Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' - an Overview

‘The Tempest’ is a part of the last group of plays written by Shakespeare. The other plays included in this group are ‘Winter’s Tale’, ‘Cymbeline’ and Pericles. ‘The Tempest’ has also been called ‘Shakespeare’s last will’, as it expresses his opinion about the way we should live and opinion different from that en his tragedies and comedies. The play belongs to the category called dramatic romances. The play tries to answer the moral question – ‘How to live?’ It presents a moral lesson so much so that it has been labeled as a Morality Play. Critics have seen in Prospero a reflection of Shakespeare himself, a sage who after suffering all the anguish of the soul had decided on a reposeful retirement to Stratford.
“Forgiveness and freedom are the keynotes of the play”, says Dowden while it is Verity, who states “Forgiveness and Reconciliation are the keynotes of the play”. ‘The Tempest’ is the story of a wronged man, Prospero. His Dukedom of Milan has been usurped by his brother Antonio, who hatched the conspiracy with the co-operation of Alonso (King of Naples) and Sebastian (Alonso’s brother). Prospero is expelled from the country and sent on a boat so that ti may drown in the storm. It is by god’s grace that Prospero accompanied by his infant daughter Miranda safely reaches and island unharmed by the sea-storm. Living on this almost uninhabited island (the only ones living there were – Caliban, a half-monster and some spirits), Prospero continues his habit of reading books of magic which were placed in the boat by his honest minister, Gonzalo. Prospero acquires so much power that he can do anything. Using his powers he brings his enemies to the same island. But when the time comes to punish them he does not do so. Instead he arouses a sense of guilt in them. He tells Ariel that his enemies are repentant of their past misdeeds which ‘sole drift of mine purpose doth extend it not a frown further’. All that wanted his enemies was to have ‘heart sorrow and a clear life ensuing’, that is remorse and repentance for their past misdeeds and a vow to lead a sinless life in future. Prospero had probably realized that the virtue of forgiveness is greater that the quality of vengeance:
“…the sweetness doth life
In virtue than in vengeance”
- a truth that Shakespeare too had understood at the fag end of his writing career. Even in his last speech (after he throws his books of magic into the sea), Prospero seems to be echoing Shakespeare’s view.
Prospero forgives his brother Antonio, also the King of Naples, Alonso and Sebastian. The only revenge (if we can call it one) he has upon his enemies is that by using magic he made Ferdinand, son of Alonso (King of Naples) fall in love with and pledge to marry Miranda. After the reconciliation Prospero will be re stored back his Dukedom, and Miranda will inherit both the Dukedom of Milan and Kingdom of Naples. The reconciliation takes place between the brothers – Antonio and Sebastian too are repentant of their evil designs and King of Naples too reconciles. Apart from these, there are others too who are reconciled to their near and dear ones. Ferdinand and Miranda are together once again after Prospero had made Ferdinand work as a log-man. Alonso is too glad to meet his son Ferdinand; both had presumed each other to be dead.
Another dominant characteristic of the play is the element of freedom. The play begins and ends with the idea of liberty. In the very beginning of the play we are informed that Ariel was set free by Prospero. Throughout the play Ariel, the airy spirit, requests Prospero to free him. Prospero had got the island rid from the clutches of the witch Sycorax, Caliban’s mother.
Earlier even Caliban had been forgiven and let free by Prospero but we learn that Caliban had tried to outrage the modesty of Miranda. So he was made a slave by Prospero. But at the end of the play, both Ariel and Caliban are set free by Prospero.
We also find the dominance of these keynotes in the Ferdinand-Miranda love story. Ferdinand is made to work as a ‘patient logman’ by Prospero to test his sincerity. Later he is set free and reconciled with Miranda. As Dowden has put it: “Shakespeare was aware that no life was ever lived which does not need to receive as well as to render forgiveness.”
The play is a dramatic romance, different from Shakespeare’s early comedies and tragedies. In a tragedy the events take a turn for the worse for the hero and the play ends with the hero’s sufferings, rather death. In a comedy, all is gay, the events are favourable and play ends on a cheerful note. While in a dramatic romance, there is a twist in-between, events change from unfavourable to favourable resulting eventually into a happy ending for the protagonist. Thus to state the essence of the play Dowden’s words are the most suitable: “true freedom of man consists in service”. Shakespeare presents before us this truth in the form of ‘one of the most perfect plays’ (as Hazlitt has called it). The play is a summation of the whole experience of Shakespeare – the lessons life had taught him.



