Via the Explore blog:
"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).
“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.
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?
[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.”
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!
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.
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,
The one from Macbeth might hit just a little too close to home …
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.