Friday, June 3, 2016

First Exam: Othello and Shrew (Friday, 3 June)

Study the Analytical Writing section on my teaching webpage.

Write a detailed paragraph explaining exactly what it recommends.

Apply the advice to these three passages in as many following paragraphs as you believe that you need to use.  

In your concluding paragraph, explain what the excerpts have in common. 

My mind hath been as big as one of yours,
My heart as great, my reason haply more, 
To bandy word for word and frown for frown;
But now I see our lances are but straws, 
Our strength as weak, our weakness past compare,
That seeming to be most which we indeed least are.

I pray you, in your letters,
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate,
Not set down aught in malice: then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely but too well:
Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought,
Perplexed in the extreme.

Persuade him that he hath been lunatic;
And when he says he is, say that he dreams,
For he is nothing but a mighty lord.
This do and do it kindly, gentle sirs:
It will be pastime passing excellent,
If it be husbanded with modesty. [ . . . ]
He is no less than what we say he is.

Analytical Writing Section Summary
For me, the most important thing to focus on from the section on Analytical Writing from your teaching website was the word “germane.” In other words, the section was dedicated to  not only to encouraging students to keep their writing close to their selected premise, but also showing them how to go about selecting a premise that is relevant to the subject matter. The more technical objective of maintaining focus was primarily illustrated by the three guidelines for using quotations in the second paragraph of the section. The three rules illustrated the balancing act of only using the necessary portions of the text—the ones which pertain to your premise—while also being able to give your writing a bit of character and insight from the text that can only be offered by well-selected quotations. The more abstract objective of finding a topic, or premise, to research emphasized using your own curiosity of aspects of the text in order to find questions that you would want to try to answer. Numerous examples gave the reader an idea of what kinds of questions a text can raise. 
1.)        The first passage is a short excerpt from Katherine’s 43 line speech (5.2.136-79) near the very end of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, wherein the character contradicts her previous attitude toward marriage. For instance, at the beginning of the play Katherine not only shows a complete lack of interest in getting married, but also displays a resentment towards being told what to do, which clearly contradicts with the sort of husband-wife dynamic set up in the society of the play. This can be illustrated from the first scene of the play when Katherine rebukes Hortensio’s suggestion that she be “of a gentler, milder mold” (1.1.60). Katherine bites back with the pithy retort, “I’faith, sir, you shall never need to fear; / Iwis it is not halfway to her heart / But if it were, doubt not, her care should be / To comb your noddle with a three-legged stool / And paint your face and use you like a fool” (1.1.61-65).
If this were not enough to show Katherine’s disinterest in being mastered or tamed by a man, she also balks at her father’s implication that he  has control over her movements. For instance, when he gives her permission to stay on the street in Padua that serves as the location for the first scene, Katherine mocks the very thought that should would need his permission: “Why, and I trust I may go too, may I not? What, / shall I be appointed hours, as though, belike, I knew not / what to take and what to leave? Ha” (1.1.102-104).
Moreover, in the speech from Act V, referenced above, Katherine outlines a conception of womanhood that is fundamentally and unescapably obedient to their husbands. What is remarkable about this speech—beyond the clear reversal of opinion—is the numerous allusions describing women as weak and men as strong. This dichotomy can plainly be seen by the duality of the first passage contained within this speech.
For example, the first three lines of this passage contains three descriptions of Katherine’s character (and by association, the characters of the three women she is addressing) that are positive and imply strength: “My mind hath been as big as one of yours, / My heart as great, my reason haply more” (5.2.170-75). Furthermore, the third line contains an allusion to equality between the sexes by stating Katherine’s disposition enabled her to counter or “bandy” with men (assumed) “word for word and frown for frown” (5.2.172).
Interestingly, this perceived power is found to be fraudulent as Katherine describes her discovery that women are truly ill-equipped to hold their own in their battle against men: “But now I see our lances are but straws” (5.2.173). This is one of several allusions to war-like or violent imagery in the speech, all of which position women as the subjects of the superiority of men: examples include, “To wound thy lord”; “frosts do bite the meads”; “whirlwinds shake fair buds”; “To offer war where they should kneel for peace,” and “she but a foul contending rebel / And graceless traitor to her loving lord?” In conclusion, the last two lines of the passage further illustrates the “weakness” of womanhood, which not only leads them to subjugation, but also makes them appear stronger than they truly are: “That seeming to be most which we indeed least are” (5.2.175). And, what I think Katherine means by stronger in this sense (“most which we indeed least are”) is more coarse or shrewish. In other words, a shrew appears strong because men fear them, but in actuality, have no power at all.