Wordsworth's 'The Stolen Boat' from 'Prelude'

'The Stolen Boat' (text)
( photo source: http://www.flickr.com/)
One summer evening (led by her) I found
A little boat tied to a willow tree
Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on;
Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
Until they melted all into one track
Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,
Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
Upon the summit of a craggy ridge,
The horizon's utmost boundary; far above
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.
She was an elfin pinnace; lustily
I dipped my oars into the silent lake,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan;
When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct,
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the covert of the willow tree;
There in her mooring-place I left my bark,--
And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
And serious mood; but after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being; o'er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant images of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams.

The poem ‘The Stolen Boat’ is an extract taken from Wordsworth’s long autobiographical poem ‘The Prelude’ consisting of fourteen books. This poem has been taken from Book I. the subtitle of ‘The Prelude’: ‘The Growth of a Poet’s Mind’ hints at the autobiographical nature of the poem. The poet describes his inner life out of which his poetry grew.
The given poem ‘The Stolen Boat’ is related to one memorable incident of his boyhood. The poet describes that one summer evening led by the promptings of Nature he found a little boat tied to a willow tree within a rocky cave where it was usually tied. He immediately untied the chain and after getting into the boat pushed it away from the shore. It was an act of theft and his pleasure was mixed with anxiety. When the boat moved on, there came echoing sounds (of warning) from the mountain sides. The boat left small circles of water gleaming idly under the light of the moon till all of them were mixed up and dissolved giving way to one single track of glittering light. But then, like a person who rows with a sense of pride in his skill to reach straight to a selected spot without any deviation, I fixed up my gaze on the peak of an uneven mountain range which formed the farthest boundary on the distant horizon. Above the poet there were nothing but the great sky and the stars.
The poet’s lovely boat seemed to have a fairy like appearance. He dipped the oars vigorously into the silent lake and as he rose up after the stroke to move it forward, his boat moved from behind that uneven range of the high hill which had so far seemed to him to be the boundary of distant horizon, a huge and black peak put its head up, as if it were a living being endowed with a will and a power of its own. He continued to row on and on over the calm lake but slowly growing larger in stature the awful peak with its towering height seemed to stand between the poet and the stars. It seemed to the poet as if the peak was a living creature following him with regular steps with some fixed purpose of its own. With the oars trembling in his hand he changed his course and moved on silently over calm surface oof the lake to be back to the shelter of the willow tree.
The poet left the boat at the place where it was earlier tied and went back to his home in a serious and thoughtful mood through the grassy fields. But many days after he had seen that striking sight, his mind was haunted by a vague and strange feeling, that in nature there were mysterious forms of life beyond the knowledge of man. His mind was clouded by a deep darkness and all previous knowledge was wiped out. He was without any impression of all previously known objects and pleasing sights like that of trees, sea sky or of colours of green fields. Only huge powerful forms and shapes whose mode of life is absolutely different from that of man, haunted his mind during the day and also troubled the poet in his dreams at night.
The poet in the last stanza addresses wisdom and Spirit of the universe. He calls it as eternal as human thought and says that it transmits life and everlasting movement to all objects and forms. It was not in vain that from his earliest days of infancy by day as well as by starlit night it took up0on itself the task of shaping an intimate relationship between the human passions in my soul and high and everlasting things of nature and not the temporary and vulgar creations of man. Thus, by this mode of interlinking it refined elements of the poet’s feelings and of thoughts and through proper control and training lent a sacred quality to both pain and fear. And finally led him to recognize the grandeur and loftiness in the human heart beats.
Hence in this poem, an experience of his boyhood brings upon a poet a profound awareness of the wisdom and spirit of the universe.

