Monday, December 31, 2012

Book Kaleidoscope: My Top Five Most Favorite Books & Farewell 2012!

And here we are…on the last day of this year. 2012 has been my most important year in term of reading. This year (on March) I joined The Classics Club and it really helps me to delve deeper into classics works. In fact, most of my readings of this year were dominated by classics, most of my blog posts were in this blog (Fanda Classiclit). For 2013 I’m planning to start reading books from 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list; the works will be slightly mixed between classics and non classics.

After discussing my Top Five Book Boy Friends and Top Five Best Book Covers of books I've read on 2012, now the Book Kaleidoscope will rewind the most important aspect in reading: the book itself. 

Speaking of my readings of 2012 (I have read around 37 books), I have found a lot of great books and/or authors that for years I have only seen the title/the name, but now I am proud to say that I have read several of them. It’s been difficult to rank only five of my favorites, but I finally came to this composition…

5. Beloved

This was one of the strongest books I’ve ever read in my life, depicted a black woman’s struggle to protect her children. Beloved was quite difficult to read, as the story flowed forward and backward without clear signs, and only after reading few chapters I could be more familiar with it. And this book is not a nice reading too, although it makes us deeply touched. Therefore, fifth place is fair enough for Beloved.

4. Twenty Years After

Not known as much as The Three Musketeers, this second sequel is much better than the first. As its title, Twenty Years After was a reunion of the four friends when they were older and wiser. This is one of the books which I fully enjoyed the reading, every page of it, even every word.

3. L’Assommoir

I remember that I was shocked after finishing this book. Unlike any other books I have read, this one is very honest—extremely honest. Then I just knew what ‘naturalism’ in literature meant, that I instantly fell in love with Zola! I think my first strong impression of this book that makes L’Assommoir becomes one of my favorite books of all time, at least until now.

2. Great Expectations

Great Expectations is almost perfect as a reading companion. Dickens has been famous for writing entertaining tales, that although his wordings are often tedious, we can’t help to keep reading to know what will happen next to our favorite characters. I enjoyed every word of this book, and rewarded also with the moral value of this bildungsroman.

1. Germinal

Have I mentioned that I’m a big fan of Emile Zola? Well, it’s not surprising then, that I granted the most exclusive place in this Book Kaleidoscope to Germinal. Sharp as it always is, Germinal also offers variety of amusements in the story—romances, fights of the poor against the have, and a bigger hope that the oppressed could get a better future. I always like stories about hope! And that makes Germinal to be…

BOOK OF 2012!

And this post would also be my last post to close this remarkable year of 2012. Thank you for all of you who has been joining me in this 2012 Book Kaleidoscope yearly meme. I had actually created it to amuse myself, and I'm so surprised that there were a lot of you who'd joined in. It had been wonderful because I could find new blogs and new books (although I'd never read them, but at least I know about them), and I'll positively host another Book Kaleidoscope for next year.

I would like also to thank all my followers, most of you followed me around this year. I hope you'd been enjoying my posts. I'm sorry if I could not return all your visits and comments, as I must keep the balance between reading, posts writing, events hosting, and blog walking. I wish I could be interacting with you more often next year. Meanwhile.....I wish you a Happy New Year of 2013! ...and I just can't wait for starting  reading my 2013 piles of books!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Kaleidoscope: My Top Five Best Book Covers

This is the second category of the 2012 Book Kaleidoscopethe rewinding of bookish aspects of books we have read during this 2012. After a little #fangirling in the 1st category: Top Five Book Boy Friends yesterday, now we are switching to artistic aspects of a book: Covers! Here I rank my five most favorite books covers that I had read for 2012…

5. The Great Gatsby

I have posted about this particular The Great Gatsby cover for a classics challenge, and I don’t know why, this post became quite popular with 598 pageviews (when I wrote this post). This is a translated version of The Great Gatsby, and I like it even before I read the book. I like the overall color tone: beige, and the classy nuances. I’ll quote what I’ve written for this cover:

There are three persons, two men and one woman are standing in the middle of a party took place in a mansion. That was my first impression of this cover, and it turned out to match the book theme. The luxury party and the snob expression of those three persons could reflect the moral decadency of the “Jazz Age”. It seems that the woman (Daisy) is torn between the two men. She perhaps will choose the man in the front (Gatsby I presume), but she is somehow still attached to the man behind (Tom I presume), who is staring at her sharply, afraid of losing her.

