Ophelia–Art of Hamlet

Of all the characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia was the most difficult for me to understand.  Why she so quickly abandoned Hamlet’s love confused me.  Why she became delusional before the King and Queen dumbfounded me.  Why she never doubted her father’s advice frustrated me.  Ophelia is far from a protagonist in the play, and yet, she has so much potential to stand on Hamlet’s side.

Alexandre Cabanel’s Ophelia 1883 captures the Ophelia I imagined when I read this story.  She is angelically beautiful, like a fairy, and she’s prone to a characteristic whimsy.

Cabanel’s oil on canvas painting is held in a private collection, which means this painting is kept from public eye.

What strikes me as interesting in this particular painting is that she appears very relaxed.  Her back rests against a branch as her eyes gaze lackadaisically to the distance.  Her dress is half in-half out of the water, indicating that she has yet to be fully submerged in water.  In Gertrude’s monologue reporting her death, the queen tells Claudius and Laertes that Ophelia was climbing a willow tree and the branch snapped.  It is obvious that the branch she is leaning on is the willow branch, but again, she seems very in control of her situation.

Did Ophelia commit suicide? Cabanel seems to think so.  For her to have drowned, she would have had to make the willful choice to release herself from that branch and submerge herself more fully in the water.  This raises some important considerations regarding Ophelia’s character.  Was she devoted to her father enough to motivate suicide? Or did she perhaps have some love for the mad prince as well?

In any case, the painting itself is a beautiful depiction of Ophelia.  The blues and pinks of the dress evoke a sweetness of her character.  Her hands resting on the branches show her relaxed state.  Flowers float around her, enshrining her in a symbiosis with nature.



Bad…Really Bad Quarto

An attempt at Iambic pentameter is made…but not well executed, fails miserably.

Well, sit we down, and let us hear Barnardo speak of this.
Last night of all, when yonder star that’s westward from the pole had made his course to
Illumine that part of heaven where now it burns,
The bell then tolling one–
Enter Ghost.
In the real version, Barnardo, is called Bernardo. But I have to say, Barnardo is a very fitting name for whoever is playing this version.  His grammar might indicate that he was actually raised in a barn.
The real version looks more like this:

Last night of all,
When yond same star that’s westward from the pole
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,
The bell then beating one,–
Enter Ghost

I chose these lines because they come fairly close to being the same. A difference is that there is an extra syllable in the bad quarto where “yond” is “yonder.” This breaks up the rhythm and makes the line cumbersome and more difficult to read.

Additionally, the bad quarto is just plain lazy.  Almost all extended dialogue is cut severely.  I do have to say, if ever someone would like to read a brief, comprehensible version of the text, this is a reference.



A Vikings Guide to the World

“Havamal” translated to “Sayings of the High One” are a series of Norse (Viking) sayings in poetic verse intended as life advice.  After reading these quips, I chose #51.

51. Hotter than fire
love for five days burns
between false friends;
but is quenched
when the sixth day comes,
and friendship is all impaired.

In simple terms: Superficial friendships appear strong while they last, but when the passion leaves, the friendship fails.

As the end of senior year is on the horizon, I’ve been thinking frequently of friendships.  In only eight or so months, I’ll most likely be in another city, or state, entirely–away from my friends and everyone I know and love in College Station.  With this realization has come a renewed sense of urgency to spend as much time with current friends as well as making as many new friends as possible.  This advice was an important reminder that friendships forged in haste rarely last longer than the time it took to create them.  Spending my time trying to arbitrate connection with people whom I barely know will probably not prove successful.  Rather, acting with patience toward my friends and allowing friendships to occur naturally rather than trying hard to create them, will prevent these bonds from becoming “impaired.”

Similarly, in Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, the passion of the two star-crossed lovers makes their bond seem invincible; however, it quickly becomes apparent that they hardly know each other, can’t communicate, and act in haste.  These facets of their relationship all contribute to the briefness of their relationship, reinforcing this viking saying. Hats off (those metal ones with the horns), to the Vikings for having some life observations that transcend 1000 years of human social evolution.



The Ghosts of Othellos Past

History and English in one post? Is that a challenge? Game on. As directed, I looked through Quatro 1 and First Folio to examine the differences now and then. The First Folio has an interesting use of “u” that replaces our modern “v.” Where the word “even” appears in our modern version, “euen” resides in the First Folio. The First Folio also has an extra ‘e’ behind many words that our version leaves off. The Moore of Venice, and doore, are two notable examples. Perhaps this is just a linguistic change.  English in the 1600s, I presume, still relied heavily on French and Germanic influences.  The vestigial ‘e’ is characteristic of French, and it too is not pronounced at the end of a word.