Charlotte Bronte's Message of Peace

Charlotte Bronte’s quote:
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs”,
taken from her famous novel ‘Jane Eyre’ gives us a message of being at peace with ourselves and with others. Animosity (meaning ‘bitter hostility’) is such a negative emotion that it should never become the cause of our actions, that is, the guiding factor of our deeds. The wrongs committed should not be recorded permanently but indeed they need to be forgotten as soon as possible with no ill-will against its source. Although it is said than done, yet for something to happen we at least should give it a try. If we don’t ever try nothing will happen. So start forgetting all the negative things happening to you.

The University Wits

The term University Wits is applied to a group of scholars, who wrote in the closing years of sixteenth century. They arrived in London from Oxford and Cambridge University and significantly influenced the development of Elizabethan literature. The group included – John Lyly, George Peele, Robert Greene, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Lodge, Thomas Nashe and Thomas Kyd (he was also a part although he had studied at the Merchant Taylor’s School – an excellent place in itself).
At the time when the University Wits entered the scenario of the English drama, one of the prevailing traditions was the imitation of ancient Roman drama, for example, ‘Gorboduc’ and ‘Ralph Roister Doister’. The native tradition at that time was devoid of the artistic excellence of classical Greek and Roman drama. The special quality of the University Wits was that although they too looked up to the classical drama and had also woven the general pattern of the drama into their creations, yet they did not imitate it blindly. They gave to the English stage a kind of romantic drama, which became a source of inspiration for Shakespeare later on.


John Lyly (1554-1606) is the most famous for his prose romance ‘Euphues’. In all he wrote eight plays. In his plays he used a mixture of prose and poetry – symbolic of the coming together of the worlds of reality and romance.


Robert Greene (1558-92)) – The most interesting of the five plays written by Greene is ‘The Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay’. The other plays penned by him are:
(i) The Comical History of Alphonsus King of Aragon
(ii) A Looking Glass for London and England (written jointly with Lodge)
(iii) The History of Orlondo Furioso
(iv) The Scottish History of James, the Fourth

George Peele (1558-97)) – The following are the five plays penned by Peele:
(i) The Arraignment of Paris (a pastoral play)
(ii) The Battle of Alcazar (a romantic tragedy)
(iii) The Famous Chronicle of King Edward, the First (a chronicle play)
(iv) The Love of King David and Fair Bathsheba ( a kind of mystery play with a Biblical theme)
(v) The Old Wives’ Tale (a romantic satire on the current dramatic verse)
The variety that can be observed from the plays (belonging to different categories of dramas) we certainly say that Peele was a versatile writer.


Thomas Kyd (1557-97) – His only play ‘The Spanish Tragedy’ for which he used the Senecan model of a revenge tragedy. Some characteristic features of a revenge tragedy – murders, bloodshed, dreadful incidents, ghosts etc. – were all present in ‘The Spanish Tragedy’. But at the same time the drama was a departure from the Senecan tradition. Most of the action is reported in Senecan tragedy whereas it takes place on stage in Kyd’s drama. Even otherwise Kyd’s tragic hero was a departure from the prevailing tradition – he did not belong to the royal class rather he was an ordinary being. By introducing the quality of introspection in his hero he set up a precedent for Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Christopher Marlowe (1564-93) – Marlowe has been called to be the most talented among the Wits. He wrote:
(i) Tamburlaine, the Great
(ii) Doctor Faustus
(iii) The Jew of Malta
(iv) Edward, the Second
(v) Parts of ‘The Massacre at Paris’ and ‘Dido Queen of Carthage’
Marlowe took the subject matter to a higher level – he used ambition as the theme instead of the revenge theme of Seneca. He showed the presence of a certain flaw in his hero – on the lives of the idea of a tragic hero of Aristotle. His effective use of the blank verse as the medium added another feather to his cap.


Among the lesser known University Wits were Thomas Nashe (1567-1601) and Thomas Lodge (1558-1625). According to the critics they have not contributed much to the growth of English literature.