Aesthetically I love the cover, it can reflect the theme of the book, but I think it still could not reflect the whole story. I could not even guess which one is Gatsby from the two gentlemen in the illustration.

4. Nobody’s Boy

This one is translated version of Nobody’s Boy from one of the biggest publishers in Indonesia. I like the old parchment color for the cover background, the illustration is nice too. Remi was pictured as a tiny and helpless boy, patting the dogs’ heads he loved—and the dogs loved him too. In the background, there was Signor Vitalis with the monkey on his shoulder, illustrated as if they were looking at Remi from a far before they both vanished. The illustration reflected the story very well.

3. Lord of The Flies

Red is my favorite color, so when I saw this new edition of Lord of the Flies in one of The Book Depository’s hourly sales, I just grabbed it without further consideration :) I liked the cover from the beginning, and after I read it, I loved it more. Firstly, the red color represented the fighting spirit of the characters. The illustration of the primitives fit with the story’s theme, and the bright colors (in leaves, animals) represented youthfulness. All in all, the cover tells the whole story of this book, about how youths could become savages, and how they fight against it. And the cover fits well with young adult readers.

2. The Color Purple

Not only because there were purple flowers in the cover that makes The Color Purple’s cover one of my favorites, I loved it because the cover reflected the story and the emotional aspects of the story. I have written about it here, let me just quote it now.

I think this certain cover speaks a lot about the book. First, there is a portrait of a black woman’s bare legs, standing at the porch (leaning on a pillar from rotten woods). The lack of shoes and the body language of the woman already brought the sense of poverty and powerless. The grayish color of the portrait only added a sense of hopelessness (and reflected the non-existence of women in the world) to the scene. However, there are also three purple flowers, as if from the helpless ground the flowers had grown to bring a new brighter and more colorful scene to the world (and to women in particular). The purple flowers represent the new hope of happiness that awaits Celie at the end of her long waiting.

1. Beloved

From the moment I held this book, I have been intrigued by the black woman’s picture. At first I thought the woman was so black that her face was almost disappeared. However at second sight, I began to realize that the half right of her face was completely transparent, as if half of her face dissolved to the red background of the cover (it’s a brilliant idea to choose red as part of the background so that the transparency effect became more distinct). And that was not intended to be just an effect (the transparency), or otherwise her hat and clothes would be transparent as well. It’s not until after I have finished reading Beloved—and it’s a very powerful book too—that I realized how clever the illustrator was in designing the cover. I could not say as much as I like without revealing the whole story, but I think that “Beloved” was exactly as what this cover is reflecting, mysterious, dark and made you think whether everything was real or was it as what you’ve been thinking. Genius design of a cover!

And….that makes Beloved…

Fanda’s Most Favorite Book Cover
of 2012!

*Put your post in the linky at Book Kaleidoscope Master Post*
*We still have one final post of the Top Five Most Favorite Books on December 31st! (see the details in the Master Post)*

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Kaleidoscope: My Top Five Book Boy Friends

It’s time for Book Kaleidoscope, the rewinding of bookish aspects of books we have read during this 2012. After having much consideration and many reflections—I have more than five candidates for Book Boy Friend category!—I concluded my top five book Boy Friends from classics books I have read in 2012, here they are to the top…

5. Louis XIV in The Man In The Iron Mask

You might be surprised to this because Louis XIV could be regarded as an antagonist in The Man In The Iron Mask. He was not a good guy—as you may say it—but I like how he had transformed from ruthless, spoiled young king to be an intelligent man, full of determination who in the end gained D’Artagnan’s respect. You can read my full analysis about Louis XIV in my Character Thursday (by the way, this was one of my favorite Character Thursdays so far).

