Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shakespeare, the master craftsman

At this time last semester, for a course on the tragedies, I posted my first Shakespeare paper -- a commentary on how important the structure and literary devices contained therein were to the opening lines of Romeo and Juliet. In that post, I indicated that I wasn't sure how much I liked Shakespeare. Well, a semester later, I liked him enough to sign up for a course in the histories and comedies. Part of the reason I did so is the respect I've gained for what he's able to do with the English language. That first paper said a lot in terms of meter. This current paper, which is pretty much the same assignment but treating Richard II, focuses mainly on the Bard's use of rhetorical devices. And the praise I give him is genuine!

Franz S. Klein
Prof. Jane Carducci
English 514: Histories and Comedies
23 January 2008

Richard II Translation Exercise

Shakespeare’s Text:

“White beards have arm’d their thin and hairless scalps
Against thy majesty; boys, with women’s voices,
Strive to speak big, and clap their female joints
In stiff unwieldy arms against thy crown;
Thy very beadsmen learn to bend bows
Of double-fatal yew against thy state;
Yea, distaff women manage rusty bills
Against thy seat: both young and old rebel,
And all goes worse than I have power to tell.” (Richard II, 3.2.112-120)

Modern Prose “Translation”:

“Old men have covered their bald heads to defend themselves against you; youth with weak voices attempt to appear brave before you as they hold shaky knees with their stiff arms; your very own old men learn to take up hard-to-bend bows in defiance of you; Yes, weaving women hold long-unused pikes in defiance of you: both those who are old and those who are young rise against you, and the situation is more dire than I can am capable of describing.”

Textual Commentary:

