Midterm Reflection

 

The only thing more difficult than reading Shakespeare is writing well about Shakespeare. The great value of the blogging assignment is as an impetus to reflect on the readings and try to articulate thoughts and reactions. The open-ended nature of the blogging assignment is very welcome when I feel that I have understood the content of the readings, but daunting when that week’s readings are especially opaque. Out of the plays we have read thus far, I was only previously familiar with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so the difficulty of writing about, for example, Twelfth Night, not only involved figuring out what to write about, but what the play itself was saying. I have always found re-reading my own writing to be a cringe inducing experience even when I wrote confidently, so I was not looking forward to revisiting the posts, which, except the first, I was not confident in writing.

 

Re-reading the first post, I find little I would change. As I had read Midsummer for a previous class, I was not confused by the plot (or by the easily confused names of Helena and Hermia). As the plot was familiar, I attempted to go into deeper issues of gender and class, while exploring Shakespeare’s heavy use of irony. Overall, I think I did a decent job of exploring these themes, although if I had the chance to re-write the post I would tighten the writing in the section on Hermia, and expand the section on the magic flower. Examination of favorite characters will become a theme in later posts and can be seen here in my analysis of Bottom.

 

Harold Bloom’s book on Shakespeare, The Invention of the Human, got me much interested in the psychology of Shakespeare’s characters, and this is probably why my second post is very much interested in analyzing Malvolio. As Bloom does in his book, I tried to find resonances in other Shakespeare plays to illustrate my point, and I still think my comparison of Malvolio with Shylock was fitting. I find this post to be much weaker than the first, as the examination of Viola and Feste is far too brief and vague to be an effective closer, a major disappointment as Feste is the most complex character in the play, in my opinion. Were I to re-write this post, I would add more details about Viola and especially Feste. Focusing on the psychology of the surprisingly sane Feste would make the contrast with the unhinged Malvolio starker, which would give the post a much stronger ending.

 

The post on Richard III is the one I find weakest, the one which I would expand and change the most were I to revisit it. Again following Bloom, I have been fascinated with the Machiavellian villains of Shakespeare, a point made excessively clear in my post. Although Shakespearean characters are always surprising, I find characters like Iago, Edmund, and Richard nearly inexplicable, hence why I lavished so much attention on his opening speech and its shameless evil. The weakness of the post are the latent weaknesses of my Twelfth Night post made worse: too much focus on resonances in other characters and works, too little close reading of the text at hand. Although my analysis of the opening speech is okay, I fail to analyze, or even mention, key lines of the opening speech; besides my incomplete reading of the opening speech, there is almost no other detail about the events that follow, no analysis of the importance of history to this play, the only history play assigned this semester. Although it is fair to compare Richard to Edmund in King Lear to find similar villainy, why did I not choose instead to compare Richard to his brother Clarence? The contrast of the two siblings would have been far more effective, more accessible to those unfamiliar with Lear, and less digressive. The plot of Richard was, for the most part, unfamiliar to me, so that is perhaps why I focused solely on character psychology and not analysis of the multiple characters and literary elements as I did in my first, strongest post. I think the change from analysis of irony and humor in the first play to character analysis was based on my difficulty in keeping track of the plots of the plays. As I have read both Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice previously, I hope that in my blogs for those plays I will be able to focus on literary elements and devices as well as on psychology.

 

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