Shakespeare and Literary Heritage IGCSE Controlled Assessment COMPLETE

The Shakespearian play ‘Hamlet’ and the poems ‘On My First Sonne’ written by Ben Jonson, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ written by Dylan Thomas and ‘A Song in a Storm’ written by Rudyard Kipling are all layered with the same brickwork. They are all constructed by men that have had the agony of death piled upon them. These men live under a dark cloud. All of the studied texts contain a menagerie of literary devices that are used to explore the themes of fate, death, social position and predisposition. The narrator, antagonist or main characters of all studied texts embody various stages of deliriousness and have been twisted by the agony of the aftermath of death. Shakespeare’s son and Ben Jonson’s son both died in real life and the latter even makes a direct reference to his son as “his best piece of poetry”.

Hamlet, the main character in the play ‘Hamlet’ feels that life is holding him back, and to die quicker is good fortune. “When we have shuffled off this mortal coil” is a metaphor that suggests that he wants to rid himself of the strangling chain that fate has placed upon him. The degree of Hamlets despair is demonstrated by his feeling that he had no choice to be born, he feels life has been forced upon him. Hamlet believes life to be a burden, which perhaps means that he holds no value for life. Using the theme of fate, Shakespeare presents Hamlet as having no choice in life and suggests he is becoming a toy figure for a higher force to play with. Hamlet feels like an actor because he is always being controlled or is bound to do things. Shakespeare uses a semantic field to show this because Hamlet puts on a play to show how his father was killed by the King. The reason Shakespeare used a play to interpret the events was because he wanted to give Hamlet control of the actors to make him the director of fate. This was in stark contrast with reality wherein Hamlet felt controlled by fate.

The idea of fate is a connecting theme ripe among Shakespeare’s literary works. Fate is the idea that sometimes you are born under a bad sign and life is about learning to play with the hand you were dealt. Fate is a very useful literary technique because it allows authors to foreshadow in order to create a semantic field to surround a text. Hamlets fate has decreed him to a position of constant social judgement because of his royalty. ‘On My First Sonne’ holds a slightly more accepting view of fate. Ben Jonson believes that his child was lent to him “seven years tho’ wert lent to me…Exacted by thy fate on the just day” The literary device being used here by Jonson is personification. He is personifying fate by saying that it physically extracted his son.

This suggests Ben Jonson knew that there was a supernatural plan to take his son from the world at an exact time and that even through all his misery he can do nothing but accept it. Ben Jonson believes that his child was lent to him, thus believing that he never truly owned his heir. These believes correlate with those of a devoutly religious person. People who believe in God are told that God owns everyone and therefore has the power to take life away and God is omni-benevolent so loves everybody, and if he takes life away then it was for the best. Ben Jonson agrees with this by stating relief that his son “scap’d worlds and flesh’s rage” Ben Jonson is accepting that life does not belong to him, and he is just a mere actor in a supernatural entity’s play set. Due to the time that these texts were written, both men would have to some extent believed in God, however the contrast was Hamlet did not accept this deity’s doing, whereas Ben Jonson felt helpless.

One line from Rudyard Kipling’s ‘A song in a storm’ that suggests fate cannot be tamed is “Be well assured, though wave and wind, Have mightier blows in store” This imagery depicts fate to be a kind of cackling death monger. Traditionally sailors are very proud of their heritage and it is with acceptance that they operate under fate’s eye. A song in storm often presents fate more as an obstacle than a binding clause in life’s constitution. “Then welcome fate’s discourtesy”. The literary device used here is foreshadowing, and it once again emphasises that fate can embody evil, however as sailors of the seas, they are subject to work in accordance with this.

The studied texts all tack with death. Hamlet often expresses death using euphemisms. The least subtle example of this is “to be, or not to be” this is a euphemism because ‘not to be’ is substituted for death. A very common factor of all of the studied texts is to shy away from using the words ‘dying’ and ‘death’ and merely expressing life as not existing any more. This perhaps correlates with a fear of death from either the characters/narrators or indeed the poets themselves.

Whose phrase of sorrow conjures the wand’ring stars and makes them stand” is the most potent quote about death in Hamlets soliloquy “To be or not to be”. Hamlet is expressing his love for Ophelia and his lust for her death. He describes the stars (the planets) as standing up in respect for Ophelia’s death, as she is that important for him. This is another metaphor used by Hamlet that example his obsession with death. Death is littered in Hamlet’s life.

