Posts tagged ‘school’

December 3rd, 2012

Literature Revealed: Personification

by Madeleine Rex

“You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world! This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have—arm yourselves!”

This year, in AP Literature and Composition, I’ve been assigned a remarkably difficult weekly task. I must turn in two analyses of literary terms within literature we are reading for class, explaining the context, affect, and relation to the story as a whole. Because these are taking up the time I would otherwise spend blogging, I figure I can post them here in case anyone finds them remotely interesting. Personally, I love this assignment. It’s ridiculously tedious and never-ending, but the critical thinking involved is so much fun.

Most of my terms are from William Shakepeare’s Hamlet and E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View.



Personification: Attributing human qualities or actions to an inhuman object or idea.


“O, heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom.
Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none.
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites–
How in my words somever she be shent,
To give them seals never, my soul, consent”
(III.iii. (346-352)!

Function: Hamlet has been beckoned to his mother’s room after the King’s reaction to his clever play. Hamlet’s suspicions have been verified by his and Horatio’s observance of the King – the Ghost most certainly spoke the truth. All that is left is to follow through with his oath to kill Claudius. Due to the astounding events of the evening, Hamlet is feeling rather on edge as he answers his mother’s call, and thus pleads with himself, uttering the passage above. In this passage, he addresses his heart, commanding it to “lose not [its] nature,” or to remain loving. He makes a reference to the Roman emperor, Nero, who killed his own mother, and says he hopes to not do the same. Personification comes into play in lines 349 and 350, in which Hamlet says he will speak harshly, but not act so, stating, “My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites.” “Hypocrite” is a term used to describe people whose actions or words contradict what they did or said previously. In this instance, Hamlet applies a human attribute (hypocrisy) to objects, the tongue and the soul. Hamlet is emphasizing that, though he will say cruel things, he will not act cruel. Similarly, in line 353, he tells his soul to never consent (allow) harsh action toward his mother. This entire passage is an internal plea of Hamlet’s to keep himself from losing control with his mother and harming her beyond what is necessary to accomplish what he must – avenging his father’s murder. In a sense, he is successful – he does not physically harm his mother, but she exclaims, “O, speak to me no more! / These words like daggers enter my ears” (III.iv. 98-99). However, through a cruel chain of events, his actions toward others eventually result in his mother’s death. In his effort to kill Claudius, he behaves as a madman, eventually earning Claudius’s suspicion, and Claudius commands Laertes to challenge Hamlet to a fencing match with a poisoned sword. In case of Hamlet’s victory, the king prepares a cup of wine, also laced with poison. During the chaos of the match, the Queen unsuspectingly sips from this poisoned cup and is killed. Hamlet’s actions, though not meant to kill his mother, culminate in her death and the deaths of many others. Incidentally, Hamlet’s actions are not the only to lead to unforeseen and unfortunate events. Polonius’s spying leads to his death (when Hamlet kills him in Act III), Claudius is killed just as he hoped to kill Hamlet – and with the poison he used to kill his brother, Laertes is killed in the fencing match meant to kill Hamlet, and Hamlet’s apparent madness leads to Ophelia’s actual madness and suicide. It seems that, no matter what the intention of a character’s seemingly small devious action, it soon goes awry, often coming back to hurt them.

November 20th, 2012

Literature Revealed: Dramatic Irony

by Madeleine Rex

“You want weapons? We’re in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world! This room’s the greatest arsenal we could have—arm yourselves!”

This year, in AP Literature and Composition, I’ve been assigned a remarkably difficult weekly task. I must turn in two analyses of literary terms within literature we are reading for class, explaining the context, affect, and relation to the story as a whole. Because these are taking up the time I would otherwise spend blogging, I figure I can post them here in case anyone finds them remotely interesting. Personally, I love this assignment. It’s ridiculously tedious and never-ending, but the critical thinking involved is so much fun.

Most of my terms are from William Shakepeare’s Hamlet and E. M. Forster’s A Room with a View. I shall post two a week (like my assignment). They’re not too long, I promise! To prove it to you, I’ll post one today.

P.S. I’m making this picture of David Tennant the picture related to “Literature Revealed” because he is awesome.


Dramatic Irony: The contrast between what a character is privy to or understands in a particular situation and the understanding and knowledge of the audience.

“At such time I’ll loose my daughter to him.
Be you and I behind arras then.
Mark the encounter. If he love her not,
And be not from his reason fall’n thereon,
Let me be no assistant for a state,
But keep a farm and carters”
(II.ii. 160-164).

