Challenge Shakespeare?

Many would concur with the statement, “William Shakespeare is  the greatest writer in the English language.” Indeed, he was a national dramatists, actor, and playwright writing so many of what we would now refer to as true literature. From a New Historicists lens, it is worth questioning and challenging those foundational knowledge and facts that we claim to be obvious and true. So questions such as “did Shakespeare really exist?”, “did Shakespeare actually write his plays?”, and  “did he ever experience in his lifetime what he wrote about?”

New Historicists, as they pay close attention to the historical context of literary works, enables us to challenge and question if what we consider as objective history is actually real.  For example,  it is worth daring a question, “did Shakespeare write his plays?” And as eccentric as the question, the debate actually exists. People say that people such as Francis Bacon or Earl of Oxford could have written the plays. However, there is controversy concerning them too because Oxford is known to have died in 1604 (did he actually?) but The Tempest was written only in 1610 influenced by the voyage to the Americas.

Another reason why people doubt Shakespeare’s authorship in his plays is largely due to Shakespeare lack of education and experience that made him to produce such a wide-ranging body of work. For example, The Merchant of Venice is one that receives many skepticism. William Shakespeare born in  Stratford-upon-Avon, spent time acting in London before returning to Stratford, where he lived until his death in 1616. That historical information tells us that he never went to Venice. With an underlying assumption that personal experiences drive plot formation, if he never saw and experienced Venice and its culture, how could he have written such a play that’s main point is around the theme of Venetians and their major conflict with Jews?

According to history, undeniably, Venice was a major, trend-setting, center, trade city. Although Christianity was the dominant religion and had official status, there were certainly many Jews living in Venice. Venice was considered the today’s New York in that it contained industry, banking sectors, and the awesome people. The Jews were considered the outsiders-they were isolated party. But the Venetians, also known and referred to as the Christians needed the Jews for their bank and financial sector, particularly for money lending because Christians were forbidden to practice money for religious reasons. And the Jews needed Venice to live even though they were never virtually accepted into the Venetian society. However eventually, taxation of where the Jews earned money from, impoverished most Jews to an extent that  they were no longer the source for the King- so at that point Jews were expelled from England in 1290. Thus no Jews lived in England- making us doubt that he probably never saw Jews and doubt even more of whether or not William Shakespeare actually wrote his play with knowledge about Jews.

Looking at a text with a New Historicists lens, we are given a chance to challenge common assumptions and known facts. Just as I introduced in this paper the issues that were dealt about some common heated debates concerning Shakespeare and his plays, we should be able to do this with other texts too. This method, I believe will be very helpful in finding objective backup proofs for the realness and truthfulness of a text. As I personally learned how to read from a New Historicists lens, I want to read the Bible from this lens and find scientific, historical objectivity in regard to the validity of the context of the Bible. Now, let New Historicism to win the battle.

Unmask Yourself

 

Looking over our photo galleries, all the pictures we have mean something to us.The sunset picture will bring back memories. The picture of our girlfriends or boyfriends, wives or husbands, will remind us about them. The picture of our textbook pages may mean a page of gibberish that our grade depends on. Just like that- pictures and images all have symbolic meanings. The same way, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is also a collage of images, full of symbols.

As stated above, Young Goodman Brown is heavy with symbolism and archetypes; we as twenty-first century people recognize and are able to figure out their hidden meanings because symbols and archetypes are not limited to neither culture nor time. Precisely because the they are not confined to time, Goodman Brown’s lesson and the impact he got from it can also teach and impact us powerfully too.

As Goodman Brown, a pious man who once saw righteousness and purity in society, goes out to a journey and comes back filled with doubt towards society’s goodness, we too, as readers of this book should come to realize the truth about whether or not goodness truly exists in society.