Quatro 1 also had some interesting spelling. Despite the 1 year difference in the publication of these two versions, there are some notable differences.  To begin, it is called the “Tragoedy” instead of the “Tragedie” like in the First Folio. The compound oe, or dipthong, is borrowed from latin, but it has been dropped in most American orthography.  Why one is spelled with “ie” versus “y” at the end remains a mystery to me.  Once again, the ‘u’s, ‘w’, and ‘v’ seem very different from how we spell now.  Most notably, the play is by “VVilliam Shakespeare.”

Similarities between these versions and our own: orthography overall seems consistent with ours. However, some of the lettering looks a little different.  In the First Folio and Quatro 1, the lowercase S looks like a cross between an integration symbol and an f.  What interests me about these plays is that in reading through them, the story is consistent.  I suppose this should be obvious as preserving meaning is the most important thing in translating and evolving language.  Still, it surprises me that after 500 some-odd years, we still maintain the language of Shakespeare.  Not only that, but we can easily understand the story and its background without having to understand many cultural implications.  I guess this is either a testament to Shakespeare’s timeless genius, or the fact that no matter how hard we try to be different from who we were before, man is at its core the same.


Take it Easy, Glenn Frey.

I grew up listening to the Eagles. Not in the same way that I could sing along to Fleetwood Mac or Peter, Paul, and Mary, but I was surprised to see how many Eagles songs I knew just from cranking the oldies station in the car.  Glenn Frey was a lead vocalist alongside Don Henley, and he also played the keyboard and guitar.  After consulting my parents on their favorite Eagles song, and exploring a few on my own, I decided on “Take it Easy.”

Glenn Frey leads the vocals on this one.  Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey wrote in for release in 1972. It was their first single. It was also the first track on the album Eagles.

“Take It Easy”
Well, I’m running down the road
tryin’ to loosen my load
I’ve got seven women on
my mind,
Four that wanna own me,
Two that wanna stone me,
One says she’s a friend of mine
Take It easy, take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels
drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can
don’t even try to understand
Just find a place to make your stand
and take it easy
Well, I’m a standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me
Come on, baby, don’t say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love is
gonna save me
We may lose and we may win though
we will never be here again
so open up, I’m climbin’ in,
so take it easy
Well I’m running down the road trying to loosen
my load, got a world of trouble on my mind
lookin’ for a lover who won’t blow my
cover, she’s so hard to find
Take it easy, take it easy
don’t let the sound of your own
wheels make you crazy
come on baby, don’t say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love is
gonna save me, oh oh oh
Oh we got it easy
We oughta take it easy

“Take it Easy”–Live 1977

I chose this song because it’s the biggest hit that Glenn Frey had as the lead vocalist.  In other tracks, i.e. “Boys of Summer,” Don Henley takes the helm.  But on a more substantive level, this song is a wonderful reminder to relax, let life happen, and to be happy that it does.  From someone who’s died, this is a call to the living to actually live. Sure, it’s about multiple lovers and the search for the “right one.” But it also about the nature of mistake and the need to find someone to ground us.

The guitar starts with a rhythmic, upbeat tone.  The drum taps are subtle in the background of the song, and their consistency throughout call to the repetitiveness of love in the song.  The guitar solos are part pure classic rock part crooning angst.  I wish I knew how to describe the guitar interlude at the end in words other than “wow.” But just in pure time terms, the main lyrics actually end at 2:58, but the song goes on for more than two minutes with an amazing guitar solo.  The instrument speaks on its own.

Glenn Frey had a more mellow voice than Don Henley, which only reinforces the meaning of the song.  The rock n roll is mixed with a smooth folksy ease that calls to the classic Fleetwood Mac.  It’s a song ahead of its time.  Glenn Frey’s music spans generational differences and will continue too. But in the meantime, Rest in Peace Glenn, and take it easy.


Othello Act 1 Scene 3

SCENE III. A council-chamber.

The DUKE and Senators sitting at a table; Officers attending
There is no composition^1 in these news
That gives them credit.
First Senator
Indeed, they are disproportion’d;
My letters say a hundred and seven galleys.
And mine, a hundred and forty.
Second Senator
And mine, two hundred:
But though they jump^5 not on a just account,–
As in these cases, where the aim reports^6,
‘Tis oft with difference–yet do they all confirm
A Turkish fleet, and bearing up to Cyprus.
Nay, it is possible enough to judgment:
I do not so secure^10 me in the error,
But the main article I do approve
In fearful sense^12.
[Within] What, ho! what, ho! what, ho!
First Officer
A messenger from the galleys.
Enter a Sailor

Now, what’s the business?
The Turkish preparation makes for Rhodes;
So was I bid report here to the state
By^17 Signior Angelo.
How say you by this change?
First Senator
This cannot be,
By no assay of reason: ’tis a pageant,
To keep us in false gaze. When we consider
The importancy of Cyprus to the Turk,
And let ourselves again but understand^22-23,
That as it more concerns^24 the Turk than Rhodes,
So may he with more facile question bear it,
For that it stands not in such warlike brace,
But altogether lacks the abilities
That Rhodes is dress’d in: if we make thought of this,
We must not think the Turk is so unskilful
To leave that latest which concerns him first,
Neglecting an attempt of ease and gain,
To wake and wage a danger profitless.
Nay, in all confidence, he’s not for Rhodes.
First Officer
Here is more news.
Enter a Messenger

The Ottomites^33, reverend and gracious,
Steering with due course towards the isle of Rhodes,
Have there injointed them with an after fleet.

