May 2, 2007

A Reflection on Service Learning

I do not know what to write about since we are done reading our last play. Everyone in class is probably frantically trying to finish up all their final projects or study for the exam we have tomorrow. Perhaps even finish the last hours of the service-learning portion of the class. One thing I would like to share tonight is a pleasant surprise that I received today. This surprise made my day and was completely unexpected. You all may be thinking what is this glorious thing that happened today. Well I received a handwritten thank you for my service throughout the semester at the Simpson Housing Services. I had already received many thank yous from the men I served at the shelter and I felt good about what I had done for them. However this thank you meant so much more for some reason. I guess I didn't feel I deserved another thank you from the shelter director because I feel like I should thank them for opportunity they gave me. They gave me an opportunity to help somebody who is truly in need and the satisfaction I received from this experience far outweighed the time I "donated" to the shelter. Also they presented me with an opportunity to complete the service-learning requirement for this class, so I can graduate in 4 days. I guess what I am trying to say is that I think that all of us should thank the organizations that accommodated our busy schedules and trained us on how to complete our designated job. They did all knowing that we would probably only "volunteer" with their organization for the minimum amount of hours needed to complete our service-learning requirement. I'm sure if anyone else thought of this but it was probably required a larger commitment of time and resources for organization that we volunteered for than it was for us students to work 30 hours at that organization. As we move through the rest of our lives I think it is important to think about how we can give or we can take and that we need balance these two or otherwise the world doesn't work. I would like to close with a famous and maybe cliché quote for JFK "Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country."

April 30, 2007

Running Late(ly)?

As I was running, I realized I had to post my blog. I apologize for those waiting... Just as the weather is becoming nice, the semester is coming to an end. Everyone is busy finalizing their coursework, finishing group projects and heading one step in the direction of their career. In the end, with our degree and experiences in the classroom, we are almost promised that we will be successful. We envision living a great life and want things to go just as planned. A comparison can be made between a student at the U and the Tempest. Caliban is like the U. He promises Stephano (student attending the U) that if Prospero is killed successfully, he will allow Stephano to be ruler of the island (degree holding student), and Caliban will be his servant (the perfect job). He also promises that Stephano will get Miranda if the murder is carried out successful (a signing bonus). This sounds great. We graduate from the U, earn our degree, find the perfect job, and get a signing bonus on top of it all!! Or in Shakespeare's time, take out Prospero, be ruler and have Miranda in the end. Life will be glorious. Not so fast. Life gives us curveballs. Sometimes things just don't go as planned. You may earn that degree, but are there jobs out there waiting for you to fill them up? Will Stephano actually become ruler, or is this part of Caliban's plan? We will see the what happens to us, and Stephano, while we continue to live our lives and read Shakespeare.

April 25, 2007

Master & Servent.

This play is full of power relationships. Some are forced to bend to anothers will as in the relationships Prospero has with Ariel and Caliban. Others are more willing as in Ferdinand and Miranda who seem to be in servatude to each other by choice.

I am in my condition
A prince, Miranda; I do think, a king-
I would, not so!--and would no more endure
This wooden slavery than to suffer
The flesh-fly blow my mouth. Hear my soul speak;
The very instant that I saw you did
My heart fly to your service, there resides
To make me slave to it, and for your sake
Am I this patient log-man. (Ferdinand-III i 59-67)

I am your wife, if you will marry me:
If not, I'll die your maid. To be your fellow
You may deny me, but I'll be your servent
Weather you will or no. (Miranda III i 83-86)

The lines between master and servent are very clearly draw in each relationship. Alonso and the nobles; the nobles and the ships crew; Prospero and Miranda... etc. In this play the lines are very clear in order to stress the point. In our lives the lines are more blured, or are they. When we come to class each day we have nice conversations on our opinions of Shakespears works. These conversations are all very pleasent and enjoyable. It seems like I am hanging out with a group of friends most of the time. However, the bottom line is Mitch is our teacher and holds the power of our grade over our head. How many of us would bother to contribute to class discussions if this were not true? How many of us would even show up at all? Prospero's relationship with Ariel is pleasent most of the time, as long as Ariel dosn't challange him. Just as Prospero has control and power over Miranda our parents (yours more than mine) have power over us. Prosper manipulates Miranda's relationship with Ferdinand. If Miranda marrys Ferdinand then Prospero should have no problem regaining his position as duke of Milan. If you don't pass your classes your parents may lose bragging rights over there brilliant child with the degree from the U of M. They may then stop sending you money. Basicaly what I am saying is in every relationship one person hold more, if not all, of the power.

