Tag Archives: shakespeare

vertigo – chapter eleven

starry_night_full

“Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh

It is the star above her that governs her conditions. Iris knows that the fault is not entirely in herself but mostly in the lucky star that does not seem to know where to find its beneficiary. The star was born when Libra and Capricorn were met in the house of Aquarius on the nineteenth hour of blustery snowy wintry night. The star hangs on the vault of nightly celestial ballroom among the other stars twinkling merrily and boldly but alone in a corner of the limitless dome, twinkling ruefully and dutifully as if it were trying to signify its insignificant presence on the nocturnal cosmic stage. For this lone star has not found its beneficiary, the ascribed terrestrial hair of its power, and without it, the star cannot become a lucky star. Which is a tragedy for both Iris and her star.

In fact, Iris’s existential frustration or noogenic neuroris agrees to what Shakespeare was suspected of harboring in all his life. Surely, the Bard was a very successful playwright and poet who marched in a parade of famed hits in his time, but he was wrestling with a doubt whether it was Fate or Freedom of Will that governed human lives as conveyed in his works, such as “Julius Caesar”, “Othello”, and “Hamlet”. The characters of these plays fight for their causes as masters of their fates, but the consequences are not entirely fortuitous in bliss. That’s why the Greek soldier and historian Thucydides regarded vain hope imbued with a paroxysm of flattering confidence and blind devotion to law of attraction as a dangerous hubris to one’s philosophy of life.

Hope plays its role as a morale booster when one sees it as a card of chance in awareness of odds in one’s favor. In this manner, one does not have to think about it but can fight with every hope of winning. This also relates to a principle of Logotheraphy: the less one cares, the more one can without stress for success. But alas, my dear reader, to pour lead into the wound, all the aforesaid needs luck as the Bard chips in thus: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” A tide of the deep wide ocean of Life that arises from the heart of the ocean to surge in bounty of fortune to a weary wayfarer on the land is what Iris has been waiting for till now.

All this thought, all this doubt about her so-called life – the existential frustration- are vexing her mind and crippling her faculties of the mind like vermin, so much that she feels utterly disoriented and deserted in the crossroads of life. Faith she has begun to lose with reasons justifiable only to herself, meaning of life she still hasn’t found, Iris finds herself lost in the Labyrinth where the Minotaur is roaming around to find his prey. And she does not have the hero Theseus nor Ariadne for help. Iris must find the way out anyhow for her dear life. But one thing is certain, my dear reader; that although fortune’s malice or absence might conspire to overthrow her state, her feisty and recalcitrant mind will eventually exceed the compass of her will of fortune with a triumphant laugh.

‘Ben Jonson’s Walk to Scotland: An Annotated Edition of the ‘Foot Voyage”, by James Loxley – review

Ben Jonson's Walk to Scotland: An Annotated Edition of the 'Foot Voyage'Ben Jonson’s Walk to Scotland: An Annotated Edition of the ‘Foot Voyage’ by James Loxley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first learned of Ben Jonson from Stuart Kells’s Shakespeare’s Library as a member of the Shakespeare triumvirate, I was piqued by the personal background of this unreconstructed Elizabethan playwright and poet and wanted to know more about him. My search for the intelligence of Jonson then met a devotee of Ben (a Tweeter equivalent of Sons of Ben) in London, England, which led me to the treasure cave piled with Jonson’s writings and the writings about him. Among the treasure is this pleasant travelogue of Jonson’s famous walk from London to Scotland with his unknown companion in 1618.

An energetic vicambulist and a lover of sensory delights of life, Jonson’s journey to Scotland, the land of his birth, on foot seems natural and celebratory of his feisty and adventurous spirit in comparison to his statuesque contemporary men of letters. Be it that his working-class background or unconventional Modus Vivendi, Jonson meets people of all walks of life, ranging from a madwoman to a jovial tinker, and to a scullery maid to the lords of stately houses, like a learned troubadour and interacts with them as such artlessly genial attitudes are also reciprocated with respect in jovial mood. The unknown companion whose identity is open to presumptions is nonetheless a vital witness not only to the authenticity of Jonson’s celebratory foot journey but also to the recognition of his humaneness that gives life to the textual figure of Jonson, bringing the reader close to this literary celebrity in his unvarnished prose narrative. In fact, it is this plainness of account without a platitude of florid language in want of erudition that reveals the person of Jonson and the realistic views on social and cultural landscapes of the Elizabethan era devoid of heavyweight academic stuffiness and intellectual seriousness.