Plotdog weekly contest July 18

PlotDog Press has weekly writing contest in which my post “The Elizabethan Sonnet" was also entered but it didn't make it to the top.However, below is the list of the winners. They're all very commendable sites.
Woof Winners: Writers Offering Our Finest for 18 July
WOOF Contest - Top 5 Picks:
About Writing and Author Interviews / About Poetry
Kimota - “How to Become a Writer - the Harsh Reality
Annetta Ribken - “Finding The Time To Write
Robert Stevenson - “For improved writing think visually
Qugrainne - “Cluttered Desk, Cluttered Mind, Clear Desk…….
Flash/Fiction – Serial Fiction
Jennifer M Scott - “In Pursuit of Jack
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PLOTDOG PRESS FEATURING: "Stephen King’s BonesIf anyone of you would like to enter, just visit http://plotdog.com/woof-contest.

Poetry as Criticism of Life - Matthew Arnold

In his essay, ‘The Study of Poetry’ Matthew Arnold has presented poetry as a criticism of life. In the beginning of his essay he states: “In poetry as criticism of life, under conditions fixed for such criticism by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty, the spirit of our race will find, as time goes by and as other helps fail, its consolation and stay.” Thus, according to him poetry is governed by the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty.
Poetic truth is a characteristic quality of the matter and substance of poetry. It means a sound representation of life. In other words, it is a true depiction of life without any attempt to falsify the facts. Poetic beauty is contained in the manner and style. It is marked by excellence of diction and flow of verse. While talking of Chaucer, Arnold mentions fluidity of diction and verse. Poetic beauty springs from right words in the right order.
Poetic truth and poetic beauty are inter-related and cannot be separated from one another.” The superior character of truth and seriousness in the matter and substance of best poetry, is inseparable from the superiority of diction and movement marking its manner and style”, says Arnold. If a poem is lacking in the qualities of poetic truth and high seriousness, it cannot possess the excellence of diction and movement, and vice-versa.
In his estimate of Burns and Wordsworth, Arnold points out that another characteristic of great poetry is application of ideas to criticism of life. The greatness of Wordsworth lies in his powerful application of the subject of ideas to man, nature and human life. Ideas according to Arnold are moral ideas.
Another quality attributed to great poetry by Arnold is that of ‘high seriousness’. Although he does not fully explain the term, we gather quite a lot of information from his statement. Aristotle was of the view that poetry is superior to History due to the former’s qualities of higher truth and higher seriousness. What we judge from Arnold’s essay is that high-seriousness is concerned with the sad reality. This quality is possessed by poetry which deals with the tragic aspects of life. Even the examples given by Arnold from Dante, Shakespeare and Milton’s poetry illustrate this view. For instance, dying Hamlet’s request to Horatio:


“If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain
To tell my story…”


While quoting Milton, Arnold mentions the loss of Proserpine, the loss “…which const Ceres all that pain/ to seek her through the world.”
Regarding the concept of criticism of life, it needs to be understood what Arnold meant by the phrase – “criticism of life”. It does not mean carping at or unnecessarily finding faults with life. The suggestion itself is unsound that it means a criticism of society and its follies. Criticism of life means a healthy interpretation of life. It means an evaluation, sympathetic sharing in and feeling for. The theory of poetry given Arnold has been challenged on many accounts. Arnold does not consider Burns a great poet because in his poetry Burns presents an ugly life. Arnold was of the view that a poet has the advantage of portraying a beautiful life in his poetry. Eliot attacked this opinion. He believed that the poet has not the advantage of describing a beautiful life but has rather an advantage of having the capacity to look beneath both ugliness and beauty. It is the power to look beyond boredom, horror and glory.
While teaching of the concept of poetic beauty, Arnold mentions excellence of diction but does not explain what it is. As regards the flow in verse or the fluidity in movement, Arnold probably does not realize that the use of coarseness is sometimes intentional to create a specific effect. Smoothness need not be the only one; harshness and ruggedness are equally great qualities, when used to create special effects.
Matthew Arnold does not fully explain the term ‘high seriousness’. It should also be remembered here that seriousness should not at all be considered synonymous with solemnity. The serious and humorous can exist together.
Another view put forward by Arnold that has been under the shadow of criticism is that of ‘ideas’. We might very well like to believe that what Arnold wants to say is that an author, while interpreting life for us, might also use a moral idea to convey a moral lesson. But what Arnold believes is that there is a pre-conceived idea on which the poet bases his evaluation.
Eliot also criticizes Arnold on the latter’s occupation with only great poetry. Adhering to this principle, we might end up dealing with only a small part of the total poetry.
Matthew Arnold talks of deriving pleasure from poetry. But according to critics he is actually biased towards morality – a fact that is evident from his view that poetry would replace religion. “More and more mankind will discover that we have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us”, he writes.
Apart from all the negative criticism directed against Arnold we cannot deny that he has very beautifully related literature to life. As Douglas Bush rightly points out that literature is not an end in itself for Arnold. It only adds to the beauty of life and answers the question ‘How to live?’ Arnold is such a person, who does not live to read, but reads to live.

