Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Vishal Bhardwaj's Haider (his Hamlet adaptation)

Article and link to film song videos at http://www.firstpost.com/bollywood/watch-bismil-angsty-shahid-and-arabic-music-make-this-haider-song-a-treat-1674665.html

The writer comments:
Gulzar's lyric, richly embellished with tantalising symbols and innuendo, reflect the story of Haider (which is an adaptation of William Shakespeare's Hamlet). The song seems to be Bharadwaj's interpretation of the famous play within the play in the original Hamlet. It marks the point at which Hamlet, and perhaps Haider, transforms from being conflicted and undecided to committed to the idea of avenging the injustice meted out to his father.
At the crux of Hamlet is a young prince grappling with the knowledge that his uncle and mother have conspired to kill his father. In the song, Gulzar's lyrics, (Ik joda tha nar-maada ka,  Bholi thi bulbul, nar saada tha) recreate some of Shakespeare's most memorable lines from the play and show how Haider sees his uncle (played by KK Menon).

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Aimé Césare’s A Tempest: Context, Subtext, Intertext

Aimé Césare’s A Tempest: Context, Subtext, Intertext
CONTEXTS: the circumstances that inform the setting of the play

  • Aimé Césare was born in Martinique, a small French island colony in the Caribbean, in 1913.
  • In Martinique, there was a tendency toward a phenomenon called “self ‘whitening’” in which the more power or money a person had, the ‘whiter’ they became (Rix, 236).
  • As Rix stated it, “...the black man would associate this idea of freedom with resemblance”(Rix, 236).
  • In Martinique, there was a large mulatto population. This had a great effect on racial relations because the Mulattoes continually tried to separate themselves from the ‘Blacks’, but the whites saw them as the same. Therefore, there was tension between the ‘Blacks’ and Mulattoes and tension between the ‘White people’ and everyone else.
  • Une Tempête was written with the particular political situation of Martinique in mind; specifically, it concentrates on the debates over colonialism and master-slave relations at the time.
  • Ultimately, Césare wrote Une Tempête for a festival in Tunisia in 1969. He used the adaptation to probe the issues of the time. Une Tempête was especially interesting because it “protagonized”(Rix, 236) the colonized so their “...voices were heard loud and clear from the hushed citadel of Western culture”(Rix, 236).
  • Césare wanted to expose the reality of racism that lay underneath the mask of “‘colour-blind literature’” (Rix, 240).
SUBTEXTS: Underlying and often distinct themes in a work
  • Racism and Negritude: the concept that black Africans reject assimilation and cultivate conscious of their racial qualities and heritage.
    • On page 60 Caliban renounces Prospero’s “white” magic; Cesaire is directly commenting on racial stereotypes and white supremacy.
    • Page 21, where Prospero states that he would forgive those who usurped them merely because they are men of his race and rank. It’s worth noting that Prospero never forgives Caliban throughout the play.
    • On page 47, Eshu, a black god of the Yoruba people of Nigeria bursts into the Greek Gods’ festival (Myths Encyclopedia). It is hinted that the observers are disgusted more by his color, than his appearance, especially when Miranda says, “But who is that? He doesn’t look very benevolent!”
    • Page 7, “It takes all kinds to make a world”. In the prologue of the play, Césare asserts his theme of racial equality and inequality. This quote in particular showcases that the world is made of all different kinds of people and that each of those people serves a purpose; their purpose is not determined by the color of their skin.
  • Uhuru
    • Throughout the play, Caliban mutters “uhuru” very frequently. Stunningly, after the first time the word is uttered on page 17, Prospero comments, “Mumbling your native language again! I’ve already told you, I don’t like it”. Because of this, the reader may easily assume that the word is fictitious. However, Uhuru does have a real world meaning, one that is incredibly important to understanding the text.
    • According to dictionary.com, Uhuru is a word in Swahili that means freedom or independence. Therefore, in the play, Caliban is really muttering that he wants to be free and Prospero is saying that he doesn’t want Caliban to think that way ("Uhuru").
    • This is really a commentary on Master-Slave relations and the idea of the slave wanting freedom more than anything and the master doing anything he can to keep the slave from gaining that independence.
  • Colonization
    • Page 17, Caliban and Prospero have a confrontation over intelligence and indebtedness. Prospero says that he educated Caliban, taught him to speak, and “dragged [him] up from the beastiality that still clings to [him]” and thus Caliban is in his debt. However, Caliban refutes this argument, saying that he actually taught Prospero many things about surviving on the island and the only reason Prospero took the time to ‘colonize’ him was so he could give him orders.
