Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The White House Christmas Tree

Hey Everyone,
I just wanted to let everyone know that my family is supplying the White House with the National Christmas Tree this year. This has been a crazy last couple of months but we managed to make it to the White House on Monday of this week to presen the First Lady, Laura Bush, the Christmas tree and we got to meet her and spend the day at the White House. This has been such an honor for my family and my children. We have been on countless news programs and my husband will be on the Martha Stweart show on Wednesday of this week as well to talk about the National Tree and how to care for a "real" christmas tree. While we were at the White House, we got to meet Laura Bush, play with the presidential dogs, Barney and Miss Beasley, have tea and cookies with Laura Bush, see the presidential gingerbread house and sit in President Bush's chair in his private movie theatre. I can not tell you the honor that this was and if anyone would like to read about this expreience you can look up the information on our website at cstreefarm.com or go on any of the news station on line and there will be articles and pictures of our family presenting the tree to Laura Bush.
I hope everyone has a great holiday season and Happy New Year as well.

Thanks
Brandy Botek

Saturday, November 18, 2006

"Elizabeth" movie review

1. There was friction between Elizabeth and Mary, in part, because of their different religions (Mary being Catholic and Elizabeth being Protestant). Mary also seemed to contest Elizabeth’s throne as Henry’s marriage to Ann Boleyn was not sanctioned by Mary’s catholic church.

2. The Anglican church was utilized to quiet the fighting between Catholics and Protestants (a dispute that still rages to some extent in the Europe of today). As ruler, Elizabeth could control this body. Although she seemed somewhat neutral at times in matters of religion, the Anglican church was a mechanism that could bring her people closer together. Compared to modern American politics, where religion seems to divide more than unite, this was an interesting aspect of the story.

3. One site I researched lists as many as 34 suitors who were interested in Elizabeth’s hand in her lifetime - http://www.tudorplace.com.ar/Documents/suitors_of_queen_elizabeth.htm
However, in the movie the King of Spain and the Duke of Anjou (of France) are the primary suitors. Elizabeth’s lover Robert Dudley can also be considered to be courting her, however he can never attain her hand because he is not considered fit to marry a queen due to social ranking. Spain and France had a vested interest in marrying into the English throne for geo-political and religious reasons.

4. Her lover, Robert Dudley, is not killed since he is the only person who originally courted her sincerely and did not conspire to attain power through courting her as others did.

5. “Virgin” did not have the same meaning in the 1500s as it does today. Obviously she had been with Robert Dudley, but “virgin” referred to her being unmarried. She decides to stay unmarried to gain favor with her subjects, and instead “marries herself” to her country. This is significant because even though there are disagreements between Catholic and Protestant religions, the pure Virgin Mary is still regarded as sacred in both. She takes on the pure white, haloed appearance of the Virgin Mary as part of her devotion to the role of England’s wife and mother.

6. The movie shows Elizabeth’s growth from a girl who is ruled by her heart, lacking the sometimes cold logic needed for strong leadership, into a woman respected by her countrymen who unifies her country (as best it can be). She represents a pivotal shift in England’s history, and deserves to be considered one of England’s most influential queens.

7. From www.tudorplace.com.ar ‘s description of Elizabeth as an individual: “Elizabeth had a rigorous education. She was fluent in six languages, including Latin, Greek, French, and Italian. She once remarked to an Ambassador that she knew many languages better than her own. She was taught theology, history, philosophy, sewing, and rhetoric. She also loved such activities as hunting, riding, dancing, and playing. As a girl, she was often thought of as very serious, and she had inherited characteristics of both her mother and father such as cleverness and firmness. Elizabeth was incredibly intelligent, and admired her tutor Ascham, who remarked that she had the intelligence of a man, for it was her memory and intellect that distinguished her above others, men and women alike.”
With an education and level of personal experience like this, she was destined to change her country in a time when women were not given equal treatment, not even royals. When she learns to set her emotions aside to rule with her intellect, she becomes a powerful person capable of flushing out her would be conspirators. She also refuses a groom king, and shows that she can rule on her own without the assistance of a man. Her ability to do these things undoubtedly showed England the power women possessed, and paved the way for generations of women after to be respected in their rule.

