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Friday, July 9, 2010

13 to Life: Regarding Shakespeare

My entries for Shannon Delany's Change is Good—Ask a Werewolf contest, as to Shakespeare in 13 to Life.

The first essay addresses why Pietr, one of the characters of  could have such a deep hatred of Romeo and Juliet.

Romeo and Juliet is the classic story of two teenagers, so in love that they would die for each other.  I think Pietr’s issues with the play are that he doesn’t think that Romeo and Juliet should have had to die.  While they may have been of marrying age, Romeo and Juliet were still teenagers with their whole lives ahead of them.  And I think Pietr sees them as selfish.

We might not know the details, but Pietr gives off the impression that he doesn’t expect to live a long life.  However, he does expect to live a very full life.  Sometimes it seems like he is almost as reckless as Romeo and Juliet, chasing adventure, not thinking out the consequences.  But while Pietr might be a foolhardy risk-tater, he would never willingly throw his life away, which is how I think Pietr sees Romeo and Juliet.  Whether or not teenagers could really know true love, these two would rather die than live without one another—And I think Pietr, who possibly might be short on time, would see that as selfish and wasteful, for someone to take there own life without having even lived it.  I think Pietr would even prefer the pain of such a devastating loss than the possible nothingness of cutting his life even shorter.

Essay number two is regarding the validity of Shakespeare's question, "What's in a name?"  How much power is in a name, and can we judge people based on their names?

As Shakespeare said, “a rose would smell as sweet,” no matter what it was called.  Romeo may very well have loved Juliet just as much if she had been Juliet Smith. 

However, I completely believe that names have meaning and can influence what we think of people.  The fact that she was Juliet Capulet meant that her family was going to have issues with Romeo, and vice versa, setting into motion a disastrous series of events.

Obviously don’t choose our own names when we’re born, so it’s not exactly fair to judge them on that alone.  However, someone’s name certainly does give us certain impressions.  And I’m not sure that’s out of line, either.  When most parents choose a name for their child, they are choosing it out of love, and hope for what kind of person they imagine their child will be.  And if the parents have a good idea of what kind of son a William might be, it’s easy to see how they’d treat him like a William, and raise him like they think a William should be raised.

Of course, then when he goes to school depending on who he makes friends with, and what kind of sports he likes to play, or activities he likes to do, William is likely to become a Billy, or a Will, or a Liam.  His friends may give him a nickname, or he may decide to reinvent himself with a shorter name—either way, the name is MEANT to give an impression and to have meaning.

We take many names for granted, but often they are very descriptive.  The last name of Smith most likely means that somewhere along the line someone’s ancestor was a blacksmith, shod horses, or worked with metal.  Bakers most likely baked.  Millers made flour.  Some names denoted where a family came from, or whose son you were.  Or some names were meant to mislead people into thinking you were someone else, from somewhere else, who did something else.

And just as in the real world, I think most authors know this and in this way pick names to suit their characters.  Names can denote a person’s heritage.  The choice may be something literal and descriptive, or a name that just feels the way the character should.  Like people who are named after beloved relatives, a character’s name can allude to another character or person with similar characteristics.  Or a writer can as easily try to mislead with a given name.

It would be silly to judge a person based solely on their name, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth taking into consideration.

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