    • Page 29, Gonzalo reveals his plan to “colonize” the island but keep the “noble and good savages” free to be savages. This is not the standard model for colonization and it is interesting that Gonzalo, the honorable and reliable character in the play, wants to allow the “savages” to retain part of their culture.
    • Page 43, Stephano reveals his plan to try to Civilize Caliban with liquor so that “...he can be of some use”, which he calls his, “...civilizing mission”.
  • Masks in Une Tempête:
    • Page 7, the actors enter and chooses a mask for himself. The Master of Ceremonies allows each actor to be whichever character he wants, regardless of race.
      • In this passage, Césare comments on the arbitrariness of race. His allowing each character to choose his own mask shows that the race of the actor, and even the character, is irrelevant and what is truly important is the function of the character in the play.
  • Slavery and the state of persons in servitude.
    • Page 50, Prospero states that he will make an example out Caliban for his crimes. This was not uncommon for masters to do to his slaves.
    • Page 60, Prospero is unable to see that holding Caliban in servitude against his will makes him tyrannical.
    • Page 31, When prospero takes away the food from the shipwrecked crew, Alonso comments “It’s a cruel way to make us aware of our dependent status.”  This is a direct commentary on exactly how dependent slaves were on their masters as often times they were illiterate, uneducated, without rights and possessed limited skills.
  • Human condition, being human, applies to everyone regardless of race or status.
    • Page 30, Gonzalo mentions that the company is tired and hungry and Alonso responds, “I have never pretended to be above the human condition,” yet throughout the play Caliban is seen as inhuman, and therefore can suffer more hardships simply because of his race.
  • Religion and religious conversion.
    • Page 53, Stephano and Caliban are talking about the sea and Caliban directly compares the sea to baptismal water.
    • Page 60, Gonzalo tries to save Caliban from Prospero’s reprimand, by offering to christianize him.
INTERTEXTS: The relationship between texts, especially literary ones
  • Page 20 directly references Malcolm X and namely his autobiography the Autobiography of Malcolm X.
    • Malcolm X was an outspoken African-American Civil Rights activist. He changed his last name from “Little”, which he considered to be a slave name, to “X”. Césare clearly references this text when Caliban tells Prospero to call him X and that he will no longer respond to the name “Caliban”. Furthermore, this intertextuality is emphasized when Caliban says, “You talk about history… well, that’s history, and everyone knows it!”.
  • Cesaire’s previous plays namely “Cahier d’un retour au pays natal”and “Et les chiens se taisaient” are also set in the Caribbean and address the issues of colonization and racism.
    • Cahier D’un Retour au Pays Natal is considered Aimé Césaire’s masterpiece. It focuses on the cultural identity of black Africans in a colonial setting (Goldsmith).
    • Et les Chiens se Taisaient was one of Césaire’s first plays. It comments on the politics of racism, colonialism, and decolonization. The play also focuses on the isolation of the Rebel (Goldsmith).
    • Caliban, like the rebel from Et le Chiens se Taisaient is equally isolated when Ariel refuses to help him overthrow Prospero. This happens again when at the end when Caliban is ultimately left alone to live with Prospero on the island until they die.
  • Page 23 references the Odyssey.
    • The Odyssey is one of two major ancient greek poems by Homer. It focuses on the hero, Ulysses and his journey home after the fall of troy. Ulysses is shipwrecked where Nausicaa finds him and helps him. In this passage, Ferdinand equates himself to the shipwrecked Ulysses, asserting that Prospero is his guide, like Nausicaa.

Works cited:

Goldsmith, Meredith. "Aimé Fernand Césaire." Poetry Foundation. Web. 24 Sept. 2014.

Hulme, Peter. "Maintaining the State of Emergence/y: Aimé Césaire's Une Tempête." ‘The Tempest and Its Travels’. London: Reaktion, 2006. Print.

"Malcolm X Biography." The Official Malcolm X. The Estate of Malcolm X. Web. 24 Sept.  2014. <http://www.malcolmx.com/about/bio.html>.

Myths Encyclopedia. Advameg, Inc. Web. 24 Sept. 2014. <http://www.mythencyclopedia.com/Dr-Fi/Eshu.html>.

"Uhuru." Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 24 Sep. 2014.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Shakespeare on the Beach

You guys should really go see this on Friday:

Shakespeare on the Beach: Macbeth
Friday 9/19, 8pm – 10:30pm, BU Beach
Out, damn’d spot! Out, I say! BU’s very own version of Shakespeare in the park features the New Repertory Theatre’s production of Macbeth. You bring a blanket and we’ll provide the snacks.

