Shakespeare’s Tragedies: Hamlet and Titus Andronicus

This fall semester I am taking a Shakespeare class with an amazing professor who makes the class so entertaining. The first play we tackled was Hamlet and I was super excited to read Hamlet because I have never read it and it is one of Shakespeare’s more popular tragedies. After reading Hamlet I don’t see how it is one of his more popular tragedies.


The play starts out with some of the guards seeing Hamlet’s father’s ghost. Why is this significant. Hamlet’s father had passed away about two months ago so Hamlet was looking for direction especially when his mother decided to marry Hamlet’s uncle two months after his father’s death. What is so interesting about the play is that it is all written from Hamlet’s point of view. He is the main character of this play and so everything is somewhat seen from his point of view which is interesting considering it is a play and you don’t really have a point of view. Upon seeing his father’s ghost Hamlet is told by the ghost to seek revenge on his uncle who murdered Hamlet’s father. It’s a regular Lion King, which I didn’t realize was a form of Hamlet until after reading the play. Hamlet is broody, and downright weird throughout the entire play and ends up getting his lover Ophelia to kill herself because he is so focused on revenge. It wasn’t a revenge play because while there was revenge to be had Hamlet wasn’t a likable character. I honestly didn’t want him to get revenge and found myself rooting for King Claudius. I felt sorry for Ophelia and I didn’t like the queen mainly because she moved on so easily. I can’t assume things about the marriage because since it is written from Hamlet’s point of view I don’t know what to make of the marriage between Hamlet’s parents. Did Gertrude love her husband or did she marry him out of duty? There is a lot that has to be assumed about the relationships in the play because Shakespeare limited the audience with Hamlet’s opinions and point of view. It’s clever because it makes one rethink the whole revenge thing. Usually the revenger is justified but in this instance is he or is Hamlet just a brooding, angry teenager? He did have the crown taken away from him, and his mother disrespected his father but Hamlet’s actions lead me to hate him. He is brash, reckless and has clear disregard for anyone but himself.

The next tragedy we read was Titus Andronicus and I enjoyed this play much more.


The play opens with Titus Andronicus returning from war with the goths, with his dead sons in tow and the queen of the Goths, Tamora, and her three sons. Titus immediately kills Tamora’s oldest son in revenge for the deaths of his sons and thus starts a chain of events that eventually leads to his death. Tamora upon witnessing the death of her eldest child determines to get revenge on Titus. First she pledges herself in marriage to the emperor of Rome, Saturninus, (who was appointed emperor by Titus after telling the populous he didn’t want to be emperor and that Satuninus, being the eldest son of the previous emperor had the right to the throne), after Titus’s daughter Lavinia ran away with Bassianus who happened to be Saturninus’s younger brother, and probably the better choice for Rome. Tamora has established herself in a position of power but she has one fault and that is her moor lover Aaron. Aaron is inherently evil and wishing to help his lover Tamora engages her two remaining sons to further seek revenge on Titus. He tells Chiron and Demetrius to rape Lavinia and disfigure her (cut our her tongue and cut off her hands) and murder Bassianus. Aaron pinned the murder of Bassianus on two of Titus’s sons and then had Titus cut off his own hand to try and “save” his sons. Of course Aaron is is evil and doesn’t actually deliver the hand to the emperor so Titus’s son’s can be saved. The one interesting thing about this play is after these events occur Tamora gives birth to a black baby. After reading the play the events all seem to occur within three or four days so how does Tamora get away with being pregnant with Aaron’s baby and no one noticing? The theory that my professor told me is that this is Shakespeare’s way of marking time. Tamora was hoping to pass the child off as Saturninus’ child but because it is black she cannot. Aaron was going to swap out the child with another moor child that was born white so as that a moor could one day ascend the Empire but his plans are thwarted by his own love of his child. While the moor leaves Rome to take his child into the wilderness to raise it, Titus murders Chiron and Demetrius after learning from Lavinia that they were the ones that had raped and mutilated her and had also killed Bassianus. An interesting questions arise after the scene where Lavinia finally revealed her rapists. Why hadn’t she told anyone sooner? She had written their names in the sand so clearly she could still write despite the loss of her hands, so why wait until now? I am not sure of this other than again timing and the fact no one had thought to question Lavinia of the fact that she had been raped. Obviously she had been mutilated but the question of rape never arose and it very well could be because of the time period and that rape was never quite defined until the 19th century.