Of the lesser-studied passages in Richard II, Scroop’s lines to a despairing King Richard upon his return to England make for a fair study in William Shakespeare’s expert use of the literary devices and metrical structures – a skill that makes him the foremost writer in the English language. In this passage, Richard returns from Ireland to discover that his army has abandoned him. Scroop’s words are hardly reassuring, and it is this very intimation of the utter hopelessness of the situation that breeds such a fertile ground for literary art. As this exercise will clearly demonstrate, much of this fertility would go to waste in the absence of the literary structures, and especially the literary devices, that Shakespeare employs.
Scroop’s passage consists of a warning to the king that is pure hyperbole in one sense but that elicits an otherwise unachievable, deadly serious accuracy in another. This is because, at least in part, the exaggerated elements of this passage provide the very basis of its accuracy. This becomes undeniably clear when Shakespeare’s text is compared to my modern “translation.” True, both versions convey exactly the same facts, namely, that every single person in England -- from the oldest to the youngest -- has abandoned Richard, leaving him friendless in the face of Bullingbrook’s onslaught. But at the same time, Shakespeare’s facts mean so much more.
This is because only hyperbole can truly capture the utter hopelessness of Richard’s situation. True, Shakespeare’s “[w]hite-beards” (3.2.112), are what I call “[o]ld men,” but the Bard’s attention to what makes them elderly -- their white beards -- overstates the case in a way my matter-of-fact passage can’t. The same is true for “boys, with women’s voices” (113), who are somehow far more than my “youth with weak voices,” or for the “beadsmen” (116) who have become additional “old men,” or even for the “distaff women” (118) transformed, as they are, into mere “weaving women.” The same holds true for their instruments of uprising, such as “bows/ Of double-fatal yew” (116-17) and “rusty bills” (118). In no way can “long-unused” convey the reality of “rusty” in this context. The fact that these pikes are rusty connotes an ancient hatred that has long lain unacknowledged, while “long-unused” simply states a fact about the bills. Similarly, “double-fatal” means so much more than “hard-to-bend.” The bows might be hard to bend, after all, but Richard shouldn’t be so concerned with the quality of the bows as with what they could do to him – hence Shakespeare’s “double-fatal.” These exaggerated images are undeniably powerful, and there are reasons this is so.
Chief among these reasons is the fact that Shakespeare uses hyperbole only when it really means something. His white bearded men and women-voiced boys are extremes that emphasize the totality of the king’s abandonment. England has abandoned its king, not merely from the oldest to the youngest, but from the whitest hair on the old men’s beards to the highest note of its youths’ voices. Only in this totality of abandonment does Richard’s totality of despair make sense: “Let’s talk of graves, of worms, of epitaphs...” (145). The situation is decidedly extreme, and only in imagery such as what Shakespeare utilizes can such extremity be maintained.
The Bard’s hyperbole is initially grounded in his use of synecdoche. Shakespeare takes the most identifiable part of an old man -- his white beard -- and uses it to represent the whole. Traditionally, the white beard of an old man signifies the wisdom that has come with his old age. Thus, when an old man pays his respects to someone, one knows that that person is important. Scroop reports not that the white-bearded old man have taken up arms, for they have gone even farther in arming “their thin and hairless scalps” (112). There could be no greater affront to a king than to have those who are wisest put cover their heads in his presence. Suddenly Richard’s identity crisis becomes clearer, for wisdom herself has covered her head in his presence. To have people take up arms against a king is certainly a normal occurrence, but to have those who are wisest no longer recognize him surely gives credence to the king’s doubts. And while the same idea is visible in my “translation,” the lack of synecdoche makes it less extreme, meaning that Richard’s extreme reaction would seem senseless if I “translated” further.
In a lesser way, synecdoche continues to play a role in this passage in reference to King Richard. While the white beards arm their heads against his “majesty” (113), the boys speak against his “crown” (115), the beadsmen are attacking his “state” (117), and the distaff women lay siege to his “seat” (119). All four of these terms -- majesty, crown, state, and seat -- are a part of the king’s “second body,” that of the office of God’s anointed king, for which Richard has been chosen and consecrated. “Majesty,” here, refers to the reverence due to Richard’s office, “crown” to his power to rule, “state” to the dominion he rules, and “seat” to his legislative power. Strip the king of his majesty, crown, state, and seat, and he will no longer be king in anything but his divine anointing. For each of these “parts” of Richard’s “double body,” I substituted a simple second person pronoun, which indicates that all these people are rising against the person of Richard. But what Shakespeare’s passage conveys is that they are attacking King Richard. Only Shakespeare’s use of synecdoche leaves nothing untouched in regard to the totality of an anointed Richard’s abandonment. And taken together with the other elements of synecdoche, it now makes sense that Richard is undergoing an identity crisis: “How can you say to me I am a king?” (177).
The hyperbolic imagery of this passage also gains strength through Shakespeare’s use of oxymoronic phrases. Nothing could be more paradoxical than boys with women’s voices striving to “speak big” (114). Certainly beadsmen, or elderly pensioners, would strike an odd pose in learning “to bend their bows/ Of double-fatal yew” (116-17). No less strange would be the image of distaff-women taking up “rusty bills” (118) in the battlefield. Oxymoronic on a larger scale -- in fact, infuriatingly so for Richard -- is how all these people stack up against the divine right of kings. Richard’s power is to be inviolable, but he is paradoxically falling to whitebeards, boys, beadsmen, and distaff-women. Furthermore, the instruments each takes up are those least useful for them. Boys are expected to speak big despite their inability to do so, feeble old men have bows of yew that they would be unable to bend, and women are armed for the battlefield. Certainly some vestige of these oxymorons remains in my “translated” passage, but it is no more than a faint vestige.
Containing 17 lines, missing a volta, and having no rhyme scheme apart from its concluding couplet, Scroop’s speech is certainly not a sonnet, nor any other poetical form. And given that some lines contain an extra foot (112, 113,) or syllable (120), or are missing a syllable (116), neither does Shakespeare appear overly concerned with maintaining a strict pentameter. Nor does he seem overly concerned with maintaining the iambs, as emphatic openings like “Strive” (114) and “Yea” (118) evidence. Even so, any movement from poetry to prose involves a loss of structure. Without the regularity of the passage’s structure, Scroop’s words fail to achieve a pattern and become monotonous. And Shakespeare’s exceptions to iambic openings like “Strive” and “Yea” serve a purpose in breaking up the alternative monotony that poetry could potentially convey. Likewise, the startling concluding rhyme of “rebel” (119) and “tell” (120) indicates that Scroop has finished and it is Richard’s turn to speak. Thus, there is a reason even less polished portions of Shakespeare’s plays, such as this one, appear within a metrical structure.
Certainly Scroop’s speech can’t claim the polish of some of Richard II’s other, more famous passages. But its structure and literary devices give evidence to why Shakespeare is considered a master writer. Although it contains exactly the same facts as Shakespeare’s passage, my modern prose “translation” fails to convey Richard’s utterly hopeless situation and becomes monotonous, structureless prose. Only through Shakespeare’s master use of hyperbole, synecdoche and oxymoron can the extremity of Richard’s situation be conveyed to the reader. And while anybody may be capable of using these devices, only a master writer can use them in precisely the right place and to precisely the right degree.

