The most useful aspect of this blogging assignment has been the freedom to work out and explore ideas or themes of the plays without having to make a succinct argument or conclusion. I think this is particularly important in studying Shakespeare because his work is so rich and elusive that constantly drawing conclusions can be a detriment to understanding the text. My blogs have gotten better and more helpful to my understanding of Shakespeare as the class has progressed, and I think this is the result of asking more questions than attempting to answer them.
I think I got hung up on my first blog post by the idea of making an succinct argument, and as a result it wasn’t very developed or insightful. I wrote about the use of “dreaming” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I thought would make a unique argument, but it didn’t appeal to the aspects of the play that really interested me. What interested me about Midsummer was the structure of it. At the time I wrote this first blog entry, I had no other Shakespearean comedies to compare it to, but I’ve since realized that the plot structure of Midsummer is the most rudimentary. This is explicitly addressed in play with the idea of the “rude mechanicals,” and the way they contribute to the play as a whole, adding a layer of comedy that only tangentially relates to the main plot of the play. I also found the purpose of the fifth act to be very interesting in the play. I loved the idea of extended denouement, that the conflicts of the story are wrapped up neatly in Act IV, and the entire fifth act is something like a narrative flourish.
The difference between my first post and subsequent two posts is that I wrote them before I finished the whole play. I really liked the process of exploring ideas and themes of the play based only on the beginning. It raises interesting ideas about what resonates throughout the play, and how expectations differ from the beginning to how the events play out in the end. There is something significant about the ideas that are raised in the very beginning of a play, and exploring these ideas before reaching the conclusion is an interesting exercise.
When I explored Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship, I think I honed in on ideas that only made themselves more evident throughout the progression of the play. In their relationship, there is always the question of authenticity in their love, since they both keep their emotions hidden (as best they can for Shakespearean characters). They constantly go back and forth of loving and not loving each other, and from the beginning of the play, their relationship seems complex. I don’t think Shakespeare offers any answers to the questions that this relationship poses about the overlap of love and hate. I think the questions that he poses presents this idea in a way that illuminates it.
In my blog about Othello, I posed questions that arise in the beginning of the play that also never seem to be answered by the end. The racial undertones in the first act of the play are never presented in more explicit terms. There isn’t an answer as to whether Shakespeare wanted to warn his audience about racial mixing, or to promote equality. I don’t think he particularly wanted to do either, but I think he wanted to explore the ideas in a dramatic way.
I like the use of the blogging assignment as a sort of sounding board for half-formed ideas. I think the exercise of written discourse without explicitly developing a conclusion is important to the comprehension and analysis of a text, especially if it’s Shakespeare.