Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Civil Brawl - Act I scene 1

We will examine the opening fight scene of Romeo and Juliet as a class. Our examination will treat the intricacies of the text, its vocabulary, humour and tension.

You will also watch two film versions and listen to commentaries by the directors.

Before reading

Make sure you understand the following vocabulary. Use the commentary

in choler
to draw
to stir
to stand
to take the wall

The Text

SCENE I. Verona. A public place.

Enter SAMPSON and GREGORY, of the house of Capulet, armed with swords and bucklers

SAMPSON Gregory, on my word, we'll not carry coals.
GREGORY No, for then we should be colliers.
SAMPSON I mean, and we be in choler, we'll draw.
GREGORY Ay, while you live, draw your neck out of collar.
SAMPSON I strike quickly, being moved.
GREGORY But thou art not quickly moved to strike.
SAMPSON A dog of the house of Montague moves me.
GREGORY To move is to stir; and to be valiant is to stand: therefore, if thou art moved, thou runn'st away.
SAMPSON A dog of that house shall move me to stand: I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague's.
GREGORY That shows thee a weak slave; for the weakest goes to the wall.
SAMPSON True; and therefore women, being the weaker vessels, are ever thrust to the wall: therefore I will push Montague's men from the wall, and thrust his maids to the wall.
GREGORY The quarrel is between our masters and us their men.
SAMPSON 'Tis all one, I will show myself a tyrant: when I have fought with the men, I will be cruel with the maids, and cut off their heads.
GREGORY The heads of the maids?
SAMPSON Ay, the heads of the maids, or their maidenheads; take it in what sense thou wilt.
GREGORY They must take it in sense that feel it.
SAMPSON Me they shall feel while I am able to stand: and 'tis known I am a pretty piece of flesh.
GREGORY 'Tis well thou art not fish; if thou hadst, thou hadst been poor John. Draw thy tool! here comes two of the house of the Montagues.
SAMPSON My naked weapon is out: quarrel, I will back thee.
GREGORY How! turn thy back and run?
SAMPSON Fear me not.
GREGORY No, marry; I fear thee!
SAMPSON Let us take the law of our sides; let them begin.
GREGORY I will frown as I pass by, and let them take it as they list.
SAMPSON Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them; which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.
ABRAHAM Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
SAMPSON I do bite my thumb, sir.
ABRAHAM Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
SAMPSON [Aside to GREGORY] Is the law of our side, if I say ay?
SAMPSON No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir. GREGORY Do you quarrel, sir?
ABRAHAM Quarrel sir! no, sir.
SAMPSON If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.
ABRAHAM No better.
SAMPSON Well, sir.
GREGORY Say 'better:' here comes one of my master's kinsmen.
SAMPSON Yes, better, sir.
ABRAHAM You lie.
SAMPSON Draw, if you be men. Gregory, remember thy swashing blow.

They fight

Enter BENVOLIO BENVOLIO Part, fools! Put up your swords; you know not what you do.

Beats down their swords



What, art thou drawn among these heartless hinds? Turn thee, Benvolio, look upon thy death.
BENVOLIO I do but keep the peace: put up thy sword, Or manage it to part these men with me.
TYBALT What, drawn, and talk of peace! I hate the word, As I hate hell, all Montagues, and thee: Have at thee, coward! They fight

Gist questions

1. Of the two characters Gregory and Sampson, who is making fun of /ridiculing/mocking the other?

Gregory mocks Sampson.

2. How does the humour in this scene work? To help you see the section The Biology of Comedy Summaries, and read the summaries of three thinkers who have comtemplated the meaning and origins of laughter.

Each time Sampson makes pretenses of bravery and aggression vis-avis their foes/enemies the Montagues, Gregory mocks him by playing with his choice of words he turns his claims of bravery into those of cowardice.

Gregory goad/provokes Sampson into proving his bravery. The more he does this the more Gregory transforms his words and this starts to rile/make him angry him.

Paraphrase into ordinary English the conversation between Gregory and Sampson.

Back to Romeo and Juliet Class Instructions

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Thinking creatively - Finding scientific themes in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (in prep.)

Figure 1.
Figure 2.

Figure 3.

Figure 4.

Figure 5.

Figure 6.

Figure 7.

Figure 8 . Schematic of a hypothetical three-compartment autocatalytic cycle. (Redrawn from Ulanowicz ,1997 p. 42)
Skills: Listening, reading, sharing information
Language: Metaphor, simile and analogy in science and art, thought maps,...
UNESCO: Thinking creatively and laterally - bridging the science and arts divide
Listening and watching
You are going to watch a short clip from the cartoon A Boy Named Charlie Brown(1969) posted on Youtube. While you watch answer the following questions, and then watch it again and complete the text below with the missing words.
Follow the link:
Gist question
Why does Charlie Brown change his mind?
Comprehension Questions
LUCY: Aren't the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton. I could just lie here all day and watch them drift by. If you use your imagination, you could see lots of things in the cloud formations. What do you think you see, Linus?