Bekah

April 23, 2007

Seeing Marriage as a Financial Union

In the Taming of the Shrew, we find a recurring theme of nobles and wealthy men pursuing brides that are from wealthy backgrounds and offer substantial dowry. As in many of Shakespeare's plays, this financial criterion seems to be a dominating factor in seeking wives for men of the times, and in the case of Petruccio we find the epitome of this approach. To him, it did not matter whether the bride is to be beautiful nor mild-tempered, only that she is rich. Thus he is willing to put up with Katherine's untamable nature and gambles to tame her, so that he may wed her and win her dowry. Moreover, "Kate"'s father, Baptista, asks for the same qualifications for his son-in-law to-be, at the beginning of the play when he draws the line on who can court his daughters, and later as he asks for lucentio's father and his guarantee of wealth.
The audience may at times be appalled at this ruthless, finance-oriented pursuit of marriage portrayed by the play that differs from the common point of view that sees marriage as a matter of love and devotion. But it must be stressed that as in the past, marriage today is no different in that it is a financial union above all else; in fact, increasingly so. Today, we find both men and women in the workforce, and so when they wed, there are complex financial agreements to be made. There are plenty of financial motives in marriage today, as people seek security and benefits that come from a solid marriage. For example, there are the tax credits, as well as many costs that can be saved from the pooling of savings, ultimately making both spouses wealthier. In a way, it is very much like a corporate merger (or acquisition, one might say?). There are reasons why offspring of the wealthy today most frequently marry offspring of other wealthy people.
When couples divorce, lawyers get involved heavily, as financial assets need to be divided fairly. It becomes almost entirely a matter of money at this stage, as the separating couple battle for more of what was previously shared.
Therefore it is interesting to see marriage in this other perspective from the side of financial incentives, which has been the norm for a long time. I see that it is an interesting observation to be made in the play, other than the more obvious and much debated topic of misogyny and women's rights.

April 19, 2007

TOTS more funny in days gone by

This is written in response to "the taming of the shrew - not so funny." The previous entry bought up that fact that many of the jokes in the taming of the shrew are disrespectful to women and are not that funny. Although these jokes are not funny in today's era, I do feel that taming of the shrew is definitely a comedy. This play was written in a time when men where the main audience. I believe that jokes in the play are about women because men in the this time would have found it funny that a woman dared to oppose their rule. Additionally, the men would have found it humorous that Katherine in the end was put back "in her place." This may be offensive in today's time, but it is in the nature of comedy to make fun of a certain groups of people. Overall the comedy in the taming of the shrew reflects the views and ideas of women in Shakespeare's time.

April 17, 2007

The Taming of the Shrew--Not So Funny

The topic of my blog is the idea of comedy. The Taming of the Shrew is one of Shakespeare’s comedies; however, within the play lie many examples of misogyny and sexism. One example is in Act V when the men are discussing how wives are the property of their husbands. This is something we touched on in class but didn’t delve into fully. I think that it is interesting how subjects people found funny in Shakespeare’s age would not be found funny at all now, especially not to women. An entire play about taming a woman with a wild spirit and a mind of her own would be considered highly inappropriate if geared towards a mass audience. Today women are encouraged to be independent and to support themselves if they so choose. While reading this play, I felt like the comedic episodes were overshadowed by the many examples of hatred towards women. Even the scenes that were supposed to be the most comical ones were filled with sexual innuendos and overt sexual comments. Once again, one would think that these types of gestures would be frowned upon more in the age of Shakespeare than in today’s modern era, but I think that it is quite the opposite. Overall I feel like what was tolerated and considered “funny? in Shakespeare’s day, like many parts of the play The Taming of the Shrew, would not be considered comedic at all today.

April 16, 2007

Tricking ourselves in society?

In the inductions of The Taming of the Shrew, Christopher Sly is a drunken beggar that is incapable of finding happiness. He uses alcohol as a method of forgetting the depressing life he lives. Passing out, he wakes up and finds himself in a lavishing, upscale house. Christopher is dressed up in jewelry, has multiple servants, and a wife. The servants tell him that he has been in a coma for many years, and has finally woken up. He has been tricked into a joke, and yet does not realize it. He is so oblivious from the surroundings he is unable to figure out the current situation. Today, some students become so entranced with so many events and activities; it becomes difficult for them to keep track of what is truly important. These students are unable to figure out the current situation they are in, and become oblivious towards their education. During the earlier college years, some students get engulfed in all the weekend action of clubbing and partying, and decide to stop caring about their education. Students trick themselves into believing they are in an acceptable situation because they become satisfied with their level of poor performance, deceiving themselves from the fact that they need to do well for the future. After college, they realize their mistakes of not receiving a good education. Education is a great tool for life, however, if it is not utilized, there would be no point of learning at a college. Throughout my college career, I have seen numerous people settle on mediocrity when it comes to education, and look for an excuse when they question themselves why. They compare themselves with the lower half of society in order to feel their position is acceptable. However, if they are constantly comparing themselves like that, they will be unable to realize the necessity of improving themselves. Even if they are able to graduate, it will be very difficult to find a successful career path if they have poor grades.