Movie Review: Elizabeth

Mary Tudor was the daughter of King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, while Elizabeth was born to Henry and his second wife Anne Boleyn. Henry divorced Anne and had her charged with adultery and treason, for which she was executed. Subsequently, Elizabeth’s birth was considered illegitimate and her title of Princess was removed, which is why, in the movie version of her life, Mary refers to her as a bastard and Anne Boleyn a whore. Elizabeth was also a Protestant, while Mary was a Catholic, and Catholicism was basically the proclaimed religion of England. During this time, Protestants were savagely persecuted, and greatly at the direction of the Pope in Rome. Elizabeth was claimed to be a heretic and accused of being part of a conspiracy against Mary, probably mostly as a ploy to keep Elizabeth from having any claim to the throne should anything happen to Mary.

The Anglican Church was completely rearranged when Elizabeth took reign. Elizabeth, being a Protestant, took action to change the national religion, although she was tolerant of and fair to Catholics. She tried to unify England and allow both religions to exist, regardless of her personal choice. The church bishops were upset and felt threatened as Elizabeth made herself Supreme Governor of the Church of England, which put her directly between the church in England and the Pope in Rome.

The movie portrays King Phillip II of Spain and François, Duke of Anjou as candidates for marriage to Elizabeth. Both proposals were based on political aspirations and were not romantic gestures. Both Spain and France looked forward to possible alliance with England, which could result from marriage to the queen. The movie depicts that marriage to the Spanish king was a suggestion made through mediators, while d’Anjou was personally introduced to and spent time with the queen, although she supposedly finally denied his offer upon learning of some of his “recreational” activities (such as wearing dresses). Elizabeth was reluctant to marry either of them because she did not want her country to end up becoming a part of either France or Spain as a result of an alliance.

The one gentleman Elizabeth wanted to marry was Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. They had a passionate affair, but she was advised against marriage to him because he was merely a subject and not royalty. Robert loved Elizabeth dearly, but was not exactly faithful to her, in fact, he was already married. He cared deeply for Elizabeth and was upset that he couldn’t be in a committed, open relationship with her due to her role as queen. He was fearful that her throne and her life were in jeopardy, so he agreed to try to convince her to marry Phillip of Spain. Unfortunately, part of the bargain for him was that he swore to the Spanish ambassador that he would be able to be of influence in reinstating Catholicism in England. In the end of the movie, while all of the others who were found to be conspiring against the queen were put to death, Elizabeth decided to spare Robert’s life to keep him as a reminder to her of “how close she came to danger”.

After conspiracies to have her removed from the throne were brought to light, and especially after her love affair with Robert ended so badly, Elizabeth decided that she would reinvent herself in a likeness similar to the Virgin Mary so that the English subjects would have something divine on Earth to worship. She considered herself “married” and completely devoted only to her country, and, therefore vowed to never marry any man. She has herself painted white to reflect her purity as a “born again” virgin, so to speak.

Elizabeth was probably one of the best English monarchs because she was very intelligent, and finally learned to rule without letting her feelings influence her decisions, particularly after her transformation into the Virgin Queen. Elizabeth’s role changed the definition of women in power by proving (to the world) that women possess the same intellect and skills as men. Her reign as queen for 45 years is a great example of what any woman, or man, can achieve.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Movie Review 1: Elizabeth

1) Mary Queen of Scots believed she had a legitimate claim to the throne. I am unsure if the movie explains this raging resentment against Elizabeth. Although very watchable, at times, the film was richer in textiles than historical data. History has it that the Mary, whose family name was Stuart, was related to the Tudor line and therefore a strong candidate for Queen of England. In the movie, when Mary refers to Elizabeth as that "illegitimate, heretical whore, she also expresses the Catholics’view of Elizabeth’s unfitness to rule. As the church did not endorse Henry VIII’s annulment nor his subsequent marriage to Ann Bolyn, this would render Elizabeth’s claim as void and Mary, who was Catholic, as the favored contender. Interestingly, I believe Elizabeth appointed Mary’s son, James I, as her successor.

2) Elizabeth not only established the "Uniformity of Churches Act" to quell the dissidence between Protestants and Catholics, she also helped define and unify the Anglican church of England. As monarch, she was also the ruler of the church. Elizabeth developed and distributed an accessible "Book of Common Prayer" to congregations (this was not in the movie). Even though Elizabeth was definitely Protestant - after all, she was "her father’s daughter" – she was neither overbearing nor intolerant about religion.

