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Much Ado About Nothing – Power Analysis

In “Much Ado About Nothing” Shakespeare focuses on the roles of women in the patriarchal society. He contrasts two women, Beatrice who is strong, outspoken and independent with her cousin, Hero, who is considered the ‘ideal woman’ as she is submissive and innocent. Through both women’s experiences in a men’s world, Shakespeare shows that those who stand up for themselves and don’t let men objectify and restrain them are better off.

Hero is considered an ideal women because of her gentle, soft-spoken nature and is described as a “jewel” and “the sweetest lady I have ever looked on” by Claudio who falls in love with her almost instantly. However, this love quickly turns to hatred when he trusts the word of don Jon over the supposed love of his life and believes that Hero is cheating on him.  When Claudio confronts Hero of cheating, instead of being heartbroken and miserable, he is disgusted by her actions and the fact that he almost married such a woman. This scene represents the way women were misunderstood, misjudged and mistrusted in the Elizabethan era and hints that Claudio’s love for Hero was shallow and that he simply liked the idea of having an ‘ideal woman’ as his wife. Hero’s father is also quick to believe Claudio over his own daughter and threatens to disown and kill her before even finding out the truth.  This treatment shows that most of the men including her own father no longer care about Hero once they believe she is no longer “chaste” and “ideal”.

Beatrice on the other hand, defies the Elizabethan stereotype by speaking up and refusing to let men define and dominate her. She defies Elizabethan stereotypes by taking her future into her own hands and deciding when and who she wants to get married to. While this behaviour was shocking and outrageous to not only the other characters but also the Elizabethan audience, she also earned their respect and admiration.  This is shown by the way her uncle treats her in comparison to Hero whom he simply orders around. Leonarto knows better than to treat Beatrice in the same manner and simply settles for saying “Well niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband” instead of forcing her to get married to the highest bidder. The other men also are willing to have conversations with her and listen to what she has to say. This demonstrates how women do in fact have power  that if they are willing to stand up and fight for rights and equality, men will eventually treat them with respect and as equals.

At the end of the day however, it seems that no matter how strong-willed and independent a woman is, she simply won’t receive as much freedom and rights as a man. Shakespeare demonstrates this outrageous unfairness in society when Even Beatrice is forced to accept this when she realises that she can’t confront and battle Claudio he wrongs her cousin. She is absolutely outraged by the apparent shortcomings that come with her gender stating “if  cant be a man with wishing, I will die a woman with grieving.” Also, the ‘happy ending’ of the play occurs when Beatrice is ‘tamed’ into the domestic life signified by Benedick claiming to her “I will silence you with my lips.” This ending was most likely written to satisfy the Elizabethan audience by showing that all was well in the world again.  While Shakespeare did not go for entire equality, he still managed to demonstrate the idea was  desirable and viable light.

The role of women in society is an important theme in “Much Ado About Nothing.” By placing feminist ideals into Beatrice Shakespeare shows that even though she isn’t an ‘ideal woman’ according to social standards her personality and characteristics are definitely ideal.

Preludes and The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock – Analysis

Question: Eliot’s modern poems express his  response to a world that has lost important values and ideals. Do you agree with this statement? Discuss your response to the Love Song of J. Alfred and one other poem.

In “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “Preludes” T.S. Elliot expresses his views and thoughts on the modern world.  He explores themes such as the shallowness and superficiality of the modern lifestyle, alienation and isolation. Elliot was a modernist writer who aimed to capture the rapid transformation of the world due to technological advances which he perceived as fractured and alienated. His use of literary techniques such as imagery, ambiguity and repetition to depict the lonely, mechanical way which he believes the modern world function in.

In the “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” Elliot explores the life of a middle aged man, Prufrock, who’s life is boring, routine and uneventful. He has obsessive and compulsive traits which lead to him being hugely isolated and alienated. Prufrock lives in a world where the development of new inventions and technologies has made society mechanical an fake and left people in a fragile psychological state. His ‘damaged psyche’ prevents him from social interaction as he is afraid of rejection and scorn. He leads a frustrating life filled with meaningless and uninspiring events. Through Prufrock, Elliot communicated the loss of tradition an culture and the loneliness and alienation brought on by the emphasis of individuality in the modern world.

Preludes follows similar ideas of solitary and depersonalisation through the use of techniques such as fragmentation. Quotes such as “a lonely cab horse” represent the unhealthy amounts of isolation  brought on by the modern world. He also focuses on creating the grim atmosphere of the dreary atmosphere and grimy streets of the city. There is a repetition of time as the poem progresses and moves from morning to night. The way the poem moves through the day without hinting that there is any more important event or point may represent the mechanical, meaningless way human life has become.

