Senior Thesis: A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Rated “S&M” for Mature

*This is my Bachelor’s thesis, which I used to not only complete my first degree but as writing examples to get into graduate school.*

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Rated “S&M” for Mature

Shakespeare seldom paints a happy picture when it comes to romance, and his conception of love can seem slight and superficial throughout his work. Young lovers commit suicide in hopes of staying together eternally; relationships either end in triumph or dismally. Instead of portraying characters who embody true love and sweetness, he creates some characters who feature certain dark, base, and overall sadomasochistic qualities. One critic notes “It has long been a critical commonplace that Shakespearean comedy works to restrain libidinal impulses by directing them into stable and productive ‘normal’ marital unions” (Sanchez 501). However, Shakespeare’s marital unions are far from normal; he takes these unsatisfying notions of love and forces them into traditional marriages.

Note that this is all done through immaculate discipline and art form. If his plays seemed to truly step out of line on the surface, Shakespeare would have been in trouble with the law and the censors of the time. So he masks these baser notions of love in comedic moments or through conversations between characters that only the utmost observant audience would truly understand. Most of the time, these characters display both a sadist and a masochistic role at different times throughout their play. The couples in the comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, estimated to have been written between 1595 and 1596, exhibit these characteristics, but this essay will exclusively focus on Hermia and Helena’s relationship and Oberon and Titania’s.

Through the discussion with Shakespearean scholarship, I hope to encourage readers to relook at Shakespeare’s plays, dissect the dialogue between characters, and become conscious of what each says in regards to sexual tension. Shakespeare was not encouraging people to take up a BDSM relationship with their neighbor or attend sex clubs in New York, mostly because those ideas did not even exist yet. He is also not mocking these baser notions of love as degrading. Instead, he showcases that there are other sides to love and the classic idealistic notion of it, as cultivated by the infamous Petrarch, is false. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare provides a warning for the audience and those potentially in love. He says that Petrarch’s love for Laura is not the only version of love possible and our love should not be solely based upon that. Instead, everyone’s love is different; it could be sappy and require posting poorly-written poems to the trees in a forest like a classic Petrarchan, or it can be darker and more desperate as shown in this play. The main point of his argument throughout this play is that these relationships–Hermia and Helena’s homosocial bond and Oberon and Titania’s marriage–are happy ones. To the surface reader, this seems unrealistic; why would anyone tolerate constant arguing, cheating partners, and insults? But what Shakespeare showcases is how some relationships function and, furthermore, need to function to stay afloat. Not all relationships are the same and we must accept this before getting into a lifelong partnership in marriage.

To begin I will provide a basic, traditional reading the play for summary purposes. The two young female friends in the play, Hermia, and Helena were inseparable as they grew up together, which resulted in their confiding in each other. However, once the women reach adulthood, they find love in someone other than their best friend. Hermia finds love in a forbidden man, Lysander, and this love goes against her father’s wishes for her to marry Demetrius, who is a more suitable man by her father’s standards. This does, however, prove to be fortunate for her childhood friend, seeing as Helena would like Demetrius for herself. Helena aches over Demetrius, believing that Hermia doesn’t deserve him. Hermia has Lysander to love and, therefore, has no need for Demetrius. Hermia and Lysander flee to the forest in an attempt to run away from Hermia’s Father, Egeus. Helena and Demetrius run after them. The forest is not only a place full of secrets and mischief but is also inhabited by cunning fairies. Oberon and Titania may be the king and queen of the woods and fairyland, but they do not live in peace and cannot rule a kingdom together. Between ordering the fairies to place pansy juice, or the pollen from the pansy flower found in the forest,  in the eyes of Lysander and Demetrius to make them love the wrong girl, this couple fight constantly because of their adulterous history and present. Meanwhile, the men have, thanks to the pansy juice, stopped fawning over Hermia and have turned their attention to Helena. Questioning who truly is in love with whom readers begin to feel exasperated as Shakespeare turns everything on its head. Thankfully, by the end of the play, everything is right: Hermia and Lysander are to be betrothed, along with Helena and Demetrius at Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding. The pansy juice is removed from Lysander’s eyes, having fallen back in love with Hermia, and the play comes to a close with true love winning.

This is a very classical and traditional reading of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, yet it leaves many unanswered questions and confusing thoughts: does Demetrius truly love Helena or does the pansy juice remain in his eyes? What about the king and queen of fairyland and their love triangle with Bottom? Who gains custody of the small Indian changeling boy? This is why there are many other ways to read Shakespeare’s plays, and I will apply an untraditional read of the play. The pairings in this play, mainly Helena and Hermia and Oberon and Titania, can be seen as exhibiting sadomasochistic tendencies. The traditional read as previously showcased leaves out the very interesting behaviors the characters display that is deemed unfit for a healthy relationship. Helena and Hermia, best friends since childhood, take turns being the dominator and the submissive when it comes to their relationship. Hermia, characterized by Helena herself as being petite, willingly creates vicious arguments with Helena so that Helena will, in turn, call her short. Oberon and Titania both mock and torment the other, constantly bringing up past indecencies in order to throw it in the other’s face. These relationships cannot possibly be happy ones; they leave the masochist feeling dejected and hurt, and the sadist feeling privileged and power hungry–only to then be flipped again. This play surely cannot exhibit true love when the couples who seem to have the best love are constantly hurting the other.

Both of the above readings of this play are valid. The traditional read sets the scene for the reader, allowing him to grasp the plotline and characters, but it still leaves much omitted. The untraditional sadomasochistic read allows the audience to place the play in a seedier light. Simply put, why are the characters acting in these crazy terms towards each other? This essay aims to answer that question. Hermia and Helena, as well as Oberon and Titania, switch being the sadist and the masochist as is evident in their dialogue and actions. But they are doing these awful deeds to their partner because it is healthy. Shakespeare creates this comedy to provide a warning for a newlywed young couple and those in attendance: love is a constantly developing emotion and will never settle on one aspect, and couples need to be aware of this change so they can accept the change instead of fighting it. More importantly, sadist and masochistic qualities are natural and can lead to a happy, balanced relationship when performed correctly.

Sadomasochism as a Lens for Interpreting Literature

The term “sadomasochism” and even the words “sadism” and “masochism” would not have been used during Shakespeare’s time, nor would they have been used to describe the character of his plays simply because they were not created yet. Breaking down the compound of sadomasochism, the Oxford English Dictionary defines “masochism” as “the urge to derive pleasure, esp. sexual gratification, from one’s own pain or humiliation; the pursuit of such pleasure”; and “sadism” as “enthusiasm for inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others” or “a psychological disorder characterized by sexual fantasies, urges, or behavior involving the subjection of another person to pain, humiliation, bondage, etc.” In layman’s terms, the sadist is the dominator whereas the masochist is the dominated or the submissive. The Mastery of Submission furthers this definition by stating “sexual masochism” is defined as producing sexual excitement by being bound, humiliated, beaten, or otherwise made to suffer (Noyes 16). Commonly known as S&M this sexual sadomasochism, I believe, is the pop culture form of sadomasochism that most are aware of today, as seen in different movies and television shows, boutiques in metropolitan and liberal cities such as Amsterdam or San Francisco.

The begin, a literary definition of sadomasochism is necessary for understanding its role in literature. According to Lynn Chancer’s book, Sadomasochism in Everyday Life, sadomasochism is referred to as a “common social relationship based on power and powerlessness, dominance and subordination” between two people (3). To be termed as such, the relationship must meet four requirements: extreme dependence; an established ritual; sadomasochistic tendencies; and consequences for when the submissive, or the masochist, violates their role. The first quality, extreme dependence, is where both individuals in the relationship, regardless of who is the sadist or the masochist, feel a strong need for physical, but, most importantly, mental connection with the other. The second criteria is that the relationship has its own repetitive ritual so the individuals have structured contact. Thirdly, the sadomasochistic tendencies are not static, but instead dialectic and constantly changing (3). Finally, and most importantly, the masochist in the relationship must “face severe consequences” if she challenges the power of the sadist (5). Chancer acknowledges that she is giving an overview of sadomasochism as a term and is not discussing the different dynamics that might stem from it such as S&M.

The definitions assume a negative connotation for the individuals who participate in such acts of indecency. Many everyday relationships convey some of the same hierarchy necessary to function, such as student to teacher, or employee to employer, and these relationships are seen as healthy and positive. Chancer argues at the beginning of her piece that “We are living in a sadomasochistic society in that it bombards us with experiences of domination and subordination far more regularly” than one can imagine (2). What these definitions are missing is the idea of balance. By engaging in the hierarchy of sadomasochism, those individuals are accepting the balance of opposites, dominance and subordination in order to function.

Using the above descriptions of sadomasochism helps us to understand different plotlines in literature and certainly in Early Modern literature. These Early Modern writers were concerned with their writing passing through the censors, who prevented offensive materials from getting published, and in doing so, Shakespeare as a prime example adapted to utilizing many layers in his works for the audience to unfold. On the surface level, the work seems inoffensive which allows it pass by the censor, but on a less literal level, the baser notions are hidden. In this play, the surface reading as discussed above allowed it to pass the censor, Shakespeare’s true message and warning come out on a deeper level. As Sanchez asserts, “The imaginative worlds of literature give us access to some of the early modern cultural fantasies that cannot be documented by the period’s moral, legal, or medical discourses” (494). Sadomasochism, or at least the act of it, was not available for discussion, and yet literature like A Midsummer Night’s Dream showcases its attributes before the word even developed.

