My Thoughts on “Othello” by William Shakespeare

Othello takes place during the Ottoman-Venetian War and follows the story of two main characters, Othello and Iago. Othello, a Muslim general serving in the Venetian army defending Cyprus, has recently married an Italian woman named Desdemona, and Iago is Othello’s evil second-in-command.

In Shakespeare’s play Othello, the protagonist falls victim to manipulation by the villainous Iago, who exploits his lack of trust in his wife Desdemona. Iago is widely regarded as one of the greatest literary villains of all time. One character who stands out is Emilia, Iago’s wife, who constantly calls out the sexist behaviour of the men around her, including her husband, and fiercely defends Desdemona even when she realizes the truth about Iago’s motives. Despite its tragic ending, Othello is full of flawed and unlikable characters who continuously make poor decisions and trust the wrong people, making it an entertaining and captivating play.

The Royal Shakespeare Company recently debated the issue of whether Othello is a racist play. During the discussion, Hugh Quarshie, a Ghanaian-born British actor, pointed out that the play’s conventions and traditions reinforce the idea that black people behave a certain way due to their ethnicity, and warned of the potential implications for black actors who portray this role.

Onyeka Nubia, an internationally recognised historian, argued that Tudor English society did not have a concept of race as we understand it today and that applying modern ideas of racism to the play may not be accurate. However, he acknowledged that the play can still be played with issues of race in mind, given the ongoing presence of racism in our society.

As per usual, like almost every Shakespeare play I have read, I loved the themes and the overtly dramatic essence of it all. It was one of the most entertaining of his plays I’ve read so far.

Bye, keep on reading. 


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In Defence of “Ammonite” (2020) by Francis Lee |IcthusBookCorner

Ammonite, set in the 1840s, follows Mary Anning. Mary was a British palaeontologist whose work was undervalued due to her being a woman. She sold her findings to different men, who then presented the findings as being theirs. Mary Anning was a real person, from a working-class background and even nowadays her work is not as valued as it should be.

Francis Lee, the director and writer of the film, is obsessed with classgender and landscape (he has said so in interviews in the past), which is visible in his earlier film Gods Own Country. So, it is clear why this woman, who was born into poverty and with no formal education but was able to be one of the best professionals in her field, is someone the director found fascinating. Not to mention, 19th-century England was a patriarchal and utterly classist society, which makes everything about Mary Anning even more intriguing.

The director has also stated that he wanted to “look into same-sex relationships in this patriarchal class-ridden society”. Since Mary Anning had been both looked over and used by men for her scientific discoveries, Francis Lee felt it was better to depict her having a relationship with a woman rather than a man. And given that there were no records of her ever having been in a relationship with a man, while there were several romantic letters between her and other women, this made even more sense.

Now, I truly enjoyed this film. It had several things that I am interested in, such as female leadswomen in sciencebeautiful landscapesaccurate depictions of working-class people, and the list goes on. 

I get that it is a slow film with very few lines, which is not for everyone. But it is my cup of tea. What I did not like to see was a lot of people saying how it doesn’t compare to other films with queer female leads (namely Portrait of a Lady on Fire). People were comparing films that, besides the already stated, had nothing else in common. They are not the same, and the intents were not the same. Just because both of these films have queer female leads walking along the seaside, it doesn’t make them the same.

Portrait of a Lady on Firewhich I loved, has nothing to do with working-class women being recognized for their work. It’s about two people who meet under a circumstance where they know there is no future for them and about the power of the gaze (of how you perceive others and others perceive you).

Anyway, I think people comparing these “types” of films is a symptom of something else. I truly believe it is the result of there being very few films with a queer female love interest, not just that get made, but that actually get mainstream recognition.

So, I hope my little rant made sense. If it is something you are interested in, I highly recommend all of the films mentioned in this pseudo-review. Please, let me know what to think about it.

Bye!


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As Primeiras Mulheres Repórteres | I loved this book

I have no idea why I am writing this in English because there is no market for this topic in Shakespeare’s language, but here we go.

I recently read As Primeiras Mulheres Repórteres, written by Isabel Ventura, and found it to be one of the most interesting nonfiction books I’ve come across in a while. I genuinely believe that if you are interested in feminist theory and Portuguese history of the 20th century, this is a book you will enjoy.

just books I got at Lisbon’s book fair

Even though the book is divided into four parts, I see it more as two main sections. The first portion of the book has a general approach to the subject matter, explaining the situation journalism was in during Estado Novo, the absence of women’s rights at the time and how the two overlapped and influenced each other. The second portion of the book focuses on shedding light on the women who impacted this field during the second half of the 20th century.

