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In Elizabeth Cary’s “The Tragedy of Mariam,” at least two conflicting views on the autonomy of women are presented and unevenly supported. Mainly, we have Mariam, arguably the heroine, who is faithful to her husband but questions him and speaks her mind; and we have Salome, who is unfaithful and more outspoken than Mariam. Mariam is condemned by the chorus and put to death by her husband, whereas Salome gets away with her indiscretions. By putting a speech on divorce in the mouth of Salome, Cary seems to be arguing that the important thing is not speech, but action. Mariam refused to act in any way, and she was killed. Salome acted wrongly, was unfaithful to multiple men, but she protected herself–and she survived. As is made obvious in the play, divorce won’t win you friends, but it might be worth it anyway.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20 seems to compare men and women in ways that almost equate them, using phrases like “master-mistress of my passion.” Shakespeare also uses wordplay, most notably saying that Nature “prick’d thee out for women’s pleasure.” So he’s definitely working from the Galenic one-sex model, I’d say. In Twelfth Night he does a lot of the same things, only in different ways. Sex/gender in the play is very fluid—not very stable at all. Shakespeare has Olivia fall in love with Viola while she is dressed as a man, and actually essentially marry her when Sebastian shows up at the end. He also has Orsino act like he isn’t in love with Viola-Cesario up until the very end, when he marries him…I mean her. Because, of course, same-sex attraction is unacceptable in Shakespeare’s time, even though, wait, aren’t the sexes the same?

Bastard

Edmund brings up a serious point in the second scene of the first act of King Lear.  Do bastard children have as much right to somebody’s lineage as those who are legitimate?  For royalty, it is hard to see because of the scandalous issues.  But what really makes a family is a parent and their child they raised.  If Edmund had not lived with or was not raised by Gloucester then he should have no right to any lineage unless
Gloucester says so.  It is a lot more complicated when you are actually raising the child and still denying him a legacy.  But it does not matter what he or she deserves, or what is by all means right.  We do not live in a society where everything is fair.  The only one who can make the decision is the person who has the ability to pass on this legacy, in this case, being
Gloucester.  And if
Gloucester wants to give his legacy to one son over the other, then they have to put up with it. There is no say in the matter.  Even if
Gloucester said both his children should not receive anything, then neither of them gets anything.  Blood and lineage does not matter.  Edmund’s schemes may prove him unworthy, but for earthly possessions, worthy is determined by the one giving it out, and no one else. 

Rape or Rape?

Rape is the act of having sex with somebody by force without their consent and usually through violent action.  Rape has taken on that meaning in modern times, but rape used to also mean to take away.  With two meanings of rape, which one did Alexander Pope mean to use in his title The Rape of the Lock?  Can we see only one meaning for rape if we read the poem, or are both meanings relevant in describing the plot and action taking place?  For the lock of hair, it may be taking away or stealing it, but you can see that the Baron is stealing the lock for sexual pleasure because of the Baron’s admiration for Belinda’s beauty.  Sex and even rape itself can be seen throughout the poem.  Pope blatantly uses sexually allegories everywhere, even when describing the lapdog Shock.  Sex is a major theme in the poem, and even though it is supposed to be used in a humorous sense, it is hard to look past what the raping of Belinda’s lock could in fact mean the violent and appalling action that has taken over the meaning of rape in our society.  Whether or not you disagree with its meaning for the title, and even if Pope is trying to make fun of the situation, rape is stealing and that is truly apparent in the poem.

Believe it or not, it was the Adam Sandler film Little Nicky that first showed the devil to me in a different light then what I was used to.  The devil is supposed to be some great evil beast who feasted upon men’s souls, but in this portrayal the Devil was more of a dungeon keeper in charge or torturing the evil souls as if it was a job.  Other portrayals have shown Satan corrupting men for their souls, persuading people to do evil acts so that he would have them in hell.  Yet I still wondered if this “ultimate evil” may not in fact be “evil” in our sense of the word.  And I figured out that he is not.  Satan is more so a voice then anything else, telling us what to do, just as God is supposedly doing.  As
Milton portrays in Paradise Lost, Satan is an extremely complex character.  His rebellion from God’s will is seen more like a slave rebelling from their masters.  So could you compare Satan to an African American slave from the 1800s or a Hebrew slave from the times of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Rome?  Because Satan wants to be in charge, does that make him such a bad guy?  Is Satan actually looking for freedom, or does he in fact want to dominate?  I can bring up a million questions on reasons to both condemn and defend Satan, but whether he intends to corrupt mankind or not, he’s still doing his job, just as men do their 40-or-so an hour job per week.