D’Artagnan labeled Louis XIV as: “Gentle towards the weak, but terrible to the strong”

4. Ralph in Lord of the Flies

He’s only a teenager, but Ralph has showed a rare quality of a grown up man. In normal life he would have been an ordinary indifferent teenager, but forced to survive in terrible circumstances, Ralph showed the qualities of bravery and persistent to keep his conscience, no matter what the consequences were. I have written more thoroughly about Ralph in one of my Character Thursdays feature.

It’s never been easy to stand alone in what you think is right against the whole world who thinks you’re wrong, but alone he was, Ralph stayed with his conscience to the end—as he said: “Cos I had some sense.” 

3. D’Artagnan in The Man In The Iron Mask

Actually my liking to D’Artagnan grew bigger in Twenty Years After, but unfortunately I didn’t written my analysis from that book as I have featured him in Character Thursday from The Man In The Iron Mask. Nevertheless, he’s still the same D’Artagnan, the bravest and cleverest from any followers of King of France at that time. He was also humorous and had a remarkable loyalty to his friends. I have written a thorough analysis on D’Artagnan in my Character Thursday, but unfortunately it’s still in bahasa Indonesia.

His later quality—respect for friendship—is what I value the most from D’Artagnan, as reflected from what he would have said to Louis XIV: “I should say to him [King] straight out:Sire, imprison, exile, kill everyone in France or in Europe, order me to arrest or poniard anyone in the world, even were it monsieur your brother, but do not touch either of the four musketeers. If one of them be harmed, I will not answer for the consequences.’”

 2. Pip in Great Expectations

I loved Pip from when he was a boy and met the convict. I admired him because—despite of being frighten to death—he seemed to me to have a pity towards the convict. Well, interest mingled with pity, so I assumed Pip was a loving boy. And this became clearer when he had been in hard times and at the end could forgive two persons who had changed his life most. I have just analyzed Pip in my Character Thursday of this week.

And if it’s not impressed you yet, here’s what Pip said to Estella (how could you not love a man like this?)…. “You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then.” Owww…. <3

1. Etienne Lantier in Germinal

If I must weigh all the positive personalities of all five characters in this book kaleidoscope, I might say that Etienne had the least. Normally I like men with tough characters who know what he’s doing (“Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing” ~Kimi Raikkonen, F1 driver). From my Character Thursday post of Etienne, he shouldn’t have been my most favorite, but still…I have been in love with Etienne from the beginning of Germinal, and I don’t quite know for what reason. Perhaps it’s because he’s so natural—like most of Zola’s characters. One thing that I admired in him was how he was brave to be different, stood out from anyone else. He always acted according to his own principles—wrong was he sometimes, but still, brave to learn from his mistakes and continue on to maintain another new hope, never give up! Plus he had respect for women—unlike most men at his generation.

So, after long consideration, I think Etienne Lantier deserved to be the winner of…

Fanda’s Most Favorite Book Boy Friend 2012!

 *Put your post in the linky at Book Kaleidoscope Master Post*
*Tomorrow we will post the Top Five Best Book Covers (see the details in the Master Post)*

Pip in Great Expectations

Pip is the main protagonist in Great Expectations, he was a poor child; an orphan who brought up “by hand” by his sister, a wife of a blacksmith on a small village near a marsh. While I understand that Pip’s sister mush have been tired of living in poor condition, I still cannot understand how people could be that mean to an innocent child. Anyway, despite of his sister’s bad treatment, Pip did not grow up bitterly. I believe Joe’s lovable character has a good influence over Pip’s soul. Then a convict run away and came across Pip’s faith…

Since his encounter with Magwitch—the convict—Pip’s soul had been restless, he was haunted by his own conscience because he had stolen from his sister and Joe to avoid the convict’s threat to kill him. Although Magwitch took Pip’s deed as a great loving deed, I don’t think Pip has ever thought it the same. I believe Pip wanted to scrap his action from his history if he could.