Furthermore, one cannot discuss sadomasochism without touching on the erotic. Scholar Jason Gleckman argues: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream offers a concise imaginary history of the erotic” (Gleckman 25). The erotic played a large role in the Early Modern literature even though it was a taboo subject. Writing was the only place where people could engage in erotic knowledge and discussion since it was confusing and unpleasant in actual conversation. At this time as well, England was bouncing back and forth between the Catholic and Anglican religions, each having their own ideas about the erotic: “On the one hand, as part of their vehement promotion of married life, Protestants allowed increased space for the erotic impulse within marriage” (Gleckman 27). Sex was clearly not allowed outside of marriage, and even more not allowed between two of the same sex, but even after marriage, sex was never examined in the Catholic faith. However, the Protestants viewed sex as a beautiful gift from God supposed to bring pleasure, but only within marriage. Shakespeare, like many others, had to be careful what he portrayed in his plays as to not get him in trouble with the law, so he channels the erotic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the usual direction of the monogamous marriage that awaits many of the characters in the play.

Continuing further with the erotic, Shakespeare toys with the notion of flipping gender roles by suggesting in his work, particularly A Midsummer Night’s Dream, that “the men…are more childish, impressionable and less psychologically and emotionally developed, whilst the women are more rational, constant, and civilized and wield reason more effectively than men” (Schumann 43). This superimposes “the idea of a linked domination of women and nature by men” in relation to classic marriage (43). Traditionally, women are supposed to submit and then men are to dominate the marriages; sex and the erotic are used only for procreation and even then it is not for pleasure, but simply necessary for marriage. However, “Shakespeare undermines, rather than reinforces the patriarchal social structures” (43) in the marriages and coupling that take place in this play. The women in most cases are the dominating party, not the men.

That this is not a new, modern concept that is being read into Shakespearean works. Instead, renowned Shakespearean scholar, Doctor Carolyn Brown inspects the chronological use of psychoanalytic and other theories in regards to Shakespeare’s work. One of her discoveries is that of the audience’s “pleasure in projected suffering such as that portrayed in violent Renaissance literature” (Brown 104). Suffering and violence were popular and appeared on stage, much the same as people today enjoy violent video games, movies, tv shows, and more. There is something inherently intriguing about watching forms of suffering. When watching a sadomasochistic play, the audience can thrive on the animalistic tendencies that come with watching bad behavior, but it also allows for a  space to reevaluate their own relationships.

Hermia and Helena’s Sadomasochist Relationship

In the case of relationships, having an idealized bond can be boring and tends to imply that someone is not being truly honest. Relationships are in a constant state of ebb and flow; they are forever changing dynamics as each day progresses, and it requires time and courage to keep a cohesive and mutually exclusive balance between two people. When it comes to the two young female lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hermia and Helena, “successful rivalry extinguishes desire, whereas failure exasperates it” (Brown 89). Each annoys the desires of the other to the fullest extent by partaking in their unconscious sadomasochistic tendencies. Hermia plays the sadistic role more often than the masochistic role in their relationship. Her goal is to torment Helena, ultimately enticing her more. For example, she explains to Helena that she is fleeing with Lysander:

And in the wood, where often you and I

Upon faint primrose beds were wont to lie,

Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet,

There my Lysander and myself shall meet,

And thence from Athens turn away our eyes,

To seek new friends and stranger companies.

Farewell, sweet playfellow. (Shakespeare 1.1.214-220)

She deliberately points out to Helena that she and Lysander are meeting where she and Helena often met as children, as playmates, and spent hours together. This place in the woods is undoubtedly special to Helena, and Hermia flaunts the fact that she is taking someone else to their sacred hideout. Even referring to Lysander as hers, Hermia boasts that Helena has been replaced, which is made even clearer when she says that she will seek new friends and different companies. Sealing the speech with “playfellow” (1.1.220) connotes that Helena was simply a childhood friend, nothing more than that, which adds insult to Helena’s already crushed self-esteem. Scholar Melissa Sanchez’ article, “‘Use Me But As Your Spaniel’: Feminism, Queer Theory, And Early Modern Sexualities” focuses on the erotic and power dynamic in Hermia and Helena’s relationship. Sanchez suggests that “[When Helena] accuses Hermia of betraying a closeness that made them ‘Like to a double cherry, seeming parted / But yet a union in partition’ (3.2.209-10), critics have almost invariable contrasted the serene equality and gentle reciprocity of female bonds with the violence and domination of heterotic unions” (402). By moving forward and breaking their bond, Hermia activated the dominator and submissive qualities in their relationship. Helena’s lifelong best friend is abandoning her for a man, running away to their special place that once was emotionally charged for both of them, and furthermore, doesn’t really care about their adult relationship at all. Best of all, Hermia understands exactly what she is doing to Helena. She consciously acts this way to hurt Helena, knowing that Helena is going to become upset and come after her, so perhaps Hermia wants Helena to chase after her. This is how their relationship is.

Helena does follow after her friend. She masks her journey after Hermia by telling Demetrius, another of Hermia’s suitors, to ensure Hermia and Lysander will not depart from Athens. By concealing her true reasons for going into the forest, Helena makes it seem as if Demetrius pursues after Hermia instead of herself, in order to keep her true feelings at bay. Helena’s chasing after Hermia would look curious and scandalous to the people of Athens, but her desperately following Demetrius, because he has more reason to follow the girl he is supposed to wed, somehow looks more acceptable. Helena needs an excuse for getting into the woods, and perhaps she believes Demetrius will successfully stop Hermia from leaving with Lysander. Therefore she will not have to get Hermia to stay in Athens with her. Following after Hermia will hurt Helena because she cannot express her love for Hermia herself, and yet this pain is what she desires: “herein mean I to enrich my pain” (Shakespeare 1.1.250). Helena is the masochist in their relationship and extremely hurtful to herself. Furthermore, Helena is more masochistic by her following Demetrius into the magical woods after informing him of Hermia and Lysander’s plan to escape:

And even for that do I love you the more.

I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,

The more you beat me, I will fawn you.

Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me,

Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,

Unworthy as I am, to follow you.

What worser place can I beg in your love–

And yet a place of high respect with me–

Than to be used as you use your dog? (2.1.202-210)

Demetrius is not excited about Helena accompanying him into the woods. He does not want her following him anymore, but she explains to him that the more he tries to dispose of her, the more she is going to fawn over him. This is an excellent example of the shocking masochistic qualities Helena displays. The more Demetrius hates her, the more she wants his love. She believes that being used as his dog would be getting his respect.

However, perhaps Helena refers to the relationship between her and Hermia, instead of Demetrius’ hatred towards her. When she pauses over “I am your spaniel” and then inserts Demetrius’ name, the reader sees that she momentarily forgot the façade of true love for him. Sanchez argues that Helena’s conversations with both Demetrius and Hermia can be seen as similar, but most importantly “[Helena fantasizes] herself as helpless subordinate to both Hermia and Demetrius register[ing] the same perverse, masochistic drives” (Sanchez 504). It is hard to imagine Helena being a delicate character after seeing her attraction to pain. She is extremely masochistic and demands to be treated so poorly so that the audience believes that Demetrius and Hermia are simply being mean to her when in reality she is begging for this treatment. Moreover, “Helena’s exchanges with Demetrius and Hermia reveal that women’s unapologetically perverse desires–whether for women or for men–can threaten ideals of proper, ‘normal’ sexuality” (506). However, this does not occur to Helena. She simply is a product of the relationship she has with Hermia, which is by definition an aggressive one as shown by their language towards each other, and yet they both unconsciously desire this aggression. Helena wants to be used like a dog by Hermia, not by Demetrius, nor by anyone else, and, in turn, the girls switch roles once Hermia lets Helena belittle her.

Helena becomes the sadist as Hermia invites her to torment her, in turn becoming the masochist herself. When Lysander has the pansy juice in his eyes, he falls in love with Helena and tosses Hermia aside, causing the two girls to fight. Hermia, however, seems to forget about being upset with Lysander and simply yells at Helena for the sake of it. Instead of arguing about the relationship problem at hand, they get into a fight about each other’s heights: Helena calls Hermia “low” and Hermia calls Helena a “maypole,” something that seems so trivial and yet extremely specific as if the two have used those terms before when harassing each other. (Shakespeare 3.2.296). Their argument is passionate, and their insults are harsh, so much so that Hermia even goes as far as to desire to inflict physical pain on her friend: “I am not yet so low / But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes” (3.2.297-98). Their teasing transforms into physical violence towards each other and therefore more intimate. Such passion, enough to drive one to harm her friend out of sheer frustration, shows the power and connection between the two girls. If she did not truly care about Helena, she would not allow herself to become so worked up over something as trivial as an insult about her height, but Hermia, though physically smaller, has the worse temper of the two, as displayed here: “Helena’s childhood memories of oneness with Hermia are not so much displaced as complicated by her repeated accounts of her friend’s violent temper” (Sanchez 503). As previously mentioned, Helena is upset that her dear friend replaced her and seemingly tossed their shared memories away.

Both girls know how to annoy the other, which “evokes a fantasy of a perfect harmony” (503) since the two of them take turns being the sadist and the masochist in the relationship. Furthermore, the two would be friends forever, at least that is what Helena observed at their young age, but lives change and as the two matured, their sadomasochistic tendencies flourished. According to Sanchez, “It is hard to see how Helena or Hermia could ever have become interested in anyone but the other–or why any woman would willingly abandon such ‘sisters vows’ and ‘childhood innocence’” (503). If Hermia had never broken their unspoken vows to provoke Helena, then Helena would not have experienced the same urge to demand justice from Hermia or follow her into the woods and the play would not be the same. Thus, as the book Shakespeare’s Philosophy of Love written by scholar Herman Horne suggests, Helena berates love for its power to transform baseness into dignity; Helena tries to stay dignified by berating love in the only way she knows how (46). Many proverbs Shakespeare came up with himself, such as “love is blind” and “all’s fair in love and war” claim to be lofty, and yet Helena’s jaundiced views are rationalized by the loss of her lover to another.

