Friday, February 27, 2015


Frankly speaking, I was a bit disappointed with Macbeth. It turned out not as intense as I have expected. I have read somewhere that Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s shortest tragedies, and maybe it is true, as the scenes seemed to be passing quickly before leaving deeper impression upon me. I have once seen some illustrations of the three witches; but in the play, they didn’t seem grim at all. The eerie atmosphere felt after Macbeth killed Duncan, and later on when Lady Macbeth was sleepwalking with candle in her hand. Maybe this play in particular would be much better when performed on stage, than read as a book.

Macbeth is a Scottish general, and after having won a battle, the Emperor Duncan praises him for his bravery. When he is chatting with his colleague Banquo, they meet three witches whom greet them with prophecies. Macbeth would become Thane of Cawdor (he is at present Thane of Glamis), and then a King; while Banquo is prophesied to beget a line of Kings though he himself will not. Almost right away someone tells Macbeth that he is now Thane of Cawdor after the previous one died. Macbeth instantly believes the prophecies to be true, and begins to build ambition for becoming a King.

When the King visits Macbeth’ castle, Lady Macbeth encourages the reluctant Macbeth to murder King Duncan. He did it although got disturbed after the deeds. As he is Kings nearest relative, Macbeth is soon crowned as King of Scotland. But he never rests assured about his throne as he still remembers what the three witches has prophesied about Banquo; so he sent murderers to kill him. Disturbed with guilt, Macbeth seeks assurance from the three witches; whom tells him that no one born of a woman will kill him but to be careful with Macduff—a lord. So when Macduff wants to take revenge for his family’s murder, Macbeth keeps calm as ‘none of woman born shall harm Macbeth. But is it possible for a human being to be invincible? Or is Macbeth deluding himself?

My favorite part from this play is Macbeth’s soliloquy after hearing the news of Lady Macbeth’s death: “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…”. It is perhaps the only one that really touched me. I can feel how desperate Macbeth is when losing his strong supporting wife while he must be prepared for the grand battle. I almost even felt sorry for him. Here are the full lines:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

It makes you thinking….do our days of life really signify nothing? Perhaps it doesn’t if you lead a wrong way to live. Just like Macbeth…

I must admire Shakespeare’s great influence in Renaissance literature. His did give a new structure and style to plays, remodeling the old Greek’s and making plays flow more fluently and dynamically. And his role in elevating English language is not to be questioned. But sometimes his lines can be vulgar, which reduce my admiration to him.

Three and a half stars for Macbeth.

 I read ebook from Feedbooks dot com

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Doctor Faustus

If Shakespeare had died at the age Marlowe died, there would have been no question that Marlowe was the leading figure in English Renaissance drama”—I found this on the back of my copy of Marlowe’s The Plays. I have only read Doctor Faustus, so I could not fairly justify, but comparing Faustus with Shakespeare’s other non historical tragedies I have read so far, I must admit that (for me) Marlowe is in the lead.

I always feel Shakespeare’s humour was a bit tacky, while Marlowe’s was more elegant. Marlowe’s tragedy (again, I only read Faustus) is full of reflection, while Shakespeare’s are more dynamic. For people who like only to watch drama for amusement, Shakespeare’s would be more pleasant to watch. Marlowe’s is a bit darker and tends to make us think deeper. Maybe Marlowe’s are more suitable for reading.

Faustus is a learned man (he’s a Doctor anyway), and after having learned various sciences, he is not yet satisfied. So he learns necromancy and magic, with which he believes he could have limited power over the universe. He is guided by one of Lucifer’s servants, Mephistophilis, who promises him his unlimited service if he agrees to serve Lucifer. Despite of warnings from his own conscience and the good angel, Faustus blood-signs an agreement with Lucifer to swap his soul with power, knowledge, and pleasure.

Doctor Faustus is a reminder for us all how human fall to sin. Greediness is perhaps the seed of all sins; it is when man wants more than what he deserves to get. Faustus is provided for learning every science he wants, but it’s not enough for him. At this point the devil can easily buy him. But the fall of men to sin is usual story; the true tragedy lies in Faustus’ stubbornness in repentance, though God has offered His mercy.

There are two version of Doctor Faustus exists, the A-text (published in 1604) and B-text (1616), and it’s still on debate, which one (or both?) was really written by Marlowe. I decided to read both; so I started with the whole of A-text first; then continued on B-text but skip the same parts, only focusing on the alternate. I must say in the end that the B-text is slightly better. I loved particularly the ending in B-text, when the scholars found Faustus’ body ‘all torn asunder by the hand of death!’ . Maybe the A-text is more dramatic because, I imagine, were it performed on stage, Faustus’ last anguish shriek when he was brought by Mephistophilis would be heard as a hollow echo when everybody exited, before the chorus closed the play by announcing the horrific tragedy: ‘Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight’. But the scholars’ scene in the B-text allows us to feel the horror more intensely, although I think it would be too eerie to be performed on stage. But the best addition of the B-text is perhaps Scene 6 Act 4; the comical scenes of Robin and Dick, and Faustus and the horse-seller. It’s not as slapstick as Shakespeare’s, but it helped reducing a bit the dark atmosphere; funny but witty.

