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Family Ties: Act V

The dramatic gene definitely runs deep in Ophelia’s family. Laertes was so overcome with emotion when her coffin is placed in the grave that he dove in after it. This means that he no longer has the father or sister he loved dearly, which can only mean he may have the same fate coming to him in terms of Shakespeare’s pattern.

To make matters worse, Hamlet realizes the body is that of Ophelia’s at about the exact same time Laertes does. Hamlet, too, leaps into the coffin and on top of Laertes. The two briefly brawl, but Claudius breaks them up. Little did they know that the four main characters were about to face an unexpected end to their lives. Their jumping into the graves is a foreshadowing of their deaths.

This climactic, tragic and intensely action-packed finale is just the ending this play needed. Its plot was intriguing, mysterious and obviously dramatic but lacked the stomach-churning action that a spectator like me craves. Of course, like most of Shakespeare’s works, all of the main characters end up kicking the can with class. Hamlet’s only faithful pal left, Horatio, is designated the one to spread the truth of all he knows to set the record straight.

Overall, I’m impressed with this play. It involved many themes such as madness and death to romance, drama, action and mystery. The combination of these elements kept the audience, or reader, attentive and constantly questioning what will happen next. And of course, Shakespeare ends with the main characters biting the dust, because how else could it end?

The duel between Laertes and Hamlet is fumed by all of the bottled up tension that has been building as the play carried on. It is a time for the audience to view the two characters express their anger in passionate action. With each lurch of their sword, their rage is both avenged and irritated even more. Shakespeare must really have a creepy obsession with poison and daggers, considering Romeo and Juliet also ended with these objects leading to the main character’s fatality.

Well, well, Ms. Ophelia, my premonitions were correct: your further actions in Act IV have made you a definite “drama queen”.  Then again, she is a drama queen with legitimate and viable support for acting out in this way. An attempt to list the things that have made Ophelia go mad:

1) Hamlet’s recent turn to going insane
2)  His clear and sudden almost disapproval of her (telling her to go to a nunnery, basically the fact that they cannot be together)
3) The death of her father…
4)…Oh yes, Hamlet killed Polonious.
5) Another reason may be her father’s struggle to control her and who she loves when love is a feeling that cannot be controlled by another.

Her eventual suicide is just the dramatic finale I predicted she would have.  Then there is the question of whether there is any way she could have gone on in life and found happiness. I personally think that in REAL life, once you think you’ve hit rock bottom you can only go up from there. But in a play, especially Shakespeare, there is nothing like another death to thicken the plot. Ophelia was following the themes of “madness” and “death” (obviously). After losing her father, lover, and her mind, she clearly thought her life was over and took matters into her own hands.  She could have turned her life around with the help of her brother, but this is Shakespeare, so rebounding from sanity is obviously not an option.

To make a connection, though it may be a bit of a stretch, perhaps Hamlet’s journey to England is a mimicking the journey he has taken from sanity to insanity.  Since I have read Act V already (I couldn’t put it down!) I know that a common-man gravedigger refers to London as “a place of madmen”. Hamlet is a smart man who is taking advantage of his madness repuatation by playing a fool who can speak the truth without being punished. His journey from Denmark to England is a physical representation of Hamlet’s steady downward spiral into madness.

Act III has much to do with the theme of “actors”. The plays performed in this Act help to present the truth of how the King died and his brother as the killer.  I liked the element of the actors and their purpose of being in the story. They helped compare the true death of the King to the actor’s portrayal in the plays.

Before any performing could take place, however, Hamlet and Ophelia shared yet another strange encounter. After Hamlet’s infamous “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy, he shakes Ophelia up (both literally and figuratively). Now more than ever, Ophelia is convinced the Prince has gone completely mad. He repeatedly tells her to go to a nunnery. Of course, this event had a twist. Polonius and Claudius have set up this meeting between the two lovers so they can spy on him and witness his bizarre behavior towards Miss Ophelia. Hamlet is proven not easily tricked, since he figures out that they are being watched. Ophelia lies and says her father is at home, which enrages Hamlet and sends him on a rampage to find the two mischievous men.