3) Upon her coronation, Elizabeth was besieged by suitors, most of whom harbored mercenary agendas. The King of Spain, or rather, his ambassador relayed a marriage proposal stipulating that the King would only be making two or three cameo appearances per annum in Elizabeth’s bedroom. The scheming Mary Queen of Scots sent her nephew, who was the Duke of Anjou and a flaming buffoon, to propose. Additionally, Lord Robert Dudley, Elizabeth’s passion, asked for her hand and, according to the film, she may have accepted.

4) Elizabeth’s romantic interest was Robert Dudley, Earl of Leceister. Although he broke her heart at least twice: he kept his marital status a secret and, later, committed treason against Elizabeth. Yet, she spared his life, claiming that Robert will serve as a "reminder of how close she came to danger."

5) Secular, romantic eros failed Elizabeth: her 'true lover' betrayed her; the Frenchman was an insensitive fool and a closet transvestite; and the notably absent King of Spain refused to share her life or bed, desiring only her wealth and power. She had no suitable suitors and to choose one country over another would create animosity. She abandons carnal love and declares "the country of England" her husband. The movie charts her physical and emotional transformation from a vibrant, lithe young woman to a regal stony figure – much like the alabaster statue of the Madonna. On the textile scene, the initial flamboyantly vivid gowns become more tailored, subdued shades of white. Both Elizabeth and the Madonna are virgins, they stand for high ideals and are unsullied by sex, sin, and secular vanities.

6) Elizabeth was a remarkable ruler: she advocated and passed the "Uniformity in Churches Act"; she maintained national pride; tried to evade war; she met and defeated several assassination attempts; and the queen showed genuine compassion for the people. Elizabeth guided a bankrupt, relatively defenseless state into prosperity and stability. Her era is still referred to as the "Golden Age of England."

7) Elizabeth dispelled the myth of women’s inability to govern. She was thoughtful, decisive, brave, and authentic. To me, her combination of intellect and action tempered with love and high ideals show monarchies as an attractive and viable form of leadership.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

More's "Utopia"

More's "Utopia" is a proponent of 'humanism' as it was used during the English Renaissance. His perhaps 'perfect' society is based on ideals of the dignity of man, the power of reason, and, of course, Christianity. More's island harbors a communal society (no feudalism), practices religious toleration (although atheism was 'discouraged'), and even demeans the 'gold' standard (gold is used to chain convicts).

"Utopia" offers a critique on European society.
It emphasizes man's integrity and God's values.

John Donne

John Donne initiated a movement refered to as "metaphysical poetry". Elements of this style include unexpected, fresh - even bizarre -concepts and delivery. He used unusual verse forms and obscure reasoning.

As a note: He published a radical piece entitle, "Biathanatos" in which he rationalizes that suicide is not a sin in itself. He was a bit preoccupied with death.

Donne had a wild, riches-to-rogue-to-rectory life. I learned in a poetry class that before he became a chaplain, his nick name was "Jake the Rake". As a result, his work reflects a deep profundity which illustrates his divided nature. Donne struggled with physical carnality versus spiritual purity. Somehow, he made them both pretty wonderful.

The Shepherd and The Nymph

Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" is an example of the "carpe diem" theme popular at that time. This shepherd has a hook - his is a seduction poem that offers passion, but no committment. There seems to be no thought of consequences.

Raleigh's "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd" acknowledges and refutes the shepherd - using his very words. She is concerned about the future and 'husbandry.' She points out that roses lose their bloom, one must endure bad weather and the elements. Life gets tiresome; life gets old.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Age of Elizabeth (Movie Reveiw)

