Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tempestuous

On Saturday our class went on a second field trip, this time to see The Tempest by the Pioneer Theater Company.

I had a lot of thoughts and reactions to the play, but they're not very cohesive. So I'll just write some down and see how it goes.

The set was very impressive. In a way, it was simple, in that it was plain, wooden platforms. But, the platforms went three stories. And, in what I thought was a great addition to Shakespeare's play, the play began with Prospero and Ariel adding more to the set, as if they were in the workshop getting ready to make a big storm. With theater magic, Prospero lowered lanterns and a windmill, and a few other whimsical contraptions.

Did anyone notice Miranda's "tomboy" tendencies? I noticed at one point in the play she wasn't, as my dad would tell my sisters when they were younger, "sitting like a lady." And there was also the time when she playfully slugged Ferdinand. And, of course, it makes sense that she would act like a tomboy! She's spent the last 12 years as the only human female on the island. I thought that was a nice idea for playing the part of Miranda.

Another thing about Miranda I noticed was that the very first time Caliban showed up in a scene, Miranda began to gather up her skirts, as if she was preparing to make a run for it. Did anyone else notice that? I thought that was another cool idea, that she would just bring her guard up whenever Caliban was around, almost as if by instinct.

Our carpool group stayed after the play for the Q&A session with the actors. And we noticed how similar Prospero and Ariel were to the actors who played them. We could tell that Julia Motyka, who played Ariel, had a background in dance before she said it out loud. Because not only did she move her hands a lot while she talked, but her hands flowed. She said she got married not too long ago, and on her honeymoon in Africa she noticed the way that birds moved, and that became her inspiration for how Ariel would move. And Craig Wroe, who played Prospero, seemed sort of unapproachable in the way that he talked and answered questions, maybe a little arrogant. I know Chris in particular had a question to ask, but decided against it.

I noticed in the program a message from the art director, talking about why he loved The Tempest and what it meant to him. He also mentioned that this was his last play, so I wanted to ask him about the link between Shakespeare using this play as a farewell and himself bidding adieu with this play. But, unfortunately, he wasn't there for the Q&A.

I also would have liked to ask Paul Kiernan, who played Caliban, where he got his inspiration. If Ariel was based on birds, what animals was Caliban based on? But he didn't come out on stage for the Q&A either. Probably because of all the make up he had to take off. (To me, he looked like Shrek with dreadlocks.)

Well, those are a few observations to start out with. I look forward to reading the other blogs in my class* and learning what they thought of the play.

*Look at the links on the right side of the page.




Friday, October 28, 2011

On the Intrawebs, Part #2

When I used Ice Rocket to search for tweets about Julius Caesar, I found some breaking news.

Eddie George, the Tennessee Titans running back who retired in 2004, will be playing Julius Caesar in an upcoming performance in Nashville.

Here's the story: Eddie George to Play Julius Caesar in Nashville Shakespeare Festival Production

That got me to thinking: what other athletes would make up an all-star athlete cast?







I immediately tweeted this:


What other ideas do you have for athletes in Julius Caesar?

On the Intrawebs, Part #1

To fulfill the "sharing globally" requirement, I didn't have much rhyme or reason in the online interactions I had, but I found some interesting stuff.

With Ice Rocket, I found a blog by a woman by the name of Roberta Rood. All I could find out about her was that she used to work in a library, and she loves reading and England. But she wrote a review for a biography on, of all people, James Garfield. In case you don't know - and I wouldn't blame you if you didn't - he was the 20th president of the United States, in the year 1881. A brief look at his Wikipedia page brings up some interesting things: he cleaned up corruption in the postal system, and he appointed African Americans to some high posts in governments.

He is also one of the few presidents who was actually assassinated. He was killed by Charles Giteau, a former government employee who was under the delusion that President Garfield had denied him a post in the U.S. embassy in Paris.

Roberta Rood was especially impressed with President Garfield's reluctance to be president. He once said, "This honor comes to me unsought. I have never had the Presidential fever; not even for a day." And yet, he answered the call to serve and ultimately died for it. Rood ended her review of President Garfield's biography with these lines from Julius Caesar:

"His life was gentle; and the elements
So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, This was a man!"

I didn't know all this about James Garfield before. But it reminded me of how I compared Brutus to George Washington. So, I asked her how Garfield and Washington compared to each other. (I'm still waiting for a response.)

El Guillermo Shakespeare

For my "local sharing" requirement, I talked about Julius Caesar with my sister-in-law, Nadia. She is from Lima, Peru, so every once in a while I practice my quickly fading Spanish with her. I thought for this assignment, I'd try something different by trying to discuss Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the English language, in Spanish.

Me, Nadia and my little brother Evan. (Nadia married my other brother, Trent.)

I wondered if students in Peru learned about Shakespeare, or if he was only considered essential to English-speaking schools. Nadia told me that Shakespeare was introduced as the vehicle for teaching plays as one form of language arts. They read Romeo and Juliet, and learned the facts of Shakespeare's life, like when he lived and died.

Then she came to BYU and majored in English. She wanted to avoid taking a Shakespeare class, but a professor convinced her to take it. And she said she really enjoyed it. She read Hamlet, The Tempest and Othello. And she said she really liked Othello.

So then I told Nadia the basic outline of Julius Caesar. Here's a translation of how I summed it up: "Caesar is gaining a lot of power. And one of his enemies, Cassius, wanted to kill him, and he convinced his friend Brutus to kill him. Brutus really thought he was doing the right thing, because by killing Caesar he was protecting Rome. But Cassius really just wanted power. Another friend of Caesar's, Mark Antony, fought on Caesar's side against Brutus and Cassius in a civil war. But Mark Antony just wanted power too. So Brutus was the only one not interested in power, and yet he was the one who killed Caesar."

