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Archive for November, 2012

I have been meaning to throw events at you for a while.

I have said it here and here, but I cannot recommend going to see adaptations of works you’re studying enough. Do it! Get your school to pay! (If that’s how it works.)

For all Shakespeare events going on in Cardiff, this blog is indispensable. It’s also full of interesting articles that are worth reading if you have time.

NUMBER 1

Richard Burton on the set of Under Milk Wood

In just under two weeks, Chapter Arts Centre is screening the first ever adaptation of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood, starring Richard Burton. The film’s director, Andrew Sinclair, will be there to answer questions. This is such a good opportunity – definitely try and go! Here’s the facebook page with more information.

NUMBER 2

Llandaff Musical Society are taking on Charles Dickens’s Christmas story Pickwick, based on his Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. For any students studying Dickens, consume as much as you can! Overload yourself with Dickens! Get totally Dickensed. Information is here.

NUMBER 3

BLOOD BROTHERS! IN FEBRUARY! IN CARDIFF! Lots of schools study this for GCSE so plan ahead and get it booked. For more information click here.

NUMBER 4

Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong isn’t on the WJEC syllabus but I read it this summer and I did a post on it so I’m selfishly including it here. I’m really interested to see how this works on stage. The BBC reworked it for TV only last year so there are plenty of adaptations out there for you to compare and contrast. It also links well with the World War I poetry some schools look at for GCSE. Book your tickets here.

NUMBER 5

Can you believe it! Another WJEC text on stage at the New Theatre! Unbelievable scenes! Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby has been turned into a ballet. Admittedly, this won’t be useful if you wanted to digest Fitzgerald’s words, but it’s always exciting when a text gets translated into a medium you did not expect. And if you’re really desperate for some words, Baz Luhrmann has only gone and done a Hollywood film for you. It could not be easier to get out and experience the texts you come across in the classroom.

Happy watching! x

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DING DING CORRECT

Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman is not a poem.

But I wanted to write about it because 1) so many schools doing the WJEC board do it for A Level 2) I am nostalgically looking over the notes I made for it when I did my A Level and 3) people often assume that the prose passages in plays do not require the kind of analysis and close-reading you would give to a poem.

You can tear apart prose as much as you would a poem. Be just as creative with it. Even stage directions are falling over themselves to hand you good essay points. Especially Miller’s stage directions.

I want to look at the very end of Death of a Salesman – Linda’s farewell speech to Willy. It is tragic, despairing – but ambiguous. Is it happy or sad? I don’t know! Let us see, shall we!

“Linda: I’ll be with you in a minute. Go on, Charley. (He hesitates.) I want to, just for a minute. I never had a chance to say good-bye.

Charley moves away, followed by Happy. Biff remains a slight distance up and left of Linda. She sits there, summoning herself. The flute begins, not far away, playing behind her speech.

Linda: Forgive me, dear. I can’t cry. I don’t know what it is, but I can’t cry. I don’t understand it. Why did you ever do that? Help me, Willy, I can’t cry. It seems to me that you’re just on another trip. I keep expecting you, Willy, dear, I can’t cry. Why did you do it? I search and search and I search, and I can’t understand it, Willy. I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there’ll be nobody home. (A sob rises in her throat.) We’re free and clear. (Sobbing more fully, released.) We’re free. (Biff comes slowly towards her). We’re free… We’re free.”

So the Loman family are at Willy’s funeral. And nobody has turned up. This passage is often interpreted as a final note from Miller on the frustrating, and endless disappointment of life in a capitalist society – on the brutal pointlessness of Willy’s death, and the emptiness he has left behind. But there is something equally uplifting about this final speech, and it can be found in very small touches.