One of the key ingredients to a successful life is to become active towards set goals. However, it takes a long period to build a road to a successful life, and there are many elements which can deter people from this. For example, after a weekend of partying, it is difficult to come back to the education world because it is a cycle that can get depressing. But a student must realize they do not have any more chances and must do everything needed to reach their career goals, or else they might end up working at a McDonald’s the rest of their life. When Christopher Sly figures out he has been tricked, he will be even more saddened because he will have to return back as a beggar after experiencing such a prestigious life. College students should be careful and not trick themselves into doing an unacceptable job, and then later find out they have learned nothing from their education.

April 12, 2007

Disguise?


As Portia disguises as a young man of law in Merchant of Venice to save Antonio, Shakespeare again uses disguise to build major characters in The Taming of the Shrew. In The Taming of the Shrew, Lucentio and Hortensio dress as tutors to declare love to Bianca. Tranio dresses as Lucentio to help Lucentio be successful of wooing Bianca. As I read these two plays, I thought why should they disguise themselves to achieve their goal? Well, probably they think that disguise would make them win Bianca’s heart. Although disguise plays an important role for Lucentio to win Bianca’s heart, he needs to find another man to disguise himself to play a role as his father when Baptista wants to confirm with Lucentio’s father. So, at first, it seems that disguises enable them to achieve their goal and it is not hard to keep them masquerade. However, as Tranio bumps into Vincentio, Lucentio’s father, Tranio and Lucentio’s true selves are soon to be uncovered. Although they try to portray themselves as totally different people, their true identity could not be changed.

I think I see people like Lucentio and Tranio in today’s society, who act like someone they are not. When politicians campaign to win their election, they portray themselves to different people to appeal more voters. But, after they got elected, they sometimes act in different ways from what they promised to their voters during their campaign. They disguise themselves to achieve their goal of winning the election, but their true selves are eventually uncovered and they often disappoint the people who supported them during the election.

Why can’t people just be the way they are? Perhaps, some people think that disguise is sometimes necessary for them to achieve their goal because it allows them to become a totally different person for the moments. My point is that I think through disguise in his plays, Shakespeare maybe wanted to say that a person beneath remains the same no matter how the person portrays him/her or act differently.

April 9, 2007

Gender Roles

One concept that Shakespeare has used in all the plays we’ve read so far is the concept of gender roles and The Taming of the Shrew is no exception. In The Taming of the Strew though, Shakespeare portrays the gender roles as they were commonly accepted during the time. Rather than empowering women like he did in The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare depicts women as being valued below men and ultimately second class citizens. The one character who looked like she may defy these socially acceptable gender roles was Katherine, however, as the play goes on she yields to her husband Petruchio and falls into role of the proper and obedient wife. Throughout this whole play we see how the men dominate over the women. At one point Petruchio actually refers to Kate as his property as if she were just another piece of the dowry and he treats her like his property when he doesn’t let her eat, sleep, or make any decision of her own. Now, this portrayal of women seems a little odd to me when looking at how there are at least a few women in all of Shakespeare’s plays that do somehow defy the socially accepted few as women being valued below men. So it makes me wonder, why did Shakespeare decided to portray all the women as below men in this play? I personally think it had a little to do with the overall humor of the play but I also think Shakespeare is playing a joke on the audience. When you think about it just about every character in this play is in someway being made a fool of. Hortensio, Lucentio, and Tranio all pretend to be someone they are not in efforts to fool the father and the other suitors to win Bianca. Petruchio pretends to be something he is not in order to tame Kate. Then of course in the introduction Christopher Sly is deceived in thinking that he is a lord. This whole play is filled with deception and trickery, and so maybe Shakespeare is playing a joke on the audience. Rather than just being a light hearted comedy this play could be making fun of society and how they treated women during that time. I feel like Shakespeare could have written this as a parody or a satire to show how ridiculous their society was with the way they treated women. If this were true then the audience would be laughing at themselves without even knowing it. In a sense the audience would be Christopher Sly. But I could be totally wrong about this too because it is very possible that Shakespeare was just trying to be clever by getting a few cheap laughs off of some dirty jokes; who knows?
But then of course we have to look at how this play relates to our current society, and at first glance it would seem that there really isn’t anything in common. Women today, at least in our society, have rights and are seen as equals to men. Women are given the same opportunities as men to attend college, get a job, own property and everything else of the sort. And yet, even though women do have many more rights and opportunities today than they did back in Shakespeare’s time, it is hard to deny that the world we live in today is still a man’s world. Just look at the way we assign genders roles to certain professions. Men are doctors, women are nurses. Men are bosses, women are secretaries. Men are pilots, women are stewardesses, and the list goes on. Now of course there are women doctors and male nurses but society still has these gender roles embedded in the way we think of men and women in the workplace. There hasn’t even been a woman president in our countries’ almost 250 year history. It’s not just the work place though but there are gender roles in our social lives as well. A common gender role has to do with sex. A man who has a lot of sex is often times praised for being a player while a woman who has a lot of sex is labeled as either a slut or a whore neither of which is particularly flattering. And just like Petruchio claimed Kate as his property, it is not uncommon for men to view women in the same way today. A lot of people have made the claim that this is largely due to the internet and the rise of pornography that followed which depicts women as objects rather than people. Others would blame it on TV, movies, and our pop culture in general. Whether or not it is porn, pop culture, or something entirely different, it is hard to deny that men do view women as objects. This of course does not mean that men treat women like property, although some unfortunately do. However, this concept of women as objects and women being valued below men in society is still present in our society today just like it was back in Shakespeare’s time. Now I obviously only see this from the male perspective, which could be completely different from the female perspective, or for that matter another male’s perspective, but that’s what I’ve noticed in society and that’s the connection I’ve made from The Taming of the Shrew and our society today.

