Blog posting and responding challenged my two great academic weaknesses: time management and assignment organization. I was intimidated by the well-informed and occasionally expert opinions that other students were able to express with interesting and witty language. However, blog posts encouraged me to consider the content of my post and reflect on the course readings throughout the week, giving me the opportunity to more thoroughly examine aspects of a play that struck me as significant. After looking at my posts, notes, and responses, I have recognized that three general topics will get my pen moving: gender roles, romance, and family.
Reading Shakespeare with regard to gender roles is (sometimes) a gamble. My fear as a reader was that I would taint the play, or muddy my interpretation and enjoyment of the play, by allowing my modern social justice education to interfere. I discovered that I could not ignore the well-trained voice in the back of my head that muttered in protest while I read The Taming of the Shrew, so I chose to work with it as best I could. As a class we briefly discussed that a reader should try to understand Shakespeare and the gender “issues” within his plays within their time, not within our time. I held this comment close, because I didn’t want to demonize Petruccio (or any other character) in a way that was undeserving—but I did try to reconcile the ending by imagining Katherine delivering her final speech with a wink and a sly smile.
In my blog post, I characterized Katherine’s outspoken side as superior to Petruccio’s alternative: demure and feminine. It didn’t dawn on me the error of my ways—viewing the feminine as weak and the masculine as strong—until it was pointed out to me in a response to my post. When I realized that blogging generated active engagement and interaction between students (someone read my post and did not just blindly agree with it, but provided feedback and criticism!) I recognized the value of the activity and the potential fun. Furthermore, it made me realize that broad topics such as “gender” when considered with Shakespeare are infinitely broader than I could truly consider without research and a guiding hand. After the conclusion of The Taming of the Shrew in class, I filed “Shakespeare and women” away in my mental folder of topics to investigate more in depth in the future.
It might have been the nature of Romeo and Juliet or the way the media alludes to it—but my interest in the play had an emphasis on the romance, the sexuality, and the highly charged language of lust and of love. I was intrigued by the age of Romeo and Juliet, the truth behind their feelings (were they genuine, constructed by outside forces, obsessive and unhealthy?), and the reasons behind our culture spotlighting Romeo and Juliet as a play about ideal “true love”. Reflecting on this period of blogging made me realize Professor Mulready’s perfect timing: the week leading up to Valentine’s Day, our final interaction with the play falling on the holiday itself. This timing certainly influenced my attention to randy love—but beyond Valentine’s Day, I looked at sexual language lost on a modern reader in my research paper using the OED. I didn’t maintain interest in the topic past Romeo and Juliet, which leads me to believe that notes on lust in Henry V would be less relevant than notes on power and motivation.
That being said, family arose as a significant topic to me when we began the historical plays. Ties of blood and lineage struck me as incredibly intriguing—blood drove characters together and pushed characters apart, laid a foundation for conflict, and illustrated a royal family tree held together by blood (both their own and the blood of others). Because I failed to blog about this, but read the posts of others, this topic is something I would absolutely revisit. I dropped the ball with weekly blogging, despite my interest in the course content, which had a domino effect. However, at this point in the course, I would say that Henry V has been my favorite play—his riveting and memorable speeches are ones that I have heard before, and that’s no surprise. While stand-alone plays like Romeo and Juliet are a joy to read and a lot of fun, the Henriad is an engaging, demanding, and captivating series of plays. The historical plays have been my favorite so far.