After being a little harsh on Ophelia’s behavior, I do feel bad for her. I am not taking back my “drama queen” impression of her, though I am starting to feel for her. Being in love with an insane Prince…who isn’t really insane because he is only pretending to be…only because his father died and he is beyond depressed…and spoke with the ghost of his father…who now accidentally murdered her father…..what a complicated mess. Love is enough of a complicated emotion as it is without any interference. And to be in love with this man who mind as well be crazy due to his muddled and chaotic past? Poor girl, she must be feeling more lost than ever before. I wonder how she will end up coping with this jumbled puzzle…

When Ophelia began crying to her father Polonius of Hamlet’s odd behavior, I felt for her. She was obviously beyond upset by this occurrence, so I assumed that he must have something that was extremely out of line and violating. But wait: no violations were made. That is when my attitude towards Ophelia took a shift for the worse. Sorry Ophelia: but you’ve officially made a bad impression on this reader. After your over-done breakdown over the man you love acting a little dodgy just once, you are not the strong leading lady I thought you would turn out to be. I thought you would nurture and be a female version of a “knight in shining armor” and save Hamlet from his despair, however now I think you are an attention-seeking, confused, hopeless and nutty drama queen. To foreshadow, I have a feeling you’ll be complicating things when it isn’t necessary, and cause/deal with one dramatic event after another.  Miss Ophelia, you remind me of a high school girl. Good luck.

On a more structured thought, the thematic ideas previously mentioned in my first post are beginning to develop more in the second Act and the audience also sees a few more themes emerge. Obviously “madness” is a theme that is starting to take more of a prominent role in the story. Hamlet has everyone buzzing that he’s off his rocker (going insane) and this act of his is clearly quite convincing.  His mother and Claudius believe it is that he is “love sick” that has driven him to this unfamiliar behavior, and Polonius agrees since he thinks Hamlet is probably heartbroken that he forbade Ophelia to be with him. When Polonius talks to Hamlet in the scene, Hamlet is basically mocking Polonius right to his face. Mature…?

“Acting” is another theme that is now taking shape. Perhaps Hamlet’s “act” of being mad could fall under this category. His bizarre behavior could also be under the category of “sickness/disease, imbalance”. Also, there are actors in the castle now, performing “The Murder of Gonzago”.

When starting to read Hamlet, I dove into the story not having any prior knowledge to what the story was about. Immediately after reading the first scene of Act I, I was completely intrigued. A mystery was already being laid out in front of me within the first pages of the story, a mystery that a reader can instantly tell will have twists and secrets to keep them hooked in.

A few common themes are already evident and taking form in the first Act. Obviously the ideas of Death, sickness/imbalance, and family relationships are prominent ones. The idea of madness comes up towards the end of scene five when Hamlet tells Horatio he would pretend to be mad so that he can spy on his mother, Gertrude and now step-father Claudius.

Claudius is a character I already do not have a liking for. He seems manipulative, snake-ish, cold and greedy. When Hamlet is grieving over his father’s death, Claudius tells him to basically “man up” and that mourning is not a masculine action. Now after the Ghost has told Hamlet that the Queen and Claudius had a secret affair, it makes sense that the Queen was so non-emotional and strangely pleasant during scene two.

Hamlet is observably extremely depressed about his father’s passing. His wearing of all black and melancholy attitude set the tone for the character as cheerless and depressing. He even talks about killing himself to relieve his depression, but cannot because of his religion. Hamlet says he wishes his body would simply “melt,/ Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew”, clearly pointing out his physiciological sickness and desire for inner-peace.

This story has me hooked in completely. Though the Shakespearian language can be a bit dodgey to comprehend at times, the plot is only thickening with each turn of the page.

A Holiday from Real
Is anybody out there
Does anybody care to see that
When the lights are off
Something is killing
Look in the mirror but
do not see anything except
a void.
stare at the space
searching for a glimmer of something, anything.
Slowly, slowly
Shapes form
body, like clay, it is molded.
face is just as ugly as before.
long to be reborn as a temptress
with kaleidoscope eyes and strawberry lips
to be the essence of beauty.
want to be free from reality,
to be at peace with

am begging you to find
crave to feel the warmth of another
desire to feel what love feels like, once again.
begging you.

In this poem, I tried to capture the voice of Wakoski. I find it’s overall message to the audience a bit disturbing myself, but disturbed is a feeling I felt when reading Wakoski’s poetry. I mentioned previously that reading her poetry felt like reading her diary, and that is a theme I tried to accomplish in this poem. I tried to envision myself writing in a diary in Wakoski’s mind, and this is the kind of poem I envisioned: a confessional, self-critical and expressing her insecurities. I noticed in many of her poems that she was completely dissatisfied with her looks, as displayed in this poem. I isolated the words like “I” and “my” to symbolize her feelings of being isolated and abandoned. This poem is about her longing to feel love from someone, to feel confident in her beauty, and to find someone to help her discover herself. Though it has a depressing tone, I think it is a close capture of the thoughts of Wakoski.