Further to the authorship question, I like to think that Jonson as a producer must have commissioned his apprentice or trusty servant of literacy to write it because (1) the original manuscript called ‘A Discovery’ was burned in the 1623 desk fire; (2) the scrolls of documents presented by the Aldersey Family in Cheshire contains a manuscript entitled “My Gossip (c.f. the term meaning a kin through God) Jonson”; and (3) most of all, the narrative does not possess Jonson’s literary allure and erudition proprietary to his oeuvres. Notwithstanding the dubious authorship, the narrator went, saw, and narrated Jonson’s foot voyage to Scotland, where both were made honorary burgesses, a well-deserved titular trophy for the journey completed.

With respect to the motif of this voyage, I think it was intended to be a literary supplement to his well-heeled subscribers as an entertaining accouterments to their library in an appreciation of their patronage. In this regard, it could also have been a wager journey benefiting from the subscribers in the promise of delight from the travelogue to the seekers of vicarious pleasure as if they were traveling with the famed literary figure of their time.

Contrary to the introduction of the book as an appropriate read for upper-level students of English literature or scholars devoted to Ben Jonson, this book is accessibly enjoyable even to a general reader like myself and recommendable to the initiated and the uninitiated with a promising delight to the mind. Upon finishing my travel with Ben Jonson and his unknown companion, I now see him as an artless man of action with bouts of hearty laughter and a caring heart attentive to his ill servant and a lowest sculler maid in a manor he visited, not as an unapproachable Elizabethan celebrity whose star in in the constellation of universal literati sparkles radiantly in the celestial fresco. His bibliographic tantrums of temper were proverbially formidable, but his humanness wonderfully saturated with his literary feat and artistic talent dominated the vice as readers will see in this travelogue. And I think Jonson will like us readers to think of him that way. Or I like to think that way as a fan.

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‘Dr. Faustus’ by Christopher Marlowe – review

Faustus-tragedyHe was a formidable agent provocateur: a blasphemous rebel, a proud atheist, a counterfeit, and a sybaritic seeker of tobacco and boys and an alleged spy for the government with his literary arsenal and daredevil machismo toward life. It was no less a dramatist, playwright than Christopher Marlowe, who introduced the concepts; a man whose life was staged so mysteriously and controversially that even his death was enveloped in a provocative imbroglio of factoids. In a case of life imitating art, Marlowe’s life was an epic tragedy for a literary enfant terrible struggling to mark his name in the Elizabethan England, where his literary genius and individualism were something of irreligious decadence to be reckoned with. Marlowe’s version of Dr. Faustus was his testimony against conventional absurdities of life in defense of his existential meaning of life, and there’s his outcry of existential dilemma spreading through the mind of the reader and connecting to the world of Marlowe.

Dr. Faustus is a collective model of existential dilemma of Marlowe and his educated poor peers boxed in clerical positions with paltry sustenance in the Church of England. In fact, the strains of daily life of an educated poor is inculcated in the figure of Dr. Faust in retribution of their social confinement unparalleled to the scholarship and academic achievements. Marlowe saw poverty obstructing the progress of gifted minds, and consequently, it became his literary and psychological stratagem of fictional world populated with characters terminated by inner conflicts set in the background against the class divisions and religious dogmas intractably entrenched in Elizabethan England. Thus, Marlowe carried out his poetic justice by making Dr. Faustus able to fulfill his materialistic objectives by the agency of magic from the demonic power, even though it required of him a spiritual as well as physical quid pro quo in this story laden with super abundance of religious tenets and morals that all seemed a pompous, sanctimonious hokum.

Marlowe used Dr. Faustus as his literary artifact, a psychological and spiritual medium through whom he made parallels with his own life, measuring himself against the burgeoning careers of his peers of his time. Dr. Faustus was in a way Marlowe’s mirror image that reflected all things about himself in the peculiar alchemy of literature. It all seems to me that Marlowe was a way ahead of his time because the contextualization of inner conflicts of the characters and the thematic substratum strike the chords of readers of post-enlightenment, post-Second Vatican Council and post-modernism. His behemoth contemporary peer William Shakespeare said, “Some are born great, others achieve greatness.” I like to think that Marlowe was both in the canon of English literature.

