Spoiler alert!
Via the Explore blog:

For your daily dose of dystopia, a visual guide to Shakespeare’s tragedies, where everybody dies, by Caitlin Griffin. Best thing since those pictogram-infographic summaries of famous lives. 
Also see Star Wars reimagined as a Shakespearean tragedy. 
(↬ Coudal)

Spoiler alert!

Via the Explore blog:

For your daily dose of dystopia, a visual guide to Shakespeare’s tragedies, where everybody dies, by Caitlin Griffin. Best thing since those pictogram-infographic summaries of famous lives

Also see Star Wars reimagined as a Shakespearean tragedy

( Coudal)

# Shakespeare # literature

reblogged from Explore

"When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.”

Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet (III, 2).

# Shakespeare # raison d'être

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars
reblogged from I'm With Kanye

Shakespeare on Robben Island

“Robben Island was the Alcatraz on the South Atlantic where Nelson Mandela and other South African political prisoners spent many years of their lives; the “Bible” was a collection of the complete works of William Shakespeare smuggled into the jail in the 1970s by a prisoner called Sonny Venkatrathnam. They called it the Bible because Venkatrathnam cheated the prison censorship system by telling his warders that it was a Hindu religious work. But there was another reason, too. As the book circulated, Shakespeare’s poems and plays acquired the condition of secular scripture, interpreted by one and all much as believers might the Koran, the Christian Bible or, for that matter, Karl Marx.

As Dora Thornton, the curator of the British Museum exhibition put it, “They used him as a way of developing their own moral sense.” With Shakespeare having anticipated and explored the competing questions of leadership and self-doubt, idealism and expediency, ambition and loyalty that bedevil politicians everywhere and always, but all the more urgently at times of national conflict, Mandela and his comrades drew from his works to shape political debate and lay the philosophical foundations for political action.”

There’s a good deal more on Mandela and Shakespeare, violence and non-violence, and Julius Caesar in this fascinating piece — To kill, or not to kill? — from earlier this year by John Carlin.

# Shakespeare # Mandela # South Africa # literature # politics # history

reblogged from Generic Blog
Thou art a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy worsted-stocking knave; a lily-liver'd, action-taking, whoreson, glass-gazing, superserviceable, finical rogue; one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a bawd in way!
shakespearean-insults-deactivat

So there’s a Tumblr devoted to insulting other Tumblr users with a bunch of amusing Shakespearean insults all mashed together?

Terrific.

# questions # Shakespeare # comedy # Tumblr # internet

[A]s Professor Kohen told us on the very first day of class, this information might help us be better people, but not much else.

One of my students wrote this sentence in a blog post for our weekly class assignment (the subject of which is specifically about whether we can learn anything from Shakespeare’s portrayal of republican Rome). In the post, (s)he also offers a critique of everything we’ve read throughout the semester; the central problem, the student writes, is that it’s all “antiquated”:

Nothing we have read was written by anyone in our generation or even century for that matter.  We are writing about heroism and justice but our background and preface to the subject comes from people so far gone that many people do not care about the authors.

The subject matter of the class, of course, is ancient political philosophy. Everything on the syllabus was written in or about Greece and Rome. The authors “many people do not care about” include Homer, Plato, and Aristotle.

From the first day I’ve argued that the themes on which we focus — justice, heroism, and the best way of life — are enduring ones and that the questions posted by ancient philosophers and statesmen are well worth pondering today. I maintain that this is true of all great literature, that it offers insights into some of the thorniest puzzles about the human condition and that, irrespective of the time period in which it’s crafted, we can learn about ourselves based on how we answer the questions it poses to us.

It’s not clear whether the student disagrees that topics like justice or heroism remain important to us today or simply wants to argue that an ancient perspective is unhelpful. Either way, the central problem stems from a misunderstanding of the whole purpose of the course. The student seems ready to agree with what I said on the first day of class, namely that reading these texts and thinking critically about them “might help us be better people.” But that’s apparently not enough.

The student writes, in the sentence immediately preceding the one I quoted above:

I believe that our education should be a means to something greater and I cannot see that end through the disentanglement of Coriolanus’ reasons for leaving Rome.