After murdering Tamora’s two sons Titus bakes them into a pie and serves the pie to Tamora and Saturninus. It is during this scene that Lavinia asks her father to take her life and he does so. Titus then stabs Tamora, Saturninus stabs Titus and Titus’s only remaining son stabs Saturninus. This all happens quite quickly and while many scholars have spent countless hours criticizing this play I rather like the dramatic ending and the violence throughout. This is a tragedy and by definition should be filled with tragic events. It clearly isn’t going to end happy and yet people still find something to criticize about this play. If you want a story full of violence, rape, gore, murder, cannibalism then Titus Andronicus is the play for you.



The Selection Series by Kiera Cass

Failure is not easy and sadly I must confess I failed to complete my summer reading goal, and I have yet to start any of the books I didn’t finish because I hit a reading slump. I am taking five English classes this fall and as you can imagine all the reading is very time consuming therefore I haven’t got a lot of personal reading done. I did however manage to read the The Selection Series (just the first three books) in about a month which is amazing considering all the other works I have to read this semester.

I really enjoyed the selection trilogy because it was light hearted, a romance, and two characters who just refused to fall in love! It was a wonderful combination and I am very glad a coworker suggested them to me.


The first book in the series, The Selection, introduces us to America Singer, a five in the cast system who is in love with a six named Aspen Ledger. America is determined to marry Aspen when they can save up enough money but when the selection comes up Aspen encourages America to enter. When I first started this book I was reminded of the story of Esther in the bible because she too was competing for a crown. This whole first book reminded me a lot of the movie “One Night With the King”, and from reading this and what I know about Esther my whole perspective on Esther has changed. It’s also a lot like the bachelor which is why I have a problem with that show and why I understood America’s hesitation. The whole selection was a competition to compete for Maxon but can you really fall in love with a guy when he is paying attention to other girls and they want him as badly as you do? That is no way to form a relationship or fall in love so I was continually frustrated by this book. I wanted Maxon and America to end up together but he was trying to follow the rules of the Selection and America was just trying to make enough money to go back home and marry Aspen. I wasn’t surprised when America chose to stay and fight but the fact she was still in love with Aspen bothered me.

The second book is all about the elite or the four girls who are left. Maxon was supposed to make a decision soon after forming the elite but because of attacks from the rebels Maxon chose to keep the elite at the palace where they would be safe. I admit there were many times where I was infinitely frustrated by the lack of information I was given regarding the rebels and their purpose behind their cause. America herself was completely clueless because obviously the king kept it that way but as my brother could probably tell you I wanted to know more information desperately. I wanted to know what the King was hiding and why Maxon, the future king, seemed just as clueless as America. The second book does give more information regarding the rebels and in fact the reader meets a few of them but again the focus of this book is on the selection and the risks America takes regarding her place in the selection.

The last book is about Maxon and America finally realizing they love each other and America’s realization her father is a rebel, albeit a southern (I think, the ones that were descendants of Gregory Illyea) after his death, and the fact the king hates her and will do anything in his power to make sure she doesn’t become queen. I struggled a lot with the relationship of the king to the queen and to Maxon. Amberley, the queen, clearly loved her husband but she had to have known what he was doing to oppress the people. Considering she was a four in the cast system you think she would have known what it was like to live in a caste you can never get out of but she was also a four a little higher up than say a five or six. She also loved her husband and love can blind us to the severe faults in the people we love. This last book was intense because I was so ready for Maxon to finally propose to America and for America to finally tell Maxon she loved him and when it happened I was super excited except that Maxon caught America and Aspen talking and found out who America had previously been in love with. I was so frustrated I wanted to scream, which I might have done, because Maxon was being such an idiot. He knew there was someone in her past and he’d already come to accept it. He also knew she might still love that person so why was he surprised to see her with him? He was willing to throw away the love of a lifetime just because he finally met America’s ex-boyfriend? Stupid, stupid Maxon. I was extremely happy about the ending and enjoyed reading it immensely. It was a good solid ending to a really good trilogy.


10 Things I have Learned about Myself now that I am 21.

The other day I turned twenty-one and I must say other than being able to legally buy alcohol I don’t feel much different but I do feel different than I felt at the age of 13. Why 13? That was when I officially became a teenager and I remember that birthday being a big deal because soon I would be in high school and things were changing.

10 Things I have learned about myself between the age of 13 and now (I was going to do 21 but I couldn’t think of that many without getting really nitpicky):

1. The biggest thing I have learned about myself since the age of thirteen is that I am a huge introvert. I always used to think there was something wrong with me when I preferred the company of myself to others but I am totally ok with that now. Discovering that I am an introvert and that there is nothing wrong with that really helped my self-esteem. I no longer consider myself weird and force myself to socialize if I don’t feel like it. I am totally ok with staying in, watching Netflix, and eating pizza.


