“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: What makes a good relationship?

What is the nature of true love? Do people conquer and win it like a trophy? Or is it respect and effort from both partners, both people with equal power? In William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, four lovers defy the law for the sake of love, learning about relationships and themselves in the process. 

We can answer the above questions by exploring Hermia and Lysander’s relationship, as well as Theseus and Hippolyta’s. These characters demonstrate that love flourishes when both people treat their partner thoughtfully and are willing to face love’s hardships. It weakens when built around violence and power imbalances, without considering the other partner’s thoughts and emotions.  

Hermia and Lysander’s relationship shows that love needs respect and commitment from both partners. This allows the relationship to thrive and overcome challenges. Since “the course of true love never [does] run smooth”, this wholehearted devotion to each other motivated Hermia and Lysander to defy the law that keeps them apart, take risks, and find happiness (I.i.134). What’s more, a relationship formed by free choice has inherent value. When Demetrius tries to bargain for Hermia’s love, Lysander protests. This is because “more than all these boasts can be, [he] is beloved of beauteous Hermia” (I.i.103-104). He is saying that the fact they both love each other alone is enough to justify why they should be together, even when everyone wants them apart. When both partners are equal in the relationship, respect each other, and are willing to persevere through challenges for each other, their love prospers.  

In contrast, Theseus and Hippolyta’s relationship represents love as a trophy to win in battle, lacking consideration and compassion for the other partner. Right from the beginning, Theseus “[wins Hippolyta’s] love, doing [her] injuries” (I.i.17). It is unclear what Hippolyta thinks of her marriage to Theseus, but either way, Theseus invades her home and takes her to Athens to be his wife, seemingly against her will. Hippolyta is also less excited about the wedding than Theseus. She objects to his impatience to get married by telling him “four days will quickly steep themselves in night” (I.i.7). Good relationships do not begin with someone taken captive and forced into marriage. This leads to a disconnect between the partners, preventing them from being on the same page with their relationship. Theseus and Hippolyta’s “love” is not built on respect and compassion. Instead, Theseus holds more power than Hippolyta; he won her like a prize when he attacked her home, not considering her values and emotions. We cannot treat true love as something to win or conquer by violence. 

In, conclusion, by examining the relationships in William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, we learn that a good relationship means respect and wholehearted effort from both people. An unhealthy relationship treats the other partner as a commodity to win, without considering their point of view. This is important because we must learn that good relationships are not gained through violence and conquering. We develop good relationships through mutual respect and compassion, while devotion lets love last through all the challenges life throws at a relationship. When these qualities are gained, both partners experience the joy of true love. 

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In-Depth #4

Progress Report 

In these two weeks, I started working on techniques for playing solos. I tried soloing on “Girl from Ipanema” and “A Foggy Day” by playing the original song first, then going back to the beginning and keeping the same chord progression as the first time, while playing a new melody. I planned to make another recording for “A Foggy Day” this week, but I decided to improve my improvising, then incorporate it into the song and make a recording of that.

 As for soloing, at first, just getting an idea of what to play was difficult. I asked my mentor for help with this: “Most jazz solos use a lot of grace notes and triplets. […] You should also be thinking of the guide tones, so the thirds and sevenths of chords, and incorporating them into your solo.” (Note: Grace notes are short notes that are played at the same time as another note, but only held for a short time. Triplets are three notes played in the time it would take to play two notes.) In other words, the thirds and sevenths of the chords make sure the melody of the solo meshes well with the chords, as well as providing structure by having certain notes that I can build my improvising around. I found that improvising is less intimidating when I keep my solo going towards the next guide tone. It was also challenging to keep the left-hand accompaniment going while focusing on the solo, but Liz said that this would get easier with practice. 

My mentor showed me some new licks as well: 

251-licks-2.jpg

Again, I tried playing them in multiple keys. This has gotten more comfortable as I continue to practice transposing them. However, I was wondering how useful these will be in practice and how I can make use of them in the songs, so I asked my mentor (see #2 of Incorporating Edward de Bono’s “A Beautiful Mind”). 

