Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Shakespeare Series: "Taming of the Shrew"

"Taming of the Shrew" revolves around a pair of sisters who antagonize each other. Bianca is the desire of every man in Padua, yet Katherina is just the opposite. Their father, Baptista, forbids her to wed until her elder sister does so first. As I read "Shrew", Disney kept coming up in my mind. One of Bianca's prominent suitors, Lucentio, resembles Gaston of "Beauty and the Beast". He assumes a man of his status and wealth deserves a girl such as Bianca. He decides with the help of his servants he absolutely must marry her. Among him, many other men try to court the Italian beauty. One of these methods includes intricate disguises in which the men try to earn Bianca's love. Of course, these admirers are quite aware of her father's restrictions. Petruchio was just the hero Lucentio and the others were looking for. He traveled from Verona to seek out a wife whose father will provide him with wealth. Hortensio, another desperate seeker of Bianca's love, offers Katherina as his bride. Although he warns Pertuchio of her rude demeanor, the offer still sounds enticing. Pertuchio develops a scheme in his attempt to tame his acquired bride. Shakespeare craftily mixes a clever wit and insightful commentary on the way people live.

This play is nearly bursting at the seams with relevance. As I said, Disney kept coming back up in my mind. When Baptista and Pertuchio decide that Katherina will be married at once, the discussion prompted me to remember the saltan and Aladdin boasting about how the phony prince would be right fo his Jasmine. Disney's princess and Shakespeare's shrew are a duo of strong-willed women. At first, I thought Katherina's struggle would bring out her inner feminist. When I continued reading the play, I realized her unattractiveness was insignificant. Her bitter nature stemmed from a far deeper plight all humans suffer. Katherina was plainly misunderstood. I believe Katherina was cruel because no one cared for her. Even Baptista favored Bianca. He did not know how to deal with his complex, eldest daughter. Perhaps Hortensio offers the most important advice of all the characters in "Shrew"; if a girl does not seem interested, move on instead of moping with heartbreak. Certainly, the Bard crammed some fairly deep concepts between his jokes.

I recommend this play for a truly experienced fan of Shakespeare. It was not my favorite show of all time, but I believe this is to due to the fact it is really a play. In order to fully enjoy this piece, I feel one must see an actual performance. I am sure that parts I found difficult to comprehend would be much more lucid on stage. Although this play is intended to be a comedy, one can not expect a laugh from every line. In modern cinema, most comic characters are shown continually stupider plunders. "Taming of the Shrew" is written with a more subdued tone. There are moments where Pertuchucio is flamboyantly funny, but the show is also centered around a complex plot that forces a reader to think. It was a challenge to read, but if one feels up to the task they are assured to enjoy a story full of joy and wisdom.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ancient Israel Was No Democracy

After a while in the desert, it would be expected that the Israelites doubt Moses' leadership. In this week's Torah portion, a man named Korah organizes a few, angry fellows to chastise Moses. They complain to Moses that he overstepped his boundaries. They claim, "You have gone too far!" Moses responds to them by telling them to sacrifice to God. He claims that Korah is the one crossing the line. Witnessing this uprising, God takes action. Suddenly, the Earth swallows Korah and his comrades. God brings them and their possessions into Sheol, the Jewish equivalent of Hell. God's bold discipline causes further panic among the young nation. A mob against Moses and God forms. Although they fear being sent to Sheol, the Israelites find their current situation abusive. They claim that dying in the desert for their rebellion is worth defying God. One man professes that they would die sooner or later anyways. Israel loses faith that they will reach the Holy Land. In haste, God sends a plague to correct this mob's comeuppance. Moses nor God will not stand for disobedience such as that demonstrated in Parshat Korah.

