Home > Multimedia Essays > A Reply to Ms. Gunio and Yorick, Our Yorick

A Reply to Ms. Gunio and Yorick, Our Yorick

A Reply to Ms. Gunio

This blog is about the many faces of the court jester Yorick in Hamlet (Act 5, Scene 1). However, as Ms. Gunio’s opening question in her adorable piece “Shakespeare’s Word for Love” (Jan. 15, 2011) has become too enthralling to ignore, I figured that Yorick can afford to wait. Although it might be better to react to her question directly, that is, below her blog, I confess I am not as tech-savvy as everybody else, and the time it will take me to learn how to do it will probably take longer than the time it will take me to write this. For the moment, let these initial comments stand as a preface of some sort, and I promise, because they are somewhat unrelated to the specific topic, that they shall be the only “digressions” I will make. Or, the reader can go directly to the article below. Either way is fine.

To dispel the mystery, what was the question of Ms. Gunio? In form, simple; in essence, dangerously profound. She asked: “What is Shakespearean to begin with?” Further, “Given the reality of canonicity and capitalism, what of Shakespeare remains to live on in every ‘Shakespearean form’”? Now then, Ms. Gunio! Surely you cannot mean to ask these sincerely? But such questions, such dangerous, wicked questions! They fling their weight, and our minds are crushed. They sleep, we are at peace, but there you go and disturb them, hoping perhaps that Prof. Ick will silence their anger, will placate their fury, and once more will breathe in the winds of normalcy, of the innocent, preconscious what-has-been-before, combing comfort into our guilty heads, and even more, whispering consolations into our even guiltier minds. But this cannot be. This we must not let her do. For she herself, alongside us, is an inquirer. And even if she were to protect us by her power, none of us would be sharing any delight in the question. We should then have been appeased because we should then have been, like helpless children, provided for. Yet I hope you will believe me when I tell you that appeasement can never equate to satisfaction, is nothing quite like satisfaction, because it wants that element of labor, that happy and congruous mixture of having wanted to earn something combined with having obtained a deserved something. These are our questions, and they require, they demand our own attention. Mind then that here it is better to be a little bit selfish!

Again what is it that we have done? We have asked. What? Nothing, except this: that we have yet to understand the meaning of this subject course. We, thus, have signed a contract with meaning, and meaning possesses its own force, its own energy. We have inquired about the Shakespearean. We have confessed that it still eludes us. And as this cannot be the case, must not be the case, in order to justify the existence of the phrase Transmedial Shakespeare, and perhaps also to render credible the administrative choices of our Department, and in a sideway jab answer also why it offers courses like these, let us square these questions again, and attempt to contain them. I wish then to share your interest, Ms. Gunio. Echoing your questions, and quitting this figurative, metaphorical, and half-serious strain, I ask along with you: what is the Shakespearean and what of Shakespeare remains to live on in every “Shakespeare form”?

In all seriousness, I myself have never understood the term the Shakespearean until I discovered what I think is its secret; that secret has something to do with the duality between the script of the plays and their varying performances. There are three things that we are referring to when we are concerned with what is Shakespearean: either we understand it in a biographical sense, in a formal sense, or in an ideal sense.

The first is easy enough, what I mean by it is simply the people, the events, etc. which are related to the life of William Shakespeare. For example, not having been educated in a prestigious school, or buying your way into gentility are, in a way, Shakespearean.

By “formal” I am referring to the functions of the plays which contribute to its literariness, as for example, the categories of character, theme, plot, setting, and dialogue. If you are thinking of the Russian Formalists, you have caught my drift exactly. For example, the name “Hamlet”, the theme of “maternal abhorrence”, the plot wherein “one character sees the ghost of his father commanding him to revenge his death”, the setting of “a semi-gothic kingdom in Denmark”, and the line “To be or not to be”, are all of them today in a good sense Shakespearean. The key point is that they are so because they constitute the elements of the scripts that we now consider as having been written by William Shakespeare. They are there: literally and explicitly.

There is, however, a primary consideration that complicates this formal sense of the Shakespearean, and that is the fact that these scripts were performed. And the performances, as our lectures have shown, were much unlike the scripts, were in fact very different from the scripts. What appeared on the stage did not necessarily correlate with what appeared on the script: certain characters were added here or there, some scenes were shortened or lengthened, some lines were reduced or extended, some artists acted well or badly, and so on, all depending on innumerable situational externalities. The script was, at best, a guide. That-which-has-been-performed was different from the script, and what made them different was the infusion of human agency, specifically, the human productive talents other than that of the playwright, and these included the director/s, the actors/actresses, the producer/s, and so on. Further, something happened within the course of these performances which will prove to be of monumental significance: they created a feeling of sublimity and, as will be generally acknowledged later on in history, a presence of radiance and luminosity, of superlative brilliance, of divinity, of enchantment, of a certain sense of wholeness and rightness. What this feeling was, I think, is in part intuitive, and cannot be arrested in language, but anyone who has felt it cannot forget what it is like. This “sublime feeling”, for want of a better term, was there in the performances of the plays, even though no one can pinpoint exactly what or where it was in it; in other words, it seemed to be outside the parts of the performance itself. It was ungraspable, invisible, and in a sense, ultra-physical and ultra-sensible, because it affected something higher than just the five senses, it touched on something deep in the perceivers’ consciousness. It is this sublime feeling found in the performance of a play of Shakespeare that I mean by the Shakespearean in an “ideal” sense. Ideal because it is, first and foremost, an idea, and as such, impinges on the consciousness more than anything else. This ideal sense, moreover, is, therefore, based on though not trapped within the script. It is the spiritual outgrowth of the body of the script and is revealed whenever the script is effectively generated into a living, healthy play. It is the soul of genius that animates the tissue of language. It is the transfigurative substance that immortalizes words, phrases, question-marks, periods and exclamation points into the sounding-board of timelessness. Any play which injected its audience with this sublime feeling I am willing to concede is in this way Shakespearean.

These are the only ways I can understand the term Shakespearean; any other I confess is beyond me. But where does the Transmedial Possibility enter? Again, where and what of Shakespeare remains to live on in every “Shakespeare form”? I answer: more than in the biographical and in the formal elements, the ideal element binds the Shakespeare ethos. It is this that I think lives on in every Shakespeare form, and it is through it that transmediality is done or is even given a chance. The first painter, sculptor, dancer, poet, filmmaker, or artist who believed that the sublime feeling got from watching a performed Shakespeare play could be impressed upon an audience in a medium other than the stage is the father or mother of Transmedial Shakespeare. Whoever first argued that the human productive talent or the human agency required to transform a Shakespeare script, through a kind of performance, into a work capable of reflecting the sublime feeling is his or her own non-theatrical art is the intellectual ascendant of Prof. Ick. Thus, the sublime feeling, because of the desire of the non-theatrical arts or mediums to re-present it, tacitly understood of course by their practitioners that they could re-present it, became a universal: the essence of that-which-has-been-performed became, for them, the essence of that-which-must-be-caught/captured. More than because a certain medium referenced a biographical aspect of the Shakespeare or alluded to a formal element of a Shakespeare play, it is whether a medium is able to pounce on and to exhibit the ideal element, the sublime feeling, and how victoriously it did so that it really became Shakespearean and how we can judge “where and what of Shakespeare” exactly remained on to live in it. This also I half-suspect is what has drawn you, Ms. Gunio, in your fond attachment to Desdemona in the numerous paintings of her. When you said of Desdemona that:

Depictions may differ and paintings of her may then be altered generation after generation but still the very essence of the persona behind Desdemona  continues to live on as the woman who for love, lived and died. Her heroic yet graceful hands, her bold yet gentle lips, her fearless yet innocent eyes have continually survived in portraits of her, capturing the strength and purity of her heart owing to her doubted and yet untainted love (“Shakespeare’s Word for Love”)

I believe you are thus referring to that constant which is not just biographically or formally Shakespearian, but that which is ideally so. The sublime feeling in this case is developed from appreciating the presence of the “very essence of the persona behind Desdemona”, that is, not Desdemona the character or Desdemona per se, but the ethereal symbolisms, definitions, beauty, love, tragedy and pity all violently mashed up behind her character. The persona is the life-sound and the character only the instrument used to channel it. As such, the persona “continues to live on” even after the death of Desdemona. It lives on, once more, wherever and whenever the sublime feeling evoked by her situation is given a hearing.

The sublime feeling, further and largely out of this, dissolved into a grander schema: it changed into what we, as a class, now identify as the Ideal or the Platonic Shakespeare. I think when we use this phrase we are still referring to the sublime feeling, except that now we look at it from beyond the confines of a theatrical framework, and more with a general scope including all the other arts and mediums. The Ideal or Platonic Shakespeare is that same universal impulse of awe, that universal invitation to wonder which softly forces a surrendering of our will: it compels our ears to listen and naturally goads our sensibilities to experience the familiar yet mystifying voice of not some dead author who lived 400 years ago, but of what was said through him, of what was meant through him, that something which resonates like a melodic earthquake into our very brains and innards, that something which, both painfully and pleasurably, squeezes our souls into tears and explodes our thoughts in hilarity. But multiplication of words or images will get me nowhere nearer what I mean. Suffice to say that this feeling, far from being perceived as exclusively obtainable from a movement of script to stage performance, is now perceived as possible to be re-presented from script to painting performance, from script to dancing performance, from script to cinema, from script to cartoons, or in even more complex convolutions, such as from script to stage performance to comics or from script to stage performance to painting performance, and so on. The Ideal or Platonic Shakespeare is nevertheless the same sublime feeling which all of these mediums aspire and to a certain extent do capture.

This is thus my understanding of the Ideal or Platonic Shakespeare, and its premise is that there is a sublime feeling or essence higher and infinitely above the mediums themselves which with due effort they can only partly and never fully re-present. It is also in this sense that it is transcendent: it transcends each of these mediums, eternally escapes being captured entirely by them, is safe from being grounded or pinned down decisively by anyone of them, and while we do not directly know this, we infer that this must be the case because otherwise how can we account for the omnipresence of the same particular feeling, even if in different amounts or guises, in all of these multiple fields? There must then be one grand source, inexhaustible and pure, which the different mediums, by the very act of re-presentation, however, makes “impure” and only echoes a part of, and that is the world of the Ideal or Platonic Shakespeare. No one medium, this theory asserts, can thus monopolize the sublime feeling. It is beyond the script and even beyond the dramatic performance no matter how much it may be based on these. Once more, it also asserts that although the sublime feeling is open to re-presentation by all mediums, this does not necessarily mean that they are all equally capable in re-presenting it fully or honestly.

In ending this already too long answer, I will only add that while I agree that the idea of the Shakespearean could have been given a much simpler explanation, as for example the materialist-economic theory that Shakespeare is everywhere only because Bardbiz branding helps sell commodities, because any product emblazoned with anything annexable to Shakespeare more often than not becomes sophisticated and credible, or the elitist-cultural theory which states that the universality of Shakespeare is due to British cultural superiority, because Shakespeare is a cultural icon and legend over and beyond any other literary artist, I do think nevertheless that these other approaches share a weakness. None of these theories seem to account for the apparent willingness of certain people in countries not generally interested with Shakespeare, our country for one, to still devote a part of their careers to capturing the Shakespearean without, at the same time, being paralysed by the all too well known poor reception of Shakespeare here, and without thinking that because England produced the greatest playwright in Literature that no Filipino could be a great playwright in his or her own right. I can attest only for people I know, but in two organizations at least, the UP Lingua Franca and the UP Writers’ Club, this is fortunately still the case. But no one really knows, maybe years later I might be cynical enough to give these other theories a wider berth.

I genuinely thank Ms. Gunio for asking her questions, and I equally thank whoever reacts to the questions that my intellectual position here implicitly raises. Yorick awaits.


Yorick, Our Yorick

DISCLAIMER: None of these photos, clips and pictures are mine. They are the sole property of their owner/s.

Yorick as a minor Shakespearean character is, if not the strangest, then certainly is the most intriguing. Aside from the perplexity of the modal relations unnerving his formal position in the play, that is, his remains are literally caught between the joviality and carelessness of the gravediggers and the pain and remembrance of Hamlet, forcing us to question what our own attitude towards Yorick shall be, there is also the consideration that he enters the play already dead, and aside from the other privileged dead characters, is given no ghost. In a good sense, he is alive in the play only because he is dead. His appearance is as much a disappearance for the simple reason that he becomes a character only because other major characters vouch him to be so and not because he himself proves to us that he is so. He is there in the play, therefore, not positively, but negatively, through a quick brush with the memory of the living since by himself he has no capacity to express his own story, his own identity.

However, there are ways to provide Yorick with meaning. True, he could be conceded, for example, as a minor character, yet nevertheless as a symbol and as a device he is useful. Yorick does not need any ghost, we can argue, because his skull is death itself: it is a symbol of the unavoidable though fearful fact that everybody, either friends or enemies, will die, as much as it is a reminder of the triumph of nature and the pervasive order of things. This could be his value. Another argument can also be listened to: Yorick, again, serves a useful literary device, because his skull, with the burial of Ophelia, foreshadows the gruesome ending of the play. Thus, he is an important land-mark, and his presence contributes in setting the tone without disrupting the mood of the rest of Hamlet Act 5.

But it is not my interest to pursue any of these theoretical viewpoints concerning the specific value of Yorick in the play because frankly speaking, I do not think him enough of a character at all, even a minor one, in this play. He is, as I see it, a situation, and what he gives is a kind of prodding furtherance in our understanding of Hamlet’s mind. More than Yorick, I am interested in Yorick’s skull and how, as originally depicted as an accessory for the musing of Hamlet, it has transformed in meaning by its inclusion in different media. For this essay I will be looking at Yorick’s skull in two categories: in serious portrayals of it in Film, Theater and Art, and in not-so-serious portrayals of the same in Cartoons, Advertisement and Photography.

In Film, two of the best Hamlet adaptations ever made were the 1948 Laurence Olivier version and the 1990 Mel Gibson version. In Theatre, on the other hand, three of the more recent Hamlet adaptations count the Broadhurst Theatre (2009) production with Jude Law in the starring role, the Royal Shakespeare Company (2010) production with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart alternately playing Hamlet, and the Court Theatre (2009) production. In Art, unfortunately, the only painting I could find was an undated painting from the website Caledonian Mercury.

