Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What is Hamilton's Tragic Flaw?

You don't need to have seen the megahit musical Hamilton to have at least a pretty good idea of the plot.  The soundtrack is practically the script.  Plus, nobody can stop talking and writing about it from every conceivable angle.  I suppose if you don't count yourself familiar with the play, this post has some spoilers, so be warned.

I've been wondering about how it stands up as a tragedy.  We know from the very beginning "See this guy, our hero?  Yeah, he dies."  Just like Romeo and Juliet.  I don't mean that like, "We're all supposed to know the real story, like Julius Caesar," I mean, "He says it right in the prologue, like Romeo and Juliet."  In the opening number, Aaron Burr says "I'm the damned fool that shot him."

So if we're going to treat it like a tragedy, the next question is what Hamilton's tragic flaw might be?  I think we could discuss this all day.  His honesty? His failure to play the political games (something that, from the beginning, people more experienced have warned will get him killed)?  His workaholism? (Is that a word?)  His fear that he was going to "run out of time"?

If I dust off my high school memories of A.C. Bradley, isn't there something about the tragic flaw directly leading to a decision that sets events in motion that ultimately lead to the death of the tragic hero?

Can we pinpoint the event in Hamilton?  I wonder if it's his decision to go off with Maria Reynolds (which sets about the Reynolds Pamphlet, his marriage troubles, his son's demise, etc...) but (a) I'm not sure what "tragic flaw" of his led to that decision, and (b) I'm not sure what it has to do with Aaron Burr.

Working backwards, I think Burr is ultimately pushed over the edge by Hamilton's endorsement of Jefferson, a man who he acknowledges he's in complete disagreement with politically.  So then is he more of a reverse Brutus character?  Focused solely on what's right for the people and the big picture, and missing the machinations of those forces surrounding him? Rather than "I generally like you but I've become convinced you're bad for the people so you've got to go" we've got "I don't particularly like you but I think you'd be a better choice than the other guy"?

Mostly I just wanted something to talk about, and Hamilton's more interesting than Pokemon Go :).  If you've got any other Shakespeare comparisons you want to make, feel free in the comments!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Oh, Maybe That's Where I Get It

Here's a funny family story that does not involve my geeklets, but I thought you folks would like it.

My older (and only) brother, who lives across the country and who I see about once a year, posted a picture on Facebook of a broken tablet device and the caption, "This is why you don't let people use your stuff."

And of course his local friends commented the usual - "that sucks", "omg how did that happen?", "can it be fixed", etc.

And then our mom commented.  Our mom lives closer out here by me, so she too sees my brother once or so a year, and basically lives for our Facebook updates.  The smallest "Sun is up, going to be a great day today!" comment from one of us is always guaranteed to get some sort of, "Have a great day, love you! xxxooo" from mom. (Which is exactly what moms are supposed to use Facebook for, and I wouldn't have it any other way.)

What she wrote to my brother was, "It's just like my mother, your Nana who you don't even probably remember, used to say - neither a borrower or a lender be."

So there ya go. My mom, who is in her 70's, quoting *her* mom, who *died* in the 1970s, quoting Shakespeare.  She's right, I don't remember Nana, but I have to imagine I would have had a lot to talk about with her.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Geeklet Studies Romeo and Juliet : Oh, Come On

We've all heard the tragedy of my daughter's class not getting to finish Romeo and Juliet. They're forever stuck in Act 3, with Juliet just having discovered that Romeo is banished.  Never was a story of more woe, than that of my daughter and her eighth grade English class.

My daughter even read that post and told me over dinner, "It's going to be ok, Daddy. But at graduation if you see my teacher you are *not* to go near him."

So yesterday she comes home from school and says, "Well, I'm up to Act 5 Scene 4!"

"How'd that happen? You reading it on your own now?  When did you find time to read that much?"

And then I get the rest of the story.

Seems that the school had a lockdown drill today.  I'm not sure the protocol precisely, but it involves the entire class being huddled into a small space like sardines.  I know this because apparently a handful of girls could not stop giggling over it, and a handful of teenage boys saw it as a golden opportunity to grab some teenage girl bottom.

And their teacher lost his mind.  Unable to express to them the seriousness of the situation, once the drill was over and they were back in their seats, he apparently raged beyond anything that they had seen before (he's a yeller anyway), throwing out insults and curse words with reckless abandon.  Just like you see in the tv shows, they were assigned a mandatory essay, due Friday, on the history of school shooting - anybody that doesn't complete it does not get to participate in the end of year class activities, including a harbor cruise.

He then cancelled whatever fun activity they had scheduled for the remainder of the day and told them to sit quietly in their seats and read.  What did they read?  You guessed it - Romeo and Juliet.

I could do little but roll my eyes at that.  So is it a punishment at that point?  Or was taking it away in the first place the punishment?  My daughter was all, "Fine, I wanted to read it anyway!"

In the teacher's defense, I think he was right to be upset and expect that Romeo and Juliet was merely the closest book and held no special significance.  I talked to my daughter about that this morning.  "Somewhere in your lifetime," I told her, "His job description went from hey try to keep these kids interested long enough to teach them Romeo and Juliet, to Hey you might be called upon to die today to protect these children, and never make it home to see your own."  So for those children to not respect the gravity of what is a very real situation, when he himself has to imagine his own potential death, yeah, I can see why he was pissed off. (For the record my daughter claims to be innocent of any wrongdoing, and that a specific handful of girls started it - but unfortunately it only takes one to make enough noise for the gunman to find all of you, my darling.)

I may not be happy with the way the Shakespeare situation turned out, but I'm definitely on his side here.