Adonis is an ancient Greek god, so his garden in The Faerie Queen would be given pagan qualities.  Yet Adonis is not just some random Greek god.  This god was originally mortal and died only to be reborn as a god.  The similarities to the tale of Christ enable two conclusions.  Either Adonis is Christianized by Spenser because of their similar resurrections, or Christianity itself may in fact possess some pagan traits that Christians of Spenser’s age either did not realize or chose to ignore.  On the surface of the mythology, Adonis himself was supposed to be one of the most beautiful men and later gods in all of Greek mythology.  Thus the garden is given the name “theGarden of
Adonis” specifically for its beauty.  If we were to say that this garden was a replica of the Garden of Eden, then the

Garden of
Adonis is supposed to be a paradise of perfection.  We know this is not true for Adonis since the safe haven is broken with the rape of the nymph.  However, we can also wonder if Spenser purposely names the garden after the mythical Greek figure in order to show that it can never be as good as Eden, and that Adonis, though returns like Christ into an almost god-like being, can never be as perfect as Christ, and that this is what happens in pagan societies as opposed to Christian societies. 

The term “nothing” signifies emptiness or a lack of.  In King Lear, however, this word creates a theme that becomes meaningful to the play and is especially seen throughout in Act One.  For instance, in Scene 1, Cordelia tell Lear “nothing,” which he takes to mean that she has nothing to say, although the reader knows that really it is “nothing” good enough to talk about.  In Scene 4, “nothing” is really a driving force that breeds a reaction.  There is also a conversation between Lear and the Fool in Scene 4, where “nothing” is again strongly suggested.  For example, Lear does not have a title anymore, since he is no longer king, but the fool can still be called a Fool.  This implies that the Fool is not higher in rank than the former king. 

“Nothing” is also the base for the concept of the “zero,” which did not exist until the 14th century.  “Zero” is a nullifier that means stripped down; and “nothing” is central and free.  In fact, the end of the play is also a representation of “nothing,” where the characters continue to die until almost no one is left.

Free Will vs. Obedience

When God created Man, He gave them free will. He would not force man to obey Him and remain passive because then man would be useless and vain, and God would not know if man’s faith, love, and allegiance to Him were sincere. God also knew that man would be corrupted by Satan’s treachery, although the evil will rebound to Satan. However, man’s failure to resist temptation will be man’s fault because God has provided him with will and the ability to reason to resist these temptations.

In the text, Eve agrees with God that obedience lacks value and meaning if it enforced; although obedience is not enforced, Eve believes that it is in the Garden of Eden. Eve’s weakness is curiosity, which contributes to her rebellion of going off by herself in the garden and eating the forbidden fruit. Eve also wants equality with Adam and God. God talks to Adam, and then Adam relays the messages to Eve. This also fuels her consumption of the forbidden fruit. Neither Adam nor Eve take the responsibility for the Fall of Paradise; instead, they continue to pass the blame back and forth.

In Paradise Lost, Satan is the tragic hero. He is cast into Hell and his goal is to corrupt God’s new creation, man; he succeeds in bringing about the fall of Adam and Eve. Satan is the tragic hero in this story because he cannot ask for forgiveness. This is the main difference between Satan and Man. For example, Adam and Eve feel shame for eating the Forbidden Fruit and engaging in sexual activity for pleasure, but Satan does not feel any remorse for his continuing struggle against God. As Satan says in line 263, “Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven.”

Early Feminism

In the Tragedy of Miriam, the chorus is used as a voice of opinion that is not necessarily the voice of the text.  At the end of Act 4, the chorus is condemning Mariam’s behavior because she does not do what a woman is supposed to do; instead, she has her own opinions and ideas about what she should do.  The chorus makes this speech to try to guilt Mariam (and all other women) to follow the expectations set up for women.  The standards that the chorus focuses on are impossible to live up to, and they believe that if Mariam does not follow them she will be alone and chastised further.  They do not understand Mariam’s lack of self-restraint and questions Miriam’s tendency to push the line that has been drawn for her each time she gets a little more freedom.  The chorus also does not understand why Mariam would rather be without a man and not have as many luxuries, than be with a man and be constantly restrained.  Everyone in the play is so reluctant to attack Miriam’s husband, Herod, because he is a king and therefore has power over people.  He is dominating and cruel, and has unrealistic expectations for Miriam to be submissive, considering her outspokenness and refusal to go along with society’s expectations for women.  Mariam is somewhat of a feminist because she would rather be strong and stand up for herself and what she believes in than have weak character. 

