Category Archives: Opinions

Good luck, little Richard

A few years back, I was doing my daily lunchtime grocery shopping at a supermarket near the office when I overheard this disturbing mother-son exchange just out of the candy and chips aisle. The poor child, infatuated by the many colorful candies cried crocodile tears in a toddler attempt to make his mama buy him some sugar. I mean, we’ve all been there. Many of us are still there. And will never leave. So the kid being a kid cries, yells, screams…so loud and out of control that any moment you think, the alarm in the store is going to go off and firefighters will be storming in. The young mother however, Caucasian organic for vague description purposes, keeps pushing the cart away from candy-land and finally addresses her son.

Mr. Richard, she says, stop now. Your behavior is completely inappropriate and unacceptable.

The child blares over her monotone voice. His cheeks red like tomatoes.

Mr. Richard. I am not getting you the chocolate. And when we get home, you are going to think about your behavior.

The child now bordering convulsion. People looking away. He keeps screaming. You know how kids can be. Yet Mother slowly unloads her mighty greens and fat free products on the belt in front of the cashier, who tries to politely distract the boy from his misery and stop the waterfalls – but falls short and unnoticed by both parties.

And I’m telling you – first you feel annoyed by the kid yelling and you think ‘oh, shut the fuck up already’ but then you realize his organic predicament and you feel sorry for him and wish you could slap him in the chubby cheek to get him out of the grocery state of shock and offer him a hug and a chocolate. Maybe find him a good foster home. But Mother is undeterred. She holds her ground. That’s what all parent books say. Hold your ground. Don’t give in. Rather let your child convulse than show any human instinct in dealing with the situation. In so many words. Go brainwashing!

Mr. Richard would maybe know that his behavior was completely inappropriate and unacceptable – if only he knew what those words meant. Inappropriate…huh? Unacceptable…huh? Completely? No wonder the kid was crying. What 2 year old likes to be addressed like an old man Mr. Richard and with words he does not understand?! And if Mother does not know that her behavior is inappropriate and unacceptable – why should the kid?

I never saw them again but they do cross my mind every now and then. Like today. And I can’t help but wonder if Little Richard (way cooler than Mr.) now has a running prescription for some kind of ADHD drug because in a twisted world of many parents today – the attention to whatever current task should be undivided and any deficit is too big to be overlooked. I mean, a child should sit quietly and be understanding and obedient, right? This is a civilized society – of course a well adjusted mother is going to reach for pills. But if you think about it, which really falls under child abuse – a disciplinary slap in the butt every now and then, or a running and running and never-ending prescription to some mind bending drugs? I sure am glad the latter was not even an option in my world when I was a kid. The ‘pills’ then were shaped like hand palms, or little wooden spatulas or (notorious) ivy twigs. And we ran from those with lightning speed. And chuckled. And knew better next time. So good luck, Little Richard. Wherever you are.

Alien-ating fans. Or about a movie.

Alien: Covenant. Saw it the other night. Impressions? They even brought a second in command with short brown hair, brown eyes. Disagreeing with the captain about his decision that puts the mission in possible jeopardy. Ripley by the book. To mirror it. I have yet to meet an Alien fan – or SF for that matter – who did not like Lt Ripley. But this one – Daniels I think – she cannot clench her jaw like Ripley, so I don’t care. I mean, I watched the movie, however predictable – that twist at the end, you know, with Walter – that was no twist at all. Now the weird thing I realized about this film was the severe lack of emotional investment in characters. First scene with Captain Jake burning up in the sleeping pod. It’s a movie. We haven’t seen Jake at all prior to his demise. So who cares. Oh, it’s James Franco – is that supposed to connect with the audience? The director should stick with the ‘pet the dog’ trick. More people like dogs than they like James Franco. And the new captain who is not an unpleasant dude at all although he is trying – I mean, not letting his crew have a moment for Franco’s Jake who is also Daniels’ husband. How “frustrating” and even more  implausible was that. “They disobeyed a direct order”. Wow, goose bumps. So they find that new possible promised land. And they land. And now that guy…I don’t know, let’s call him Crew Member #5…he steps away to light a cigarette. A cigarette. The dude space traveler on an American spaceship in some 2106 has cigarettes on him. Somebody tell the director that the setting is not any place in the good old 1970s. So yeah, Crew Member #5, when you were born, cigarettes were already retired in a museum of past centuries’ bad habits along with burgers, sugar and all the other good stuff. So that flying virus in your ear – totally avoidable and some might even say well deserved for trying to fool us about smoking! Moving on to special effects. They have become so special that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to take those movie stories into any kind of consideration because they look like video games. And nobody ever downed a person or a chopper or a Donkey Kong in a video game and felt any sympathy towards the animations. At least I hope not. For their own sake. And let me tell you, the little aliens being born and plastering themselves on someone’s face as ‘it’ used to do – nice try – but it only made me want to turn off The Covenant and look for the original f*cker.  Now I wish that the producers, or distributors, or studios, or Kanye West, or whoever is in charge – would along with the new hopeful money makers also re-release the original Alien. You know, give the younglings a chance to experience SF greatness in the dark of a movie theater. Where everyone can here you scream.