Throughout the Torah, God's personality changes. As Numbers and Deuteronomy progress, God's tendencies are harsher and more rash. In my opinion, God's attitude swing can be reasoned quite logically. I believe the Torah was written by authors based on oral tradition. The last two books of the Torah were most likely written at the turn of the common era. At this time, Judaism's numbers were dwindling due to the rise of Christianity. This population decline caused authors of the Torah to write about a wrathful God. On the other hand, the New Testament illustrates a loving, gentler God. Israel was no democracy. God was considered Master of the Universe and Ruler of the Israelites. Like some rulers, God enforces absolutism. Absolutely no corruption is tolerated under the command of God. How does the slaughter of rebellious subject reflect the image of the Jewish God? Just as God can be strict, I believe God creates beauty. I often ponder the question; Where do I think of God most? Many would say synagogue or while lighting the candles. Whenever I see a sunset, I imagine God. Sometimes I think about how only a master painter like God could make a sky look so spectacular. Occasionally, I just stare in awe trying to recognize how day turns into night and an entirely new world is at my beckoning. God is the only ruler of this Universe, but sometimes that can be a wonderful virtue.

Then again, I am an Israelite's descendant. I see their point. If God is an omnipotent being, why do I stand on an Earth corrupt with hunger, disease, poverty, and all other travesties among men and women? Korah's anger with Moses in this week's portion reminded me of the American government. Often times, I hear people discussing politics. Like Korah, I understand a number of Americans are angry that politicians are driven by the personal gain rather than the betterment of the country. Nowadays, it seems like Democrat-Republican is a rivalry just as much as Yankees-Red Sox. Just like the baseball teams, their feuding drama inhibits progress. When the Yankees come up to Boston, the games stretch for three to four hours. Every election, Americans are promised our imaginable land flowing with milk and honey. After 235 years of democracy, we are still out wandering in the desert. Earlier in the year, my history class studied the decline of Rome. Obviously, we are failing to learn from the Romans. Shakespeare wrote that Julius Caesar's ambition slew him. It could be Obama, Palin, Trump, or Pelosi, politics are corrupt from either side of the spectrum. Instead of being ambitious as an emperor, our leaders need to be ambitious as a nation. To be fair, American citizens need to stop being so skeptical. Change is an experiment. Like all experiments, there is room for improvement. If we refuse to let the government implement change, how can Americans expect progress? Maybe, we all just need to open our eyes and watch the sun set.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Shakespeare Series: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a play which contains four stories meshed into one overall plot. First of all, King Theseus of Athens prepares to marry the amazon queen, Hippolyta. In addition to their wedding, Theseus requests that his merchants perform a play at the ceremony. Many scenes include these merchants, such as Peter Quince, Francis Flute, Robin Sterveling, Tom Snout, and Snug. They rehearse for their king while dealing with their occasionally spacey friend named Nick Bottom. As the play continues, readers learn of a second royal couple. Queen Titania, King Oberon, and Robin "Puck" Goodfellow are a trio of mischievous fairies. Meanwhile, four mismatched lovers stow away to the woods. Lysander and Hermia are in love, but Hermia's father disapproves of Lysander. Ironically, Hermia's sister, Helena, falls for Demetrius, the suitor chosen for Hermia. In a turn of events, Robin Goodfellow casts a spell that makes Lysander and Demetrius both fall in love with Helena. From that point, confusion ensues, which makes for a hilarious masterpiece by the Bard.

When I go on the Barnes and Noble website, the Shakespeare books are labeled teenage novels. At first, I found this label quite precarious. How many average teens read Shakespeare's plays in their spare time? "A Midsummer Night's Dream" shed some light on this peculiarity. Through our foursome's romantic predicament, Shakespeare illustrates how a teenager sees love. In an adolescent's eye, everyone seems to be enamored with the wrong person. My sister and I often laugh at the idea of a middle school relationship. Young love does seem like a fairy's magic spell. Like Puck, it is mischievous yet benevolent. Helena expresses strong feelings of jealousy just like any kid growing up. William Shakespeare was no teenager when he wrote "Midsummer". However, the ever-changing interests of Hermia, Helena, Demetrius, and Lysander remind me of what I see at school. Of course, the play ends with a hilarious production by the merchants of Athens.

No reader can go wrong when choosing "A Midsummer Night's Dream". I recommend it to readers of all levels of Shakespeare, especially teenagers. Nick Bottom's blunders always put a smile on my face while Helena's struggle with her self conscious nature touch my heart. Honestly, it takes getting used to the utter confusion of this play. I constantly confused Hermia and Helena throughout the first act. My advice would be to concentrate and really give this hilarious piece a chance. For some odd reason, this play made me picture no stage at all. I could vividly envision the characters and woods. Whether one is looking for a nice laugh or a deep theme, pick up "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and prepare to be taken away.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Was There A Better Way?

