Oedipus the King – Julian Figueroa’s first impressions

Medea was a thrill and Oedipus has a lot in store for us as well.  This is a great play, also akin to Medea in its dialogue and its conflicts in the monarchy.

A terrible curse/plague has befallen Thebes, and great King Oedipus sends Creon (his brother in law) to seek the advice of Apollo. He alerts Oedipus that the curse will be forsaken if the murderer of Laius, the former king, is found and prosecuted. So, Oedipus then sets off to find and prosecute of Laius’s murderer. Oedipus interrogates a bunch of uncooperative citizens, including a blind prophet, Teiresias. Teiresias informs Oedipus that Oedipus himself killed Laius.  His wife Jocasta tells him not to believe in the prophets since they’ve been wrong before. As an example, she tells Oedipus about how she and King Laius had a son who was prophesied to kill Laius and sleep with her. Well, she and Laius had the child killed, so that prophecy clearly didn’t work out so well…

This doesn’t really pacify Oedipus in any way… As a child, an old man told Oedipus that he was adopted, and that he would eventually kill his biological father and sleep with his biological mother.  Jocasta presures him not to look into the past any further, but he  ignores her. Oedipus goes on to question a messenger and a shepherd, both of whom have information about how Oedipus was abandoned as an infant and adopted by a new family. In a moment of insight, Jocasta realizes that she is Oedipus’s mother and that Laius was his father. Horrified at what has happened, she kills herself. Shortly thereafter, Oedipus also realizes that he was Laius’s murderer and that he’s been married to his mother. In horror and shock (not to mention despair…), he gouges his eyes out and is exiled from Thebes.

My first impression of Oedipus was that he was a powerful man that would get everything that he wanted. I thought that he would prove as a strong leader and be able to overcome any conflict. He actually seemed like a friend in the sense that he would protect every body. Apparently not the case.

I really enjoyed how the whole idea of sight/blindness played into the story. The prophet, Teiresias, is blind… yet can still see (the future). And Oedipus, frightened by the reality, the predicted future, blinds himself so that he does not have to witness it. Some very cool imagery indeed.

I’d definitely read this again.


Julian Figueroa’s Impressions on The Prince!

The Prince is an interesting treatise, and I was really glad to have read it. So far, it is quite independent from all the other pieces of literature we have read, as it is non-fiction in the form of a didactic. In this text, the author, Niccolo Machiavelli, outlines methods that a prince should take in governing his populace. He describes the consequences of failing to do so, raises some great examples (Hannibal, etc.) to support his notions, and begins the piece with an introduction (essentially chapters 1 and 2), explaining the scope of the book, and concluding it. Essentially an essay.

His ideas that one must strike fear to the people below him is one that has been employed by many rulers, before and after him. Although I do find it quite unfair that  people credit any “Prince-esque” ruler post-Machiavelli to derive inspiration from him, as he did not invent the concepts of things such as love versus fear, strength in unity, faithful representation, etc. He simply outlines them in his book, which at the time would have sounded much more like political commentary rather than a creation of something brand new, akin to the works of Marx… or something like that.

Nonetheless, it is a great piece of literature, and it will continue to be timeless as the points brought up are not really refutable. What I mean by that, is that they are passable ways to control a populace, and this has been proven by centuries of rule before and after the release of The Prince.  We have modern day Machiavellis everywhere, Kissinger, Obama, Kennedy, you name it. And their legacies alone will live to inspire future politicians until the end of time.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Prince. It really tied into our reading of The Republic and Machiavelli raises some great, interesting points about dictatorships throughout.


The Tempest

Again with Beowulf, I had already reviewed this text before. Actually several times, ever since Grade 10. Our curriculum had some accidental repeats in terms of literature… This and Lord of the Flies became so overrated by the end of high school.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it though. I can see why this text was included in Arts One B. It has some pretty infamous monsters; Caliban in particular. In a more modern take, Caliban can be viewed as one to have empathy with; a victim of circumstance. His island is taken right from underneath him! I’d be pretty upset too. I think one of the most important things to note about this text though, and unfortunately we most likely won’t discuss it, is the send off; the monologue by Prospero at the end of the play which symbolizes Shakespeare’s departure from the theatre world.

In a way, Shakespeare uses Prospero to inspire others to live to his legacy. It would have been a tear jerker for avid Shakespeare followers of the time, and even for some today. A wonderful aside.

One of the most intriguing things I found in The Tempest was the symbol that the game of chess had in the narrative. Prospero’s reveal of Miranda and Ferdinand playing the game signifies Prospero’s victory of Alonso; pretty much forcibly marrying Ferdinand to his own   daughter.