Queen Mary hated Elizabeth because, as she stated in the movie, “Elizabeth is my sister, but she was born a whore”. Even though Elizabeth was Mary’s sister, she hated her because she was born from a whore and she was against the Queen and the Catholic faith.
During Elizabeth’s reign, the church held a very high position and they were the ones in power. I found it interesting that the Pope himself put a hit out on Elizabeth because he thought she was against the Catholic faith. Elizabeth, being the queen, was in a position to overpower them with the people. She went to them on one occasion to persuade them to change a law and it worked, even though she put the highest priests in the dungeon and locked them up before the voting, so they could not go against her.
The King of Spain wanted to marry Elizabeth to have control over both countries. Also, the prince of France, but he was a little strange, if you know what I mean.
Lord Robert was Elizabeth’s lover. She did not kill him because she wanted to keep him alive to remind her of how close she came to danger.
Queen Elizabeth’s transformation was very significant because she wanted everyone to know that she will let no man tell her what to do. She was now married to England and that is her only duty, to England. The transformation took place after she went to the church and looked upon a statue of the Virgin Mary. She then cut her hair off and changed her look, painted her face white (which symbolizes virginity).
I think that Queen Elizabeth was one of the best English monarchs because she was loyal to England and the people of England. She kept saying through out the movie that her only concern was England and the people of England.
In the beginning, I was not sure how I was going to answer this question because she was not so independent as a woman should be. She was very dependant on what the men thought and they thought, her being a woman was the wrong thing for the country, hence the reason for everyone wanting her to get married so quickly and produce an heir. As the movie took hold, she began to come into her own and learn that what she wanted was no man to control her and that she was capable of making decisions for her country and herself. This is a great change in the role of women, especially during this time period, when women were the shadow behind the man.

Friday, November 10, 2006

John Donne Assignment

This poet, writer, was a little strange for me to figure out but I think I have gotten to understand the importance of him in literature. John Donne was a very promising poet at one point in his career. Until he married Lady Egerton's neice, which according to his biography effectively committed career suicide. He was thrown into prison for some weeks and eventually when he got out of prison there were many bitter years to come. He eventaully won the favor of the king and began publishing his works again. He was a very reluctant person for hids time but his style, symbolism, flair for drama, and his quick wit soom established him as a literary person of his era. After the death of his wife, he stopped writing love songs and poems and began to write about death and he eventually became obsessed about death.
Other than that information about John Donne, I am not really sure why he is so important. He wrote many love songs and poems and it seems that he was revolutionary for his time. He seemed to be well respected for most of his lifetime , with the exception of the time when he was married to Anne in the beginning. If I find anything else, I will be sure to add to this posting.

Christopher Marlowe Assignment

In the Passionate Sheherd to His Love, there was a sense of the love sick shepard wanting for his love to share all the pleasures of nature with him. This was written at a time when all the arts were fascinated by the theme of the love sick shepard in country settings (Norton Anthology.com). The theme of the poem is related to the words carpe diem and the idea of immediate gratification of their sexual pleasures (latech.edu). This idea of immediate gratification fits nicely with carpe diem because the shepherd was sayin to his love seize the day and live in the moment. This type of philosophy, during this time period, was against the normal for their society. There is no mention of marriage or courtley love only passionate love with, what seems to be, no limits.
The response to that poem was by Sir Walter Raleigh, called the Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd. In this reply there was the idea of carpe diem combined with tempus fugit, which means even though time flies we should NOT sieze the day. There will be consequences to having the passionate love that the shepherd wanted and longed for in the pasture (latech.edu). We can see this by the second stanza of the poem when he writes, "Time drives the flocks from the fields, when rivers rage and rocks grow cold, and Philomel becometh dumb; the rest complains of cares to come" (Sir Walter Raleigh).
There were many reply's to the Passionate Shepherds plea for passionate love, the one hear by Sir Walter Raleigh is only one of the many.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Faerie Queene Guide

Here are three great resources for The Faerie Queene by Edumund Spencer

http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/fqueen/
The reason I chose this web site is because it is a must for anyone taking literature classes, especially when you are reading literature that is hard to understand. It gives you context information, summaries, character descriptions and summaries, and questions to study that are general in nature about themes, etc.

http://www.enotes.com/faerie-queene/13101
This site breaks down the themes of the Faerie Queene and allows you to print or download a pdf version that is usable and easy to put right in your notebook for reference. Most of the other web sites do the same but this one was especially nice for the direct themes.

http://cla.calpoly.edu/~dschwart/engl331/fq.html
This is a website from California Polytechnic State University's English Department. They have posted study questions on the Faerie Queene and the characters and themes. They also have broken down the questions by book and section (cantos) for easier understanding as you read through the story. This is my number one pick for help in the understanding of this reading.

