Posts Tagged ‘Shakespeare’

By Blake Whitmore, RMU Student.

 

Fictional characters are as real as we make them. They can live forever. They entertain, inspire, and sometimes terrify us. Their death can upset us; their accomplishments can please us. There are a whole lot of fictional characters, so what makes some so iconic? I have decided to take a look at my favorite fictional characters and figure out just what makes them so memorable.

 

1. The Doctor- Part of the most cross generational show on television, Doctor Who, the Doctor has entertained, educated, and inspired generations. The Doctor himself is a complicated character with an interesting story arc. He started out as a grumpy old man who traveled through space and time with his granddaughter, on the run from his own people, the Time Lords. Fast-forward through 50 years of character development and you see a badly damaged man trying to do his best to save and inspire humanity. Without Doctor Who science fiction writing and television would not be the same.

 

2. Han Solo-There is a lot of talk about Star Wars VII, and with that comes the triumphant return of the coolest gunslinger in outer space, Han Solo. He was the lone ranger of the future until running into Luke starwars4Skywalker and Princess Leia. Throughout the original trilogy Solo learns the importance of working with others to fight for the common good and restore peace and humanity to a struggling galaxy. Han Solo was a great practical smuggler with sarcastic wit.

 

3. Dr. Hannibal Lecter- The NBC series Hannibal was just signed for a second season and with it returns the terrifyingly brilliant Dr. Hannibal Lecter. He is a super intelligent psychiatrist and cannibalistic serial killer. For fans sometimes the lines are blurred between antihero and villain. Lector walks this fine line throughout all adaptations of him and that is what makes him so interesting. He is charming and smart, but then you remember he eats people. The creation of Lecter has been highly influential when it comes to writing a great villain.

 

4. Sherlock Holmes & Dr. John Watson- The first duo to make my list is the consulting detective and his loyal friend and author/blogger. Sherlock’s snarky, anti-social, attitude coupled with his powers of deduction and supreme intelligence made him a man that women, and even men, cannot resist. You hate him, but you still love. Without Dr. Watson recounting their tales of adventure what happened at 221B Baker St. would never have been quite as entertaining. Current adaptions of the pair are BBC’s Sherlock and Elementary on CBS. Funny fact: Sherlock never said, “Elementary, my dear Watson,” in any Arthur Conan Doyle story.

 

5. Batman- The superhero with no superpowers, but loads of money, Batman is one of DC Comics flagship characters. Nothing makes for a hero like serious childhood trauma, or the murder of Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne. Batman being a vigilante made him all the more popular. The character became so popular he got his own comic book in 1940 and the rest is history. Television series, movies, and a whole lot of merchandise followed making Batman an extremely influential comic book hero.frank_miller-batman

 

6. Indiana Jones- Dr. Henry Walton Jones Jr. is an archaeology professor that wears a tweed suit, but much like a superhero, after the lecture is over he dons his fedora, grabs his bullwhip, and becomes Indiana Jones. It is the idea that after the grueling workday is done, he can have an adventure and save the world at the same time that makes Indiana Jones an appealing character.

 

7. Dracula – The second villain to make my list is the bloodsucker that spawned the modern day vampire. He is cunning and clever. Since the original novel Dracula has been the subject of a number of films. As of 2009, an estimated 217 films feature Dracula in a major role, a number second only to Sherlock Holmes (223 films). Films involving vampires have used the image of Dracula for their basis of vampires’ characteristics. It is evident that without the original Dracula our monster movies could be very different.

 

8. James Bond- He has had many faces over the years, but 007 always introduces himself last name first with a cunning tone. Originally created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, Bond is subject of the longest running film franchise in history starting in 1962, with Dr. No starring Sean Connery. James Bond is a handsome British Secret Service agent who often fights what seem like campy super villains. Bond is an inspiration to spy characters and we just can’t get enough of him.

 

9. Romeo & Juliet- This could not be a list of famous and influential fictional characters without at least one mention of Shakespeare. There is nothing more appealing than forbidden love. Many of Shakespeare’s works have been adapted and performed on stage and film, but, in addition to Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet is possibly the most recognizable storyline. Often with a little less death, the story has been told to all ages hundreds of times over since Shakespeare’s time. What would love stories be like without them?

 

10. Harry Potter- The newest character on the list, Harry Potter hit the shelves in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 1997. Throughout the series, which goes on in six more novels, Harry works to overcome the leading antagonist and his parents’ murderer, Voldemort, who wishes to become immortal and conquer the wizarding world. Harry’s tough beginning to heroic victory makes him a much loved character. J.K. Rowling created what is possibly the most successful series since J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.


As a writer, I dream about creating a character as influential and memorable as the ones I listed. All of these characters have spawned film franchises, books, comic strips, cartoons, and television series. They will live on forever entertaining and inspiring future generations to come. They are the greatest people to never live.

By Michael Stelzer Jocks, History Faculty. 