  1. Look at words like “summoning” and “released” in the stage directions. Combine this with the ethereal sound of the flute in the background, the word “free”, and that ellipsis (the ‘…’) right at the end. They make this conclusion strangely spiritual – definitely not the feel of everything that has come before.
  2. The flute: this music keeps drifting on stage at significant points during the play. It opens the play, described as “small and fine, telling of grass and trees and the horizon.” It is immediately something otherworldly, transcending the ugly tower-blocks that form the backdrop to the play. It speaks of dreams not yet realised; a sad reminder of the distant world outside the Loman family. But it is not completely hopeless. At other points in the play, it appears when Willy recalls a happy memory. Therefore there is always a kind of sweet sadness attached to the sound of the flute, and it is that tension that is reproduced here at the end: Linda’s regret at losing Willy mingled with a sense of freedom that the burden of loving, and pitying, and caring for Willy, has evaporated. 
  3. In this way, “summoning” and “released” are fitting descriptions for Linda here. ‘Summoning herself’ is Linda attempting to gain self-control, but ‘summoning’ can easily suggest the summoning of spirits – of a ghostly Willy figure that Linda must let go of. Here is the crunch of the passage – the final confrontation with an invisible, but tangible Willy figure, and the friction this creates. This  forms the top of the speech, where Linda insists, again and again, on her inability to cry. We are “free and clear” she says, where ‘clear’ is a financial term referring to the final payment on the house. But then the passage slips quietly into a new mood. Linda drops the word ‘clear’, and suddenly they are simply ‘free’. The ‘we’ seems no longer to include Willy, but instead the new Loman unit – Linda, Biff and Happy – however disjointed a unit they may remain. And now the tears come easily! She is “released.” Willy’s death could be seen as solving more problems than he is given credit for.
  4. If you ever see an ellipsis in ANYTHING I would jump straight on it. Why would a writer need to use three full stops in a row? It’s got past an editor for a reason. Ellipses create space. They really stretch out and open up a sentence. “We’re free… we’re free.” It’s like it marks the passing of Willy, easing away gently.  Or it’s a breath – of relief, or of satisfaction.

Look! So many possibilities! Who knows what the real answer is!

Also the 1985 film of Death of a Salesman with Dustin Hoffman playing Willy is good. It’s all over YouTube.

Curtain. x

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Guess whose lovely long locks earned him the nickname ‘The Lady’?

Back in the yonder years of my degree, I once remarked that Milton’s Paradise Lost felt really ‘cinematic’ at times and should be made into a film. Oh how they laughed! Seventeenth century Milton on FILM? they said, you must be JOKING they said. Ha ha, I said, I was only joking. Obviously.

But ALAS, imagine my elation, shared by nobody, when a few weeks later I read that Paradise Lost was actually being made into a real life film, starring real life actors, with BRADLEY COOPER as Satan.

Seriously!

I scorned all those non-believers! Bradley Cooper and I share the same artistic vision, I cried, and nobody gets us!

(A few weeks later it turned out that the film was being pulled because of a lack of funding. The dream is dead.)

By ‘cinematic’ I mean visual, atmospheric, colourful, panoramic – loaded with sequences that run as if being shot for film. See if you agree with me.

(Also, Milton is what you would call ‘syntactically complex’. The language is difficult because the sentences are long – very long. Numerous phrases are jammed into what is technically one sentence so it can be hard to keep up. I talked about how to break down these sentences in my post about Keats, which might be useful here.)

PASSAGE NUMERO UNO

I’ve picked out two of my favourite descriptive passages. The first one comes from Book IX and is just after Eve has eaten the apple. This section is powerfully atmospheric. It is a seismic, tragic moment in the poem; as paradise literally crumbles away, the entire scene is overcome with apocalyptic darkness. And oppressive awareness of the irrevocable. Let me throw even more words at you! We can really feel the whole earth shifting as Adam and Eve fall inescapably into sin. Here it is:

“She gave him of that fair enticing fruit

With liberal hand: he scrupled not to eat

Against his better knowledge, not deceived,

But fondly overcome with female charm.

Earth trembled from her entrails, as again

In pangs, and Nature gave a second groan;

Sky loured, and muttering thunder, some sad drops

Wept at completing of the mortal sin

Original; while Adam took no thought,

Eating his fill, nor Eve to iterate

Her former trespass feared, the more to soothe

Him with her loved society, that now 

As with new wine intoxicated both

They swim in mirth, and fancy that they feel

Divinity within them breeding wings.” 

1) Look at how bodily the ‘earth’ becomes. Not only is it feminised with the feminine pronoun ‘her’, but “entrails” paired with “pangs” in the next line is enough to suggest that we are speaking of the womb of the earth. But it goes further than ‘womb’; “entrails” is the gut, the innermost parts, repulsive when exposed. Earth, like Adam and Eve, is slashed open – bared and stark.