What the student means by “Something greater” is never specified, but apparently it isn’t the same thing as learning to “be better people.” In other words, the central complaint the student has about the course is, “These books might help me to become a better person, but if that’s all they can do for me, I don’t see how reading them will have done me any good.”

# pols383 # philosophy # comedy # sadness # education # teaching # political science # Nebraska # literature # Shakespeare # Homer # Plato

reblogged from thoughts on thoughts

Thankful Students

Since it’s Tuesday of Thanksgiving Week and my students have pretty much checked out, I decided to ask them to identify some things about our class for which they are and are not thankful. The results, unsurprisingly, are hilarious.

They are almost universally thankful for the blogging assignment and the lack of formal writing assignments in the class, despite the fact that they almost all wait all week before posting anything and thus have very limited interaction and engagement with one another or with me.

They are also thankful that I am funny and that the class requires them to think critically about a variety of topics that have an impact on their lives.

They are almost universally not thankful for the amount of reading that they are assigned. They say that this is because they would like to have more time to read and think critically. That said, the majority of the class seemingly did not read at all for today, despite the fact that the assignment was Acts I-II of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus and they had five days to do it.

Hands down, the single best comment I received was this one:

"Thankful that the teacher is funny enough to make the terribly miserable subject matter worth suffering through. Not thankful that the subject matter is miserable. No offense to your area of focus."

Perhaps the best part about this little assignment is that the students will now see this post and comment on it as part of the blogging assignment that they purportedly enjoy. We’re getting all sorts of meta here!

# education # teaching # Nebraska # political science # Shakespeare # Homer # Plato # philosophy

Et tu, cat?

Caesar: “The gods do this in shame of cowardice:
Caesar should be a beast without a heart
If he should stay at home today for fear.
No, Caesar shall not: danger knows full well
That Caesar is more dangerous than he:
We are two lions littered in one day,
And I the elder and more terrible:
And Caesar shall go forth.“

A danger Julius Caesar never foretold—cats have overrun the site of his murder at the hands of Brutus, calling many Italian officials to declare the site a health hazard.

# history # politics # animals # Italy # Rome # Shakespeare

reblogged from Lapham's Quarterly

Mitt Romney tells the crowd, “Tomorrow we begin a new tomorrow.”

As a rally slogan, it’s probably not as good as:

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya Tomorrow!
You’re only a day away!

but it’s certainly better than:

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

The one from Macbeth might hit just a little too close to home …

# politics # Romney # election 2012 # Shakespeare # comedy # literature


According to a report yesterday on WFTV, the FBI may charge George Zimmerman with a hate crime:

Zimmerman admitted to killing Martin in February during a confrontation. However, he claims the shooting was in self-defense. He’s facing a second-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. But if Zimmerman is charged and found guilty of a federal hate crime involving murder, he could face the death penalty.

When the “Justice for Trayvon Martin” Facebook page reported this news, in two separate posts, the excitement was palpable. At the time I sat down to write this, last night, their initial post that linked to the news story was shared 270 times, drew 1,455 Likes, and was commented upon 306 times. The second post, with its shares, Likes, and comments, is screencaptured above.
The Tumblr community reacted as well, with one post linking to the story drawing nearly 1,500 Likes and Reblogs as of this writing.
The reaction from those who have commented is largely supportive of killing George Zimmerman and, more often than not, the language that’s employed is positively dripping with brutality.
[[MORE]]
Here are some responses from Tumblr to the question of whether another death is really the answer:
First:

F*%k you.
Because yes. It is the answer.

Then this one:

This isn’t the f*%king 40s anymore. Anyone who kills a black child should have the full brunt of the law smashed down on their d&$k

And this:

My humanity does not diminish for my wanting of this man’s death. All I want is justice. In this case, an eye for an eye is not enough. I need limb for limb and blood for blood. Because this is something bigger than Trayvon. While this is about getting him his justice, there are so many others who have never, and will never, get theirs. Make an example of Zimmerman. Show these white supremacist douchef*%ks that if you kill ours, you’ll get yours, and it will not be by vigilante justice but by the very system you uphold, that always protects you. It will come for you, too, because you should no longer hide behind your privilege and racism. So, no, I do not care if it seems callous that I wish death on a person. Zimmerman did what a lot of you apologists would do, and he deserves proper punishment. Time will not change him. He had time. He chose to hide. He chose to play the victim. He chose to play all the angles to pain his victim as the antagonist. I have no care in this world for this mans health, happiness, sanity, or redemption. Let the pits of Hell swallow him whole.