Also… do yourself a favor and do not watch the latest interpretation of the movie… the one with Russell Brand. It is ever so weak, extremely dragged out, and Prospero is played by a female (Helen Mirren)…. not that there is something wrong with that…. well actually there is, she doesn’t play the role admirably at all. The only benefactor out of that film was the pretty good continuity and the make up for Caliban and Trincolo. I never thought Russell Brand could get any creepier but alas I have been proven wrong.

Come to think of it I don’t think I have ever seen a faithful movie adaption of any of Shakespeare’s works….


Beowulf the Dane!

Prior to Arts One, I had already read Beowulf. It is an absolutely epic poem, and regarded as the longest standing piece of English Literature (albeit Old English…). It tells of the triumphs and tragedies of Hrothgar and beyond; and how Beowulf fought the antagonizing monster, Grendel. There have been a variety of translations and unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to purchase the curriculum assigned version; however I have read at least 4 different translations of what is, essentially the same tale.

Before this school year had started, I had looked ahead at the reading list and the sight of Beowulf brought me much excitement. It is the perfect piece of literature to encompass the theme of “monsters” as well. It also has come connections back to previous material we have studied; such as Genesis. Grendel, one of the three monsters Beowulf encounters, was a descendant of Cain, of the noteworthy fratricidal story in Genesis.  The term monster was one that referred to birth defects, which were  interpreted as an ominous sign from God—a sign of evil or of bad things to come.

An aspect that I thoroughly enjoyed in Beowulf is that the description of Grendel never comes full circle. It is up to the reader to form in their head what Grendel looks like. We get all sort of adjectives (subjective to the translation you read), but it is truly up to your imagination in the end. My only really beef with Beowulf as a text is that it seems all the characters are pretty one-sided… they all have respective foils and their seems to be a lack of ambiguity in all of them. Mind you, it is an ancient text and it doesn’t follow the expectations of literature today, but it would have been nice to see some questionable motives from Beowulf. As it stands, the text convinces one of the complete evilness of Grendel. The dragon’s tale is possibly ambiguous but it never gets enough development for us to care for it.

And for those who have yet to see the movie version; be warned. It is chocked full of cheesy cover-ups and the animations falls right into the uncanny valley….

Anyways, definitely an awesome read. Looking forward to going to town on the essay for it! (Sorry Oedipus, Beowulf is more of a man than you’ll ever be.)

 


Julian Figueroa’s take on Plato’s Republic

I gotta say, I really enjoy Plato’s Republic so far. We’ve only done stuff from a more imaginary standpoint (I know, I know, subject to debate) in terms of Greek literature so it is quite refreshing to have something besides just a dramatic/actiony story for our next read.

Plato had a concept of an ideal state based on logic and living in accordance with certain duties to more than one’s self. He wanted a governing power that founded on a trained elite who would govern wisely and in which art and music would be forbidden that destroyed one’s individuality. After having seen how his friend and teacher Socrates was executed by the Athenian democracy, Plato disillusioned himself with the notion that men could govern over themselves freely since they were prone to being tricked by demagogues, swindlers, and con men into acting against their true intentions… Granted, the book certainly is impractical in depicting the kind of world Plato would have liked to see but all the same there is no disputing that, as one of greatest philosophers who ever spawned on this planet, we still find ourselves arguing not whether we can ever achieve a perfect, utopian state, but whether we can expect a government and society to hold integrity in regards to its character and policy.

 

That is the real issue at stake The Republic presents to us… at least from what I can see thus far. That being said… this was a tough slog so far. I had to read over at least 2-3 times to derive true understanding from this book so far… Plato often seems to transcend us in thinking even at our best, eh? The footnotes in the copy we have to read helped a bit though.

If only we had presidential hopefuls that were even a fraction as wise and laconic as Socrates… sigh….

 

What are your guys’ thoughts so far? I’m reading through a few of your blog posts so expect comments soon…


Julian Figueroa’s Thoughts on Medea

I found Medea to be a very interesting play. For something as short as 40 pages, it seems to have even more themes than The Odyssey to it. Don’t get me wrong (and again, this is just an opinion) but  there is such a vast range of mature themes found in Medea (Passion, Revenge, Pride, Manipulation, etc.) that it almost makes The Odyssey seem like a children’s tale. Death doesn’t play near as big of a role in The Odyssey as it does in Medea, and the characters in Medea seem a lot more morally ambiguous in comparison to Odysseus, Penelope, or Telemachus.

Enough with comparisons though… let’s get into the meat and potatoes of what stood out to me in Medea.