It was while I gave her that simple plotline that I realized the irony of Brutus killing Caesar.

Something else I brought up with Nadia was that Julius Caesar is known for being a simple play, without anything about sex, which is why it's often read in high schools. And because it's so simple, it might be an easy one for her to try on her own. Not that she needs remedial English - she not only majored in English, she plans on being a novelist.

Maybe she'll be the next William Guillermo Guillermina Shakespeare, who knows?




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Figment of Imagination

Did anyone feel like The Tempest ended too quickly?

I think I would have liked to actually see Ferdinand and Miranda get married, or Ariel be freed, or the comeuppance of Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo, or Prospero reinstated as Duke of Milan. But Shakespeare leaves the play open-ended.

Of course, I thought of Act V, Scene II of The Winters Tale, when Shakespeare portrays the cathartic family reunion with a conversation among witnesses, instead of the actual reunion. When I blogged about it, I thought maybe the purpose was to show off Shakespeare's descriptive writing skills, and let the audience imagine what that reunion must have been like.


Is that what Shakespeare is doing here with The Tempest? I think so, but there might be another element to it. I think it plays into the mystique and fantasy of Prospero's island. The whole play takes place on the island, and magic and supernatural powers are in every scene. It makes the whole play seem like a dream sequence.

What if it's all a dream, and Prospero wakes up and he's still on the island and still not the Duke of Milan?

Monday, October 24, 2011

'They seemed unto him but a few days'

What do you guys think of Ferdinand doing all this work for Miranda?

True, a couple who instantly falls in love with each other and pledges to marry one another is a little ridiculous in reality. Sure, dating before engagement is famously brief at BYU. But I think most couples at least know each other's names before they get engaged. (I could be wrong.)

But setting that aside, is Ferdinand compounding the insanity by doing all this senseless work for the one he loves?

I don't think so.


I've been happily married for over two years. And I don't hesitate to say that I would have stacked a thousand logs or a million logs if that's what it took to marry Erin.

A big question on BYU campus is, "Is he/she the 'one'? How do I know?" It's the most important decision of our lives,* and it can be a hard one. But I think one way to know if he/she is "the one" is by how much you are willing to sacrifice. To have a successful marriage, you have to be able to sacrifice everything.

I was lucky to not have to sacrifice too much in order to marry Erin. But being in love with her did affect many decisions I made. She was one of the reasons I changed my career path and decided not to keep trying to get into the BYU animation program. I probably would have switched to communications anyway, but I would have been more willing to take low-pay, high-hours jobs at little newspapers all over the country to work my way up the career ladder. Now, I want to skip all that and go to law school, which I hope will lead to less transitory work. I also had dreams of doing all kinds of travel, like every college student who wants to backpack through Europe or South America. I was lucky enough to travel to Mexico for my honeymoon with Erin, and go to New York City with her and our daughter for my summer internship. But much more exotic travel than that would be way too impractical and expensive now.

Erin and me at Chichen Itza pyramids in Mexico
Erin and me on top of the Empire State Building

I also gave up R-rated movies. I hadn't really made my mind up about whether I was against watching R-rated movies, but after meeting with Erin I decided not to watch any more from that point on.

Erin was telling me about a conversation she had with some friends who talked about how much time their husbands spent playing video games. In one case, a woman said while she was dating her future husband, if she had told him "You have to stop playing so many video games," it would have been a deal-breaker.

That's just sad to me. I just can't imagine liking video games, or anything, that much that it would prevent me from marrying Erin. Just thinking of the words, "Sorry, but I have to have my video games," and saying them out loud, I would listen to myself and realize how dumb it all sounds.

I know our culture often portrays marriage as a drag, and a wife as a ball and chain brandishing a whip. But really, it's like what Neal A. Maxwell said about the kingdom of God: "If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead." I think the same holds true for marriage. If you don't choose marriage, and to be totally devoted to it, then it won't matter if you chose convenience or idleness instead.


*The relevant quote is in the last paragraph of Gordon B. Hinckley's talk.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Abraham Lincoln and a Grizzly bear

Shakespeare exhibited his timelessness with by writing a play that based on events from 1,643 years earlier that was just as relevant in his day. By the same token, here we are 412 years later still learning and analyzing the play.

I believe the reason why Julius Caesar has stood the test of time is because wherever there is politics, there is ambition, betrayal, rebellion, conflict, and other traits less than virtuous that are revealed. Since the moment a person was deemed more powerful than another, that power has been envied and lusted after by others.

Painting by Paul Peter Rubens
This human characteristic can be traced as far back as Cain and Abel. Abel was not a political figure, but Cain was jealous of Abel's favorable standing with God and God's perceived preference. He took matters into his own hands in an attempt to gain power. Since then, the dirty side of politics has only gotten dirtier.

The events in Julius Caesar are actually pretty close to history. What the play didn't dwell on, however, was the turmoil Rome was reeling from before the play opens. It was on Caesar's watch, essentially, when Rome's republic fell apart and faded into an empire. Caesar had a few impressive military conquests on his résumé, which led to his popularity. But some of those conquests were in direct violation with the Roman Senate's wishes. And the one referenced in Shakespeare's play, against Pompey, was against a former close friend of Caesar's. In fact, Pompey was one of the members of Rome's first triumvirate. With Caesar. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_Republic#First_Triumvirate, http://www.gradesaver.com/julius-caesar/study-guide/about/)

In Shakespeare's time, England was going through its own turmoil. Julius Caesar was written in 1599, about 50 years before the English Civil War. But already, the war drums were beating. The Elizabethan era dealt with clashes among England's House of Commons and aristocrats and royalty. England was shifting from a monarchy to a parliament, as Rome was shifting from a republic to an empire.

