The Power of Guilt

27 02 2013

Tragedy upon tragedy, that’s been the consensus drawn from this Shakespeare class. My final paper addresses whether or not Macbeth is a moral play.

According to this website http://www2.cedarcrest.edu/academic/eng/lfletcher/macbeth/papers/ksteiner.htm, a morality play, or moral play, is when a hero is tempted, falls from grace and must be brought to justice for order to be restored.

Compared with the other happy and uplifting (sarcasm drips from my fingertips) plays we’ve read this term, Macbeth seems to fall into this form more than the form of a simple tragedy. In fact, Macbeth doesn’t seem to have the ambition to promote himself in the beginning of the play and haply serves Duncan.

I’ve always felt that Lady Macbeth resembled Pilate’s wife. The greatest difference is that Lady Macbeth cajoled and belittled her husband until he finally became a murderer – thrice over in one night. Afterward, guilt ate at her, driving her to walk in her sleep while trying to wash the blood from her hands.

Pilate’s wife had a dream and warned Pilate not to condemn Jesus Christ. This was a wife who pushed her husband in the moral direction. Unfortunately, Pilate tied his hands by offering the mob a choice.

Guilt seems to affect Macbeth at first, too. He sees the ghost of Banquo at a dinner party he’s hosting and all the guests think him mad. Once he becomes king, he hires his evil deeds out and assassinates the family of one of his peers, after being warned to “beware Macduff.” This seemed to be the point when he carried things too far and began losing the support of his own men.

Guilt wields cutting power to rival a sharpened scimitar. Of course, guilt can be silenced and disarmed if a person has no moral compass. Guilt’s power comes directly from the assumption that there are absolute truths and standards. Once these standards are disregarded, guilt salutes the offender with a resounding “en garde.”

Macbeth shares characteristics with moral plays, but Shakespeare broke away from being “preachy” and gave the audience the freedom to determine the guilt of Macbeth.

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Legacy

23 02 2013

iPhone 218 005 Since I stumbled into C.S. Lewis’ Narnia in fifth grade, I have been a fan of reading fantasy novels. The more magical the place and characters, the more enthralled I am to enter their domain.

Fortunately, I have a nephew who is more of a fantasy buff than I am. This keeps me supplied with reading material (although I’ve been known to purchase an ebook or 50 of my own). Currently, my nightly reading is a chapter in a book from R.A. Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms series.

After finishing Legacy, I felt impressed by the author’s ability to “up the stakes.” Salvatore is a master of plot, character, world building and suspense. The books start off tamely enough; I can put them aside after only reading a chapter each night before bed.

Somewhere around the time the “point of no return” happens, the book attaches itself to my hands.

In Legacy, this point came during an epic fight scene where it became crystal clear that one of the main characters wasn’t going to make it out alive. I can hear the swords clashing when I read these scenes. Salvatore brings the reader into the fight.

This is the 7th book in this series and I have seen similar plot constructions in every book.  It goes something like this:

  • Peaceful ruminations are broken by intruders or a needful quest
  • The dark elf and his friends answer the summons
  • Minor complications crop up but Salvatore lets us glimpse what the antagonists are plotting, so we can worry about the big surprise waiting for the heroes
  • Battles, bantering and introduction of interesting magical creatures or places unfold
  • The trap is sprung and the friends are separated
  • Fighting against impossible odds ensues
  • Then the final turning point, where it seems all is lost, occurs (my heart races every time and I know there are 13 books in this series so the main character must not perish!)

Each book can stand alone but the continuity between the books I’ve read thus far is seamless. Characters remain true to their persona, even though they change and grow a little more in every book.

If you’re looking for good fantasy and a character to adore, pick up something from this series. The world of the dark elves will chill you to the bone, but you will eagerly champion the cause of one drow – Drizzt Do’Urden.





Talk about a Dysfunctional Family

20 02 2013

Working in a middle school in a town that is the county seat in a state with an unemployment rate that exceeds the national average, I see plenty of dysfunctional families. Who would have thought I would have been amazed by the crazy family dynamics of a play written in 1605.