This Spring Research project was definitely much different than the fall research paper. This blog-style seemed much more interactive and internet oriented (obviously). A major difference I notice from the fall was the lesser amount of research we did. I felt a bit overwhelmed with the amount of sources we needed to do for the fall, between going to college libraries and using trying to find just the right materials was, in my opinion, pretty difficult. The blogging experience was much more relaxed and at ease and I find it will be helpful to look back on in the future. I have heard that more and more college classes have a heavy dependency on blog-type projects, so it is good to have this experience under our belts. The only con I have about this project was the sometimes frustrating internet dependency: with it crashing occasionally for people, the website not functioning properly, etc. If the internet fails, it makes it impossible for someone to complete and publish their post on time. In general, this project left a great impression on me!





When speaking of influences of Diane Wakoski on a more personal level, Allen Ginsberg along with other poets of the Beat Generation played a significant role in her writing. The Beat Generation and its followers were deeply focused on imagism, “confessional” poetry, drug experimentation, and the rejection of mainstream American values. Ginsberg was arguably the most thriving poets of the Beat Generation. Wakoski has said she had studied within Ginsberg’s “libertine circle” during the booming San Fransisco time period. The “libertine circle” was a phrase coined by Ginsberg describing the original members of the Beat Generation. This group has been said to have used an extensive amount of drug usage. This recreational drug use lead to the beliefs that psychedelic drugs such as marijuana, LSD and other substances enhanced creativity and productivity/insight, hence the idea that their “trips” lead them to inspiration.

In a blogged biography of Ginsberg, it is stated the he was a definite leader in the Beat era. His ideas, theories and practices went on to influence a vast amount of his followers and those who studied him beyond the Beat Generation. Perhaps one of his most well-known poem “Howl” lead him to his “world-wide attention” and credibility.

Wakoski has stated in interviews and quotes that Ginsberg did indeed personally inspire her poetry and writing style. Both these poets share a connection to imagism and the “hippie” era, and their time experimenting together in San Fransisco lead to a major influence in Wakoski’s work.

Another pal of Wakoksi whom she also worked closely with was Josephine Miles, a literary critic Wakoski met at the Berkeley. Miles was extremely curious and interested in the Beat generation, and she was notably connected to several poets of the era. Her connection and friendship with Wakoski comes full-circle in the fact that Miles recommended Ginsberg’s “Howl” to writer Richard Eberhart, who would write an article in the New York Times accolading the now celebrated poem.



Intertextuality with William Carlos Williams

Diane Wakoski has said that she was significantly influenced by the highly acclaimed William Carlos Williams.  Both poets follow the mode of everyday, conversational diction as well is a strong focus of imagery. When reading both the works of both Wakoski and Williams, the poem itself easily creates a clear image for the reader. Wakoski also won the prestigious William Carlos Williams award by the American Poetry Society for her book Emerald Ice, showing that these poets obviously shared evident similarities.

It has been said that Williams used the “plain American form [of poetry] in which dogs and cats could read,” which is much like Wakoski’s method of using non-complex language and more of a simplistic style of writing. Though Wakoski’s poetry may not have been quite as simple as some of William’s genius poems such as “The Red Wheelbarrow”, her use of imagism and eloquent word choice makes for a inspiring read.

According to the blog Poetry Dispatch and Other Notes from the Underground, Williams had a considerable influence on the poets of the Beat Generation. As I have focused on in previous posts, Wakoski was a prominent writer and during the Beat Generation, which is when she did a majority of her “experimenting” and most acclaimed writing.  Some of William’s writing was extremely expressive and open, much like Wakoski’s pattern of intense self-expression and “confessional” writing. In his comical and definitely expressive poem Danse Russe, Williams “confesses” through expressive poetry and basic language a guilty pleasure.

Danse Russeby William Carlos Williams

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,-
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
“I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!”
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,-

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

An Excerpt from Wakoski’s I Have Learned To Live With My Face

My face
that my friends tell me is so full of character;
my face
I have hated for so many years;
my face
I have made an angry contract to live with
though no one could love it;
my face that I wish you would bruise and batter
and destroy, napalm it, throw acid on it,
so that I might have another
or be rid of it at last.