In both “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “Preludes” Elliot displays his modernist ideals by depicting the world as superficial, bleak and lacking in cultural depth and fulfilment.

Summer Heights High – Satire Analysis

Satire is a literary tool used to draw attention to social ideas and issues with the purpose of pointing out the flaws of human nature and behaviour. Summer Heights high is a contemporary satirical TV show which uses several forms of humour to draw attention to the negative aspects of the Australian public school system and society in general.  In the form of satire, producer and actor Daniel Lilley, portrays aspects of modern society through the characters of Jonah, a playground bully, and Ja’mie, a self-obsessed private school girl. Through literary techniques such as contemporary satire, humour and exaggeration, Lilley uses deviation and outrageousness to grab the audiences attention and highlight societal flaws.

One of the main characters, Jonah Tokalua, is a Year 8 student of Tongan descent who is constantly causing disturbances and misbehaving. Jonah’s character is a stereotypical top of the food chain ‘big bully’ who physically and verbally assaults his peers to the point where they are too afraid to stand up against him. He is extremely problematic, disruptive and is always stirring up trouble. His mother died when he was young and his family environment is unsupportive and uncaring which greatly impacts his behaviour at school. Jonah continually releases his pent up anger and frustration on teachers and peers. He often tries to justify his behaviour by making light of his actions, claiming that he was just joking or having fun and placing the blame on other people.  Jonah’s character embodies several negative aspects of modern society including, bullying, profanity, racism, homophobia,  and violence. He can also be compared to modern politics and specifically, Donald Trump.

Another main character, Ja’mie, is a private school girl who has stepped out of her comfort zone and come on a ten week exchange program to Summer Height High. She has a very high opinion of herself and believes that ‘her way is the only way’. Daniel Lilley uses exaggeration and mockery to highlight the flaws in modern generations and specifically the shallow, inconsiderate nature of some people. Ja’mie’s character is pretentious, snobbish and self important. She is portrayed as an attention seeker who only cares about appearance, popularity and boys and continually enforces the importance of her priorities on the people around her. Through Ja’mie, the audience is exposed to the destructive impacts of social expectations and the effect of wealth on individuals.

There has been widespread backlash from the media against Summer heights high, claiming that the stereotypes portrayed by Jonah and Ja’mie are uncomfortable, confronting and even downright false. However, the unfortunate truth is that there are real life prodigies of Jonah and Ja’mie. Situations that are made to seem so outrageous in Summer Heights High are in fact a harsh reality and the issues of bullying, peer pressure, violence and negativity are not as far from truth as we may think. Summer heights High employs comedic devices draw attention to and encourage people to reflect on these destructive aspects of modern society. The show portrays hilarious, real life situations which not only aim to amuse the audience but also portray outrageous aspects of society in the hopes that people will recognise flaws and attempt to amend them.

Bowling for Columbine – Analysis

Analysis

In 2002 Michael Moore created a mockumentary, Bowling for Columbine, which was about the correlation  between America’s gun obsession and its alarmingly high violence and death rates. Moore presents heartbreaking statistics and paints a harsh reality which is unfortunately still relevant to this day. With the overarching question of ‘why does America have such a high rate of gun related deaths per year?’, he explores several potential causes of America’s high violence rate including it’s violent history, media sensualisation, political influence and gun lobbies. Moore employs several film and satirical devices including irony, sarcasm, humour, visuals and editing techniques to get his point across.

Moore’s documentary style and techniques such as sequencing, visual irony and editing are strategically used to persuade and influence the viewer. It is emphasised that people often used America’s violent past as a scapegoat to excuse it’s violent present. However Moore easily contradicts this argument by displaying the violent pasts of several other countries including Germany. He then provides statistics to show how these countries are in completely different positions today. He presents the astonishing statistics of the death rates in countries such as Australia which seem minuscule in comparison to America’s shocking 11 000 a year! Moore mocks America’s past of fear and violence through an animation called ‘A brief history of USA’ in which he uses techniques such as exaggeration, repetition, irony and juxtaposition. The playful animation style, exaggeratedly enthusiastic voice over and lively music are contrasted with the themes of brutality and violence. Moore highlights the irony of the American belief that owning guns makes people safer and protected when in fact the reality is the exact opposite. Through repetition he emphasises the unnecessary climate of fear generated through history and juxtaposition between the ‘savages’ who are smiling and waving with the terrified Americans who run around, pointlessly shooting people. Towards the end of the clip, the narrator, which is ironically a happy bullet, proclaims “and the all lived happily ever after,” whilst a startled father shoots the paper boy for simply delivering the mail.