The Elizabethan Sonnet

The sonnet, a poem of fourteen lines was originally invented in the thirteenth century Italy. It probably originated with Dante, who wrote a number of sonnets to his beloved named Beatrice. But the genre of sonnets flourished under Petrarch (1304 - 74) a generation later. The introduction of sonnets in England is credited to Wyatt and Surrey. Their sonnets were published in Tottel’s Miscellany. While Wyatt followed the Petrarchan model for seventeen out of his thirty-two sonnets, Surrey invented a style of his own that was later adopted by the Elizabethan sonneteers especially Shakespeare.
Although a large number of poets tried their hands at the writing of sonnets ye they are a few names that rise above the run of the mill crowd. The prominent names are those of Sidney, Spenser and Shakespeare.
Edmund Spenser(1552-1599) can be considered as a pioneer in this field in English as ti was he who first appeared with his collection of eighty-eight sonnets in the form of Amoretti (1595). He followed the rhyme scheme: abab, bcbc, cdcd, ee. In the words of Andrew Sanders, “The sonnets substantially readjust the Petrarchan model by seeing the mistress as an unattainable image of perfection, but as a creature reflection and sometimes clouding the glory of her Divine Creator.”


Sir Philip Sidney(1554-86) – His most important word was his sonnet sequence ‘Astrophel and Stella’ (a collection of one hundred and eight sonnets and eleven songs). The poems are addressed to Penelope Devereux about the intensity of the poet’s feelings for the lady, who later broke off with him to marry Lord Rich. These sonnets owe much to Petrarch and Ronsard in tone and style. G.H. Mair is of the view that Sidney’s sonnets “mark and epoch” as “they are the first direct expression in English literature of an intimate and personal experience struck off in the white heat of passion...they never lose the one merit above all others of lyric poetry, the merit of sincerity.”


William Shakespeare(1564-1616) - Shakespearean sonnets, one hundred and fifty-four in number were first published in 1609. Out of these the first one hundred and twenty six are addressed to a young and handsome man, who has been said to be the Earl of Southampton. A few have maintained that he might have been William Herbert, the Earl of Pembroke. Twenty-six sonnets are addressed to a dark lady. Shakespeare’s sonnets follow the rhyme scheme: abab, cdcd, efef, gg. It was the same that was first used by Surrey. The typical characteristic of Shakespeare is the final couplet. Shakespeare was completely impersonal in his dramatic works but in his sonnets as Wordsworth puts it he “unlocks his heart”.