Remember “The Cosby Show”?  If you are too young to answer in the affirmative, you better go check it out on Netflix or Youtube.  Go now, I will wait…..Okay, now that you realize what you were missing, did you see (or do you remember) the episode in which Theo and Cockroach need to read Shakespeare’s Macbeth for an English test?  The two boys talk about girls, clothes, sports, cars and music, but they have no desire to read the play.  So, they look for a supposedly easy out.  The slackers attempt to avoid reading Shakespeare by listening to a recorded version of the play instead.  They get the recorded album (it is the 80’s remember) of Macbeth from the library; they think listening to it will allow them to avert hard-work.  To their disappointment, they find it is not simple to listen to Shakespeare.  With the album of Macbeth out of the picture, the boys stumble upon “Cleland Notes” that provide a quick summary of the tragedy.   Have a look at a couple classic scenes:

“The Cosby Show” always had a lesson.  This episode obviously was attempting to tell kids that hard work (like reading Shakespeare) would pay off, and trying to get around it by doing something easier would come back to haunt you, like a ghostly blood-stained dagger. The show’s moral could be stated even more bluntly: Reading is good.  Don’t avoid it.  Just do it.  Cockroach and Theo need to learn this the hard way. They likely fail the English test.

Who would disagree with this moral? In our society, most parents stand with Cliff and Claire Huxtable, arguing that reading is an absolute good; always the best learning methodology.  But, these arguments don’t hold water. We don’t live in a world of absolutes, and reading is not always a complete good.  The two boys are right.  Reading ‘The Bard’ can be a chore. On the other hand, watching and listening to Shakespeare is unforgettable.

Dear reader, you must understand that I am a bibliophile extraordinaire.  If I have free time, I read books.  I read on the train; in between classes; before bed; with my morning coffee. I love reading.  It is my hobby; my passion.  I agree with Cliff and Claire Huxtable’s unstated moral: Reading provides enjoyment, intellectual stimulation and self-betterment. But, there are just certain things that should be heard, seen or experienced, and not read.  Sit down and read Sophocles to yourself; then listen to or watch Oedipus the King.  The difference is staggering.  Reading the words provides beauty, but watching the tragedy performed is incomparable.

51noqEetVvL._SL500_AA300_PIaudible,BottomRight,13,73_AA300_This topic is on my mind because I am teaching at a branch campus this quarter, and hence, I am in the car for a couple hours a day. When in the car, I listen to audiobooks to pass the time. I would initially grab audiobooks dealing with my preferred topics of study: History, psychology, philosophy.  I found that these books were good reading, but poor listening.  So, a couple weeks ago, I went with something more exciting. I grabbed the 11 CD audiobook of The Odyssey by Homer as read by Sir Ian McKellen.  Boom! Incredible.

homer

Homer?

This wasn’t my first run-in with Homer.  I read The Odyssey my Sophomore year in college for a Western Civilization course.  Our professor told us on Tuesday to read the 500-plus page epic by that Thursday.  This was ridiculous.  Of course, I read the book as fast as possible, skimming through the ‘unimportant’ parts.  My experience with Telemachus, Circe, Odysseus and the Cyclops was tainted.  Though it has so many recognizable moments, reading the work frantically felt repetitive, and truthfully, boring.

That was 15 years ago. I thought I would give it another go with the recorded version.  Listening to the words, not reading them to myself, clarified the absolute power of Homer’s masterpiece.  The beauty of the language and the psychological introspection of character was magnified ten-fold. Even the repetition (necessary since the work was orally relayed from bard to bard) started to become addictive and beautiful.  Listening to the reoccurring descriptions was a welcome occurrence,  not an annoyance.

The Greeks did not lionize the written word above other methods of pedagogy.  How could they with their cultural inheritance of Homer?  How could they when the tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides were central to civic life?  How could they when Socrates was questioning Athenians in the Agora?  To be honest, Socrates thought quite negatively of the written word.  He was concerned that reading and writing may ruin the skills of conversation, argument and memory.  In this belief, Socrates was far too radical.  Reading is obviously wondrous.   But, the opposite belief that reading is the only correct way to learn is just as radical, and just as wrong.  Theo and Cockroach had the right idea about that, methinks.

By Jenny Jocks Stelzer, English Faculty. 

“You’re a feminist; how could you be into Shakespeare, what with all of the ‘witches’ and the ‘shrews?’”

Um, I’m pretty sure I never heard that question in grad school or at any point in my academic experience. It’s pretty much understood that, despite the disinheritance of a less-Imagethan-compliant daughter, the taming of an obstinate wife, and the inevitable insanity of the power-hungry femme fatale, it’s cool for a feminist to be into Shakespeare, because he’s good. He’s THAT good.

However, I am continually posed with that question in my current intellectual pursuit:

“You’re a feminist; how could you be into rap, what with all of the ‘bitches’ and the ‘hos?'”

Because, I say, like any art, when rap is good, it’s THAT good.