After that, Pip met Miss Havisham whose life’s sole purpose was to take revenge to men. This stage brought a huge influence to young Pip, from ordinary child, he now know the different between common and uncommon people. He got embarrassed by his commonly manners, and along with his frequent visits to Satis House, his dislike to his own life grew bigger to the level of disgust. Yet, I could not blame Pip, who won’t feel that way when one was frequently introduced to fine things? Plus, Pip had been attracted to Estella, and it’s natural that he dreamed to have a life as a gentleman.

The trial of his character came when he got his great expectations from a mysterious benefactor. Pip finally became a gentleman as he dreamed of, and as what often happens to us, he became snobby. Pip began to feel uncomfortable with Joe’s presence or other aspects from his youth. But it all changed after he realized what his real benefactor had done for him. I think this was the point of return of Pip’s transformation to the greater end. This and the hard times he experienced as the result of his new lifestyle. He finally knew that being a gentleman was not only a lifestyle or manner, it’s also about doing honorable things.

I’m very glad that Pip could overcome his anger to Magwitch (for forcing him to stealing) and to Miss Havisham (for using him for her revenge plot). He forgave those two persons who had bigger influence to his transformation. Pip even had affection to them in the end; I think Magwitch and Miss Havisham could be regarded as Pip’s father and mother—two figures that Pip never had. It amazes me how Pip kept visiting Satis House (other than trying to see Estella), I think he somehow felt bound to Miss Havisham (I don’t remember Pip ever said bad things to or about her).

Being an orphan, it’s quite remarkable that Pip could transform to a better way. I believe that hard times would somehow build our personalities, and when you had people who love you, or at least you have someone you love dearly, those aspects help you to develop.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Heart of Darkness – The Second and Third Level Inquiry

This post acts also as my final review, while you can find the first level inquiry I had done for my WEM self-project here. All in all I did not enjoy this novella; after first reading I did not completely understand what’s in it. I had an idea about how the whites maltreated the blacks, and how Kurtz had become savage, but the rest was still in the mist. I had had to browse some analysis, then everything started to make sense. It’s about colonialism and civilization. So I tried to have a second read with the help from Sparknotes No-Fear, and this time I got a better idea. However, despite of the moral value, I still can’t say that this novella is enjoyable. Conrad’s narrative was rather boring, and his effort to not mentioning specific attributes (Belgium, Congo) made it more difficult to comprehend. I gave three stars for Heart of Darkness. And these are my analysis for the second and third level inquiries…

Logic Stage Inquiry

What does Marlow want? What is standing in his way? What strategy does he pursue in order to overcome this block?

I think at first Marlow only wanted to pursue his childhood dream, to get an adventure by sailing to the “untouched” world of Congo, however when he really got a job in a river steamboat for a Belgium trading company, Marlow became interested in a character named Mr. Kurtz. Thus I can say that Marlow wants to meet and learn from the remarkable and genius chief of Inner Station who had become the symbol of successful colonialism and civilization of the African natives.

However, instead of being civilized, Marlow witnessed that the natives were slaved and inhumanly treated. They were forced to do heavy-load works but were not supported with good food and health. Kurtz’s station was the worst; Marlow found evidences of savage rites which involved massacre of the natives (Kurtz become the chief of the tribe). The icon of civilization had given up to his dark animal instinct.

In order to not being contaminated with the savagery or the effect of wilderness, Marlow did not fall into idolatry to Kurtz like others. He respected Kurtz' intelligence, but not the dark passion.

What idea is the author trying to convince you of? What evidence does he give you for believing the argument?

The Belgium civilization of Congo was only a mask of white people greediness to take from the land whatever they could for their own sake and wealth. Congo natives in the end were far from being civilized, they were robbed by the white.

And the biggest irony was that the whites (such as Kurtz) became one of the savages after spending years living in the center of wilderness.

The wilderness had patted him on the head, and, behold, it was like a ball—an ivory ball; it had caressed him, and—lo!—he had withered; it had taken him, loved him, embraced him, got into his veins, consumed his flesh, and sealed his soul to its own by the inconceivable ceremonies of some devilish initiation. He was its spoiled and pampered favourite.”

