Monday, March 1, 2010

Dramatic Shakespearean Deaths

As I was finishing up the last act of Othello earlier today for a class, I realized something. It's always a strange experience reading someone's death scene in Shakespeare because they get stabbed or whatever it is, then speak some mournful words (something like, "I'm killed!"), then converse a bit with other characters, then you see off to the side "[Dies.]" Maybe not awkward played by a good and proper actor, but to read . . . I just imagine them crawling around for a few minutes, saying they're dead, before they suddenly fall down unconscious. Which is exactly how Lucy fakes deaths in "I Love Lucy." I'm thinking in particular of the episode when she rents her apartment out to a man who is recovering from the shock of witnessing a murder (my, what a convoluted sentence!) To scare him, Ethel pretends to shoot Lucy, who falls all over the sofas, crawls around the floor, makes pitiful sounds, and has more than one false end. Just like a Shakespearean character.

On a completely separate note, we've been reading slave narratives in another of my classes. First Frederick Douglass, now Harriet Jacobs. The most comparable work to these, well, depressing reads that I have read before is The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak, a teen who died in the Lodz Ghetto during the Holocaust. I remember when I started reading that book, I started analyzing it, saying, oh, such and such is interesting in terms of such and such, etc., etc. Then I felt guilty. I felt guilty because I was placing a microscope over this person's suffering; I felt I was dehumanizing him by the way I was treating him in my thoughts as an topic, an example, a study instead of a person with a life that was taken away. But in reading Harriet Jacobs today, I realized the difference with the slave narratives. These were written with the express purpose of spreading the word. Their writers wanted people to analyze them so that much needed truths could be found again. Not that I suppose Dawid would have anything to say against someone reading his words to learn more about humanity, either, but the difference between a diary and a narrative is still rather great.

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