This one:

I don’t necessaily wish Zimmerman the death penalty, but I couldn’t bat an eyelash if that’s where his fate lead. What a disgusting, vile stain on the lineage on mankind. This man stalks a child, lies about the events that ensued later that night, runs away, cutting off all contact from his family and lawyers, capitalizes off of his heinous crime and has the audacity to look a mother in the eyes and say “I’m sorry about the loss of your child”, a loss .. (as if Trayvon is an expendable commodity, which is probably what he thought when he killed him), instead of “I’m sorry I killed your child”. I can’t even begin to describe to sheer horror that runs through my soul when I think there are people that could be that hateful. How can I feel sympathy for such a monster? Take him away, alleviate the world of such a horrid individual.

Here’s another:

kill him! kill the piece of s^$t, he doesn’t deserve to live.

And this one:

i’d save the state some money and do it for them

And this:

I’m pretty much an eye for an eye type of person but I don’t care what happens to him. You can kill him or throw him to the wolves doesn’t really matter

Or this:

f&#k yes. off with his head and put that b#%ch on stake to make an example of him. make him the sacrifice! just like he did Trayvon, and then pray the devil back to hell.

And, of course, this:

yep he doesn’t get to breathe, he doesn’t get to live, unless your alternative is a life time of actual toruture and not throwing his ass in a cell, unless you plan on starving him to death, or trying to get him the closest he can to dying by doing some insanely cruel punishment, then my answer stands the mothaf%#ka should die.

This is all disturbing enough to warrant comment. But it gets really interesting when a few people step in and voice opposition to the carnival of vengeance proposed by people who claim they want justice. Anyone who opposes the idea that Zimmerman is a monster who needs to be tortured and/or killed is immediately accused of derailing the conversation or of being a racist who supports Zimmerman.
But this is just a way of shutting out ideas that might be challenging or difficult.
I’ve devoted a lot of time on this blog to the argument that all of our triumphalism about justice isn’t much more than a very thin veneer covering our real feelings about getting our revenge on someone who hurt us. This, then, is one more example in a long line.
If there’s one thing on which most Americans seem to agree, it’s that a celebration is in order when people are killed. Of course, it’s not just any killing that we like; it’s executions. In the past year, in person, in print, and online, we have come together to publicly rejoice at the deaths of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, and Muammar Gaddafi. But we’re not only interested in the executions of terrorists and tyrants overseas; a crowd also vigorously cheered the hundreds of executions over which Rick Perry has presided in Texas. There’s just something about death that makes us stand up and applaud … or worse, as those who crave George Zimmerman’s blood helpfully highlight.
There is, in short, something distinct and distictly unpleasant about the way in which Americans think about justice.
When I think about justice, I tend to reflect back on something Socrates said in Plato’s Republic:


[I]f someone asserts that it’s just to give what is owed to each man—and he understands by this that harm is owed to enemies by the just man and help to friends—the man who said it was not wise. For he wasn’t telling the truth. For it has become apparent to us that it is never just to harm anyone (335e).

I recognize that this makes me somewhat unusual, both because I turn to a text written thousands of years ago when I think about contemporary issues and because the vast majority of people seem to think exactly the opposite about justice. For most people, justice involves some sort of gut feeling rather than the sort of reasoned argument that Socrates uses to arrive at his position. It tends to involve someone getting what he deserves and so, when it comes to George Zimmerman, this means exacting vengeance. Thus, when Americans see someone getting what he deserves, being paid back in kind for the harm he has done, they rejoice.
But, of course, I think it’s a mistake to simply equate justice with vengeance, both because I have yet to hear a persuasive argument against Socrates’ claim and because vengeance elevates the worst in us at the expense of what is best.
Instead, I am reminded of Portia’s speech to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strain’d, / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven / Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest; / It blesseth him that gives and him that takes: / ’Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes / The throned monarch better than his crown; / His sceptre shows the force of temporal power [….] It is an attribute to God himself; / And earthly power doth then show likest God’s / When mercy seasons justice (IV.1).