April 4, 2007

Love at first sight?

Of all the many love stories we have all read over the years, have not they all been love at first sight? How does one love another by only seeing them? How does one love another by hearing of them? To truly love someone you have to know them, see them, and be with them. Today it might be “like? at first sight, but to love someone it takes time. Sure we hear of all the celebrities who are getting married, when just the other day they were with someone else. I do not think these celebrities should be the example of how we all should love someone. It is just not realistic.

Loving someone is a large task. One must have no reserves and have the ability to put their whole self out there. Sure it sounds scary, but that is the risk in trying to love someone. To do that, there is a chance that everything will work out beautifully and we will meet the man/woman of our dreams. There also is the possibility that one might fall flat on their face, but there are many more opportunities out there, or more fish in the sea.

In Taming of the Shrew, the outside appearances of Bianca and Katharina are bipolar. The men who are attracted to Bianca are repulsed towards Katharina. Whether someone has a soft or hard exterior, deep down they always want to be loved. It seems like it is the sole reason for living. To share ourselves, our thoughts, our dreams, our beliefs, everything, is what we should do. Katharina, just like many of us out in the world put on an act of anger and hate, to delay that love. She and we may be afraid to give and share everything we have with someone else because of that fear of rejection, but no one wants to live alone.

Although many of us do not see a real example of what love should be in our lives, it is out there. You may be saying, why do I have such an optimistic view of what love should be? Well, the truth is, it is what I believe. We have had boyfriends/girlfriends who may have seemed right at the time, but when it did not work out saw that it was not meant to be. My belief is that love is possible and real for everyone if they are open to it.

April 3, 2007

April Fools

Continue reading "April Fools" »

March 28, 2007

After reading about Lear going crazy and Edmund taking advantage of his father in King Lear, and Richard goign on a killing spree to become King in King Richard the Third, I think the Merchant of Venice is incredibly refreshing.

Although there are references to violence its fun to finally have a happy ending rather then an ending thats used to conquer the evil that has been dominating the entire play. However, this may be mere coincidence but it seems that when intelligent women took charge of the situation in a play nobody ended up dying.

Yes I know that the Merchant of Venice is considered a comedy rather than a tragedy or history but in both King Lear and Richard the Third women tried to get a hold of the situation but were not listened to and this ultimately led to the downfall of others. In King Lear, Cordelia stands up for herself against her father and instead of appreciating her he disinherits her which leads to people taking advantage of his vulnerability and him going crazy. In Richard the Third Margaret curses everyone trying to warn them that their actions will cause them to pay. But they refuse to listen and everyone ends up dyign in some way before evil is conquered.

Now finally in the Merchant of Venice, Portia and Nerissa have contorl of their circumstances and since they are dressed up as men people actually listen to them. This leads to Antonio not having a pound of flesh removed from his body and Jessica receiving her father's inheritance. The body count is zero and everyone is happy. When clever women dictate, everythign works out, which leads me to believe that Shakespeare knew exactly what he was talking about. He knew that behind all great ideas are women, and that if men would only listen to women the world would be a better place.

