Ryan's post brought a whole new aspect to this play that I had never considered before. Since our class is so focused on religious themes in these works, I never really think of historical context outside of that. Ryan says that he first studied this play in an Irish literature class. I did not look up the history of Beckett or Waiting for Godot, so I did not realize this was a staple in Irish literature. I am familiar with the struggles between the Irish and the British. With that in mind, Ryan points out that Pozzo's arrogance is a parallel to how the British felt they were rulers (or lords, if you will) over Ireland. I only saw Pozzo as seeing himself as a god/God, so it was interesting to have this other perspective. Also, I am glad that Ryan mentioned that he saw a film version of this play (if I am remembering that correctly...) because I think this is a production that I'd need to actually see, as oppose to read, to appreciate more.
Waiting for Godot
I had a sort of strange reaction to this play. I think that, without a doubt, it is the most beautifully written piece of work we have read in class so far. I mean, this section gives me chills:
"Vladimir: Two thieves, crucified at the same time as our Savior. One -
Estragon: Saved from what?
Estragon: I'm going. [He does not move.]" (p. 4)
This section is very simple, yet very powerful at the same time. But, on the flip side, there are times where this play lost me. Especially when Lucky and Pozzo enter for the first time. It actually took me a couple of lines to realize that, despite the fact that Pozzo would refer to Lucky as "pig" or "swine", he was actually a man. This play is so dependent on a simple set and driven by the gorgeous dialogue, that I think sometimes its impact is lost when it is read, not seen.
But, this play really is beautifully written. It is such a wonderful allegory. I spent nearly the whole time trying to figure out who/what Godot was. Because the first three letters of the word spell God, I was wondering if that was a clue. Maybe God was going to join the men in the form of another homeless man? Or I thought the tree could be some parallel to the burning bush, in the story of Moses.
So, obviously I was disappointed that we did not learn who or what Godot is. But, the play is an allegory, so obviously Vladimir and Estragon (side note: I resent Beckett for naming a character "Estragon". I kept reading his name as estrogen) are not waiting for nothing. The real question is: what does their waiting symbolize?
It just seems to be an allegory for Christianity in general. Our two protagonists wait for Godot on pure faith. These men have absolutely nothing in their lives, they are completely down on their luck. They even contemplate hanging themselves. Yet they still wait for Godot, because it will be worth it. The character of Pozzo seems to symbolize the fact that, according to Christianity, the wicked will pay for said wickedness. One scene Pozzo is abusing poor, innocent Lucky. Next time those character appear, Pozzo is suddenly blind.
Speaking of those two, I would've liked to see a happier ending for Lucky. Or any sort of ending, I guess. I was very perplexed by Lucky's significance in this story. Here is an intelligent human being, and everyone that he comes into contact with couldn't care less about him. Another interesting aspect of the character is his name, Lucky. Why did Beckett choose that name? The other three characters have fairly unusual names, yet we have a character named Lucky. I have not been able to figure that one out yet.
Murder in the Cathedral
Although I did have some mixed feelings on certain parts of Waiting for Godot, I really liked it overall. So, it was pretty rough for to transition into Murder in the Cathedral. Waiting for Godot had such simple writing, yet it was still beautiful. And it still read as dialogue really people would read. Murder in the Cathedral read to me like medieval poetry. When I read plays, I visualize what this would look like as a production. So, I visualize what these characters would look and sound like saying the lines. The lines in Murder in the Cathedral is just not dialogue I can picture people actually saying. I'm honestly still struggling though it. Hopefully I can find something I enjoy out of it before our class on Monday.
The humorous aspect of the masque that Ben Jonson wrote stood out to both Ben (McCormick) and myself. I was a little shocked that a religious ceremony would include any sort of humor, and Ben echoed my own thoughts in his post. He wrote, "What I find hilarious is the humor involved in the work that makes me wonder if Jonson is really that dumb or if he's the most courageous critical playwright of his time. "
I never really thought of Ben Jonson as being brave and standing up to the king until I read Ben's post. Honestly, I sort of thought of the masques as a silly little ceremony. I didn't think about the bigger consequences they could have on people who performed in them, viewed them, or wrote them. Ben writes in his post about a point we talked about in last week's class - is it better to be a dead lion or a live rat? I definitely agree with Ben's answer, regarding Ben Jonson. Jonson is definitely a lion, as opposed to a rat. Ben's post gave me a new appreciation for "Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue."