Of course, today, political intrigue continues. It may be less bloody, especially in the more stable democracies. But that doesn't mean the end of controversy and upheaval.

Last week, I gave you George Washington killing zombies. Now, here's Abraham Lincoln with a machine gun riding a bear. Don't overthink it.

In my live blogging and blogging between reading acts of Julius Caesar, I found a lot of connections between the play and American history and politics. What fits best with this analysis though is the American Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. In the American case, it wasn't so much a war over two types of government as much as two types of culture and society (which, come to think of it, might be more precarious). It's hard to imagine now, but the American experiment came very close to failing. Lincoln's murder was not committed by someone merely insane, as was William McKinley's or the near-miss against Ronald Reagan. John Wilkes Booth was clearly motivated by politics. He and his co-conspirators really thought that with Lincoln gone, more things would go their way and the South could stay in power.

So what does this mean for us in 2011? Are the days of blood at the hands of politicians over? We don't have to go back too far to know the answer is a resounding no. Just this year, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was almost killed. And although Jared Loughner wasn't necessarily trying to usurp power, he was definitely motivated by politics. This tragedy hit close to home for me. And it shows that the world is still a dangerous place. It was in Caesar's day, Shakespeare's day, Lincoln's day, and our day.

Like our class discussed with Hamlet, what makes Shakespeare so special is his understanding of human frailties. His plays resonate because he touched on the natural man, something that transcends centuries and civilizations.

That's one of the many lessons I gained from Julius Caesar. As long as politics exist, people will do whatever it takes to gain power.

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To briefly analyze the movie Julius Caesar (since I said so much about it last week):

I don't think the 1953 movie purposefully integrated anything extra in a political sense. I felt like it presented the text as is, and didn't fit in references to contemporary politics. Maybe it's because it came out during the Nifty Fifties, when things were peachy and keen and swell. The U.S. had just fought "The Good War," and all was right in the world.

What I did notice was the backdrop of the Roman Empire in all its grandiose ornateness and sophistry. I think that was probably the main selling point of the movie, was Shakespearean elegance surrounded by an epic set, like The Ten Commandments. It was very small-scale compared to The Ten Commandments, but it plays into Hollywood's fascination with Rome. (The other main selling point was Marlon Brando.)

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As far as connecting Julius Caesar to my personal interests, I think I've done plenty of that already. It's probably best summed up here, but if you dare read my whole process, click here.

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And I had a lot of fun going back and forth with Averill about Julius Caesar. She started out with a goal to read the play with a historical perspective, but ended with a religious one that I thought was very interesting and valuable. You can read her posts and my comments here:

History is a thing of the past

Et tu, Brute?

Marlon Brando = Stud

Caesar and Christianity

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated

I thought it was interesting to compare Alonso and Fernando with Leontes and Paulina, from The Winter's Tale.

When Alonso and his men wash up on shore, Fernando assures his king that the prince Ferdinand is still alive somewhere:

"Francisco: Sir, he may live:
I saw him beat the surges under him,
And ride upon their backs; he trod the water,
Whose enmity he flung aside, and breasted
The surge most swoln that met him; his bold head
'Bove the contentious waves he kept, and oar'd
Himself with his good arms in lusty stroke
To the shore, that o'er his wave-worn basis bow'd,
As stooping to relieve him: I not doubt
He came alive to land."

While Francisco is trying to keep Alonso's hopes up, Paulina finds every opportunity she can to remind Leontes that Hermione is dead and that it's his fault:

"Paulina: This news is mortal to the queen: look down
And see what death is doing. ...
but the last,—O lords,
When I have said, cry 'woe!' the queen, the queen,
The sweet'st, dear'st creature's dead,
and vengeance for't
Not dropp'd down yet. ...
I say she's dead; I'll swear't. If word nor oath
Prevail not, go and see ..."

What's funny is that in both cases, the character who is presumably dead is actually still alive.

We've spent time in class talking about Paulina's motivation in reminding Leontes that his queen is dead. But why is Fernando reassuring King Alonso that Ferdinand is alive? Is it simply a general optimism? Or is there some other motive, like Paulina had?


Monday, October 17, 2011

Bring me that horizon

So for now I'm moving on to the next assignment in my Shakespeare class: The Tempest.

I don't know anything about The Tempest, other than I remember seeing the "Wishbone" episode way back when. ("Wishbone." Man, what a great show that was.)

Here's something cool that I found in the first scene:

"Boatswain: Do you not hear him? You mar our labour; keep your
cabins: you do assist the storm.

Gonzalo: Nay, good, be patient.

Boatswain: When the sea is."

I like the boatswain talking about the sea as if it's a real person, as if the sea could be patient or could use some assistance in its storm. It seems like that's how a real sailor would talk, especially one in Shakespeare's day who was probably more superstitious and more likely to believe in Poseidon, Neptune, etc.

And I also thought it was interesting that, even though everyone on the ship thinks they're going to die, the royalty still apparently thinks there's time for complaining to the sailors. I think it's a sign of the "divaness" of the upper class, that in the middle of a deadly storm they feel so inclined to clash with the "blue collar crowd." Seems to me like "straightening deck chairs on the Titanic."

----------------------------

Now, on to Act I Scene II: What do all these people have in common?

Luke Skywalker

Harry Potter

Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries

Woody from Toy Story 2

Perdita from The Winter's Tale

Miranda from The Tempest

That's right - they all had secret identities and destinies that are revealed to them in a major plot point of their stories.