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Summer reading. Or the wrong target audience.

Twitter. A new follower that I followed back direct messaged me and offered a free book – a romantic escape to sweep me in the world of true love. I saw Bambi when I was a kid so I didn’t reply. But the truth is, I don’t need a literary romantic escape because it sounds pathetic. I don’t believe in true love because it didn’t happen thus far and I am now too old for fairytales. So I’m not interested in romantic books in which soulmates find each other, conquer a few obstacles and live happily ever after. If I was, I wouldn’t be a cynic. Which I am.

The hibernation clock, tick-tock, tick-tock

Imagine the luxury of waking up at nine o’clock every morning and not be tired, rushing, running, forgetting things, running back, running forth, running out, be late, not be late, be almost late, have sore muscles, pull a muscle, step in a puddle, ruin your blue suede shoes, curse Elvis, breathe too hard, get hiccups, hiccup in the elevator when everybody else is silent, run out on the 12th floor, bump into a man, watch all your papers fly out of your hands, pick up the papers close to you, meet the eyes of the man you bumped into and realize that you are not in a romantic comedy and he is not John Cusack, say ‘it’s okay’ when he apologizes for being in your way, and ‘thank you’ when you accept the papers he gathered, half smile as you leave, gather speed as you approach your office, sit on your desk with your papers, decide to watch Grosse Point Blank again. “You are a handsome devil”. Not me. I, I wake up at six, it’s only three hours difference. Fifteen hours a working week. Sixty hours a month. Seven hundred and twenty hours a year. Roughly. If you wake up at nine, I wake up thirty days earlier than you. You, you sleep through January like a bear because your clock rings at nine. The hibernation clock. You son of a bear!

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The grumpy and pissed people in Hamlet – and that Norway subplot

william-shakespeare-62936_1920A lot of people were grumpy and pissed in Hamlet, so I find it fitting to share my thoughts i.e. research essay on what I think is really going on with that Norway subplot.  

So here goes…

 

The Chorus of Fortinbras

Hamlet, one of the most famous Shakespeare’s plays, follows the title character Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, as he returns home to find his father murdered and his mother remarried to the murderer, his uncle, now the King. Meanwhile, a war threat from Norway looms: Fortinbras, the young Prince of Norway is seeking to reclaim some of Norway land that his father lost to King Hamlet. For analyzing purposes, Hamlet has the main plot: Prince Hamlet plotting to avenge his father by killing Claudius, and two subplots: Hamlet and Ophelia’s love; and the so-called Norway subplot i.e. Fortinbras preparing to wage a war against Denmark. Fortinbras’ decidedness to act is in direct opposition to Hamlet’s hesitancy, and Fortinbras is in that sense usually regarded as Hamlet’s foil in the play. But could there be more to the Fortinbras’ storyline than meets the eye?

Fortinbras and his intentions towards Denmark are unveiled by Horatio early in the play.

“Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
Of unimproved mettle hot and full,
Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there
Shark’d up a list of lawless resolute …                                                                                       But to recover of us, by strong hand
And terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands
So by his father lost:” (1.1.94-103)

His position is revealed before Hamlet’s predicament is made known, and by the time Hamlet finds out the truth about circumstances surrounding his father’s death, there is already one prince in the play, out to avenge his father: Fortinbras.

 As per Encyclopedia Britannica, chorus, in drama and music, is a performing format that involves  “those who perform vocally in a group as opposed to those who perform singly. The chorus in Classical Greek drama was a group of actors who described and   commented upon the main action of a play with song, dance, and recitation … During the Renaissance the role of the chorus was revised. In the drama of Elizabethan England, for instance, the name chorus designated a single person, often the speaker of the prologue and epilogue…”  

In Hamlet, The King of Norway is not aware of his nephew’s belligerent intentions towards Denmark, and when so informed by Voltemand and Cornelius, he

“Sends out arrests
On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys;
Receives rebuke from Norway, and in fine
Makes vow before his uncle never more
To give the assay of arms against your majesty.
Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee,
And his commission to employ those soldiers,
So levied as before, against the Polack: “ (2.2.67-75)

So by the time King Claudius finds out that his nephew Hamlet is not lovesick, but more threateningly troubled, and orders that he be sent to England, there is already one King in the play who misunderstood his nephew’s intentions: King of Norway.

When Hamlet meets the Captain of Norway troops and inquires about their conquest, the Captain states that they “Go to gain a little patch of ground
That hath in it no profit but the name.” (4.4.17-18)

By the time Hamlet inadvertently kills Polonius (whose name means ‘related to Poland’), Fortinbras was already granted passage to invade the land of Poland.