Function: Hamlet is a story laced with deception. Most characters seem clever and conniving, often working against each other for a certain purpose, whether it be discovering truth, personal gain, or, in Hamlet’s case, vengeance. In the passage above, King Claudius’s right-hand man, Polonius, is sharing with Claudius a plan aimed to determine Hamlet’s state of mind and the cause thereof. Polonius believes Hamlet has been driven mad by love for Polonius’s daughter, Ophelia. In order to confirm this, he hatches this plan to arrange a “coincidental” meeting between the two of them, while he and the King observe from behind drapes (“arras”). Little does Polonius know that Hamlet planned his “insanity.” In Act One, Scene Five, Hamlet tells Horatio and Marcellus,

“Here as ever before, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd some’er I bear myself
(As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on),
That you, at such times, seeing me, never shall,
With arms encumbered thus, or this head-shake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As “Well, we know,” or “We could, if we would,”
Or “If we list to speak,” or “There be, and if they might”
Or such ambiguous giving out, to note
That you know aught of me – this do I swear,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you”
( 168-179).

This passage clues the reader in, warning them that they will likely find Hamlet much changed, acting irrationally with “an antic disposition” (insane look), and that it is immensely important no one is told it is a ruse. He proceeds to make both Horatio and Marcellus swear they will tell no one. Hamlet desires the King to believe he has gone mad, with the hope that the King will let his guard down and pay no attention to him. Then Hamlet might strike unexpectedly and avenge his father’s death. This plan of Hamlet’s is set in motion the moment he acts insane before Ophelia, knowing Polonius’s character and that he is very aware of what goes on in his children’s lives. Hamlet trusts Ophelia will tell her father of their encounter (which she does, in Act Two, Scene One), and that Polonius, as second-in-command, will report to the King. This Polonius does in the example quoted above. The dramatic irony stems from the fact the reader is aware of Hamlet’s scheme and that Polonius is unwittingly following it exactly. In line 164, Polonius goes so far as to swear he is right, and that if he is not, he is not the King’s right-hand man, but a farmer with a horse-drawn wagon. Considering Polonius’s character, there is probably little he cares for or identifies with more than his position in the Danish court (a position obviously quite influential due to the power of monarchy in the 1600’s), so this expression of certainty is incredibly serious. He has no idea his actions are precisely what Hamlet predicted they would be. Another domino falls in Hamlet’s plotted chain of events, and, inevitably, they will continue to fall until the fateful scene is enacted by the players, and Hamlet can catch the King by surprise.

May 7th, 2012

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde; A sort-of review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: The Importance of Being Earnest

Author: Oscar Wilde

(First) Published: 1895

Number of Pages: 76

Rating: 5/5


Oscar Wilde’s madcap farce about mistaken identities, secret engagements, and lovers entanglements still delights readers more than a century after its 1895 publication and premiere performance. The rapid-fire wit and eccentric characters of The Importance of Being Earnest have made it a mainstay of the high school curriculum for decades.

Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack s ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack s country home on the same weekend the “rivals” to fight for Ernest s undivided attention and the “Ernests” to claim their beloveds pandemonium breaks loose. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day!

This Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Edition includes a glossary and reader’s notes to help the modern reader appreciate Wilde’s wry wit and elaborate plot twists. [From Goodreads]


First of all: Long time, no… blog.

It seems I’ve disappeared for the past few months. Not simply from Wordbird, but from all of cyberspace, aside from the unnecessary amount of time I spent on facebook. Since January, I’ve been tackling homework in addition to extracurriculars, and I have been forced to put other parts of my life on hold – namely, reading, writing, and blogging. Unless it’s a textbook, it’s probably not going to be read. Unless it’s an assignment, it’s not going to be written. The same applies to blogging. Fortunately, my AP Language and Composition teacher has recently given us an assignment to blog, thereby granting me the time to return to the few readers who have stuck around. I am so grateful to be back, and even more grateful to find that not all of you are gone. Thank you.

And, finally, the actual post:

In January of this year, I had the privilege of becoming Black Swan Youth Theatre‘s assistant director of The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, a play set in the 1890’s that is, as I wrote in a recent press release,

…a story of comical misunderstandings, strange coincidences, and ample mischief. The Importance of Being Earnest combines humor and satire with immaculate prose.

The language is the most fascinating aspect of the script. Every sentence is perfectly phrased and nearly poetic. I can recall so many lines because of the fluid way in which one sentence flows to the next. The fantastic thing about the beautiful language is that it manages to be beautiful and absolutely hilarious. My director, Susan Scott, and I paid close attention to every word and made every actor accountable for stating things perfectly because each sentence is such a gem.

