In each of my posts this semester there has been consistent attention to broad thematic concerns and societal issues. In our first post I chose to focus on the dark nature of entertainment at others’ expense in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the second I wrote on the outrageous double-standard present in gender relations in Othello. Finally, commenting on The Tempest, I investigated the ways in which social hierarchies can prove impractical. I think all three are at one time indicative of things I tend to think about anyway and a cumulative example of what art is supposed to inspire in an audience: critical thought.
I think one of the vital functions of art is to begin a conversation, forcing the audience to examine themselves, the world, and/or their place in it. Each of the social issues in my posts were drawn from small sections of the play–usually no more than one act being cited. Combined with the litany of subjects broached in class from our prompt questions, it is clear that not only are fundamental human concerns broached within Shakespeare’s work, but they are many.
A thought that continues to surface in my own enjoyment of the plays is the difficulty in getting anyone who isn’t a geeky English/literature loving person to even approach Shakespeare. The themes that are listed above are definitely a large portion of how I would hope to attract someone: works written in the 16th century still hold currency because the situations between characters and social concerns raised are all universal human issues.
One thing I uniformly fail to mention in my posts is the aesthetic and witty wordplay in each work we have read. This is perhaps justified by the necessity of brevity in posting, but at this point it bears mentioning that (in addition to fascinating topics of social import) there is a world of content to appreciate simply in the language used in these plays. The jibing of Feste in Twelfth Night is always my first thought–his deep, witty play with words is a great instance of beautiful poetry combined with layered meaning and satire.
I would gladly revisit any of the topics I’ve raised thus far. Part of what makes the literature engrossing is its treatment of complicated moral/social questions. The strings of thought I have engaged in thus far make it very clear to me that I am totally fixated on the social and political commentaries in these plays. Moreover, these interests have brought me to begin looking at how themes are treated differently or the same between plays and genres (tragedy and comedy). I think these existing curiosities and continued blogging about them have served to broaden my existing appreciation for how art can be engaging in my own dialog with the world.