While I read this play, I had a realization about what made this work different than our other readings. For the first time, religious themes were not bluntly stated or obviously hinted out. Most of our readings laid everything out for us. With The Tempest, I really had to search out and think about how this reading related to our class. Most weeks, I mention the progression in writing styles with each play. With The Tempest, I think William Shakespeare brings a sophistication to religious-themed writing. By not overtly stating the themes, he makes his readers/audience really think about and consider what is happening within the play.
For example, instead of casting God as a character, like our earlier readings would do, Shakespeare just creates ordinary characters. They get into certain situations, and sometimes they do bad things. So, as Christianity teaches us, there are consequences for bad actions. The character of Ariel is a reminder of that. In Act III, Scene III, the men are discussing the idea of murdering another man. Ariel comes in, like an angelic figure, and say, "You fools! I and my fellows are ministers of Fate..." (p. 46). Ariel goes on and accuses the men of being sinners:
"They have bereft; and do pronounce by me: Lingering perdition - worse than death can be at once - shall step by step attend you and your ways..." (p. 46)
I wonder though what Shakespeare's intention of adding religious themes was. Did he truly care about it? Was it pressures from his society - whether it be by authorities or readers - to add religious themes? Or did he do it for the benefit of his characters?
Pleasure Reconciled to Virtue
As I read the introduction to this reading, this portion stuck out to me:
"jumbled the heraldic and mythical figures together in strange profusion; it was both comic and serious, and anything but realistic..." (p. 1)
I always thought of rituals worshipping deities to be so serious. I find very surprising that there were comic elements to some of these ceremonies. I assumed these people would be afraid to do something that could be misconstrued as being disrespectful to God. Also, I found it very interesting that the participants in these masques intended to lose money. How would they continue to do masques if they had no money? Regardless, I think it was very fitting that we were assigned to read a masque along with a Shakespeare play this week. I saw "As You Like It" this summer. This was the first time I saw a Shakespeare story as a play - not as a movie with a modern twist. Shakespeare's writing rings reminiscent of the extravagance of masques.
But on that note, I found the masque to be hard to read, since it is largely just a series of songs. It doesn't translate to text well, I think. It is clearly a spectacle meant to be viewed, not read about. But obviously, we are at a disadvantage here, since masques are no longer performed. So, we are just left to imagine what they would look and sound like.
I enjoyed reading Taylor's post, because she took her post in a direction that is very different than what I tend to do. While I've been focusing strictly on the religious and theatrical aspects, Taylor goes beyond that and also includes sociological and historical themes. Taylor brought up one point that I found particularly interesting:
"As Father said in class, it was absolutely forbidden to write abut religious controversial subjects in the 1530s and further. So, it makes you wonder what a play written at that time would actually be like. I’m inclined to think it would be not as enjoyable. Especially after reading Vitus, it is easy to imagine an overly didactic, yet mildly subjected play, but even worse!"
I never considered this point. I have openly admitted that some of our earlier readings haven't really held my attention. But I never thought about the reasons why the plays were written like they were. If these playwrights wrote something the clergy found just too controversial, it could've had bad conse
A Man of All Seasons
As I began to read A Man for All Seasons, I noticed that this is the first time we really are reading a story. While we have been reading plays all semester long, I’ve felt like our previous readings have really only been to teach a lesson. I mean, many of the supporting characters in last week’s readings were not people but feelings or abstract ideas. Now, we have dialogue between actual people. And while this play is told for its religious themes, we now actually have a story that goes a long with it, which definitely makes it easier to read.
Another progression I’ve noticed are some theatrical tactics that are still in use today. Bolt uses the character of Common Man to act as a narrator. However, the Common Man breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience. I’ve always enjoyed plays, films, and television shows that use this tactic. I think it brings a great deal of humor to a production. It also captures the attention of the audience and holds it throughout the show. For example, the play starts out with the Common man conversing with the audience. He goes as far as to tell the audience that he wishes he could’ve come on stage naked; that he would’ve shown the audience something that words could not convey. Although he is a character in the play, he pokes fun at the playwright:
“And an intellectual would have shown enough majestic meanings, colored propositions, and closely woven liturgical stuff to dress the House of the Lords. But this!” (p. 3)
I think the Common Man is a very important character in this play. I feel like in our past readings, when a certain character is meant to represent all of humanity, that person is a sinner. A character we are supposed to dislike and look down upon. However, the Common Man is just a normal man. I think this represents the progression of Christianity. In our readings that took place earlier on in Christianity, I felt like narrators were portrayed as sinners, not humans. But we have now reached the point in Christianity where people can be just people. They are no longer defined by their sins.