I also started a new song, “Georgia” by Hoagy Carmichael. Liz suggested playing songs from multiple subgenres of jazz; so far, I have tried a bossa nova song and a swing song, so “Georgia” is a ballad. The chord changes are noticeably faster than the other two songs I have played so far, so this may be challenging, especially if I play a solo for it. But I’m excited to practice this song!

georgia (carmichael)

Incorporating Edward de Bono’s “How to Have a Beautiful Mind” 

Questions I asked and new information I learned from them: 

1. This week, I learned a new introduction to “Girl from Ipanema”: 

ip. intro
The intro consists mostly of perfect 4ths. This is the first chord; the second chord isn’t shown but is the same, but transposed up by a semitone

I was confused as to how to incorporate it into the song, since the highest note is over an octave higher than where I start playing the actual song. How can I connect the introduction to the song? Should I bring the chord down an octave, or is it okay to leave it the way it is?

Answer: There isn’t really a set way to do this, but my mentor told me to use the pedal to sustain the chord just enough “jump” down to where the song begins. However, I still find this somewhat awkward and abrupt-sounding, so I plan to experiment with ways to work around this. This is something that my mentor and I differ on. 

2. How can I incorporate the ii– V7 – Ilicks into my playing? Why is learning this important? 

Answer: Liz answered this question by asking me to play through “A Foggy Day”, improvising the melody using guide tones. When I got to a part with a ii7 – V7 – I7 progression, she told me to try playing one of the licks. Especially when soloing, or if there’s a pause in the melody of the song, when I come across one of these progressions, I can play a pre-written lick. As for why it’s important, Liz just said that “they [were] useful for soloing”. It lends more of a structured feel to the solo. As well as the guide tones mentioned above, they serve as a resource for solos that I can use to make them easier to play.

3. What is a good source to learn about the origins of the jazz genre? 

Answer: My mentor gave me a book about this, “The History of Jazz” by Ted Gioia. “That’s a big project,” she answered when I asked about learning jazz’s history. I could go into a lot of detail on the origins of jazz, but I will be wrapping up my history research soon to focus more on my music. This will most likely be my last source for this. I will read it over spring break and share what I learned from it in my next post.

In-Depth #3

Progress Report

In the past two weeks, I continued working on Jobim’s “The Girl from Ipanema”. I think I’m becoming more familiar with this song, even though I haven’t tried improvising with it yet, except for a bit of experimenting at the end. The timing is still a little challenging, though, so I will keep practicing it. Here is my latest version:

I practiced Gershwin’s “A Foggy Day” as well. Something I found challenging was playing chords in the right hand instead of the left. The way I’m used to playing is the melody with my right hand and chords/accompaniment with the left. But Liz advised me to “play the voicings on [my] right hand and the root of the chord on the left to keep it from sounding muddy”. I could see what she meant when I practiced at home. It sounded a lot clearer and less messy with more notes on the higher register and less on the lower register. I will continue working on this song and will post a recording on my next blog post.

In addition to these songs, Liz showed me a simple lick in C major that uses the ii7- V7 – I7 progression:

jas 2019 rh 251 lick

She then asked me to play it in all twelve keys. I found that doing this really helped me learn it inside and out; transposing something sort of made me see the same thing from a different angle, so to speak. It was the same melody, just a number of tones higher or lower. I found it a bit difficult and tedious at first, but it benefited me a lot in the end.

I have also been doing some research on the origins of the jazz genre. An informative source for this was chapter three of “Jazz” by Gary Giddins and Scott DeVeaux, titled “The Roots of Jazz”. I learned that “the primary factor was the importation of African slaves to a world dominated by warring European colonists” (42). Jazz was born as a way for the Africans who were forced into slavery to keep their culture alive despite the Europeans taking them from their homes. They “found ways to blend [African musical traditions] with the abiding traditions of Europe, producing hybrid styles in North and South America unlike anything in the Old World” (42).