Titania and Oberon’s Marriage Rated “M” for Mature

The constant teasing between Hermia and Helena foreshadows the relationship between an already-married couple in the play. Like the two young girls, this couple eroticizes their own submission and domination. Traditionally, as Rieger points out, “Men dominate women in the comedy, and women not only accept this domination, they eroticize it” (78). As already shown, Hermia and Helena, clearly both women, both eroticize their domination, and this can be seen in the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania. These two enjoy manipulating each other and disagreeing on small and large things. At the beginning of the play, the two argue about the strange weather that is occurring because of their fighting and magical powers: “Therefore the winds, piping us in vain, / As in revenge, have sucked up from the sea / Contagious fogs; which, falling in the land, / Hath every pelting river made so proud” (Shakespeare 2.1.88-91). Titania describes the dismal scene of raging storms over Athens; she fears for the humans with their “drowned field” and their land filled with mud, whereas Oberon does not care at all about the mortals. Instead, he seemingly brushes off Titania’s fears and changes the subject (2.1.96 & 98). Shakespearean scholar Angela Schumann argues that here Titania is a nobler character than Oberon, which in some cases I would consider to be true as well. However, in the first scene with the married couple, the audience can already see that they do not agree on everything. Perhaps Titania knows that Oberon will dismiss her fears, and so she produces that long monologue to make herself seem nobler and better as to enrage Oberon.

Titania’s nobleness is further explored when the audience sees the king and queen arguing over the possession of the changeling Indian boy. Schumann’s piece suggests:

Titania is a more complex and mature character than Oberon. She wants the Indian boy out of love for his mother, “for her sake do I rear up the boy” (2.1.136). Conversely, “jealous oberon” (2.1.24) who…suffers from a case of wounded male pride, only wants the boy as an exotic trinket…and out of jealousy for taking Titania’s attention away from him: “am I not thy lord?” (2.1.63). (Schumann 48)

Titania raises the Indian changeling boy as her own because of what she claims as a duty to the boy’s mother: “But she, being mortal, of that boy did die; / And for her sake do I rear up her boy, / And for her sake I will not part with him” (Shakespeare 2.1.135-37). This is a touching story and quite noble of Titania to take her late friend’s child and make sure he has a safe and happy home, but considering Titania and Oberon’s constant bickering, the reader is unsure if she says this to make herself seem noble or to hurt Oberon, something Schumann’s piece fails to mention. I believe that Titania is no more noble than Oberon; she is fantastic at seeming to be the nobler to the reader by taking in the changeling Indian boy and raising him, by sticking with Oberon while he puts the pansy juice in his eyes, and more. However, much like with Helena and Hermia, she knows how to irritate Oberon and seeks to antagonize him just as much as he does her.

One way she seeks to irritate Oberon is to speak of the countless nights she and the Indian boy’s mother spent together, a time when she was clearly away from Oberon and more importantly, building a stronger relationship with someone else as seen by: “Full often hath she gossip’d by my side” (2.1.125). This sounds similar to Hermia’s speech mentioned previously about making a deeper connection to someone other than Helena. The audience isn’t really sure why Oberon wants the Indian boy, so it is safe to assume that Oberon simply wants the Indian boy because Titania has him, and Titania flaunts her relationship with him in Oberon’s face. This isn’t the first game the two have played against each other. In one of the first scenes with the king and the queen of the fairies, the audience is introduced to the adulterous relationship the two have:

Titania: But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon,

Your buskined mistress and your warrior love,

To Theseus must be wedded, and you come

To give their bed joy and porperity.

Oberon: How canst thou thus for shame, Titania,

Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,

Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?” (2.1.70-76)

Both parties involved have had romantic and sexual affairs with the mortal king and queen of Athens, Theseus and Hippolyta, showcasing that the two love berating each other, as seen above; they want to have these bickering fights where they throw affairs and games in each other’s face. This is how their relationship functions, showcasing that this version of love, though seedier, actually puts the two in harmony, like Hermia and Helena, and provides a perfect relationship for them.

As seen above, Titania plays the sadist quite well in her marriage. Yet much like Helena and Hermia, she and Oberon switch between being the sadist and the masochist. Oberon definitely turns around and desires to be the masochist at times as well. When the pansy flower juice enters the play, Oberon wants to meddle with all relationships and assigns his faithful servant Puck to fix the Athenian lovers, Demetrius and Helena’s, broken and one-sided relationship. He messes up, however, as the audience sees and instead puts the juice in Lysander’s eyes causing him to fall in love with Helena. Oberon, while fixing the dilemma his servant created, becomes more devious. He decides to put the flower’s juice in his wife’s eyes to: “make her full of hateful fantasies” (2.2.257-258). He humiliates his wife by making her see, and ultimately fall in love with, something hideous.

Not only does he want to humiliate her, but more importantly he wants to humiliate himself by setting up his own cuckolding. Rieger’s article discusses the idea of Oberon cuckolding himself. He points out the scholarly work dismisses the notion of realized cuckolding and instead, he suggests that Oberon uses “erotic desire as a weapon to humiliate his rebellious wife and enforce her submission. He does this in order to reassert his position at the head of his family and, by extension, the state as embodied in the fairy kingdom” (70). In order to restore the calm in their relationship, Oberon openly sets up his wife to have sexual relations with another man as to humiliate the two of them, and in doing so, Oberon regains control and the upper hand in his and Titania’s power dynamics. The audience watches Oberon’s plan unfold:

What thou seest when thou dost wake,

Do it for thy true love take;

Love and languish for his sake.

Be it ounce, or cat, or bear,

Pard, or boar with bristled hair,

In thy eye that shall appear

When thou wak’st, it is thy dear.

Wake when some vile thing is near. (Shakspeare 2.2.27-34)

Titania could wake up and see Theseus or one of the lovers or even her king, but Oberon wants her to be even more humiliated than that; he wants to see his wife fall in love with a wild animal, crossing the line into bestiality. Moreover, Lisa Walters’ article, “Oberon And Masculinity In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream” suggests that “Titania’s refusal to obey Oberon is the action of a rebellious and unruly wife against her husband’s authority. Hence, in his drugging of Titania, Oberon parallels Theseus…restoration of order comes about by causing ‘injuries’ to female queens” (157). However, what Walters fails to mention is why Oberon does what he does. By craving the humiliation and setting up his own cuckolding, Oberon wants to embarrass himself. This is his wife gallivanting with a half-man half-donkey, doting and possibly engaging in sexual moments with this creature. If other people were to see Titania’s actions, they would turn to Oberon and question why he is not controlling his wife. Even worse, they could turn to him in pity because ultimately Oberon sets up his own cuckolding. He watches his wife take Bottom into her “bower,” basically her private bedchamber (Shakespeare 3.1.197). This is what Oberon wants. He could potentially give Titania the antidote for the pansy juice spell, ultimately stopping his wife from committing such a gross and adulterous crime against him, but he does not.

Shakespeare takes Oberon’s humiliation and masochistic drive further by representing Oberon and Titania’s relationship as the only happy marriage. Oberon’s use of erotic desire is a form of control; true love comes from harm: “The erotic economies of A Midsummer Night’s Dream are predicated upon gendered dominance and submission, upon…love won by the doing of injuries” (Rieger 71). The idealistic relationships, the ones that are supposed to be based on true love, are actually false, either from the pansy juice, as seen in Helena and Demetrius’ relationship because Demetrius still has the juice in his eyes at the end of the play when they are married, or from selfish reasons with Theseus and Hippolyta’s relationship being forced because Hippolyta was raped by Theseus resulting in her having to marry him. Even Hermia and Lysander’s relationship is not sacred: Hermia seems to use Lysander only to annoy her father, but perhaps even to escape the fate of an arranged marriage. She quite possibly does not truly love Lysander; and Lysander most likely only wants to have sexual relations because he is a young man, and when they are finally alone, his advances are obvious: “One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one troth” (2.2.42).

There are no “ideal” relationships in this play; instead, the characters show realistic emotions of being in love: the angry, passionate, scheming and violent kind of love. Oberon and Titania, on the other hand, are actually compatible. They are both scheming and violent. They both play games and tease the other; everything is in sync and equal. This is how Shakespeare shows a happy relationship and has this be the only couple that has been married and together for as long as they have. The two are immortal and, therefore, have a long time to spend together, and if they didn’t actually enjoy the treatment they get from their partner, then they could have ended things long ago. But instead, the king and queen stay together and continue their harsh, teasing relationship.

Shakespeare’s Insight into Holy Matrimony

There is a commonplace assumption among Shakespeare scholars regarding the origins of this play. Like most of Shakespeare’s plays, it is hard to pinpoint exactly where and when they were written and for what purpose–the world does not even know who Shakespeare was, let alone how his plays came to flourish. But in regards to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the scholars mostly agree, as Charles Lyon’s work discusses, that this play would have been “written for a court wedding” (22). Horne’s piece provides further proof of the epithalamium by mentioning those assumed to be in attendance, such as: “Sir Thomas Heneage and Mary, Countess of Southampton; Edward Russell, Earl of Bedford, and Lucy Harrington,” as well as “It is possible…that Queen Elizabeth would herself grace the occasion by her presence” (Horne 42-43). Shakespeare would have known if the queen was going to be in attendance because someone would have made sure his play would be proper enough. This does not prevent Shakespeare, however, from creating a play that on the surface appears pure enough for the queen and full of love for a wedding and yet still exhibits sexual baseness, gritty relationships, and mockery towards love at first sight.

