The Life of Natalie

Life Story

Hello, my name is Natalie Parham and I’m a freshman here at Lenoir-Rhyne.  Here at LR I play softball and were about to start our fall season in a couple of weeks and I’m very excited!  I grew up in Granite Falls North Carolina it’s about 15 minutes away from Hickory.  When I was growing up I went through some hard times because I grew up with a heart defect.  I was about 2 years old when my parents found out about the defect because at first the Doctors thought it was a mummor.  I remember being at a football game and walking to the concession stand made me out of breath.  That’s when I knew something was wrong.  In October of my Freshman year of High School I had to have heart surgery.  It was probably the scardest I have ever been.  As of right now I still have 30% pressure on my heart and I still have trouble breathing but it’s not near as bad.  I’m supposed to go have another surgery soon but I told my parents that I was never going through it again!  As of right now the softball workouts are really hard on me but I manage to make it through like everyone else.

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The Women of Othello: A New Attitude

By:  Natalie Parham

Dec. 8, 2016

The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice was believed to have been written in 1603 by William Shakespeare.  The play begins with the secret marriage of Othello to Desdemona and then ends with both of them dead on the marriage bed.  The downfall of Othello’s marriage to Desdemona is brought about by Iago, an ensign in the military under Othello.  He sets in play a series of happenings that wrongfully accuse Othello’s pure, innocent, faithful wife Desdemona of adultery.  Desdemona has long been thought of, by some readers, as being a boringly obedient, goody-two-shoes character who meekly accepts her fate.  In Paula Vogel’s Desdemona, A Play about a Handkerchief, the female characters take on new personalities and answer the question, “What if Desdemona was really not so innocent after all?”  Vogel brings them into the 21st century by giving them some strong female characteristics.

Of the three main characters in Vogel’s play, Bianca, Emilia, and Desdemona, Bianca is the least changed.  In Othello, Bianca is listed as a courtesan, or prostitute.  Although readers may take Iago and Emilia at their word, Shakespeare scholar Susan Snyder thinks otherwise.  “Bianca is a strumpet-or is she?  Bianca denies it, and we have no evidence from the text that she sells her favors as Iago says,” (Snyder 296). She is labeled a courtesan, because she is Cassio’s lover.   In Vogel’s play she is a local prostitute and doesn’t deny it.  She is good friends with Desdemona and even lets Desdemona “work” in her place at the brothel upon occasion.  Desdemona admires Bianca for her views on wanting  to be a “new woman”.

To Desdemona, Bianca scorns marriage for the lie it is.  She thinks that marriage is just another form of prostitution.  Your husband can sleep around on you, you are at his mercy, but you don’t get paid for it.  In Othello, Bianca feels jealousy but keeps those emotions hidden.   In Vogel’s play, Desdemona’s lost handkerchief becomes a gift to Bianca from Cassio who wants to marry her.  She flies into a jealous rage when she learns it first belonged to Desdemona.  Although the character type is similar in both plays, Bianca is a much more interesting and bold character in Vogel’s play.

The second character is Emilia,  Iago’s wife, and Desdemona’s servant.  In Othello, she is painted as being deeply attached and loyal to Desdemona even though,she waits until it is too late to confess to taking the handkerchief.  This information could have potentially stopped Desdemona’s murder.  Emilia tends to be cynical and worldly.  From conversations with Desdemona in Act 4, she claims that she would willingly commit adultery if the price was right.  Emilia stated, “Who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch?/  I would venture purgatory for ‘t” (4.3 85-87).  It makes the reader wonder if she ever slept with Othello to promote her husband to the job of Lieutenant, which was later given to Cassio.