A ‘climate of fear’ which is generated by politicians, corporations and media sensationalism causes chaos and adds fuel to the violence in America. Moore exposes a nation living in terror which is highlighted after the tragic Columbine High shootings. Through comparison and visuals the audience is exposed to the irony that after the shootings the media decided to place the blame on shock rocker, Marilyn Manson but failed to recognise that on the same day the President ordered a massive arsenal of bombs to be deployed in Syria.  Moore compares Marylyn Manson’s sensitive and intellectual way of speaking with the right wing protesters who  are rowdy and crazed. Moore talks about the cycle of fear and consumption and how it created and maintained in America when he states “keep everyone afraid and they will consume.”

Moore employs visual and satirical techniques to amuse and persuade his audience. The overarching conclusion in his film is that America’s gun laws are simply not strong enough and must be drastically altered if America’s issues of violence and death are to be addressed.

Techniques

 Technique

 

Example
Exaggeration Exaggerates the craziness of the people interviewed by asking specific questions and manipulating them
Juxtaposition Juxtaposes Canada with USA – levels of safety, trust and happiness
Verbal irony Claims we need to limit the amount of bomb control because ‘there are wackos out there’ – man who sleep with a gun under his pillow.
Situational irony An organic tofu farmer who lives in a remote area feels the need to keep guns for ‘protection’ – usually associate ‘organic’ and ‘tofu’ with peace
Facial expression and body language The mood Moore sets adds to the satire and absurdity of the situations
Real life footage and statistics Creates an element of trust for the audience and verifies the points being made

The Taming of the Shrew Analysis

The Taming of the Shrew

Introduction
Through his writing, Shakespeare explored the human condition and gave an insight into not only his world, but the modern and future world too. In his play, the Taming of the Shrew and Wainwrights modern adaptation, we gain an insight into how money affects relationships, the position of women in society and how parental favouritism and sibling rivalry can affect an individual. Both composers use their respective forms to address these occurrences in our society.

Relationships
As a romantic comedy, The Taming of the Shrew focuses on romantic relationships and specifically the economic aspects of marriage. Both texts demonstrate how money and social status often determines who marries who. In Shakespeare’s play, Baptista decides who Bianca will marry  based one which one of her suitors is richest, without taking her feelings and wishes into consideration. Similarly, in the movie adaptation, Patrick only wants to marry Catherine because of her wealth and is even willing to put up with her shrewish behaviour, claiming to Harry “thou know’st not gold’s effect.” Both texts show how love is not always the only component of marriage and how external factors such as money, parents and social status are also involved.

Position of Women in Society
The position of women in society vary between the play and movie adaptation as the texts are set in different time periods. Shakespeare’s the Taming of a Shrew which is set in the 16th century represents women as obedient and submissive. This is shown when Baptista decides whom both of his daughters will marry, with Bianca and Katherine having no say in the matter. Pertruchio tells Katherine that “your father has consented that you shall be my wife, your dowry ‘greed on,” meaning that since her father has agreed, they will be married whether she likes it or not. On the other hand, in Wainwrights adaptation, women are independent and make decisions on their own. Both Catherine and Bianca are successful and have acquired wealth on their own. The texts demonstrate how the role of women in society has evolved over time.

Sibling Rivalry/Parental Favouritism
The Taming of the Shrew also explores parental favouritism and sibling rivalry and the effect it can have on those who are subjected to it. In both texts, Katherine’s shrewish behaviour and negative attitude is further brought out when she is continually downgraded and humiliated by not only her family but the public too. Wainwright emphasises sibling rivalry by highlighting the stark differences between Catherine and Bianca through language, appearance and behaviour. Wainwright emphasises how Katherine has little in common with her mother and sister and therefore makes her seem lonely and isolated. Towards the end of the story however, after she meets Pertruchio, she becomes more positive and her true personality begins to appear.

 

 

Little Big History: Tea

Question: Discuss the cultural, political and economic impact of tea on
China up until the 20th century.

