanted was to possess Helen and he never thought about the consequences. Paris is the horney Trojan prince who started the Trojan War when he stole Helen from the Greek
King Menelaus (Prologue, 8-10). In the play, Shakespeare
doesn’t have a lot of patience for this guy—he portrays him
as a selfish brat who cares more about getting laid than the
people who are killed fighting in the Trojan War. As his dad
points out, Paris acts “Like one besotted on [his] own sweet
delights” (2.2.142).

Helen

The wife of Menelaus and cause of the Trojan war. If People magazine had been around in ancient Troy,  Helen would have been the tabloid mag’s “Sexiest Woman Alive” 10 years in a row. (You know, because that’s how long the Trojan War lasted.) Her
beauty is so legendary it “hath launch’d above a thousand ships”
(2.2.82), and she’s always being described as “the mortal Venus, the
heart-blood of beauty, / love’s invisible soul” (3.1.32-33). But don’t
hate her because she’s beautiful—it’s a hard life. Her relationship with Paris is the whole cause of the Trojan War.

Troilus

Troilus is a young Trojan prince who falls for the wrong girl
(that would be Cressida). If he were a real person living in the 21st
century, he’d be starring in an episode of Cheaters or telling Jerry
Springer all about the time he hid in the bushes outside his
girlfriend’s house and watched her agree to a steamy hook-up with
another guy (5.2).

Cressida

Cressida, daughter to Calchas and at one time in a relationship with Troilus. She’s Troilus’ girlfriend and the daughter of Calchas, a.k.a. the slime-ball who betrays Troy and joins the Greeks. (Hmm. Looks like the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.) She’s also one of the most famous she-cheaters of all time. In the play, she falls in love with Troilus and promises to be faithful to him forever. Until she’s traded to the Greek army for a Trojan soldier and agrees to become Diomedes’ lover. Oops!

Priam

Priam, King of Troy, Priam is the King of Troy and the father of Paris, Troilus, Hector, and Helenus. In the play, he’s portrayed as a loving but overindulgent dad who lets his sons have the final say in everything. It turns out that being a wimpy dad / king has some pretty tragic consequences. Like total ruin.

Hector

Hector is definitely the most crush-worthy of the Trojans, at least by reputation. Most stories show him as the biggest,
baddest, most honorable Trojan soldier around. In classic literature like The Iliad, Hector is the poster boy of “virtue” because he’s the ultimate family man and honorable warrior. His killing of Patroclus is what ultimately brings Achilles into the battle and causes Hector his life.

Achilles

Achilles has a reputation for being the Greek army’s toughest and most important warrior. There’s just one problem: he doesn’t quite live up to his reputation in this play. How can he when he refuses to come out of his tent and fight?

One thing’s for sure. When Patroclus dies in battle, Achilles is back in action in about 2.5 seconds. So, what does our “mighty” warrior do when he returns to the battlefield? Does he perform a bunch of heroic and noble deeds that we can all admire? Not so much. He gathers up his hired goons (the Myrmidons) and proceeds to slaughter an unarmed man. Then he has the guy’s corpse dragged around the battlefield (5.8).

Yeah, so much for “great warrior.” More like big, whiny bully.

Disclaimer: I Am Not An Artist

I am not an artist. I can’t stress that enough, and when I was looking over the things to do for badges, creating a work of visual art didn’t strike me as something I could do well, but then today I was thinking about it and wondered about the visual of Lear’s crown, how I might go about making a visual work out of it. And I did. In my own unpracticed, unskilled hand.

King Lear

When I was working on this, I had this quote of Shakespeare in my head: “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” (Henry IV, II, III). The crown had to be gold to represent the wealth of Lear as a king, but also it is a heavy metal, and his crown, his being king, is a heavy burden that cost him.

I made leaves and little flowers on the crown, symbolic of Lear’s crown of weeds and flowers towards the end of the play. The flowers have three petals, symbolic of the three daughters, and the red jewel stands for the bloodshed caused by the division and union of the sisters. At the centre of the crown is a black and red space where a different jewel would be but has been removed – this colour represents the darkness and death brought by Lear’s disowning of Cordelia, and to the left you can see the jewel.