We know that before 1933 (the year of the dictatorship regime’s implementation), there were more women registered with the Lisbon Press Professionals Union than in the years that followed. The book explains that the lack of women in journalism was a complex issue, even with the slight increase starting in the 60s. The regime’s instated morals did not justify this problem; it was instead a pileup of the consequences of these morals and the existing constitutional inequality (inequality which was only rectified in the 1976’s constitution).

Gender injustice started in education, at the very first levels of education. Kids were not only physically divided by gender, having to occupy separate spaces in the schools, but the curricula itself was different. Women received an education that was limited, targeted at domestic activities, and did not promote critical thinking. This gendered education, together with women constitutionally not having the same rights as men, steered away from journalism women who would have wanted to work in that field (as well as many other different careers).

The most crucial idea to cling to, which the text acknowledges several times, is that the feminist struggle is linked to the antifascist one, and that is something I am glad the author explored in detail.

There are many more things to mention, but I suggest you people read the book.

If you know of any other books about women in journalism, let me know. In the meanwhile, keep on reading!

Rambling on about “North and South” by Elizabeth Gaskell |IcthusBookCorner

The first thing I want to do is try and explain why I picked up this book in the first place. I read online that North and South was great as a political and/or historical analysis. I am quite interested in both history and politics, especially how those two interact with each other. So when I read that this book was a good portrayal of the class war going on during the Industrial Revolution, I knew I had to pick it up. 

I started to read this book at the beginning of the year, but I stopped doing so almost right away. The first few chapters weren’t really my cup of tea. Not in an unpleasant way, it just felt like any other classic from the 19th century, and that wasn’t what I was looking for. I was expecting this incredible social/economic critical masterpiece which wasn’t happening. When, for some reason, I decided to pick it up again, the aspect (or concept) I was looking for in the first place just appeared before my eyes.

Now, I wanted to try and explain why given what had been said about the book, I thought it would be such a good representation of the time it is depicting. But before, I want to emphasize that I have no higher education in political science or history. So whatever I say here, please that it with a grain of salt.

As I said, the book was written and set during the middle of the 19th century. As we know, the Industrial Revolution was what preceded Feudalism, and what gave birth to Capitalism as we know it today. When we first step into Industrial Revolution, the military aspects of Feudalism were no longer accurate to their original form, but the economic system we were living in was pretty much Feudalism. One of the first places where this change began to happen was in England (where the book takes place) because there is a crazy amount of coal there which was used to make machines work. (please don’t come to this blog for knowledge, I don’t know what I’m saying)

Anyway, the novel touches on several topics that I find incredibly compelling. These include union politics, middle-class rebellion, Industrial Revolution, industrial discontent, gender roles present in Victorian society, and, for those who enjoy it, there is plenty of romance to fill your little hearts.

In this novel, Gaskell navigates the complex exchange between different stations of society. The author does an incredible job exposing the complex nature of the struggle between employees and employers. Incredibly, she gives each character a personal relationship with the struggle, rather than letting them become caricatures. Elizabeth Gaskell wrote what is, for me, a nearly perfect novel. My only complaint is really just the amount of romance, but that is a “me thing”.

I am incredibly excited to read her earlier book (Mary Barton), which is the story she actually intended to write. This, according to the introduction available on the Oxford World Classics edition of North and South.

North and South is probably one of the most thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. If you are into politics, history, and classics in general, I highly recommend it.

Bye, keep on reading. 


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January + February 2022 Books |IcthusBookCorner

There is not a whole lot to report from these two months. During both January and February, I had a lot of trouble focusing not only on books but on most things life is made of… So no more ramblings, let’s just get straight into the books!

I read 5 books during the last 2 months:

  1. O Essencial sobre os Elementos Fundamentais da Cultura Portuguesa by Jorge Dias
  2. Causas da Decadência dos Povos Peninsulares by Antero de Quental
  3. The Single Hound by Emily Dickinson 
  4. Le Petit Nicolas et les Copains by René Goscinny
  5. Os da Minha Rua by Ondjaki

Regarding the languages, I read 1 book in English, 1 book in French, 3 books in Portuguese. Let me clarify that the book in French is a children’s book, and I read it mainly just to practice my very low-level French skills.

O Essencial sobre os Elementos Fundamentais da Cultura Portuguesa & Causas da Decadência dos Povos Peninsulares

The first book is basically an anthropological study about Portuguese people and their collective cultural identity. It was written in the 80s and, because of that, I feel like it is not really as current as it could have been, even though some of it still rings true. The only thing I really didn’t like was how it talks about Portuguese colonialism and imperialism as if to excuse it. And doing so by saying it wasn’t as bad as colonialism from other European countries. (We are against colonialism and imperialism on this blog.)