So what is it that Shakespeare is trying to accomplish by submitting the wedding party and potentially the queen to a technically sadomasochistic play? All of Shakespeare’s work possesses an underlying message to the audiences who watch it. In the case of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare provides a warning about true love and most importantly, how love changes in a marriage. First, as Maurice Charney’s book Shakespeare on Love & Lust points out this play mocks the notion of “love at first sight,” which is also a Petrarchan ideal (9). Love is supposed to enter through the eyes, and it is essentially spontaneous, irresistible, and absolute (9). But Shakespeare ridicules this idea by having his characters control who they see and, by proxy, fall in love with at first sight, with the use of pansy juice. As previously mentioned, Oberon controls Titania’s newest love interest is putting the juice from a certain flower in her eyes, and then whomever she sees first, she falls madly and deeply in love with the person. Shakespeare muddles with the way we perceive love at first sight. It is not as romantic as it might seem but instead can be tortuous, unwanted, and in Titania’s case, demeaning.

The warning extends to the notion of “happily ever after.” The bride and groom of the wedding, and the guests attending, all have a preconceived notion of how love works in a relationship. They used the common definition of love, derived by Petrarch, as being an idealistic and god-like experience, almost something intangible. Soon-to-be-brides were pure and innocent, emulating goddesses, and their love was going to allow their groom to transcend this earthly realm and bring him closer to God. This puts immense pressure on the bride, for she must live up to that unnatural standard and form of love which does not allow for any experimentation with sadomasochism, baseness, or anything the bride might be interested in outside of what is considered the norm. This pressure makes each bride equal to the next, which we know women are not all equal; Shakespeare believes that “Inequality is the natural order of ‘true love’” (Rieger 73). Shakespeare disagrees with the Petrarchan notion of love as described here by C. H. Herford’s work:

Love is a passion, kindling heart, brain and senses alike in natural and happy proportions; ardent but not sensual, tender but not sentimental, pure but not ascetic, moral but not puritanic, joyous but not frivolous, mirthful and witty but not cynical. His lovers look forward to marriage as a matter of course, and they neither anticipate its rights no return their affections elsewhere. (18)

Shakespeare sees love as an ever-changing, amorphous ideal that alters as it grows and matures. Regier even suggests that for love and a couple “to exist in harmony, one party must be dominated and one party must submit” (74). So not only does love change throughout a relationship, but the only way it will continue to exist is not through this idealized version of love, but rather a perfect harmony that includes these unspeakables. Described here are the common binaries that situate themselves inside the notion of love, and Shakespeare took these and made sure that his lovers and couples remained in the balance. All of his created relationships, those romantic and not, can be described as such and if they seem to be too pure or tipping the scale one way, this is used in a mocking manner to showcase how this is not the idea Instead, the balance is necessary here; idealness is irrational and unattainable.

Today’s Notion of Modern Romance

What has sadomasochism defined by Shakespeare taught his audiences? The thought of people willfully submitting themselves to degradation can leave many unsettled, especially when it comes to women craving this treatment: “There is a real difficulty in accepting the female characters’ masochism, their cheerfulness embracing of degradation. It flies in the face of all contemporary, twentieth and twenty-first-century notions of equality and appropriate gender relations” (Rieger 79). Today we are extremely politically correct when it comes to women’s rights and this is not necessarily a bad thing, but there has to be a moment where we can talk about female sexual desires, not just those of males. Rieger further points out that  “This masochistic acceptance and even embracing of humiliation can leave contemporary audiences, and critics, unsatisfied” (78). And to some extent, this is true; there is still uncertainty in accepting that lovers can actually enjoy and crave this sexual humiliation. Our conception of love has come incredibly far since Shakespeare’s Early Modern era. The term “BDSM” and the ever-increasing pornography industry would have been unheard of concepts to Shakespeare and his audiences, but the notions behind them would have been understood. Many of us look down at anything later than the Romantic period as being unrealistic towards the modern notion of love; people in this period “courted” and “wrote love letters” and “dated” without the use of an app. However, as this essay has pointed out, those in the Renaissance and Early Modern times were not too far off when it came to sexual transgression and more “modern” ways of looking at love.

The cornerstone of all modern forms of love now is inclusion, from the acceptance of interracial couples in the later twentieth century to legal marriage rights for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, being passed in the United States government in 2015. The smaller scale events matter as well, such as gay pride parades, and the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco where BDSM and leather clothing is somewhat mandatory, to online communities for people with different tastes personally and sexually. Of course, we cannot forget the pornography industry which has over 22,820,000 searches a month according to a Business Outsider article from 2011, and categories for all forms of fetishes and desires ranging from innocent, such as the classic foot fetish, to more extreme notions of sex (Dunn). All of this leads to an unspoken inclusion noting that sex can be for everyone; if there is something weird or out of the status quo that you might like in the bedroom, you can find it on the Internet.

The point is that in today’s technologically advanced era, porn, and, therefore sex becomes a more widely accepted and understood medium for simple pleasure. There are porn communities, sex clubs, forums, erotic literature and more all saying the same thing: Sex is for everyone. And there is something powerful in owning one’s sexuality, even if it seems to stray from the social norm, and I like to think that in the twenty-first century, society is more embracing of that. There are focus groups and clubs dedicated to those with different sexual preferences. The notions of domination and submission are showcased in movies and pop culture, with Fifty Shades of Grey being an international bestseller. We, as a world, are becoming more aware of different “tastes” in the bedroom and therefore less and less afraid of them thanks to the advances starting in Shakespeare’s time. “Shakespeare so clings to the ideal that it appears in almost all of his plays. He objects to criticism that ‘overemphasize[s] the unresolved and the problematic’ in the problem comedies and suggests that although those plays do not support idealization, their final message is positive” (Brown 52). And one can see that now that there is sexual liberation among couples, there is more happiness by far, which is exactly what Shakespeare was hinting at.

Shakespeare stresses that these couples are not unhappy, “The course of true love never did run smooth” which is the most important factor (Shakespeare 1.1.134). Oberon and Titania are equals in their relationship, as contrasted with Theseus and Hippolyta where Theseus holds all the power. Helena and Hermia, on the other hand, are a great example of the honeymoon phase in a relationship, where they are passionate and angry in one scene, and then loving and forgiving in the next. These two couples are just the start of the relationship dynamics in this play, but they are the prime examples. Ultimately, the two relationships can only function with their own dysfunctionalities; without the arguments and the fighting, their relationship would not be the same; there wouldn’t be any passion and it would cease to exist. Each and every individual relationship has its own equation for how it works, whether it be with some light bondage or through a more traditional sense. Either way, we cannot judge those whose love is not like our own; to them, it is the ideal. However, if reading this has caused any distaste, then please note that:

If we shadows have offended,

Think but this, and all is mended,

That you have but slumber’d here

While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding but a dream,

Gentles, do not reprehend:

if you pardon, we will mend:

And, as I am an honest Puck,

If we have unearned luck

Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,

We will make amends ere long;

Else the Puck a liar call;

So, good night unto you all.

Give me your hands, if we be friends,

And Robin shall restore amends.

(Shakespeare 5.1.413-428)

Works Cited

Brown, Carolyn. Shakespeare and Psychoanalytic Theory. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. Print.

Chancer, Lynn S. Sadomasochism in Everyday Life: The Dynamics of Power and Powerlessness. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1992. Print.

Charney, Maurice. Shakespeare on Love & Lust. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000. Print.

Dunn, Alec. “Top Google Searches – What Do People Search For?” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 21 Dec. 2011. Web. 22 Apr. 2016.

Gleckman, Jason. “‘I Know A Bank.’: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Fairies, And The Erotic History Of England.” Shakespeare 10.1 (2014): 23-45. Scopus. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

Herford, C. H. Shakespeare’s Treatment of Love and Marriage: And Other Essays. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1921. Print.

Horne, Herman Harrell. Shakespeare’s Philosophy of Love. Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton, 1945. Print.

“Masochism, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 26 April 2016.

Noyes, John K. The Mastery of Submission: Inventions of Masochism. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997. Print.

Rieger, Gabriel. “‘I Woo’d Thee With My Sword, / And Won Thy Love Doing Thee Injuries’: The Erotic Economies Of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Upstart Crow (2009): 70. Literature Resource Center. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

“Sadism, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2016. Web. 26 April 2016.

Sanchez, M.E. “Use Me But As Your Spaniel”: Feminism, Queer Theory, And Early Modern Sexualities.” Pmla 127.3 (2012): 493-511. Scopus. Web. 13 Feb. 2016

Schumann, Angela. “‘But As A Form In Wax’: An Ecofeminist Reading Of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Colloquy: Text Theory Critique 30 (2015): 42-60. Humanities Source. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ed. Wolfgang Clemen. 2nd ed. New York: Signet Classics, 1986. Print.

Walters, Lisa. “Oberon And Masculinity In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal Of Short Articles, Notes, And Reviews 26.3 (2013): 157-160. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 13 Feb. 2016.