Utopia by Sir Thomas More Discussion

The definition of utopia is an imaginary, ideal civilization that is currently not extistent. In the story Utopia by Sir Thomas More, More's vivid imagination of the island of Utopia had many fictional characters but they conveyed the true values of society in Europe in the 16th century. The reason this was so revolutionary is because the time period that this was written. This type of writing and imagery was not seen much until More wrote the book Utopia. There was much political upheaval in England and the literature of the time showed this. Utopia was a perfect place, far from what was happening in present day at the time. This time period also marked the change in language and the forms of language used, it became more standardized. Therefore, Utopia was revolutionary for its time in the idea of imagery, idealism, and a perfect place, which was so much different that what was actually going on at the time.

Five web sites for Utopia:

http://www.bookrags.com/notes/uto
http://www.constitution.org/tm/utopia.htm
http://www.online-literature.com/more/utopia
http://chass.utoronto.ca/emls/01-2/lakomore.html
http://sparknotes.com/philosophy/utopia

Utopia

A utopia seems to be so revolutionary because a utopia is a place where everything is perfect. During this time the lives that people had were so far from perfect that just to imagine a perfect society could change a lot of things. Even in the world we live in today, it seems that we even strive to live in a perfect place.

Here are five sources I found that discuss Utopia.
http://faculty.goucher.edu/eng211/sir_thomas_more__utopia.htm

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Forum/1896/more.html

http://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/utopia/

http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/philosophers/more.html

http://athena.english.vt.edu/~exlibris/essays02/McCrery.html

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Faerie Queene

These are the three sources that I found that I thought were pretty decent.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Faerie_Queene
I picked the one from wikipedia because it gives some background on why Spenser wrote the Faerie Queene, lists and defines the characters, gives arguments for the cantos, and also gives other links.

http://www.beyondbooks.com/leu11/2c.asp
I picked this one because it gives you the allegory and symbolic meaning of the characters. Also, it is easy to understand.

http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/fqueen/
I personally really like sparknotes. They have it broken down by book and it gives you a summary of each book. They give you the characters and questions for study. The website is eay to navigate and the information they give you is easy to understand.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Utopia

Utopia is revolutionary because of its idealized concepts that were quite opposite from political, economic, religious and social environments when it was written and even today. More’s major concepts appear to be share and share alike, and that nothing should be wasted, with one’s productivity and opportunity to contribute to society being of highest importance. One stand-out concept is More’s approach to religion, which is that all faiths, or even the lack thereof, are respected, and should not be put down or encroached upon by others.

More’s Utopia influenced many philosophers and writers during his time and ever since. His work developed into an entire genre of utopian and humanist literature.

The following websites discuss More’s Utopia specifically and utopian concepts in general:

http://utopia.nypl.org/homepage_noqt.shtml#redirect

http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15243a.htm

http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/bassr/exhibition/utopia/utopia.html

http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel/amana/utopia.htm

http://www.earlymod.psu.edu/utopias.html

Faerie Queene Study Guides

I selected the following resources because I feel they each provide unique insight into the story. They go a bit further than simply supplying summaries of the text.

1. http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/fqueen/section1.html

Provides summary of the text with commentary, plus message boards for online chatting about the story.

2. http://academic.reed.edu/english/gre/Spenser.html

Access to wikipedia summaries (which contains a long list of characters to help keep them all straight), plus explanation of the Spenserian Stanza. (Also includes online text, which we already have).

3. http://www.chsbs.cmich.edu/Kristen_McDermott/ENG%20336/faeriequeene.htm

Provides descriptions of the characters and places in the story. Also, good study questions and links to other synopsis sites.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Pardoner and The Priest's Tale

The following are some thoughts on Chaucer's "Pardoner" and "Priest" Tales.

Initially, one may be pressed to find similarities in two such seemingly unlike pieces as Chaucer’s "Pardoner" and "Nun’s Priest" tales. The pardoner is as shocking as the nun’s priest is subtle. The former appears blatantly blasphemous and the latter reticently righteous. Yet, a closer examination reveals parallel themes, methodology, and even, common failings in the narrators.

Both clergymen preach against human vices; the pardoner warns of greed, the nun’s priest of vanity. The motto in the Pardoner’s story is that money is the root of all evil. He also references the excesses of drunkenness and gluttony. His message is straightforward, graphic, and ends in death. The nun’s priest relates a parable exemplifying the folly and dangers of pride, especially in the form of vanity.