LINUS: Well, those clouds up there look ___ ____ ____ a map of the British Hondurus on the Caribean. That cloud up there ____ a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins the famous painter and sculpter, and that group of clouds over there _____ ____ the ___________ of the Stoning of Stephen, I can see the apostle Paul standing there to one side.

LUCY: Uh huh that 's very good, what do you see Charlie Brown

CHARLIE BROWN: Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsey but I changed my mind.


In looking at clouds, sand dunes or driftwood we can all see shapes in them. Take a look at Figures 1-7 above and say what shapes you can see in each image.
Use these structures:
The clouds look like something.
The clouds are like something.
The clouds remind me of something.
The clouds are sort of like something.
The clouds are exactly like something.
The coulds are something.
It is as if the clouds are something.
The clouds are the same shape as something
Share your ideas with the class.
Some terms
simile : comparison using like or as
metaphor: comparison that omits like or as
analogy: use of a model or example to explain something
  • Which phrases are simile and which are metaphor?

In this lesson you will study the mind's ability to form metaphors and its importance to both science and art. You will also be asked to think about different aspects of the play Romeo and Juliet, such as its structure, its various interpretations and its themes. You'll also be asked to use your imagination to form analogies with the play and Nature or society.
Please note that if something in your readings reminds you of something quite unrelated from your studies or personal exprience you should consider it and write it down - don't edit your thoughts. As you will soon discover sthe ource of hypotheses is very often metaphor.
I'd like you now to do the reading exercise below. It concerns the role and the origin of the use of metaphors in science.

The importance and origin of analogy and metaphor in science

Reading Comprehension 1

Part a)

'In both the arts and sciences the programmed brain seeks elegance, which is the parsimonious and evocative description of pattern to make sense out of a confusion of detail. Edward Rothstein, a critic trained in both mathematics and music, compares their creative processes:

We begin with objects that look dissimilar. We compare, find patterns, analogies with what we already know. We distance ourselves and create abstractions, laws and systems, using transformations, mappings, and metaphors. This is how mathematics grows increasingly abstract and powerful; it is how music obtains much of its power, with grand structures growing out of small details. This form of comprehension underlies much of Western thought. We pursue knowledge that is universal in its perspective but its powers are grounded in the particular. We use principles that are shared but reveal details that are distinct.

Now compare that insight with the following independent account of creativity in the physical sciences. The writer is Hideki Yukawa, who spent his career working on the nuclear binding forces of the atom, making discoveries for which he became the first Japanese to receive the Nobel Prize in physics.

Suppose there is something which a person cannot understand. He happens to notice the similarity of this something to some other thing which he understands quite well. By comparing them he may come to understand the thing which he could not understand up to that moment. If his understanding turns out to be appropriate and nobody else has ever come to such an understanding, he can claim that his thinking was really creative.

Part b)

The arts, like the sciences start in the real world. They then reach out to all possible worlds, and finally to all conceivable worlds. Throughout they project the human presence on everything in the universe. Given the power of metaphor, perhaps the arts began with what may be called the "Picasso effect." The artist is reported by his photographer and chronicler Brassai to have said in 1943:

"If it occurred to man to create his own images, it's becausehe discovered them all around him, almost formed, already within grasp. He saw them in a bone, in the irregular surfaces of cavern walls, in a piece of wood. One might suggest a woman, another a bison, and still another the head of a demon." They have come that route by perception of what Gregory Bateson and Tyler Folk have callled metapatterns, those circles, spheres, borders and centers, binaries, layers, cycles, breaks and other geometric configurations that occur repeatedly in nature and provide easily recognisable clues to the identity of more complicated objects.'

From: Wilson, E.O (1998) Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, Abacus, London. pp. 243-244


Part a)

1)On which of the following subjects is the extract focused?

a) mathematics


c)Western thought

d) elegance

2) The word elegance in line 1 is closest to which word below?

A) simplicity

B) beauty

C) style

D) loyalty

3)The word "pattern" in line 2 could be best replaced by

a) invention

b) motif

c) graph

d) scheme

4) Where does Edward Rothstein think the source of general principles is located

A) In generalities
B) In details
C) In muscial notes
D) In mathematical equations

5) Write a series of instructions for creating abstractions. Use the the imperative verb form and sequencers.