Witching Hour

s-l300The witching hour was nearing to cast its spell on the night under the aegis of Artemis, the goddess of the moon, and the passengers on the last train to East Ventura were inwardly invoking the power of Patience for a high hope for a low heaven – they all just wanted to go home after a hard day’s work, and no more. These aggregates were all bound by the same fate of being held up as hostages to the less practical and more unnecessary delay due to their inapt handling of one unruly passenger on board at Moorpark Station. The force of one unruly passenger carried the aggregates over the edge of their collectively simulated sanity and suspended their precious time to be spent at home. This nightly act of daily drama in the life of a commuter was in fact a repertory regularly put on stage by a company entitled Metrolink. It was performed yet again last night for an hour. Without Applauds, of course.

Since I moved to California last October from New Jersey following the footsteps of the nineteenth century emigrants from the East to the West via mules-driven wagons on the Oregon trail, I have been trying to make myself adjusted to the Californian way of life in every sundry aspect. But the most Promethean challenge to overcome is commuting to and from work via train, and my whole life now seems to be run by train schedules operated by Metrolink, the Southern California’s commuter railway company. It takes about three good hours round trip to and from Union Station in Los Angeles without delays, so basically my free time after work during weekdays is to be spent on the train without much personal time at home in the evening. Let’s say the commuting time is agreeable at will due to my economic activities, but any such delays, including the aforesaid and waiting for an Armtrek train to pass by on the trails for about thirty minutes, are hard to receive my magnanimous understanding. And it seems that the last East Ventura bound train in the evening is set for giving me a series of trials by ordeal that I need not anymore. Woes to those who are already burdened with the yoke of needs.

Call it a commuter’s blues or soliloquy, but whenever I am faced with another ordeal of habitual delay that seems to become part of my Immigrant Song in the Wild West, I think of the following Shakespeare’s quotation tinged with wits and pathos that speaks of our moments in life, such as last night’s episode of “Unruly Passenger at Moorpark Station”.

And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe.
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.

Sound and Fury – Two

 

images paris.jpg

She is always waiting, and it seems like it is her forte. Like Clytie yearning for Apollo’s love, Iris pines for love as a sublimation of sensuality that is the union of Eros and Psyche. It is different from the religious sense of Agape love that is of spiritual element only. Iris knows it all, and she is a student of the Nietzschean school of thought believing love is the surrendering of herself to the other in consummation of desire so pristine and unadulterated of knowing and understanding of the flesh and the soul of her lover. But the tragedy is that she has read all about it, not experiencing it for real. She lives in the reality of her books and thoughts, and it is there she feels safe and comfy without a fear of rejection. So, her world of love dwells in her maiden meditation to fancy free, giving her imagination free rein to the extreme extent without the violent ends of such violent delights. In her mind’s garden, Iris lets her wild horse run her chariot without the goad because otherwise it would rebel against her order of severely restricted movements, which is unnatural to the beast, and drive her into a high cliff and then push her into fathomless Sea of Shadows.

She seems to speak an infinite deal of nothing, but the feeling of existential Cul-del-sac Iris is having weighs as heavy as the celestial heavens that titan Atlas was holding for eternity. People said, “Beauty is only a skin-deep,” but that’s just a lame, piteous excuse and empty consolation for being unattractive, unwanted, unloved. For that matter, at least Oscar Wilde was honest in saying that a woman’s beauty was a form of genius that needed no explanation because it’s like sunlight. Love looked not with the eyes, but with the mind, so said Shakespeare, but it does not seem so to her.

It is the attractiveness that makes people interested in the soul of the beheld. That’s why Iris wants to go to Aphrodite’s Beach somewhere in Cyprus, where it is believed that goddess of love Aphrodite used to bathe. For it’s said that a woman in want of fairness will be transformed into a beauty if she swims naked alone at the beach with no spectators around. Her fierce desire of fairness attests that all women should be told they are pretty and beautiful, even if they aren’t; they have no other reason than being women. Like a madwoman who has such a seething brain that sees beauty as a paradigm of goodness, Iris dwells on the beauty of life, watching the stars and seeing herself running with them in beauty.