Here is just one bunch of “gems”:

Lady Bracknell. Where did the charitable gentleman who had a first-class ticket for this seaside resort find you?
Jack. [Gravely.] In a hand-bag.
Lady Bracknell. A hand-bag?
Jack. [Very seriously.] Yes, Lady Bracknell. I was in a hand-bag – a somewhat large, black leather hand-bag, with handles to it an ordinary hand-bag in fact.
Lady Bracknell. In what locality did this Mr. James, or Thomas, Cardew come across this ordinary hand-bag?
Jack. In the cloak-room at Victoria Station. It was given to him in mistake for his own.
Lady Bracknell. The cloak-room at Victoria Station?
Jack. Yes. The Brighton line.
Lady Bracknell. The line is immaterial. Mr. Worthing, I confess I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution. And I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to? As for the particular locality in which the hand-bag was found, a cloak-room at a railway station might serve to conceal a social indiscretion – has probably, indeed, been used for that purpose before now-but it could hardly be regarded as an assured basis for a recognized position in good society.
Jack. May I ask you then what you would advise me to do? I need hardly say I would do anything in the world to ensure Gwendolens happiness.
Lady Bracknell. I would strongly advise you, Mr. Worthing, to try and acquire some relations as soon as possible, and to make a definite effort to produce at any rate one parent, of either sex, before the season is quite over.

Of course, that excerpt is rather confusing out of context, but it gives you an idea of the cleverness I’m talking about. The satiric story that Oscar Wilde crafts is the sort that makes you savor every word and chuckle at every comment. I was thrilled to work with such a magnificent piece of literature.

Furthermore, The Importance of Being Earnest is the first play I’ve participated in. After the performances in early March (we had a mere month and a half to pull it together), no one wanted to let it go. Naturally, we were all ecstatic when Susan told us we’d be taking the play to the Hollywood Fringe Festival in June. If you’re interested in seeing it, take a look here. I would love to meet you!

But back to the play…

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the story is the attachment a reader has to all the characters. This rascally, ridiculous bunch become irresistibly endearing, despite their less admirable qualities: pride, arrogance, ignorance, etc. Though Wilde intended to criticize (with a smile!) the upper classes of 19th Century England, he did so in a way that does not make them seem blatantly terrible. I appreciated this acknowledgment that, well, not everybody can be all that bad. Algernon Moncrieff, in particular, is a silly, cocky man, but anyone who sees or reads the play will absolutely adore him. Here’s a peak at Algy’s fantastic silliness:

Cecily. I can’t understand how you are here at all. Uncle Jack won’t be back till Monday afternoon.
Algernon. That is a great disappointment. I am obliged to go up by the first train on Monday morning. I have a business appointment that I am anxious… to miss?
Cecily. Couldn’t you miss it anywhere but in London?
Algernon. No: the appointment is in London.
Cecily. Well, I know, of course, how important it is not to keep a business engagement, if one wants to retain any sense of the beauty of life, but still I think you had better wait till Uncle Jack arrives. I know he wants to speak to you about your emigrating.
Algernon. About my what?
Cecily. Your emigrating. He has gone up to buy your outfit.
Algernon. I certainly wouldn’t let Jack buy my outfit. He has no taste in neckties at all.
Cecily. I don’t think you will require neckties. Uncle Jack is sending you to Australia.
Algernon. Australia! I’d sooner die.
Cecily. Well, he said at dinner on Wednesday night, that you would have to choose between this world, the next world, and Australia.
Algernon. Oh, well! The accounts I have received of Australia and the next world, are not particularly encouraging. This world is good enough for me, cousin Cecily.
Cecily. Yes, but are you good enough for it?
Algernon. I’m afraid I’m not that.

Come to think of it, Cecily’s pretty cute in there, too. See what I mean? You just can’t get enough of them!

I earnestly (lame joke) recommend reading The Importance of Being Earnest, whether you come to the show or not, because of its immense literary value. I can assure you that you will laugh on every page. However, seeing it performed (by Black Swan or in the movie) is a priceless experience. Wilde wrote the story for the stage, and it is only there that the characters truly become real. Participating in theatre has made me realize the potential stories have to come as close to reality as they can, and working with Black Swan has been the highlight of my last few months. We’re now working on Disney’s Mulan, a shocking change from Oscar Wilde, but still exciting and fun. Performances for Mulan will be June 1st, 2nd, 8th, and 9th.

I must reiterate: take the time to read this play. It takes less than a day, but it will amuse you for much longer.