Goodman Brown after his return from his journey questioned if all that happened was simply a wild dream; however, whether this story is actually Goodman Brown’s dream or not is not an issue: what matters is that the man was a changed man. His peaceful life became disastrous after his trip as he realized that no man is good and that evil is in everyone, signaling us readers that this story is an archetypal monomyth of the fall phase.

“Young Goodman Brown came forth at sunset into the street at Salem village…to exchange a parting kiss with his young wife.” (Hawthorne, 4)

In the beginning of the story, Goodman Brown leaves his wife, Faith, at sunset saying farewell to her. The setting itself that it was sunset when he left Faith is symbolic because Him leaving Faith at sunset when it was still slightly bright indicates that his life before his journey started was bright, without darkness and evil. As he goes deeper into the forest the sun goes down and the night gets dark alerting us readers that Brown is going deeper into sin. His exclamation in the forest is noteworthy because he cries out, “My Faith is gone!…There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come devil; for to thee is this world given” (Hawthorne 6). He not only loses faith towards his wife in a literal meaning but he loses his own faith in his journey in the forest.

“But the only thing about him, that could be fixed upon as remarkable, was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought, that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself, like a living serpent” (Hawthorne 2).

It is clear that Brown’s faith is stripped away too. The serpent and the snake being age-old symbols of evil remind us of Bible stories of the serpent tempting Eve or of Moses turning his staff into a snake. In the forest, a man offers Brown a staff to help him travel fast. Just like Eve fell into the serpent’s temptation and sin entered the earth, Goodman Brown also accepts the offer of the staff and welcomes sin in his life. Going on the journey, Goodman Brown loses his goodness too.  

Faith, also an archetypal character in this story, had a pink ribbon which symbolizes femininity and innocence. Because Faith was Brown’s trust, love, and last hope, Brown seeing Faith’s ribbon in the forest tragically impacted him. Seeing other townsmen in the forest, he recognized their hypocrisy and their hidden masks, but at last seeing that Faith too had succumbed to the Devil, Brown lost all hope towards the world and realized that no goodness truly exists in the world.

This is a tragedy that Goodman Brown realizes by the end of his journey: everyone on the surface only seems faith-ful and good. His strong belief and pride that he and the puritans were “a race of honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs.” (italics added, Hawthorne page 2) was challenged. His worldview shattered as he saw corruption in everyone’s faith.

His reaction towards this tragic recognition was to remove himself from society. After his return, he could  no longer see his townspeople as he used to see them with love, respect, trust, and joy. When he listened to the congregation on Sabbath singing holy psalms, he could not listen because he heard anthem of sin. When he saw the minister speak and give sermons fervidly and eloquently with his hand on the bible, he turned pale seeing a blasphemer and people hypocritically listening to the minster. When his family knelt down to pray, he scowled and muttered to himself, gazed sternly at his wife, and turned away from her. In whole, trust towards society’s goodness was stripped away.

All the archetypes in this story brings us to say that Young Goodman Brown after his journey finally came to believe that perfect goodness and purity do not exist and that evil is inherent in humans whether visible to others or not. The townsmen whom Goodman Brown considered pious and righteous were masking themselves hiding their evil nature to seem holy on the outside. The fact that we can find archetypes within this story is to say that this story holds even now in our modern world. That is to say that people in our world now are masking themselves too. We too are probably living our lives masking and hiding our evil nature well to be portrayed as good people. Goodman Brown after realizing evil in him and his townsmen was no longer able to live the way he did before faking goodness. Are you going to keep on pretending or are you going to be courageous enough to unmask yourself?

(Literary Hypothesis) Change for the Better

Time changed so many things including people’s thoughts, ideas, and even literary theories. As it all started with a thesis and antithesis forming a synthesis continuing as a repetitive progress, so many pure ideas became complex, colorful, and not so black and white anymore. Many literary theories that were formed were neglected and ignored because they were just one of the many existing theories. However, none of that is to be thrown away, including mine, because putting an oar into a conversation of establishing a literary theory will definitely help in expanding the already-complicated, existing diagram of “thesis and antithesis that forms a synthesis” which started since the ancient days with Plato and Aristotle. And since what literary theory became as time progressed was nothing but get more complicated and complex (many theories conglomerating with other existing theories or freshly adding a new direction to the diagram), I might as well put together my theory together too and add another synthesis to that diagram.

