Author: bockea

Taming of the Shrew- A Lesson in Feminism

Taming of the Shrew- A Lesson in Feminism

Taming of the Shrew: A Lesson in Feminism

While feminism has criticized Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew for years, or perhaps decades, my perception poses a different view of the topic. While it is true that Shakespeare wrote in a time and culture that was highly patriarchal, and, therefore his works reflect that, he was counter-cultural in some regards as well.

Shakespeare, William. The Plays and Poems of Shakespeare. Edited by A.J. Valpy, vol. V, London,
Henry G. Bohn, 1844. 15 vols.

While the conflicts and character dynamics revolve around women’s requirement to be married, especially according to birth order in the family, and women’s utmost obedience and respect towards their husbands, one aspect is often omitted by most readers.

Women in this play have two assets that allow them to be powerful; their influence in their speech and their money. Women are desired by men, in part because of their financial assets. This usually goes the other way around when it comes to stories written in this time period. This quality alone gives women their power in this play. However, it is by no means illustrating that women must be rich in order to be valuable or powerful.

Perhaps the most evident portrayal of feminine power in this play is the last speech given by Katherine. She uses her words and intelligence to speak up for herself, not wanting to succumb to the dishonesty of her suitors. As a woman, I was deeply inspired by this action.

However, all of these instances cause me to take a step back and look at the current state of feminism around me. While there are many positive movements to promote feminism in our culture today, how often do women (unknowingly) live according to a double standard? It challenges me to think about the areas in my life where I am living according to my own rights as a woman, and also the areas where I am not.

Ultimately, Taming of the Shrew highlights both ends of the spectrum. It helped me realize that women are not just feminists or not. But, women may have a little ways to go in realizing our full potential in our culture.

Shakespeare, William. The Plays and Poems of Shakespeare. Edited by A.J. Valpy, vol. V, London,
     Henry G. Bohn, 1844. 15 vols.
British Literature: On College

British Literature: On College

If you are like me, you often find yourself wondering about college and the decisions made here. To be honest, being a traditional college student is such an awkward point in life. Three to six years (or even more) are spent working very hard for a career that is not 100% promised to us. We are going into debt. And we are making very little money, if any at all. Often times we are living in crappy apartments or dorm rooms. And we are all very stressed. At the end of the day, many of us question if all of this is worth it. Will things really pay off in our pursuit of the American Dream? But I tell you, ironically enough, some British Literature can give us some insight on the American Dream.

 

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Vol. XIV, New York, New York, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1900.

For many people, going to a large public liberal arts college is the first time they are exposed to so many people of different races, religions, cultures and social backgrounds. It is a time of awareness and enlightenment. And I forgot about the meaning of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations which I had read countless times before. Pip is at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to social class. And I was at the bottom of the food chain when it came to knowledge and experience about the world and about my studies. However, I began to realize that I soon began to model my life after Pip who changed in social status, and it was to my benefit.

Pip desires self-improvement. His ambition toward the matter is intense. And in fact, it was more intense than I could have ever claimed to be. As a first generation college student, I knew I was pursuing the American Dream in some way. I wanted to be the first in my family to earn a college degree. And hopefully, I would be one of the better employed because of that. Pip practices the American Dream in Britain. And to relate to Pip even further, it is evident that he valued education just as I do. Pip advances socially due to his education. His character changes. And I was hoping mine would too.

You see, we all undoubtedly have areas of our life upon which we wish to improve. And Pip proved that he could do that. And so did I. So this brings me to wonder, what if college, that seems tedious and pointless at times, comes to be my secret benefactor. The Convict in Great Expectations surprisingly turns out to be the one allowing for Pip to have certain good fortune all his life. And while my friends and I have questioned college on countless occasions in the same way that Pip was weary of the Convict, could it be that college can give us more of an advantage than a $45,000+ piece of paper upon graduation?

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Vol. XIV, New York, New York, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1900.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Vol. XIV, New York, New York, Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1900. 
R.B. PR 4560 .A1 1900
Shakespeare’s Culturally Relevant Halloween Story.

Shakespeare’s Culturally Relevant Halloween Story.

