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Showing posts from July, 2020

“That Bearing Boughs May Live”: What Did King Richard II Author for the World?

It is 2020, the Summer of #BlackLivesMatter, and this week, in a moment of uncommon synchronicity, the theater company who would (in another non-Covid-19 world) be performing at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park are instead presenting King Richard II to homebound Internet streamers. Today’s resonance of the Bard’s words testifies not only to word craft but also to boldness, for King Richard II articulates revolution against repressive political and theological systems. Moreover, its nuanced language cultivates sympathy, allowing us, in the words of Shakespeare scholar Ayanna Thompson, “to grieve the loss of something even if we think it’s the right thing to get rid of,” as pertinent to “Defund the Police” protesters as their counterparts in 1776 America, 1789 Paris, 1791 Haiti, and 1917 Moscow (The Public). King Richard II asks its audience to consider the legitimacy of overthrowing a Pope-anointed monarch without damning the usurper’s mortal soul, and within the play’s text, King…

"Foul as Vulcan's Stithy": A Different Perspective on “The Mousetrap” and Its Intended Audience

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet illustrates how the dead can drive the living to fulfill their unfinished business. Armed with secrets of his murdered father’s specter, Hamlet conceives “The Mousetrap,” a play within a play, its stated purpose—"to catch the conscience of the king,” his uncle Claudius—though Hamlet himself sabotages his gambit during the performance (Shakespeare 2.2.606). This alone, however, should not measure its success, for Hamlet’s audience is wider. Queen Gertrude is also targeted by the piece. Indeed, she is the prince’s true focus, and there is no question here of Hamlet’s glorious success, the ramifications of which condemn them all to tragic death.Though Hamlet mourns his father, he is more disturbed by Gertrude’s choice to speedily remarry his uncle. Maquerlot proposes Hamlet’s “disgust at the world” is “generated by disgust at his mother” (98). Hamlet’s revulsion is most dramatically demonstrated when he requests “a passionate speech” he heard performed o…

My 2020 Hugo Ballot

I have finished my Hugo reading for the year. My eyes are so blurry, but I am brimming with happiness. Here are my choices along with a brief word on each category: Best Novel Gideon the Ninth, by Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com Publishing)The Light Brigade, by Kameron Hurley (Saga; Angry Robot UK)Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire (Tor.com Publishing) I read all 6 of the novels this year, and they were all spectacular. I would not argue against a vote for any of the others: the polar locked (both the planet and two characters) The City in the Middle of the Night, by Charlie Jane Anders (Tor;Titan), the Leguinian dispossessing A Memory Called Empire, by Arkady Martine (Tor; Tor UK), or the lyrical The Ten Thousand Doors of January (Redhook; Orbit UK), by Alix E. Harrow.
One reason I chose Gideon the Ninth is because of its original voice. The protagonist is Gideon, the adopted cavalier of the Ninth House, who sees the world through a lens of sarcasm, tempered by humor, understandable in that she serves…

To “Fall from Bias of Nature”: A Dissenting Opinion on Good Cordelia

There is an old German saying that an apple generally does not fall far from its tree. A pure nature versus nurture argument, it is usually reserved for decrying unpleasant traits inherited by a wicked person’s offspring, but this philosophy has uses for dramatists too; and in King Lear, Shakespeare often paints Goneril and Regan with the same brush. In the flattery contest of the opening scene, for example, they echo each other in manner and deed. Regan even makes the point that she is “made of that same metal as her [older] sister” (Lr 1.1.69). Younger Cordelia, may appear as an anomaly, claiming to be selfless and true, however a closer analysis reveals she shares many of the same characteristics with her sisters, especially in her capacity to petrify and emasculate, suppressing King Lear’s masculinity (not necessarily a bad thing) as she asserts her sex. Edgar, ironically by using deception, manifests a truer more selfless love. Cordelia is a sympathetic character who values hone…