Sir Laurence Olivier gazing at Yorick's skull (1948)

Sir Laurence Olivier faces Yorick's skull (1948)

Court Theater (2009)

Royal Shakespeare Company (2010)

Hamlet Painting (undated)

I have grouped these three media together because they evoke the general spirit of the graveyard scene: its seriousness, intensity, painfulness, surprise, depth and metaphysical violence. All of these portrayals, especially Sir Olivier’s, replay the multi-layered abstractions pregnant in that moment of Hamlet’s life. Through a close examination of the common denominator of their physical deliveries, of their manner of modeling certain body parts—eyes and hands locked directly into the skull, lips pursed, mouth kept half-open; in essence, tight facial expressions, tight body language—one recognises the act of remembrance, the awe and stupor over the indiscrimination of death, the consciousness of the future corruption, demotion, and ugliness of all humanity, and the pathos of the temporality, the littleness of all our problems. In their hands, Yorick’s skull becomes a mirror, and as such, in gazing at it they see not just death, but a former friend swallowed up by death, and the gaze, no wonder, appears to be at once pitiful, caring, angry and disgusted. The skull thus, reflects the future of Hamlet and the rest of us, and it is characteristic that in these actors’ tight, very tight, reactions we are affected since these kinds of looks are dangerously attractive, these kinds of looks both challenge and inspire because they both struggle and fight.

In Film and Theater depictions, then, the seriousness and intensity of Yorick’s skull dominates. It homogenises as a dramatic accessory to jumpstart Hamlet’s introspection. In the not-so-serious portrayals of it in Cartoons, Advertisement and Photography, the same is no longer the case, and in fact is quite the opposite. Here are some examples of Cartoons featuring Yorick’s skull:

Alas Poor Yorick! (Manga)

Comic 1

Comic 2

Comic 3

Comic 4

And from Advertisement and Photography:

Yorick T-shirt (black)

Yorick T-shirt (white)

Yorick and Ophelia Blank Card

Yorick Poster

Sexy Hamlet

Darth Vader Hamlet

New Age Yorick

To begin with, the appearance of Yorick’s skull in Cartoons is obviously for humorous effect. In contrast to the first three media which highlight the finality of life and the ephemeral nature of being, these jokes parody the scene and strip it of its gravitas by pointing out logical though un-raised questions: for one, how can Hamlet really know that it is truly and without question Yorick’s skull that he is holding? What right has he to brandish it as if the rest of his skeletal system won’t mind? These Cartoons likewise do not contain the control expressions mentioned earlier and in conversely, the characters all look away from Yorick’s skull. Its function then becomes an accessory still, but to other ends, namely, that of comedy and of farce. The manga character I found supposedly also features Yorick’s skull. As a foil to the other Cartoons, it comes close to replaying the Hamlet scene seriously and non-comically.

Interestingly the same auxiliary function once more assumes a different sense when considered in line with Advertisements. Here, Yorick’s skull literally becomes an object of apparel, and is subsumed under its association with death, one reason maybe for self-expression or group-expression. In this case, it appears on T-shirts, cards and posters, and unlike the first four media, is represented alone and without Hamlet. The woman holding the skull in the card is supposedly Ophelia; thus triggering certain questions of faithfulness to the text because in the play the two never meet. But more to the point in this medium, Yorick’s skull becomes a kind of emo and gothic symbol which represents darkness and evil in and for itself. Its original character is depleted, that is, any other skull would have done just fine, and by a cheap substitution is made to increase the credibility of an otherwise plain design. Yorick’s skull here is hardly differentiated from the skulls in other logos, say, the skull in the brand of Guns n’ Roses.

Finally, in Photography, Yorick’s skull becomes a point of mediation, an icon of the identifiable past from which the present can take its cue. The woman Hamlet and the Darth Vader Hamlet both re-personalise Yorick’s skull through a dexterous, postmodern twist and infuse it and themselves new identities. They, like in the last two media, deplete its original gravitas and pathos, yet in this case profoundly substitute another in their place. These images repackage pain and suffering into creativity and, again, self-expression. Yorick’s skull has become independent of Hamlet. Yorick’s skull in our time has finally become a character in his own right. It will no longer be relevant whether one is parodying the other here, or to suggest a high-brow/low-brow bifurcation, since given two famous icons colliding with each other, one has as much a right to be considered as the other.

These media reflect Yorick’s skull prominently even if in various fashions: in them it lives, grows, changes and remains. A beautiful irony is it not? A character died—only to be resurrected in everybody else.




Laurence Olivier 1 – “Sample Learning Guide to Hamlet”. Teach With Movies. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: <http://www.teachwithmovies.org/samples/hamlet.html&gt;

Laurence Olivier 2 – “Fairly Civil”. Tomadan. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: < http://tomdiaz.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/najibullah-zazi-case-gets-spookier-feds-give-


Mel Gibson – “To Be or Not to Be”. Flick Filosopher. 20 Sept 2008. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: < http://www.flickfilosopher.com/blog/2008/09/to_be_or_not_to_be_mel_gibson.html&gt;


Court Theater – “Hamlet at Court Theater”. 20 Nov 2009. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: < http://www.courttheatre.org/blog/2009/11/&gt;

Haymarket – “Yes, indeedee!”. Are you Shakesperienced?. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: < http://courses.missouristate.edu/titabaumlin/oldquiz.html&gt;

Jude Law – “Hey, Jude!”. Gina’s Blog. 22 Oct 2009. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: < http://www.ginarosa.com/&gt;

Royal Shakespeare Company – “Hamlet Features as a Special Guest”. RAVEN-OUS. 19 Nov 2010. 13

Jan 2011.

URL:< http://raven2009.wordpress.com/category/arts/&gt;


Sepia – McKie, John. “Alas, poor David, we knew him all too well”. Caledonian Mercury. 18 Jan 2010.

13 Jan 2011.

URL : < http://entertainment.caledonianmercury.com/2010/01/18/alas-poor-david-we-knew-him-all-too-well/0027&gt;

Cartoons and Comics

2-6. “Alas Poor Yorick Cartoons and Comics”. Cartoon Stock. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: < http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/a/alas_poor_yorick.asp&gt;

Manga – “Alas Poor Yorick”. Minitokyo. 14 June 2008. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: <http://gallery.minitokyo.net/view/343093&gt;


Black – “Yorick”. ImaginEERIEing. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: < http://www.imagineerieing.com/products.html&gt;

Postcard – “Shakespeare’s Hamlet Holding Hamlet’s Skull”. Fast-Autos. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: < http://www.fast-autos.net/diecast-cars-models/SHAKESPEARE-HAMLET-HOLDING-YORICKS-SKULL-FD-MAXICARD_220710716016.html&gt;

T-Shirt and other Products – “Als Poor Yorick Shirt”. Zazzle. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: < http://www.zazzle.com/yorick%2Bgifts&gt;


Colorful – “Hamlet”. The Great Escape. 24 Dec 2010. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: < http://hrtbrknhbby.tumblr.com/post/2446247278/hamlet-alas-poor-yorick-i-knew-him-horatio-a&gt;

Darth Vader – “:D”. b3ta challenge: shakespeare. 25 Nov 2010. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: < http://www.b3ta.com/challenge/shakespeare/&gt;

Sexy Hamlet – “Halloween Roundup 2009”. Clothesmonaut. 16 Nov 2009. 13 Jan 2011.