The pardoner and the nun’s priest each use parody and personification to relay their meanings. The former tells a tale of three youths searching for Death, which they do find as a result of their inebriation, debauchery, avarice. Interestingly, the concept of Death is personified. Actually, the narrator is the personification of the same sins of which he speaks. The nun’s priest tells an ostensibly trite tale of a vain rooster being seized by a fox. By using animals with human traits, his story can be viewed as a fable ridiculing and admonishing the excesses of pride. Another interpretation might see this parable as a satirical reference to exaggerated notions of courtly love.

Chaucer’s disdain for hypocrisy in the church can be detected in both of these characters. The pardoner is a self-professed hypocrite who virtually boasts that he practices what he preaches against. Additionally, he brags of selling fake relics and exoneration for money. The nun’s priest, as Badman pointed out, appears mild, yet inappropriately relishes and lingers over the rooster’s sexual prowess. At the conclusion of the tale, the narrator even comments on the physical similarities rooster and the priest, particularly the strong, puffed-out chest. One questions which style of hypocrite is preferable: a self-acknowledged liar or a cloaked, self-satisfied faker.

Wife of Bath Questions

1) I think that the message the tale is trying to convey is that a woman can become the dominant one in the marriage. During this time women assumed the submissive role and I think that what the Wife of Bath is trying to tell us is that a woman does not have to be a doormat for her husband. If she is smart and manipulative enough she can have things under her control. At the end of the tale the old woman asks her husband if he'd rather have her old and ugly or beautiful. He tells her that the deicision is upto her. She then says to him "Then I have got mastery over you".

2) I would pick Emma Thompson to play her. She has played in a lot of Shakespeare and Jane Austin movies. I thought she was great in those movies and I would enjoy watching her play the Wife of Bath. She is very talented and I think that she could make any character come to life. I think that she speaks very clearly and pronounces her words in such a way that you can not misunderstand what she is saying. I think that is very important especially if an actor or actress is going to be a narrator.

3) I think that Chaucer is not fond of the idea of marriage. In this tale the knight and the old woman get married because she helped him and marrying the old woman was his repayment to her. It is obvious that the knight does not want to marry her, but he keeps his word. After they are married we really see how the knight is trapped into something that he does not want. In the Miller's tale an old carpenter married a young beautiful wife who became unfaithful to him. At the end of the tale she takes away all of her husbands pride and dignity just to hide her behavior. I think that Chaucer may approve of marriage if it is for love. These tales show us how unhappy and the actions people will take in an unwanted marriage.

Prologue Questions

1) The point of The Canterbury Tales is to entertain the host of the characters. In addition, The Canterbury Tales is used to help express Chaucer’s feelings and views on various topics. It seems to me that he also uses this book to help inform people. I think that especially in the prologue he's showing that some people may not be bad people, but the things they do, if found out, would be frowned upon by the community.

2) I think Chaucer will approach topics like marriage, economics, fidelity and religion in a humorous and subtle way. He gives hints in the text when he describes the characters. He points out little quirks about them, but he doesn't do it in a negative way. He does this so the reader learns more about the character and the personality of the people he is describing. When he talks about the Miller in the prologue he says, "He was a chatterer and a teller of tavern tales, mostly about sin and ribaldry." This is a clue as to what the Miller's tale is going to be about.

3) The most captivating thing about this piece is how Chaucer is very descriptive. I like this because it helps me to be able to picture the scene in my head. I was not sure what this book was going to be about. I assumed it would be different people's accounts of a pilgrimage. I was very surprised at the end of the prolouge. I think think that was the number one reason that I got hooked into the book.

The Wife of Bath

The message that the tale of the Wife of Bath is trying to convey is that women should be able to behave, as men do, of their own free will. The Wife of Bath is perhaps the most honest of all of the members of the pilgrimage. She tells the others all about her five marriages and her many affairs, making no apologies for her indiscretions. She explains that she has never been able to say “no” to any man, even her last husband, who she truly did marry for love. She doesn’t feel she should do or refrain from doing anything that doesn’t suit her. She admits that she is not perfect and is not as attractive as she was in her youth, but she still is able to see what it is men want and what they have to offer her.