Why do you think that element is used so often? Is it because we all have that wish? To someday miraculously find out we are something more than we thought? That we "smack of something greater than ourselves"?

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When Prospero said that Caliban was "A freckled whelp hag-born—not honour'd with a human shape," I thought, "Well, then what does he look like?" Click here for the ideas some people have come up with.

A lot of them remind me of Gollum, which makes sense, because Caliban does seem like quite the contemptible little creature.

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The Tempest will be our next field trip, this time to Salt Lake City. I wonder how they're going to show the storm in the first scene...I'm guessing it will probably be like this:


...just kidding.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

According to plan

When reviewing my learning plan and how well I followed it, this is how I feel: a shoulder shrug with a "Meh..."
I've had a lot of fun with this intense look at Julius Caesar. But at the same time I was kind of frustrated with it. First off, I finished reading the play two days later than I was supposed to. And I started reading it the day it was due. And I watched a movie version before reading the play, which wasn't what I had in mind.

But, let's look at how closely I met the goals outlined in my original learning plan for Julius Caesar:

1) I did in fact post on the blog immediately after reading each act. Yes, it eneded up being all five acts within two days, but I did follow through on that.

2) I definitely focused on writing more on connections between Julius Caesar and politics. Instead of just writing about the first thing that came to mind, which was usually pop culture (does that mean I watch too much TV?), I specifically looked for themes in the play that had real-life parallels. And although it was some extra work, it was a lot of fun. I was able to relate Julius Caesar to the Lincoln assassination, Chris Christie, the war in Iraq, the Bush Doctrine, Gerald Ford and his pardoning of Richard Nixon, George Washington, Newt Gingrich and Rahm Emanuel, to name a few. Cool, huh?

3) I did comment on Averill's blog, but not as much as I would have liked to. I'll be sure to keep up the communication and discussion with her as she and I both delve into Julius Caesar more to meet all the requirements of this assignment. (I think part of it is that Averill posted three times about Julius Caesar, and I posted 20 times. So, definitely one-sided. But more on that later.)

4) I didn't quite meet the objectives on this one, because I had hoped to watch at least two Hollywood versions of Julius Caesar, and I only saw one. Again, I ran out of time. But I think I'll still try to see the two Charlton Heston versions, if nothing else I'll do it just for fun.

Some additional comments:

- I thought it might be a cool idea to "live blog" the movie. But it was a lot of work. And it meant I missed a lot of the movie. At first, I was pausing the movie while I blogged, but I was on a tight deadline so I ended up letting the movie continue while I typed. So that was one downside. Also, I don't know if anyone's really going to read all 13 posts, and they're certainly not all equal in interest. If I were to do it again, I might just do what Averill did and do one post to talk about how cool the movie was.

- Probably the main reason why some of this process was frustrating was simply because I had so much schoolwork in general. I definitely enjoyed reading, watching and blogging about Julius Caesar. But because I enjoyed it so much, I think I was overachieving, which only added to the general stress over other homework I had to work on. That's one of my faults (though sometimes it's a strength) - if I say I'm going to blog after each act of the play and live blog the movie, then, by golly, I'm gonna do it! Even if it kills me. Or, at least makes me stay up until 2 a.m. multiple times. : /

In general, I very much enjoyed this assignment and enjoyed Julius Caesar. I just maybe would have handled it a little differently if I could do it over again.

Die...die...die

1) So the way Cassius and Tintinius died is parallel to the end of Romeo and Juliet. Someone kills him or herself because he/she thinks the other person died.

There sure is a lot of suicide in Shakespeare's plays. Is it just because it's dramatic? Or was Shakespeare purposefully promoting the idea that suicide was a kind of "release" and "escape" from this terrible, mortal world we live in?

Just to bring in the Restored Gospel a little bit - I'm sure glad to have the understanding of suicide that I have, and an understanding of its consequences. No matter how bad things get, things are never bad enough to commit suicide. I know I shouldn't judge those who have committed suicide, that's not my job. But I do know that it is not a favorable "escape" from this mortal life. (That's what the Atonement is for.)

2) And is Cassius really a hero? It seems to me he's been treacherous and a ne'er-do-well this whole play. Is it because he was the one who got the ball rolling on assassinating Caesar? Or are Brutus and others talking about a past life that takes place for this play opens? Or is it just because people say nice things about others after they die?

"Brutus: Are yet two Romans living such as these?
The last of all the Romans, fare thee well!
It is impossible that ever Rome
Should breed thy fellow. Friends, I owe more tears
To this dead man than you shall see me pay.
I shall find time, Cassius, I shall find time."

3) When Brutus finds out that so many people have killed themselves, he exclaims, "Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet!" But, like I said earlier, was that really Caesar's ghost? Or just Brutus' evil side? Is it really Brutus who started all this?

4) I thought the finalizing couplet was interesting:

"So call the field to rest; and let's away,
To part the glories of this happy day." 

Is it really a happy day? I guess it's happy because the war is over. But is there more to it than that? Octavius is probably happy to accomplish revenge against Caesar's murderers. But based on his last words for Brutus, I'm not sure if Mark Antony feels that same way. Is he happy for Brutus in the same way we are sometimes happy that those who have passed away are resting from their labors and reunited with loved ones?

The Intergalactic Edition

1) As Mark Antony goes over his war plans with Octavius and Lepidus, he finds a chance to talk about Lepidus behind his back:

"Octavius: You may do your will;
But he's a tried and valiant soldier.

Mark Antony: So is my horse, Octavius..."

He sees Lepidus as just the sidekick or henchman, a beast of burden who can do their bidding. He's like The Clown in The Winters Tale. Check out this post to read more about the henchman/sidekick/doofus character.