A not so odd couple

    After reading Beowulf over for the second time, I could not help but notice the similarities between Grendel and John Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost. When the grandiose Heorot is initially attacked, the sceop describes him multiple times as both a demon and an outcast. Within the first 85 lines of Grendel’s entrance the scribe refers to him as a ‘demon’ three times and an outcast twice; not to mention a ‘fiend out of hell’. If looked at individually the opening descriptions of both Grendel and Satan are paralleled in that they are both in media res. Satan’s is right after being outcast from heaven and Grendel’s  as soon as he assaults Heorot.

Ironically, the description of the origin of Grendel and his ilk almost relates all the way back to where Paradise Lost leaves off. Apparently after Cain was exiled for fratricide he was also ‘cursed’, and is now grouped with a slew of monsters and ‘phantoms’ along with Grendel. I think the strongest difference between the two characters is the way in which they are portrayed. Milton places Satan in a heroic light while he attempts to disrupt the success of mankind, beings created to represent free will, in an ironic gesture of free will; whereas Grendel is constantly depicted as an obscene decadent monster. However both still represent outcasts of God, disrupters of mankind, symbols of envy, and unlikely icons of bravery and resilience.

Joseph Andrews as a Hero

In Henry Fielding’s novel Joseph Andrews, we are presented with a character that shares a name with the novel and is assumed to be the hero of the story. The question must be raised though, is he truly a hero. When one thinks of a hero one usually thinks of a person who is willing and able to battle against Fate itself in order to achieve their ultimate goal. This description doesn’t really fit Joseph however. For most of the story it seems like he is just willing to follow the will of others without complaint, and almost every time some ill befalls him he really doesn’t do much to avoid it, instead he ends up being saved time and again by others. Let’s look towards the end of the novel where misfortune upon misfortune seems to befall Joseph. First, him and Fanny are taken to court and when they are about to be sentenced to be exiled from the parish, Fanny is clearly upset, but it seems as if Joseph is resigned to his fate and makes no move to stop the sentencing, luckily for them Squire Booby shows up and saves them. Later when Joseph and Fanny find out they might be related, Joseph automatically accepts the Peddlar’s story and goes about making plans how he can still spend his life with Fanny. In fact the only time we ever see Joseph react to the circumstances thrust upon him in any way is when someone tries to separate him and Fanny. We see him struggle against his sister and Squire Booby when they forbid the marriage, and he attacks Didapper when he comes on to Fanny. In the end these actions seem too little too late, but then one must remember that this is a mock-epic, in which case Joseph would be a mock-epic hero. So, if that’s the case wouldn’t it go without saying that the hero should be almost the exact opposite of those like Achilles and Odysseus?

Gulliver’s Travels

Gulliver’s Travels is a very important satire, both at the time it was written and today. Though there are specific details about the politics of the time in which it was written (like the way Lilliputians crack their eggs satirizes the split between catholics and protestants) but there are some other ways in which the character of Gulliver and people like him are satirized in a way that is more relevant to a modern audience. Gulliver seems to set himself apart from nearly everyone he meets (and though this is something that makes sense in the fantastical worlds that he visits, where he is an outsider), he continues this behavior when he is at home. What Gulliver gives is is the character of the braggart, which in turn satirizes the travel narrative bragging done by Columbus and others like him. But, famous exploring aside, there are still people today who like to tell us all about their travels and knowledge.

Gulliver has an amazing facility for language (that we can only take his word for), many friends and admirers (that we can only take his word for), a knowledge of medicine and the cultural inner workings of the places he’s visited (that we can only take his word for), if he visited them. In other words we have to choose whether or not we can really believe Gulliver’s tale. Of course, when it is told as a children’s story this is easy to do. But, when told with all the relevant satire one begins to wonder a) if Gulliver visited anywhere at all and b) if he did whether or not he understood the world he was in as well as he claimed. His translations of Lilliputian dialect are, after all, very congratulatory in their treatment of the “man-mountain.”