The Concept of 'Myth' in Literature

The word ‘myth’ is derived from the Greek word ‘mythos’, which means a traditional tale common to the member of a tribe, race or nation. It usually involves the supernatural elements to explain some natural phenomenon in boldly imaginative terms. Today myth has become one of the most prominent terms in contemporary literature analysis. It was Northrop Frye, one of the most influential myth critics (others including Robert Graves, Francis Fersusson, Richard Chase, Philip Wheelwright), who discovered certain formulas in the word order. He identified these formulas as the “conventional myths and metaphors” which he calls "archetypes". C.G. Jung was of the view the materials of the myth lie in the collective unconscious of the race.
Writers have always been attracted towards the elements of remoteness, mystery and the heroism of myth. But the application of the term ‘myth’ is very wide as there is a large variety of applications in contemporary criticism. We also need to understand the difference between myth, legend and folktale. M.H. Abrams has clearly defined all of these. “If the protagonist is a man rather thatn a supernatural being, the story is usually not called myth but legend; if the story concerns supernatural beings, but is not part of a systematic mythology, it is usually classified as a folktale.” As mentioned earlier a myth is characterized by the supernatural elements.
D.H. Lawrence made use of the myth in his ‘The Plumed Serpeant’, Melville in ‘Moby Dick’. William Blake created a mythology of his own. He was inspired by John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ and ‘Paradise Regained’, to name only a few of the sources.

Paulo Coelho's 'The Alchemist'

Want to own a copy? The Alchemist

Paulo Coelho, born in Brazil is particularly renowned for his ‘The Alchemist’. He gave the subtitle to his book – ‘A magical fable about following your dream’. And indeed he tells us a fable of a boy named Santiago – a story his courage to follow his dream, the twists and turns he has to face in the course of his pursuit.
While reading the book I felt that each and every word of the book is worth its weight in gold. To quote a few lines would be just like presenting only a few beads from the ocean of precious jewels. But the temptation was hard to resist:
1. “…at a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”
2. "And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
3. “…there is a force that wants you to realize your destiny; it whets your appetite with a taste of success.”
4. “I’m like everyone else – I see the world in terms of what I would like to see happen, not what actually does.”
5. “If I can learn to understand this language without words, I can learn to understand the world.”
6. “You must always know what it is that you want.”
7. “…there was a language in the world that everyone understood, a language the boy had used throughout.
8. "It was my fear of failure that first kept me from attempting the Master Word. Now, I’m beginning what I could have started ten years ago. But I’m happy at least that I didn’t wait twenty years.”

While going through a book we should not aim to enjoy the book as a whole. Rather we should enjoy every bit of it as we go by. The same was the case with ‘The Alchemist’. One never gets bored even while reading for a long time at a stretch.
The story gives us a lesson of a lifetime – a lesson that we should be listening to what our heart calls out for, the ‘personal calling’ as Coelho labels it. We should learn to comprehend the omens that cross our path.
The omens should not be taken to the extent of superstition. It is only that God could not be everywhere and he could not present himself before us, so drops hints for us, to guide us and to keep us on the right track. Omens are the hints dropped by God.
One thing we all must remember always – we should follow our dreams. Everyone doesn’t have the courage to do so. We might have to suffer in the plan of action just as Santiago does on many occasions. But we won’t end up being disappointed.

Booker of Bookers - 'Midnight's Children'

Salman Rushdie’s ‘Midnight’s Children’, the 27 year old was rejuvenated recently, although it never grew old enough to be forgotten. It was first awarded the Booker Prize in 1981, the year in which it was written. Before being awarded the Booker of Bookers in 2008, it was selected for the same award on the 25th anniversary of Booker Prize in the year 1993. This time it was on the occasion of the 40th anniversary. This award was conferred upon Rushdie after his book was chosen from among a list of 41 books (previous award winners) nominated for the award. ‘Midnight’s Children’ is a post-colonial story about partition of India. Among other strong contenders was J.M. Coetzee’s ‘Disgrace’.

Shakespeare's Grave


The grave of William Shakespeare has the following words inscribed on it:
"Blessed be the man that spares these stones
And cursed be he who moves my bones."
These words might have served as a warning in past times. Even now when Ian Stainburn, of Stainburn Taylor architects and historic buildings consultants, who is to give the bard’s grave of the Bard is taking care that the work is done without moving the bones literally. They are going to laminate the place as the surface was coming off. “It’s our wish that we conserve this without anyone knowing we were there,” said architect Ian Stainburn, who is working on the project. “We want to conserve it as it is and slow down the natural process of decay but we don’t want to recut it. It’s really a challenge.”
The condition of the grave had been deteriorating. Shakespeare was buried here on 25 April, 1616.