Work Cited:

Shakespeare, William. Richard II. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Eds. G. Blakemore Evans et al. Boston: Houghton, 1997.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ovid on abortion

On his blog "What Does the Prayer Really Say?"Father Zuhlsdorf had an enlightening post today where he provided a few elegies from the classical poet Ovid. While I knew there was a socially conservative strain amongst some of the thinkers of that age, like the satirist Horace, I honestly didn't know how closely it resembled today's culture. Here, of course, I'm talking about the horror of abortion.

From Father Z, Here's Ovid, Book II, Elegy XIV:

Where’s the joy in a girl being free from fighting wars,
unwilling to follow the army and their shields,
if without battle she suffers wounds from her own weapons,
and arms unsure hands to her own doom?
Whoever first taught the destruction of a tender foetus,
deserved to die by her own warlike methods.
No doubt you’d chance your arm in that dismal arena
just to keep your belly free of wrinkles with your crime?
If the same practice had pleased mothers of old,
Humanity would have been destroyed by that violation.
And we’d need a creator again for each of our peoples
to throw the stones that made us onto the empty earth.
Who would have shattered the wealth of Priam, if Thetis,
the sea goddess, had refused to carry her rightful burden?
If Ilia had murdered the twins in her swollen womb,
the founder of my mistress’s City would have been lost.
If Venus had desecrated her belly, pregnant with Aeneas,
Earth would have been bereft of future Caesars.
You too, with your beauty still to be born, would have died,
if your mother had tried what you have done:
I myself would be better to die making love
than have been denied the light of day by my mother.
Why rob the loaded vine of burgeoning grapes,
or pluck the unripe apple with cruel hand?
Let things mature themselves – grow without being forced:
life is a prize that’s worth a little waiting.
Why submit your womb to probing instruments,
or give lethal poison to what is not yet born?
Medea is blamed for sprinkling the blood of her children,
and Itys, slain by his mother, is lamented with tears:
both cruel parents, yet both had bitter reason
to shed blood, revenge on a husband.
Say, what Tereus, what Jason incites you
to pierce your troubled body with your hand?
No tiger in its Armenian lair would do it,
no lioness would dare destroy her foetus.
But tender girls do it, though not un-punished:
often she who kills her child, dies herself.
She dies, and is carried to the pyre with loosened hair,
and whoever looks on cries out: ‘She deserved it!’
But let these words vanish on the ethereal breeze,
and let my imprecations have no weight!
You gods, prosper her: let her first sin go, in safety,
and be satisfied: you can punish her second crime!

This elegy comes from someone unenlightened by Divine Revelation whose reflections are based purely on Natural Law. We know in our hearts that abortion is wrong -- that it violates our own desire for dignity. As Ovid wrote, not even a "lioness would dare destroy her foetus." The U.S. bishops have made today a day of prayer and penance for the horrible sin of abortion. Thousands have gathered in Washington D.C. to protest. Please take at least a moment today to pray that we may end this slaughter and reverse Roe v. Wade!

Franz Klein

25 years of the 1983 Code

Today's VIS feed included the article posted below about hte 25th anniversary of the 1983 Code of Canon Law. I don't think Canon Law is something everyday Catholics think about very often, unless they're trying to fix an irregular marriage. But really, the Code is more than a set of arbitrary rules -- as my Canon Law professor put it when I was studying in Rome, the Church is a very real entity in the world, and it needs laws to function as such. Something I really came to appreciate about the 1983 Code was its focus -- as this article points out -- on the lay faithful. The Church isn't all about the hierarchy; rather, the hierarchy exists to proclaim the Gospel and give grace to the laity. Hearing the Gospel and receiving the sacraments are among the most fundamental rights we lay Catholics have. The Code gives us these rights. But we mustn't forget about the duties that come with these rights! While I don't envy my friends who are studying Canon Law, I do appreciate what the Code gives to our beautiful Church.


VATICAN CITY, 22 JAN 2008 (VIS) - In the Holy See Press Office at midday today, a press conference was held to present a forthcoming congress on the theme: "Canon Law in the Life of the Church, research and perspectives in the context of recent Pontifical Magisterium". The event has been organised to mark the 25th anniversary of the Code of Canon Law which was promulgated on 25 January 1983.

Participating in the press conference were Archbishop Francesco Coccopalmerio and Msgr. Juan Ignacio Arrieta, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

"Twenty-five years ago, the long process of revising the 1917 Code of Canon Law came to an end", said Archbishop Coccopalmerio, explaining how the revision "had been announced by Pope John XXIII on the same day he proclaimed the celebration of Vatican Council II" and how it aimed "to re-examine the central corpus of the Church's legislative code in accordance with doctrinal aspects contained in the conciliar documents".