1. Composition, agreement.

5. Jump, tally.

6. Aim reports, conjecture bandies about reports.

10. Secure, Der. se (as in se-paro) cura, without care. I do not lay aside anxiety on account of the discrepancy in the accounts.

12. In fearful sense, in feeling fearful,

17. By, about.

18. Root, pag, to fasten.

22-3. Not only is it more important but he can bear (ferre) the business more easily — win the place.

24. It is not so well fortified.

33. Ottomites, founder of the Turkish empire in A.D. 1299.


Duke Of Venice: We must discredit this news; it is inconsistent.

First Senator: Indeed, mine say 107 ships.

Duke of Venice: And mine, 140.

Second Senator: And mine 200. But despite their inconsistencies, we know for sure that they are headed for Cyprus.

Duke of Venice: That does not discredit the general idea, which scares me.

Sailor: HO! HO! (I’m here)

First Senator: A message from the seas.

Duke of Venice: What’s going on?

Sailor: The Turks are headed for Rhodes, not Cyprus.

Duke of Venice: What do you think of this change?

First Senator: Impossible change.  We know they care much more about Cyprus than Rhodes, and Rhodes is much more secure.  We can discount this as trickery; they are trying to distract us.

Duke of Venice: You’re right.

Messenger: The Turks are headed for Rhodes to meet another fleet.


Similes and Metaphors, Literary Devices:

Line 27: That Rhodes is dress’d in—personification–Rhodes is well defended





Adele 25–A Crooning Album in Celebration of Change

in 2008, I discovered Adele’s first album, 19.  “Hometown Glory”, commemorating her love for her city, hit a special chord.  “Chasing Pavements” perfectly captures the, at times, hopeless uncertainty of love (of all sorts), and before long, I was hooked.  Of course Adele 21’s rapid rise secured her her now massive fan base, so the hype for this album might have scared me away from an immediate listen.  Nothing, I thought, could top “Take it All” of 21 or the more mellow tracks of 19.  When I finally purchased the album, my initial thoughts were confirmed.  “Hello” had no meaning for me.  “River Lea” bored me so much that I had to skip it.  “Sweetest Devotion” wanted to ooze soul, but it fell flat.  I was utterly disappointed.

After a week of mourning the loss of Adele’s heyday, I decided to give 25 another chance.  The upbeat rhythm of “Send My Love” had me entertained.  “Water Under the Bridge” purely continued the tradition of uncertainty in love.  “Million Years Ago” seems like a response to my all time favorite “Hometown Glory.  After finishing the album, I realized why I was so bored by the album before: I was expecting heartache, songs of betrayal, the same teenage/early twenties fire that 19 and 21 had provided me.  But Adele is different: she has a kid now, and a longtime boyfriend.  It would be bizarre for her, and her lover I’m sure, to sing the same songs of unfulfillment that she did before.

Now that I have moved on from my initial expectations of the overall sentiment of the songs, I have come to the conclusion that her album is supposed to both celebrate and mourn change for all its positives and negatives.  She is self-aware in the album, not pretending to be “just another artist”, and as a result, she comes across as more genuine than many of her counterparts.  I particularly like “Million Years Ago.” It begins with a sort of Spanish guitar melody, and then Adele’s soft mournful, voice comes on.  She sings of how she’s treated in her hometown—of how fame has turned her into a stranger.  She looks in the mirror and sees someone who cannot relate to her people the way she did before.  It’s a stark contrast to the participatory Adele from “Hometown Glory”, but in both cases, there is a love for her hometown that feels, at times, not reciprocated.

“When We Were Young” is another favorite of mine–for similar reason.  It reflects a longing for the past that is subtle and not overwhelming.  She understands that relationships fall apart, but she can still honor a love that made her feel young.

Final thoughts: In 2008, I thought of Adele as old because I was only eleven.  Even in her early albums, she had a maturity to her lyrics that I can only compare to Laura Marling (released her first and most amazing album at 16.) So in a way, I never thought of Adele as “young.” In that sense, this album gave me a totally new perspective on her.  While I thought her “Chasing Pavements” was a wise reflection on being strung along, she thought she was an insecure and uncertain teenager unable to decide who to love.  25 is a perfect complement to her earlier albums in that it is something totally different, but it still recognizes who she was before and how change can remind us, and perhaps make us long, for who we were before.  “Hometown Glory” may still be her glory days, but that’s the point she’s trying to make.  And her lyrical and vocal genius does so beautifully.