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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.


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


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

It's a cruel joke. It's a cruel joke and, more interestingly, it is a very trivial joke that does nothing to progress or enhance the plot of The Taming of the Shrew. It is strange and disturbing.

After finishing The Taming of the Shrew, I closed the book and reflected over the ending, the plot, the characters, the strange love triangles and squares and pentagons, the twisted gender messages, the anger a feminist would feel upon completion. It wasn't until I was looking over the play to write this blog that I even remembered the beginning of it all; a drunken poor man, a rich man in need of amusement, and a traveling troop of thespians.

And I thought to myself: Why does the play heralded by the intro in my book as showing "Shakespeare's comic genius at its best" need this absurd and irrelevant beginning? Shakespeare has many "play within a play" incidences in his works- Hamlet and Midsummer for example. A well placed troop of thespians always just happens to be "trooping" through when the play’s real main characters are in need of it. In both cases, the play is clearly a play (the main actors on stage along with the audience see it for what it is- a play within the play) and it exists to further the main plot in some way, no matter how trivially.

In this case, however, the two plots barely touch, and it is the play within the play that the audience becomes lost in, forgetting the outer frame of "Lord" Sly and his faking servants. The play doesn't even officially begin until this "induction" is over.

My question is: why this? It is a cruel, cruel joke. To take a drunken man off the streets and convince him he is rich, he was crazy, that all these beautiful things are his...I would label that as the cruelest kind of joke, with the rich the joker and the poor playing the fool. "What a joke, that his dirty, poor, slovenly man could possibly possess all these beautiful things I do!" It shows egotism in the rich man, only referred to as "Lord," that is in one breath amusing and the other appalling. It is amusing because the audience, members of “reality,? are able to feel that they are somehow "in" on this joke. They came to see the play, "The Taming of the Shrew," and just happen to stumble in upon this hilarity. They are on the right side of the joke, able to enjoy in the poor man's confusion. If actually played out the joke could be devastating, but the audience--while being drawn in as part of the joke--are still half aware that this isn’t reality and that they aren't really laughing at this poor man; they are just laughing at a play.

My question is- was it necessary? Was it funny? With such a rich plot, with such rich characters, with such wild stage action and under currents, was this cruel intro relevant to the show or was it just another opportunity for Shakespeare to get in some of his wit? I don't feel it created a more intricate layering of plots that was helpful or amusing or intertwining or augmenting to the main plot. Rather, I felt it drew away from the wit in "real" story.