The archbishop then went on to consider differences between the Code of Canon Law and the legal codes of nations. The former, he said, "contains the law of the Church, just as a State code contains the laws of a particular nation. And it is called 'Canon Law' because it is made up of 'canons', which are equivalent to the 'articles' of a State code".

However the Code of Canon Law "is not just a collection of norms created by the will of ecclesiastical legislators", it "indicates the duties and rights inherent to the faithful and to the structure of the Church as instituted by Christ".

And the legislator, having identified fundamental duties and rights "also establishes a series of norms that have the aim of defining, applying and defending [those] duties and rights".

"For this reason", the archbishop went on, "the Code of Canon Law is like a large and complex painting depicting the faithful and the communities within the Church, and defining the identity and 'mission' of each. And the painter of this work of art is the ecclesiastical legislator" whose model comes "from the doctrine of the Church and from ... Vatican Council II, as Pope John Paul II taught us when he promulgated the current Code".

Turning his attention to some of the "novelties" of the 1983 Code with respect to that of 1917, Archbishop Coccopalmerio mentioned Canon 208 whence, he said, "arise many tangible consequences that concern all the faithful and especially the lay faithful: all are called to play an active role in the Church". Other novelties include "the definition of matters concerning the Roman Pontiff, the College of Bishops , the Synod of Bishops and the episcopal conferences".

The 1983 Code of Canon Law, said the archbishop, was, "like all human works, ... perfectible". Hence one of the aims of the current congress is "to identify certain points in need of a little restoration".

In closing, the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts enumerated the functions of his dicastery: "helping the supreme legislator (the Pope) to keep Church legislation as complete and up to date as possible, ... overseeing the correct application of current laws" and "helping the Pope in the delicate process of interpreting norms".

For his part, Msgr. Arrieta affirmed that the aim of the congress is "to undertake a purposeful study ... into the progress of the application of the Code, and of all the other norms that the various offices of the Roman Curia and individual legislators have produced over the last 25 years".

The congress will begin with an "overall assessment of the development of these norms" presented by Cardinal Julian Herranz, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, who is, said Msgr. Arrieta, "the historical memory on this subject, having followed the entire process personally since Vatican Council II".

The secretary of the pontifical council highlighted how, due to the time limits of the congress, only some offices of the Roman Curia had been chosen to study the process of the Code's application over the last quarter of a century. Thus, for example, Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, will speak on the theme: "Acceptance and operation of Canon Law in the mission lands. Cultural encounters and technical limitations".

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, prefect of the Congregation for Bishops will deliver an address on: "Universal law and the production of norms at the level of particular Churches, episcopal conferences and particular councils", while for his part Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, will turn his attention to: "The formation of ministers of God: the teaching of Canon Law".

Cardinal Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council "Cor Unum" will give a talk entitled: "Spontaneity of charity. The needs and limits of normative structures".

On Friday, 25 January, before their scheduled audience with the Pope, Cardinal Franc Rode C.M., prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, will address the gathering on: "Consecrated life and normative structures. Experience and perspectives of the relationship between general norms and particular statutes". For his part, Cardinal Peter Erdo, archbishop of Budapest , Hungary , and president of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, will speak on: "Rigidity and elasticity of normative structures in ecumenical dialogue". Following a brief debate , the congress will conclude with a contribution from Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B. on the theme: "Canon Law and the pastoral government of the Church. The role of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts".

The congress, which is due to be held in the Vatican's Synod Hall on 24 and 25 January, will be attended by members of episcopal conferences, and by professors and students of Canon Law from Italy and the rest of the world.
OP/CODE CANON LAW/... VIS 080122 (980)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"Vintar" Center literary contest

I've taken this information from an Italian-language announcement posted at Agenda Italiana:

ROME (The Catholic Times) – The “Vintar” Center of Studies for Culture and Communication in Rome has announced an international poetry and prose competition called “Beyond the Threshold of Hope.”
According to its press release, the competition was inspired by Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Spe Salvi” and a desire to pay homage to Servant of God Pope John Paul II.
“The organizers desire to promote a reflection beginning with meditation and with the teachings about hope in the pontificate of John Paul II, and continuing through the last encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI,” the release stated.
The Italian Center’s competition will accept entries in foreign languages, including English.
There are two poetry categories. Poetry of “religious inspiration” should be submitted to poesiareligiosa@email.it, while poetry “inspired by human values” should be submitted to poesiainedita@email.it. Poetry in both categories should not exceed 30 lines.
In the narrative prose category, either children’s stories or accounts “inspired by human values” not to exceed 10 pages may be submitted to narrativainedita@email.it. Scholarly works of a literary, philosophical, historical, scientific or theological nature should be submitted to tesilaurea@email.it.
Participants may submit in multiple categories, and should include a curriculum vitae that lists their educational and professional background, as well as contact information. Submissions must be received by Feb. 28.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Talking about Spe Salvi

