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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.

March 7, 2007

The Rise to the Top

Since we haven't yet started the Merchant of Venice, I'm going to look at our last two books.I"m going to look at how the two evil characters rose to the top. Edmund and Richard III weren't really all that diffrent. They had the same motives and would do anything thing to get to the top of the power struggle. I don't belive it is that much diffrent then what we experience today in our politicans.

With the Presidential Primarys right around the corner we are already seeing candidates starting to throw their hats in for the bid to be the next President of the United States, As the the elections draw closer it will be interesting to see which candidates most turn out to be like Edmund and Richard III. Everything always seems to start out nice and everybody respects everyone else. Then as time passes the mudslinging begins and scandels break out all over the place. They tell the public how much they like the other candidates and how much they respect there opponents. Then as soon as a scandel hits they will throw them under the bus in a heart beat. This is not that much diffrent then Richard or Edmund. They may have been a little nastier in the fact that they killed off anyone in their way or simply made them disappear. They did what they had to do to get to the top. Will that be any diffrent then what we will see in the next year or two? Which Candidates will not be like Edmund and Richard and will it help? In the struggle to the top do you have to bury your opponents like Richard and Edmund did or can you rise to the top by being honest and fair? In the coming election I think we will see alot more Edmunds and Richards then we will see Edgar and Richmonds. I believe we will see plenty of candidates more then willing to pounce on their opponents when trouble starts so they can gain an advantage and rise to the top. I don't believe anyone will even question whether they should or shouldn't. Is it not easier to win if you do things this way. Power is an awesome drug and I don't believe that you will see too many Edgars and Richmonds. So who will win the next election? I believe it will be the person who keeps out of trouble and buries their opponent when they get in trouble. I don't believe it will be the person with the best ideas or morals but one who is smart enough to stay out of trouble and stomp on their opponet when given the opportunity. As the saying goes "nice guys finish last".

March 5, 2007

Shakespeare in Service Learning?

As I was waiting for my learning partner to arrive at Jane Addams School for Democracy, I was wondering for the first time since “To Serve Perchance to Learn? of the meaning behind service learning in our class. The other volunteers at Jane Addams that I carpool with are involved with the class Spanish: Serving the Latino Community. Clearly, they are using their knowledge in Spanish to teach and help others. “Shakespeare?? they asked astonished when I told them which class I am volunteering for every Monday night. I wonder if they thought I was going to be using my Shakespeare “skills? at Jane Addams.

After five weeks now, I still have yet to use my Shakespearean knowledge volunteering. Additionally, I don’t think my service learning is helping my grade, nor my understanding of Shakespeare’s plays. However, I do believe that it is helping my character and attitude towards life. Much like King Lear understanding for the first time man is no more than himself; I see that a society is no more than its humanity. Meaning a society should be judged how its members treat each other.

I must believe that the role of the university is to prepare its students for the future. Besides the obvious preparation that college will bring for your job there are other aspects to life that education should be doing. Teaching students to get involved with social action, creating solutions, and experiencing different cultures definitely seems like a good way for our society to prepare for the future. Our nation’s brightest, most of whom go to college, should be exposed in real life to the major problems our society is facing if not for their benefit, for societies.

For me, finding a reasonable connection to Shakespeare while I’m doing service learning is difficult, but it truly doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is knowing that other students complete college without experiencing real life problems in its true context and without thinking about how to change our society for the better.

March 1, 2007

Stuck On Richard

Even though we are done with “Richard III?, there are still many more things to be said about him. When analyzing his character and behavior, you can tell that his personality changes. Richard’s character is based on his own power and what level he is at.

At the beginning of the play, Richard seems very much in control of the situation around him. Even though he is harsh and separated from others, he still has a close link with the audience, pausing often to say his thoughts out loud so the audience can hear him. However, as Richard’s plan begins to work his authority and power is growing. You can tell that his character is changing by looking at his speeches Richard instead of acting like the innocent in the early acts, he instead twists other people’s words and he acts harsh. He also stops using his subtle powers of manipulation and veers toward achieving his goals by force, by ordering murders and no more acting friendly. You can see an obvious change in character when he ignores Buckingham, his only friend. Richard even executes Buckingham. Richard does not seem to be able to return love and favors; he abuses the friendships he has twist words of some loved ones to his own purposes, as when he seduces Anne, and when he attempts to make friends with Elizabeth. Richard is blinded by his power and greed. By the time Richard is finished, all his friends, and family either are murdered or they hate him. Richard’s inability to love because of his deformity caused Richard his life.

When comparing Richard’s life to someone of this day and age, you may see a resemblance of the character change in a certain pop star. Any guesses? You may disagree with me, but does the name Britney Spears come into mind? At first Britney Spears was a hit (I guess). She was humble and modest. As her fame and fortune (power in Richard’s view) grew, her personality started to change. As the years past by you can tell that her innocence was gone by more than a character change. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. A supreme example of her character change is when she shaved her head and put herself into rehab. Who would have thought that the pop star in the early 2000s would totally lose it by 2007? But what’s to blame? Like Richard (in some sense), Britney’s fame and fortune corrupted her and maybe deformed her.