Kill Shakespeare, Vol 1: A Sea of Troubles

During an off day, my boyfriend and I went to The Strand in NYC and I didn’t pick anything up–which is definitely odd for me as an avid book lover and writer of this blog, but I just wasn’t feeling commotion. After The Strand, we walked next door to Forbidden Planet, a huge comic book store right next door to The Strand. Normally, I’m not a comic book person–no particular reason, just that it isn’t my favorite way of reading, but my boyfriend loves comic books so we stopped in. Once again, nothing wasn’t striking my fancy, but right when we were about to leave, he pulled this comic out and I knew I had to buy this.

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Kill Shakespeare Book 1 by Conor McCreery and Anthony Del Col, illustrated by Andy Belanger
Published by IDW Publishing; 59143rd edition on November 9th, 2010
Genres: Shakespeare, Comic Book, Historical Fiction, Literature
Pages: 148
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review: 4 out of 5 ★★★★☆


So there isn’t much to say about this book in a literary sense, other than it being fun, which is pretty much enough for me. To start, I’ll just preface that the storyline is definitely incorrect in Shakespearean terms, but, once again, that doesn’t matter at all to have a fun story. Imagine if all of Shakespeare’s plays were within the same realm, and had happened at the same time (which is impossible since all the kings couldn’t have been king at the same time). We begin with Hamlet whose story begins at the end of his play, meaning his father is dead and he has killed Polonius but still does not know who murdered his father. He leaves Denmark upset and brooding–much the Hamlet way–and when he arrives in England, he is intercepted by King Richard III who calls Hamlet The Shadow King. Richard has proposed that he will resurrect Hamlet’s father from the dead (with the help of the three witches we see in the beginning of Macbeth), if Hamlet succeeds over the supposed wizard, William Shakespeare, whose power lies in his magical quill that Hamlet must steal so Richard can wield that power. Yes, the actual Will Shakespeare is a character in this story and there are two sets of people: those who believe he is their god and claim his name is holy, and those who want his power.

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So far, in Book 1, our heroes are Juliet, who lead the revolution against Richard and his men with the help of Othello, and Hamlet alongside Falstaff. The villains are obviously Richard III as well as Lady Macbeth and Iago. These characters are pitted against each other in the battle of control. The story is not set in modern day, which I prefer because then the style of speech is more accurate, such as how Juliet is suspicious of Hamlet truly being the Shadow King, she says: “He will cut a finer figure than what you have brought to us,” which is obviously a fancier way of saying, this can not possibly be the true Shadow King of myths. Furthermore, even though the timeline is impossible, the creators do try to stay true to each character’s strengths and weakness–in a traditional sense that is. For example, when Richard III and Lady Macbeth are conspiring, Richard’s man warns: “I hope thou doth not trust that one too closely. Her teeth are sharp in her mouth.” I would perhaps read Lady Macbeth slightly different, but as a standard reading, she is pretty spot on. Falstaff is a womanizer and plumpy drunk, Juliet is strong-willed and headstrong, Iago is cunning, and Richard III is crippled and an egomaniac.

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The art style, an obvious component of any comic book, is pretty standard. I would have liked to see some more whimsical illustrations, which is much more my cup of tea when it comes to comics, but the classic style allows for the focus to be on everything happening–words included–not just the art. There are also odd instances when instead of reading frame-by-frame down the page and then onto the next, you read across both pages and then down, across both pages, and down again. This threw me off multiple times and I found myself reading information that wasn’t chronological. Maybe this is a more common thing than I thought, but every comic I’ve read previous hasn’t done that, so be prepared. Regardless of the sometimes confusing layout, my next point is on the hilarious puns, which totally make up for it. For some people, the Shakespeare imagery might be lost, but for me, someone who has been reading and studying the Bard’s works for over five years now, this stuff kills. The characters say things like “Then be true to thine own self” (originally said in Hamlet by Polonius) and “Call it what you will” (the extended part of Twelfth Night‘s title). I’m not going to list every instance, but you get the idea.

Overall, this comic is a good time. The first volume is a lot of setting up so I’m not really sure what happens or is going to happen in the volumes to come, but I can update this post once I read more. If you’re a literary nerd like me and enjoy seeing Shakespeare’s characters outside of their original works, then definitely give this work a go.

Shakespeare the myth? Or Shakespeare the false hope?

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Getting Between the Sheets: Homoerotic Tendencies in Play and Production

*An essay written while studying abroad for my Shakespeare and His World class.*

People have always been curious about the unspeakables, topics of conversation that are never to be mentioned, and yet are constantly brought up in hushed tones. Probably because people were interested in the dirtier ways of life, the thrill of gossiping. One prime example of this is the topic of sexuality and particularly homosexuality, especially in the Early Modern Period. Roger Thompson’s article “Attitudes Towards Homosexuality in the Seventeenth-Century New England Colonies” expresses the idea that “sodomy was literally unspeakable. It was customarily described as ‘a sinne not once to be named’” (31), although there were clearly people discussing this subject and even partaking in the act, or else there would not be these theories today. Everyone was interested in the things they were told to turn away from either by their family, government, or church; but censoring only made the curious strive for outlets to learn and discover these tainted topics.

The Early Modern Period was witness to plays and stories highly charged with eroticism, specifically homoeroticism. Charles Forker explains that the “Restoration comedy…[was] often thought of as obsessed with sex and dominated by lubricity” (1). The authors and playwrights in this time capitalized on the sexual comedies that their audience wanted to read and see; one of the authors leading this trend was William Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s characters Iago and Rosalind can be read untraditionally as having homoerotic tendencies that add interest and help explain the storyline better, therefore these tendencies should be shown in productions. Shakespeare’s plays contain many layers and are capable of being read on many different levels, such as the homoerotic. In this essay, I will focus on the plays As You Like It and Othello, and using a video production of each, discerning whether or not the production succeeds in showing this other, “unspeakable” side of the play.

Shakespeare’s time may have seen a rise in plays and stories that depicted curious interactions with two men, however according to Robert Matz and his article “Slander, Renaissance Discourses of Sodomy, and Othello,” “the early modern period recognized no distinct homosexual, or therefore heterosexual, identity” (261-62). Forker agrees with Matz and adds on the “notion of sexual orientation or preference as implying a gay subculture within the predominantly heterosexual one would probably have been unrecognizable to Marlow and his contemporaries” (1). Simply put, the time period did not have the terminology used today, and obviously, that topic was quite delicate and therefore not mentioned enough to have required its own terms. Nonetheless, Shakespeare still experimented with this genre of sexuality. Shakespeare’s Division of Experience, written by Marilyn French, argues this by saying: “Shakespeare…attempted to synthesize the gender principles in more earthly locales…[such as the] male figures assimilating, absorbing the qualities of the feminine principle through education and…suffering” (30). And Valerie Traub’s article “Gender and Sexuality in Shakespeare” even further backs up French’s argument idea: “Masculinity, for instance, is typically associated with sexual aggression in our own time, whereas during Shakespeare’s life, women were considered to be more lustful than men” (129). Shakespeare, as seen in Othello and As You Like It, manipulates the gender roles in his plays, deciding for himself who can be more lustful or feminine and who cannot.

The play As You Like It contains one of Shakespeare’s most iconic characters: Rosalind. Traditionally read, Rosalind disguises herself as a man named Ganymede and retreats to the woods to find her father, the Duke Senior, and have her family restored to their original power back in the city. There are romantic interests involved, the wrestler Orlando and Rosalind have a blossoming relationship while she is disguised and it truly flourishes in the conclusion of the play when her father becomes the rightful duke and she can remove her disguise. This is the traditional read of the play and how it is generally performed on stage or in movies.

There are, however, many other ways of reading into the character of Rosalind and her interactions with others. As Catherine Belsey explains in her article “Disrupting Sexual Difference: Meaning and Gender in the Comedies”: “[Shakespeare’s comedies call into] question a set of relations between terms which purposes as inevitable an antithesis between masculine and feminine, men and women” (171). In As You Like It, Rosalind impersonates a man and completely succeeds. When she finally removes her disguise, no one is embarrassed or chastises her, which is how one would assume that, as a woman, she would have been reprimanded for her actions. Belsey also reminds that the “place of the woman in the dynastic family is clear and well known” during Shakespeare’s lifetime, and it is clear that Rosalind is stepping out of her intended place by dressing herself as a boy, which allows for her to “escape the constraints and the vulnerability of the feminine” (176, 182), “perform heroic actions that were generally reserved for men” (Rackin 74-75). Women were held down during this time, and Rosalind is definitely no exception. Her father was banished from the city and she now lives under her uncle’s roof, only to be banished as well. It is reasonable that she despises being a woman, which is shown when she tells Orlando, while dressed up as Ganymede: “I thank God I am / not a woman” (Shakespeare 3.2.337-38). Perhaps Rosalind is simply boosting her masculinity by appealing to something many men would have agreed upon, but she describes it as being too “giddy” (3.2.338) which in turn has ruined the whole female sex for her. Valerie Traub’s other article about homoeroticism states: “Of all the male names available to her, [Rosalind] chooses that of the young lover of Zeus” otherwise known as Ganymede. Traub also explains that this male name “was used from medieval times well into the seventeenth century to mean an object of homosexual desire” (137). Shakespeare must have been aware of this knowledge when picking Rosalind’s new persona, therefore creating her to have homoerotic tendencies.