When comparing the poem “Danse Russe” and others like it by Williams to those of Wakoski’s, a main connection I note is the use of imagism and a “confessional” pattern. Though the mood of each is quite opposite, they still share similarities in terms of expression. I mentioned in a previous post the idea that reading some of Wakoki’s works is similar to reading a person’s diary. When I read her poem “I Have Learned to Live With My Face”, it left me feeling like I had been exposed to Wakoski’s deep and innermost feelings, like I had been reading her diary. I am left with similar feelings after reading “Danse Russe”. His declaration of his somewhat alter-ego ritual was like the unleashing of a secret.


Third Post

Scholarly Comments on Diane Wakoski Poetry

After searching for a scholarly source who had written a substantial review on a poem by Wakoski, I was unsuccessful. However, I did find an extensive general review of her writing as a whole as opposed to a review of a specific poem. I applied the comments by these professional authors to the poem Belly Dancer and inferred from these scholarly observations.

Toby Olson, the writer of the book Margins, commented on Wakoski’s style of writing. “One of the central forces of Wakoski’s poems proceeds from a fundamentally serious playfulness”. This can correlate to the poem Belly Dancer quite well. In this poem, the imagery of a beautiful and charming belly dancer is the focus. When I think of the words “belly dancer”, I think of exotic, sensuality, and a playfulness. Belly dancers are symbolic for seduction, entrancement and timid sexuality, which I believe can fall within the category of “serious playfulness”.

“One of their most compelling qualities is their obsessiveness: the need at every turn to digress, to let the magic of the words take her where they will, because they are so beautiful…” states Olson. The somewhat mystery and seduction the entails with a belly dancer leads to the tone of the poem.

The setting of the story is never clearly stated, however I inferred the setting and situation through imagery. I imagined a setting of men and women watching a belly dancer for entertainment. The narrator, I believe, is the dancer herself. The narrator comments and observes the reactions from the audience being entertained by the dancer, stating that the women in the audience “laugh stiffly” or look away in fear; that the women are scared of the movements. These leads me to believe that some of these women were uncomfortable with the showcase of sexuality the belly dancer was demonstrating. The line stating that these women “keep themselves laced and buttoned and made up” infers that they are conservative, plain, and not willing to “explore” themselves or their ability to be sensual.

Wakoski then describes the dancer as a snake gliding across the floor. Snakes can be associated and symbolize slyness and sexiness, much like a belly dancer may be described as.

By the poem’s end, it leaves the reader perhaps questioning the sexual orientation of the dancer or the observer. By saying “they do not realize how I scorn them/or how I dance for their frightened/unawakened/sweet/women”. Here, Wakoski reveals some of the dancers thoughts as she dances, that she is not only dancing for the men’s entertainment, but also for their “unawakened” women. It could be inferred that maybe the dancer has the urge to explore her sexuality with women as well as men. This could be supported by the background of Wakoski: since she did a majority of her writing and experimentation during the “beat generation”, it has been said that she was known to experiment with drugs as well as her sexual orientation to seek inspiration.

“In many of Wakoski’s poems the obsessive muse focuses on the idea of beauty. Taken as a whole, her work may be regarded as a linguistic/poetic quest for beauty.” Author Mark Harris stated this which is an observation I too believe. In the poem Belly Dancer, external beauty is a main focus. The tone of the poem is sensual, passionate and exotic. The idea of beauty is the characteristic in which the poem centers and builds off of in many aspects of the poem, including the description of the dancer’s clothing, the seducing movements and the “awakening desire” of the audience. Since belly dancers are a symbol for beauty among other things mentioned, it is clear that Wakoski is enticed by the mezmorizing movements of the dancer.

“Belly Dancer” by Diane Wakoski

Can these movements which move themselves

be the substance of my attraction?

Where does this thin green silk come from that covers my body?

Surely any woman wearing such fabrics

would move her body just to feel them touching every part of her.

Yet most of the women frown, or look away, or laugh stiffly.

They are afraid of these materials and these movements

in some way.

The psychologists would say they are afraid of themselves, somehow.

Perhaps awakening too much desire-

that their men could never satisfy?

So they keep themselves laced and buttoned and made up

in hopes that the framework will keep them stiff enough not to feel

the whole register.

In hopes that they will not have to experience that unquenchable

desire for rhythm and contact.

If a snake glided across this floor

most of them would faint or shrink away.

Yet that movement could be their own.

That smooth movement frightens them-

awakening ancestors and relatives to the tips of the arms and toes.

So my bare feet

and my thin green silks

my bells and finger cymbals

offend them-frighten their old-young bodies.

While the men simper and leer-

glad for the vicarious experience and exercise.

They do not realize how I scorn them;

or how I dance for their frightened,

unawakened, sweet


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