Taking into account many existing theories that were also formed by already existing theories, I followed through the theories of Aristotle, Longinus, Boccaccio, Wordsworth, and Arnold most in the fact that literature should change us. As Boccaccio forms a synthesis in concurring with Aristotle, I too agree that literature should not be read in search for a lesson. However, I think it should be read for experience of truth that will improve our lives. Some may contest that we won’t be able to truly “experience” writing unless we have actually gone through it ourselves. That strengthens my thesis in stating that the author should be able to invite their readers into their writing for them to be able to empathize with the writing and therefore “experience” literature stirring change in each of their reader’s lives. And what I mean by improving our lives, I mean to say that literature should touch truth leading to complete change in our lives, like Arnold believes.

Also, past literary theorists, such as Longinus, Wordsworth, and Arnold valued expression of feelings and emotions through poetry, but some protest that literature cannot be just used as a tool to merely state an opinion that leaves a controversial debate in the air. Both agreeing and disagreeing with that idea, I believe that poetry should reflect the author’s thoughts and cause a “heated debate” and conclude in such a way that teaches the debaters a lesson, making them change their minds, and most powerfully stirring up their lives. Taking deeper Longinus’ value of true sublimity that has grandeur of thought and capacity for strong emotion, I am positive that literature has potential, potential to give healing to those who need healing and impact to those who let themselves be impacted.
I can relate to music more than books, but I think books and words have the same potential. For instance, when I was emotionally tired and sick of life and the busyness that drove my life, I listened to a song called “Keep Holding On” by Avril Lavigne, which encouraged me incredibly to keep holding on to life and finish the race. It gave me the opportunity to reset my mindset: I was healed through that song.

The same way, I believe literature, specifically poetry, holds the same capacity. For example, a famous Russian poet, Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev wrote a poem called «Бывает роковые дни». Through that poem I was comforted that in our hardest days, God will give us a priceless present, a hand of a friend that will resurrect our dead life, pump our blood, and give us a heart that once again believes in love and truth. (Read actual poem at the end of the paper.) Literature with its words, I think, it should provide readers place of refuge and solace. The author calls its readers that by reading the poem we will be comforted the same way he was comforted and learn that life is not as lonely and dark as we sometimes think of it as.
Also, even simple stories, like Disney novels such as Cinderella teaches its readers, children and adults, moral lessons to be nice and thankful even in hardships. Original authors of this story, Brothers Grimm and Giambattista Basile wrote in such a way that made readers understand and stand of Cinderella’s side. Furthermore, the story was influential in helping the readers learn to live kindly.
To sum it up, literature should be didactic- teaching us moral lessons that reflect truth. How it will change the reader’s mind and lives are in readers’ hands as they have the role and responsibility of being vulnerable in letting literature change us with the infinite power and potential it holds. Literature will never cause degradation; it only has a positive slope changing us for the better just like “For Good”, from the Wicked, writes the following:
I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason, bringing something we must learn and we are led to those who help us most, to grow if we let them and we help them in return. Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true but I know I’m who I am today because I knew you…Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you I have been changed for good….So let me say before we pat so much of me is made of what I learned from you….because I knew you I have been changed for good.

Now, will you let yourself converse with literature and let literature in return change you for the better?

Бывают роковые дни
Бывают роковые дни
Лютейшего телесного недуга
И страшных нравственных тревог;
И жизнь над нами тяготеет
И душит нас, как кошемар.
Счастлив, кому в такие дни
Пошлет всемилосердый бог
Неоценимый, лучший дар –
Сочувственную руку друга,
Кого живая, теплая рука
Коснется нас, хотя слегка,
Оцепенение рассеет
И сдвинет с нас ужасный кошемар
И отвратит судеб удар, –
Воскреснет жизнь, кровь заструится вновь,
И верит сердце в правду и любовь.