URL: < http://clothesmonaut.wordpress.com/2009/11/&gt;



Gian Carlo Velasco

College of Arts and Letters

U.P. Diliman

Categories: Multimedia Essays
  1. January 17, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Protip: The reply for Ms. Gunio could have been posted on her page. Just kidding, this is fine. 😛 Furthermore, VERY amazing writing. I agree with your points wholeheartedly.

    As for your assesment of figure of the “Yorick” figure, I find it interesting that you noted Yorick as a non-character essentially, and it is somethig I fully agree with. However, I find that I don’t seem to condemn (if that’s your tone towards it) the comic and farcial adaptations of the skull. When Hamlet observes Yorick’s skull, he launches into a soliloquy, but that’s not the important part. The important thing to note is that in the context of the play, Hamlet is, I find, adding meaning to the skull, in essence interpreting the skull for his own benefit. Isn’t this the same for all these other interpretations? The only difference is that you honor one interpretation over the other.

    Who’s to say Hamlet’s view of Yorick, and by extension Shakespeare’s treatment of the event is the only valid way to looking at the scene? The comic strips raise valid concerns towards the skull, and while Ophelia and Yorick have never met, I’d argue that Ophelia is the main focus of the card and not Yorick, highlighting Ophelia’s mental state while tying nicely with the themes raised in Hamlet’s soliloquy. And as for the “emo” picture, is it not merely an alternate way to look at the same scene you claim it is forgetting? Exchange the woman with Hamlet and the scene we get is almost the same as the one written in our books. Meanwhile, your analysis of the photos is spot-on and very engaging.

    In conclusion, I’d argue that, instead of straying from the original scene as you may suggest, the “alternatives” that don’t include Art, Theater, and Film merely affirm your personal ideas towards Yorick; as a blank slate, a non-character waiting to be filled.

    Nevertheless, this was a very good analysis. You raised a lot of interesting points, and while I somewhat argued against your interpretation of the later examples, I find myself nodding at points. The way you look at these works is certainly valid, if a little bit on the purist side. 😛 Just kidding, again.

    Bangalan, Franz Edric T.

  2. February 11, 2011 at 7:22 pm

    A Reply To Mr. Velasco:

    Sorry for much delay in answering to your post which has actually caught me by surprise. 🙂

    I do greatly appreciate your overwhelming reply to my question which I didn’t dare answer explicitly. It was indeed remarkable how you were able to expound on and explore the meaning of “Shakesperean.”

    I found your take on the three “senses” of how we understand “Shakesperean” impressive. In fact, the ideal sense which you were talking about in that it is in the “feeling of sublimity” wherein the monumental significance of Shakespeare lies, was to me, perhaps the very answer I was looking for. Somehow, I had that thought of “sublimity” in my mind back then, it’s just that I found them rather difficult to explain in concrete terms, which you admiringly did.

    However, in the course of our class discussions regarding the “transmediality” of Shakespeare, I found the idea of his transcendence quite problematic. This may be a rather Purist take on things (^_^), but I honestly am in doubt in considering all that is associated with “Shakespeare” as actually “Shakesperean.”

    Just as what you have expressed in your reply:
    “No one medium, this theory asserts, can thus monopolize the sublime feeling. It is beyond the script and even beyond the dramatic performance no matter how much it may be based on these. Once more, it also asserts that although the sublime feeling is open to re-presentation by all mediums, this does not necessarily mean that they are all equally capable in re-presenting it fully or honestly.”

    But then again, culture and time plays a very vital role in this transendence, and I believe that this is not a mere factor but a main mover in the changes that the “Shakesperean” had over time.

    Again, I would like to thank you for your reply. It didn’t simply answer my question, somehow, it also made me realize the “Purist” strain I have in me.. 😉

    • February 11, 2011 at 10:42 pm

      Hi Melanie! Thank you for your reply and for your generous remarks 🙂 Yes, I too am still in doubt as to the feasibility of other mediums re-presenting the Shakespearean. Quite a number of the mediums we have discussed so far do not quite satisfy my idea of it. I also think you are right in including time and culture as main factors which condition our thinking of what is or is not the answer, but above everything else, I am happy in awakening, even if only a bit, a positive and critical “purist” strain in you as well. Cheers!

  3. February 13, 2011 at 1:04 am

    To Ms. Gunio and Mr. Velasco:

    I find your points very, very interesting, but at the same time the part of me that enjoys most of the things we’ve been discussing in class wants to defend the mediums you find “unsatisfactory”.

    I’m assuming you derive the primary feeling of “sublime emotions” from the primary text we’ve all probably encountered in English 23 and/or your outside readings. I’m not disputing this feeling of sublime whatever or whatnot you have talked about, since personally I find I share the same sensations (or whatever you want to call them) when I read certain texts. Rather, I’m saying that you read these texts much like you would any other piece of literature – as a book, text, readings, words, etc. In other words, your first experience with the Shakespearean , I assume, is with his words. In other other words, a book version.

    (If I’m incorrect, please tell me immediately!)

    This, I find, is no different from, say, a fan like myself enjoying the Lord of the Rings books. I derive a certain “sublime” feeling whenever I read Frodo and Sam venturing up Mt. Doom to destroy the One Ring, while Aragorn leads the united armies against Sauron’s own soldiers. There is a “Tolkiesque” feeling here, I’d argue. Something defines this work as a piece of wonderful literature, something its fans cannot grasp. Is it the pages and pages of description of rolling landscapes and trees older than man? It cannot be that, since I personally hated those parts. Or is it the meditation on good and evil, power and authority, the past and the present? Many of these aspects are ignored by the common fan in favor of seeing the fantasy elements. What I’m driving at is that this text is enjoyed by many people, despite problems that might be present in it. Problems, in fact, which are purely subjective.

    Now, imagine Lord of the Rings transported to film. I myself have complained that the film has cut out many of the elements which I enjoyed in the original novel, such as Tom Bombadil, the Scouring of the Shire, the numerous songs and references to past and folklore. And yet I enjoyed the film for what it is, and I certainly don’t condemn it for not capturing the elements I wanted in it. It stands on its own as a story and at the same time adapting it in a way that many people will enjoy it.

    This is my attitude towards the transmedial Shakespeare, as well. As we all know, adapting a work to other mediums is very difficult, especially when we start from a literary source like the novel, or if you’re feeling generous, manga. The expression “first installment wins” (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FirstInstallmentWins) comes to mind: we enjoy the very first thing that comes out of this story, or at least the earliest one that we enjoyed. This is because we are able to form our own opinions on the subject as we read along, interpreting it our own way.

    Therefore, seeing this story adapted into another medium, and therefore violating “our” perception of the story, is what ruins the experience for us, in my mind. For us English majors trained to appreciate Shakespeare’s language and text, the first thing we ought to honor, at least from what I’ve been told, is the script/text/whatever, and the rest are secondary.

    I believe this is the problem we may have with some of the adaptations of Shakespeare covered in class. They are so radically different from what we believe is Shakespearean, so we argue that it is not Shakespeare, but rather a bastardized version of it. Are we being purist when we argue this adaptation is not Shakespearean? Yes, but only if our springboard is the text itself. I’d like to cite another example from my days of being a Lord of the Rings fan to support my claim: I’ve recently met a friend to claims to enjoy Lord of the Rings, and yet cannot read the novels for the life of him, considering the movie a superior version of the story. I cannot blame him, for he started with the movie and has been “spoiled” by it. It is his first genuine experience with Tolkien, and so his perceptions of the story has already been altered.