2) Even though it comes out that Brutus is just in a bad mood because Portia has committed suicide back in Rome, I think he was right to chastise Cassius for supporting bribery. I agree that, if the message they want Romans to understand is that they were acting out of honor when they killed Caesar, then they have to show honor in every aspect. By allowing bribes, Cassius compromises that honor and undermines their mission. He's just another corrupt assassin if he exhibits any major moral failings.

I think nowadays, what might seem like "undermining a mission" is just portrayed as irony. Like Newt Gingrich calling for Bill Clinton's impeachment back in the '90s, when he himself was having an extramarital affair and ended up divorcing his wife and marrying his mistress. Was Gingrich really one to talk? Just like is Cassius really one to talk about honor and preserving Rome's dignity?

3) So Mark Antony is threatening to kill senators now? Is that really a good idea? Is it because all the senators are on Cassius' and Brutus' side? Or maybe he just thinks they're on Cassius' and Brutus' side?

Either way, it seems like Mark Antony is going on a superfluous rampage. I think he is a little power hungry.

Do any of you think of the battle in the Galactic Senate? Or is that just me?


4) Interesting that the ghost of Caesar introduces himself as "Brutus' evil spirit." So is it really Caesar coming back with a message for Brutus? Or is it just a vision and representation of Brutus' dark side?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The unkindest cut

1) Here's more of Caesar's possible ambition:

"Thy brother by decree is banished:
If thou dost bend and pray and fawn for him,
I spurn thee like a cur out of my way.
Know, Caesar doth not wrong, nor without cause
Will he be satisfied. ...
I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumber'd sparks,
They are all fire and every one doth shine,
But there's but one in all doth hold his place:
So in the world; 'tis furnish'd well with men,
And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive;
Yet in the number I do know but one
That unassailable holds on his rank,
Unshaked of motion: and that I am he,
Let me a little show it, even in this;
That I was constant Cimber should be banish'd,
And constant do remain to keep him so."

Of course, in some ways it's good to be constant like the northern star. But not in stubbornness and refusal to forgive.

2) But is that really tyrannical enough to kill him? There are probably lots of politicians who would also keep Metellus' brother banished. Are Cassius, Brutus and their co-conspirators just paranoid? Or would allowing Caeser to live also allow for less and less freedom? Were they justified in their preemptive strike?

It seems that if it weren't for Cassius' bloodthirstiness, Brutus would have definitely waited a little bit.

3) Mark Antony's reaction is strange to me. He's standing above Caesar's lifeless body, and basically says, "Now, before I get mad, let me know if you have a good reason for killing him." Is it because he trusts and admires Brutus so much, that he's sure there must be a justifiable reason? Or, maybe it fits with what I noticed while watching the movie. Maybe Mark Antony has been thinking about doing the same thing, and Brutus simply beat him to the punch.

4) After the murderers leave, Mark Antony is left to speak his soliloquy and promise to avenge Caesar's death by means of civil war.

So is Mark Antony genuine? Were my observations and suspicions unfounded? I guess I'll have to keep reading.

5) I've made a few connections between Brutus and Hamlet. Both spent time contemplating the pros and cons of committing murder and working up the courage to do it. But Brutus' contemplation was a lot more intellectual and methodical while Hamlet was just being emo. And the later scene with Caesar's ghost of course recalls the scenes with Hamlet's ghost.

But here's Mark Antony, the moment he is finally alone, promising to avenge Caesar's death. He doesn't need a ghost to tell him or a long time to be moody and broody.

Does that mean Mark Antony loved Caesar more than Hamlet loved his father? Or does it mean something else?

6) Is there significance to Brutus beginning his speech with "Romans, countrymen, and lovers" while Mark Antony says "Friends, Romans, countrymen"? Nothing comes to mind, they seem pretty close. Maybe "lovers" is a little more intimate than "friends" (although I know the definitions were more similar back in Caesar's and Shakespeare's day), and the crowd felt like Brutus was flattering and condescending while Mark Antony was describing his relationship with his fellow Romans more realistically. Maybe?

7) Brutus: "... as I slew my best lover for the
good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself,
when it shall please my country to need my death."

Because of Brutus' modesty and patriotism, and the final lines of the play, I'm inclined to believe Brutus when he says this.

8) Here's that mob mentality again...

(after Brutus' speech)
"All: Live, Brutus! live, live!
First Citizen: Bring him with triumph home unto his house
Second Citizen: Give him a statue with his ancestors.
Third Citizen: Let him be Caesar.
Fourth Citizen: Caesar's better parts
Shall be crown'd in Brutus.
First Citizen: We'll bring him to his house
With shouts and clamours."

(and, after Mark Antony's speech)
"First Citizen: Methinks there is much reason in his sayings.
Second Citizen: If thou consider rightly of the matter,
Caesar has had great wrong. 
... 
Fourth Citizen: Mark'd ye his words? He would not take the crown;
Therefore 'tis certain he was not ambitious. 
First Citizen: If it be found so, some will dear abide it. 
Second Citizen: Poor soul! his eyes are red as fire with weeping. 
Third Citizen: There's not a nobler man in Rome than Antony."

Oh, how fickle are the masses! They seem to just believe whatever happens to be the last thing they've heard.

9) Yeah, I'm pretty sure Mark Antony is being sarcastic here. "Oh, Brutus is so honorable..." ... "I don't want to say anything, because you might gang up on Brutus and Cassius..." ... "No, I don't think I will read you Caesar's will, I shouldn't have even mentioned it in the first place..." ... "Oh, if only I was as good an orator as Brutus is..." ... "Wait, don't forget, I was going to tell you about the will..."

What a tease!