This info from http://www.bu.edu/studentactivities/wow/schedule/

The Lion King- A pseudo-Hamlet

My knowledge of Shakespeare has been, until this class, incredibly limited. Due to my school’s reading list, I read the staple of all 9th grade classes, Romeo and Juliet, and then the next year followed up with The Taming of The Shrew. And so, as I viewed the blog and saw the increasingly varied and interesting adaptations of Shakespeare’s works, I decided to instead take a turn towards the familiar. Prior to a few days before our first meeting, I had never read Hamlet. And, interestingly enough, I started to see that the play was far more infectious than I had thought. I gradually began to see parallels between Hamlet and a story that had been with me since childhood- The Lion King. I saw the popular Disney film several times between the years of 7 and 12 (with occasional rewatches whenever it showed up on TV), and things began to click after reading Shakespeare’s play. There were parallels everywhere, some more apparent than others- Mufasa to King Hamlet, Simba to Hamlet, and Scar to Claudius. Their base plots are essentially the same- A king is killed by his brother in order to usurp the former’s throne, and his son is made aware of the murder and driven to seek revenge. Two comic relief characters acting to closely advise the son- This role is filled by Timon and Pumbaa. The dead king appearing to his son, motivating him to revenge his passing- Simba’s father appearing to him in the clouds, with a resounding “remember who you are.” A wise beneficiary that assists the son- This is fulfilled by Rafiki, guiding Simba on his journey back to face Scar. Polonious and Laretes are present as well, in the form of the Hyenas- devotees to the usurper. And yet, despite the similarities and obvious influences that Hamlet had on The Lion King, several key differences caused the two tales to diverge. Perhaps the largest of them is the ending of the two stories. Hamlet is, by all conventional definitions, a tragedy. Yet The Lion King, following a similar plotline, is almost inspiring. Also interesting is the exclusion of the relations between Polonious, Larates, and Ophelia, and the importance of Claudius marrying Hamlet’s mother. Perhaps the most momentous exclusion is Hamlet’s insanity, the central issue to Hamlet- are the son’s actions a product of madness, or rational thought ending badly due to poor planning and unfortunate circumstances?  In The Lion King, this decision is made for the viewer- The son is completely sane, his actions are justified, and he is able to carry out his destiny and regain his honor.  This single decision turns a cautionary tale of jealousy and greed into an epic of revenge and fulfillment. What makes the adaptation intriguing is the fact that it aims to be so different from its Shakespearean roots.  Does the story benefit from the change? It’s hard to say. Both stories end up fairly different and wildly popular. Perhaps the change came about due to different target audiences- Disney is a company towards children’s movies, whereas Shakespeare sought a more intellectual (or at least older) audience. Or perhaps Disney aimed to create something different out of a timeless classic. In either case, it is hard to call The Lion King an adaptation- it’s more like a reimagining of the play. And as the movie and its franchising have proved, it was not necessarily a bad idea. At least from a marketing standpoint.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Jacquelyn's post on David Tse

In the adaptation I found called Lear's Daughters, the show takes an entirely new perspective on King Lear. It focuses on the three daughters' lives before the onset of the play. With the fool acting as narrator as well as his own character, he addresses the audience directly. Each daughter in turn will talk about different experiences unique to them and through that give insight into life behind the scenes at Lear's castle. With implications of affairs and a habitually absent Lear as father, this adaptation forces the focus onto the relationships between the three sisters in hopes of explaining their dynamics within Shakespeare's play. I didn't get to watch all of it but the part I did see seemed witty and very interesting.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Is Macbeth Insane?

While searching the internet for an interesting Shakespearean adaptation, I found this commercial for a new interpretation of Macbeth. The commercial focuses on Act 2, Scene 1, lines 51-77 and, through many different factors, reveals a side of Macbeth many people wouldn’t think of. The performance focuses on the interpretation that Macbeth is insane and through cinematic effect, reveals his internal conflict over what to do about killing King Duncan. The adaptation is set in a mental hospital in which Macbeth will play all of the different characters in the original play under the pretense that he has multiple personalities. While this interpretation is fairly far-fetched, I believe it provides an important commentary on the different ways to perceive the famed protagonist: is he a cunning manipulator or a mentally disturbed man? It is up to the reader to decide. I appreciate this version of the play because it makes that decision for us and is therefore able to delve even further into this interpretation and investigate the possibilities what Macbeth’s mental illness could mean.