There are two separate characters that intertwine with Rosalind/Ganymede. First, there is Rosalind’s cousin and childhood friend, Celia, who gives up her royal life to disappear into the forest alongside Rosalind. She too changes her identity, but to that of a lowly farm girl since her stature is smaller than Rosalind’s. In the traditional read of the play, Celia/Aliena is being an understanding cousin and friend by helping Rosalind find her father and restore her rightful place in the kingdom, even though that means removing herself from royalty. To Celia, nothing is stronger than friendship, other than love. An un-traditional read brings forth the idea that Celia is actually in love with Rosalind, who does not return this romantic love. The one-sided relationship is clear from the first act when Celia claims that she can “see [Rosalind] lovest [her] not with the full weight that [she] love [Rosalind]” (1.2.7-8) and the way in which she addresses her cousin: “my sweet Rose, my dear Rose” (1.2.21). Familial love is very present in this society and Celia and Rosalind had been friends since early childhood, however, Celia’s love for Rosalind is vastly different than Rosalind’s love for Celia.

When Duke Frederick, Celia’s father, and Rosalind’s uncle, banishes Rosalind, Celia does not think twice about running away with her cousin, whereas Rosalind does not think of anyone but herself and allows her innocent cousin to leave the safety of her home to follow her. Celia demands that she be banished by her own father, and with a simple argument from Rosalind, Celia is determined to flee to the forest with her cousin, saying: “Rosalind, lack’st thou then the love / Which teacheth thee that thou and I am one?” (1.3.95-96). Rosalind not only does not persist any further that Celia should stay where she belongs, but she is also oblivious that her cousin and dearest friend has romantic feelings for her.

Another example of Celia being in love with Rosalind is when Rosalind, disguised as Ganymede, demands to be married to Orlando in the woods:

Rosalind: Why then, can one desire too much of a good

thing? (To Celia) Come, sister, you shall be the priest

and marry us.–Give me your hand, Orlando.–What

do you say, sister?

Orlando: (To Celia) Pray thee, marry us.

Celia: I cannot say the words. (4.1.115-20)

Celia is aware of the game Rosalind is playing on Orlando, so why would she be so uncomfortable with helping in this childish marriage? Celia does not want to bear witness to her love being married to someone else, even if it is not a real wedding. Seeing Rosalind leave her for someone else is heartbreaking and she cannot even to joke around; and the audience only hears from Celia one more time after this wedding scene, as if she has been silenced from this scene.

This scene is also very important for the other relationship that intertwines with Rosalind/Ganymede. Orlando, son of Sir Rowland de Bois, falls in love with Rosalind in the first act, seeing her as a gorgeous and rich duchess at his wrestling match. When he flees to the woods from his murderous older brother, Oliver, he brings with his infatuation and defaces many trees with Rosalind’s name. He ends up meeting Ganymede and Aliena, where Rosalind/Ganymede convinces him to play in a love game in order to cure Orlando of his love for Rosalind, which is to make him dote on Ganymede as his love. This love cure means that Orlando must come “every day to woo [Ganymede]” (3.2.393-94), and oddly enough Orlando complies. The main question the audience has is does Orlando know that Ganymede really is Rosalind and is that why he plays along with her little game? Or does he in fact harbor some homoerotic tendencies? In the wedding scene, Orlando immediately jumps up to marry Ganymede. He does not question that he is about to “marry” another man, something known to be not allowed during this time.

The Globe Theatre put on As You Like It and filmed it to make it accessible to everyone. In this adaptation, there are definitely some homoerotic tendencies shown between Orlando and Ganymede. When Orlando first meets Ganymede in the woods, he is slightly perturbed by the young lad asking him questions, but does not immediately dismiss him and is instead curious about Ganymede. He tells Rosalind/Ganymede that his “accent is something finer than [he] could purchase in so removed a dwelling” (Shakespeare 1.2.331-32). Orlando, played by Jack Laskey, is questioning where Ganymede comes from, but Orlando’s words come out flustered and he hesitates frequently as if he is trying to understand who this person is in front of him. Perhaps this is because he recognizes his love Rosalind behind the short hair and men’s clothing, or perhaps he is discovering something within himself.

The ultimate scene that differs from the original text is the fake wedding scene. Once the two men speak their vows, they share in a kiss, which is not stated in the original text. The producer, James Whitbourn, definitely paid attention to the multiple layers that this play can be read. Once again, one could argue that Orlando does know that Ganymede is really Rosalind in disguise, and is, in fact, kissing Rosalind. However, if he really did know, then why wouldn’t he simply tell her, instead of playing along with the game? Instead, he steps willingly and excitingly into a homosexual marriage and kisses his new love before him.

This production was fantastic at portraying the homoerotic relationship between Orlando and Ganymede/Rosalind, however, it does fall short of portraying Celia’s relationship with Rosalind. In fact, Laura Rogers, the actress playing Celia/Aliena, is a stronger and more powerful character than how Naomi Frederick portrays Rosalind. Their relationship, and the two actresses who play them, is the only aspect of the production that disappointed me, other than those few scenes, the Globe did put on a great show and accurately stayed with the original text, even adding new and different stage actions.

Neely discusses in her article: “Othello, like the other problem plays, has generated passionate and radically conflicting responses–responses that are invariably tied to the critics’ emotional responses to the characters and to the gender relations in the play” (79). The play Othello features a Moor who is the general of the Venetian army. He has just married a beautiful woman, Desdemona, and has appointed Cassio to a higher up position in the army. All of these actions anger what I presume to be considered the main character of Iago. “[Iago] experiences himself doubly rejected when Othello…[marries] Desdemona and [chooses] Cassio as his most intimate professional associate” (Stockholder 95). Iago, much like Rosalind in As You Like It, can be read and interpreted on many different levels. Traditionally and simply put, he is jealous of Othello’s success and wants what he cannot have. However, I believe that there is more to this character that Shakespeare wants us to see.

Iago is upset because he wants both what Othello has possession of, and Othello himself. As Ronald Draper phrases it: “Iago’s feeling towards Othello seems to be a contradictory mixture of envy and resentment” (108). This interpretation can be seen in Act 3 Scene 3 where Othello discovers the handkerchief he gifted his new bride has been found in Cassio’s bedchamber, therefore insinuating an affair. Iago, the mastermind behind this false accusation, is present to comfort and console Othello by taking vows of homage that, as Matz describes,  recalls a marriage ceremony (264). The scene even ends with Othello telling Iago that he is now his lieutenant (3.3.481) and Iago replies: “I am your own for ever” (3.3.482). Matz also argues, however that “[the term] ‘friend’ (or ‘lover’) was a term that in the Renaissance included and frequently overlayed political and effective alliance: to be a powerful man’s ‘bedfellow’ was to have a most valuable political access–and honor” (262). Othello very clearly is gaining more and more trust in Iago, because Iago is making himself available whenever something negative happens that sets Othello off, and his trust shines through in this scene. Othello could very well be “marrying” a great friend who has brought forth some truth to his life, but perhaps while he is saying his own brotherhood-type vows, Iago is giving himself over to Othello. The scene ends with a very intimate sentence from Iago, and nothing from Othello, almost as if what Iago has said was under his breath or did not warrant a response from the angered Othello.

Iago will do anything for love–even kill. In the introduction to his casebook on Othello, John Wain argues that “Unaware of the power of love, [Iago] cannot imagine the suffering into which he will plunge Othello by plausibly slandering Desdemona” (12). Iago knows perfectly well about the power of love because he is controlling it. Even if one takes away the notion of Iago having homosexual feelings for Othello, Iago certainly still loves himself and will do anything to move himself up the social ladder to ultimately be successful like Othello. He knows that by framing Desdemona, he is setting her up for death because if she does not die at the end of the play, his secret of planting the handkerchief in her room will come out eventually and then Othello would come after him. Because of this, he has to be aware that Othello will be sorely upset about his bride supposedly cuckolding him, leading him to think irrationally. Randolph Splitter goes even farther saying: “Iago’s ‘love” for Othello, Cassio, Desdemona or anyone else is buried in a general mistrust of human relations” (193). Perhaps the only human Iago trusts is himself and his own actions, hence why he is always thinking of himself and his desires.

Using a modern adaptation of Othello titled “O”, I will describe how the movie portrays or does not portray any homoerotic tendencies from Iago. This movie, starring Julia Stiles, Josh Hartnett and more, is a teenage drama that takes place in a high school setting. Odin, or Othello, is the only black student at a prestigious boarding school and is the star basketball player, winning awards like Most Valuable Player of the year from his coach, who also happens to be Hugo, or Iago’s, father. Hugo and Michael, or Cassio, are both on the basketball team with Odin and when Odin wins his MVP award, he shares it with Michael instead of Hugo, which starts Hugo’s plotting to make himself succeed more than Odin.

Overall, the movie does excel at keeping with the overall plotline of the play all while keeping it in a modern setting and interesting. Almost all events from the play happen in some way or another, despite all of the murderings. However, what is left out is the homoerotic tendencies that Iago possesses in the play. It is clear that Iago obsesses over Othello and Othello’s actions, which is evident in this adaptation. The camera is always cutting towards Hugo’s reaction to something Odin does, for example during the basketball games when Odin only seems to pass to Michael, the camera will cut to Hugo’s expression of anger. Hugo accurately portrays Iago’s jealousy towards Michael/Cassio, but falls short when it comes to the intimate male-male scenes. There are small interactions between Hugo and Michael where Hugo says phrases such as: “I love you man, but you’re a momma’s boy” or “Mike, am I your boy?” Taking out of certain context, these sentences can be portrayed slightly homoerotic, however, in the movie, Josh Hartnett (Hugo) does not indicate any romantic feelings towards Michael, but instead says these phrases towards him with a brotherly love.