2) It is almost as if the earth shares in Eve’s newly spoiled womanhood. The phrase “in pangs”, certainly in the context Milton places it, seems to mean labour pains. Next to “entrails” and “groan” later in the line, we get the feeling that earth is literally giving birth to a new kind of existence. This foreshadows the pronouncement from God that we are about to get in Book X, where He tells Eve “children thou shalt bring / In sorrow forth.” Her punishment is explicitly pain during labour. Paradise Lost is saturated with this kind of birthing imagery; think of all the incestuous pregnancies of Sin. Impregnation and expulsion are generally negative images for Milton. Not completely sure why. I will leave that to the psychoanalysts.

3) The language of proliferation also has unusually bad vibes for Milton. Adam and Eve’s false sense of joy is said to be “breeding” within them. You can almost hear Milton’s tone of disgust. Now that the forbidden apple has been eaten, sin multiplies uncontrollably, reproducing itself over and over. It is this lack of control that makes Milton shudder. On the theme of corruption, he describes how the two are “with new wine intoxicated.” Now they consume fermented fruit – degraded forms of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Heady Adam and Eve have lost self-control; the solidity of the scene slips away and the downfall has begun. That might feel like I’m pushing it too far but I promise that you can never push it FAR ENOUGH.

I think this passage (there is a lot more if you go back to this part in the poem) feels like the sign of impending tragedy in a disaster movie – in my Paradise Lost film that never was – where forces act unstoppably and humans are powerless to stop them.

PASSAGE NUMERO TWO

In mine and Bradley’s hypothetical Hollywood movie, this is the bit where the bad guys get their comeuppance. Here the devils merrily convene with Satan post-apple-gate only to be turned into serpents no thanks to God.

“So having said, a while he stood, expecting

Their universal shout and high applause

To fill his ear, when contrary he hears

On all sides, from innumerable tongues

A dismal universal hiss, the sound

Of public scorn; he wondered, but not long

Had leisure, wond’ring at himself now more;

His visage drawn he felt to sharp and spare,

His arms clung to his ribs, his legs entwining

Each other, till supplanted down he fell

A monstrous serpent on his belly prone,

Reluctant, but in vain; a greater power

Now ruled him, punished in the shape he sinned”

Important here is Milton’s sense of noise and movement. His brain seems to work pictorially – as in, what words will convey with the most realness and vividness the picture I have in my brain? He really helps us visualise the scene.

1) SOUND: Just as Milton is describing the voice of the serpent crowd, he throws in a surge of S sounds: ‘dismal universal hiss‘. Sounds like a snake. Pretty sneaky huh.

2) MOVEMENT: First we get one action – Satan’s transmutation – broken up into mini close ups: “arms clung to his ribs”, “legs entwining”, “down he fell.” Then Milton sweeps back outwards to take in the whole picture: “dreadful was the din / Of hissing through the hall, thick swarming now / With complicated monsters.” The two combined really pad out the scene. It is all packaged and ready for a film-maker’s storyboard.

Dear Hollywood director, please recommission Paradise Lost. It could be so good! Or really bad.

UNTIL NEXT TIME x

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YES.

You might hear people talking about the ‘biography’ of the poet, or the ‘biographical context’ of the poem. This means personal stuff about the poet’s life that could have influenced their writing in some way. There are plenty of arguments put forward for the need to understand the psychology of a poet before you can fully understand their poetry. I’m not completely sure how true that is; I think you can do a lot with just the language. But where they come from, when they come from, and then your own guesses as to why they write poetry, are undeniably important. Take time to read up on a poet. I highly recommend a speedy browse of Wikipedia at the very least.  If you can demonstrate awareness of the period in which a poet writes, and the factors that might have compelled them to write, then I guarantee your answer will be better. Be as comprehensive as possible. Your analysis of the language will be authoritative if propped up with some nice history. Just don’t let it take over an answer. You are not writing a history essay.

If you have a few minutes, why not get some facts together and make a video like me to celebrate your favourite poet? What do you mean ‘that’s WEIRD’? That’s what all the kids are doing these days!

Making learning fun, friends.

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I here decree it time for another medieval post. Let us begynne.

I came across this really good blog full of interesting things about medieval literature. There’s lots on Chaucer so definitely have a look.

It guilt-tripped me into posting about Chaucer and throwing as many exciting, stimulating, awe-inspiring facts into the online nethersphere as possible. So lat me torne to my tale ageyn.