    In summary, my argument is that we are so firmly anchored in the script text that we are already hostile to other adaptations for ruining what we “perceive” the text to be. Again, this is running on the assumption that we started on the text itself, and that the text is where we first experienced this “Shakespearean” thing we claim exists.

    How we react to each medium, then, is a matter of preference; if you enjoy classical music, you’d be willing to accept Shakespeare in classical music, for example. I suppose my theory’s a bit radical and a bit out of nowehre, but I believe Shakespeare’s transcendence comes about only because we want Shakespeare to be in a particular medium. If we dislike the medium itself, there is less chance of it being “Shakespearean” in our eyes. If the work itself is good enough, we consider it “Shakespearean” not because it captures some sublime, untrappable ideal of Shakespeare, but rather because the work moves us to such an extent that we are willing to accept the medium as a vessel for Shakespeare’s works to dwell in. In fact, I’d say this is true for all adaptations of any work ever created. Is this adaptation itself good? If yes, welcome to such and such canon? Bad? Bah, banishment for you!

    Personally, I judge all the things we’ve been covering in class depending on their own merit: as a piece of art/music/literature/film/comic/parody/tribute/homage, does it work? Secondary is its usage of Shakespeare: does that work? Only then do I decide for myself whether this work is good or not. How do I decide if this is Shakespearean? Again, I believe this is purely preference: we accept it as Shakespearean if it uses Shakespeare elements adequately, and more importantly, if we accept the medium it is presented in. For example, I enjoy comics, so I’m willing to accept Neil Gaiman’s take on Sandman. Little things like that help me decide.

    I’m typing this at the middle of the night, so my reply might not be so coherent when read. Please correct me on my (many wrong, I’m sure) points, please!

    EDIT: Oh, and I suggest going to http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/ and typing “Adaptation” there. Check out all the related articles, they’re very informative, and what’s more, they’re written by normal people, so it gives us a good view of what they think of adapting works.

    • March 22, 2011 at 8:16 am

      A Reply to Mr. Bangalan

      Surely Mr. Bangalan you are not serious in maintaining the frivolous objections you enumerated in your last reply? Would to God I have been in your place, I should not have been as rash. You seem to have unforeseen the inconsistent spectacle in which you were establishing your position on. You, perhaps in your ardor, but most probably in your anger, have permitted your mind to be clouded, and posted your unripe thoughts without either the advantage of a sobering review or the improvements of a happier disposition. But whether it be your youth, your temperament or your passion that has caused you to act in such manner I deign to know not, for whatever be the reason, it has obviously got the better of you, has in fact enamored you, that you obeyed in uttering such loose and abominable remarks, on the face of which I now see it as nothing less than my special duty, as it is the special duty of anyone who sees a silent disease spreading to stop it forever, to refute each and every one of them.

      To begin with you style yourself as “a defender of the mediums [Mr. Velasco] terms as unsatisfactory,” and also admit to having written your defense “at the middle of the night,” in a hectic rush so it seems, that some parts of it “might not be so coherent when read.” Well! What kind of a defender then are you? I will tell you. One who not only does not organize his thoughts well and beforehand, but appears also to be content in presenting them in the “middle of the night,” as if the task he has imposed on himself was not something of a paramount nature, and required, on the contrary, the best and the most perfect of his meditations, given the weight of the subject and the number of his hearers. One who cares not about the balance of his arguments and neglects the purity of his intentions, so long as he could reply, no matter how “incoherent” that reply may be. One, in short, not worth listening to. On this ground you have already failed to convince me because you evidently have not mustered enough energy even to rally yourself for a dignified rebuttal.

      But you are coy, and this “middle of the night” ruse is but a lame pretense for me not to take you seriously, is it not? In other words, it is an excuse poorly disguised as a reminder. And to be frank with you Mr. Bangalan, I deny it. I disbelieve it entirely because if it was true, then I ask: why have you not edited you reply in the course of the last five weeks, the total amount of time it has been posted in this blog? Why insist on its being “written in the middle of the night,” when all the chances in the world had been given you to reshape, even rethink, it as you pleased?

      Let us review your assertions. In your words: first, we as English majors have most probably first experienced the sublime feeling of the Shakespearean through the “script text,” or the “book version” of Shakespeare’s plays. Second, because of this we, in accordance with your “first installment theory”—which believes that whatever first media version of a story, in this case, of a Shakespeare play, we perceive is what we enjoy the most—cannot help but prize the script text over other media versions such as movies, comics, and even manga. Ergo, our decision to glorify the script text over the other media versions is only an understandable favoritism brought about by the textual basis of our being English majors. According to your summary, we as English majors “are so firmly anchored in the script text that we are already hostile to other adaptations for ruining what we ‘perceive’ the text to be.” This is the first half of your argument; the second half I reserve for later.

      Your first self-imposed task, then, is to question why the script text, or for convenience’s sake I shall call simply as “the text,” is the foundation from which English Majors anchor their biases on. And your answer is because the text is almost always the first thing or version of Shakespeare’s plays that they own or felt the sublime feeling in.

      I do not think this is the reason Mr. Bangalan. I think for one that intelligent UP students think more profoundly, and much differently from this sad manner, which, by the by, resembles too closely some outdated, run-down computer that cannot erase whatever software is installed in its hard drive first. I think UP students are capable of hindsight and experience, and that whatever they enjoy, they enjoy not because it is the first thing they experienced of its kind, but because some recurring justifiable reason exists which persuades their ingenuity at the same time as it satisfies their instincts.

      Why should there be an attitude of primacy towards the text? I answer: because we are Literature Majors. As such, the text is our mainspring, our lifeblood. We live and die by the text. Without it we are reduced to nothing; with it we are more than bona fide scholars, we are ennobled humanists. Our bias to the text I am not denying is a bias, but it is the right bias, the necessary bias, because it is the core of our profession, just as a doctor will be biased for the medicine occupation, the lawyer for the legal occupation, and so on, since otherwise his acquired knowledge is a sham, his academic posture a cheat, and his hard-earned diploma a lie.

      And yet this answer may not silence your question. Nevertheless, your offended countenance may still ask: why should we as Literature Majors be hostile to adaptations of the text? Can we not judge adaptations as works of art in themselves, as containing value despite the fact that they may not have included all the formal aspects of the text? To these I say: We as English Majors, and this is an essential point I wish to make, prioritise the text over the adaptations not because we experienced the sublime feeling in the text first, through a dumb application of your “first installment theory,” but because we understand the logical law which states that the original basis is higher than any adaptation because while the original basis can survive without adaptations, adaptations, on their part, cannot survive without the original basis.

      The script of “Othello,” for example, is much more valuable than any film version of Othello not because we as Literature Majors worship the text blindly and grasping from your tone, protect it obsequiously, but because we know that no movie version of “Othello” can be filmed without the script of the play, although the script is perfectly fine and can be enjoyed without any movie version, that is, by itself.