6) According to Rothstein where does the success of music and mathematics lie?

7) What would be the most accurate title for the quote from Hideki Yukawa

A) How to improve understanding of the unknown from drawing comparisons with the known.

B) The value of analogy.

C) A guide to creative thinking .

D) How to win a Nobel Physics Prize.

8) Complete the following using the quote from Hideki Yukawa using the letters 'x' and 'y'

Hidekai Yukawa was Noble Prize winner in 1949 for physics. He believed that analogy could be used to solve apparently unrelated problems. For example, if we have something that is not understood, let's call it ____ , that is similar to something understood , let’s call it ____, then by comparison we may come to understand ____.

Questions Part B - Thinking laterallly and creatively about Romeo and Juliet

  • In your groups consider the following questions and then share the anwers with the class.
  • Think about the two film versions again and review what is the same and what is different about them
  • Try to find a comparison between the phenomenon of the play modernizing and something in either society or nature.
  • Now begin Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension 2

The following reading comprehension is about Systems. The passages come from the latest edition of the reknowned freshman textbook Biology by the late Neil Campbell and Jane Reece. They introduce the concept of systems theory to students. This is a field of study that was for many years relegated to the fringe of science. I remember introducing it to some first year physics students in one English class in France some years ago. They considered the it "du pipeau", a perjorative term which translates as 'something you shouldn't take very seriously'. The final extract from Campbell and Reece (2005) might help explain why they thought this.

Biological Systems are more than the sum of their parts

" The whole is greater than the sum of its parts." That familiar adage captures the important concept that a combination of components can form a more complex organisation called a system. Examples of biological systems are cells, organisms, and ecosystems. To understand how such systems work, it is not enough to have a « parts list », even a complete one. The future of biology is in understanding the behavior of the whole integrated system. (Campbell and Reece, 2005 p9)

The Emergent Properties of Systems

...With each step upward in ...hierarchy of biological order, novel properties emerge that are not present at the level just below. These emergent properties are due to the arrangement and interations of parts as complexity increases. For example, a test tube mixture of chlorophyll and all the other molecules found in a chloroplast cannot perform photosynthesis. The process of photosynthesis emerges from the very specific way in which the chlorophyll and other molecules are arranged in an chloroplast...

Emergent properties are neither supernatural nor unique to life. We can see the importance of arrangement in the distinction between a box of bicycle parts and a working bicycle. And while grahite and diamonds are both pure carbon they have very different properties based on how their carbon atoms are arranged. But compared to such nonliving examples , the emergent properties of life are particularly challenging (Campbell and Reece, 2005 p9)

Systems Biology

Biology is turning in an exciting new direction as many researchers begin to complement reductionism with new strategies for understanding the emergent properties of life – how all the parts of biological systems such as cells are functionaly integrated. This changing perspective is analogous to moving from ground level on a certain street corner to an aerial view above a city, where you can now see how variables such as time of day, construction projects, accidents, and trafic signal malfunctions affect traffic dynamics throughout the city.

The ultimate goal of systems biology is to model the dynamic behavior of whole biological systems. Accurate models will enable biologists to predict how a change in one or more variables will impact other components and the whole system...p10

...A number of prominent scientists are promoting systems biology with missionary zeal, but so far, the excitement exceeds the achievements. However, as systems biology gathers momentum, it is certain to have growing impact on the questions biologists ask and the research they design. After all, scientists aspired to reach beyond reductionism to grasp how whole biological systems long before new technology made modern systems biology possible. In fact, decades ago, biologists had already identified some of the key mechanisms that regulate the behavior of complex systems such as cells organisms and ecosystems (Campbell and Reece, 2005 p. 11)


1) Define 'emergent properties of a system'

A) The attributes that the parts of a system only have when put together.

B)The birth of systems.

C) The independent behavior individual parts of a system.

D) The attributes that a system has that its individual parts do not have.

2 ) The word 'adage' in line 1 can best be replaced with

A) saying

B) axe

C) addition


3)Does the adage the "The whole is greater than the sum of its parts" refer to "the emergent properties a system"?

A) True

B) False

4) Why do you think the authors say that emergent propertires are not supernatural? Give your opinion.

5) According to the text systems bBiology will

A) replace reductionism.

B) work with reductionism.

C) enhance reductionism.

D) show the importance of reductionism.

6) The primary objective of systems biology is to

A) foretell what is most likely to happen when something happens to components in a biological system.

B) help us understand whole organisms

C) demonstrate the importance of analogies

D) help us understand systems in society such as traffic problems in a city

7) Why are the authors critical of the enthusiasm of researchers trying to advance systems biology?