“…But this must have been before his—let us say—nerves, went wrong, and caused him to preside at certain midnight dances ending with unspeakable rites, which—as far as I reluctantly gathered from what I heard at various times—were offered up to him—do you understand?—to Mr. Kurtz himself.”

Rhetoric Stage Inquiry

What does the setting of the book tell you about the way human being are shaped?

The weaker will always be exploited by the stronger, that’s what I’ve been thinking after I read this novella. In the case of this story, the whites exploited the blacks by forcing them to work overload for the whites’ advantages. This context is—I believe—very relevant to our modern world, where small or developing countries are often forced to follow super power countries’ designs; so in a way, colonialism still, and will always, exists in our world.

What exactly is the writer telling you?

Conrad wanted to emphasize the hypocrisy of European colonialist; they always brag about ‘civilizing’ the natives, but in truth they were sometimes less civilized than the blacks. I am interested in Marlow’s reflection about why the cannibals did not eat the whites on their sailing. I think it’s because—like in animals—God’s creature should know when to stop taking advantage from others, we all had the responsibility to maintain the nature’s balance. But greedy men, greedy colonialists kept exploiting others even when they had had enough. In the end, who were the less civilized?

Is there an argument in Mr. Kurtz’s downfall?

I believe Mr. Kurtz downfall to the wilderness had been caused by his greediness. When he thought he had the absolute power of not only the natives, but also the station, the devil owned his soul. I found this from Marlow’s reflection:

You should have heard him say, ‘My ivory.’ Oh, yes, I heard him. ‘My Intended, my ivory, my station, my river, my—’ everything belonged to him. It made me hold my breath in expectation of hearing the wilderness burst into a prodigious peal of laughter that would shake the fixed stars in their places. Everything belonged to him—but that was a trifle. The thing was to know what he belonged to, how many powers of darkness claimed him for their own.

In what sense is the book true?

First, it made sense that a civilized person—when living alone in the wilderness encircled with savages for years—could end up being a savage himself. I always believe that we are strongly influenced by the place where we live. I can’t imagine how the natives could worship Kurtz, was that after he himself being savage? Or he became savage because of the worshipping? The later makes more sense, because when one had an absolute power, one can fallen into the darkness of his soul.

Second, one of human’s biggest sins was always greediness. Colonialism—while spreading culture, knowledge or religion—often meant as an exploitation of the natives. What Marlow have seen in Congo could have been happening anywhere, anytime where there was colonialism. I’m an Indonesian, and I have learned these things too in school.


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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Miss Havisham in Great Expectations

If I must choose, which character in Great Expectations who had experienced the most extreme transformation, I’d choose Miss Havisham—instead of the main protagonist Pip (I’d feature him for next week). Miss Havisham was born in a rich family; she must have grown up very comfortably, used to get anything she wanted, that when her fiancée left her on the wedding day, she could not accept that reality. So big her resistance was, she stopped living at the same minute as she received the rejection letter. All the clocks were set on the time she received the letter, she dressed like when the letter came (in wedding gown and only one shoes on), and the reception party was left as it was for years (I wonder whether Dickens had the idea from the famous tale Sleeping Beauty?...).

The fact that she wanted to stop dead everything in the house, indifferent of anything else outside her own life, only reflected Miss Havisham’s severe egotism. Egotism usually leads to narrow-mindedness. Miss Havisham did not want to think about anything else other than her own revenge. She could not or refused to see that being left by a man was not the end of the world for a girl, and she was not the first nor the only nor the last girl in the world who suffered for it. She just closed her mind and soul, and only had a sole object in her mind: to revenge!

Gillian Anderson in 2011 BBC miniseries

As she could not take revenge to the man concerned, Miss Havisham adopted and raised a little girl for that sole purpose: revenge. But what happened when the girl had grown up to be the lady-like young woman with iron heart as Miss Havisham had wanted? Estella left her just like that. Although she had raised Estella for revenge only, I think Miss Havisham unconsciously—deep in her heart—loved her. The fact that Estella left her and didn’t care about her, really hurt Miss Havisham. Perhaps there was still a little affection left in Miss Havisham’s heart despite of her selfish anger. And I believe Pip had something to do with that. Despite of Miss Havisham’s taking advantage of Pip’s soul, Pip never hated her, he even forgave her. He kept visiting Miss Havisham even after he knew his real benefactor. I think there was kind of sympathy grew between Pip and Miss Havisham, that Miss Havisham regretted what she had done to Pip, which caused him terribly suffering the anguish of love, just as Miss Havisham’s.