So, in the modern world, this book is incridibly relevant because not only is it entertaining and funny, but it gives a good portrayal of someone who has quite a big head (even if that head can be held in the palm of Glumdaclitch’s hand).

Role Reversal

Henry Fielding’s picaresque novel, Joseph Andrews, is a satirical survey of social corruption. He focuses much on exploiting the social vices and hypocrisy of the upper class in England. In order to do this, he reverses of the roles of wealthy and poor and men and women. Joseph Andrews is the central character in which the role reversal revolves around. He is the virtuous brother of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela. Joseph is preyed upon because of his chastity, therefore, feminizing him. It is in this way that Fielding also emphasizes the immorality of the women characters in the novel.

Many women play roles in order to seduce Joseph. For example, Lady Booby acts as a widow in her attempt to seduce him. She is confused by Joseph’s virtue. Joseph says, “That when she had conquer’d her own Virtue, she should find an Obstruction in yours? ‘Madam,’ said Joseph, ‘I can’t see why her having no Virtue should be a Reason against my having any. Or why, because I am a Man, or because I am poor, my Virtue must be subservient to her Pleasures” (pg. 33). And in response to him Lady Booby replies, “’I am out of patience,’ cries the Lady: ‘Did ever Mortal hear of a Man’s Virtue!” (pg. 33). Joseph Andrews waits until the last minute, almost testing himself. With the relationship between Joseph Andrews and Lady Booby, Henry Fielding is suggesting that both sexes are sexually deviant exploiting the social vices of the upper class.

What is love?

What exactly is this emotion that everyone refers to as “love”? Is it performing over-the-top tasks to prove your affections? Is it poetry and love letters? Is it winning the fight? Is is giving up all that you have just to be with that one person? In Joseph Andrews, Henry Fielding uses satire to illustrate how silly the notions of love and courtship were during his time. In this novel, everyone appears to “love” Joseph. Lady Booby and Slipshot are certainly quite infatuated with him. Lady Booby attempts to win Josephs affections by seducing him, but when Joseph nobly rejects her advances, she throws a hissy fit and kicks him out of her house. Slipshot pretty much throws herself at Joseph, but also finds herself rejected. The true owner of Joseph’s heart turns out to be Fanny, a beautiful (yet illiterate) girl who patiently waits for the time when she and Joseph will be able to marry. Fanny does not use any elaborate tricks to win Joseph. Her intentions are pure and therefore her love is true. The pure love of Joseph and Fanny is contrasted with the satirized account of Leonora and her two “lovers” Horatio and Bellarmine. Each of these men write letters to Leonora, confessing their undying love for her. Horation attempts to win her over with over-the-top expressions, such as referring to Leonora as a “most adorable Creature (who) is the Pursuit of Pleasure.” He talks endlessly of his passion for Leonora, but to no avail. She pretends to love him, but in reality, she does not. Bellarmine takes a slightly different approach with his letter. He attempts to use French words to win Leonora and prove his love, but he too is unsuccessful and Leonora ends up alone. The true twist is that this story is told by Fanny is disguise. Fanny uses this story to show that one does not need to use elaborate plans and trickery to prove one’s love. One only needs to be true and honest, as she is.

The Rape of the Epic

Alexander Pope’s The Rape of Lock is a work of literature that does an excellent job of exercising the genre known as mock-epic. Pope opens up with a very comical preface in his letter to Mrs. Arabella Fermer; in which he blatantly insults the female gender but in a way humorous enough for it to be somewhat non-offensive. I think the mock-epic is an overlooked genre that doesn’t receive the credit it most certainly deserves.

Pope’s work manages to employ the magnificent orchestra of language, mirroring the very genre it mocks, and is able to do it about a subject completely non-magnificent. While the fate of poor Belinda’s lock may seem trivial, its significance to the characters in the novel is something the average reader can actually relate to.

At the onset of this tale told in epic verse, the character Belinda is warned by a supernatural creature that something dreadful is going to happen, and that she should ‘beware of Man!’. Most would predict a terrible family tragedy, or perhaps Belinda getting raped; however Pope brilliantly diminutizes the warning. When reading this I likened the foreboding advice given to Belinda by her guardian Ariel, to the warning God have Adam & Eve in Milton’s Paradise Lost (in reference to eating the forbidden fruit).

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