March 27, 2007

For Love or For Money, That is the Question

In today’s society its seems as though the number of people who marry for love is less and less with each passing year. With the divorce rates on the rise, and a countless number of people marrying for money and that extra sense of security, brings up some pertinent questions: do people marry for love or money, and does money really make you happy?
More and more in today popular culture an ever growing number of wealthy middle aged men seem to be marrying young 20 year old women, as quote on quote “arm candy?. Although some may be a true expression of love, but many times I wonder, is this relationship really based on love, or is it merely a mutual arrangement. What happened to traditional culture of marriage, loving your partner “through sickness and in health, for richer for poorer, as long as you both shall live?. It’s becoming harder and harder to find couples that are truly in love.
Which leads me to the relationship between Bassanio and Portia in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Bassanio is a young, energetic boy who squanders away his money, and jumps at the opportunity of marrying the fair and wealthy Portia. After receiving the proper funding and successfully passing her father’s test the happy couple seemed to fall fast for one another. But if Portia was not beautiful or wealthy how many suitors would come knocking at her door. Each risking being alone for the rest of their lives for just one chance to be with her. How strong of a role do these factors play when it comes to “love??
Is it possible for people to overlook the superficial things that block you from seeing who a person really is? Or will marrying for good looks and wealth continue to grow in popularity?

March 21, 2007

Keeping thy poor poor

This country thrives on keeping the lines and boundaries between classes bold and drawn. In class the other day Mitch pointed out that the Jews in Venice had very few options to survive within the society. They could not own property and many, like Shylock chose to become a money lender. This reminded me of many things in our own society. Whether we want to admit it or not this country keeps the poor poor and the rich rich. During the Reagan years funding was cut for many of our countries social services such as food stamps and mental institutions, causing homelessness and packed jails. Why packed jails? Well, imagine a mentally ill person wandering the street because he/she has no where else to go. He/she gets picked up by the police and sent to jail for the night.

When crime rises in the inner city of many states politicians spout that more law enforcement is needed, when that is the last thing that will fix the problem. Education is the tool we should be using. Why do people enter into a life of crime or robbery? There is no hope for them in anything else. If our country could give them that hope, maybe they would take full advantage, but we don't.

Over spring break I participated in a program where I was homeless for a day. I learned so much about the subject. Many of the men and women in these places have been convicted of a felony. They could have been convicted twenty years ago, but it is still something they have to mention in a job interview. How likely is it that they will get hired with that on their record and make more than minimum wage? Very slim. These people have changed and grown since their crime days and just want to live in peace and quiet, but no one will hire. It is a way to keep the poor poor and not to give second chances. What would the rich be without the poor? There is something to be said about that. We all say we want poverty to end, but is that really true? If that were true then wouldn't minimum wage become a livable wage? On average, if a person wants a small apartment and has kids to support, on minimum wage they would have to work at least 75 hours a week. Who can physically do that? We give the poor a list of options that don't necessarily work and punish them once they take these options saying they could have done more, like Shylock who has only one option for work.

March 19, 2007

Public Project Presentations

It was a regular class time, and I did not expect to learn anything besides Shakespeare’s plays. I was ready to give a presentation and leave the class earlier as I was giving a second presentation at the Carlson School of Management. Busy life, as I am graduating this semester, does not leave much time to be sensitive or sentimental. To be certain, I did not expect to learn anything new about life, I just expected to study about Shakespeare’s world and its connection to today’s life. But it seems to me that this class keeps amazing me. That time I was amazed too.

Again, I was getting ready to give a speech for a presentation part of my volunteering project. I was inspired by what I was doing and did not need much rehearsing to explain my experience to the class. I was ready to share the knowledge, not to hear about an experience from someone. The whole my attitude had changed right after the beginning of the class, when my classmates started talking about volunteering for homeless men. Since I have moved to the United States, I have seen decent life in terms of financials. People in this country, as from my perception have a lot of opportunities from the birth, very often hardworking but having a lot for granted. The homelessness did not seem to be a problem in USA in the first place. And if it did take place, as I thought, it was a fault solely of those who homeless. How often we are lost in stereotypes! We do not even bother ourselves to break them or check them how truthful those stereotypes are. Until we face the reality anyway.

I was listening to the stories about the homeless and changing my point of view. I have changed my attitude toward those poor ones who live on the street. Surprisingly, they are not criminals and are very often nice and friendly people.

It was a regular class time, but that class turned to be very important in terms of my attitude toward reality. Another important part of my Shakespeare class is the possibility to show learn life, not just literature, and possibility to show the best parts of our personality whether that be our caring heart or a talent to write poetry.