And, wait a second, with Mark Antony describing which wounds were inflicted by Cassius and which ones by Brutus ... Mark Antony wasn't even there.

Yeah, he's definitely up to something. It may not be his own ambition, just revenge against Cassius and Brutus. But either way, he's flip-flopping.

Ah, here's the confirmation:

"Mark Antony: Now let it work.
Mischief, thou art afoot,
Take thou what course thou wilt!"




Friday, October 14, 2011

George Washington the Zombie Killer

1) This monologue by Brutus is interesting:

"He would be crown'd:
How that might change his nature, there's the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder;
And that craves wary walking. Crown him?—that;—
And then, I grant, we put a sting in him,
That at his will he may do danger with.
The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins
Remorse from power: and, to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections sway'd
More than his reason. But 'tis a common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round.
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may.
Then, lest he may, prevent. And, since the quarrel
Will bear no colour for the thing he is,
Fashion it thus; that what he is, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities:
And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
Which, hatch'd, would, as his kind, grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell."

Doesn't every politician wish he or she could climb all the way up that ladder and never look back? Sure, not every politician runs for president, but they wish they could. I believe that's the sort of person who would run for office. Plenty of candidates run because they want to make the world a better place, but most of them believe they are the ones gifted enough to do it.

It's interesting that Cassius keeps telling Brutus, "If only you saw yourself as everyone else sees you, as a great leader." Brutus seems to be lacking that self-assurance that most politicians have. Does that actually make him a more qualified leader?

That said, I do remember reading about one senator who promised to term-limit himself. And I think I've heard of a few others who have done that. And, actually, before the 22nd Amendment, presidents had a two term-limit only to follow the precedent set by George Washington. Washington was so popular he could have been king by simply asking for it, but was principled enough to give himself an expiration date (one of the reasons I think he's one of our greatest presidents).

Plus, he killed zombies.

2) Here is a perfect glimpse of the "mob mentality" that is soon to come:

When Cassius says they should get Cicero on their side, Casca says, "Let us not leave him out." But then when Brutus says they would be better off without Cicero, Casca says, "Indeed he is not fit." Talk about peer pressure...

3) In Act II Scene II, does it seem like Caesar really is letting the power go to his head?

"Caesar shall forth: the things that threaten'd me
Ne'er look'd but on my back; when they shall see
The face of Caesar, they are vanished."

Or, in other words, "I ain't scared o' nobody."

And when the priests read the entrails, see the animal's heart is missing and then suggest Caesar stay at home, he says:

"Caesar should be a beast without a heart,
If he should stay at home to-day for fear."

He does love his wife, and so agrees that he will stay home at her request. Until Decius Brutus appeals to his pride, and says the blood in Calpurnia's dreams don't mean death, they mean revivial.

"And this way have you well expounded it. ...
How foolish do your fears seem now, Calpurnia!
I am ashamed I did yield to them.
Give me my robe, for I will go."

Is Caesar getting too ambitious? What do you think?

4) It's interesting that in the 1953 movie, the soothsayer is blind. But in the play, he apparently has his vision.

Soothsayer: "Madam, not yet: I go to take my stand,
To see him pass on to the Capitol."

And the whole exchange between Portia and the soothsayer didn't make it in the movie.

Why do you think Mankiewicz did that?

Julius Caesar and 2012 Politics

So far, it seems like Julius Caesar is a lot easier to understand than other Shakespeare plays. It's nice, because instead of using all my brainpower to translate the words into plain English, I can appreciate the artful way that Shakespeare's characters say things. This is a lot of fun.

Here are some applications from Julius Caesar to politics today:

1) When Marullus says this in the first scene...

"... You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!
O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome,
Knew you not Pompey? Many a time and oft
Have you climb'd up to walls and battlements,
To towers and windows, yea, to chimney-tops,
Your infants in your arms, and there have sat
The livelong day, with patient expectation,
To see great Pompey pass the streets of Rome:
And when you saw his chariot but appear,
Have you not made an universal shout,
That Tiber trembled underneath her banks,
To hear the replication of your sounds
Made in her concave shores?
And do you now put on your best attire?
And do you now cull out a holiday?
And do you now strew flowers in his way
That comes in triumph over Pompey's blood..."

It immediately made me think of this:


In the current race for the Republican nomination, it seems like it's either Mitt Romney or the current flavor of the month. No one can get excited about anybody for very long, and they're hoping they don't have to vote for Mitt Romney because he's the best they have. It's very fickle, that conservative base. (I remember an episode of The Daily Show when Jon Stewart shows footage of Fox News, the very next day after Rick Perry announces he's running for president, wondering if Paul Ryan or Chris Christie should run.)

2) Does anyone else see this paradox?

Cassius: "... Ye gods, it doth amaze me
A man of such a feeble temper should
So get the start of the majestic world
And bear the palm alone."

Cassius is afraid of Caesar becoming a king and a tyrant, and yet at the same time he says he would be a bad king because he's so weak. If he was worried about impending tyranny, then wouldn't he want Caesar rather than someone who would actually be too strong and powerful if given the chance?

It's like when people criticize President Obama for being too smart and intellectual. Um, wouldn't you want your president to be smart? In Julius Caesar's case, Cassius is criticizing Caesar for being too weak, but shouldn't he want him to be too weak?

3) When Cassius says this...

"... But if you would consider the true cause
Why all these fires, why all these gliding ghosts,
Why birds and beasts from quality and kind,
Why old men fool and children calculate,
Why all these things change from their ordinance
Their natures and preformed faculties
To monstrous quality,—why, you shall find
That heaven hath infused them with these spirits,
To make them instruments of fear and warning
Unto some monstrous state. ..."

