Monday, February 10, 2014

Shakespeare and Social Change

One of the central aspects that stuck out to me when reading Twelfth Night is that of the role of the individual in relation to others and the role of the individual in relation to himself. Throughout the play Shakespeare places characters in contrast with each other who end up either misleading someone else, as seen with Sir Toby taking advantage of Sir Andrew’s ignorance as well as the hospitality of Olivia. The relevance of Sir Toby’s class makes the man feel as though he has justified power concerning issues that are of no relevance to him, and which only appear to the lead the group into trouble such as the midnight escapes into drink. I feel Shakespeare highlights these distinctions when he writes, “Out o’ tune, sir? You lie. Art any more than a steward? Does thou think, because thou art virtuous, she shall be no more cakes and ale.”(Shakespeare 61). Here Shakespeare is pointing out the injustice that occurs in society when people are limited by their social class and by their birth. Despite the fact that someone “lower” was performing a better action, the level of his class limited his expression in the sense that someone of a “higher” class has more authority despite being incorrect.
Even worse, the most relevant character to speak about the problems that occur throughout the play, the fool, is looked down on and ignored despite the fact that he provides the deepest insight into what is happening. I feel Shakespeare expresses this best when he writes:
Two faults, madonna, that drink and good counsel will amend. For give the dry Fool drink, then is the Fool not dry. Bid the dishonest man mend himself; if he mend, he is no longer dishonest; if he cannot, let the botcher mend him. Anything thats mended is but patched; virtue that transgresses is but patched with sin, and sin that amends is but patched with virtue. If that this simple syllogism will serve, so; if it will not, what remedy? As there is no true cuckold but calamity, so beauty’s a flower. The Lady bade take away the Fool. Therefore, I say again, take her away. (Shakespeare 29).

Here the Fool who is attempting to offer the most help to Olivia is being ignored solely for the fact that he is a fool. Despite the fact that the fool is the one trying to help Olivia the most, his social class and status limits his ability to express the rationality that everyone else misses despite their “higher status.” Ironically enough, despite literally being a fool, the fool is the only one who really sees the situation for what it is.
  When discussing the role of the individual in society in regards to service, I feel as though Twelfth Night offers a lot to say about my interactions with the people I am serving. Rather than viewing the people as less than me or people who need help, I feel the power of Shakespeare comes forth in the social change he wishes to bring about through the equality that occurs in the interaction between individuals. I feel like the importance of this message also relates to my experiences in service because of the push and pull of myself when I interact with others at any point in time. Because of the potentiality that exists for human interaction to go anywhere when two people meet, I feel as though in service my ego dissolves into my experience with the others and who I am after the fact is always changed by those experiences because not only am I never the same person who goes into service as the one who comes out, but the mixing of who I am with others allows me to be interconnected with the people I am with and see them as equals.
I also feel as though the importance of Twelfth Night and its influence on social change can help with our experience when we first interact with anyone because it stresses the importance of respecting the individual and allowing the continued expression of what someone else thinks to take the centerpiece of our experience with them. In this sense, I feel as though Shakespeare calls forth social change in the sense that problems that exist in society have the potential to be resolved through a collective work ethic that forces us to look to others for help because we lack the ability to solve all the problems by ourselves, and because another’s input helps us look at problems in a new light which then has the potential to come up with a solution that fits for the situation. Speaking further for the situation, I think that the importance of the situation also becomes a key issue because Shakespeare calls for us to look past self-consciousness that limits our ability to be ourselves and to embrace others in the moment.  

No comments:

Post a Comment