2.)        One of the fascinating aspects of the second passage, which comes from scene 2 of Act 5 of Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice, is Othello’s final display of paranoia over how Lodovico will tell the account of his violent actions on the island of Cyprus: “Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate” (5.2.335) Othello’s fear that Lodovico will maliciously embellish the story, which does not appear to be supported by any evidence, is analogous to the moor’s suspicions of his now-dead wife, Desdemona. The idea that hatred toward Othello would appear out of nowhere from Lodovico is also comparable to how Iago’s hatred of Othello seemed to be spring out from thin air. Ironically, Othello never saw the evil-intentions of Iago when they actually existed, but sees them from Lodovico when they, ostensibly, do not exist—despite the obvious ill-feelings Lodovico must have for the moor due to his murdering of Desdemona. However, there is no evidence to illustrate that the “noble Venetian” would have reason to go beyond the truth of the matter.
            Nevertheless, Othello may have another reason to be paranoid. Throughout the play there is the suggestion that Othello’s reputation as a military leader is essential to his good standing with the Duke. For example, as we talked about in class, Othello mentions his service to the state in two memorable instances of the play, one instance being right before he speaks the words in this second passage, in fact. For example, Othello states, “I have done the state some service, and they know’t,” in the previous line, which is also only the second line of this very pivotal short monologue. Clearly, Othello thinks his service to the state is very pertinent to why he should be listened to by his present audience. Additionally, Othello makes a similar statement in scene 2 of Act 1, the scene in which his character is introduced, also at the beginning of a mini-monologue: “Let him do his spite: / My services which I have done the signory / Shall out-tongue his complaints” (1.2.18-20).
            The last three lines of this passage also speak of Othello’s past—illustrating his inexperience in un-military matters, such as romantic love. For instance, Othello’s these lines suggest that Othello’s time spent as a soldier and a slave have made him ill-equipped to deal with romantic love, which is why he claims he has “loved not wisely but too well” (5.2.337). Furthermore, the fact that he can be pushed to being “perplexed in the extreme” (5.2.339) with jealousy and violence possibly implies that his role as a soldier leaves him with little agency, providing additional motivation for his increased level of anxiety and paranoia throughout the play.
 3.)        The third passage, from the first Induction to The Taming of the Shrew, echoes one of the major themes of the main play. That theme would be the highly influential roles perceptions and expectations have to play when it comes to doling out power in society. For example, in Induction I, the drunkard, Sly, is elevated to the status of Lord, as a prank, simply because the actual Lord and his servants say that he is. The most telling evidence for this premise is the last line of the passage, spoken by the First Huntsman talking about their prank: “He is no less than what we say he is.” And of course, in order to play the part, Sly has to be surrounded by the accoutrement of the Lord, such as  “sweet clothes,” “rings put upon his fingers,” “flowers,” and “sweet wood.”
Throughout the main play, several characters, such as Lucentio, Tranio, and Hortensio, will continue the practice that is started in Induction I of disguising themselves as someone else for personal gain. Granted, Sly does not have a choice in the matter because he is being tricked, which makes him different. However, all of the characters who disguise themselves are doing it in order to escape the expectations put on them by forces they cannot control. For example, Lucentio must dress-up like a tutor in order to get around the fact that Bianca’s father is refusing her to see suitors. Interestingly in all of these cases the goal of the disguise is to eventually obtain a wife. Even Sly gains a “wife” in his makeover.
Furthermore, the darkest aspect of the lord’s apparent dominion over Sly’s identity is how interchangeable their versions of reality can be. For instance, in the first two lines of the passage, the lord is telling his Huntsmen to tell Sly that if he doesn’t believe he just got over sick than he is simply “dreaming.” The ability of the lord and his men to keep moving the truth around is reminiscent of Petruchio’s seduction of Katherine, where he kept moving her in several different directions until she accepts her new situation. The fascinating question to ask is whether or not Katherine will stay faithful to her new role as an obedient wife at the end of the play.
                                      In Conclusion
            All three of these passages involve the mitigation of identity and the formation of disposition in desperate circumstances wherein the protagonists lack much agency. For example, in the first two passages there is the suggestion that the speakers, Katherine and Othello respectively, are forced to dedicate themselves to hegemonies of power that have dominion over them.  Katherine is forced to be subordinate to her husband, Petruchio, while Othello has sworn obedience to the government of Venice. Although, Othello may seem to be a strong participant in the military there is much evidence from the play to support the notion without his military service he would not fit into Christian society, and that his military service has possibly made him unable to experience romantic love. Additionally, Sly is clearly subordinate to the lord who decided to play the trick on him because he has power of the truth, and consequentially, Sly’s reality.