Together with Father Sam Martin of La Crosse, I'm a guest on Relevant Radio's Connecting with the Bishop program this weekend to talk about Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical, "Spe Salvi." Although the program already aired on Relevant Radio already yesterday and today, it will be rebroadcast tomorrow at 9 a.m. on these stations: 1570 AM (La Crosse), 93.9 FM (Wisconsin Rapids), 92.9 FM (Wausau) and 1050 AM (Eau Claire).

I got to listen to about half the program today, and I think it went pretty well. Hopefully listening to it -- if you're in range of one of the La Crosse Diocese stations -- will encourage you to read the encyclical itself, which can be found at this link: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20071130_spe-salvi_en.html

If you need more encouragement from the bishop, here's an article from the Dec. 27 issue, where Bishop Listecki urges La Crosse Diocese Catholics to read the letter:

Bishop to diocese: Pope’s new encyclical on hope was written for you
By Franz Klein
Staff Writer

LA CROSSE – Between Christmas and New Year’s, people usually slow down just a little. The hectic planning and buying that preceded the holidays has come to an end, and there’s even a slight lull in activity.
Most people like to visit family and friends, and maybe even to relax and take in a little football. But Bishop Jerome E. Listecki is asking Catholics to put on their reading glasses for a few extra hours during the Christmas Octave.
“As bishop of this diocese, I would encourage people to read the encyclical ‘Spe Salvi,’” Bishop Listecki said in a recent interview.
Published Nov. 30, “Spe Salvi” (“Saved by Hope”) is the Latin title for Pope Benedict XVI’s second encyclical – a letter about an important issue and addressed to bishops, clergy, religious and all the lay faithful.
Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” (“God Is Love”) dealt with the theological virtue of charity, or love. Similarly, “Spe Salvi” addresses the theological virtue of hope.
But Bishop Listecki says the encyclical isn’t so much about abstract theology as it is an identification of the principal modern spiritual malady – materialism – and the pope’s proposition of hope as its remedy.
“The pope is giving us a further articulation of the crisis of our times,” Bishop Listecki said. “Today we have an overconfidence in the material world, almost to the denial of the spiritual. Modern society places great reliance on human progress, something that needs to be challenged.”
According to the bishop, there’s a reason Pope Benedict released an encyclical about the trouble with relying on the material and ignoring the spiritual at the beginning of Advent. It’s at Christmastime, after all, when people spend hours shopping but tend to forget the reason for the season. And when people forget to include Jesus in their lives, they lose hope.
“Denying the spiritual is like living a half truth where full satisfaction will never be achieved,” Bishop Listecki said.
According to the bishop, the pope is calling us to place our hope in Jesus Christ, Who took human flesh – and through Him to place our hope and trust in God the Father, Whom we cannot see. If we do so, Bishop Listecki said, we will be strengthened by hope and able to live out our faith in the world.
“This God Who has become one with us points to the ultimate trust that is manifest in our extension of self in living for others,” he said.
Bishop Listecki noted that this means no one can be a follower of Christ on his own. Rather, there is always a need for mutual support, for giving and receiving – for living out the Gospel as a member of the community. Hope, the bishop explained, is more than an idea – it’s a way of life that bears its witness of eternal realities to the world.
“Living for others is the performative utterance of the Gospel that manifests the mystery of God’s presence and our confidence or hope in its fulfillment,” the bishop said.
Containing just over 19,000 words, ”Spe Salvi” is only one-third the length of the average novel. And Bishop Listecki says it’s not too difficult to read, either. In order to better grasp the pope’s message, he suggests reading it aloud, either as a family, in a group, or even alone.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

An inside look at India

A member of our young Catholic group here in La Crosse embarked on an extraordinary journey a few months ago to work with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta for a year. I wasn't aware of her blog until quite recently. Havilah Krump is chronicling her work at Where Is The Gold. As you'll notice if you check out her blog, Havilah has the habit of making light of some very serious stuff, which almost makes it more heartbreaking to read. Please keep her, the MCs, and all Indians in your prayers.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Seminarians on pilgrimage

Two of my very good friends, who are also seminarians at St. Paul Seminary in the Twin Cities, are currently on pilgrimage in the Holy City. Both Jon Sorensen and Deacon Gary Kasel have been posting some pictures and commentary as they travel. You can follow along on their pilgrimage on the SPS blog.