      I ask you now Mr. Bangalan, which you think is higher: that which can live by itself or that which depends on others in order to live? The text, which supplies the soul of the story, and can play itself in one’s imagination, or an adaptation of the text, which is a rendition of that story, and hence, only borrows temporarily its force and energy? Nobody denies that adaptations can have their own value, that they can be works of art, too. But what I will never permit to be uttered, and will tirelessly work in prosecuting, is the height of ingratitude and baseness which argues that these adaptations can surpass the text, or worse, that they can even replace it! For shame! How is this even—possible? The moon, no matter how luminously it redirects the light of the sun, is not for this reason a conceivable replacement for that majestic star. An anatomical chart, no matter how graphically accurate it may reproduce the image of the human body, is nevertheless a silly replacement for the real thing. Adaptations have their corresponding values, yes, but not without a defining limit; this defining limit, if it has not been made clear, is this and this alone: adaptations always, necessarily, unavoidably, and naturally owe their existences to the text.

      I think I have perspicuously disproved your central claim that the reason we prioritise the text over the adaptation is because we have been exposed to the text first before the other. I have answered that this is not true, and that the real reason why we prioritise the text over adaptations is because we understand that while the text can evoke the sublime by itself, can, in fact, survive by itself, adaptations have to graft themselves to something other than themselves in order to do the same. What is independent in nature is justifiably more preeminent than what is otherwise. The source is more valuable than any of its given satellites.

      Now we arrive at your “pure preference” philosophy, which at the course of your essay appears in various shapes, as “pure subjectivity,” as “honoring one preference over the other,” and so on. This, I see, is logically the auxiliary position your reply was forced to take, since from the line of your reasoning the text, unlike what I evinced, was just an accidental preference born to us English majors, and no more justified to be held as the controlling foundation, than anything else which we might have been earlier exposed to.

      And yet look closely Mr. Bangalan where your position leads any close inquirer. If it was true that “Shakespeare’s transcendence comes about only because we want Shakespeare to be in a particular medium” as you say it does, opening the field for all preferences equally, setting yourself as a democratic personality battling against purists who determinedly enclose it within textual boundaries, then no center can be advanced because a center implies a communal assent, which is impossible where anyone is free to postulate what his subjectivity prefers.

      Following this, no view is exempted, and every view is commensurate and indistinguishable in value. Since you have disqualified the text as the controlling center to differentiate what is or is not Shakespearean, and have devolved this function to “everybody’s preferences,” in your world, the Shakespearean in cinema, art and literature is just as possible in pornography, in animal violence, in cadaver exhuming, in bacteria, and in terrorist attacks, no matter how far these may stretch the boundaries of the plays, no matter how silly these are on the face of Shakespeare’s explicit stage directions. Should you annoy me that in these latter media the Shakespearean is impossible, or is not as possible as in others, or should you doubt their validities as media at all, I would not hesitate in launching back your beloved contentions to you: “You just honor one interpretation over another,” “It’s what I prefer,” “The Shakespearean is purely subjective,” and so on. “You cannot refute me. Let there be perpetual anarchy in the academia for all I care. My subjectivity wills what it wills.” Is this the world you are fighting for? How is this any better than the world of the purist? How is Shakespeare done justice?

      Can Shakespeare’s transcendence really be in a medium just because one person prefers it, or on the other hand, can it be in a medium only in so far as it satisfies any of the three levels of the Shakespearean (biographical, formal, ideal)? In fact, you yourself seem to incline to the latter choice. If a medium’s viability for the Shakespearean is really only one’s preference, why do you nevertheless make it one of your requirements in accepting a medium as Shakespearean the condition that it “uses Shakespeare elements adequately”? Where else do you base these elements, I wonder, if not in the script? Show me another source of Shakespeare elements aside from the text and then you regain consistency. Otherwise, you are contradicting your own claims.

      I will end here. I thank you for your attention. The text, more than its adaptations, is more dignified and superior. The Shakespearean, more than in subjectivity and preference, is determined by how much a given medium captures the biographical, formal and ideal elements of a Shakespeare text and performance.

      • March 23, 2011 at 9:48 pm

        So, uh, let me summarize your point as I understand it.

        1) For people like us, we prioritize the text because we’re literature majors, and therefore the text should be our central concern; otherwise, our roles as students of literature are pointless.

        2) It is inconceivable that the original is supplanted by something that follows it; in fact, it is the height of ingratitude to assume it is even possible. (Something tells me you haven’t seen sequels, spiritual successors, and the like.)

        3)By following my argument, anything can be considered “Shakesperean”, as long as his preferences dictate so. So you list off presumably “horrific” incidents to stir us(which, uh, is somewhat of a fallacious argument, but I see what you’re getting at)

        4) Ultimately, subjectivity just leads to chaos, therefore it is pointless to follow my argument. Or something like that.

        I certainly understand what you’re getting at here. Or least I hope I do. And yes, the world you paint is a scary prospect. (It’s full of metaphors, too).So, maybe I should clear it up.

        First of all, I have a life, besides managing this site, so I don’t really have the time to check a comment I made here. I apologize if you were offended that I wrote my reply at the middle of the night, but I assure you, I mean no offense, but rather the thought occurred and I felt it was something I’d like to share.

        I think you may have misinterpreted my argument a little. While yes, I do contend that we adhere a little too closely to the text, I think it’s unfair for you to say that I wish to do away completely with the text and depend purely on personal preference. One of the assumptions of my argument is that the work in question being reviewed attempts to use Shakespeare. You ask why I look at works on whether or not they use Shakespeare elements adequately? Because I am trying to see if the work is Shakespearean! Surely it comes with the territory that I expect a work to try and preserve something from the work, whether it be a small callback or the entire plot transplanted into something different.

        Take that into consideration when you approach a work and I hope you understand what I mean. It’s not enough for me to declare something is Shakespearean because I declare it – of course it has to have backing!

        The rest of your argument comes from your assumption that I wish to do away with the text, and so you paint this really scary vision of the world with no center. I don’t know whether you understood what I was trying to convey or not, in other words. 😦 What I just want to say is, let’s try to keep an open mind on works, and not judge it preemptively. Why should we restrict Shakespeare to the “high” arts? Is it a problem if he gets “sullied”?

        Your final lines trouble me, for what they imply: “The text, more than its adaptations, is more dignified and superior.”, you say. So what’s the point of adaptations if the text is already superior? With this stance you are already discounting all the adaptations of Shakespeare, from the theater to the comic to the children’s storybooks to the TV shows. Are they all irrelevant, then? Yes, they have art, you say, but with this line they are forever “inferior” to the original text. In my argument, I say that I try to evaluate a work on its own terms first, and on its Shakespeare second. This is not due to irrelevance to Shakespeare, but rather because if I didn’t do so, then looking at all these works are pointless.

        I agree with your assertions earlier, I assure you. I’m just voicing out some concerns I find with it, and presenting a way to alleviate those concerns of mine. Thanks for taking the time to reply!

  4. March 24, 2011 at 1:29 am

    A Reply to Mr. Bangalan 2

    Concerning your interpretation of my last reply:


    2.You entirely missed my point. What I said was that the original basis of an adaptation, not the first adaptation in relation to future adaptations, is superior. My point was that the book, the text, of the “Lord of the Rings,” as the original basis of the movie adaptation of it was superior than the actual movie. I am not saying that the first “Lord of the Rings” movie, because it is the first of its kind, is superior to all future movies of the same title. Far otherwise. The book version, I am arguing, is superior to all movie adaptations, tv adaptations, and so on, precisely because without the book none of the movies or tv shows it has inspired will ever have come into being, but the converse is otherwise.