Why is it totally acceptable to give Shakespeare props for his skills, despite his apparent misogyny, but not, say, Ice Cube? I think it has something to do with who gets to define art. While our cultural reverence for Shakespeare stems from the way that he kicks ass with English (Sound and fury? Damn right.), it is made unquestionable by our acceptance of his stories as universal and his skill as peerless. His cultural position is dominant, white, male. However, we, even feminists, let him speak for us, because he does it so good.

So, Ice Cube brings a perspective that is not just different from that of theImage accepted universal, it is downright unsettling, to understate the matter. It is unsettling in that it doesn’t fit nicely into the cultural definition of art. It can’t. It comes from an angry, black dude, and that angry, black dude could not possibly represent the universal, according to the dominant (white, male) definition.

So, we dis it. It is violent. It is misogynistic. It disturbs the shit that makes us comfortable.

Guess what? That’s art. And, guess what else? When it’s done by the likes of Cube, it’s peerless: the man can rap. Yes, he is THAT good.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

When Hamlet accosts his mother and mind-trips his girlfriend, it’s totally cool because Gertrude’s tumble into “incestuous sheets,” means that Ophelia is sure to be Hamlet’s 100th problem. Yeah, go ahead and mess with your girlfriend’s head to fulfill your revenge fantasy against your mother: “Frailty, thy name is woman.”

ImageWhen Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy blast through America and the “awfully dumb…sweet little girl[s],” we are quick to forgive their youthful indiscretions because they are rebelling against the stifling square-ness of the 1950’s, and because Kerouac does it with such frantic, insanely sexy lyricism: “…I knew there’d be girls, visions, everything…”

When Anna Karenina finally offs herself, the only thing she CAN do in Tolstoy’s Russia (she did cheat on her husband, after all, and he’s got a rep and a fortune to defend, yo), we praise the beauty of the tragic love story: “Sensual desire indulged for its own sake is the misuse of something sacred.” That is, if it’s a woman’s indulgence.

Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t go mad for these writers. They are amazing, and they tell stories of the human condition in ways that challenge and move us. My point is, though, that this power of (seemingly universal, but, almost always white and male) art is not found only within literature; it is found in a good rapper’s flow.

When Ice Cube claims that “Life ain’t nothin’ but bitches and money,” he is, as a matter of fact, speaking from the same misogynist universal as all the rest of these dudes, it just happens to arise from the culturally oppressed, rather than the culturally dominant. More importantly, his flow is so urgent, so angry, and so damn smooth against Dre’s hard-driving, irresistible beat, that his mastery is undeniable. So, I give him much respect: “Even saw the lights of the Goodyear blimp, and it read ‘Ice Cube’s a pimp.'”

As for my take on Norman Mailer and Eminem, I’d really like to claim that I represent as a feminist, but, like Jay-Z says, “Ladies is pimps, too.”

By Jane Wendorff-Craps, English Faculty. 

Real experiences for the real world. Such is the focus of experiential teaching and applied degrees.  That seems logical and certainly applicable in business and computer fields, and even quite necessary in the medical field.  Yet, “true to life fiction,” isn’t that something like “military intelligence”?

Hamlet is a staple. It is a foundational piece taught in high schools and universities worldwide.  Even so, as an instructor I find myself giving the same sales pitch each time I assign it as required reading.  “Why do we have to read such antiquated literature?”  “Ugh, Shakespeare.”  “People don’t act that way anymore; what a waste of my time.”  These are the G-rated comments offered by students.

If only I heard, “Hooray, Shakespearean drama!  I could sure learn a lot about human behavior when reading that!”

Fast forward a few days after reading Act 4 of Hamlet.  Picture a group of athletes standing around a vending machine discussing that “rank dude” at the party last night.

“Yeah, no one would believe you if you told that story about him; everyone likes him and thinks he’s the bomb.”  “He’s such a fake.”

“Well, what if we have Gary talk to him and get him to say it out loud, and we could be standing behind some lockers and have all the other guys hear what a jerk he is. Then they’d believe us.”

“Aw heck yeah, let’s bring him down.”

Fast forward back in class the next day. We are discussing the next act in Hamlet where everyone dies (“Aw man, that is totally cool. Why didn’t you tell us there would be a fight to the death, prof?”).

So class, what happens before everyone dies?  “Well, the king is exposed as a liar and murderer.  Hamlet gets his honor back. And Laertes forgives Hamlet because he realizes he was just a victim of circumstance.”  Great class, it looks like you’re ready for the quiz. “Arg.”

However, let us look at this a little closer. Say you have some fellow students in class with you.  And say one of them wants to set up another classmate to hurt him in some way. All the while, other classmates are “hiding behind the arras” watching it all unfold. Does this remind you of anything?

“Aw dude, that’s so cold. It’s like the king and Polonius setting up Hamlet.”

“Yeah, and later when the king and Laertes set him up again in hopes to knock him off.”

That’s right class. Why would a person do something like that?

“Power trip.”  “Mean spirited.” “Revenge.” “Make yourself look better than the other person.”

Sure, all those seem reasonable. Do people do things like that these days, or is that just a Shakespearean thing?

Silence. Exchanged glances. Lowered heads.  Student, thy name is Laertes.