... it makes me think of Rahm Emanuel's quote: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste." Cassius sees this crazy night as an opportunity, and he welcomes it. I don't know if Rahm Emanuel would have Cassius' extreme point of view, and he certainly wouldn't think of an assassination as an opportunity.




4) Also, when Cassius says this...

"... what trash is Rome,
What rubbish and what offal, when it serves
For the base matter to illuminate
So vile a thing as Caesar!"

... I think of this quote from Tommy Boy: "What the American public doesn't know is what makes them the American public."

1953 Julius Caesar live blog #13

I really liked the last lines in the movie, spoken by Mark Antony about Brutus:

"This was the noblest Roman of them all. All the conspirators save only he, did what they did in envy of great Caesar. He only, in a general honest thought, and common will for all, made one of them. His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that the nature might stand up and say to all the world, 'This was a man.'"

After all the battling and fighting and bloodshed, Mark Antony was able to look at Brutus and know he died an innocent man. He couldn't help doing what he did, because he thought he was doing it to save Rome. He had no ambition of usurping the throne (reminds me of those sly smiles of Mark Antony's...did he have ambition? Was he at fault more than Brutus, and was he able to recognize that?).

In the movie, next to Brutus' head was a lit oil lamp. Right before "The End" title comes on the screen, the flame is snuffed out. What does that mean? Merely that Brutus is dead? Or that the uproar of Rome has finally turned to peace? Or that Brutus' legend is not timeless and will eventually be snuffed out and that history will forget him?

-------------------------------------------------

One last note about the movie in general: it's interesting to me that the one Oscar it won in 1953 was for best art direction (for a black & white movie). To me, the set actually seemed basic and not extraordinary. Maybe I'm used to bigger-budget movies, but other than the large spaces the movie was able to fill I didn't feel like the scenery was anything too special.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

1953 Julius Caesar live blog #12

I liked the music as the armies were marching to the impending battle. The only instrument on the soundtrack was a drum: >DUN dun dun dun DUN dun dun dun DUN dun dun dun DUN dun dun dun<. It sounded to me like a heartbeat, getting louder and louder and faster and faster. It was the only sound in the movie until the arrows started to fly.

Also, the scene ends with the camera on Mark Antony, once again giving a slight smile as he watches the chaos below. Hmm...is he smiling because he is avenging his hero Caesar? Or is he up to something?

1953 Julius Caesar live blog #11

There's another connection between Brutus and Hamlet: when the ghost of Caesar appears to Brutus in his military tent.

What are the differences? First of all, in Hamlet, the ghost appears to his possible avenger. In Julius Caesar, the ghost appears to his killer. Also, in Hamlet, Hamlet is not the first one to see the ghost, he is just one of several witnesses. In Brutus' case, however, he is the only one who sees or hears the ghost.

1953 Julius Caesar live blog #10

I liked that during Mark Antony's speech, the camera cut to the blind soothsayer in the back of the crowd but in the foreground of the scene. He's an observer of the chaos that he knew was coming, and in plain view for us so that we can see the speech from his point of view.

(How do you think the blind soothsayer compares to Time/Antigonus in The Winter's Tale? Both characters are like the omniscient observers who only briefly intervene, and then let the events run their course.)


And we're back to the mob mentality. From Brutus' words, the crowd believes Brutus and the other "noble men" had to do what they had to do. But then when they actually see Caesar's bloodied body, the significance of what just happened really hits home.

Oh, that was sneaky: after Mark Antony riles up the crowd, and he turns to go back into the palace, we see a slight smile on his face. So does he have some sort of maligned motivation (or "ambition") after all?

1953 Julius Caesar live blog #9

Well, the crowd scenes are definitely more effective in a movie than in a play. You can only fit so many people on a stage, but when you see Brutus acting accountable before hundreds of Romans instead of just a few secondary actors, it's more powerful. And when hundreds of people are supporting Brutus as a hero, there's even more of that mob mentality (that Averill was talking about).



And here's where Brutus' motives are summed up nicely: "Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more."

That mentality and patriotism must apply to more than just presidential assassinations, haha. I guess I've been talking about that because it's the most obvious. But when has a politician acted immorally but patriotically? When has someone done something bad, but for the good of the country?

The person that popped into my mind might surprise you: Gerald Ford. When he took office after Richard Nixon's resignation, he immediately pardoned Nixon.

Now, I've heard different reasons for doing this. It could have been Tricky Dick up to his old tricks again, and somehow made President Ford get him off scot-free. But also, I've heard that by pardoning Nixon, President Ford was trying to get the country past the scandal, past the cynicism. Maybe it was immoral to let a guilty man go free, but it was patriotic to unite the country, wipe the slate clean and move on.

Is that a stretch? What do you think?

1953 Julius Caesar live blog #8

Hmm, in this scene, where Mark Antony stands over Caesar's body and addresses his murderers, he sounds less like a dockworker.

Also in this scene, all of Caesar's murderers are wearing white, while Mark Antony is wearing darker robes. Is this to make the murderers look like actual heroes and revolutionaries? Is it to make Mark Antony look like the guilty one?





1953 Julius Caesar live blog #7

Speaking of presidential assassinations...the first thing said in the movie after Caesar is killed is "Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!"

What did John Wilkes Booth say after killing Abraham Lincoln? "Sic semper tyrannus," or, "thus always to tyrants." John Wilkes Booth was an actor...did he get this line from Shakespeare?

And was Lincoln really a tyrant? We certainly don't think of him that way now. But we can think of other civilizations who were prevented from forming their own country. Is Lincoln resisting the South's revolution attempts different? How does a president or leader know whether to let a revolution take place or to keep the peace and the status quo?