Shakespeare typically uses the idea of fate to make death prominent in his plays. This is similar to the “shuffle off this mortal coil” quote because it gives death respect, releases the feeling that the “calamity of so long life” will always end in death, death will always win. This is a sense of real hopelessness, that Hamlet demonstrates by expressing his need to survive through life. The difference between the connotations of the language used by a depressed person and a sane person are quite drastic. Hamlet is feeling the need to survive, to get through it. Whereas more sane and positive people view life as an experience and focus on the positive things in Hamlets life. For instance, he is king to be, he has a high social position and therefore is more fortunate than many of the civilians soon to be under his rule.

‘Do not go gentle into that good night’ tackles death by using a delicious euphemism “Good men, their last wave by,” This euphemism is layered by sacrificial context as well as its more subtle euphemism of the last wave. The last wave means quite bluntly, that it was their last before death, however the thought that the soldiers could know that it is their last wave is quite harrowing. This poem draws comparisons with ‘A song in storm’ because the roles of a soldier and a sailor are similar, they both symbolize the peak of selfless loyalty. The soldiers and sailors know they are at risk of death, but operate purely out of kindness and hold an affinity with their fellow countrymen or with their job.

Do not go gentle into that good night also possess the beautiful line “Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight” The wordplay used in this phrase is centered around the word “grave”, indicating two things, one being that the men are feeling fraught with danger, the other being that they are moving towards their grave by continuing to fight in the good night. “Near death” reinforces the soldier’s knowledge that they are very likely to die doing their job and characterizes their willingness to fight anyway. Dylan Thomas proceeds to say that the soldiers now see with blinding light, thus recognizing and addressing the notion that before death men become enlightened and see things with more knowledge than they did before. This idea suggests that forces out of our control can be compromised with knowledge and experience.

“Though wise men at their end know dark is right” reinforces the idea that the soldiers know that they would be dying for a good cause, this suggests that violence can be justified and the right thing to do, this is a surprisingly common theme among all four literary works. In the modern world death is not longed for and very often feared, however the antagonist Hamlet wishes for death to be cast upon him. ‘A song in storm’ and ‘do not go genteel in the good night’ both accept death as an eminent and necessary part of life. Ben Jonson is the only author that shows regret that death has happened. “Will man lament the state he should envy?” inquires Jonson, querying why he is feeling grief, when he knows that his child has escaped life’s harsh reality. Jonson addresses the circumstances with more than a heavy heart, whereas all other characters/antagonists in the studied texts do not concede they could feel any grief or regret about death. This contrast is perhaps because Ben Jonson did not die, his son did. This difference suggests the effect that death has upon loved ones is worse than the effect death has on its’ recipient.

 “On my first sonne” also infers that death is more of a punishment for the people close to the person that was evicted from existence. “As what he loves may never like too much” is a sombre reference to the harsh reality that his love was vanquished by death, furthermore he expresses the notion that death was aware of his love and punished him for it, as a retribution for dependency. The idea that Ben Jonson was dependent on his son is an abstract concept, as usually it is the child who is dependent on their father, this standard relationship is portrayed in Hamlet. The whole premise of the play is Hamlet showing his loyalty to his father by trying to and eventually succeeding in avenging him.

Do not go gentle into that good night uses rhythm to show the significance and sudden impact that death has. The entirety of the poem is in Iambic pentameter barring one crucial repeated line. This means that each line has 5 beats in it and is read in line with these parameters. So when the line “rage rage against the dying of the light” is not in this meter, it propels itself to the forefront of the stanza, it is quite clearly the ugly duckling of the verse. The rhythm actually sharpens the content of the line by the use of a beautiful metaphor. The dying of the light symbolizes the dying of the iambic pentameter. The dying of the light also suggests that the end is nigh for the verse by using foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is, in this case, used to create an atmosphere when being preformed. The iambic pentameter also adds an element of atmosphere when being read.

There is also the observation that when poems are read in rhythm, the words seem to slip off though tongue. This can sometimes conflict with the words in the poem, however when a poem is in free rondo, the words can sound spiky and angular. The meanings of words in poems in free rondo become more potent too. ‘On my first sonne’ for example is afforded a more sombre phonetic sound because its free-flowing nature is supposed to mimic life’s nature. This leads me to believe that death of the poet’s son was supposed to happen and therefore part of the nature of life.

All of the studied texts place significant importance and emphasis on death. This respect for death can only be carried out by the living which makes me, as the reader, feel that it the fear of death that underlines society. Shakespeare, Jonson, Kipling and Thomas believe fate to be an obstacle that cannot be overcome. The characters chosen by the authors to believe this feel varying degrees of anger and despair about it. The characters all in one way or another, reflect the society of the time they were written.

