The following blog posts are meant to illustrate the assignment and give examples of successful (and less successful) posts. I want to emphasize, though, that while there are some basic qualities that most good blog posts share (use of evidence from the text, a clear point of view) there is no one right way of doing these. Please feel free to follow your interests and ideas in your work!
Example #1: Post Graded a 4
Why are there so many strong women in Shakespeare’s works?
One thing that stands out immediately in Much Ado About Nothing is the presence of a strong, central, female figure. I find this to be slightly ironic considering during Shakespeare’s time women were not very highly regarded, especially when they are married, as seen through the “Marriage and Money” article previously read. Through the first two acts, primarily the first one, I see Shakespeare setting the stage to enhance Beatrice’s role as a strong woman. Shakespeare clearly demonstrates this powerful aspect of women when he puts Benedick vs. Beatrice in a verbal showdown. After the two provide insults back and forth, primarily Beatrice towards Benedick, Benedick has enough and backs down, “I have done” (I.I.116-117). I found this moment to be extremely interesting while reading because what man during this time would let a woman win such a match of insults?
To further demonstrate Beatrice’s strong-will and dominance, when she provides a reason to not get married she makes a valid, religious based point which undermines the male gender. She basically tells her uncle, Leonato, that she refuses to be overmastered with a piece of valiant dust?” (II.I.51-52) . Although Beatrice believes she will be overpowered by whomever she marries she still refers to the man as a miniscule piece of dirt. This is a powerful insult not only to men but also God and Adam from Genesis. But, what is more interesting than Beatrice’s control is the acknowledgement Shakespeare makes in the men, that women seem to be the person in the marriage who “wear the pants”.
One thing I also noticed while reading that almost contradicts the idea of women’s roles once they are married is when Benedick and Don Pedro are communicating. In Act One, Benedick sees marriage as the end of his individuality. He sees that the woman is going to take over his life and over power him and he will be a tool to her. Benedick says, “In such great letters as they write ‘Here is good horse to hire’ let them signify under my sign ‘Here you may see Benedick, the married man’” (I.I.218-219). This is extremely ironic to me considering all that has been embedded in the minds of readers of Shakespeare is that women are not supposed to be in power. I think this quote directly addresses the oppression Benedick will feel from being married to any woman.
What does this say about Shakespeare as a writer? We have already seen powerful women in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and even in Twelfth Night. Are these women supposed to represent the few women who, during the time actually stood out or maybe this is Shakespeare’s way of calling out all the women and get those who are a bit more timid to stand up and take control of the life they lead and the men in society? It is unfortunate that no one ever will know the answer to any of these questions but I think they are reasonable to be asking, otherwise why would the women in Shakespeare’s plays have so much strength?
Instructor Comments: Post has a focused topic that is supported by extensive analysis of the text. It presents an interesting topic and while it doesn’t have a central thesis (a blog post doesn’t necessarily need one) it raises some important questions that could be developed into an argument.
Example #2: Post Graded a 3
Everybody Plays the Fool!
My favorite character in Twelfth Night is definitely Feste, the “fool” because his brilliance is awesome! I imagine if he lived today he could be a very successful greeting card writer or maybe even a famous psychologist (more wise than Ann Landers herself). Even though his occupation is to be a clown or fool I think he is actually extremely wise.
Throughout the play he provides insightful commentaries with lines like “Better a witty fool than a foolish wit” (1.5.31) and “Pleasure will be paid, one time or another” (2.4.69). His interactions with the characters also serve as a way to highlight the insanity of the more “normal” characters. He also can mock the audience. As we discussed in class, in the beginning of 3.1 he talks with Viola about how he “live(s) by the church” (5) totally pointing out how foolish our language can be when used in correctly, and how easily it is to interpret something wrong.
He is even able to use his mind to help and manipulate Malvolio, someone who was of higher ranking. Feste’s role of Sir Topas can be comical for anyone impartial to Malvolio and Feste puts on a great show by switching characters quickly and further upsetting the tortured Malvolio. The themes of disguise, power and manipulation are all upped by Feste.
Therefore Feste is not a fool, actually just the opposite. Could the other characters in the play that are ridiculous and silly, like Sir Toby and his band of friends, Sir Andrew and Fabian be considered the true fools? They share the plan for manipulating Malvolio but differ in their observations of the court. Who then are the real fools in the play? Maybe they are the people who jump to conclusions, are constantly drunk (from alcohol or their own large egos) and those who judge people only based on outward appearances. In that case I would classify Olivia, Sebastian, Viola, and Orsino, Malvolio, Sir Toby and Sir Andrew as the true fools.
My apologies for this link but it’s pretty funny to think about in the context of the four lovers (Olivia, Sebastian, Viola, and Orsino). At the conclusion of the play these four people cast aside all normal reasoning and accept the “magical” gender transformations of the people they love.
Also just to share a laugh with everyone, here is the preview for that old Amanda Bynes movie “She’s The Man”, a semi-modern day adaptation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night:
Instructor Comments: Post raises some important points and uses some examples from the text. It is also somewhat disorganized and needs to develop it central ideas further (how are the “themes of disguise, power and manipulation “upped” by Feste? What does that mean?) The additional links also suggest that the writer wasn’t entirely focused in approaching this post. Finally, while a blog post should be less formal than a critical essay, this post may go a bit too far in its informality!
Example #3: Post Graded a 2
Marriage in various forms
“A Midsummer Nights Dream” starts with an interesting preface in my edition of the Norton. The text examines a rumor surrounding the history of the play. According to a story, the play was originally written to be performed in front of a wedding party, with Queen Elizabeth the first in attendance. The book paints a nice picture, presenting the play as an intergral part of the proceedings, commenting on the real world event through a lens of social farce. Fictional or not, this story got me thinking about what lies at the heart of this play, being mentioned in the first line; marriage.
That hand out we read before peaked my interest. I’ve never been particular to examine Shakespeare in social context. To be fair, I’ve never particularly examined Shakespeare at all. But I’ve never noticed the ambiguity of some of Shakespeare’s works, particularly the subversive elements in the language. From the get go, “Midsummer” starts as a reflection on marriage, in all its forms.
The first act of the play, from the first scene, sets up that this will be a play about marriage, in all it’s forms. First off, we have the marriage between Thesus and Hippolyta, set up as the spoils of war. Thesus has defeated Hippolyta and her Amazons, and taken her to be his wife. The second is a marriage situation between Hermia and Demetrius, in which Hermia is betroved, and is in love with Lysander. This conflict is also another examination on marriage, that of elopement for true love. There is also the spurned relationship between Demetrius and Helena. This makes for a situation that is ideal for a popular comedy, but it also sets up a dialogue on the act of marriage itself. In reading some of the other blog posts, I found it interesting to note that marriage at this time was not merely for love, but also a way of shifting finances and alliances between families- in a sense it was also political.
I’m looking forward to continuing to examine these themes as the play progresses. Also, I will be interesting in watching the development of the female leads, as they both exhibit interesting qualities for their time period. Hermia is extremely bold, standing up to nearly all other characters in the play. Helena may have had an inappropriate relationship with Demetrius, again, something socially discouraged for the times. I am excited to see how these characters further advance the marriage critique outlined thus far.
Instructor Comments: This post has a good start, as it raises a question suggested by the Norton Shakespeare introduction (a fine approach to take to the assignment). It doesn’t really develop that idea very much, however, and uses no examples from the text. The final paragraph is also off point, as it strays from the central idea of marriage. The post mainly summarizes the plot, too, a sign that it is not as critically developed as it could be. Finally, this post has several spelling and grammatical errors that should have been edited in proofreading (see bolded words).