Bolt wrote the play in historical fiction, which has always been a genre that has fascinated me. I think it is so interesting how writers can get into the heads of historical figures and create rich stories about them. This is actually the easiest and most enjoyable way for me to read religious literature.
The first thing that struck me about Luther was the stage directions. Oh, the stage directions. There were certain pages where there were more stage directions than dialogue. That made the play very hard to follow. The first twenty pages or so also felt like I was reading twenty pages of characters praying, on top of all the stage directions. Needless to say, I had a tricky time getting through this play. I think reading about characters praying is pointless for readers. It in no way has the same affect as participating in prayer.
Needless to say, I enjoyed A Man of For All Seasons more than Luther. I think this particular piece showed a more significant maturation of Christianity than Luther did.
Okay. Hopefully I can get this thing right now.
The Jesuit Theater
Right from the beginning, this quote in the beginning of the reading stuck out to me:
" ...the Jesuit theater emerged as the natural product of the circumstances into which the Society founded by Ignatius of Loyola, almost from its beginnings, was thrust" (p. 4).
The history presented in this reading is absolutely fascinating. It was so interesting to learn that the Jesuits' society was not formed specifically for teaching, since that is what the Jesuits have become known for these days. Instead, the society of Jesuits was formed more with a theatrical intention. I think that really says something about the Jesuits. They are more interested in an interactive approach to learning about scripture, as opposed to just talking at people.
Later in the article, McCabe says that the student benefited more from Jesuit theatre, as opposed to the audience. He goes on to say that it gave the student confidence and helped propel the Jesuits' message:
" This sort of training for the boy squared perfectly with the general intent of the Jesuit educator to influence the outside world by sending forth into it."
So, the Jesuits believed by putting on these plays, their message was sticking with their audiences. Then, the audience could go forth and share the message. I think the Jesuit theater would be beneficial to the actor, because he or she must learn so much about the character he or she is portraying. They must truly believe the words they are saying. That is the only way they would be able to get the message across.
I really enjoyed the class discussion we had on this piece. It really make me appreciate the Jesuits more to see that they wanted to send their message in this way. I thought Alex's tie-in to the late Phylis Ravel was really lovely, as well.
Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits
This piece really echoed my feelings on The Jesuit Theater and our class discussion last week. The author seemed to be surprised, yet taken, with the art within the Jesuit community. The author wrote:
"Everyone present enjoyed himself immensely, and that the visitors derived from it an enlarged vision of the societies, its goals, aims and scope, and especially of its relevance to our age and its needs. I am sure there is none among you who has any doubt at all" (p. 4).
I really enjoyed the view of St. Ignatius that this piece gives to us. The author included a quote that he said often gets misunderstood:
"His oft-quoted exclamation that earth looked drab to him when he looked at the heavens, has somehow been interpreted to mean he did not care for the beauty of earth."
I would never have understood it as St. Ignatius looking down on the state of earth. I think instead, he just meant the heavens and the afterlife would be so beautiful that nothing would compare to it. The only way he knew how to share that was from the gift of acting.
This paragraph really stuck out to me from Tess's response:
"People wanted to see the Jesuits perform. They were good at it. They brought plays to life. They interacted with the audience and made it exciting. They were brilliant at it. Being a priest involves a lot of the same qualifications that being an actor does. Both sing. Both have choreographed movements. Both have to memorize scripts or in the case of a priest, Scripture. Being an actor and participating in theatre made these students before 1574 better priests because they were practicing skills that crossed over to their chosen profession."
Now, as Dr. Kiely was kind enough to point out to me, I accidentally read and responded to the wrong set of readings this week. So, as of now, I have not read the correct set of readings yet (I swear I will have some read by class tomorrow, Dr. Kiely!). So, I am not entirely sure if the idea of priests being similiar to actors is Tess's idea or the author. Regardless, I think that is such an interesting and smart point. I've never thought of priests as performer. But now, thinking about it, they do often taken on theatrical characteristics to get the message of scripture across. I think this point that Tess brought up will alter the way I listen to sermons now. Honestly, I think this will help me enjoy them and get more out of them.
Tess's post also highlighted the progressiveness of the Jesuits quite nicely.