I decided on a pearl for the jewel because of the line in Act IV that compares Cordelia’s tears to pearls – “as pearls from diamonds dropped”. Pearls are beautiful (as Cordelia is frequently called) and are extremely rare – I think there is something to be said about one third of Lear’s daughters being good and loyal. The pearl is crushed and there is blood around it to symbolize Cordelia’s end. On either side of the space of the removed pearl are two red jewels to symbolize Regan and Goneril, and also there is a pattern of two blue dots – there is clearly a space for one in the middle, and I decided not to fill one in to represent the loss of Cordelia from the family.

The broken pearl is in the shadow of Lear’s crown, symbolizing the darkness in the play that is spurred by her disownment. As well, the shadow under Lear’s crown is several different colours to represent the madness of Lear, as there is no clear path for him, shown by how there is no one clear colour.

 

Movie Poster

I chose to do my poster this way because as someone who is Maori I noticed how you can take a story like Troilus and Cressida by Shakespeare and add cultural elements in order to make it relatable to others. What this does it makes the story easier to understand for those who are not familiar with the actual story.

There are many cultural similarities that were used in telling this story. Instead of the battle scene the actors performed a traditional war dance called the Haka and delivered their lines in the Maori language.

For those who don’t speak the language you can gain an understanding of what is being said through the emotions.

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Stratford Festival’s King Lear

This weekend I got to see King Lear as put on by the Stratford Festival at Cineplex. I really, really enjoyed the performance and all throughout the film I was taking notes, as you can see is rather difficult in a dark theatre, but I had some things I could sort of make sense of, enough to help me write this response to it.

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I love movies and have a great love of cinematography, and knowing this performance to be a stage performance, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of cinematography, but I was really pleasantly surprised. There were incredibly varying shots and angles that were very well cut between; there was a great sense of fluidity. The framing could have been improved in some places but for the most part I was really impressed.

Being a performance on a stage, it was really interesting to see the audience in the background of some shots and to actually feel like you were watching a play in that theatre. The layout of the stage was very interesting, a much different shape than I am used to performing on or seeing, and it allowed for the audience to be seated on three of the four sides of the stage. Watching a film performance of this was made really interesting because the camera had so many places to be and actors could sidestep the traditional rule of never having your back to the audience, yet this didn’t affect a film audience’s viewing because the camera angles directed the focus properly. Sometimes some members of the audience would be unable to see a character except the back of them, but I think that this is a small sacrifice in order to offer a more three-dimensional experience. As well, the stage’s different levels allowed for the actors to play at different physical levels, such as when Edmund died on the stairs, and gave them different entrances and exits; there was a lot of variation and the blocking never got boring.

The special effects were something I really enjoyed and even before seeing the performance I was already excited and curious about seeing the storm sequence and wondering how it would be done – there was some fantastic lighting for lightning, it was very realistic, and great sound for thunder, and then fog machines were used and the actors played being in the rain very convincingly. Other sound effects, especially for the wounds, like the sound of Glocester’s eyes being gouged out, were very impressive. Theatre as an experience is immersive, and I think the power of it could be seen here. In the McKellan version, there were some lighting choices or backdrops that looked so bad that I was rolling my eyes, but not here. Though the staging and lighting was minimal at parts, it completely captured me and held my attention, concentrating it solely on the action and being free from distraction. It’s a bit difficult to explain the true power of theatre, and it didn’t get lost here even in a film version. Although there may have been less stuff like props and set pieces than in the TV movie version, I found this performance altogether more immersive and enjoyable than the McKellan.