As Michelle Lee (2006) observed, “Elizabethan dramatists proved to be remarkably resourceful in adapting classical conventions to their own works. Elizabethan playwrights … popularized and innovated the choric form to the point that it had become a clichéd theatrical device by the time Shakespeare began experimenting with it. Shakespeare departed from convention, however, when he transformed the figure from a traditional dramatic presenter into a complex character with ambiguous motives who often provides ironic commentary on the dramatic action of the play proper.”

Although Shakespeare used a formal choric figure or prologue in some of his plays, Hamlet is not on that list.  

D.J. Palmer (1982) has an interesting standpoint on the Elizabethan use of chorus and its “ evident tendency …  for the Prologue/Chorus to assume a persona of his own and to adopt an oblique relationship to the play itself. Rarely if ever is such a figure used to tell the whole truth or to embody, Quince-like, the authorial point of view. He sets the scene by more ingenious and indirect means; otherwise, he were   indeed a flat unraised spirit.”

Fortinbras’ story precedes and mirrors Hamlet’s story as the plot develops:

  • King Hamlet kills King Fortinbras. Young Fortinbras wants revenge and some of his motherland back. His uncle is now King; Claudius kills King Hamlet. Young Hamlet wants revenge and (in a way) his mother back. Uncle Claudius is now King.
  • Fortinbras prepares to attack Denmark. King mistakenly thinks he has his sight on Poland. He finds out the truth and orders arrest; Hamlet’s behavior and mood are deteriorating with thoughts of revenge. King Claudius mistakenly thinks he is troubled by love. He finds out the truth and orders trip to England and execution.
  • Fortinbras swears to peace towards Denmark and is cleared to invade Poland; Hamlet kills Polonius (whose name means “related to Poland”)
  • Fortinbras’ Captain tells Hamlet that they are invading Poland for but a name; Laertes forgives Hamlet but still fights for his name/honor.
  • Dying Hamlet gives his blessing to Fortinbras as the rightful new King; Fortinbras appears and states that it is reasonable for him to claim the throne.

           If the Norway subplot with Fortinbras is taken out of the play (as British director Matthew Warchus has done in his 1997. production), Hamlet still has a dramatic foundation solid enough to stand tall, and Laertes is a foil quite fitting to the young Hamlet. After all, Laertes lost both his father and (indirectly) sister to Hamlet, just as Hamlet lost both his father and (figuratively) mother to Claudius. Whilst their troubles bare some similarities, their way of seeking revenge is completely different and serves a good purpose for contrast and comparison.  So why bother with Fortinbras at all? Because he is a prince? That does not seem relevant enough to be handed a role by Shakespeare. And yet, his story opens the play, and his words end the play. Fortinbras is so subliminally weaved in the story that his ascend to the throne does not feel unjust at all, and the story comes full circle from when his intentions were introduced in Act I.  Susannah Clapp (1997.) reviewing Warchus production says that:

“Few audiences can ever have watched Hamlet longing for the entrance of Fortinbras. The Norwegian prince is one of the items cut from Matthew Warchus’s production, and he wasn’t missed by me; his excision would be undetectable by anyone unfamiliar with the play. “

By literary conventions, chorus is involved in both the prologue and epilogue. In Hamlet, there is no acknowledged use of chorus, and yet, Fortinbras’ story foreshadows Hamlet’s in all major happenings. The choric format does not conform to Elizabethan clichés, nor does it follow any example that Shakespeare himself has used as chorus. Fortinbras appears in person late in the play, in Act IV, so he is not the chorus per se. It is the entire “Norway subplot” that takes the role of foreshadowing major upcoming events related to Prince Hamlet: not in a straightforward manner, but clearly enough to subliminally form an attachment to Fortinbras so that his ascend to the throne, that seems both farfetched and inappropriate when the play starts becomes a natural resolution to the story when the curtain is about to fall.

To repeat D.J. Palmer’s  (1982) observation of the tendency for the “chorus to assume a persona of his own”, in Hamlet, it seems that Shakespeare takes the chorus to another level by ingeniously giving it an entire subplot lead by, the often thought redundant – Fortinbras.

 

 

Works cited:

  1. Clapp, Susannah. “Hamlet.” New Statesman [1996] 23 May 1997: 40+. Literature Resource Center. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.
  2. Lee, Michelle. “Choric Figures in Shakespeare’s Works”. Shakespearean Criticism. Vol. 100. (2006) Gale. From Literature Resource Center. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.
  3. Palmer, D. J. “‘We Shall Know by This Fellow’: Prologue and Chorus in Shakespeare.” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester (Spring 1982): 501-521. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 100. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.
  4. Shakespeare, William. Spark Publishing, 2003. Print.
  5. “Chorus.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 29 Nov. 2012.
  6. Hamlet. By William Shakespeare. Dir. Matthew Warchus. Royal Shakespeare 1997. Performance.