Final Thoughts

So its late Thursday night/early Friday morning–an inbetween time that necessitates acknowledging both days (similar to how an academic year requires two dates because academic years and night time hours dont adequetly correspond to a single date or year)–and I have little else to do besides sleep. As summer approaches, I value sleep less and less. So I decided to write this post instead. This post will consist of multiple parts to address much of what currently occupies my thoughts.

First. To my teacher: this year I feel that I am finally able to enjoy more difficult novels. You’ve taught me how to read and get so much more out of litterature, both prose and poetry, that I thought was possible.

Second. Facing the Speech and Debate banquet this evening I found myself comtemplating the sincerity of goodbyes and all the statements and memories expressed. I like to believe the best of those around me. I want to believe that at least most of the farewells we give out are legitimate, but at the same time, I often found myself lost for what to say. Every sentiment I expressed I meant. When I could not express a sincere thought I tried to supplement a meaningful memory or an inspiring statement. But by forcing myself to consider every member of my team, was I diminishing the credibility of what farewells I cared the most about? Coming to the end of my senior year, I’ve realized how little I will care about most of this school once I’m gone. While not the sweetest sentiment, I am very much apathetic to the vast majority of consol: I only care for those who have had some significance to my life. I feel (hope) this is more universal than we acknowledge.

Third. I often find myself frustrated by the political views of my many “friends” on facebook. Whether from horrifyingly mistaken extrem left/right bashing to simple but problematic statements or page names/discriptions, it bothers me perhaps more than it should. In the past 20 minutes, I came across a picture shared from a page titled: I Acknowledge a War on Women Exists. While I agree with the picture and the assumed purpose of this page, I disagree with the name. I believe to examine this first requires a better understanding of the word war. To me, war is intentional. War is intended to anhilite the enemy and bend them to your will. In the case of war, it must be declared. Back to this statment. Keeping with my general belief in the morality of others, I doubt any Republican politician (this page specifically mentions the republican war on women) intends maliciousness as we do in war. I must clarify: I agree with the intention of this statement, just not the wording. The phrasing lashes out and blames Republicans as if an actual war has been declared or at least mutually established. Rather, the best method is to educate, not enrage. Foster and promote discussion and understanding, not hostility and argument. I feel that this is what is lacking from much of the political discourse in this country. Liberal/conservation bashing and one-sided wars only further divide people whose ideals (if not policies) may be more similar than initially thought.

On that note, I am beginning to feel tired and beginning to dread the morning when I will wake up feeling #ded. In place of finding a meaningful way to conclude, I’ll fall asleep. Goodnight and good luck.

“Orange and Yellow”-Mark Rothko

orange-and-yellow

i am blue,
wake up and its raining. i try
to roll over but i cant
im a square
i float through the gelatinous
background of my 2d
world.
the ambient light is lit, i think
but i cant tell
oops….
i bump into another square
they take offense
“it is raining,” they tell me
“youre not blue,” they tell me
im orange, they are yellow.

My morning routine consists of lovingly painting my rectangular form a bright yellow. In the hazy expanse of the plane I inhabit, this is largely deemed necessary to be seen. Nevertheless, collisions are frequent. With simple geometric forms, “seeing” is a generous descriptor of our ability to sense what is around us: we have no eyes. I dislike bragging, but I am particularly adept at sensing the physical characteristics of the world around me.

they try to talk
i think.
i dont hear so well. the jelly
keeps sound from me.
i back
away. i think.

A lot of our bearings have to do with a slight attraction in the direction we call northward, so that if we were to be still, we would ever so slightly slide northward. Though it may appear to be a problem, the magnitude of this motion is so little and we have grown up with it such that I never notice it anymore. When it rains, it rains in a southward direction and pushes us ever so slightly southward that it counteracts this northward pull. Think of it as being weightless. Personally, I dislike the rain: it makes bumbling fools of so many shapes.

 

Midlife Crises

image

imageThe prompt asks after the concerns shared by these two poems. The speakers in both of these poems appear to be facing midlife crises wherein they each reflect on what they have not or might not accomplish with their lives before each dispels these concerns.