    3.True again. Though it is not an argument, but a reasonable warning of what your “pure preference” philosophy will inevitably amount to.

    4.Yes, and concerning the way you dismiss this point, it shows you have yet to learn how crucial the subject you are touching is.

    First, that you have a life is no excuse Mr. Bangalan, for uttering thoughts which only a madman will own. Want of discipline is intolerable everywhere.

    Second, you say I misinterpreted you when I said that “you wish to do away completely with the text and depend purely on personal preference” on basing Shakespeare elements of a given work. I agree that here I have been remiss. You do not wish to do away with the text completely when regarding the Shakespeare elements of a given work. I will give you this. But the argument does not alter a bit against you, for while you believe that the Shakespeare elements of a given work can only be examined with regard to the text, you nevertheless argue that the Shakespearean can only be decided by pure preference for a given medium. You cannot deny this, since you earlier said that:

    “I suppose my theory’s a bit radical and a bit out of nowehre, but I believe Shakespeare’s transcendence comes about only because we want Shakespeare to be in a particular medium. If we dislike the medium itself, there is less chance of it being “Shakespearean” in our eyes. If the work itself is good enough, we consider it “Shakespearean” not because it captures some sublime, untrappable ideal of Shakespeare, but rather because the work moves us to such an extent that we are willing to accept the medium as a vessel for Shakespeare’s works to dwell in. In fact, I’d say this is true for all adaptations of any work ever created” (emphasis mine).

    This is the core of what I understand as your “pure preference” philosophy. A medium is Shakespearean not because of its ability of capturing the sublime, which is the position I have tirelessly been arguing for, but only because we prefer it to be in this medium. Your stance then is to exalt biases, and no more. Nowhere have you defined what you meant by the phrase “a work moves us.” This is a secret which only you are the bearer, unfortunately.

    This likewise is the context of the frightening picture I have provided for you. I do not claim that you wish to do away with the text, and thus the world will lose its center. What I am claiming is that since you have relegated the determination of what makes a medium Shakespearean, or what makes a medium capable of capturing Shakespeare’s transcendence, to “pure preference,” it necessarily follows that when it comes to deciding what medium is Shakespearean, and how much, since each one is free to choose for his own, chaos will ensue and nobody will cooperate in the academe, as most probably each one will tenaciously cling to what his subjectivity tells him. It is in this context that I wish you to listen to me, for given such a situation, even if you do not intentionally wish to do away with the text, the text, nevertheless, along with every other thing, becomes irrelevant in influencing how Shakespearean a medium is. “Pure preference” is just another term for “completely by preference.” If we base the level of the Shakespearean, in short, in a certain medium “completely by preference,” it follows that no other thing will be taken into consideration, not even the text. Your dismissal of the text, then, is a logical consequence of your embracing a “pure preference” philosophy.

    You cannot escape Mr. Bangalan by complaining that what you “just want to say is, let’s try to keep an open mind on works, and not judge it preemptively.” This, although it is written with sincere intentions, cannot be ceded through your advancing of your “pure preference” philosophy.

    You ask further: “Why should we restrict Shakespeare to the ‘high’ arts? Is it a problem if he gets ‘sullied’”? My answer is because, as I have argued for in my reply to Ms. Gunio, the Shakespearean is, at its most profound level, the sublime, and sublimity is barely possible in the “low” arts.

    Finally, you are troubled with my line “The text, more than its adaptations, is more dignified and superior.” You think that with this I am all for “discounting” all adaptations as “pointless” or “irrelevant.” Not true. My drift was more in saying that adaptations depend on their existence on the text, but the text can survive even without adaptations, and in this way the text, as a provider of life to these adaptations, is superior. This does not entail that all adaptations, then, as you claim me to say, are “pointless” and “irrelevant,” but only that when compared to the text they must be content with their inferior place. There is still a reason for encouraging adaptations Mr. Bangalan, even if they are inferior to the text, and that is because some of them are actually enjoyable, and further, one can compare one adaptation with another, as they, identically being adaptations, are in an equal plane of comparison.

    There is nothing wrong with evaluating a work on its own terms first, and on its Shakespeare elements second. But this requires one person free from biases against all mediums, which is something not possible given the finite constitutions of human beings. Would you really then consider the Shakespearean as possible in pornography or in zombie movies? Because they are possible mediums to sketch a Shakespeare scene or play in. If you remain adamant in your position, then proceed to do so, and force history to remember you as the rash writer who championed Shakespeare in these ridiculous mediums.

    In ending this confutation, I call on you to be more honest with me Mr. Bangalan. It is not true that I have misunderstood you completely, or that you have not conveyed your thoughts properly. For how could this be when judging from your last comment, you have ceased in holding certain beliefs which you protected before. Where now is your “first installment theory”? Again, what compelled your “spoilage” or “violation of former pre-conceptions” ideas to vanish? I can mention others, but multiplication of examples will not deepen the obvious truth of this observation.

    Let this second reply persuade you to drop your “pure preference” theory altogether, encourage you to search for a different theory in its replacement as to how a medium becomes Shakespearean, and advise you to understand adaptations for what they really are: as inferior to the text, but equal unto themselves.

    • April 2, 2011 at 2:05 pm

      Very well, I’ll concde – there are too much difference in opinion here for us to persuade each other. I guess we’re both adamant in our own views.

      For a person like myself, I find it distressing that you repeatedly state how adaptations of a work are doomed to “inferiority”, considering the fact that, as a product of the 21st century, by default most creative options available to us would then be ‘deraivative’ and therefore ‘inferior’ to those that came before us – we are simply riding on the coattails of the history preceding us. Simply put, from the start, we are already inferior to what comes before us – they are the first, after all, and far more original than us, who have the benefit (?) of coming after them.

      You ask where my “first installment theory” went, as well as the “spoilage” theory, both of which YOU lovingly term (I prefer less… academic terms). If you actually understood my essay, you’d realize they remain core tenets of my theory. “First installment” you insist on calling it, when I would call it the “definitive” version, at least in the viewer’s mind. Take note the link I posted (which you may or may have not looked at) to understand – the work that stands out the most to the viewer is the “first installment”, as you call it. “Spoilage” I assumed you’d understand so well, since this is what I think motivates your ideas – the idea that a viewer enters into a work or an adaptation with his own biases influenced by outside forces, and when these biases are betrayed, the viewer is either violated or forced to reevaluate his perceptions.

      Both are concepts that my generation has repeatedly echoed – concerns of a generation that has nothing original left to hold onto and call their own. Is it a surprise I react to your claims?

      When you talk of chaos, I certainly understand your point and your fears. However, my reply is: is this not what is already happening? Not just in academic settings, but in every other fandom/series/genre/whatever you want to call it. Everyone has their own piece to say, and everyone has their own personal “canon”, whether you accept it or not. This chaos exists already – I am simply giving it a name and definition.