One thing that I didn’t enjoy about the McKellan version that we watched was that the costumes were too varied in their time periods and styles; here, that problem was nonexistent. During the intermission there was a behind the scenes featurette from the Stratford Festival in which they detailed the costuming, dying, painting, wig and jewel making and it was so impressive, and that could definitely be seen on stage. I really enjoyed all the costumes and loved the little subtleties that added so much to the viewing. For instance, while in the opening scene, all of Lear’s daughters wore ruff collars on their dresses, only Cordelia’s was a full ruff, Goneril and Regan had ruffs similar to the other version, they were open and gave the impression of a serpent or lizard, which is what the sisters were compared to. The most impressive subtlety for me was in Lear – after dividing his kingdom, little by little you could see that some of his buttons were undone, his shirt was loose, his boots were not the same height – all these little details just showed how he was unravelling, and it was brilliantly done and really accentuated what was going on.

The makeup was absolutely fantastic. I’ve worked with fake blood before in school, a really cheap kind that’s mostly sugar and starts to lose the colour of blood after a few minutes, so I’m always really interested in how fake blood is done in movies and  theatre – it is so difficult to replicate because blood is cells – and the makeup here was fantastic. The blood of Gloucester was very convincing, from the blood that came out of his eyes and what stained his clothing, being the right kind of brown, but in particular, after his bandages were taken off, the empty eye sockets were really stunning and believable, even in the close up shots of him. The dirt and marks on characters like Edgar and Lear were also very good.

While the characters said the same lines in both versions, I thought that the differences in some of the directors’ and actors’ choices led to very different interpretations of the characters, and differences in my feelings towards the characters. This I felt most strongly in the characters of Goneril and Regan. I think that a great deal of this came from how the actresses looked. In the McKellan version, Goneril and Regan were very severe looking and looked much older, here, they didn’t look so scary, and so didn’t seem so evil. Goneril for me in particular did not seem evil, she actually seemed genuine in her pleading with Lear – this could just be how good her character was as an actress, but some of my belief in her evil intentions was lost. As the play progressed, she seemed more selfish than truly evil, and there is some room for debate about which she really is, or if she is more of one than the other. Even so, in this version, Regan seemed  to me to be the one who was more evil, more conniving and less likeable, and I thought it was very interesting to see her as more capable and independent, especially since in the McKellan version we saw Cornwall whispering to her, prodding her to speak more when she was telling Lear how much she loved him – that painted her as weak. Another interesting character interpretation was of Edgar – when he was first introduced, he was feverishly kissing a maid – something I didn’t expect from a character who in the end seemed so perfect. All in all, the interpretations and representations of the characters were delightfully surprising, even if they did differ from expectations.

The performances were truly remarkable and I felt a greater understanding of the plot, characters and dialogue after seeing this interpretation. The actor of Lear was magnificent, and I also really enjoyed Gloucester, Cordelia, and Edgar in particular. The performances were powerful and engaging and I really admired the acting choices made, from where the actors looked or didn’t look, their blocking and their speech. One thing that did bother me however was the delivery of asides and monologues. In particular, Edmund’s lines felt catered to the audience; he was reacting to their laughter and seemed to be speaking directly to them as if knowing that they were there, but I didn’t have this sense with any other character. It seemed to me that all the other characters were expressing their thoughts in their asides and monologues, but not to the audience, and you could see this in the way they reacted to the audience, the way they looked at them and the way they spoke. The lack of consistency was a bit annoying but on the whole I still think that the Stratford Festival did an incredible job in delivering a captivating play.

Visual Memory – King Lear Part 2

The level of enjoyment I am deriving from drawing these might be considered concerning.

Everyone knows that a letter you find on the floor is conclusive proof of any and all plots of treason
Everyone knows that a letter you find on the floor is conclusive proof of any and all plots of treason
Miscommunication 101
Miscommunication 101
Edmund is so pleased with himself.
Edmund is so pleased with himself.
Goneril is the queen of believable excuses.
Goneril is the queen of believable excuses.
Sylvester McCoy arrives with advice
Sylvester McCoy arrives with advice and comic relief
Kent joins Lear's court. Again.
Kent joins Lear’s court. Again.
Kent kicks Oswald around like a football.
Kent kicks Oswald around like a football.
Lear and Goneril are both 100% done. Albany is confused.
Lear and Goneril are both 100% done. Albany is confused.

