Friday, 30 May 2014

Weekend Quote #50

You were used
To say extremity was the trier of spirits;
That common chances common men could bear;
That when the sea was calm all boats alike
Show'd mastership in floating;

Shakespeare's Coriolanus. Yes, I've read and finished reading the play. Being one of the latter plays, Coriolanus aptly shows Shakespeare's command of language. Who am I to resist his strong wordy expression?

Some of the lines that struck my attention the moment they occur were those above. Coriolanus was just banished by the people of Rome, and sadly he bore the sad news home, to his mother and wife. The ambitious mother was devastated. Coriolanus was her only son and her only hope. Coriolanus reminded her of her own advice on the theme of misfortune and suffering in life.

Quite amazing for a “Be strong!” advice, don't you think? He is saying that what really shows a man's spirit is not just suffering, misfortune, or sadness, but the extreme conditions of those. Extremity will show who you really are.

When he says “common chances common men could bear” of course he is playing with the word 'common' as something usual in its first use and as something low and debased in its second use. But even when we ignore the pun, it's still encouraging. By enduring hardships worse than most people, we have the chance to prove ourselves stronger than most people who have never had the same thing. It's not something to boast, but it kind of consoles me.

The last two lines give beautiful imagery that further emphasizes the point. It's easy to 'float' around, and float beautifully too, when the circumstances are convenient. The ship's quality is tested, not in sunny days, but in stormy nights. Likewise our quality is proven when we bear troubles, and triumph over them.

Thus my (somewhat long) Weekend Quote. Please share yours. 

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Historical Fiction Characters - The Book Version vs. The Real One

Richard III. Henry V. Antony. Zhuge Liang. As a reader, we encounter so many historical yet fictional characters in our readings. The dramatized aspects of these characters may move us to strong likes or dislikes, even love and hate, and yet..

Are they mostly fictional or are they mostly historical?

It's not an easy thing to answer, and its answer may or may not influence our feelings towards those characters. After all, we read historical fictions mostly for fun. If we want real history, it's better to check the nearest history book available - and there are tons of them. The real pleasure in historical fictions depicting historical characters is imagining people like us making decision and the things that they underwent in consequence of that decision, reading and imagining that those people, great people in history were just like us in many aspects, and yet they were great.

"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them."

When reading historical fictions, sometimes it's difficult to separate the real person with the person in the story. If the story and plot are well-researched and well-prepared, or if there's any slight historical basis to believe in the storyline, it's even more difficult to separate fiction from reality.

For instance, long ago I watched a film (I can't remember the title) about the relationship between Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth I. In that film, Raleigh and Elizabeth I had a sort-of romantic relationship, platonic maybe, but they adored each other, and yet their hands were tied because it's against any political interest for the Queen to marry Raleigh. Just impossible.

Anyway, long after watching that, I found that Raleigh was actually a poet (and a captain, but I knew it from the film). Guess what I found.

"Passions are likened best to floods and streams: The shallow murmur, but the deep are dumb;"

Suddenly the film seemed real. I have a proof now, don't I? My diary entry says, "If it's true that he wrote these lines for Elizabeth I, then they would be some of the most beautiful lines about unrequited love ever written in mankind's history." The same thing happens in so many other instances where the fiction and the history are so intertwined that it's impossible to dismiss either once you read both.

So, which one do you like best, the fictional or the real people? For me, it's safer to say that I love somebody and somebody as depicted in this and that book. Real persons are more complicated than fictional characters, and it's impossible to scrutinize their hearts and feelings now. Their qualities are far from certain and the real them might not be what they seemed. But fiction, fiction is what we believe to happen, what we believe existed. It's up to us to judge, to analyse, to hate and to love a fictional character, without really offend the real one dead.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Let Go (of a Book) and Start a New One

I wonder if anybody else have this problem. Have you ever read something so good and you can't get over it? It's so difficult to just leave the book home and take up a new book to read because you want to dwell in that one book and dig it to the core.

That's my problem, and my digging seems endless because the book is Shakespeare's.

In his best plays, each of Shakespeare's word matters. In one of his best plays I'm currently in love, over-indulging myself in its prose and verse, its sound and letters, its language and its character. Every time I say "Enough," something new pops up.

What do you do when such thing happens? I have some alternatives and consequences.

Pick a new book anyway, and force yourself to read it.

With all the reading challenges you list yourself into, staying with one book isn't an option. Force yourself to read something new before your beloved book eat your soul up. (Seriously.) No book is good enough for you to marry, spending the rest of your life solely with. So throw away the book somewhere you can't read from and start a new one.

Read the particular book over and over again until you get tired of it.

I notice that if I read something too often it loses its power. Well, some of, its power. Instead of torturing yourself with books you can't enjoy, why don't you just stick with that ONE you know you enjoy right now?  It's not a crime to read or recite Henry V or Hamlet every night, right?

Problem is, those reading challenges. Right.

Wait. What reading challenges? I've forgotten them all. *denial*

Research is a good food for love.

Really. If you have a lot of reading challenges and you can't bring yourself to 'betray' your beloved something new anyway, but something related to that particular book you can't get free from. Isn't it lovely?

So instead of lingering between the pages of Hamlet, why not trying to read Freud's Theory? (Won't be my choice, though.) Or stop reading Henry V and read real English History. Yeah, like why don't you just read Shakespeare biography right now and complete the reading challenge you assigned yourself into? *ehem*

I really don't know if these would work for you. For me they don't really help. Sometimes I pick the first solution, sometimes the second (like right now) and sometimes the third. Any other idea? I'd be more than happy to hear your experiences and advices.