Incorporating Edward de Bono’s “How to Have a Beautiful Mind”

1. Finding and making connections that link matters together and generate interest:

I made a connection between my independent research and my learning with my mentor by finding evidence from my research for elements that appeared in my practical learning. I could see firsthand jazz’s distinct rhythms and improvisation and, from my research, know that they came from African music. I will discuss this with my mentor in my next meeting and share my learning in my next post.

2. Exploring, elaborating, and pulling interest out of the matter:

I explored and elaborated by talking to my mentor about other musicians’ covers of the songs I am learning.

This is a version of “The Girl from Ipanema” played by an amazing pianist. It includes a lot of extremely complex chords and solos. My mentor said that some of it was so crazy even she couldn’t play it. Even though I can’t reach this level during this project, listening to this further motivated me to pursue my inquiry.

My mentor also showed me this version of “A Foggy Day”:

Liz pointed out an interesting key change from D major to E major (1:20). I liked how it seemed to add more energy to the song and make it more dynamic. I’ll consider adding something like this to my own version.

3. To use the “what if” statement to get new lines of thought:

“What if I make a recording instead of playing live?”

The recording I included in the progress report was done in multiple tracks; the melody, accompaniment, and percussion (the percussion courtesy of my dad). My original plan was to play live on In-Depth Night for my final product. But I’m wondering if it would be better to record myself in a similar way to this recording. This would give me more freedom; I could add percussion or other instruments. However, the trade-off would be that it doesn’t have the same effect or connection to the audience that playing live does. For my next recording, I’ll try making a recording with one track, the same way I’d play in front of a live audience, to see how it’s different.

I had a lot of fun researching and recording this week and I’m excited to discuss what I’ve learned independently with my mentor in my next meeting.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Letter to Theseus from Helena

Dear Duke Theseus, 

My name is Helena and I am an honorable Athenian citizen writing to you about a recent court case. This case concerns Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, and Egeus; as Hermia’s best friend, I would like to offer my insights about the situation. 

Hermia does not deserve to be kept from love, and neither does Lysander. We should be listening to them; how can anyone else truly understand how they feel? If they both want to be married, no one else should have the authority to say they cannot, let alone threaten Hermia with death or a life as a nun. As for Hermia’s father, Egeus, his opinion should not overrule Hermia’s, if it is taken into consideration at all. He is not the one getting married. He cannot possibly understand the intricate dynamics of Hermia and Lysander’s relationship, nor the reason why she could never love Demetrius like that. If the arrow of Cupid strikes true, it is morally incorrect for anyone, parent or law, to keep these lovers apart. Who are we to disobey the will of Cupid himself and cause pain to them? 

You, Your Honor, should now know the importance of love better than anyone; your marriage to the beautiful Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, is the talk of Athens. You truly love her, do you not? Imagine if your father, just one person, was standing in the way of you and true love. You have the power to give Hermia and Lysander this treasure, to let them experience the same happiness you share with Hippolyta. And Lysander didn’t even have to fight Hermia for them to fall in love! Even if they cannot to be wed according to an outdated law, perhaps they can with a kind and compassionate king who wants the best for his citizens. 

In a final argument for love, there is one last point to bring up. It is known that Demetrius was in a relationship with me before loving Hermia. I am still in love with him, and I know that deep down, he loves me as well. Although it may take some time for him to realize it, he belongs with me. This is how it is meant to work! If Hermia and Lysander are wed, they will be happy. If Hermia and Lysander are wed, Demetrius and I will be wed, and we will also be happy. This choice makes citizens happy, which makes a happier Athens! 

Please take this letter into consideration, Your Grace. 