1953 Julius Caesar live blog #6

When Cassius and his gang meet with Brutus at his place, they discuss their plot to kill Caesar. Cassius is a little bloodthirsty, and thinks they should murder Mark Antony while they're at it. Brutus explains that, no, once the head is cut off then hacking the limbs is gratuitous. Yes, Mark Antony loves Caesar, but once Caesar is gone then the threat is gone.

Brutus has really convinced himself that the nation would be preserved and protected by getting rid of Caesar. I'm trying to think of similar scenarios in political history...the first one I came up with was Nephi killing Laban, before allowing an entire civilization to dwindle in unbelief. Is there anything similar in American history? I can't really think of anything. I suppose any assassination could be an effort to protect the nation from the supposed danger the target presents. Except now that I think of it, John Wilkes Booth murdered Abraham Lincoln for the South, not for the nation. John Hinckley, Jr. shot Ronald Reagan to win some personal attention. And, for any conspiracy theory behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I don't think any of them were done in the name of the Union.

What about preemptive war? The Bush Doctrine was one of striking before being struck. George W. Bush perceived Iraq as a major threat, and attacked before Saddam Hussein and Iraq could attack. According to Bush, Hussein had something to do with the 9/11 attacks and was gathering weapons of mass destruction. Although I believe the U.S. has done much good in Iraq, including hunting down Hussein, the initial reasons for going were later proven to be a very loose foundation.

Is President Bush invading Iraq like Brutus and Cassius "preemptively" assassinating Caesar?

1953 Julius Caesar live blog #5

As opposed to Cassius' previous monologue, in Brutus' first monologue his eyes look everywhere but  the camera. I think this makes him look more thoughtful and less intense. He seems less determined than Cassius, and more just thinking out loud. More like Hamlet, I would say.

1953 Julius Caesar live blog #4

So when it comes to all the calamities and atrocities that occur under "this disturbed sky," the movie doesn't actually show any of them, other than the thunder and lightning. Rather, the movie relies on Casca's description of the events. Is that sort of like Act V Scene II of The Winter's Tale, when the apparent climax of the play is not seen but only described? Or did the movie just not have the budget or technology to produce all those special effects?

(And I thought I remembered "the ides of March" happening later in the play. Maybe my memory is correct, and what's happening right now isn't the ides of March. Or maybe Mankiewicz moved that part way up to the beginning of the movie. I guess I'll figure it out when I hit play again.)

1953 Julius Caesar live blog #3

So here's Cassius' first monologue. It was interesting what the director decided to do with this scene. Cassius is in a large, courtyard space, but the camera is zoomed in pretty close to him. And at one point, it seems as though Cassius is looking directly into the camera. But before you really notice, he starts across the courtyard and you're asking yourself, "Was he just looking at me?"

That, plus the soothsayer's sudden recoil earlier, show there is definitely some danger afoot.

Oh, and John Gielgud is really good. Really Gielgud, if you ask me. (Hyuk hyuk.)

1953 Julius Caesar live blog #2

Well, Marlon Brando certainly looks the part. He looks just like a statue from the Roman Empire. I still hear a little bit of that dockworker voice in him.

And, how cool that James Mason is in this movie. I think I've only seen him in North by Northwest. But from what I know of him, he always seems like a very slick, mysterious man. He has sort of a Vincent Price quality about him.

Did you see that when Julius Caesar leaves behind the blind soothsayer in the crowd, and the soothsayer touches Brutus to try and recognize him...after he touches his face, he shudders in shock? That seems like some major foreshadowing to me. I'm guessing that the soothsayer "saw" Brutus in a vision, instantly recognized him, and knew he was trouble.


1953 Julius Caesar live blog #1

Opening credits:

Oh, I didn't know Joseph L. Mankiewicz directed this movie. I've seen two other movies by him: All About Eve and Guys and Dolls. Guys and Dolls also has Marlon Brando in it, as a talk-singing gambler, two years later. So Mankiewicz must have gotten to know Brando through Julius Caesar, and somehow thought Mark Antony would make for a perfect Skye Masterson. Interesting.

And All About Eve is one of my favorite movies. I think it has the best screenplay writing I've ever seen in a movie. If you've never seen it, definitely check it out.

What's interesting to me is that both these movies have a sort of feminine theme to them. Guys and Dolls is about guys more than about dolls. But it's a musical, which makes it not very manly. And All About Eve is like the original Nancy Meyers movie. I love 'em, and it's smart writing, but it doesn't exactly increase my macho factor.

I wonder if Julius Caesar is going to be connected to that theme in any way.


Out of Order

So, I'm doing things a little out of the order I had in mind.

Here it is, the night before I'm supposed to read Julius Caesar and watch a movie version, and I've done neither. : / I went to the LRC to check out a movie so I would be ready to watch it sometime tomorrow, and I would read the play tonight. However, the gal at the LRC desk told me this was only a four-hour checkout! I guess I could have waited until tomorrow to check it out, but I just felt like getting it done.

So, I'm watching the movie before I read the play. Which isn't really what I had planned on. And I hope it doesn't compromise the experience of reading the play to watch the movie first. (Sorry, Averill and Professor Burton!)

But, in a way, maybe be a good preparation for reading the play. Watching Shakespeare is always easier than reading it. Maybe when I get to a passage that is difficult to understand, it won't be difficult to understand because I will have already seen it.

Something else I'm going to do is "live blog" the movie. Usually when I watch a movie, I like to sit silently and not get up to get popcorn or use the bathroom. So it might be hard to "talk" while I watch the movie. But I'll give it a try.

Anyway, here it is: the 1953 movie, Julius Caesar.