George Eliot's 'The Mill on the Floss'



George Eliot was born on 22 November, 1819. She was born Mary Ann Evans. It was in 1857 that she adopted her nom de plume George Eliot. George was the Christian name of her husband (George Henry Lewes). She declared that she chose the name because “George was Mr. Lewes's Christian name, and Eliot was a good mouth-filling, easily pronounced word". Her novel ‘The Mill on the Floss’ was not able to repeat the success of its predecessor ‘Adam Bede’. And there were reasons attached to it. The Maggie-Stephanie affair had violated the ethical and moral norms of the Victorian age.

Autobiographical Elements:
F.R. Leavis is the most prominent among the modern critics who gives weightage to the autobiographical element in the novel. He mentions the existence of an ‘emotional tone’ in those episodes of the novel that have autobiographical lineage. On the one hand he sees the positive point of the novel in tis psychological realism while on the other hand, he is critical of the inadequate climax – the dramatic occurrence of floods and Maggie’s drowning with Tom.
As far as the autobiographical elements are concerned – Dorcocte Mill has its strings attached to Eliot’s memories of Arbury Mill. Dorlocte Mill is on the Trent near Gainsborough but as G.S. Haight says (in his introduction to the Riverside edition of ‘The Mill on the Floss’), it is drawn from the memories of Arbury Mill.
Leslie Stephen feels that she took herself to be the heroine. He writes in his essay ‘The “Beautiful Soul” and the Commonplace Environment in The Mill on the Floss’ that the attic to which Maggie retires in the mill is the attic to which George Eliot had retired in her father’s house.


Like her father Leslie Stephen, Virginia Woolf also finds too much subjectivity (or “self consciousness” as she calls it) in Eliot’s heroines – the reason why she dislikes them.
Inspite of its being considered a flawed work artistically and its earlier reception as a morally shocking work, the fact remains that ‘The Mill on the Floss’ was, is and will remain and important jewel in the crown of English literature.

'Othello' - the Source and the Additions

While reading ‘Othello’, it must be kept in mind that we are dealing with a play that was specifically written for the theatre. This covers the inconsistencies of the plot and time scheme present in the play as the theatre audience does not have the time to give them a serious thought. The source of the play lies in the collection of tales written by Italian writer, Giambattisa Cinzio Giraldi. Although Shakespeare hovered very close to the original text, yet as was the characteristic feature of this genius he made significant changes in the plot to leave an ingenuous imprint on the original text.
The following are the additions made by Shakespeare:
(i) The compression of the timescale to heighten the impact of events
(ii) Use of two contrasting locations
(iii) Introduction of the characters of Roderigo and Brabantio (Desdemona’s father)
(iv) Addition of the event of war between the Turks and Venetians
(v) The villain in Othello, Iago is independent in his malignity (in Cinzio’s tale Iago’s counterpart, Ensign’s wife is fully aware of her husband’s practices)
All these additions had their significant role to play. The battle here in the objective correlative, just as the raging storm was in ‘King Lear’ – the political battle between the infidels and Christians signifies the battle within Othello – he was born and infidel but adopted Christianity, the religion of the state.
Thus, we can say that as is with all other plays Shakespeare drew upon the already existing text and used them for inspiration. But he made such remarkable and thoughtful modifications in his plays that he almost made them his own. This is wherein the greatness of the dramatic genius of Shakespeare lies.