Because the movie leaves out these homoerotic scenes that take place with Iago and Cassio and Iago and Othello, the movie loses what makes Iago so interesting. Since this movie is newer, having been filmed in 2001, I assumed that there would have been more tolerance and willingness to include such things. The setting, a private school with connected dormitories, would have fit extremely well with having one of the characters be gay. But instead, the director decided to stick with the traditional and in turn lost the many-layered Iago from the play. If the movie accurately portrayed these scenes, they could have earned a better following of younger fans and ultimately portrayed Iago how Shakespeare wanted.

Both Rosalind and Iago are complex characters, to say the least. They leave many things up to the interpretation of the audience and reader, but what is important is that all of the facts are presented when reading and/or watching Shakespeare’s works. When a production leaves out the necessary details, whether they be homoerotic or not, they are leaving out key points that Shakespeare originally intended to be seen. Forker agrees by saying:

“Shakespeare, as usual, provides the healthiest and most humane view of sexuality in the period by refusing to isolate sex from a more comprehensive view of the human condition, from those moral and spiritual values in the light of which he invites us to assess all aspects of human experience.” (10-11)

Shakespeare wanted to make his audience think. He could have come up with any simple storyline or character and create a normal play that entertained but does not stick with the audience. Instead, he toyed with his audience’s emotions and thoughts, making them see things they were curious about, but not brave enough to think about. He helped the people of the early modern period realize how closely their sexuality connected with their everyday lives (6-7). And to create a production that does not include any of these aspects is to offend and disregard the play and Shakespeare’s original meaning.

Works Cited

Belsey, Catherine. “Disrupting Sexual Difference: Meaning and Gender in the Comedies.” Alternative Shakespeares. By John Drakakis. London: Routledge, 2002. 170-94. Print.

Draper, Ronald. “Unholy Alliance: Othello and Iago.” Othello. Ed. Linda Cookson. London: Longman Group, 1991. 106-26. Print.

Forker, Charles R. “Sexuality and Eroticism on the Renaissance Stage.” South Central Review 7.4 (1990): 1-22. JSTOR. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.

French, Marilyn. Shakespeare’s Division of Experience. New York: Summit, 1981. Print.

Matz, Robert. “Slander, Renaissance Discourses of Sodomy, and Othello.” ELH 66.2 (1999): 261-76. JSTOR. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.

Neely, Carol T. “Women and Men in Othello.” William Shakespeare’s Othello. By Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 79-104. Print.

  1. Dir. Tim B. Nelson. Perf. Mekhi Phifer, Julia Stiles, and Martin Sheen. Chickie the Cop, 2001. Amazon Instant Video. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.

Rackin, Phyllis. “Boys Will Be Girls.” Shakespeare and Women. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. 72-94. Print.

Shakespeare, William. “As You Like It.” The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. 655-80. Print.

Shakespeare, William. “Othello.” The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Ed. Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2005. 873-907. Print.

Splitter, Randolph. “Language, Sexual Conflict and Symbiosis Anxiety in Othello.” Iago. By Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1992. 191-200. Print.

Stockholder, Kay. Dream Works: Lovers and Families in Shakespeare’s Plays. Toronto: U of Toronto, 1987. Print.

Thompson, Roger. “Attitudes towards Homosexuality in the Seventeenth-Century New England Colonies.” Journal of American Studies 23.1, Sex and Gender in American Culture (1989): 27-40. JSTOR. Web. 05 Apr. 2015.

Traub, Valerie. “Gender and Sexuality in Shakespeare.” The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare. By Margreta De Grazia and Stanley Wells. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2001. 129-46. Print.

Traub, Valerie. “The Homoerotics of Shakespearean Comedy.” Shakespeare, Feminism and Gender. By Kate Chedgzoy. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, 2001. 135-57. Print.

Wain, John. “Introduction.” Shakespeare, Othello: A Casebook. By John Wain. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1994. 186-208. Print.

William Shakespeare: As You Like It. Screenplay by William Shakespeare. Prod. James Whitbourn. Perf. Jack Laskey and Naomi Frederick. Opus Arte, 2012. ITunes. Web. 8 Apr. 2015

Firsts of 2017

It’s been a while (since October) that I posted regularly, so I wanted to inform my minuscule readers what I’ve been reading and up to while on hiatus. Mostly, I was too depressed to actually write, but I was still reading. My goal here is to compile a list of books that I read in the first few months that meant something to me. Now, I’ve certainly read books that have made me cry or made me go “what did I just read?” but these books are the first books of the year that I’ve read that made me cry or made me go “whaaaat?” So without further adieu, let’s get started.

2017’s Firsts


First Book I Bought for an Actual Reason: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

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Disclaimer: the pink/white pills are joint medication for my cat; the purple round ones are children’s chewable ibuprofen; the two prescription bottles are obviously that–prescriptions written for me. This is a commentary on Carrie Fisher’s love of drugs, especially her own.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Published by Blue Rider Press on November 22nd 2016
Genres: Biography, Diary, History
Pages: 272
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

I’m not crying, you’re crying. I knew that when this book came out that I had to own it. It was over Christmas break, I was back home in Chicago while my cat and boyfriend were in our little cottage in central PA when we heard the news. Princess Leia has passed away. I didn’t grow up with Star Wars (I was stereotypically given dolls and not science things), but I knew of the impact these movies have had on future movies to come, Hollywood itself, and nerds of every age. I only saw the movies for the first time about two years ago, all in the rightful order of 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3 and then 7 and 3.5 when they came out respectively. I cried at the end of 7, The Force Awakens, because, though I didn’t see them as a child, I was already deeply attached to the characters and the harrowing story.

When Carrie Fisher died, I didn’t know what to think. She was older and clearly didn’t take the best care of herself, but she was an idol–is an idol–and will continue to be not only for fans in metal bikinis everywhere, but for those with mental illness that she made feel more normal with her hilarity towards her own problems. I didn’t even know much about her seminars and discussions, mostly because I don’t have bipolar disorder, but I know that she influenced many outside of the Star Wars franchise. Long story short, I had to have her book. I knew her also as an hilarious actor outside of the franchise–starring in 30 Rock as a crazy cat-less lady and the equally real and hilarious British show Catastrophe. I watched her with admiration as someone who accomplished so much in her life, while struggling with her own problems of stardom, mental health, unrequited love, etc.

I will continue collecting her works–I didn’t know she wrote so much, why did she have to leave us!–and forever remember her as fantastic woman.


First WTF is Happening Book: The Graces by Laura Eve

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The Graces by Laura Eve
Published by Harry N. Abrams on September 6th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Thriller, Romance, Friendship
Pages: 352
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Has anyone read this book????? Can someone explain to me this book??? Laura Eve, you have done it. I have a literature degree and have been trained, for more than four years if we’re counting my excessive literature classes in high school, as well as getting my Master’s in literature starting in August and yet, you have stumped me. So thank you. Thank you, Laura Eve for completely and utterly confusing me.

I thought I had it all figured this out while reading this book, and yet once I got to that last chapter, everything I thought I knew went flying out the window. And it was so refreshing! I love young adult books, they’re my favorite genre–so much so that I write in this genre–and yet sometimes I can figure out the entire story during the first couple of chapters. And this is nice, don’t get me wrong, I can then just focus on the characters, love stories, familial ties, etc. and not have to worry about using my brain too much. But not with Eve’s ridiculous and outstanding tale.

Also, I can’t even disclose any of my confusion because it would give away the entire story, and I wouldn’t want to do that because the twist is so intense, so heart-stopping, that it would be an injustice as a book-lover to spoil. Please read this book if you have ever thought what it would be like to meet real-life witches, people you have read about in books and searched the internet for, and are desperate to be a part of that life. I can imagine Harry Potter lovers relating with River and her desperate need to know more about the Grace family. Who doesn’t want to be best friends with witches?

BUT THAT’S NOT EVEN THE HALF OF IT! If you enjoy murder mystery, surprise twists with characters, forbidden love and desperate lust, then read The Graces; it will do you well.

A close second for this category is Caraval by Stephanie Garber.


First Book I Cried In: The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout

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The Problem with Forever by Jennifer Armentrout
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 17th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Friendship, Family, Mental Health
Pages: 480
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

This book is beautiful. It does seem a little long in the beginning, and since it’s almost 500 pages long, it can seem like it’s dragging. But do not lose hope because the more you read, the more you discover. Armentrout carefully and artfully discloses only certain information at a time, never giving away too much, always keeping you on the edge of your seat. I fell in love with the characters–feeling so much for them that when the time is right I am going to consider adoption myself. I wanted to go into the book and hug Mallory and Rider each (even though the name Rider isn’t my favorite name for the character, but that’s just how it is).

Mallory and Rider’s relationship is so complicated and heartbreaking, but also extremely uplifting and hopeful. Rider’s unconditional love for Mallory, both as her boyfriend but mostly as her best friend, is so endearing and real. Of course he wants, needs, to protect her from the horrible things she’s seen, but he’s also there to watch her grow into the fully functioning and courageous woman she becomes.

Definitely a must read for those wanting a good cry, to feel something in their chest as they near the end of the story, and the aggressive need to keep reading.