Things I see in my everyday student interactions include:

  1. Students with four sets of parents
  2. Students whose parents are in jail
  3. Students who live with their grandparents or aunt and uncle
  4. Students with hyphenated last names because of their parental marriage situation
  5. Students who don’t have enough food, clean clothes or their own bed to sleep in
  6. Homelessness

I could continue, but just writing this down is depressing me.

In King Lear, we have a crazy king with three daughters (no one knows what happened to Mrs. Lear) and a lord who has two sons. None of these people live happily ever after.

The king disowns his youngest daughter for no apparent reason and bequeaths his worldly goods to the other two (and their spouses) with the stipulation that he will reside a month at a time at either of their estates. He will arrive to the oldest daughter’s home with his retinue of 100 knights shortly.

These loving daughters turn him away. He can’t stay unless he gives up his knights. How could they possibly support such a hoard of hungry men? Oh, I wonder. Using the money you just inherited from the very father you’re denying perhaps?

From USAToday

Our other model family is Lord Gloucester and his sons. His oldest son seems somewhat dense but fiercely loyal. His youngest son is illegitimate and weary of being overlooked. Big brother gets all the strokes and carries around dad’s name. He decides to betray them both.

First, he manufactures a plot against his father and says his brother planned it. He sends the brother away, claiming he will take up his cause with their father. Not a chance. Later, he allows the father’s eyes to be gouged out and the brother to wander aimlessly.

In the end, they all die. After all, this is Shakespeare. The two older sisters fight over the illegitimate son and poison each other. The older brother kills the younger brother in a duel. The disowned daughter is murdered and the king dies of a broken heart.

It’s worse than any soap opera aired today. Exponentially worse.

Do you feel that Shakespeare needed to kill so many of his major characters to get his point across? Do people have to die for a story to be considered tragic? I’d love to hear from you.





Love Makes the World Go ‘Round

16 02 2013

Image credit: flickr.com

With Valentines floating in the stores and hearts abounding, it seemed an apropos time to touch on the essential Christian topic of love.

Jesus loves everyone in the world and he has left us this ministry of love. In fact, if anyone will be born into Christ’s Kingdom, they must see this love. Since Jesus isn’t here in body anymore, those who claim His name must reach the world by loving them with a Christ-like love.

  • We are commanded to love

John 15: 12 – “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” Jesus spoke these words just hours before going to Calvary to prove His love by laying down his life for us. I can’t remember the last time I died for someone, but I’m pretty sure it must be easier to love others while I’m alive.

  • Love shows our true heart

John 13:35 – “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Jesus made it clear that if we want people to know we follow him, we must love other followers of him. Let’s face it, nothing turns people off “church” faster than people who criticize and condemn others. Love is the best testimony we have.

  • Love is more than a feeling

Read the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians if you want a clearer picture of what love really is. “Charity never faileth” Paul writes in verse eight of that chapter. Feelings fail us, but true love never fails. This fact alone is proof that love is more than a feeling.

  • Love involves sacrifice

John 15:13 – “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” This is the example Jesus set before us. I know of very few people who have been asked to die for another person. How many times have I given up my own desires to help another person? This sort of sacrificial giving is a small demonstration of the love Christ modeled for us on Calvary.

This Valentine’s Day show someone you love them. Share the gospel with them. What better gift could there be than the love of God poured directly into their heart?





Personal Ethics

13 02 2013

Even if I’m not really going to college in my sons’ minds, they still manage to use me as an editorial service. If they want a B or better on a paper, it undergoes Mom’s red pen before it gets turned in.

(I love that I can actually mark everything in red just by selecting “Track changes” from the “review” menu in Word. I don’t care what they say about red marks being hard on self-esteem. There’s something about marking in red ink that makes me feel like a real editor.)

This term, my business marketing son is taking two ethics classes. He sent me a paper entitled “Personal Ethics” that outlined his own values and character and how it was developed and what sort of things influence or change it. In a world where my sons still “know it all,” reading this paper made me weep proud.

The son in question

The son in question

The paper was divided into four sections: personal vocation, personal values, character and ethical choices. Since it was for a business class, one might expect dry reading. Not so.