One major thing to touch upon is the history behind this play. It was written by a man, and for the longest time, all the female characters were still played by men. For Euripedes to write lines about a character more willing to fight three wars than to give birth shows how clever he is at writing for a powerful female character. And that is what Medea is; powerful, cunning, and vengeful. In fact, one could touch upon how she seems more of a man than Jason; she’s much more intimidating, she doesn’t get to keep control of her children (which in case of divorce nowadays, it is almost unheard of for men to have custody of children under the age of 12). So what spoke to me about this play is how it really defies the history of the time; Medea doesn’t play into any of the tropes of the classic female.

Another aspect that stood out to me was the theme of pride that Medea encompassed throughout the play. Her pride drove her to make irrational decisions and drove her to cause unnecessary bloodshed. There is a tremendous sense of waste to her actions, as she fully exacts her revenge on Jason with the poisoning of Glauce and her father, and then takes the brutality a step further, beyond the bounds of myth, by slaying her own children. She has the damaged and twisted pride of a woman, condescended to for her gender and her barbaric roots, who is nonetheless superior to everyone around her. After all she has suffered, in some ways Medea is most perturbed when she is ridiculed by fools. Her pride only adds to the tragedy in this play as well, and I almost felt sorry for her actions by the end.

A really good television show that encompasses the theme of pride in Medea is “Breaking Bad”. Yes, if you know me, you’ll know that I gawk over every second of the show. But it is true; how Medea starts out as a simple character, and grows into a murderous fiend by the end, in similar ways that Walter White turns from an innocent chemistry teacher in Albuquerque into the most powerful, callous drug lord in the south-west. Pride gets the best of both of these characters, and the influence of Medea is definitely in Breaking Bad. It further proves the point that Medea is great piece of literature and I am very thankful for this course for introducing me to it among other things.

And it’ll only get better from here :) .


Julian Figueroa’s Impression of The Odyssey

First off, I’ll start by mentioning that I haven’t completed a book of this length in such a short amount of time in my life; even Harry Potter, with all it’s suspense, had me paced out over a few weeks. Second, I have a bit of knowledge about this epic coming into the course. I starred as Odysseus in a school play adaption of the Odyssey titled “The SeussOdyssey”. Yes, it pretty much explains itself as a shallow interpretation of the epic done told in a Dr. Seuss-like format. So hopefully if my impression of this comes off as a little informal, you’ll understand the biases I had coming into it…

The Odyssey tells the story of the grand hero Odysseus. Years after the Trojan War, the character Odysseus is on his way home to his palace of Ithica, where his son, Telemachus, and his beautiful wife, Penelope lie. On his way back, he gets shipwrecked, and many gods lay out a plan for his future, leading up to his arrival many years later (I think 20 by the time he makes it back to Ithica?). 

I could go into depth about many aspects of the story I enjoyed, but there is one thing that stood out to me, and it sure stood out like a sore thumb. Like a bastard at a family reunion. It could all be because I’m viewing the Odyssey with a meta ideology, but the powers of the Gods really ruined any climactic feeling to the story.

From the start of the book, Zeus promises to Athena that Odysseus will make it home safely. And, being a god, I took his word for it. And from then on, the events following Odysseus after he tells of his exploits to the people of Scheria (home of the Phaeacians) become entirely predictable. You know that Odysseus won’t die, and you reckon that the suitor problem will be taken care of.

On the subject of Odysseus telling his story, that was another aspect that kind of perturbed me. All the events could have been told in present tense and it would have made for a lot more suspense. That’s not to say that they were told badly because it was done in past tense, but the escapes from situations were predictable.

However, these are just little critiques. Despite what I said earlier, I still find The Odyssey to be an absolutely fantastic piece of literature. On top of that, my argument can be rendered invalid in a number of ways. Most notably, this piece is an epic, and not a page turning thriller. It wasn’t written to have you on the edge of your seat at all times. The conversations between the characters are supposed to tell the story. 

A good point of discussion can be brought up here too pertaining to my previous comparison; that literature can come in a variety of forms, and viewing it with certain expectations can ruin any true insight into the deeper elements of a story.

And that’s what it boils down to; Homer is a fantastic storyteller. He creates a world full of 6 headed creatures, nymph goddesses, timid characters, brave characters, gods, monsters and just sheer ecstasy.

Because of this, one could even say he channels himself through Odysseus.


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Hello my friends and peers. I’m Julian Figueroa, I’m taking Arts One, just like the rest of you. I’m from the Sunshine Coast, B.C., which is a little town (or more truthfully, retirement community) on the coast of BC. It’s about a 3 hour trip from UBC to there, including one overly expensive ferry route. I like everything and anything to do with film; acting, directing, editing, cinematography, choreography, screenwriting, you name it. I plan to major in Film Production as well. What are my favorite shows/movies? WELL I’M GLAD YOU ASKED! Breaking Bad and Walking Dead for TV, and as for movies, Submarine (great indie flick) and all the LOTRs.


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