Sincerely, 

Helena 

 

In-Depth #2

Progress Report

In the first two weeks of my In-Depth project, Liz provided me with two songs to practice: Jobim’s “The Girl from Ipanema” and Gershwin’s “A Foggy Day”. “The Girl from Ipanema” is a bossa nova song, a fusion of samba and jazz. “A Foggy Day” is a swing song that has been sung by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Michael Bublé. I have been practicing these pieces, along with variations on the left-hand accompaniment.

a foggy day standardImage result for the girl from ipanema standard

Something I found challenging was learning the bossa rhythm for Jobim’s piece. It took some practice for me to polish it. Here is a brief sample of the first left-hand accompaniment pattern Liz showed me, with chords in the right-hand:

This was new to me; I have never tried fitting an accompaniment rhythm with a melody in this manner. Figuring out how to make the accompaniment mesh smoothly with the melody required a lot of focus, precision, and coordination. I am still experimenting further with this. My mentor also gave me a variation on the first rhythm:

In addition to practicing these songs, I have been learning some theory, and it is going well. My mentor explained some of the essentials this week. In jazz, one of the defining characteristics is the use of seventh chords; I found this to be true in these pieces, where nearly every chord includes a seventh, which lends a slightly dissonant sound. A common chord progression found in jazz music is ii7 – V7 – I. This progression is featured several times in “A Foggy Day” in the form of A – D – G (see the image of the assignment from my mentor under “Incorporating Edward de Bono’s ‘How to Have a Beautiful Mind'”)

Another challenge I am facing is that I haven’t been able to do as much independent research as I would like. So far I have been focusing on experimenting with Liz’s music. I want to do more reading on the roots of jazz and get started on my improvisation research. Going forward, I will try to make more time for this.

Incorporating Edward de Bono’s “How to Have a Beautiful Mind”

Since I am just starting, I think it would be better to heed most of my mentor’s guidance. Besides, the information she gave me these two weeks was not opinion-based; rather, she explained things I could see and hear for myself in the music, for example, seventh chords, progressions and such. Until I do research that contradicts it, I can find points of agreement.

Something I disagreed with my mentor about was the method she offered to learn chord progressions, which was writing the ii7 – V7 – I progression for different keys by rote. From personal experience, I find that rote repetition doesn’t serve as an effective learning technique for me. I am more of a visual learner, so I think I would learn better by playing them on the piano and seeing what they look like, as well as hearing them. For now, I will use both learning methods.

251 30002
Blank copy of my assignment

However, I didn’t want to disagree right away, because I still wanted to try it. After all, my mentor is the expert. Maybe later on, it will turn out to be helpful after all.

Liz has also shared with me that some phenomenal jazz musicians can be less-than-amazing teachers. Liz majored in jazz, but when she was still learning, she paid high costs to listen to teachers talk about themselves, play something incredibly difficult, then continue to talk about themselves. This led me to think that perhaps she offered the technique of rote learning because some of her own learning experiences were less than stellar, or that was the only way she was taught as a student.

Overall, I have enjoyed In-Depth so far, and am excited to keep playing and learning!

ZIP Final DOL

  1. What is your inquiry question? What initially drew you to this question? Did your question stay the same, or did it change overtime? Why?

My inquiry question is, “What are the elements of an epic poem?” I chose this question because I have always had an interest in epic poems; I like how they combine elements of both conventional poetry and story-writing. My question stayed the same throughout my inquiry and I think this is because my original question was quite broad and covered a wide range of smaller topics that make up my big question. Asking about the elements that make up an epic allowed me to explore all the different defining components of epic poetry, such as plot structure, character development, and verse, rather than limiting myself to only one topic.

 

  1. What skills have you expanded on / learned during the inquiry process? How are these skills applicable to your success as a student?

Some skills that I have expanded on in my inquiry are time management, planning, plot development, character development, and how to find inspiration and brainstorm. The writing-related skills, plot and character development and finding inspiration, I have learned are applicable for any other creative writing I do, both in English and outside of school. Time management and planning are more universally applicable; I can use these skills to properly manage my time in other classes at school and to get a rough idea at the beginning of a long-term project what I will get done and when I will get it done, for example with In-Depth.