When writing a paper, each quotation or piece of information being used needs to play an important role in furthering the paper’s point, regardless of its length. There needs to be a purpose behind the quotation, and oftentimes that purpose is to make the reader think about the text in a new way. This doesn’t mean that more quotations will make a better paper. Rather, if a paper is analyzing the text, fewer quotations can be more beneficial to the overall argument. Shorter quotations tend to be more specific and can then be better shaped to the paper’s advantage. Also, be sure to be specific when analyzing the text. Vague explanations are more likely to work against an argument rather than for it.
 At the end of The Taming of the Shrew, Katherina turns to her sister, Bianca, and the Widow that marries Hortensio and tells them that they must obey their husbands. This famous monologue has been interpreted in many ways. One interpretation is that she is not truly tame, and therefore is mocking the idea of being tame. Some think that she has been completely tamed and is speaking as a changed woman. Still, there is a third option, the one that I find most likely. It is the idea that she has not been subdued into becoming a different person, but has come to the realization that her churlish attitude will not benefit her quality of life or make her happy.
It seems necessary to point out that Katherina has indeed changed in some way by the end of The Shrew. Proof of this is within her own speech, “My mind hath been as big as one of yours, / My heart as great” (5.2.170-1). The words “hath been” are translated into “had been” or “was,” which is a verb in the preterit or past tense. Since she says that her mind and heart were once as large and grand as the two women’s that she is addressing, it seems simple to conclude that they no longer are. Some change has taken place within her.
The reason for this change can be found only a few lines further in her monologue: “But now I see our lances are but straws” (5.2.173). Katherina has recognized that no matter how shrewish she is her obstinacy is no match to that of her husband. Petruccio spent the first twenty-four hours of their marriage, plus the time leading up to their wedding, proving to her that he could be just as shrewish as she, if not more so. Indeed, it must have been more so; otherwise she would not have come to the realization that she was fighting him with a piece of straw!
But just because she recognizes her need to listen to her husband doesn’t mean she has been fully tamed. If she were, there is a good likelihood that her monologue would have been much shorter. This speech spans forty-three lines, and no one who has completely lost their spirit would keep talking for that long. Instead, the couple has found a way to work together. Katherina has realized that obedience to her husband will be more beneficial for her in the long run than hatred and disobedience. In realizing this, she has redirected her energies from loathing everyone around her to having a purpose as wife and mistress of a household.
 Katherina is not the only character in The Taming of the Shrew who is being made to be someone else. In the Induction of the play, a beggar named Christopher Sly is told that he is “a might lord” (Ind. 1.61). While it takes him a while, eventually he seems to either believe what he is being told or at least go along with it. How the true Lord goes about convincing Sly of his lordship could be compared to Petruccio’s method of taming Katherina.
The Lord says, “Persuade him that he hath been lunatic; / And when he says he is, say that he dreams” (Ind. 1.59-60). He plans to continuously tell Sly that he is a lord, over and over again without letting up until Sly believes that he is. Similarly, Petruccio plans to tell Katherina repeatedly that she is good, beautiful, and sweet no matter what she does or says to him.
Say that she rail, why, then I’ll tell her plain
She sings as sweetly as a nightingale.
Say that she frown, I’ll say she looks as clear
As morning roses newly washed with dew.
Petruccio puts his words into action, and continues even beyond this after they are married by keeping her awake and unfed and saying that it’s out of his love for her. While this method of antagonism does not seem as if it would be beneficial to Petruccio, it does work. There are two reasons that it works, and it’s not just the antagonism on its own.
The first reason is repetition. Neither Petruccio nor the Lord let up in telling Katherina and Sly that they are good and a lord, respectively. The second reason they both succeed is that they mask themselves in kindness. Both Petruccio and the Lord act as if their actions are for the benefit of those they are trying to change. This tactic is even more powerful than the use of repetition because a person has a much harder time fighting against something that claims to be for them. There are plenty of ways that Petruccio could have antagonized Katherina, but none would have worked so well as this. The Induction with the Lord tricking Sly into believing that he is a lord is a foreshadowing of this tactic, showing how it works in multiple circumstances. 
There is a time when we see that repetition of kindness does not work to move a person. In Othello, Desdemona believes that she has married a good man who loves her. Because she loves him she treats him kindly and with respect at all times. But despite her continual kindness, Othello is manipulated by Iago to believe that she is cheating on him with Cassio. It isn’t until after killing Desdemona that he realizes she loved only him all along.
Othello tells Lodovico and the other men who find him and the dead Desdemona, “then must you speak […] / Of one not easily jealous, but being wrought, / Perplexed in the extreme” (5.2.336-39). A cultural belief in Shakespeare’s time was that different climates produced different temperaments in people. Othello, being from the south, would not be an easily jealous person. However, once jealousy is provoked, it tears him apart.
Not only does Othello kill his wife, but upon learning of her innocence he is so broken that he kills himself as well. Because we believe in Othello’s natural lack of jealousy, only Iago’s meddling could bring Othello to think Desdemona cheated on him.
False. He seems very confident in her love in the opening act of the play when he fetches her to make a statement of love before the Duke, However, Othello shows his disbelief in her love by withholding the charges from her. Othello doesn’t confront Desdemona with the accusations Iago makes until he is killing her in bed. Because of this, we are led to another conclusion: Othello had always been suspicious of Desdemona’s love for him. 
In The Taming of the Shrew, readers are told that repetitious acts masked as kindnesses are the only way to change a person’s mind. In the instances of Katherina and Christopher Sly, they are made to believe that they can be someone else because of how they were treated. Contrary to this, in Othello, Desdemona treats her husband with true kindness, yet he is deceived into believing that this kindness is false. If we are to believe Shakespeare, then the only way to love a person is to deceive them with false kindnesses, and if we truly love someone, then we’ll only end up dead. But Shakespeare also wrote,
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
                        (Sonnet 116.11-12)

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