Even if this is an English paper, I believe that a translation of a poem will not have the same impact on the readers and will be able to pass on the original tone and meaning of the text.

Cultivating our hearts

Honestly, in the beginning of the movie Elephant Man, when I heard Mr. Bytes’ strident words, I was able to find myself craning my neck to take a closer and better look at Mr. Joseph Merrick. That was my instinct, and it might have been yours too. I think we know that we are not to judge others, but that is what we intuitively desired to do. That act might just simply be labeled as “curiosity”, but I think it can be described as “desires-to-make-our-own-judgment”.

I don’ think I myself have the right to judge beauty because God already had said that everything he created was good and especially called Adam and Eve (humans) very good. Why did God call his creation good though? I think we know our banal, Sunday-school answers very well: because we are created in God’s image which means having His character innately in us.

I think it is our role to cultivate our own hearts and make it pleasing to God. Yes, now I come to understand Mr. John Merrick’s last words: “It’s finished.” As our class discussion, I agree that that statement had a literal and symbolic meaning, literal being the church. The symbolic meaning was that he had finished building himself into the person he wished to be. He knew the man he initially was but desired to have God’s character built in himself just like he saw the steeple of the church but did not see the base of it. So he constructed the base into what he wished to see. Learning from and ruminating over Mr. Joseph Merrick’s life, I want to strive to build my own admirable “church” so that it will be unquestionable for others if God calls me “very good.”

Task 1: Evil

Evil does not necessarily mean it’s bad: it just denotes its heinous, sinful nature. For it says, “For everything God created is good” in 1 Timothy 4:4. In Paradise Lost which Milton’s purpose was to “justify the ways of God to man”, I was able to view Satan from a different perspective. Satan, who was portrayed as a protagonist, rebelled against God, who he knew was undefeatable, and never gave in to adversity with an indomitable spirit. But then, the whole anecdote seemed nothing but Satan’s action that rose out of self-consciousness because God didn’t have to struggle with him. Thus, I say that it is purposeless to justify God’s reasons for certain ways because we do nothing but prove our verdant state of mind, scratch our pride, and humiliate ourselves by giving excuses. In a nutshell, in Paradise Lost, I think Satan’s deeds were not evil, but just a cute failed attempt against God. J

Evil- n

Necessarily- adv

Denote- v

Heinous- adj

For- conj

Milton’s- adj

Purpose- n

Justify- v

To- prep

To- v.

From- prep

Different- adj

Satan- n

Was- v

Against- prep

Never- adv

Adversity- n

Spirit- n

But- conj

Of- prep

Not- adv

Thus- adv

I- pro

Purposeless- adj

For- prep

Verdant- adj

Scratch- v

And- conj

Ourselves- pro

In- prep

Nutshell- n

Just- adj

Cute- adj

Revolt- n

God- n

Quarter 2: Field Day For Us

Every animal house absorbed the morning sunlight through the silver trees which yawned and stretched themselves high up to the spotless sky as if predicting the majestic day for the animal school. Citizens of the animal town all poured into the school field.

As the rabbit rushed through the wilderness to get to school, the fox leisurely walked through the short-cut route that she had found the other day. When the owl was counting his minutes before his arrival to school, the bear just crawled out of his bed as the alarm jangled him from his sweet dream.

Even though each of them had a different morning, they all ended up at school by the time field day commenced. Before the official games started, they were all given five minutes of free time. They each warmed up their own way: some got their water bottle filled up, stretched, or lay on the grass complied their energy. Then, the field day finally started.
“The first game planned for tonight, “announced the coordinator “is ‘long jump’.”

As expected, the rabbit swept the whole race. Everyone seemed to acquiesce with the outcome.