Visual Memory – King Lear Part 1

So I was bored during Spanish.  Desperately bored.  I suck at languages (unless, of course, it’s from Middle Earth), and when I get bored-slash-feel hopelessly inadequate, I doodle.  A lot.  Today, my pen chose King Lear.  So I started drawing little comic strips to help me remember major plot points and situations I found amusing.  I thought maybe I could go for some badge points, and I’m going to try to get through the whole play.  Ready for some silly, weirdly drawn comics? Let’s do this!

Timing, Gloucester. Timing.
Timing, Gloucester. Timing.
Lear is not quite in his right mind...
Lear is not quite in his right mind… Wrong movie, Dad.
You've gotta not be twisted if you want to walk with the Queen.
You cannot be twisted if you want to walk with the Queen. Also, France is the real winner here.
The sisterly love is overwhelming
The sisterly love is overwhelming

So there you have it… The first part of King Lear in… what? Ten seconds? Maybe I’ll try to finish up the rest of the play… I will always prioritize Shakespeare over Spanish. 😉

Visual Art for ‘The Rape of Lucrece’

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So I drew Lucrece after the rape because drawing her while she’s naive and happy would be too easy. The ribbon across her mouth represents how Tarquin silenced her and, ultimately, her life. She’s holding a red rose and a white lily to depict the omnipresent metaphor of virtue and beauty. However, the flowers have started to blacken and die similar to how the imagery of red and white is replaced with black after the rape.

(My next drawing will be of Tarquin represented by a piece of trash.)

This is for the “Genres and Mode Badge.”

Rape of Lucrece

While reading and annotating Rape of Lucrece, I tried to view characters such as Lucrece in varying lights and try to understand  what drives them to make certain desperate decisions such as suicide. I decided to take a bit of a different approach and objectively analyze Lucrece.

The way Lucrece is treated  and labelled by men directly reflects what she deeply values the most about herself. Lucrece values her reputation and appearance greater than her own life and mind. She internalizes her given designations transcribed by men. In the poem Lucrece is heavily objectified by the ones closest to her and she is constantly compared to inanimate subjects and animals forcing her to internalize those characteristics. Lucrece is illustrated as  harmless animal such as “silly lamb” (line 168) to show that she is not perceived as an adult but rather as a naive child.  “Dove” (line 360), “bird” (line 457), “white hind” (line 543) and even “pray” (line 342) are also used indicating her fragile and harmless nature. Lucrece accepts all of these labels given by men and takes on those roles, describing herself as “poor unseasonable doe” (Line 581), “poor frightened deer” (line 1149) and “myself a weakling” (Line 584). This shows that her perception of herself directly affected by men. In a way, she struggles with herself and resents her internalized weakness ascribed by others. For instance, she immediately regrets for not being able to physically fight during the rape : “And wast afread to scratch her wicked foe, Kill both thyself and her for yielding so” (line 1035-1036)

There is also an interesting correlation between having a beautiful body and being virtuous.   Lucrece was described as “as bright as heaven’s beauty” (line 13), “earthly saint” (line 84) suggesting that somehow individual’s virtue and purity is coupled with outward appearance. Few times, descriptions of her beautiful bodily appearance is associated with having an innocent and unspoiled mind that of a saint and heaven. In a sense, her body image reflects her mind and soul. To demonstrate this, Shakespeare also mentions: “Within his thought her heavenly image sits” (line 288), “Hath barred him from the blessed thing he sought” (line 340) also supporting the idea of her body image being intertwined with her divine soul, and emphasizing her virtue, innocence and unspoiled mind. Lucrece accepts these elevated roles. She indirectly implies her pure state by mentioning: “stain so pure a bed” (Line 684) and calling herself a “The silver-shining queen he would distain”  (Line 786).