2. I want to get married someday but that is no longer a life goal. There was a point in my life where all I wanted was to get married and have a ton of kids and be a house wife. That was my big dream down to my wedding vows. I had a big crush on a guy a few years ago and seriously wondered if he was the one but God was like nope. He  had been trying to tell me this the whole time to wait,  especially when I was part of a bible study where we talked about giving God our Alabaster box of dreams. It was in reference to the story of the woman who washed Jesus’s feet with a bottle of perfume. This bottle was most likely made out of Alabaster and could have been her dowry if she ever got married. She literally gave God her future marriage and even then I wasn’t seeing the big picture. I met some incredible women three years ago who talked about when they finally decided to wait and let God control their lives he brought someone to them. It took me another year to realize what God was telling me: give Me your alabaster box-give me your biggest dream. However, every once in a while when I feel weepy about not being married and having kids (this usually happens when yet again another relative or friend posts a pregnancy announcement or wedding announcement or wedding pictures, you get the picture), I write a letter to my future husband and stick it in my alabaster box (which is really this cute box I got from Michaels craft store). Someday if I get married I will give this box to my husband and show him how I finally learned to wait and realized that serving God with my life should be my number one goal and not getting married.


3. I like wearing shorts. This may seem a little weird but I have always been extremely self conscious so I hated wearing shorts because I hated my legs. I love my legs now because of something my mom’s cousin told me once: “Carlie, I have ugly legs and I know that. It doesn’t stop me from wearing shorts however”. I took a look at my legs realized they aren’t toned like Cary Walsh-Jennings but I love them anyway so I wear shorts now. Having ugly legs isn’t worth dying of heat exhaustion.


4. If I don’t eat, I get low blood sugar and will eventually pass out (I haven’t yet because I always catch myself but there have been some close calls). There is a term for this: Hypoglycemia but I don’t think I am there yet. I know lots of people who get low blood sugar from not eating but knowing this about myself helps me realize why I get tired sometimes around meal times or when I don’t eat a high protein breakfast and I feel like passing out at ten o’clock in the morning.


5. I have an obsession with books and by obsession I mean I own over 600 books. I love books however, so I wouldn’t change for the world. Someday my library of books is going to inspire a love of reading in teenagers, who I personally feel spend way too much time on social media.


6. I want to be a high school English teacher! You would think after two years worth of education classes later I would realize this but it wasn’t until this last summer of being a camp counselor to a cabin full of pre-teen and teen girls that I realized this where I wanted to be. A lot of people have told me I am great with little kids and that they see me as an elementary teacher but what they don’t realize is I like little kids in doses. If I had to work with little kids all day every day I would go insane. I want to be able to build relationships with my kids and joke with them on a more mature level, if you know what I mean. I love my sassy teenagers :).


7. My love language is gifts. I never did take a test, or maybe I did but whatever, I know in my heart of hearts that my love language is gifts. I love giving gifts and I love receiving them. It is not because I like material stuff it is rather the thought that goes into the gift giving process. I pick out presents based on the person and their interests. A gift shows that person that I know them and have taken the time to know them well enough to get them something without asking them what they like. Gifts are just very personal to me.


8. I never want to live somewhere with humidity. After having lived in the south and moving to the north I realize that I HATE humidity and will never go back! I do miss my childhood home some days more than others but I could never go back because I am not that person anymore. God knew what he was doing when he moved me half way across the country. I couldn’t see who I would become at the time but as always He is amazing and knew the kind of woman I would become some day and He knew that required me moving. I am a planner, which is another thing I learned about myself but I am lumping it into this one. I had a whole life plan and God was like nope, I have even greater things imagined for and it will be painful because growing is never easy but the end result will be beyond beautiful. I am going to do great things in the name of God.


9. I am learning to let go. There are a lot of things in my past that at one time I was very bitter about but that was in the past and I am a different person now. I am learning to let go of those old hurts and see how God used them for my good. I am learning to let go of old friendships and old pains so that God can work in me and through me.


10. Last of all I am learning how to adult. I still haven’t scheduled a doctor’s appointment by myself but I am learning to work a “real job” (it’s in retail), pay rent and bills, budget my money (haha), schedule my time, and be dependable. For the first time in a long time I feel more like an adult and less like the child I was. That is terrifying because a lot about my childhood defines who I am today, but as God has been teaching me, change isn’t all that bad and sometimes it is necessary.