In Vogel’s play, Emilia is also Desdemona’s loyal servant, but stead of having slightly questionable morals, she is easily shocked by Desdemona’s loose talk and behavior and lectures her on her unvirtuous behavior.  She says that Bianca is no “new woman” but rather the same as any other prostitute.  She supports, but hates Iago and even though she pesters Desdemona to appeal for a promotion for him, it is because she would rather see herself as a rich widow when he dies than a poor one.  She argues with Bianca about her influence on Desdemona, and gets upset when they treat her like a servant.   Emilia and Desdemona have a much closer relationship in Othello; though in both stories, Emilia is the reason for the disappearance of the handkerchief.  By giving it to her husband Iago, she gives him the ammunition to set the trap for Desdemona’s destruction.   She could have saved Desdemona if she had confessed earlier.

The most changed character is Desdemona.  In Othello, the words virtuous, faithful, pure, meek, and loyal would apply to her character.  In Vogel’s play, she is unvirtuous, unfaithful, promiscuous, bold, and disloyal.  She sleeps with her husband’s entire military garrison, except for Cassio.  She prostitutes once a week at the brothel in Bianca’s place.  It is almost as if she gives away her body freely, because it is the only thing she has control over to give.  Desdemona is disappointed to find that her partner in crime, Bianca has agreed to marry Cassio.  She feels betrayed and alone.  Tire of all the restrictions in her life, she decides to run away with her rich lover, Ambassador Ludovico.   Frantic that she has misplaced the handkerchief Othello had given her and afraid for it to be found somewhere compromising, she plans to leave the next morning with her lover.  She tells Emilia she has decided not to take her with her.  At this point in the play, Desdemona is looking out for her own best interests.

Tragically this story ends the same way for Desdemona as in Othello.  Emilia pleads, “M’lady, don’t go to your husband’s bed tonight.  Lie apart- stay in my chamber” (Vogel, 44)  Desdemona replies, “Surely he’ll not harm a sleeping woman,” (Vogel, 45)  Since Desdemona plans to meet Ambassador Ludovico in the morning, she thinks she will be safe enough for one more night.  Ironically, the person who Othello believes Desdemona is guilty of sleeping with is the only man in his employ that she hasn’t betrayed him with.  So, in this play as well, Desdemona’s death is the result of a wrongful accusation.

Even though the result are the same, Vogel brings out boldness, decisiveness, and girl-power in Othello’s female characters.  Bianca embraces her profession and uses the money to further her enticement of Cassio.  She gets what she wants with his marriage proposal.  Emilia, although more timid, schemes to make her husband rich, so she can one day be a rich widow.  Desdemona’s character is bold and brazen.  She embraces her feminine side and uses it to plan to remove herself from her boring life.  Although it doesn’t work out like Desdemona planned, Vogel’s play illustrates an empowered character that didn’t meekly accept her life, but attempted to blaze her own trail and search for her own happiness.

Works Cited

Mowat, Barbara A. and Paul Werstine, eds.  Folger Shakespeare Library:  Othello by William    Shakespeare.  Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Snyder, Susan.  “Othello: A Modern Perspective.”  Folger Shakespeare Library:   Othello by William Shakespeare, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Simon and    Schuster, 2009.  287-98.

Vogel, Paula.  “Desdemona:  A Play About a Handkerchief.”  New York:  Dramatists, 1994.  Print.

The Downfall of Othello

In Othello, Shakespeare creates powerful drama from a marriage between Othello and Desdemona that begins with elopement and ends with jealous rage and death.  Shakespeare builds many differences into this play, including race, age, and cultural background.  Susan Snyder offers various approaches to the question, “What goes so quickly and terribly wrong with the marriage of Othello and Desdemona?” (288)  The answer is Iago.  He plots to poison Othello’s happiness, and to bring down Cassio as well by getting him first stripped of his military position and then accused of being Desdemona’s lover.