Other times, she was equivalent to man-made objects “virtuous monument” (line 391) and “Her breasts, like ivory globes” (407). Once again, she internalizes objectifications and says :”To fill with worm-holes stately monuments” (Line 946). As illustrated by the quote, she is obliquely calling herself “stately monument”, viewing herself as an elevated and majestic man made object, created to be displayed and valued due to its appearance.   The fact that she describes herself as a possession and an object created to be admired for appearance further supports the idea of her dependancy on reputation/appearance. As a result, this constant coupling of  “pure body” with “pure mind” intensifies the pressure to remain untouched to keep  an elevated reputation in the society.

As a matter of fact, Lucrece’s sense of identity is so strongly intertwined with her body that she would rather commit an unspeakable sin of suiciding with a better reputation than live on with a ruined image in the society. “But she has lost a dearer thing than life” (line 687), “To live or die, which of the twain were better When life is shamed and death reproach’s debtor” (line 1154-1155). Another interesting incidence that stands out is when one of the servants showed up to deliver Lucrece’s letter to her husband. Interestingly and oddly Lucrece was more preoccupied with thought of servant knowing about last night’s act rather than being devastated by the rape and violence. She was more worried about people finding it out and destroying her reputation as an individual with “Immaculate and spotless is my mind” (line 1656).  “Imagine every eye beholds their blame; For Lucrece thought he blush’d to see her shame:” (lines 1343-1344) and “The more she thought he spied in her some blemish.” (line 1358) demonstrate her concern of the servant exposing her “blemish” or in other words rape rather than being emotionally preoccupied with her traumatizing experience. Lucrece’s egoistic act of suicide reflects that she values her reputation in the society far greater than her children, husband, father and even herself. This shows that one of her deepest values in life is fame. The fact that she is willing to leave  behind without even worrying or mentioning  well being of those closest to her, shows that Lucrece is more concerned with honour and shame of rape that will destroy her reputation.  Ironically, importance of her reputation is most obvious when Lucrece  lusts for bloody revenge, seeking blood and death to redeem her prestige as pure and virtuous individual:

“Mine honour I’ll bequeath unto the knife

That wounds my body so dishonoured.

‘Tis honour to deprive dishonour’s life;” (Lines 1184-1186)

“For in my death I murder shameful scorn:

My shame so dead, mine honour is new-born” (Lines 1189-1190)

I hope you guys enjoyed my quick analysis! Any comments/ideas/arguments/evidences against my take on Lucrece are greatly appreciated 😀

Quick note: the reason I thought she might have children is because Tarquin said : “Then, for thy husband and thy children’s sake ” (line 534)

 

King Lear by Theatre Calgary

In February we will be covering adaptations and productions of King Lear. These productions will be audio and video (here), but I also want to encourage you to attend Theatre Calgary’s performance of King Lear.

We’ve managed to negotiate a reduced price for English 205 students. So really, how can you pass this up? Continue reading King Lear by Theatre Calgary

Big Idea 7: Topics – Light vs. Darkness

In Rape of Lucrece,  I noticed a heavy play on the themes of light vs. darknHateful, vaporous, and foggy Nightess/ night.

Initially, when Tarquin is planning out his heinous act, he says (possibly out of guilt):

“Fair torch, burn out thy light, and lend it not/ To darken her whose light excelleth thine” (190-1)

Here, Tarquin describes Lucrece’s virtue as a light brighter than a torch (or in this case his lust). In the same stanza, he recognizes that his act is that of darkness/ evil. Tarquin calls his act the “blackest sin” (334).

This theme is also evident when, during the night, Tarquin first rests his eyes on Lucrece, he is (once again) astonished by “a greater light/… that she reflects so brightly” (375-6).

Moreover, when Tarquin initiates his crime, it is noted that Lucrece loses her ‘light’:

“… her locked up eyes,/…/ are  by his flaming torch dimmed and controlled.” (446-8)

Furthermore, after Tarquin ravishes her and runs off, Lucrece expresses her shame by cursing the Night and wishing that it will never be daylight again.

Shakespeare uses the theme of light and darkness to highlight the aspects of innocence and evil throughout the play, where the light is symbolized to be pure and untouched and the darkness is evil and full of evil opportunities.