  1. What did you learn about /what is your answer to this inquiry question? Remember to be specific and provide direct evidence from your research.

According to T. Drake, instructor at the University of Idaho, an important feature of an epic is that it follows the journey and development of a “hero of unbelievable stature” and their extraordinary, heroic deeds. This journey has a vast setting and spans “not only geographical but also cosmological space”. The character may have superhuman abilities and can be connected to or protected by a supernatural force. Generally, there is also a narrator who sees all. Epics are lengthy poems as well, usually broken into several books. There is often some sort of moral or lesson that the readers are supposed to take away from it (see the excerpt from my last competency of question four).

In the introduction, epic poets state the theme of the poem and, in ancient epics, invoke a muse. Stating the theme of the poem means saying what the lesson or the point of the poem is. For example, in John Milton’s “Paradise Lost”, the theme is “to justify the ways of God to man”. Invoking a muse means writing a “request for help in composing the poem”. In addition, they begin “in medias res”, which Britannica defines as “plunging into a crucial situation that is part of a related chain of events”; epics do not start with, say, the birth of the hero. Instead, they begin with an important event, then fill in anything else the reader needs to know later on.

 

Invoking a muse and stating the theme (example from my poem):

Sing to me, muse, of a hopeful child

Too cunning and too skilled for their own good,

And their search for an ever-elusive legend.

Remind us that there is bravery and honor

In facing the consequences of our own mistakes.

 

Some other components commonly used in epics are epic similes and epic catalogues. Poetry Foundation describes an epic simile as a “detailed, often complex poetic comparison that unfolds over the course of several lines”. Epic catalogues are long, detailed lists of people, objects, or attributes. A good example of an epic catalogue is the catalogue of ships in Homer’s “Iliad”, described as “some 250 lines just listing all the Greek commanders and how many ships each one brought from his domains” by Poetry Foundation.

Sources mentioned

https://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/engl257/General%20lit/six_elements_of_the_epic.htm

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/epic-simile

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/EpicCatalog

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn/glossary-terms/invocation

https://www.britannica.com/art/in-medias-res-literature

 

  1. In what ways does your final learning artifact demonstrate your learning / answer to your inquiry question? How does it connect to your chosen curricular competencies? Consider listing your competencies and including images, links, or excerpts from your work to demonstrate this.

Since I wouldn’t be able to write a whole epic, I created a detailed plot outline and wrote excerpts from each of the most important events. I will also present my notes and brainstorming process. This demonstrates my learning by showing the structure of an epic poem and showcasing what I learned about character development, conflicts, and writing in free verse.

Competencies:

1. Create and communicate:

  • My plot outline is clear and easily understood
  • The written excerpts help add to it
  •  My notes and brainstorming contribute to showing what I have learned

2. Transform ideas and information to create original texts:

  • I incorporated my research into my poem, making use of the conventions and techniques I learned about to the best of my ability and the time I was offered
  • My presentation includes my brainstorming notes, showing my creative process and how I transformed my ideas into an original poem

Excerpt (from my brainstorming stage, transforming my own ideas into my text):

What does my character want?

  • Their parent/sibling/loved one is missing, so they set out to find them, either on Earth or the underworld
  • Infinite riches, eternal youth, unlimited power or something else self-serving
  • Some abstract quality (like wisdom, loyalty, bravery); there is a tangible, physical source for it

What is their journey to get it?

  • An epic quest by sea
  • A trip through the underworld
  • Travelling through an unfamiliar city
  • Travelling through remote wilderness, eg. A desert, mountains, a forest
  • Maybe a combination of several?

 

3.  Assess and refine texts to improve their clarity, effectiveness, and impact, according to purpose, audience, and message:

  • I show my editing process with my original draft and my final one
  • The message is clear when I state my theme at the beginning of the poem
  • I edited to polish my grammar, clarity and word choice

Excerpt (my introduction, stating the message of my poem):

Sing to me, muse, of a hopeful child

Too cunning and too skilled for their own good,

And their search for an ever-elusive legend.