When one looks at the reasoning behind Iago’s hatred of Othello, we can see many causes that may lead to this hatred.  At the root of his hatred is his own feelings of inadequacy. He looks at Othello and sees a man that he feels is inferior to him because of his race, living the life that he envisions for himself.  He suspects that his wife, Emilia may have committed adultery with Othello.  “Iago wants revenge, whether by possessing Desdemona or by shattering Othello’s marital happiness.”(289) At the Cyprus reunion in 2.1, Othello speaks of his joy in seeing Desdemona again and then kisses her.  Iago adds a side comment to the audience at this point, “O, you are well tuned now, But I’ll set down the pegs that make this music, as honest as I am.” (2.1 218-20)  Since Cassio is attractive to women, Iago decides to use him in his plans to discredit Desdemona. This benefits his revenge in two ways because he hurts Cassio and Othello in the process.  Cassio received a military promotion that Iago felt should have been his, since he was a senior officer.  He feels that he was overlooked because Cassio was better liked by influential people, who wrote letters of recommendation on his behalf..  “Tis the curse of service,  Preferment goes by letter and affection, And not by old graduation, where each second Stood heir to th’ first.” (1.1 37-40)  With all of these greiveances in mind, Iago claims several times throughout the play, “I hate the Moor” (1.3 429), which leads to his motivation to ruin Othello’s happiness.

Othello was placed in a time where race, age, sex and cultural background is a big deal.   Iago builds upon Othello’s insecurities to plant seeds of doubt of Desdemona’s faithlessness by defaming the honor of Venetian women..  He says, “In Venice they do let God see the pranks They dare not show their husbands. Their best conscious. Is not to leave ‘t undone, but keep ‘t unknown. (3.3 233-36)  To this statement Othello replies, “Dost thou say so?” (3.3 237)  One can almost see the doubt creeping in.  Othello is not originally from Venice, so he isn’t as informed on what normal marriage behavior is for Venice women.  He lets Iago’s insinuation of the promiscuity of women relate to what Desdemona might do as his wife, start to get to him.  Emilia’s honor is shown though in the fact that she vows to speak out in spite of men, “Let heaven and men and devils, let them all/ All, all, cry shame against me, yet I’ll speak” (5.2. 263-263).  Sadly though, by confessing Iago’s crimes to Othello, Iago kills her.

In the final act Othello tries to sum up his life before ending it.  Othello stops his own self analysis with his sword, but Iago is still alive.  The story leaves Desdemona and Othello dead on their marriage bed.  We can see from the play, that Othello has his own faults.  Through his own insecurities, whether they are from being a Moor, a black man, or an outsider, he allows Iago’s insinuations to creep in and influence his thoughts.  Quickly, he goes from man who is overjoyed upon reuniting with his new wife, to believing that she is a liar and a cheat and killing her for it.  It is almost as if he was more in love with the thought of her perfection that the actual marriage to her. Clearly the love and trust that Desdemona has for him is not returned in the same amount.  Othello allows other influences to decide his and Desdemona’s fate, and in the end he kills her and then himself because of it.

Works Cited

Mowat, Barbara A. and Paul Werstine, eds.  Foger Shakespeare Library:  Othello by William

Shakespeare.  Simon and Schuster, 2009.

Snyder, Susan.  “Othello:  A Modern Perspective.”  Folger Shakespeare Library:  Othello by

William Shakespeare, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine, Simon and

Schuster, 2009.  287-98.

The Quirky Side of Presidential Assassinations

In “Assassination Vacation” by Sarah Vowell she writes about the assassination of the three presidents; Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, and William McKinley.      President Garfield was shot and killed in 1881 by Charles Guiteau, a slightly delusional man who was upset when he wasn’t appointed ambassador to France.  President McKinley was shot in 1901 by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist who thought he was doing his duty.  When Sarah Vowell talks about the assassination of Lincoln in 1865 though, it seems to take up most of the book,

Sarah Vowell probably focuses a lot of the book on Abraham Lincoln’s assassination because he was such a popular president and had the most drama surrounding his death.  It started as a kidnapping plot and ended up as an assassination.  I believe Vowell also spends a lot of time on Lincoln because he was the first president to be assassinated.   Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth after he jumped on the stage during a play at Ford’s Theatre  Booth wanted to assassinate Lincoln in an attempt to revive the Confederate cause.  Lincoln lived the shortest amount of time after being shot; only about 9 hours.