By Henry Howeld.

 

Poem Comparison

Hamlet V Futility

Both Hamlet and Futility are war poems  that delve into the idea of despair and hopelessness.

The narrator in Futility is in despair because he is upset that a soldier won’t wake up- he is dead. The narrator is angry because the sun is so powerful but cannot wake up the soldier. The narrator cannot comprehend this and feel futile to this

 

 

Hamlet Soliloquy analysis

“When we have shuffled off this mortal coil”

Hamlet likens ending life to the feeling of being freed of chains that have been around you. This clearly represents Hamlet’s feelings. Hamlet feels that he is being weighed down by something, and wonders if death would rid him of this feeling. The language device used is a metaphor that is useful for drawing parallels between different feelings. Hamlet uses this as another way to express his dilemma of life or death, brought on by his father’s death and Ophelia’s apparent lack of love for him.

“Whose phrase of sorrow conjures the wand’ring stars and makes them stand”

Hamlet is expressing his love for Ophelia and his lust for her death. He describes the stars (the planets) as standing up in respect for Ophelia’s death, as she is that important for him. This is another metaphor used by Hamlet that  his obsession with death. Death is littered in Hamlet’s life. Shakespeare typically uses the idea of fate to make death prominent in his plays.

This is similar to the “shuffle off this mortal coil” quote because it gives death respect, releases the feeling that the “calamity of so long life” will always end in death, death will always win. This is a sense of real hopelessness, that Hamlet demonstrates by surviving through life or “opposing them

 

 

 

Tories make me angry. (possibly relevant to gcses but mostly just a rant)

The Tories have been in the news a lot these past two weeks. Firstly for the new tampon tax. A move described best by comedian Katherine Ryan, “the government are introducing taxes on luxury items such as tampons… Obviously this won’t affect me…I have no need for them…I’m a single mother not royalty” This manoeuvre has been branded as sexiest by many people, not just feminists. They have it all wrong, it’s just purely a misunderstanding of the country’s wealth. David Cameron needs to realise not everyone is willing to pay an arm and a leg for their tampons like he is. Rumours that George Osborne couldn’t afford his tampons in the wake of his tax credits faux paus have yet to be confirmed but MI5 revealed that Good old Dave promised him on the phone that they could share, as long as George stopped making pig jokes.

Another running theme from the Tories at the moment has been people opposing their new laws or budget buisness…AND BEING ALOUD?!? Furthermore, people dislike the drivel spurting out of Cameron’s snout so much, that he doesn’t have enough people to even make a law..lawfully… but don’t worry, they have realised that the upside of being in power is you can make laws that suit yourself. Such as shutting down the chance of any potential opposition stopping laws passing. Not dissimilar to the methods Adolf Hitler used when on his rise to power/evil during the 1930’s. David must be taking inspiration from Adolf’s infamous speeches, after calling Jeremy Corbyn a “Britain Hater” because he did not sing the national anthem. In fairness Hitler’s speeches dont sound so good when you can understand the words in them, perhaps they should have given the gig to Boris instead.

Jeremy Corbyn? A Britain hater? As the prophet Frankie Boyle put it ” Jeremy Corbyn couldn’t be more British if he bled tea!”  Let’s be honest, being underdressed for an occasion, facing the dilemma of the only thing clean enough to wear to work is that sweater your grandma gave you and reading your emails at work, are all common things that sum up British people. If only Ed was back, he sung the national anthem all the time, in pristine suits, and never failed to gain respect of the public.

A nice example of some hypocritical dross coming from the Tories recently are the trade union plans. There now has to be 50% of a trade union who want to strike for it to legally go ahead- compared to the mid twenty % majority that saw Boris Johnson elected. This is a costly consequence for a dispute that was most probably about issues with Boris Johnson’s oyster card. Turns out it was in his dirty trouser pocket, but the situation had gone downhill so he gave the drivers a day off out of the kindness of his heart. He probably used it as an excuse not to go to work, which has co-incidentally recently been centered around knocking children over, or falling over himself whilst participating in team sports wearing tight suits. It is good to know a politician is finally giving this county a good reputation.