In case you’ve forgotten what he looks like, this is what he looks like:

THE BIG G

In my spare time I like to sit around and picture this respectable, clerkly Chaucer figure secretly sniggering at the filthiness and explosive slapstick of his tales. Sometimes I do other stuff in my spare time.

THE MILLER’S TALE

This tale is probably the most fun. You can really hear Chaucer having fun. I promise you’ll have fun – ARE YOU HAVING FUN YET?

In terms of getting started with Chaucer’s language, have a look at the first post I did.

Some things to remember:

  • Each of The Canterbury Tales is told by a different character on the pilgrimage. This means Chaucer is telling a story about people telling stories. It also means that he is writing as if he were that character. Look out for places where we can really detect Chaucer’s own voice breaking through his character’s tale.
  • The tales are all written in different medieval styles and genres. These include the beast fable (Nun’s Priest’s Tale), the hagiography (Second Nun’s Tale), the morality tale (Monk’s Tale) and the fabliaux. You MUST be sensitive to the fact that Chaucer is always attempting to reconstruct a certain literary formula. Sometimes he parodies it, sometimes he develops it, other times he just leaves it. He returns obsessively to the idea of representation – to all the hundreds of different ways to tell a story. It’s never just about the content of the tales. Take note of the genre, the voice, the references, the tone, etc.

The Fabliaux: 

These kind of tales are Chaucer’s most evidently comic; they are rambunctious, slapstick, noisy, sex-obsessed, bodily. The fabliau is also the most represented genre among all the tales.

And now to a brilliant passage from The Miller’s Tale, probably Chaucer’s most perfect reproduction of the typical ‘fabliau’. There’s a love triangle, and plenty of sex and pranks. This bit comes during the night where Alison is in bed with her lover Nicholas, while her husband is shut up in a barrel downstairs. Another admirer of her’s, Absolon, comes calling at her window. Absolon doesn’t quite get the kiss he was hoping for from his lady.

The wyndow she undoth, and that in haste.

“Have do,” quod she, “com of, and speed the faste,

Lest that our neighebores thee espie.”

This Absolon gan wype his mouth ful drie.

Derk was the nyght as pich, or as the cole,

And at the wyndow out she putte hir hole,

And Absolon, hym fil no bet ne wers,

But with his mouth he kiste hir naked ers

Ful savourly, er he were war of this.

Abak he stirte, and thoughte it was amys,

For wel he wiste a womman hath no berd.

He felte a thyng al rough and long yherd,

And seyde, “Fy, allas! what have I do?”

“Tehee!” quod she, and clapte the wyndow to,

And Absolon gooth forth a sory pas.”

I don’t know about you, but I certainly did not expect medieval English to be quite so… rude, when I first studied it at A Level. This kind of explicit and irreverent bawdiness is entirely in keeping with the typical medieval fabliau. This genre loves to turn things upside down; saying things it shouldn’t say, humiliating characters in authority, and often privileging the immoral.

Let’s look at the LANGUAGE here:

– Chaucer is masterful when it comes to representing speech and making it sound natural, colloquial and realistic, and then integrating it right into the verse. Look at ‘”have do,” quod she, “com of, and speede the faste”‘. A phrase like “com of” would not be used outside speech, but it fits the punchy iambic beat of the verse, “have DO” and “com OF.” Alison’s “Tehee” at the end is very famous! Also just a note here: “the” is a shortened version of “thee”, as in ‘you’. It’s really easy to read it just as ‘the’ and end up completely confused.

– Note the really whole, bright, monosyllabic rhyming words. Always inevitable, they help reinforce the metrical pattern, ending the line on a clear sounding note and packing the verse up into its rhyming pairs. The rhymes are almost deliberately coarse, the words bare-faced: “cole” rhymes with Alison’s “hole”, and “ers” (that’s arse) rhymes with “wers.” It’s like a medieval limerick.

– Sometimes there are roughly two parts to each line: they bounce along, going up and down like a nursery rhyme. It really emphasises the tale’s strong, constant metrical rhythm. Look at “The wyndow she undoth, and that in haste” and “Abak he stirte, and thoughte it was amys”

– We often find that Chaucer rhymes words that in modern English do not sound similar, such as the top two, “haste” and “faste.” Places like this provide clues as to how medieval people pronounced certain words. They are still rhyming words! Don’t overlook them.