Essay Outline: 

Thesis: Keats and Longfellow both express the process of a midlife crisis as each speaker worries that they have not in will not accomplish all they hope to in life; each, however, overcomes this in his own way.

Topic 1: In some ways similar, and in other ways different, the structure of each poem helps characterize the nature of each speaker’s crisis.

  • Indentation the word “when,” and punctuation in Keats’ poem. Indentation and punctuation in Longfellow’s. Shows logical progression of thoughts
  • Keats’ is one sentence, Longfellow’s is more.
  • Predictable tone/subject shift in Longfellow’s poem. Shows calm analysis
  • Strangely placed volta in the middle of line 12 in Keats’ sonnet. Shows more hurried. Realization interrupts the previous thought.

Topic 2: Additionally, while the poems differ in the specific causes for each crisis, each follows a similar process: the speaker wallows in their thoughts before overcoming this.

  • Likening his thoughts of “full ripened grain” in Keats hints that the speakers mind is ripe but he may not have time to harvest everything he can.
  • Also Keats’: the expression of what the speaker may never live to do give the beginning of the poem a melancholy tone.
  • Longfellow: unfulfilled aspirations give the first half of the poem a remorseful tone.
  • Keats: tone shift after volta -> the speaker is able to dispel his thoughts of not attaining love and fame.
  • Longfellow: Image climbing a hill with a vast city behind and a waterfall of death ahead -> speaker realizes he has come far and still has quite a ways to go.

to be or not to be

Suicide is an important motif in Hamlet. We encounter the contemplation of suicide, and even the act itself (maybe). What does this play say about suicide?

To fully address this question we must begin by noting any possible recurrence of suicide within the play. Hamlet is the first to bring up any notion of it. He wishes that God “had not fixed his canon ‘gainst self-slaughter” (I.ii 131-2). And yet continues to contemplate it as he questions “to be, or not to be” (III.i 55). This question in particular, while many unfamiliar with the play take it to be a question of a role to play, startles me with its blunt questioning of one’s own continuing existence. At the very end of the play is another direct mention of suicide when Horatio declares he is “more an antique Roman than a Dane” and would rather kill himself along with Hamlet (V.ii 316). The only two deaths in this play that could be interpreted as suicides are those of Ophelia and Gertrude. Gertrude drinks a cup that she may or may not know is poisoned against her husbands wishes (V.ii 265-6). And Gertrude’s account of Ophelia’s death merely mentions that she fell and drowned (IV.vii 160-79). Both deaths are some what ambiguous. Gertrude’s death is wrapped in the confusion of the last scene and Ophelia’s death is suicide or isn’t depending on the character talking. This was done on purpose.

From the accounts that obviously deal with suicide, a natural conclusion is that suicide is a choice one can make to control and be sure of the outcome of their lives. If Hamlet kills himself, he would die and go to hell and his current situation would cease to matter. If Horatio kills himself he does not have to live with Hamlet’s death. And yet neither takes their own life. And in the absence of taking control they both suffer. Hamlet does nothing as Claudius continues to live and eventually kills him. Horatio gives up his notions of suicide to carry on Hamlet’s legacy and ensure no dishonor falls on Hamlet: not living for himself, but living for Hamlet.

In the case of Gertrude and Ophelia, Shakespeare purposefully wrote their deaths so that their nature is arguable. Gertrude’s account of Ophelia’s drowning could easily have made it more clear that she jump or fell with purpose or that she was reaching for higher branches when she fell, but this is not clarified. Gertrude’s insistence upon drinking could have been left out without harming our interpretation of Claudius, just as she could easily have been written so as to more clearly label her death as a suicide. So meaning comes from their deaths that if either woman did commit suicide, then she was taking control of her life and escaping the tragedy that surrounded her. If either did not commit suicide, then her feeble actions and submissiveness to those around her caused her downfall.

And so suicide in this play is a way to control when and how you die and where you go after death. Whereas reluctance to take this control ultimately will lead to misery and possibly downfall.