The Wife’s tale includes someone similar to herself, the old woman who helps the knight at the end. In the tale, the old woman gives the information he is seeking: what do women want most? The answer is sovereignty over their husbands and lovers, and to be masters of them. When the knight gives this answer to the queen and all the ladies of court, they cannot argue, and he is saved. In exchange for her help, the old woman asks the knight to take her for his wife. The knight does so, but is very unhappy about it because she is old, unattractive and poor. However, she is able to make him see that, although she is all of those things, she is a good woman and would be a good wife, unlike a young beautiful wife who would give him problems. She contends that poverty is not a sin and that being impoverished is one way to see who one’s true friends are. She promises that, though she’s not much to look at, she is humble and will do anything to please him. When the knight considers her comments, he realizes that she is perfect for him and they stay together. The old woman was able to convince the knight that she was the woman for him.

It is difficult to pinpoint what may have been Chaucer’s position on marriage. It can be seen from two different viewpoints. He describes the Wife of Bath as being conniving and unfaithful, taking advantage of the men whom she marries in order to get what she wants from them, only to move on to the next without second thought. This makes one think that he doesn’t hold the idea of marriage too highly because women are untrustworthy and men are fools who allow themselves to be lead around by them. On the other hand, perhaps Chaucer agreed with the views he offered through the Wife. Maybe he saw women as more than men’s play things and that they should make use of what they have. It’s not like women were really able to go off and create lives for themselves as they are today. Unfortunately, women were really at the mercy of the men in their lives during Chaucer’s time, even if it was only due to social customs. Chaucer made the Wife of Bath unashamed at admitting what no other woman probably would about herself, which is quite a good characteristic.

As for a modern-day Wife, it is difficult for me to choose who should play her, particularly after reading Reese’s choice of Madonna. I could offer Jennifer Lopez, who is certainly not at the same level as Madonna, but she has been seen to have relationships that seem to have benefited her at some point. She was with Puff Daddy, or P Diddy, or whatever his name was at the time, right around when her singing career was getting off the ground. I believe he was very instrumental in her recording and put her in the spotlight with some good and some very bad publicity. Then she was engaged to Ben Afleck, who helped clean up her image in the aftermath of the P Diddy saga of gunshots and court dates. Although, her relationship with Afleck also fell through, for a time she had some good publicity with him at the same time as when she was appearing in a bunch of movies, including one she did with him, which I didn’t see, and I don’t think it was well received.

Canterbury Tales Prologue

The Canterbury Tales are told by each of the members of pilgrimage to Canterbury in an effort to win a contest posed to them by the host of the inn where they stayed. He tells them that he will lead them on their journey to Canterbury, and on the way they each must tell two tales on the way there and two on the way back, and that he would be the judge of the tales. The winner would win supper at the cost of all the others in his inn. Telling tales along the way will make the trip go faster and bring the group of strangers to know each other better.

Chaucer introduces the reader to each of the members of the group, going into great detail of the dress, demeanor and background of each. Given his descriptions of the characters, one looks forward to some interesting, spicy tales, such as that of the Wife of Bath, who “was a worthy woman al hir lyve; housebondes at chirche dore she had five; withouten oother compaignye in youthe…” The wife of Bath was a good and proper woman who was not ashamed to admit that she’s had five husbands and that she’s take more should she feel the need. She knows her value to men and that she can easily take control of a man in order to get what she needs, whether it’s his riches or just his love.

There’s also the Friar, who was a good man who’d hear the confessions of other good men, but “knew the taverns wel in every toun and everich hostiler and tappastere bet than a lazar or a beggestere…” The Friar was a holy man but was not as interested in helping the truly needful as he was in helping those who had something to offer him. He seems like the type of person we’d see nowadays in a tabloid headline. The reader can expect that Chaucer dislikes others’ self-importance and hypocrisy, and uses examples of religious leaders and others of high station to illustrate that, even though some may seem of a higher level, we’re all human and have the same flaws.
What is most captivating about this piece is its timeliness. This is not a tale simply of great heroes doing deeds of valor, it is about real people, not so different from us in the 21st century. They may have had different words for things and different style of dress, but the heart of human nature has not changed in the past 600 years, that’s for sure.

The Wife of Bath's Tale: What Women Want

1) In her prologue, a self-proclaimed authority on marriage confesses, explains, and justifies her unconventional point of view. She sustains that women have the right to marry/remarry multiple times, should enjoy and use their sexuality, and, most notably, want complete control over their spouses. She uses – and misuses – Biblical passages to support her logic. The wife of Bath then launches into a parable that demonstrates her assertion that what women desire most is absolute reign over their husbands.

