The Shape of Grief in Hamlet

Happy Halloween!

Want to read something creepy? Shakespeare’s Hamlet has you covered with ghosts, murder, insanity, and more!

Today my review/analysis of Claudius’s creepy, evil character is featured on Matthew O’Connell’s blog.  He posts atypical book reviews that focus more on a particular aspect of a book.  If you haven’t already, you should definitely check it out! Here’s a sneak peak of my post:

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Inspired by Robert Schumann’s “Verrufene Stelle” from Waldszenen, Op. 82, a classical music work (as performed by Sviatoslav Richter).

Hamlet is easily one of my favorite plays for reasons too numerous to go into here. So I’m just going to focus on Claudius: Hamlet’s evil, murdering, and incestuous uncle.

How can we understand his character? He’s obviously committed the horrible crime of killing his royal brother as well as the highly questionable act of marrying that brother’s wife shortly thereafter…We don’t explicitly know what he was like before the murder, but it’s still reasonable to infer that the murder and marriage were his first “large” sins because of the torturous guilt and echoes of remorse he experiences later on in the play. A repeat criminal would perhaps be hardened, but a first-time criminal may struggle with the emotional aftermath of his actions. Actually, such a character transformation also occurs in Shakespeare’s Macbeth: Macbeth originally doesn’t want to murder King Duncan. It’s his wife that incites him with the deprecatory lines:

“I have given suck, and know
How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this”

And:

“But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we’ll not fail.”

Read more here!

Music as Writing Inspiration

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I was honored to be featured as a guest blogger on author Shannon A. Thompson’s blog! Here is a snippet of my post:

Ah, yes, that terrifying word: inspiration.  How do we find it? And if we find it, how do we turn it into something worthwhile?

For those of you like me who bump (or crash) into writer’s block, perhaps the muse may speak to you through music.  Here are some specific ways to help get those creative juices flowing:

1) Pop/Rock: Listen to your favorite song, shuffle a playlist, or find new music…there is always a story behind the song.

For example: “Someone Like You” by Adele: who is Adele’s character? Why did she and her lover separate? What prompted her to show up at his door in the first place?

For example: “Mr. Roboto” by Styx: Is the character an actual robot/cyborg? Or is this symbolism for something else? Why does he need to hide, and why is his life in danger?

Read more

What are your favorite ways to find inspiration from music?

A Colorful Symphony

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“The last colors slowly faded from the western sky, and, as they did, one by one the instruments stopped, until only the bass fiddles, in their somber slow movement, were left to play the night and a single set of silver bells brightened the constellations. The conductor let his arms fall limply at his sides and stood quite still as darkness claimed the forest.” –The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

I love how Norton Juster makes music the source of color in his children’s book, “The Phantom Tollbooth.” (For those of you who aren’t familiar with the book, it’s very Alice-in-Wonderland-esque with puns and other wordplay.)

He really hit the nail on the head here: different subtleties of sounds are as beautiful as all the different shades of color! And without music, how colorless would our lives be?

This passage also made me think about synesthesia, the state when a person sees actual, physical colors when they hear music among other things (I knew a band director who had this). It got me thinking: what color would my favorite songs be? Would each song by the same artist have the same basic hue with different nuances, or would there be an entire spectrum in every album? Do all synesthetes see the same colors for the same sounds, or is each person different?

On a related note (ha! Pun not intended), Continue reading

Judging the Book By Its Cover: Orpheus in the 1920s

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A retelling of the myth of Orpheus set in the roaring ‘20s

My Ideas: Directly descended from the legendary Orpheus himself, Orr can control anyone with a single chord on his harp. As a result, he easily climbs the ranks to perform as the very first harpist in New York’s top speakeasy where the drinks never end and the lights never die.

But then his career catapults into an earth-shattering halt when his harp is stolen one particularly boisterous night. Without the influence of the harp, he finds himself out on the streets just trying to survive—all the while searching with the unconquerable purpose of: 1) finding the thief so he can 2) enact his revenge and 3) reclaim his life.

Goodreads summary: “With more than two million copies of her novels sold, New York Times bestselling author Geraldine Brooks has achieved both popular and critical acclaim. Now, Brooks takes on one of literature’s richest and most enigmatic figures: a man who shimmers between history and legend. Peeling away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage. Continue reading