A) Because they have very few results from their research.

B) Because biologist have had a systems approach for a number of decades and this is nothing really new.

C)Because they force scientists to ask unconventional questions and redseign their experiments.

D) Because scientists dislike enthusiasm in research.

8) 'missionary zeal' could be replaced with

A) religious fervour

B) crusading enthusiasm

C) spiritual devotion

D) extreme fanatasism

Reading Comprehension 3

The following extracts are from a book called Ecology, the Ascendent Perspective by Robert Ulanowicz, one of the scientistific zealots that Campbell and Reece(2005) refer to. In his work he looks for basic principles to explain how natural systems develop and how they maintain themselves over time.

"We have to discover the principles of organization, how lots of things are put together in the same place." (Lewin, 1984:1327). Therefore we begin our search for ordering agencies by considering what sort of interaction might ensue when two processes occur in close proximity to one another. There are three qualitative effects the first process could have on the second, it could be beneficial (+), detrimental (-) or it could have no effect whatsoever (0). The second process could have any of these same effects on the first. ...


Mutualism is defined as (+ +)...we shall take (it) as "positive feedback comprised of wholly positive interactions." Mutualism so defined need not involve only two processes; when more than two elements are involved it becomes "indirect mutualism". A schematic of indirect mutualism among three processes is represented in Figure 8. (see above) The plus sign near the end of the arrow from A to B indicates that an increase in the rate of process A has a strong propensity to increase the rate of B, etc ...In this sense the behaviour of the loop is said to be "autocatalytic", a term borrowed from chemistry meaning "self-enhancing". In any autocatalytisystem, an increase in the activity of any participant will tend to increase the activities of all others as well.

As a first example, atocatalytic configurations...are growth enhancing. An increment in the activity of any member engenders greater activity in all other elements...Far less attention is the selection pressure that the autocatalytic form exerts on its components. for example, if a random chnage should occurin the behaviour of one member that either (a) makes it more sensitive to catalysis by the preceding element or (b) accelerates its catalytic influenceupon the next compartment, thenthe effects of such alterationwill return to the starting compartment as a reinforcement of the new behaviour. The opposite is also true:...suppose that A, B, and C are three sequential elements comprising an autocatalytic lop and that some new element appearsby happenstance. It is more sensitive to catalysis by A, and provides greater enhancement to the activity C than does B. The D will either grow to overshadow B's role in the loop, or will displace it altogether ...

In like manner one can argue that C could be replaced by some other component E and A by F so that the final configuration D-E-F contains none of the original elements. It is important to notice that the characteristic time (duration) is longer than its constituents. The persistance of form beyond constituents is hardly an unusual phenomenon - one sees it in the survival of corporate bodies beyond the tenure of individual executives or workers, or in plays, like those of Shakespeare, that endure beyond the lifetime of individual actors...

Extracts from Ulanowicz, R. (1997) Ecology, the ascendent perspective. Columbia University Press pp. 41, 42, 46 & 49.


to remind : to remind someone of something
to remember: to remember something


Campbell, N.A and Reece, J.B. (2005)Biology. Pearson - Benjamin Cummings

Hoffman, R(2006)The Metaphor, Unchained. American Scientist 94(5)p.406 Online version:

Miller, A. I (1996) Metaphor in Creative Scientific Thought. Creativity Research Journal. Volume: 9. Issue: 3. 113-130

Ulanowicz, R. (1997) Ecology, the ascendent perspective. Columbia University Press

Wilson, E.O. (1997) Consilience, the Unity of Knowledge. Abacus.

Photos courtesy of Flickr

Figure 1. by jpstanely
Figure 2. by julien
Figure 3. by Tommok
Figure 4. by Hamed Saber
Figure 5. by levianthor
Figure annpar
Figure 7. by basket4life

Nature, Art & Language

© All copyright Ray Genet 2008

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Class Project - Instructions

Verona, Italy
This is likely to be Shakespeare's most famous and perhaps, by the general public, the most misunderstood play. It is generally considered to be primarily about romantic love, but it contains much more. The theme of love is, to say the very least, expertly represented by Shakespeare, and as the reader gets to know the play, we see how it is used to make us contemplate many other equally important things such as, dream and reality, destiny and free will, morality and compromise, etc. These ideas are the preoccupations of the characters and the reason the reader can return to this play again and again.
Play's sources and history