2) I believe the British actress Judith Densch could portray the wife of Bath quite admirably. Ms. Densch is formidable, experienced, and most capable. She is not only a Shakespearean actress, but can also do vernacular comedy. A second choice might be the seasoned, tough, and more sexual English actress, Helen Mirren.

3) It is my understanding that Chaucer advocated equality and love as essential marital ingredients. Perhaps, in its convoluted way, this tale shows the ludicrousness of a domineering partner. Additionally, the wife of Bath claims to love her fifth husband (admittedly, in a Punch-and- Judyish way.) Either way, Mr. Chaucer certainly gives women a voice.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Canterbury Prologue

Yes, some of this is quoted from my essay.

1) Chaucer’s "Canterbury Tales" is an amazing kaleidoscope of characters, subjects, parables, vocations, morals and philosophical views. Although this pilgrimage to Beckett’s tomb portrays an assortment of personalities on parade, none of the participants are of extreme nobility or are desperate derelicts. Rather, through stories and vignettes, a variety of voices reveal insightful glimpses not only of the Middle Age’s middle class, but also into human nature as a whole.

2) By using prototypes and parodies, Chaucer addresses such themes as love, relationships, religion, loyalty and money. In the "Franklin’s Tale", a super-idealized marriage is comprised of love and equality, whereas the overbearing ‘Wife of Bath’ shows a woman’s desire for ultimate power in a relationship. Themes of sex, adultery, and money are explored in the bawdy "Shipman’s Tale." Greed, gluttony and hypocrisy are seen in the clergy - especially, the monk and the friar.

3) Chaucer’s choice to employ a keen, yet relatively nonjudgmental narrator to introduce and describe this amazing caravan of people is delightfully effective. I enjoy the lively remarks, the social exchange and, especially the diversity of this procession. The speaker paints portraits with words; he not only vividly depicts physical attributes, but mental and emotional states. Through clever use of diction, dialogue, and humor, Chaucer presents a dreamscape of humanity with all of its failings.

Lanval Responses

The following are my responses to Marie de France's "Lanval":

1) Marie’s observation that excellence of character or talent invites envy and slander is not limited to gender or era. Such vices are seen in human nature today. The "crabs in a bucket" analogy comes to mind: as one crab reach the top and nears freedom, the other crabs will pull him back now. However, I like to hope this is not the norm.

2) The cycle of heroes’ reputations being tarnished may reflect the insecurities of the audience. Or, perhaps, these icons are being humanized.

3) The role reversal of having the maiden rescue the knight puts women in a new, positive light. Also, it puts them in a position of power and control.

4) Ostensibly, the fairy allows the knight to control. Although it is his desires and actions that will determine the course of the relationship, she exacts the promise. Also, she may want to feed his ego.

5) As the characters’ pride and egos suffer more damage, charges and counter-charges become increasingly heated and dangerous.

6) The king seems especially upset about the slander and demands verification that a richer, more beautiful kingdom and woman exists. . He is more preoccupied with wealth and appearances than sexual overtures made to his wife.

7) Marie portrays the legal system as royally biased and contrived.

8) The fairy queen shows "largesse" – generosity. She not only forgives Lanval, but valiantly rescues him. The wondrous fairy kingdom surpasses Arthur's secular realm in glory, splendor, and chivalry.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Courtly Love in Lanval and Sir Gawain

"Courtly love" traditionally describes the chivalrous relationship between a knight and his lord, or a knight with his lady. This medieval concept is illustrated in both Lanval and Sir Gawain, yet with in different manners. Romantic commonalties between the stories include: adventures, fantasy, valor, ill-treatment by royalty, and, interestingly, human failings. These stories are also examples of non-Christian and Christian chivalry.
Marie de France's piece features a mystical heroine and mortal hero. Both characters exhibit the much-admired courtly virtue of "largesse", that is, generosity. Lanval remains loyal to the fairy and rejects the queen’s overtures. However, when he breaks his promise and erroneously reveals his secret love to the king, he suffers that courtly love-sickness. Yet, his beloved not only forgives the knight, but she also valiently rescues him.
In Sir Gawain, a lone knight’s adventures are fueled by chivalrous ideals. He bravely accepts the Green Knight’s challenge. Yet, he fails. By secretly accepting the green scarf that he believes has special properties, Gawain realizes that he values his life more than his values (honesty, courage). He is mortified and wears the scarf as a visible penance. His is a quest for personal purity.