 

The Young Lord Hamlet

young hamlet

Philip H. Calderon, The Young Lord Hamlet (1868. Oil on canvas. Held in the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Sandor Korein.

Based on Hamlet’s memory of his father’s deceased jester, the painting shows Hamlet as a child rather than as a man-child. To quote the play: 

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio–a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne me on his back a thousand times, and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!

Hamlet on Yorick’s back is the only part of the painting truly based on the text. Granted there were no details besides that. Calderon paints what a typical day in the life of young Hamlet could have looked liked. Hamlet plays with Yorick, Gertrude watches over him  accompanied by a couple of court ladies. One even has a baby herself. We do not know who the other baby is, but it would be reasonable to assume it is Laertes or Ophelia, as they are the only other characters around Hamlet’s age that have grown up in the palace.

Painted in the sunlight in front of an open sky, young Hamlet is obviously happy and carefree. He is even accompanied by a puppy that is either sharing in his fun, or afraid he is about to be accidentally hit with Hamlet’s toy. On the horizon, particularly near the right side of the painting, is a dark landmass or cloud bank. And the upper right and lower left corners are darkened. This mixture of shade  allows an off center, sunny spotlight to fall on Hamlet while still keeping the painting balanced, but the darkening horizon may also serve the purpose of hinting about Hamlet’s tragic future.

Naming

The first differences I noticed were the names. Comparing the first Quarto of Hamlet to my copy of the text was interesting and enjoyable. Besides the names, I was not easily able to pick up on slight differences besides the obvious: everyone’s lines were a lot shorter. I was surprised during the scene where Hamlet talks to the ghost that their speeches seemed to be similar in length to my copy of the book, while few other speeches even came close.

In particular, scene 7 in Quarto 1 was confusing. It smashes together parts of scenes of acts 1, 2, and 3 of accepted versions of Hamlet. It disrupts the order of the play and fails to allow certain events to develop and be explained fully, such  as the hiring of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and the scene in which the King and Polonius spy on Hamlet and Ophelia.

In scene 3, while it parallels actual scence 3, the beginning banter between Laertes and Ophelia is condensed into one line for each character. We miss more than half their conversation. As such Laertes fails to describe to the audience the relationship between his sister and Hamlet. Instead we are left with the more memorable lines and contextless caution and the knowledge that Laertes is a hypocrite.

But my true enjoyment was the awful name recollection the contributor/writer of this quarto had. Bellow is a list that really needs no explanation.

Polonius – Corambis

Cornelius & Voltemand – Cornelia & Voltemar

Fortinbras – Fortenbrasse

Ophelia – Ofelia

Reynaldo – Montano

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern – Rossencraft & Guilderstone

Gertrude – Gertred

 

Who lives who dies who tells your story?

Cattle die,
kindred die,
we ourselves also die;
but the fair fame
never dies
of him who has earned it.

Everything will die, except the stories of those worthy of being remembered.

This sounds pretty morbid at first, but it is very true. Many dedicate their lives to the pursuit of fame. And out of these, few become famous in their lifetimes and even fewer are very well remembered. So for the most part, those who’s stories we keep alive have achieved something both meaningful and relevant. Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great were both emperors who’s names, though we may not recall the particulars of their stories, are commonly known. Leonardo da Vinci and Vincent Van Gogh, while less known in their own days, are two of some of the best know artists. William Shakespeare and Edgar Allan Poe have become almost gods among playwrights and poets, respectively. And Albert Einstein is so revered as a genius, his name has become an adjective describing such. Indeed, those who are great, and male and european, have become part of our narrative and history. They accomplished what many fail at: we tell their stories.

The story of Beowulf is one such Literary example, as are other myths and legends. Beowulf tells the story of Beowulf and all of his great deeds that earn him fame. Throughout the epic, men die, monsters die, the dragon dies, and eventually even Beowulf dies, but Beo, through virtue of his greatness is already living on in his epic. And we keep on telling his story even though any basis for it has ceased to matter to us.