Even though Shylock believes that harming his enemy accords with both justice and his own best interest, Portia argues that any understanding of justice that is bereft of mercy or compassion can never, ultimately, be in one’s best interest: 

Though justice be thy plea, consider this, / That, in the course of justice, none of us / Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy; / And that same prayer doth teach us all to render / The deeds of mercy (IV.1).

At bottom, then, it’s the distinct lack of compassion that’s bothering me when I see our increasingly ghoulish displays of glee at the prospect of someone’s death (even when that person has done something terrible). They highlight either an inability or an unwillingness to see the humanity in others and, consequently, yield a diminution of our own humanity. It would be easier for us if there were evil people in the world, rather than normal people who do terrible things. But this is a fiction, one that keeps us clinging to our occasional use of the death penalty despite the fact that it doesn’t accomplish much, that it’s bad public policy, and that it brutalizes us as a society.
When people ran into the streets and cheered Osama bin Laden’s death as if their hometown team had won the World Series, I wrote that the singing and flag-waving demeaned us by highlighting the extent to which the culture of vengeance pervades our society. When a crowd of people cheered about the deaths of more than two hundred of their fellow citizens, I wrote that the justice they were cheering could only be the kind that was done to someone else: “Never to them, never to anyone they care about or have even met.”
And now, when so many people have prematurely tried, convicted, and sentenced George Zimmerman to death with such joy, I’m reminded once again how far removed we are from a time when we might conceive of justice as more than simply the paying back of violence with violence. When we gloat over the dead bodies we’ve managed to pile up — regardless of the reason that led to those deaths —  we’re really celebrating the basest part of our nature. As Socrates reminds us:

Leontius, the son of Aglaion, was going up from the Piraeus under the outside of the North Wall when he noticed corpses lying by the public executioner. He desired to look, but at the same time he was disgusted and made himself turn away; and for a while he struggled and covered his face. But finally, overpowered by the desire, he opened his eyes wide, ran toward the corpses and said: “Look, you damned wretches, take your fill of the fair sight” (439e-440a).

The problem for Americans today, of course, is that we’re not even having this struggle with ourselves. We immediately lamented the fact that we weren’t given any pictures of bin Laden’s body, we passed around pictures of Gaddafi’s corpse like they were actually pictures from a dinner party, and we positively thrill at the prospect of tearing Zimmerman limb from limb for his crimes.
Personally, I’d like to imagine what our country might look like if it was populated by a citizenry that approached the deaths of others with a certain solemnity rather than one that celebrates the corpses produced by our government, to paraphrase Salon’s Glenn Greenwald.
Personally, I’d like to see Americans reflecting on the idea of justice and the proper role of compassion, on why corpses are the only possible validation for so many of us, on what a society that applauds a body count is ultimately missing, on the prejudices and privilege that allow us to cheer and sing when others die … but we’re so very far away from doing any of those things right now because, despite all the killing that’s happening all around us and in our names, our bloodlust somehow still hasn’t been sated.

According to a report yesterday on WFTV, the FBI may charge George Zimmerman with a hate crime:

Zimmerman admitted to killing Martin in February during a confrontation. However, he claims the shooting was in self-defense. He’s facing a second-degree murder charge, which carries a maximum possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole. But if Zimmerman is charged and found guilty of a federal hate crime involving murder, he could face the death penalty.

When the “Justice for Trayvon Martin” Facebook page reported this news, in two separate posts, the excitement was palpable. At the time I sat down to write this, last night, their initial post that linked to the news story was shared 270 times, drew 1,455 Likes, and was commented upon 306 times. The second post, with its shares, Likes, and comments, is screencaptured above.

The Tumblr community reacted as well, with one post linking to the story drawing nearly 1,500 Likes and Reblogs as of this writing.

The reaction from those who have commented is largely supportive of killing George Zimmerman and, more often than not, the language that’s employed is positively dripping with brutality.

Read More

# death penalty # criminal justice # racism # Trayvon # Florida # internet # Facebook # Tumblr # philosophy # literature # Plato # Shakespeare # prose # long reads # news

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