Not unlike many other of Shakespeare's plays, Romeo and Juliet has a variety of sources. Certainly the oldest known source is a second century novel by the Greek author Xenophon of Epheus. It was rewritten as a poem in 1562 by Arthur Brooke, who had drawn on earlier Italian sources. William Shakespeare took the story and modified it for his generation. After three years of work it was completed and performed for the first time in the mid 1590's (Spencer, 1967).
Classroom and language lab exercise: The Prologue and The Civil Brawl, Act I Scene 1
Follow the link below and read and watch two film versions of the Prologue to the play and complete the exercises provided. The Prologue
Group Work
In groups of 2-3 students you will be assigned a section from the play to study. Once you recieve it follow the procedure below:
  • Break the section down into parts
  • Give each part a title
  • Decide on a brief synopsis
  • Quote where appropriate
  • Note themes
  • Give insights into major characters
  • Put your section into the context of the play by placing it on a time line
  • Watch your section on video using links to Youtube provided . Use Zeffirelli's 1968 version and compare it to Lurhmann's 1996 one.
  • Summarize your findings
  • Give a brief but dynamic illustrated presentation lasting no more than 10 minutes


1. Act I scene 1 - The Civil Brawl

From:SAMPSON: Upon my word we'll not carry coals

To: LADY MONTAGUE: you shall not stir one foot to seek a foe.

2. Act I scene 1 - Who is Romeo?

From: LADY MONTAGUE: O where is Romeo? Saw you him today?

To: BENVOLIO: I'll pay that doctrine, or else die in debt.

3. Act I scene 3 - Who is Juliet?

From: LADY MONTAGUE: Nurse where's my daughter? Call her forth to me.

To: NURSE: Go girl, seek happy nights to happy days.

4. Act I Scene 4 - Queen Mab and The Interpretation of Dreams

From: ROMEO: What, shall this speech be spoke for our excuse?

To: BENVOLIO: Strike, drum

5. Act I Scene 5 - "The Party" - Romeo and Juliet meet - The sonnet

From: CAPULET: Welcome gentlemen! Ladies that have their toes...

To: NURSE: Come let's away, the strangers are all gone...

6. Act II Scene 2 - Balcony Scene

From:ROMEO: He jests at scars that never felt a wound

To: ROMEO: His help to crave, and my dear hap to tell.

7. Act II Scene 3 - Enter Friar Laurence

From: FRIAR: Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye

To: FRIAR: Wisely and slow. They stumble that run fast.

8. Act III Scene 3 - Romeo banished!

From: FRIAR:Romeo come forth. Come forth thou fearful man.

To: ROMEO: Farewell.

9. Act IV: Scene 1 - Sleeping potion

From:FRIAR: On Thursday, sir? The time is very short.

To JULIET: Farewell, dear father.

10. Act V Scene 1 - Poison

From:ROMEO: If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep,

To: ROMEO: To Juliet's grave. For there must I use thee.


Essay topics: 500 words maximum

Were the actions of Friar Laurence inherently right or wrong?

Ethics is the disipline of deciding when an action is right or wrong. In order to determine this it is first necessary to agree on certain values. As our modern society has no longer absolute moral rules this is very difficult.

Professor Margaret Somerville working on behalf of UNESCO has recommended that we all accept two basic values which will guide us in making ethical decisions. They are as follows: "...first we must always act to ensure profound respect for life, in particular human life; second, we must protect and promote the human spirit." Somerville defines the human spirit as two things. Firstly, the sense of that we are all connected to one another and to Nature. Secondly, that which makes life worth living. She goes on to say that, "If our development or use of any given scientific technology, for example, would seriously harm the fulfilment of either of these two values, it is inherently wrong." (Somerville, 2006 p.18).


Somerville, M.A.(2006) 'Searching for Ethics in a Secular Society', in ten Have, H. ed. Ethics of Science and Technology. UNESCO, Paris

Monday, July 21, 2008

Commentary: Enter Friar Laurence - Act II Scene 3

  • The soil can be used for burying the dead and for growing plants.
  • Every creature no matter how lowly has a good use for the inhabitants of the earth.
  • But once they are used inappropriately then the consequences are unpredictable and dangerous.
  • Virtue used in the wrong context becomes its opposite: vice.
  • Vice can become a good thing when it is also used in the wrong context or "misapplied" for the purpose of good.
  • A plant can be used as both poison and medicine depending on how it is applied.
  • The willingness can be used for devotion to God or lust.
  • When there is too much lust the person dies.

The theme of Friar Laurence's rhyming soliloquy is that both good and bad are found in nature and people. The goodness or "virtue" in something is determined by how it is used or applied. He begins talking about the earth and mother nature:

The earth that's nature's mother is her tomb.
What is her burying grave that is her womb;

In other words:

The earth is both the mother of nature and the place where she is buried.
The place where she is buried is also the place where she produces life.