Also visit: Othello (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Synaesthesia

The word ‘synaesthesia’ has been derived from a Greek word meaning ‘perceiving together’. It means concurrent appeal to more than one senses. J.A. Cuddon defines it as the “response through several senses to the stimulation of one”. It is also sometimes called ‘sense transfer’ or ‘sense analogy’ – as M.H. Abrams too has termed it as description of one sense through another; for instance, colour is attributed to sound, sound to odour, odour to colour.
Synaesthetic imagery was first used by Jules Millet in 1892 in his thesis on Auditon Coloree. Baudelaire made us of this imagery in his sonnet ‘Correspondances’ and ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’. Rimbaud in his poem ‘Voyelles’ assigned a colour to each vowel sound. This imagery was especially used by the Romantic poets and later by French symbolists.
Keats in his odes makes full use of this type of imagery. For instance, in his Ode ‘To Nightingale’ he writes:

“Tasting of Flora and the country green
Provencal song, dance and mirth”

Keats here refers to the tasting of sight, colour, sound, motion and heat. About these lines, Fogle is of the view: ‘Synaesthetic imagery is at its highest’.

Shelley too, using synaesthetic imagery in his poem ‘The Sensitive Plant’ writes:

“Of music so delicate, soft and intense
It was felt like an odour within the sense.”

This imagery was also used by poets like Aeschylus, Donne, Crashaw and Horace.



'Act of Living Together'

Martin Luther King wrote:
“We have learnt to fly in the air like birds and to swim in the sea like fish
But we have not learned the simple act of living together.”

How truly had he expressed a universal truth! Man is said to be a social animal. But we have, on the whole, not formed true societies. A society doesn’t simply mean a group staying together; rather it should be taken to mean the persons living together. Now what we need to look at is: What is the actual import of the words – “living together”? The implication is not only confined to the physical sense, but also the psycho-emotional act of living together, that is to say, there are a few ‘strings attached’. It is tragic for the human race that man has achieved everything he had never ever dreamt of and is striving to do even more but man has not been human at all. “It is the human heart by which we live”, that makes us humans and our physical structure.
Wordsworth has beautifully expressed in his Ode ‘Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’
“Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.”

This is what a thinking and a loving heart is, a heart that is alive and living. And this is how we will be able to put ourselves together and learn “the simple act of living together”.

Bill Gates's quotes


Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and the more recently established Bill-Mesinda Foundation (in 2000), had stepped down as the CEO of Microsoft in January 2000. Recently he retired from Microsoft to spend more time for his foundation. Gates's last day at Microsoft was June 27, 2008. He remains a non-executive chairman of Microsoft. The reason why I write about him on my blog, even though mine is not a technology blog, is because of some of his words that can be used as quotations. To begin with something humorous:

“I actually thought that it would be a little confusing during the same period of your life to be in one meeting when you're trying to make money, and then go to another meeting where you're giving it away.”

“I really had a lot of dreams when I was a kid, and I think a great deal of that grew out of the fact that I had a chance to read a lot.”

“Life is not fair; get used to it.”

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten. Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction.”

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose.”

“Its fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

“If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He doesn't have tenure.”

Shelley's 'A Defence of Poetry'

Posthumous Portrait of Shelley Writing Prometheus Unbound
Artist: Joseph Severn
img src: www.wam.umd.edu/~djb/shelley/gallery/homepic.jpg

‘A Defence of Poetry’ is the only finished prose work Shelley left. Shelley wrote this essay as a response to Thomas Love Peacock’s essay ‘Four Ages of Poetry’. He says, Poetry in the general sense may be defined to be “the expression of imagination:” and poetry is connate with the origin of man.
Shelley’s use of poetry is inclusive referring to literature as a genre perse imaginative writing in general and poetry considered as a human faculty. The defence is aimed against utilitarian definitions of value and happiness accompanying the growth of industrial culture. Poetry is the expression of imagination whose unifying functions are distinguished from Reason’s neutral observation of differences.
Talking of the poets he mentions that in earlier ages the poets were called prophets or legislators; but he is of the view that the poets comprises and unites both these characters. This is because a poet not only observes the present as it is but also is able to see the future in the present. He writes, “For he not only beholds intensely the present as it is, and discovers those laws according to which present things ought to be ordered, but he beholds the future in the present, and his thoughts are the germs of the flower and the fruit of latest time.”
The document contains Shelley's famous claim that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world".

The Last Day

Once again it's December 31. It has been a ritual to have a seemingly long, improbable and a questionable list of resolutions fo...