Interestingly, Marlowe put a historical figure in the play: Pope Adrian VI, who is dealing with his rival, Pope Bruno, whom was more favored by the Emperor. Only later did I learn that Pope Bruno was fictional character. I still did not understand why the Pope should be put here, other than became a ‘toy’ whom Faustus could chaff and play using his new power of magic (a symbol of how low Faustus has sinned, that he dared ridiculing a Pope?) . Or was Marlowe mocking or criticizing the political power of Catholic Church then?

Anyway, Doctor Faustus is a great tragedy from one of Renaissance greatest dramatists: Christophe Marlowe. The spirit of learning new things which colored the Renaissance era reflected in Faustus’ passion in knowledge. He has studied philosophies like many his contemporaries, but also economy, physic, law, and theology—which he finally put aside as they weren’t as tantalizing as necromancy. Play-wise, there was still trace of Greek plays in Doctor Faustus, i.e. the chorus at the start and the end. Besides that, Marlowe’s style was more freely flowing than Greek. His chaffing on Pope Adrian and the Church officials was perhaps reflecting how Renaissance era began to shake off the dominant power of the Church in Medieval era.

Five stars for Doctor Faustus, or originally The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus.


I read the Wordsworth Classics paperback edition

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Monday, February 16, 2015

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015: February Renaissance Check-In

Here we are in the shortest month of the year: February. Hopefully it does not discourage you to dig into Renaissance literature for our #LitMoveRC. Today is the last chance for you to submit your reviews of January Medieval, then we can move on right away to February Renaissance. The linky has been up here, you can link up your reviews or posts on renaissance literature until March 15th.

Renaissance is the new era of poems and dramatic plays. Which one do you generally prefer, poems or plays? Shakespeare or Marlowe?  And which renaissance lit will  you/are you reading?

It has been my habit since 2012 to read something by or about Dickens every February, as it’s his birth-month. This year I picked The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl, a historical fiction about Dickens’ unfinished book: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It is very special, because Pearl included many historical facts about Dickens and the literary circumstances during that time, including the appearances of Dickens himself, which is so lively! Anyway, I have spent the first ten days of February to savour it; and now it’s time to dive into the dark soul of Doctor Faustus! It’s my first reading of Marlowe, and so far I love him, maybe a bit over Uncle Willy… ;) After this I’m going to read Macbeth, and only then can I properly justify them.

How about you?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Classics Club’s February Meme: Harry Potter MUST Become Classic One Day!

What about modern classics? Pick a book published since 2000 and say why you think it will be considered as a “classic” in the future.

One title instantly popped up in my head reading this question: Harry Potter! Although the first of the series (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) was first published in 1997, the last one was only released in 2007, so it could be considered a product of 21st century. I considered Harry Potter as future classic not because of the books’ enormous number of sales, and not only because it set a new trend in literary world, but firstly because there are so many hidden germs of philosophy inside the fictional wizarding world created by J.K. Rowling.

Perhaps one day, Harry Potter will have its own section in literary study-guide sites like Sparknotes. You would probably find summary, character analysis, themes-motif-symbol study for Harry Potter, just as you’d find ones for The Great Gatsby today, for instance. The more I read Harry Potter, the more I believe it’s not just a fantasy-adventure tales. Inside there are lessons about our relationship with God, about good and evil, light and dark, love and hate. Oh, there is even much more symbol and metaphor inside Harry Potter than in The Great Gatsby.

Dementor vs Patronus, for instance, is a good symbol of evil vs love. It teaches us to not being controlled by negative thoughts or influence, for it can suck out happiness and positive thoughts. Instead, envelope yourself with the good energy or love (patronus is performed by thinking of pleasant things or love), then the negative energy would soon evaporate.

Another symbol is within Harry Potter’s relation with his mother and Voldemort. When Voldemort cursed baby Harry with the deathly curse, he failed at killing him because of Lily Potter’s love which was planted inside Harry’s soul. However, Harry is also connected to Lord Voldemort, that they can read each other’s mind. I think it’s the symbol of good and evil in human’s soul. Dumbledore insists that Harry must try harder to close his mind from Voldemort, just as we must close our minds from things that provoke us to sin. So on one side, man has a small part of God—the Love; but on another side, he also has tendency to sin. But on top of that, love will always win against evil. How lovely are these symbols!

And all that makes Harry Potter deserves to be considered classic, even now.