Friar Laurence tells us that both life and death is found in the earth. The earth is both the place where living things are buried, but also where they are born; that is, the earth is both the tomb and the womb of nature. This foreshadows the death of the two lovers (Act V Scene 3) which is, to say the least, tragic, but gives birth to the reconciliation between the two feuding families.

And from her womb children of divers kind
We sucking on her natural bosom find,
Many for many virtues excellent
None but for some, and yet all different

In other words:

From the soil, the earth's womb, a great variety of plants, the earth's children, are produced. By seeking food, or in Shakespeare's words, "sucking on her natural bosom" we discover a great variety of plants that are useful for a great variety of good things or "virtues". The word "virtue" was used up until the middle of the seventeenth century to denote the ultimate purpose of something, its final cause or its "finality"(Simon, 1986 p.74). Simon (1986) renamed it "existential readineness".

O mickle is the powerful grace that lies
In plants, herbs, stones, and their true qualities.
For naught so vile that on earth doth live
But to the earth some special good doth give;

In other words:

Oh how strong is the divine force in plants, herbs and stones and in their real properties. There is nothing so lowly and ugly living on earth that can't give some kind of special goodness back to those who live on the earth. This pre-empts the coming discourse on morality.

Nor aught so good but, strained from that fair use,
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.

In other words:

Everything is good, however once misused it acts in the opposite way from what it was intended and then faulters or collapses. Friar Laurence understands the principles involved and the dangers in manipulating the elements, he must be very sure he understands the qualities of all the elements and when one is abusing them or using them correctly. This is clearly applicable to science and the risks of manipulation.

Virtue itself turns vice being misapplied
And vice sometime's by action dignified

In other words:

By the same token when a virtue is not used in its proper sense it becomes evil. What's more, evil can sometimes become goodness when applied in certain ways. In summary an action can be either a virtue or a vice depending on how or in what context it is applied.

For the Greeks every action is aimed at some good. As Aristotle says in Book I of Nicomachaen Ethics:

Every art, and every science reduced to a teachable form, and in like manner every action and moral choice, aims, it is thought, at some good: for which reason a common and by no means a bad description of the Chief Good is, " that which all things aim at."

For Aristotle the goodness or rightness of an action was determined by how well it led the doer their goal. An action had to be carefully and rationally planned based on a clear understanding of the End and the moral rules necessary to realise it. It would be too much to say that Aristotle promoted the idea of the ends justifying the means. However this may be the meaning of Friar Laurence.

Within the rind of this weak flower
Poison hath residence and medicine power.

In other words:

In the skin of this fragile flower poison and medicine can be found.

For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part;
being tasted, stays all senses with the heart.

In other words:

If sniffed it is beneficial, if tasted it is fatal. A plant is poisonous or medicinal depending on how it is applied.

Two such opposed kings encamp them still
In man as well as herbs – grace and rude will

In other words:

Willingness (Spencer, 1996) or readineness to act (Simon, 1986) can lead to grace or rude will depending on how it is applied. For Simon (1986) there is 'qualitative readiness' and 'existential readiness'. The former is knowledge and skills to do something. The latter is the willingness to do it. This willingness or readiness is something that can be apllied for good or bad purposes. Grace and rude will are equal and opposite.

This is relevant to science and ethics. Students are developing qualitative readiness through their studies. A course of ethics or ethical reflection is necessary to develop existential readiness.
Is this the same thing in NE?
Aristotle calls readiness to act as Hexis/Habitus/Disposition

And where the worser is predominant,
Full soon the canker death eats up that plant

In other words:

And where rude will or lust is dominant very quickly the cankerworm will consume the plant. In this context the plant is the metaphor for the body and the canker death the metaphor for some destructive force that will lead to the death of the body.

Friar Laurence seems to believe that the principle he describes of the relativity of goodness in nature is applicable to plants and vice versa. Armed with this he is ready to meddle in the affairs of the two lovers.

From examples of nature, Friar Laurence believes that death is not only part of life but necessary for life. Death can be viewed positively because it leads to life. He goes on to say that all life forms no matter how ugly and insignificant have something positve and beneficial for the inhabitants of the earth. He takes the example of a flower to illustrate the point that good and bad is found together in the same entity depending on how it is applied. Willingness in people can be used for grace or doing the will of God or for lust. If lust predominates over grace then the human body will die.


aught: anything, all, everything : "aught I care"
bosom: breast
divers: diverse
grave: hole in the ground where a dead body is placed
None but for some: All plants have some use. (Spencer, 1967).
tomb: ornate above ground structure in which a dead body is placed
womb: the uterus, the part of a woman's body in which a baby develops


Levenson, , J.L (2000) The Oxford Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet.