This was the exact same problem I had with the second book, even if in a slightly different way. Overall, I enjoyed Causas da Decadência dos Povos Peninsulares much more than I enjoyed O Essencial sobre os Elementos Fundamentais da Cultura Portuguesa. And this is because it talks about Portuguese and Spanish history and politics throughout the centuries explaining why the entanglement of those led to a cultural and scientific decline of the Iberian people compared to other countries.

Fun fact: Antero de Quental was part of the “Geração de 70”, an academic movement, from Coimbra, in the 19th century that revolutionized various dimensions of Portuguese culture. (Unlike colonialism, this is something we stand for on this blog.)

The Single Hound

I have always loved poetry, and some poets manage to pull my heartstrings with what appears to be little to no effort. When, in reality, we all know that writing poetry is incredibly hard.

I recently rediscovered Emily Dickinson, and what a joyful experience it has been. The range of feelings she can make me feel using so few words is out of this world.

I highly recommend this poetry collection if you are interested in poetry overall.

Le Petit Nicolas et les Copains

Honestly, there is not a lot to say! It is just a delightful set of short stories about our main character, Nicolas, and his friends. They are always fighting and getting into trouble, just like kids do. It is a sweet, silly, quirky, and quite a realistic book regarding its depiction of childhood. (but it’s not a book you read because of its realism, you know?)

Like I said before, I read it to practice my french. It was recommended to me by a friend who is a fluent speaker, she said it is really good due to its correct grammar and use of language. 

Os da Minha Rua

My review of this is already available here on my blog. Please go read it! All I can say is that Ondjaki is a genius, and I want to read everything by him. 

Bye, keep on reading. 


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Os da Minha Rua by Ondjaki – Book Review|IcthusBookCorner

Ondjaki was born in Angola, in 1977. This is something I could choose not to tell you because if you were to read this book, you would figure that out by yourself.

He is a brilliant author who has published a long list of books and who has won many different awards. But in my opinion, what makes him one of the best writers alive today is how he manages to capture the entire essence of what he chooses to write about.

As I see it, this book is an anthem to childhood, friendship, family, the discovery of life and all the emotions that come with it. And because of that, this book helps us relativize the minor difficulties of life and reminds us of a time in our own lives when it was easier to just relax and be happy. Another compelling aspect of this book is that we can see how this boy’s life is entangled with his country’s political and historical turning-points. 

The book itself is organized in short stories, which one a different memory of our main character. And just like most childhood memories, these short stories come with smell, sound, flavour, … And this explosion of senses transports us into the life of the young boy we are following.

I gave this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. I’ll, without a doubt, be looking for other books by Ondjaki.
Bye, keep on reading. 


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Wings, by Larisa Shepitko – Film Review

Wings was Larisa Shepitko’s debut feature after she graduated from the famous All-Russian State Institute for Cinematography.

The film follows forty-one-year-old Nadezhda Petrukhina, a once WWII Soviet pilot, now living a quiet but unsatisfactory and ordinary life as a principal at a trade school. While treasured and respected by the generation that experienced the same War, Nadezhda struggles to connect with the generation that followed hers. She disapproves of her daughter’s (Tanya’s) choices in men and worries that her daughter might discover she is adopted.

The film is filled with a sense of neverending alienation deepened by a rich array of subject matters. These topics create a cracking portrait characterized by remembrance, grief, longing, and the struggles that come with getting older. 

The film is a superb character study that, surprisingly, ends up providing more hope than sorrow. Maya Bulgakova’s portrayal of Nadezhda has incredible nuance. She effortlessly conveyed the profound, wounded warmth of the character underneath the thick exterior of sombre uprightness. That final closeup of her eyes filled with tears while in the cockpit gave me a punch of sudden sadness!

Wings has a strong sense of Russian postwar nationalism, but it is not afraid to explore the morally ambiguous ramifications of that same nationalism on the human mind. Managing to also explore femininity through the lens of feminism while the movement was picking up steam worldwide.

I recommend this film to everyone who enjoys contemplating human existence and is interested in Soviet cinema. Please, let me know what to think about it.

Bye!


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As You Like It by William Shakespeare – Book Review|IcthusBookCorner

“All the world’s a stage”, said Jaques.

This was the first Shakespeare play I read in English, I had only read “Hamlet” in Portuguese before. I honestly enjoyed it a lot, even though I had some difficulties getting into Shakespeare’s language and writing style at first. At the moment, having read “Much Ado About Nothing“, I feel like I’m much more comfortable with his writing. 

“As You Like It”, a five-act comedy by William Shakespeare, was written and performed around 1599 and first published in the First Folio of 1623.

This play has two main locations: the court that Frederick has taken over from his brother (the rightful Duke), and the Forest of Arden (where the Duke and his followers live in exile).