Tea has played a significant role in China’s cultural, political and economic development for millennia. According to Chinese folklore, tea originated in Southern China during the Shang Dynasty in 2737 BC. Legend has it that one day a servant was boiling water for the Emperor to drink when dried leaves from a nearby plant fell in. The Emperor was intrigued by the brown substance and upon tasting it, found it very refreshing. Although this legend may not be accurate, physical evidence such as an ancient bronze teapot dating back to the Han Dynasty prove that tea has been an integral part of Chinese culture and tradition for thousands of years.  As tea spread to neighbouring Asian countries and eventually the world, it became a major trade commodity and source of income for not only the government but also several Chinese citizens. Foreign interest in tea enabled China to gain recognition and develop trade relations with superpowers such as Britain and Europe. Unfortunately, the widespread adoration of tea was detrimental at times as it caused conflicts such as the Opium Wars in the 19th century.

Before it became a widely enjoyed beverage, tea started out as a medicinal drink in China. Around 760 BC, Chinese writer Lu Yu wrote ‘Cha Jing’ (The Classic of Tea) in which he stated, “Tea tempers the spirit and harmonizes the mind; dispels lassitude and relieves fatigue; awakens thought and prevents drowsiness; lightens and refreshes the body and clears the perceptive faculties.” Originally, only wealthy and high-ranking individuals could afford to drink tea which gave it an exotic and extravagant reputation. This alluring air helped spark widespread interest in the drink and farmers began to produce greater amounts for a wider market. Eventually tea became accessible and ubiquitous amongst all social classes. As tea became increasingly integrated into Chinese culture, it influenced Chinese tradition, literature, society, belief systems, art and philosophy. During the Tang Dynasty tea allegedly surpassed the cultural importance of alcohol. It was used in situations which were previously reserved for liquor such as social gatherings, playing board games and listening to music and tea became increasingly represented in art and literature. The beverage was also popular in Buddhist monasteries as the caffiene enabled monks to meditate for long periods of time.  It was incorporated into daily life and people often dedicated time each day to drink tea and socialise.

The cultural and social importance of tea augmented China’s agriculture, market and economy. The tremendous demand for the drink lead to thousands of agricultural opportunities and paved the way for farmers and the government to profit from the commodity. It became a livelihood for thousands of Chinese citizens and was a source of income for farmers and labourers. Records from the Tang Dynasty state that tea was produced in eight provinces in Sothern China with over 8000 grades of tea recognised by flavour and quality. Through globalisation, tea began to spread to neighbouring Asian countries resulting in interaction and trade and soon, signs of cultural and political influence surfaced all across Asia. Tea was so highly valued that it was turned into bricks and used as currency or to pay tributes. It was often gifted to emperors and was even preferred over metallic coins in some parts of Asia. Tea first arrived in the west in 1610 when Dutch traders brought home green tea, marketing it as an ‘exotic medicinal drink’. It gained reputation and popularity throughout Europe before spreading to England in the 1950s. In England, tea consumption increased from 40 000 pounds to 240 000 pounds between 1699 and 1708. As the demand amplified China placed heavy taxes on tea which prompted Britain to look for other areas to source the leaves. When the British realised that Indian climate conditions were suitable for tea plantations their dependence shifted from China to their Indian colony which lowered Chinese tea earnings.

Foreign interest in tea was hugely beneficial for China as it paved the way for intercommunication and overseas relations. Trade links were not only profitable for China’s economy but also beneficial for its political standing in the world. Through tea, China gained recognition from world powers such as Britain and Europe. Unfortunately the high demand for Chinese commodities, including tea proved to be destructive for China as Britain began to illegally import Opium into the country in exchange for the luxuries. The Chinese government was alarmed by the vast quantities of Opium entering the country and the devastating impacts it was having on citizens. Hundreds of thousands of people and about 10% of China’s population became regular users with China consuming around 95% of the world’s opium supply. Officials ordered a ban and destruction of opium provisions which eventually lead to the Opium Wars between 1839 and 1860. Both the wars were overwhelmingly won by the British with an estimated 50 000 Chinese soldiers dead or wounded. The victory enabled the British to gain and wider access to China’s market and increased trade privileges. As Karl E. Meyer states in the New York Times, “a century of humiliation began with this war in which Westerners sought to enforce a deadly drug upon an Asian people and then imposed an unequal treaty which pried open their country.”

Over the years tea became a livelihood, innovation and important part of the day to day lives of millions of people. Chinese author, Lin Yutang wrote a book, ‘My Country and My People’ in which he recorded “they have had plenty of time to drink tea and look at life quietly over their teacups, and from the gossip over the teacups they have boiled life down to its essence.” Tea played a significant role in China’s economic development, cultural heritage and political standing. At times, the popularity of tea proved to be harmful for China as it stirred conflicts such as the Opium Wars but over time, tea’s benefits unarguably outweighed any negative impacts. As Xu Guangqi once stated – “Tea is a divine herb.”