It is that time of year again. It is starting to feel like fall and Halloween is right around the corner. Netflix is coming out with their top Halloween picks. And a category such as “gory” or “gruesome” is bound to be featured, as it is nearly every year. If you are like me, not only do you enjoy a scary film, but there are also books that fit the season. Maybe you are cracking open Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Stephen King’s Carrie. However, I just may have a new recommendation for you. Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is a horror story that would definitely be featured on Netflix’s gory or gruesome film choices. And, believe it or not, it would be appealing to the same fans who adore American Horror Story or Sweeney Todd. But apart from appealing to the horror genre buff, this play addresses some issues that may be very close to home.

Shakespeare, William. The Works of Shakespeare. Vol. 7, London, J. Tonson, 1728. Image obtained from the University of Cincinnati Archives and Rare Books Library.

Although this story features a horrific fourteen killings, six severed members, one rape, one live burial, one case of insanity and an instance of cannibalism, we can find a number of these barbaric acts relevant to today’s culture. First and foremost, the issue of racism is addressed through these events. Titus Andronicus’ opposing sides consist of the Romans, which are revealed to be the more civilized pale skinned people, and the Goths, the darker skinned people known for their lawlessness and tactlessness. These are simply cultural biases that our culture is no stranger to. However, as the story progresses, both parties commit crimes of hatred, causing the audience to wonder who the heartless and reckless people really are in the end.

Secondarily, the themes of sexism and rape are ever present. Unfortunately, being a college student at a large public university means students are exposed to this horrible occurrence on almost a weekly basis. The girl who is raped in the play also suffers a be-handing and the severing of her tongue, causing her to be unable to communicate or help herself.  This causes me to wonder if this symbolism accurately reflects how many women who are victims of sexual violence and assault feel today.

While the amount of violence and gore in this play may seem overwhelming and overdone, critics often question whether Shakespeare had the same intents as Quentin Tarantino does in his films, such as Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in which the gore was portrayed in nearly a comedic way because of its hyperbolic nature. Could Shakespeare’s work, (classified as a tragedy) be a comedic act representing a sobering and horrific cultural reality?

This Halloween season, I encourage you to delve into the world of Titus Andronicus in order to immerse yourself in a horror story that is of utmost cultural relevance and perspective. Maybe it could possibly serve as entertainment that enlightens you about the state of our society.

Shakespeare, William. The Works of Shakespeare. Vol. 7, London, J. Tonson, 1728. SpecCol R.B. PR 2752 .P7 v. 7
First Wave Feminism-Is it Still Relevant?

First Wave Feminism-Is it Still Relevant?

Bradstreet, Anne. The Poems of Mrs. Anne Bradstreet. Compiled by Charles Eliot Norton, The
Duodecimos, 1897.

Many of us remember being forced to read the poetry of Anne Bradstreet in high school or even college. And most of us read summaries online or in SparkNotes so we could still get an “A” without having to spend the time to decipher certain poetry. In high school, I was that person too.

However, when a college professor assigned us the week’s reading, I actually took the time to read Bradstreet’s works. Maybe it was because of lack of anything else to do. Or maybe I just really liked the professor’s approach to teaching. Regardless, I delved into the world of Bradstreet and I was both inspired and pleasantly surprised.

This free thinking first wave feminist started to inspire my life. And in particular, I took to her poem, “The Four Elements”.  Bradstreet observed the world around her. And I began to realize what could happen if I too decided to become more aware of the world around me.  Bradstreet reminded me that there is beauty in the natural chaos of life. And though everyone is different, we can use our differences to our advantage.

You see, Bradstreet’s thinking was not welcome for her time.  A woman was not thought to be someone who valued knowledge and intellect. And though her feminism was subtle, it was impactful then, and it has the same ability to be just as impactful today.

In her poem, “Flesh and the Spirit”, she talks about the inner person being more important than their physical body. In other words, it’s on the inside what counts. She was not worried about looking a certain way or having all of the things that society deemed was popular or acceptable. And even when she caught herself longing to change things about herself to fit in, she remembered that her spirit was stronger than her flesh.

Therefore, give Bradstreet a try. Because, even after her death in 1672, this woman’s still work is relevant in 2019. If we were to allow ourselves to be inspired by first wave feminists such as Anne Bradstreet, how might our lives look a little bit different?

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