And to end:

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Apologia Pro Poemate Meo – Wilfred Owen

I, too, saw God through mud—
The mud that cracked on cheeks when wretches smiled.
War brought more glory to their eyes than blood,
And gave their laughs more glee than shakes a child.

Merry it was to laugh there—
Where death becomes absurd and life absurder.
For power was on us as we slashed bones bare
Not to feel sickness or remorse of murder.

I, too, have dropped off fear—
Behind the barrage, dead as my platoon,
And sailed my spirit surging, light and clear,
Past the entanglement where hopes lie strewn;

And witnessed exhultation—
Faces that used to curse me, scowl for scowl,
Shine and lift up with passion of oblation,
Seraphic for an hour, though they were foul.

I have made fellowships—
Untold of happy lovers in old song.
For love is not the binding of fair lips
With the soft silk of eyes that look and long.

By joy, whose ribbon slips,—
But wound with war’s hard wire whose stakes are strong;
Bound with the bandage of the arm that drips;
Knit in the welding of the rifle-thong.

I have perceived much beauty
In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight;
Heard music in the silentness of duty;
Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.

Nevertheless, except you share
With them in hell the sorrowful dark of hell,
Whose world is but a trembling of a flare
And heaven but a highway for a shell,

You shall not hear their mirth:
You shall not come to think them well content
By any jest of mine. These men are worth
Your tears: You are not worth their merriment.

What do you think it means? Which part is the most striking?

The kind of distorted, feverish “joy” Owen describes – a happiness intensified but equally suffocated by the presence of war, “wound with war’s hard wire whose stakes are strong”, is something Sebastian Faulks describes in his novel Birdsong. 

Compare it with this passage from the novel:

“At its best it was like pride. They had seen things no human eyes had looked on before, and they had not turned their gaze away. They were in their own view a formidable group of men. No inferno would now melt them, no storm destroy, because they had seen the worst and they had survived. Stephen felt, at the better moments, the love for them that Gray had demanded. Their desperate courage, born from necessity, was nevertheless endearing. The grimmer, harder, more sardonic they became, the more he cared for them. Still he could not quite believe them; he could not comprehend the lengths to which they allowed themselves to be driven. […] They were built to endure and to resist; they looked like passive creatures adapting to the hell of circumstances that oppressed them. Yet, Stephen knew, they had locked up in their hearts the horror of what they had seen, and their jovial pride in their resilience was not convincing. They boasted in a mocking way of what they had seen and done; but in their sad faces wrapped in rags he saw the burden of their unwanted knowledge.”

Like I said before, the key to understanding a poem is to honestly register your emotional reaction to it. Wilfred Owen’s poems, and all the prose they inspired, (Faulks is known to have been influenced by Owen’s poetry), should make this easy. Be self-analytical when deciding what phrases upset/disturb you. If you do this, honestly and non-dramatically, you will be able to explain what you think a poem means so much more convincingly.

If you want to read more analysis of war poetry, visit this excellent blog, written by a professor of English Literature.

Lest we forget x

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HELLO CLASS

LECTURE TIME

Things to remember when close reading a poem, or part of a play:

  • You’re still always answering a question. In an exam, the question will pick up on a particular theme of the poem and will ask you to demonstrate how the poet works through this theme. This means picking up on points of language that relate to this theme, like ‘loneliness’ or ‘mother/son relationships’. You HAVE to use the language to answer the question; it is the only evidence you have. But only talk about points of language that are relevant to the question. Don’t just bombard your answer with random stuff. (Obviously if you are just annotating a poem in class, this doesn’t apply. In that situation, tear apart the poem completely.)
  • So this means being very SELECTIVE when writing your answer. Go through the poem line by line, and circle anything you feel relates to the theme addressed in the question. You will more than likely have too much to put in one answer, so prioritise your points. It is much better to talk about one point in depth, and really push your analysis as far as you can, than sprinkle your answer with point after point and never really move beyond the surface.
  • This means that you should NEVER just list what you see, i.e. ‘here Keats uses a metaphor’. You must always say WHY. You must always give the effect of this and make clear how it is relevant to the question.
  • Make sure you have an overriding point to make. In your opening paragraph, state, for example, how Keats generally treats the theme of loneliness in the poem. You might say, ‘In this poem, Keats is despairing about the oppressiveness of loneliness.’ Then you would produce points that support that. But to give your answer more depth, always look for places where you can contradict yourself. You might say: ‘But in other places, Keats seems to cherish the idea of solitude’. Do not be afraid to DISAGREE WITH YOURSELF. No poet ever produces a poem that is free of contradictions, or presents a perfectly consistent treatment of a certain topic. That is not how the human brain works. And this is never more apparent than when a poet tries to put a jumbled mesh of thoughts down on paper. Contradictions SHOULD be there. Drag them out.