The coordinator announced the second game: “obstacle track racing.”
The minute the running track was revealed to the participants, the fox noticed right away that there was a short cut to this immeasurable obstacle game.  The result was not extraordinary.

The bear realized that he had so many restricted abilities for each of the games: his stomach was inflated, he was indolent and lethargic, and was unable to build strategies. He thought, “I might as well give up.”

The whole afternoon passed and the score among the rabbit, fox, and the owl became a tie. It was clear that the last game would turn the table. They all studied each other’s countenances, all knowing that this last game would determine the final winner.

“The last game planned for tonight is “mountain climbing,” the coordinator announced, “each of you will run up those hills and the first one who grabs the flag at the zenith of the mountain will be the final winner.”

The bear noticed that no one had an advantage over him in this game, unlike the previous ones they have played. Now, even the bear’s heart started to pound with eagerness.

The rabbit, the fox, the owl, and the bear each got into their positions. The countdown began. The starting whistle blew, and each of them paced themselves because they knew the minimum running would be an hour.

Only thirty minutes passed. But at the apex of the mountain, the coordinator already saw one of the participant’s silhouettes. Among the endless, cacophonous cheer of the crows who were obviously uninterested in the game, one snuck its head out and questioned as if with curiosity, “Who is it?”

……

……

……

 Different kinds of people exist in our society, just like many different kinds of animal exist. And many of us find ourselves competing with others often. This uncomfortable truth affects the lives of high school students, college students, and even adults. Each one of us, like each of the animals, has a particular strength. As we live our lives, we compete with others racing to come to cross the finish line first. The sad part is that ‘spectators’ do not really care who the winner is. And frankly, no ones knows who the winner will be. Now the question lies, which one of the animals are you?

Task 9: Symbol: Truth’s Power

People desire to be the “protagonists” in society, but ironically, we love to manipulate and control others even if that means standing on the side of an antagonist. In Crime and Punishment Part 4 Chapter 5, Porfiry Petrovich “chokes” Raskolnikov by hinting his better deck of cards. Even though he doesn’t have any proof, he uses circumstances for his own good in order to have hold of the situation in his hands. Society, many times, ignores truth only if they can become the oppressor because claiming truth will make people weak and become victims. We meet Raskolnikov fighting against Porfiry trying to not become the victim of the situation by blurting out that he is the murderer. Thus, truth’s power is feeble, and the uncomfortable recognition of the world states that we should flee from truth because it will not benefit us much. Now a question lies, is truth useless?

Task 8: Symbol: Love

“Love is an open door” is a song that high school students frequently sing in the hallways. In Crime and Punishment, love is an ongoing theme, but it raises a question: is love actually an opened door for people to just pass by as if it’s not a big deal? In the novel, Luzhin considered Dunya as a best match for him because she was poor, young, pretty, regarded him as her salvation, and wondered at him alone. (307) Also, Sonya submitted under love to gain the money she needed for living. Many characters in the novel confuse, maybe intentionally, love as “submission” or “sacrifice”, and they think of it so lightly that it seems that love is an open door, when in reality, it’s not. Love cannot or rather, should not, symbolize submission because true love is an open door welcomed for everyone but not easily found by all.

Task 7: Symbol: Time (part 2)

Dostoevsky attempts to show us his opinion about time by continuously mentioning it. It raises a question if that detail is worth mentioning. He persuaded me that time will not change anything, meaning nothing will change unless you do something about it. Time, mentioned when Raskolnikov falls asleep, faints, or wakes up, is also mentioned in the current chapters we have read, in part 3 chapter 6 page 272, “He took off his cap, put it on the table and stood motionlessly beside it for about ten minutes. Then, powerless, he lay down on the sofa….He lay that way for about half an hour.” Raskolnikov hoped that time will sooth the situation, but in reality, everything stayed the same. We can see that no matter how long or short of a time we spend in hopes of the circumstance being different than now, time definitely, will not be the doctor.