Remind us that there is bravery and honor

In facing the consequences of our own mistakes.    

This is where I state the theme (or in other words, the message) of my poem.

  1. What resources did you find useful during your inquiry and why were they useful? (Cite at least four resources you consulted, with links, and write a brief 25 to 50-word response as to was important to your learning).

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/epic-poetic-form

This helped me with my inquiry question, because it includes the elements that make up an epic. This page offers a basic summary of what the most important components of an epic are. It helped guide my later research by telling me which topics to research further.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWppk7-Mti4

This video analyzes and summarizes “The Epic of Gilgamesh”, the world’s oldest epic poem. I wanted to read it but couldn’t borrow a copy, so this was my solution. It also covers the common components of a hero’s journey, which was useful in writing my own poem.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=2&v=MS4jk5kavy4

This is a video by John Green analyzing and summarizing Homer’s “The Odyssey”. I used it to supplement my reading of a translation of the poem. It offers a basic summary and goes into detail on certain important aspects.

 

“The Odyssey”, Homer (translated by Stephen Mitchell)

I planned to read at least part of an epic poem, and this was the one I started with. It helped me get a good idea of the elevated feel of the epic, as well as understanding why Homer’s works are viewed as fundamental predecessors to Western literature.

“Beowulf” (translated by Seamus Heaney)

Reading “Beowulf” gave me good inspiration for the subject matter of an epic poem. Epics involve extraordinary deeds and valor; in this case, Beowulf goes on a quest to slay the evil monster Grendel, and later Grendel’s mother.

 

  1. What new questions do you have about your inquiry? What motivates you or excites you about these questions?

How can we make a poem “flow” outside of using a specific meter and rhyme pattern?

During my inquiry, I have found that using free verse gives me a lot of freedom, but it also comes at a cost. Without restrictions in terms of rhyming and syllables, I need to spend more time thinking about how well my poetry will flow and fit together when read aloud. This question interests me because free verse was enjoyable to write, but I want to learn how to benefit from the freedom it gives me without having to sacrifice the flow of the poem.

 

What is the best way to clearly communicate a character’s internal conflict to the reader?

I only scratched the surface of this in my inquiry, so I want to learn more about how I can deepen the struggles my characters face and how to effectively communicate them to my reader. In my case, Calypso’s most important internal conflict is her complicated relationship with her older sister, Calliope. I tried to communicate this as well as I could to the reader, but I want to learn how I can do this in a clearer, more impactful way.

 

How can we clearly communicate the antagonist’s wants and fears?

This was something I found challenging in my inquiry. In my poem, the antagonist is the entity Death. My problem might have also been in part that I chose a difficult antagonist, but it was hard to articulate to the reader what Death would want and fear, as well as letting it show through their actions. This question is exciting to me because, since I did not write in Death’s perspective, I want to improve my way of almost letting my reader see what the antagonist sees.

ZIP #4

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself at the start of your inquiry? 

Something important my inquiry has taught me so far is that I tend to do a lot more research than necessary. I found that a lot of what I was researching didn’t turn out to be as important as I thought it would, now that I am well into my writing stage. All I really needed to know was the structure of an epic; everything else, like history and complicated types of verse that I ended up not using, didn’t really need to be a priority. I overestimated how crucial research would be in my own poem. So, a piece of advice I would give myself at the start of my inquiry is spending less time on my research and more time on writing.  

As for the actual writing portion, I’ve learned that the best way to inspire myself is by getting all my ideas out on paper, no matter how predictable or boring or ridiculous they seem at the time. I found it helpful to record everything I think of, then adjust later on as I see fit. The advice I would give myself for this part would be not to judge my ideas as soon as I come up with them, and instead write down everything, then edit later.