Over the past week, I spent my time touring Washington D.C., the nation's capital. I viewed monuments, museums, and memorials. Among these sites, we toured the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. FDR numbered many accomplishments over his sixteen year administration. He was the only president to be reelected four times. How did he do it? Some would call him the father of the greatest generation that ever lived. He lifted a nation out of a depression through his innovative New Deal and defeated evil in its most triumphant hour. One ink blot lay on Roosevelt's impressive resumé. While World War II put democracy into jeopardy, Roosevelt overlooked the horrid tragedy of the Holocaust. Until 1944, our nation's leader was very hesitant to take action against the genocide occurring in Nazi Europe. At least, I thought Roosevelt was unfairly ignoring the Jews of Europe. It turns out he did a lot more than meets the eye.

I can honestly state that Roosevelt was not antisemite. How can a man juggle a economic sinkhole, a grievous war, and a genocide at the same time? Even Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis gives this president credit for trying to prevent Hitler from rising to power. Contrary to Winston Churchill, Roosevelt demanded Hitler be taken down from the first year of his presidency. While Congress refused to allow Roosevelt to lift particular quotas set in the 1920's, he helped Jewish refugees obtain visas in a more efficient way. People constantly came to Roosevelt with plans of ending the Holocaust. Contemporary historians discredit Roosevelt thinking he simply refused to listen to the American Jews. Contrary to this theory, Roosevelt took the time to go over each plan carefully. Taking these plans into consideration, he placed defeating Nazi Germany as a higher priority, even though Japan was a larger threat. He denied the American attempts to put an end to genocide in order to win the war. Roosevelt felt that defeating Hitler would bring Nazism to its end. He knew if Hitler was kept alive, his philosophies would also remain vivid. Franklin Roosevelt did not hate Jews, but developing a plan to save them was a difficult task.

These feats shed light on Roosevelt's views of the Holocaust, but many of his policies were executed too late for the Jews to be saved. Our thirty-second president's greatest impediments were Congress and the American public. Franklin and Eleanor pitied the persecution of Germany's Jews, but Americans did not. Of course, how could a nation with 25 percent unemployment worry about policies overseas? In his first term, Roosevelt's priority was to uplift the country of its depression. Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover diminished the legacy of Woodrow Wilson throughout the 1920's. By 1932, the nation's greatest success story was Babe Ruth calling his shot in Wrigley Field. The legislative branch of the United States found it skeptical that Jews would find jobs in 1930's America. By the start of the European war in 1939, there were over 4 million Jews already displaced by the Third Reich. How could Roosevelt obtain visas for 4 million Jews? Presidents, like other leaders, must make tough decisions. Turning away persecuted Jews for the sake of his nation was part of Roosevelt's job. Unfortunately, Roosevelt hardly made an effort to liberate concentration camps until 1944. Luckily, he refused to bomb Auschwitz and the other death centers. Over half the world's Jews died from 1933 to 1945, but Roosevelt tried his best to save as many as he could.

Personally, I feel he waited too long. The evidence I provide may contradict my opinion, but the way Roosevelt ignored this genocide for so long makes my heart wrench. On the other hand, it got me thinking. How can you judge a president based on one policy? Obama and Roosevelt are very alike. They are Democratic presidents who were inaugurated when our nation was inundated with problems. So far, both of these men worked with economic pressures, national insecurity, and a skeptical American public. Jews were up in arms as Obama discussed Israel with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Is Roosevelt truly to blame when we here that six million Jews were slaughtered in the Holocaust? Is Obama to blame when the death toll of the Darfur genocide is released?

Works Cited

Vanden Heuvel, William J. "America, Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Holocaust." Franklin D. Roosevelt - American Heritage Center, Inc. 2007. Web. 11 June 2011. .

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. "Franklin Delano Roosevelt." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 6 Jan. 2011. Web. 11 June 2011. .