First of all, my youngest writes with a loud and clear voice. He doesn’t have the best grammar (and his spelling would appall without spellcheck), but any reader can get a clear picture of who the writer is behind the words. This aspect of writing can’t really be taught and it’s essential for a successful fiction writer.

This is the “choke me up” section of the paper (parents will understand):

“My core values are something that I would like to pass on to my kids someday. I feel that everyone’s values show up in who they are and can be reflected in their children. That is the reason why I believe so many of my values came from my parents because they taught me to live a certain way and they themselves lived that lifestyle in front of me. It is amazing how much of an impact parents have on their children.”

For those of you who have yet to hear “Thank you” or “You really helped me” from your children, don’t despair. They may be assigned to write about something like personal values in a college ethics class. When they stop and deeply consider why they believe what they believe, they’ll realize it’s because of you.

Parenting – the most important job on the planet earth.

Hang in there, folks. One day, you could hear the words “well done” from the Lord Jesus Christ – and maybe even your kids.





I’m not a Playwright

9 02 2013

Words well within me, an unquenchable passion, until my fingers transfer them to the page. Writing, flying for my soul and spirit, frees me like nothing else.

Penning a play – especially one that must be performed within ten minutes – just doesn’t offer the same joyful release.

Two Problems

  • Story line: Really, what sort of story that has any plot development or character arc can be told in ten minutes? Solely with dialogue. In a single setting and make it a simple one. It can only be a snippet of a story and yet, the instructor expects it to have the richness of a full-length work.
  • Stage directions: I am bogging my script down with stage directions. Even as I know this, I feel the only way to develop my characters is to show their facial expressions and body language. So much can be said in narrative. My story seems empty if I don’t insert these specific emotions and actions for the characters.

I’d Rather Write a Story

I keep telling myself that the only difference between what I’m writing for this workshop and what I love to produce is the format. Instead of using paragraphs and quotation marks and endless lines of prose, I’m typing stage directions and parentheticals and character names.

I’m not fooling myself. I’ll be surprised if I pull the wool over the eyes of my professor and classmates.

The story is shallow and the characters don’t have time to be fully developed. They will appear onstage as completely formed, speak their lines and exit.

In the end, I’m hoping for a few chuckles over my preposterous premise. If I could change the world in ten minutes I would have some sort of dedicated following, wouldn’t I?

Have you ever written in a form that felt uncomfortable and unworkable? I’d like to hear your story.





Hamlet – Not much of a Hero

6 02 2013

While critics everywhere agree that Hamlet is Shakespeare’s most popular play, those same scholars find little to admire in the title character. He seems plagued by a “lack of will to act,” they say.

While watching the 1996 Branagh version of Hamlet, I followed the text in my weighty textbook. A few additions (from another version of the text apparently) were the only variations from what Shakespeare penned hundreds of years ago.

I enjoyed the film. While lengthy soliloquies covered a page in the book, the filmmaker gave visual flashbacks or cutaway scenes to explain what was being rambled on about in the tiresome speeches. It helped me understand the depths of plot that Shakespeare layered in this play.

Hamlet, in a deep state of grief over the sudden death of his father, resents the marriage of his mother and uncle less than a month after the funeral. A visit by the ghost of his father directs him to wreak vengeance on his murderous uncle. Hamlet voices his own moral quandary for carrying out this revenge.

It is this constant questioning and his need for verification of his uncle’s guilt that immobilizes him. What right does he have to be the executioner of this sentence? Won’t his vengeful retribution make him as much a murderer as his uncle?

In the film, it was easy to see that Ophelia and Hamlet had a preexisting love relationship, but it’s nonexistent in Shakespeare’s manuscript. What motivated the only suicide in this play?

Is it strange that I find the multiple murders at the end of the play preferable to the suicidal body count in the other three plays I’ve read this term? In fact, the true tragedy of this play is that a country is left without a monarch. An invader walks in at the end to claim the throne, the conquest for it accomplished by the royal family he deposes.

Even though I enjoyed reading (and watching) this play enormously, I have to admit that Hamlet’s character isn’t the compelling ingredient. So many famous sayings and familiar quotes are in this play, it’s obvious The Bard outdid himself with the turns of phrase in this story.

What do you think of Hamlet? Is he a hero? Who do you think was the hero in this play?








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