Of the three blog posts that I’ve entered thus far this semester, two have been responses to prompts from Professor Mulready. The first The Merchant of Venice and The Story of Jacob and Laban was in response to an informal question asked by the Professor at the end of the first week’s questions. I was familiar with the biblical story of Jacob and Laban and thought that trying to find the relationship between these two stories might provide an interesting lens through which I could view the text. What’s curious is that my initial inquiry, and that initial lens, also helped to filter some of the other texts we’ve read this semester as well. What I’ve found is that, even in the History Plays, there is, if you look for it, an obvious Christian subtext. I don’t think that this was proselytizing on the part of Shakespeare, but a means by which he was able to provide a kind of context for the stories that he was telling. These Biblical stories, I think, would have been well known to his audience and I think that weaving these ideas into both fictional and non-fictional texts would have provided a comfortable sense of familiarity to his plays.
My second prompt-inspired post was Be Careful What You Wish For, or… “Miss Me Yet?” which I chased after Professor Mulready displayed the picture of George W. Bush near the end of class. I think we typically respond in a somewhat fearful fashion when met with what seem like political or religious ideas for fear that we will hurt someone’s feelings or, worse, end up in some kind of argument, but I’m always intrigued by the cyclical nature of both politics and religion and how common it is for these ideas to resurface or be recycled as time goes on. What intrigued me about this photo was what it said about the nature of politics and politicians and how, so often, even when we get what we hope for—and in our present case, the promise of real change—what we find is that political realities tend to change our leaders rather than our leaders tending to change those political realities. The times, and sometimes the capital-A assumption of power, really do change those who are in power and Richard II, combined with that photo, gave me the opportunity to explore that idea and to see, once again, that the old saw the more things change the more they stay the same has been true from the time that Shakespeare wrote Richard II until today.
My only unprompted post was The Duke—A Precursor to the Modern Comic Book Hero?, and for me it was really nothing more than a pleasurable response to what I thought was a clever use of role switching by Shakespeare with the character of the Duke. One of the key features of any superhero is the alter-ego. Often this alter-ego has a dark side, but in all cases this alter-ego is capable of performing tasks that the individual himself is incapable of performing in his own skin. I wrote this post because I was drawn to the character of the Duke and to the fact that he had to disguise himself in order to do the good that he wanted to do. What interested me most is how repulsed others in the class seemed to be by the Duke’s apparent duplicity and yet, it was this duplicity that allowed the Duke to offer real justice to those who lived under his rule.
Overall I’ve had a great time with the blog posts. They’ve been very enjoyable and they’ve allowed me to explore and discover these texts in ways that I never expected. They’ve allowed me to see Shakespeare’s work in a very contemporary way, which was not something that I was expecting.