Monday, October 26, 2009

Shifts in Venus?

OK first of all. I need to clarify...during my initial reading and response, I over-interpreted and thought that Venus convinced Adonis to have sex with her. CLEARLY she did not. I apologize for this mistake; I was considering the kissing to be more than just kissing :-)

It was interesting to view the shift that seemingly occurs in this poem. It is almost as if Venus moves from a lover to a mother. This is very strange, but it makes the ending a little more serious than the flippant, humorous beginning. One of the biggest themes in the poem is the changing sexuality of Venus and what it means, exactly.

At times she seems like she takes on a more masculine role (plucking Adonis off his horse) and having more strength and her sexuality seems like a voracious monster out for sexual feeding. It is complicated to try to put an exact label on what her actions mean for society. It is confusing because it is difficult to tell whether she is supposed to be a masculine shrew, or if the feminine label is stretched and skewed because she is a goddess. Her overtly sexual tendencies at the beginning of the poem are comical and vastly contrast with Adonis who seems very under sexed.

He is very youthful and boyish to the point of femininity. These contrasts are shown with the white and red descriptions. It almost seems more natural then, when in the second half of the poem, Venus speaks of him like a child. His death is made all the more sad because his youthful childishness was lost and he was robbed of the chance of growing to be a man -- if he were destined to be such.

The poetry was so beautiful and I really enjoyed this poem. It was an excellent read, and provoked deeper thought about sexuality. Especially female sexuality.

Monday, October 19, 2009

initial impressions of "Venus and Adonis"

So far I like this work a lot. It was a little difficult for me to concentrate at first because I would get caught up in the poetry and stop paying attention to the meaning of the words. Eventually I got the hang of it though. The similarities between this poem and "The Rape of Lucrece" were astonishing to me. All the talk of white and red, and the innocence of Adonis in comparison to the innocence and virtue of Lucrece were astonishingly similar, and I suppose you could say that Venus raped Adonis in a way by simply wearing him down. However, it was definitely less violent this way and they have intercourse twice which sounds consentual to me. Maybe I am not being objective enough. I could certainly see the masculine roles that Venus played with her strength and cunning as she is dominating the conversation and the scene. Voice seems to be a symbol of power in this work as is similar in other Shakespearean works we have read and Venus has most of the voice. It was funny, Venus' pleading language and pouting must have been very convincing because at points I kept thinking "Just do it Adonis, it won't be so awful - surely!" then I had to remind myself that Venus was supposed to be the powerful bad guy (I suppose) and that I should have been rooting for Adonis. I found it pretty amusing as a reader to get so involved. I think that made it really real for me, and more accessable. Altogether I have enjoyed it so far.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"keeping safe Nerissa's ring" - that curious Act V

I am glad that I did not end up hating The Merchant of Venice. It is true that the Antisemitism acts as a huge turn off during the bulk of the play. However I liked the plot line that placed Portia in a strong place of real power. Portia proves herself in the brilliant turn around in the courtroom and puts Bassanio in his place. In my opinion, Bassanio deserves to be harangued by his wife - he is a shady character to begin with, and he did not prove a very loyal husband when put to the test (both by Portia, and out of his own mouth).

I thoroughly enjoyed watching him get told by his awesome wife. haha. And although Act V seems rather unnecessary, I liked the comic relief it provided with Bassanio and I am able to see how the audience would appreciate an ending with a man provided sex joke. This play was full of heavy material and even if the audience was able to laugh cruelly at Shylock the whole time, it was a somber moment to watch him walk off stage defeated and punished at the end of Act IV. No one wants a comedy to end so heavily. Watching Portia take control might have been comical but a little upsetting to a conventional patriarchal English audience of the time, so what better way to bring back the audience than to comfort them with masculine control in the form of a vagina joke?


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Struggling with Shylock...and all that talk about blood

I cannot seem to keep up with all these characters in Merchant of Venice. I still struggle with Shylock as a villain and try to give him a sympathetic ear as well (this proves difficult for me despite his poor treatment). He certainly plays on the fact that he is just as human as everyone else in his famed speech in Act III Scene 1 ("Hath not a Jew eyes?") but also justifies his thirst for revenge by claiming that it is human and any Christian would do the same. Surely Shakespeare meant for readers to think twice about the Jew question but at the same time he certainly plays up the negativity towards Judaism as was popular during his time.

Throughout the play blood acts as a common recurring theme. This is very interesting to me. It appears that blood is an idea that connects people in this play. Shylock and Jessica are linked (this may be unfortunate in Jessica's mind) because, being his daughter she is Shylock's "own flesh and blood" (Act III Scene 1). In the same act, Shylock links himself to Christians by finding the common ground with the question "if you prick us do we not bleed?" The Moroccan prince claims to be as good a suitor as anyone else by offering to "prove whose blood is reddest" (Act II Scene 1). In Act I Scene 3, Shylock demands "a pound of fair flesh" from Antonio, but when time comes for Antonio to pay, Shylock is duped by Portia (dressed as a lawyer, Balthasar) who says that the "bond doth give thee here no jot of blood. The words expressly are 'a pound of flesh'." (Act IV Scene 1) Thus Antonio is saved by a technicality and his "Christian blood." All these blood ties and mentions seem to be the core life of the story. Blood runs throughout the plot forging ties between characters and situations and ultimately leads to the resolution of the play. How fascinating!