END LECTURE

Here are the points I’d be making if I was asked to talk about female cruelty in this passage from Shakespeare’s King Lear:

Behold yond simp’ring dame,

Whose face between her forks presages snow;

That minces virtue, and does shake the head

To hear of pleasure’s name;

The fitchew nor the soiled horse goes to’t

With a more riotous appetite.

Down from the waist they are Centaurs,

Though women all above:

But to the girdle do the Gods inherit,

Beneath is all the fiend’s: there’s hell, there’s darkness,

There is the sulphurous pit – burning, scalding,

Stench, consumption; fie, fie, fie! pah, pah!

‘They are Centaurs’: Lear’s evil daughters, Goneril and Regan, are repeatedly described as carnivorous, predatory animals. Albany famously calls them “Tigers, not daughters” and Gloucester disgustedly refers to Goneril’s “rash boarish fangs.” Here is another animal reference, and the fact that it is a centaur, part man, part animal, is the PERFECT image to encapsulate the real ambiguity of the whole play. Animal imagery works to dehumanise the women, stripping them of the compassion and empathy that distinguishes the human race from animals. Remember that an important question asked throughout King Lear is WHAT IS MAN? The play’s answer to this always returns tentatively to the feeling that ‘man’ is at least kinder, and more sensitive than animals. But the answer is ambiguous because it certainly cannot apply to so many of the ‘human beings’ that we watch cause unfathomable destruction and despair throughout the play. We see a degenerate people, blurring the line between human and animal that has helped to demarcate ‘human’ identity. The ‘centaur’, a man/animal hybrid, is the ideal image to contain all this confusion.

“Beneath is all the fiend’s”: That means exactly what you think it means. The top half of a woman may look pretty nice and virtuous, but when you reach the terrifying PIT OF DESPAIR below their waist, they are revealed to be rampant, destructive nymphomaniacs. Goneril and Regan’s vicious animality is always implicitly linked to a ‘monstrous’ female sexuality; violent, powerful, but always degenerate. They stand in stark contrast to the holiness of Cordelia, something made very apparent here with the cluster of ‘hell’ images: firstly the ‘fiend’, i.e. the devil, “hell”, “darkness”, “sulphurous pit”, “burning.”The last 3 lines see Lear overcome with emotion as he excoriates (current favourite word) his daughters. These lines burst out of a structured sentence pattern; instead words follow on relentlessly from each other as Lear’s rage consumes the verse: “There is the sulphurous pit – burning, scalding, / Stench, consumption; fie, fie, fie! pah, pah!” The last five monosyllabic (i.e. ONE syllable) words are effective staccato punches to close this outburst. As much as they are noises of disgust, and of exasperation, they also sound like the hissing, and boiling of the female sulphurous pit Lear is obsessed with. This is an incredibly potent image of female cruelty. ALWAYS look for places from Act 3 onwards where Lear’s language becomes like this: disorganised, rambling, unrestrained. Gone are his eloquent and poised speeches of Act 1. His breakdown of language signals his impending madness.

“Behold yond simp’ring dame”: Note Lear’s ‘presentational’ style here. The ‘behold’ allows Lear to introduce the topic like a learned schoolmaster presenting a case-study. This style is very typical of Lear (and a lot of the other men in the play) when they try to sum up women. It begins in such an orderly fashion – the man thrusting his own interpretation of women on his audience. But as Lear finds by the end of this passage, there is no ‘neat’ interpretation of ‘woman’. As he tries to pin the female sex down, his definition spirals out of control. The sudden rush of words escape him and he is only able to produce inarticulate sounds, ‘fie’ and ‘pah’. The suggestion here is that ‘woman’ is massively more complicated and independent of male categorisation than Lear thought.

Okay I’m all Leared lectured out. Class dismissed.

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