Helena Bonham Carter in 2012's movie

In the end—instead of having her revenge—Miss Havisham experienced what her victims had felt. Her iron heart melt away, and she asked for forgiveness from Pip and granted what Pip asked from her—as if she wanted to repentant her sin of taken a life from an innocent boy by giving a life to other man. Wasn’t it nice to see a cold-hearted lady finally realized that love was about give and take, not only take?

Anne Bancroft in 1998 modernized movie

A little about who's playing the best Miss Havisham on screen. I have only watched two version: the 1998 movie (with modern setting) where Miss Havisham played by Anne Bancroft. She could make out Miss Havisham's eccentric quality very well, but I think she was too old for the role (assuming that when Pip met her, Miss Havisham was about 37-40 years old).

The second one I watched very recently was the 2011 BBC's miniseries, where Gillian Anderson took Miss Havisham's role. She fit more to the age, but maybe she was rather too soft for the cold hearted woman such as Miss Havisham.

I haven't watched the newest version of Great Expectations, where Helena Bonham Carter played Miss Havisham, so I can't give her any judgement, but from the trailer and from what I know about Helena, I think Miss Havisham here would be more grotesque than the predecessors.

I can only give my fair judgement after I watch the 2012 movie, but for you who have seen all, which one is your favorite?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Heart of Darkness – The First Level Inquiry

Chapter I

On the way to Congo, Marlow’s steamboat stopped, sunk down, un-repairable, that he’s stuck on a Government station. He found maltreated black slaves, and learned about greediness of the white men, and a remarkable and genius chief of Inner Station called Kurtz.

Chapter II

On the sailing to Mr. Kurtz’s Inner Station, Marlow and the gang found a broken port with a warning sign, and were attacked by natives. Marlow became more interested in Mr. Kurtz, and the nature of the blacks.

Chapter III

At the Inner Station Marlow found how people worshiped Mr. Kurtz; the natives attacked them to prevent them to take Kurtz away. Marlow found that the station became a place of massacre. Kurtz had died before they arrived on mainland, after leaving a bundle of letters to Marlow. In England, Marlow sent the letters to Marlow’s fiancée who lived in the dream of her beloved Kurtz.

by Steven Belledin [source]

Which character is the most affected? How is that character affected by the book’s main event?

Marlow was the main character, a sailor who got a job to captain a steamboat of a trading company to Congo, Africa. The sail had become Marlow’s pilgrimage to meet the gleaming token of European civilization in savage forest of Congo, but only to find along the way, that moral corruption of the colonialist had made him more savage than the natives.


*I read ebook from feedbooks dot com* 

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Plays Monthly Meme December Prompt: Costume [The Merchant of Venice]

I think one of the most interesting aspects of Shakespeare’s plays was costumes. And thanks to Listra’s Plays Monthly Meme dedicated for Let’s Read Plays, we have the chance to post about it. I always admire original costumes for movies or stages, and therefore have browsed some costumes for The Merchant of Venice (the comedy I read for this month) both from original stage performances and illustration, just for comparison (it’s fun, anyway!)


Portia, played by Kate Dolan. 
Painting by Sir John Everett Millais, 1886

From the stage of:
The Merchant of Venice, 2010. 
(Copyright 2010 Utah Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Karl Hugh)
Shakespearean Festival, Cedar City, Utah, on July 2nd, 2010
Directed by Sharon Ott, Costumes by David Kay Mickelsen

From what I gathered about Italian women's attire at 17th century, the stage costume photo is more fit for Portia than the painting (although Portia in the painting looks more classy and elegant).


played by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree
Painting by Charles Buchel, 1914

From the stage of:
The Merchant of Venice, 2010. 
(Copyright 2010 Utah Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Karl Hugh)
Shakespearean Festival, Cedar City, Utah, on July 2nd, 2010

Directed by Sharon Ott, Costumes by David Kay Mickelsen

Although both costumes are similar, I think Shylock looked like some kind of witch in the painting, I think the stage photo is more probable.