But don’t worry, Good old Dave can make friends too, specifically dictators. Dave has had visits from both the Chinese leader, and the Egyptian leaders this week. It is also rumoured that Kim Jong Un is coming round for tea next week, however the date is still pending as Kim may be busy winning the Olympics for the fourth consecutive time this year, along with the two winter Olympic titles, the ashes, the football world cup, and the dressage world championships (but lets be honest, they had that one in the bag)

On the other hand I cant sometimes help to feel sorry for the PM, because not everyone knew he was a tw*t last time around. He was surrounded by a racist drunk, who clearly became a politician as part of a dare, a clueless man who you never quite knew if he had a cold or not, and a the respective gangsta of them all- Nick Clegg, who didn’t care about telling the truth or keeping his promises. Really his only oppsition was that of the SNP, but luckily they are based in Scotland so cannot come to parliament and embarrass him all the time…This time his opposition is Jeremy Corbyn. This is worrying for Dave because the British public haven’t got behind an OAP this much since Susan Boyle won BGT.

I am practicing my freedom of speech writing this, I have to, it could be gone soon. Mr.Cameron is planning on riding this country of the excruciating chains of Human Rights and instead creating his own list. Anything could be on this list, I like to think there would be a lists of: his personal top 5 favorite DVD box sets, his top 10 most physically attractive politicians (male and female), and finally his 3 least favorite Eaton initiation ceremonys.

 

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The Book Thief Anti Hero Study

NB: As this book takes 50 years to read, I have not yet finished it, however I feel I know enough about to start a report about it.

The thing that stands out to me in most prominent anti hero texts is death. From what I have found there is usually some death and/or destruction.The book thief is narrated by death. Bit of a no-brainer really.

Has death ever not been a villain? In all circumstances, death is an unwelcome geezer. Even when somebody begs for death, and feels it necessary to speed up his encounter with said death, death is always blamed, like he stole something. No matter if a humans soul is handed to him, he stole it. End of.

The book thief changes the way people think about death, as him narrating demonstrates he is doing the most important job on earth, that he isn’t happy about it but he has to do it. Death saves people, people long for death, imagine no death? The world would be a much gloomier place, and would be full of useless 800 year olds…

This mixed view about him automatically slots him in the pretty much endless list of anti heroes. Some argue he does good and find comfort in his hands, many argue he does pure evil.

Death, like many other anti heroes, feels that he has a different, or sometimes higher viewpoint of all things. Death sees things everyone else can’t see. This is common of an anti hero. Some see ghosts, some see visions in dreams, or have people communicating with them inside their head. Death just sees everything, with unbiased eyes, he describes his unbiased eyes as being able to see rainbows in the colour grey. He looks at everything like they are colours, this is another difference that the character has to humans.

Riffs and Licks

Diary entry:

Dear Diary

Today was a boring day. So when I got home I quickly made myself some toast but then a wretching smell filled the room, I had burnt the toast. I rubbed my hand across the bristley texture of the toast, it felt like the surface of the moon..at least I imagine. Next, I turned on some distorted music (distorted due to my faulty ageing CD player) and threw off my heavy, rusty, black school shoes. I then decided to eat the toast I had burnt previously which wasn’t a good idea because my mouth filled with an ashy like taste. I spat the toast out Lastly I went to bed and that was what happened today.

Dystopian:

The bread made its descent down into the toaster, with no flickering knowledge of its own fate. I was to find out 3 minutes later when a wretching smell filled the room, making non wretching smelly particles scramble and separate. The smell engulfed all space it could. After retrieving the offending blackened article from its destroyer, I rubbed my hands against the thick layer of Luna bumpy rock the bread had acquired. The smell then engulfed my entire being as I made an adventurous mistake of attempting to consume it. My mouth felt like ash and subsequently tried to relive itself of the self inflicted agony.

 

 

 

 

 

Futility Analysis

The poem “Futility” is a war time poem written by Wilfred Owen in 1914, and is one of the first and most famous war poems ever written. It is therefore a very traditional war poem that is centered around the harsh feelings that are unraveled by the horror of war, such as grief and hopelessness. The poem is very raw, which is demonstrated by the narrator dwelling on the sun, crop fields, flowers, snow and the earth. This sense of rawness awakened in “Futility” is very common of a war poem, “Futility” has no decoration yet has an enormous amount of context that surrounds it.

Futility’s narrative is the narrator expressing grief that the sun can not wake up a dead soldier, having done that for all of his life, both at home and in France.  Owen is despairing with the sun, despite the exuberating power and heat it beholds, the sun can still not wake up one man lying down facing towards it. Wilfred Owen is expressing his anger and despair with war by indicating that it even destroys the sun’s powers.

Futility evokes feelings of anger and regret within me, because I feel like war has been glorified as the allies won it, however reading poems like this is very humbling and reminds me that, for the soldiers, war was pretty much the same no matter what side you were on.