One of the most interesting aspects of Vowell’s writing is the way in which she tells the story of each assassination as if she was a bystander watching it as it happened.  For Lincoln’s story she describes what it would be like to have been in the audience at Ford’s Theatre watching the play.  For Garfield’s assassination she describes her visit to the Baltimore Train station and how it might have looked and been that fateful day as he was getting ready to board the train for his vacation.  For McKinley, she described him as, “ at 4:00 in the afternoon, McKinley hosted a receiving line, shaking the hands of exposition goers and kissing babies as an organist played Bach’s Sonata in F.” (193)

When speaking about the topic of presidential assassinations, few people will use words like amusing or humorous in the same sentence as assassination; however Sarah Vowell succeeds in creating a humorous historical background.  For example, “Like Lincoln, I would like to believe the ballot is stronger than the bullet.  Then again, he said that before he got shot.” (53) Even though she uses humor, one can tell from her writing that she is extremely interested in the “telling of history”.  Sarah Vowell’s purpose of Assassination Vacation is to allow readers to have a look on both sides of history, to shed light on assassins and to remember moments lost in history.

Work Cited

Vowell, Sarah. Assassination Vacation. Simon and Schuster.2005.

The Wilderness of John Crow’s Devil

Towards the beginning of John Crow’s Devil by James Marlon, is the chapter titled “Wilderness”.  A passage in this chapter deals with encounters between the widow, Mrs. Greenfield, and Pastor Bligh as she attempts to take care of him after he was kicked out of the church.  He has hallucinations and seems to be troubled by sins from his past.  He lashes out at the widow then asks to be locked in his room and be left alone; but the widow, seeing his torment, has too much compassion to leave him alone to suffer.

The widow is angry about cleaning up after Pastor Bligh.  When she walks out she hears him screaming about some rats, and she says “Pastor, get ahold of your damn self” (pg 59).  She shakes him until the rats fade from inside his mind.  Mrs. Greenfield then tries to give him some rum to drink but the detoxing Pastor spits the rum out and yells at the widow’ for trying to kill him.  Pastor Bligh then says “you want it to kill me like it did your husband”(pg 59).  This upsets the widow.   She asks him, “What” in a voice that was a bare whisper afraid that he would say it again.  This is the point at which Pastor Bligh asks her to leave him.  As soon as the widow walks out Pastor Bligh asked her to lock him up and not let him out no matter what she heard.

The widow locked him up and left him sitting in the darkness for almost two days.  Bligh is still seeing things because as soon as she leaves, he sees the ghost of his brother’s wife crawling naked up the bed at him.  The Pastor closes his eyes and when he reopened them all he sees is a skull and some teeth.  Bligh screams and the ghost disappears.  After a day and a half, the widow goes to check on him.  “She had tried not to care, to not even pass the door, but her heart betrayed her.” (pg 60).  She finds the Pastor sleeping under the window.  She wakes him up and says “I know what happened to you”(pg60).

From this passage, we can see that the pastor is having some big hallucinations brought on by past guilt made worse by the effects of trying to stop drinking.  He thinks that the widow is trying to kill him because she is giving him rum to drink.  We can guess that she had some experience with drunken men because she tells him sometimes the rum is the only thing that can help.  He comments that maybe she killed her husband, so we can assume that he was a drunk as well.  She is devastated by his insensitive remark, and yet she still shows compassion for him as she tries to care for him.  We can also see that his hallucinations are connected to guilt from his past.  It would be unusual for a man to see his brother’s wife in his tormented visions, but the fact she is naked and climbing on him, suggests that there was a forbidden relationship there that he feels guilty about.

Even after the Pastor is mean to the widow and causes her extra work to take care of him, we still see her caring nature in the fact that she doesn’t leave him to his torment like he asks.  She checks on him after a day and a half in darkness and finds him under the window.  She wakes him up and tells him that she knows what happened to him.  She tells him that God has left him.  Without forgiveness he is alone spiritually in his torment.

Work Cited

James,Marlon. John Crow’s Devil. Akashic. 2005.

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