Painting by Samuel Luke Fildes, 
from Shakespeare Illustrated, 1888

From the stage of:
The Merchant of Venice, 2010. (Copyright 2010 Utah Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Karl Hugh)
Shakespearean Festival, Cedar City, Utah, on July 2nd, 2010
Directed by Sharon Ott, Costumes by David Kay Mickelsen

I don't know which one suits most for a Jewish girl, but I definitely like the painting better... :)

....And while we are talking about costumes, these are more exotic costumes of Portia's exotic suitors...


Percy Macquoid (1852-1925)
Costume design for The Merchant of Venice, 1908


From the stage of:
The Merchant of Venice, 2010. (Copyright 2010 Utah Shakespeare Festival. Photo by Karl Hugh)
Shakespearean Festival, Cedar City, Utah, on July 2nd, 2010
Directed by Sharon Ott, Costumes by David Kay Mickelsen

What have you found for the costumes of play you've read this month? Share with us!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Merchant Of Venice

The Merchant of Venice was the second comedy I have read from Shakespeare’s plays. After successively read two tragedies, it’s quite relieving to flow with a lighter story, with beautiful words. The main plot of this play was concerning Antonio—an honorable Venetian merchant—who wanted to help his dear friend Bassanio to pursue his love for a wealthy girl named Portia. Antonio agreed to be Bassanio’s guarantor as the later took a credit from a cunning Jewish moneylender named Shylock.

Being a Christian hater—especially to Antonio who always lent money gratis—Shylock was full of joy when he found out that Antonio’s ships had wrecked at the sea, that he won’t be able to pay back the money. Wanted to take revenge to Antonio, Shylock sued Antonio in court to be cut his flesh for exchange of the money.

Meanwhile, with the money from Shylock, Bassanio had departed to Belmont to enter a contest set by the late of Portia’s father to get a husband for his daughter. A suitor who could choose the right casket from three choices would become Portia’s husband. It was a great test indeed, for Portia was very rich, that his father was afraid she would get a greedy man as a husband.

And between those two situations, Shakespeare crafted witty and interesting scenes and acts to become this beautiful play.

This is the third play I read for Let’s Read Plays and I found at least one similarity from those three, that the servants—despite of being secondary characters—were wiser than their masters or mistresses, and the main characters often learned from them. Here is when Nerissa taught her lady, Portia, about how the balance of trouble and happiness would make live longer.

It is no mean happiness, therefore, to be seated in the mean.
Superfluity comes sooner by white hairs, but competency lives longer.”

It’s interesting too how Shakespeare picked a Jewish as the stereotype antagonist; I wonder whether it did not stir many controversies from Jewish readers? Another thing, being a comedy, this play still made me a bit uncomfortable when Antonio asked Shylock to be a Christian (Act IV Scene I). When Antonio was asked by Portia: “What mercy can you render him, Antonio?” he replied: “..Two things provided more: that for this favor he presently become a Christian…” I could not understand how forcing somebody to have one’s religion can be regarded as a mercy. And that request changed my respect to Antonio.

Besides that annoyance, I found this play quite entertaining, especially whenever Launcelot was in the scenes, such as this one (talking to Gobbo—his father):

Gobbo: “..what a beard hast thou got! Thou hast got more hair on thy chin than Dobbin my fill-horse has on his tail.
Launcelot: “It should seem then that Dobbin’s tail grows backward. I am sure he had more hair of his tail than I have of my face when I last saw him.”

Over all, Merchant of Venice was an exotic and intriguing play; it criticized men’s greediness. I found it funny in Portia’s father casket contest, and a bit tragic in Shylock’s judgment. Four stars for Mrchant of Venice!

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