Thursday, October 4, 2012


"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe, "Ode to American English" by Barbara Hamby, 
"Suburban" by John Ciardi and a performance of "The Duchess of Malfi" written by John Webster examine relationships in various settings. All relationships, either natural or manufactured, have a level of strangeness that make them peculiar yet special. By examining the kinds of relationships between not only people but also concepts, you are able to more strongly experience the world and start to form opinions on everything around you. 
My friends and I shared feelings of confusion amusement and concern for our sanity as we watched the Duchess of Malfi being performed on Friday night. At a level that rivaled the relationship drama with that of She’s the Man, the numerous indiscretions, betrayals, plots of assassination, and outbursts of emotion made up the whirlwind story that was the Duchess of Malfi. The audience’s experience was heightened as the actors invited the audience members into the world of the play. The fourth wall that usually separates actors from their audience wasn’t as tangible when the audience members were allowed to sit on the stage, and the actors interacted with the viewers on several occasions. It was the direct contact between actors and audience that allowed everyone to really react like the characters in the play. When Ferdinand whilst in a state of delusion, thinking he was a werewolf, kissed his brother, the bishop, I feel fairly confident in saying that the rest of the audience shared my reaction which mirrored that of shock, awe, and bewilderment. However, had the actors not been so committed to delivering such a powerful performance, the audience wouldn’t have had such a strong reaction to the dramatic events.
However, in a suburban community, the most dramatic event is a dog leaving its calling card in a bed of petunias or so says John Ciardi, author of "Suburban". A gentleman receives a call from his neighbor, informing him that his dog has just gone to the bathroom in his neighbor’s yard. Though he knows his dog is not even at home, this turn of events is too exciting an opportunity to pass on, or, as the speaker puts it, “why lose out on organic gold for a wise crack?” By describing such a mundane matter as something of such high importance, Suburban communicates the idea that life in the suburbs is so simple and dull that such a trivial matter is the most excitement the neighborhood sees all week. 
Choosing to describe the sentiments the speaker feels towards her home country, Hamby uses colloquialisms and pop culture references to contrast the highfalutin nature of Paris to the homely feeling of ‘the U.S. of A’. More specifically, the speaker longs for “Cheetoes, Cheerios, chili-dog diatribes. Yeah, I miss ‘em all,/ sitting here on my sidewalk throne shipping champagne.” Her ‘sidewalk throne’ in Paris pales in comparison to all of the familiar comforts that she so dearly misses. Because she misses home so much, she is precluded from having a positive opinion of Paris.  
Poe describes how outward appearances don’t always reflect inner opinions in "The Cask of Amontillado." While initially seeming to be on good terms, the narrator states his true feelings towards his companion rather early; “It must be understood, that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good-will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.” The sanity of the narrator deteriorates to where he is walling in Fortunato who is chained in an interior recess of the catacombs. His deranged mental status fuels the narrator’s actions ultimately ending the relationship by, in essence, burying Fortunato alive.
In every situation, had the author not written in such vivid detail, or in the play’s case, performed, we would not have been able to feel such strong relationships. In their quest to have their readers or audience connect with the stories, the authors and actors have transcended the normal level of performance choosing to express the most extreme cases to illicit the strongest responses.

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