Nicomachaen Ethics - Aristotle. Translated by D.P.Chase, 1911, Aristotle's Ethics. Dover Thrift Editions, New York

Russel, Bertrand (1996) History of Western Philosophy. Routeledge Classics.

Simon, Y. (1986) cited in Joseph Malikail MORAL CHARACTER: HEXIS, HABITUS AND 'HABIT', Minerva - An Internet Journal of Philosophy Vol. 7 2003.

Spencer, T.J.B (1996) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. The New penguin Shakespeare. London.

©All copyright, Ray Genet 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

*Enter Friar Laurence : Act II Scene 3 lines 1-26


Now, ere the sun advance his burning eye,

The day to cheer and night's dank dew to dry,

I must up-fill this osier cage of ours

With baleful weeds and precious-juiced flowers.

The earth that's nature's mother is her tomb;

What is her burying grave that is her womb,

And from her womb children of divers kind

We sucking on her natural bosom find:

Many for many virtues excellent,

None but for some and yet all different.

O, mickle is the powerful grace that lies

In herbs, plants, stones, and their true qualities:

For nought so vile that on the earth doth live

But to the earth some special good doth give,

Nor aught so good but, strain'd from that fair use,

Revolts from true birth, stumbling on abuse.

Virtue itself turns vice, being misapplied;

And vice sometimes by action dignified.

Within the infant rind of this weak flower

Poison hath residence and medicine power:

For this, being smelt, with that part cheers each part;

Being tasted, slays all senses with the heart.

Two such opposed kings encamp them still

In man as well as herbs, grace and rude will;

And where the worser is predominant,

Full soon the canker death eats up that plant.

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Queen Mab and The Interpretation of Dreams - in prep


Use the Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary to help you define the following words:

agate-stone = chalendony - a type of quartz
hazel nut
spinners (plural noun)
spokes (noun)
traces (plural noun)


...the fairies' midwife

A midwife is someone who helps a mother give birth. Spencer (1967) thinks that this person does not help fairies give birth but she assists people give birth to dreams

In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,

'The agate-stone' refers to a seal ring of an English state offical. The stone was usually engraved with a figure, and Queen Mab is about the size of this image (Spencer, 1967 p.192).

Drawn with a team of little atomies

A chariot is drawn (from the verb 'to draw') or pulled by a team or a group of horses. In this case the carriage of Queen is pulled by little atomies or "tiny creatures" (Spencer, 1967 p.193).

Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub

The squirrel gnaws the hazel nut and sculpts like a joiner or cabinet maker, while the grub or woodworm bores holes in it (Spencer, 1967, p.193).

Time out o'mind the fairies' coachmakers

I presume 'Time out o'mind' means something like 'time immemorial' or 'prehistoric' or 'long beyond memory'', although I have never heard this expression before. So, here the fairies' coachmakers, who are squirrel and grub, have been making coaches since time immorial or longer than anyone can remember.

The traces the smallest of spider's webs

The traces are the chains, ropes or leather straps used to attach a horse to a carriage. Here the straps of Queen Mab's carriage are made of a spider's web.

Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat,

Not so big as a round little worm

Prick’d from the lazy finger of a maid;

The person who drives her coach is a gnat who wears a grey coat. It is about the same size as a maggot that develops is prick'd or removed with a pin or a needle from a lazy servant's finger. According to Spencer (1967) it was the common saying of Shakespeare's day that maggots, or the larvae of flies, would grow in the hands of indolent serving girls.

O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on curt’sies straight,

A courtier is someone who flatters and/or is a member of a royal court.

I dreamt a dream tonight.
MERCUTIO: And so did I.
ROMEO: Well, what was yours?
MERCUTIO: That dreamers often lie.
ROMEO: In bed asleep, while they do dream things true.
"O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an
with a team of little
Over men’s noses as they lie asleep;
Her chariot is an empty
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.
Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider’s web,
The collars of the moonshine’s watery beams,
Her whip of cricket’s bone, the lash of film,
Her wagoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not so big as a round little worm
Prick’d from the lazy finger of a maid;
And in this state she gallops night by night
Through lovers’ brains, and then they dream of love;
O’er courtiers’ knees, that dream on curt’sies straight,
O’er lawyers’ fingers, who straight dream on fees,
O’er ladies ‘ lips, who straight on kisses dream,
Which oft the angry Mab with blisters plagues,
Because their breaths with sweetmeats tainted are:
Sometime she gallops o’er a courtier’s nose,
And then dreams he of smelling out a suit;
And sometime comes she with a tithe-pig’s tail
Tickling a parson’s nose as a’ lies asleep,
Then dreams, he of another benefice:
Sometime she driveth o’er a soldier’s neck,
And then dreams he of cutting foreign throats,
Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
Of healths five-fathom deep; and then anon
Drums in his ear, at which he starts and wakes,
And being thus frighted swears a prayer or two
And sleeps again.
This is that very Mab
That plaits the manes of horses in the night,
And bakes the elflocks in foul sluttish hairs,
Which once untangled, much misfortune bodes:
This is the hag, when maids lie on their backs,
That presses them and learns them first to bear,
Making them women of good carriage:
This is she—"