      You call other mediums “ridiculous” – isn’t this your preference as well? Is it not your decision to brand, say, pornography or zombie movies (god knows why you condemn zombie movies…) as inferior to theater or art? This is the point I’m making – the viewer’s biases come into play when viewing a work, and it is these biases that color their appreciation and hatred of the thing being viewed. This, in my mind, is the dominant reason Shakespeare remains popular – we have been told that Shakespeare is a Great Writer, and having read his works, we agree. And so we champion his cause, and defend it from all attackers. Sublime emotions – I agree, those exist, but only as our justification for maintaining the institution known as Shakespeare. I’m not discounting the fact that Shakespeare is a good writer – I enjoy his plays and sonnets – but what I’m saying is that his continued popularity can be attributed by exactly that – his popularity.

      Allow me to summarize my stand, hopefully more clearly. We are exposed to a work – if we like it well enough, the work imprints itself as the “definitive” version of a text. When we see other adaptations of the work which do not match up with our perceptions of the work, we either feel “offended” as the work “violates our former pre-conceptions” or we reexamine our views, as you have said. In your case, it violates the idea that Shakespeare is purely something sublime and worthy of admiration. Pushing it further, our biases color what we consider “worthy” and “unworthy.” This is my “pure preference” theory, as you word it – our “preferences” shape what we, as the viewer, consider “canon”, and this extends to any other work or series in existence.

      The best example of this is in video games and comics, but that’s discussion for another day.

      I found another link that might be useful in portraying this idea, by the way. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FanonDiscontinuity

      It’s written by genre-savvy fans, and there are many, many points here that will confirm your own ideas on sublimity as well as refute them.

      Finally, I’d like to reiterate the words I said at the beginning – we are too different in opinion to reach an agreement. Nevertheless, I have said my piece, and hopefully, you yours. True, your words have certainly forced me to reexamine my own ideas, but I remain adamant in my own views. Modified, perhaps, but I still believe everything I am saying, which I’m sure is true for you. Thank you for arguing with me – it’s been a great experience.

  5. April 3, 2011 at 5:03 am

    True to the nature of your reasoning, you again contradict yourself. For how can you “concede” and at the same time remain “adamant” with your position? What is it then that you are conceding? What are you surrendering? Nothing. But since I understand that you wish to close this argument, I will no longer extend it. If you will allow it I will only comment now as your senior with how you comported yourself here, and from these kind words I hope you will learn how you can better your abilities as a theoretician, should, like me, theorizing becomes an appealing venture for you.

    I will be quick. To begin with, you have passion, which is great. You also have patience and open-mindedness, virtues which in our academe are essential. Finally, you show genuine traces of diligence that is difficult to maintain even for thinkers older than you.

    However, you are also frightfully wanting in method and sharpness. Do not write replies half-heartedly and softly. Do not complain, whine, lament or solemnize. Do not be hasty or too indulgent with your adversary. Do not expect mercy.

    But most of all do not evade the argument. Reading your last reply, it is clear that you have yet to learn how to grasp an argument by its head and to deal with it properly. As a review for you the question we are discussing was this: what is the Shakespearean, and how is it manifested in a certain medium? My answer was this: the Shakespearean is threefold, namely, the biographical, the formal and the ideal or the sublime, although it is mostly the last. Your answer was: the Shakespearean is Shakespeare’s transcendence which we think exists in any work that moves us first, the “definitive” version, upon which we then class as our standard, in comparison of which other versions will be judged. I asked you how this came about. You said out of subjectivity and bias.

    I attacked your subjectivity position in four strands: first, I said this is too superficial an explanation because you did not explain how particularly “a work moves us,” Second, I said if your claim was true, then defend the inclusion of gross mediums such as pornography or torture videos as vehicles for the Shakespearean, and more than that, as equal vehicles with art, cinema, and film, since you conceive that the Shakespearean is possible everywhere, only that one wills it. Third, I said that if the Shakespearean was determined subjectively, then chaos in the academe will ensue. And fourth, if the Shakespearean is decided based on preference, I said that then you cannot help but discount the text, along with every other thing, and this is unpardonable for one who claims to be a Literature Major.

    Your answers should have addressed each of these concerns. You could have explained “how a work moves us,” how the gross mediums could still be Shakespearean, how chaos in the academe may not necessarily be a bad thing, or that Literature Majors do not owe their lives to the text. Any of these could have increased the strength of your position. But looking at your last reply, the only argument you were able to muster a defense was the third. You said that chaos was already ensuing in the academe anyway, whether I like it or not:

    “When you talk of chaos, I certainly understand your point and your fears. However, my reply is: is this not what is already happening? Not just in academic settings, but in every other fandom/series/genre/whatever you want to call it. Everyone has their own piece to say, and everyone has their own personal “canon”, whether you accept it or not. This chaos exists already – I am simply giving it a name and definition.”

    Upon which I would have answered: all the more reason why your “pure preference” philosophy should be contended against. I would have said that although everyone might have their own canon, this does not therefore mean that all canons should be seen as equal, whether in value or in permanence. A canon made by a 6 year old, your position forces you to assume, is thus, no different from that constructed by Harold Bloom. I would then enumerate that there is nothing wrong with authority, but nothing right with anarchy. This, I imagine, is how to answer an argument adequately.

    Also, your final reiteration is useful, but equally damning:

    “Allow me to summarize my stand, hopefully more clearly. We are exposed to a work – if we like it well enough, the work imprints itself as the “definitive” version of a text. When we see other adaptations of the work which do not match up with our perceptions of the work, we either feel “offended” as the work “violates our former pre-conceptions” or we reexamine our views, as you have said. In your case, it violates the idea that Shakespeare is purely something sublime and worthy of admiration. Pushing it further, our biases color what we consider “worthy” and “unworthy.” This is my “pure preference” theory, as you word it – our “preferences” shape what we, as the viewer, consider “canon”, and this extends to any other work or series in existence.”

    Well and Good. But how exactly? What is it that the medium contains which makes us like it? Again, your theory can be reduced to this maxim: “because I say so.” Why is this medium Shakespearean? “Because I think so,” “Because I like it,” “Because I am moved by it.” But is this—an answer? If I were to ask such a question to your position: nevertheless why do you think so? Why do you like it? Why are you moved by it? Your position, plainly speaking and as you have presented it, cannot give me any. Most probably it will cower into admitting “I just do.” And yet to say that a thing is determined just because we think so or say so is a mental attitude not quite welcome in this great University. You can hold whatever position you want, but you must also give a rational account of why you believe what you believe when questioned. Again, your position fails in this test. To say a medium is Shakespearean just because we think so, without explaining why we think so, is ignorance and pride masking as cleverness and tenacity. You should have delved deeper and asked: what is the nature of this bias which controls what I think is Shakespearean or not? How does this stand against the reflections of the great figures in literary history? And so on.

    I expect for you to remedy your faults next time you debate, and in time I wish for you and the rest of the group to improve. Galingan mo sa LF.

  6. April 3, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    P.S. I nearly forgot. My branding of other mediums as ridiculous, unlike you, is not due to bias alone. It is a consequence of my theory concerning the Shakespearean as the sublime. All mediums which are capable of reflecting the sublime is more Shakespearean than those which cannot. It’s as simple as that. The difference with our methods is that mine, instead of seeking a weak-minded refuge, a Me Generation refuge, into subjectivity, aspires to find and establish an objective standard upon which to judge mediums. My basis is experience and fact. Your, however, is simply bias and will.

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