The central theme of “As You Like It” is love, much like other comedies by Shakespeare. It’s a light-hearted and amusing read where there is disguise, family feud and romance. However, while reading it, I kept thinking about how it might also be about the fluidity of gender, how it could be interpreted as an analysis of queer identity both of gender and sexuality. It is light, has loveable characters, happy messages and not to mention amazing quotes! 

Rosalind was my favourite character in this play. She represents an excellent and ahead of its time female character, whom I enjoyed reading as she experimented with her recently discovered liberties as Ganymede. This is, Rosalind disguises herself as a young man (Ganymede), for the majority of the play, to pursue the man she loves and advise him on how to be a better, conscientious companion and lover. 

In contrast to Jaques, who refuses to have an all-in approach to life and always has something to say about the stupidity of those around him, Rosalind gives herself fully to every moment of her existence.

That is pretty much it, I have nothing else to say about this play. Let me know if you have read this before or watched any of the film adaptations.

Bye, keep on reading.


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Mr Palomar by Italo Calvino – Book Review|IcthusBookCorner

Mr Palomar is a 1983 novel by the Italian writer Italo Calvino. Its original Italian title is Palomar.

It is a work of fiction but reads more like a philosophical understanding of the world we live in. There is no plot but rather an organized account of varied observations made by the main character, whose name is Mr Palomar.

In a series of tweety-seven stories or analyses, he takes his everyday experience from the world as a series of problems in looking and interpreting the nature of reality itself. These episodes or essays sometimes have an aura of magic, spiritual introspection, or philosophical experiences.

The author’s words are beautiful and candid, or at least the translation (William Weaver) is. Calvino chooses his words so carefully and wisely that not one sentence seems expendable. This book is nothing like anything I’ve read before.

Mr Palomar views each object of his attention in length, as a whole, in its details and even possible variations. I reckon everyone at some level can relate to him quite a bit, at least everyone whose mind wanders off or who sets themselves to mull over the puzzles of life. My favourite chapter was titled “The Universe Looks at Itself”, I found the way in which the protagonist beholds the universe to be breathtaking and, I believe I feel like that because it’s pretty similar to the way I do it.

I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys flowery prose and likes to contemplate the human experience. Please, let me know what to think about this book.
Bye, keep on reading.


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My Thoughts on “Much Ado About Nothing” (play and film)

I watched and read Much Ado About Nothing, and here is what I think.

First, let’s talk about the 1993 film. It is wonderfully acted, let me tell you. With the magnificent ensemble of Keneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington and Kate Beckinsale, who could expect anything less?

I have to give all due respect to the cinematographer (Roger Lanser) for using the landscape available so beautifully. Not to mention, the soundtrack (Patrick Doyle) goes amazingly well if the overall absurdist feeling of the film. Overall, the directing style (Kenneth Branagh) was suitable for the story being told.

Just like the original play, this film manages to maintain its fun, lively and light feeling, while somehow adding to the play’s Pythonesque tone.

Listening to Emma Thompson reciting Shakespeare is an entire experience in and of itself, which I didn’t know I needed. What’s more, I believe I feel a bit in love with Denzel Washington, but that is neither here nor there.

Now, allow me to explain the plot. Claudio catches a glimpse of Hero and is immediately in love, and by her expression, she lets us know she reciprocates. While this is happening, Benedick and Beatrice are becoming aware they too are attracted to each other. However, unlike the other pair, their passion is expressed through quarrels and insults.

Since this is, what I would call, a Shakespearean romantic comedy, there is quite a bit of mockery, farce, zingers, and there is melodrama beyond contempt, but it all is right in the end.

The original play is known as one of Shakespeare comedies, and it was written around 1598. But let me tell you, it was only one step from falling into tragedy.

The play’s action is remarkably gamelike. There are dances, eavesdropping, disguises and misunderstandings, which gives us a lighthearted and upbeat pattern.

Something I realized after watching the film was that the play was very much dominated by two side characters. I found myself overlooking the main couple and rooting for Beatrice and Benedick. I reckon this is the result of their intellect and strength when compared to that of other characters in the story. However, I also believe they are afraid of rejection and of being the object of ridicule, so they choose to pretend they hate each other’s guts, for that reason too.

Beatrice is, without a doubt, my favourite of all Shakespeare’s characters. She is both sharp and fierce. Beatrice invented feminism, and we are just living but her rules.

I truly enjoyed this play, mainly because it overflows with wit and has a beautifully engaging set of characters. Furthermore, I applaud the play’s exploration of relevant themes such as betrayal, hypocrisy, and gender roles. (I can’t believe Shakespeare really brought light to the problem with gender roles.)

Please, let me know what to think about this film and play if you have watched or read it. And your experience with Shakespeare overall.
Bye, keep on reading.


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