First Book I Wanted to Like, but Didn’t: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows
Published by HarperTeen on June 7th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary, Romance, Friendship, History
Pages: 512
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

Okay, I didn’t hate this book, that is much too dramatic. In fact, it’s quite silly and hilarious, making the reader laugh out loud. However, the main factor that I disliked was the constant intervention from the narrators. I’ve done my fair share of studying when it comes to the British monarch and while I hadn’t heard of all the characters, I did have a pretty good grasp on who was who. I would be reading, though, and suddenly the narrators would intervene to tell me that what I’m reading isn’t true. Well…duh. Someone didn’t actually have a horrible curse–that isn’t really a curse–that turns them into a horse every day break. That would just be ridiculous of me to think that was real. I love the idea of the authors taking over a story that we don’t know much of, and turning into something lovely, but the constant interruptions are a little jarring.

That being said, I did enjoy the adventure. This is an easy read, so though it’s a long 500 pages, it is a fast read. I didn’t need to fuss over it (other than it being heavy!). The characters, Jane and G are adorable and hilarious, but part of me (spoiler!) wanted Jane to end up with Edward! I know that there is an incest-problem there, but as the narrators dutifully point out, this was very common back then. And something about Edward and Jane seemed real. On the other hand, G and Jane are quite fitting for each other too–how G constantly teases Jane, calling her “love” even when they haven’t discussed their relationship other than their pure hatred for each other. I think this book would have been better if there weren’t so many interruptions from the writers–simply let the story be and you can either disclaim in the prologue or epilogue that none of it was real–as well as getting more in-depth with the characters. I wanted to feel something when reading about them, other than just laughing and enjoying my time. I want to worry about them, fear for them, love them.


First Book with a Love Story that Won Me Over: A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

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A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Published by HarperTeen on November 3rd 2015
Genres: Science Fiction, Romance, Friendship, Family, Suspense
Pages: 384
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Nobles

So even though I’ve given this book the title of winning me over with the love story, I actually don’t know if I’m going to read the sequel, mostly because I can’t take any more heartbreak between the main characters. Now I’m not the biggest science fiction buff, so it took me a little while to get into the whole “Firebird”, multi-demnsional travel, but I was able to get through it and I’m so glad that I did because Marguerite and the Russian Paul’s love is indescribable. I constantly go back to how I felt, my heart racing, sweating palms as I frantically read to make sure they made it out of the snow storm alright and into each other’s arms.

I don’t know if what I feel for this dimension’s Paul, for my own, or for both of them. I can’t tell the difference any longer, and in the moment, I don’t care…

“Paul,” I murmur, “call me by my name.”

“You know I cannot.”

“Just once”…

And we are lost. I’m the one who breaks the last rule, the final taboo–the one who kisses him. But then he surrenders. He holds nothing back. We tangle together, kissing desperately, clutching at the few clothes we still wear, hardly able to breathe or think or do anything other than those ourselves in each other (194-95).

I could go on, pretty much quoting this entire scene between Paul and Marguerite because I get butterflies in my stomach, rising up my throat, threatening to escape, but I won’t; I’ll let the beauty stay in the book. I don’t know how Gray does it, but I feel so enchanted with the characters and storyline. There is a sense of urgency, the rushing that Marguerite, Paul, and Theo feel trying to catch each other and get to the right dimension, that manifests in the reader, as if we are a part of the race.


First Collection: The Entire Works of William Shakespeare by Modern Library

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From left to right: The Merchant of Venice, Measure for Measure, Much Ado About Nothing, The Taming of The Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Henry V, Henry IV Part 2, Macbeth, Henry VI Parts 1, 2, & 3, Richard III, Love’s Labour’s Lost, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Winter’s Tale, Twelfth Night, All’s Well That Ends Well, Henry IV Part 1, Titus Andronicus & Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, Hamlet, King John & Henry VIII, Othello, The Comedy of Errors, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It, The Sonnets and Other Poems; King Lear, Cymbeline, Antony and Cleopatra, Troilus and Cressida, Pericles, Julius Caesar, Richard II

 

If you know anything about me, you’ll know that Shakespeare is my true passion. I wrote my 30-page senior thesis on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and am now going to attend St. John’s University in New York for my Master’s and then Ph.D in literature with an emphasis in the Early Modern Period, or Shakespeare’s time. The collection I just bought is published by Modern Library and edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen.

There are many editions of Shakespeare’s work published; I have many different copies of the same play (particularly A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet) as well as the entire collection in one book by Oxford. However, I saw these editions on Instagram and fell in love. It took me so long to find them, but when I did, I knew I had to get them. They are not only beautiful covers, the editions themselves (footnotes, introductory information, etc.) are spot on. This is something I look for as a scholar and the main scene I double check is Act 2 Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet. Most editions will print “etc.” on line 40, but this edition does print the “open arse” that is usually left out. A winner for sure!

I don’t normally buy collections, partly because trilogy, sagas, etc. don’t all come out at the same time unless you’re reading a collection that has been out for a while. My boyfriend buys many comic book collections (like March written by Congressman John Lewis), but I don’t have many completed collection, except for now! These plays will serve me well once I start school again this fall. Wish me luck!

Bitter Romance, Bitter Family: Review of Vinegar Girl

good morning friends! at least for those that it is still morning. trying to continue my adventures in posting a review every, single day (trust me i already almost forgot about that today!), here is another review!

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Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
Published by Hogarth Shakespeare on June 21st 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Family
Pages: 240
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble

Final Review 3.5 out of 5

 

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Kate Battista is the head of her house but not by choice. her younger, high-school aged sister, bunny, is more interested in boys than her family and their father is a hardwokring, but slightly crazed scientist. when he comes to his eldest daughter about a problem at work, he wants kate’s help in something she doesn’t think she could do: marriage.

mr. battista’s prized assistant is about to be booted out of the country because his visa is up. however, if he finds a woman to marry him, his green card will stay in tact and mr. battista can continue the scientific breakthrough he claims he’s having. kate, feeling like she is in a rut, contemplates the idea of helping her family, or herself.

taking on the infamous Taming of the Shrew by none other than shakespeare himself, tyler puts a modern spin on the classic play.

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alright so i really wanted to like this book. i really wanted to. The Taming of the Shrew is such a classic play and one really cannot grasp shakespeare’s portrayl of women without reading that play. there have been a few modern reconstructions of the performance, the first, and probably best that comes to mind is the movie 10 Things I Hate About You starring the late heath ledger and julia stiles. to say that i heart that movie would be an understatement. so i was very excited when i discovered this hogarth shakespeare and their modern adaptations of the centuries-old plays. however, tyler’s rendition left me slightly unsatisfied–but in a good way.

allow me to explain. [please note: this might be considered spoilers] if you haven’t read the original play, please do, you will not only understand me better as a person, but also better your life. that being said, the play has much controversy over what katherine does to herself. she willingly submits to a brute and marries him, seemingly silencing her forever. (thats the short version obviously). now, in tyler’s rendition, it seems that her kate does something similar.

in the age of third-wave feminism and everyone talking on facebook about women’s rights (the fact that we’re about to potentially have a female president) it’s only fitting that this modern retelling would have the opposite ending that the play portrays. however, it doesn’t. i was disappointed in kate’s decision to marry the lab assistant instead of doing what she wants–much like how the katherine in the play does. so perhaps i am upset because tyler did exactly what shakespeare did: allow us to question the role women play in families and marriages.

on the other hand, and the bright side, tyler’s writing style is elegant and soft. it wasn’t a difficult read, however it didn’t fully suck me in either. perhaps this is because of i wasn’t too enthralled with any of the characters. bunny is supposed to be annoying and tyler captures this well–she doesn’t care about her family at all until what seems like it’s too late. mr. battista is a groveling father who also doesn’t care about his family, just his research, leaving his young daughters to not only take care of themselves, but also him. pyotr, the foreign lab assistant, is just that: foreign. he doesn’t seem to understand the social graces and concepts of the battista’s home and village and america in general. he is forward and only slightly charming. when i have romantic characters, i want them to be charming and fire-y and yet neither pyotr nor kate are those things. finally kate is submissive and nonchalant. she doesn’t seem to care, not about her family, but about herself. she only aims to please her family and those around her, which is not necessarily an endearing quality.

She walked into work every day feeling starkly, conspicuously alone. It seemed that everyone else on the street had someone to keep them company. someone to laugh with and confide in and nudge in the ribs…Kate pretended not to hear. If she ducked her head low enough, her hair would swing forward so it completely hid her profile (page 71).

so i wasn’t that impressed with Vinegar Girl, but i did still enjoy the read while finding it challenging and true to the original. it was easy enough, short enough, that i could have finished it in a day if i felt that it suck me in, but it didn’t really so i did struggle with that. i would still recommend it of course, especially to those who are shakespeare lovers like myself. to read a modern interpretation is to allow oneself to remember and relive the first and original story. it’s a beautiful thing.

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First Book Haul

 

welcome to the new edition to shelbylueders.com! A place for me to put my talent to the test and see if how quickly i can read new books as well as how well i can review it.

here is the first haul for my new site.

during the month of july (and a tiny part of august) i purchased 18.5 books (i’ll get to that half in a second). that is quite a haul! normally i would peruse the shelves of barns and nobles and write some titles down and then see how much they cost on amazon kindle (usually much cheaper!), but recently i decided to just forgo that whole step and if i saw something interesting, i would just buy it. you only live once right?

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so here’s a list of the books:

this haul, as you can see, ranges over many different genres, with the most being in the young adult category. even though i just got my degree in literature, young adult books, though mostly left out of schooling, is one of my favorite genres to read and write. they entertain me to no end, satisfy my romantic relationship needs, and generally don’t require much thought.

here’s the young adult books all together:

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stay tuned for some reviews of a few of these books, and for more blog posts to come.

have you read any of these yet? what is your favorite genre to splurge in?