ROMEO: Peace, peace, Mercutio, peace!
thou talkst of nothing.

True I talk of dreams;
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy;
Which is as thin as air,
And more inconstant than the wind, who woos
Even now the frozen bosom of the North
And, being angered, puffs away from thence,
Turning his side to the dew-dropping South

Film versions Queen Mab Speech

Romeo and Juliet Act I Scene 4
Zeffirelli's version on Youtube From minute 1:01
Lhurmann's version on Youtube from minute 1:57 -4:43

Compare Mercutio's thesis on dreams and that of Freud's, and contemporary researchers.

Refer to The Interpretations of Dreams (1900) by Sigmund Freud

Key concepts:

  • wish fulfillment - desires are symbolised
  • dreams and day dreams have much in common
  • repressed wishes come out in dreams because it is safer that way
  • dream contents: latent(symbolic); manifest content (obvious and direct)
  • socially disturbing wishes are highly symbolic and difficult to interpret
  • dream may protect the mind from conflict in the subconscious

p255 Barron's Toefl

Compare with Activation Synthesis Theory - Hobson, A. and McCarley (1977) claim that dreams have no meaning at all. They are created by neural firings in an area in the brain called the pons. The mind just strings the impulses together in some kind of order.

The problem with Activation Synthesis Theory is that people with a damaged pons still dream. This suggests that it is higher brain function that cause us to dream and this lends credance to Freuds' theories.See Guardian Article 2004 Field of Dreams for an up to date overview of the theory of dreams.

Nevertheless, Mercutio appears to agree with both Freud and Hobson & McCarley. He sides with Freud, who proposed that dreams were wish fulfillmentin, in saying that lovers dream of love, soldiers dream of cutting foreign throats and so on. He also agrees with Hobson & McCarley, who claim that dreams are just the mind's attempt to piece together random information.

Lecture: G. William Domhoff - "The Awesome Lawfulness of Your Nightly Dreams" UC Santa Cruz Music Recital Hall - on Youtube

Listen to the introduction to Domhoff's lecture and say what he thinks of the work of Freud, Jung and Hobson & Mcarley.

Freud and Jung interpreters of metaphor

no emperical support for their ideas

the Activation Synthesis Theory completely wrong

Return to Romeo and Juliet Instructions


Spencer, T.J.B (1967) Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. The New Penguin Shakespeare

Back to Romeo and Juliet Class Project - Instructions

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Sonnet - Romeo and Juiet Act I Sc. 5

Saints do not move though grant for prayers' sake

Exercise 1 Understanding Romeo and Juliet's First Meeting

1)Examine the sonnet from Act I Sc. 5 of Romeo and Juliet presented below and try to determine the rhyming pattern. To do this read the last word of every line.
2)Then count the number of syllables per line.
3) Read a line out loud and say where you think the stress falls; is it on the first or second syllable?
4) The text is divided into 4 colored parts (the colors are arbitrary). The class should be divided into groups. Each group is responsible for paraphrasing one of the four sections of the sonnet. This should take around 20-30 minutes. Once the paraphrase is completed students should present it to the class.
5) Once you have heard all the paraprhases from your classmates in your groups consider what metaphors are used.
6) How are these conflicting metaphors reconciled?

Act I Scene 5

ROMEO [To JULIET] If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.

JULIET Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss.

ROMEO Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?

JULIET Ay, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.

ROMEO O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.

JULIET Saints do not move, though grant for prayers' sake.

ROMEO Then move not, while my prayer's effect I take.

Watch this scene from Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 film version of Romeo and Juliet using Youtube:

Exercise 2: The Picasso Effect and the Sonnet

The variable surface of the walls of a cave can act as bas-relief for cave paintings See the image of horses from the Chauvet caves in France discovered in 1994. The image is older than 30, 000 years:

One could wonder what possible underlying natural structure was used to construct this sonnet. See if you can identify it.

Answers to come...

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Romeo and Juliet Class Project - Instructions

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© All Copyright, 2007, Ray Genet