Week 4: Crusty Old Hearts

Sitting in the audience waiting for the Bell Shakespeare production of Romeo and Juliet to start I overheard someone comment on the large number of young people in attendance. Another person replied “it’s a young person’s play” and with this the seed was planted in my brain.

Very soon after the commencement of the show, Rod Stewart’s Young Turks began playing in my mind and relentlessly echoed against the story unfolding on the stage.

The line from the song that resonated most for me was “We got but one shot at life, let’s take it while we’re still not afraid”. Romeo and Juliet’s young love may seem over-the-top and foolish to the tired and cynical hearts of older people, but that does not mean it is not real. Unfortunately, many of us older folk lose the lust for life we possessed in younger years and replace it with what we like to call realism. We view the fearless surrender to Cupid’s Arrow between Romeo and Juliet as irresponsible and childish. Who are we to judge?

Who are the families Capulet and Montague to judge? Is their immutable hatred any more sensible?

Romeo and Juliet took that one shot at life before their hearts became weary and fearful. Even though it ended in tragedy for them, the courage they shared neutralized the hatred between their warring families.

Love conquers hate. A monumental sacrifice, but a pretty fantastic result in the end.

Shakespeare Peer Review 2

“Matrix of magic”, I love it! Shakespeare weaves such a rich tapestry, that one finds something new every time they read or watch a play. It is a fantastic adventure trying to uncover and decipher the multitude of meanings and messages. I am definitely getting a lot more than I  bargained for with unit.



Oz Lit Peer Review 2

I agree that this poem really does hit the reader in the heart. The repetitive use of the word “gone” in the final lines painfully illustrates the relentless ruin experienced by our indigenous people. The final line “and we are going” emphasizes the heartbreaking sensation of an inevitable loss of a magnificent culture.



Week 3: Ni**ers Leap, New England

What a fascinating experience! This poem made no sense what so ever on first reading. We slowly read it again piece by piece, line by line gradually deciphering the concealed meaning beneath the deceptively placid words. As a group we revealed the detestable atrocity Judith Wright had secreted in this obscure poem. Gradually the cryptic story began to rise to the surface and the hideous truth stared us in the face. The thrill of discovery was quickly overtaken by the horrendous shock of what human beings can do to one another.

The ingenuity of Judith Wright’s poem lies in its enigmatic message. A true event that white Australia does not want to remember. A monstrous mass murder that our nation would prefer never sees the light of day. Popular Australian history would like to sweep this reprehensible slaughter under the proverbial rug, just as the dark night in the poem hides the truth.

Ni**gers Leap, New England

The eastward spurs tip backward from the sun.
Nights runs an obscure tide round cape and bay
and beats with boats of cloud up from the sea
against this sheer and limelit granite head.
Swallow the spine of range; be dark. O lonely air.
Make a cold quilt  across the bone and skull
that screamed falling in flesh from the lipped cliff
and then were silent, waiting for the flies.

Here is the symbol, and climbing dark
a time for synthesis. Night buoys no warning
over the rocks that wait our keels; no bells
sound for the mariners. Now must we measure
our days by nights, our tropics by their poles,
love by its end and all our speech by silence.
See in the gulfs, how small the light of home.

Did we not know their blood channelled our rivers,
and the black dust our crops ate was their dust?
O all men are one man at last. We should have known
the night that tidied up the cliffs and hid them
had the same question on its tongue for us.
And there they lie that were ourselves writ strange.

Never from earth again the coolamon
or thin black children dancing like the shadows
of saplings in the wind. Night lips the harsh
scarp of the tableland and cools its granite.
Night floods us suddenly as history
that has sunk many islands in its good time.

Judith Wright

Week 3: The Director’s Vision (may not match the writer’s)

I discovered something fascinating recently while I was watching the 1968 Franco Zeffirelli film of Romeo and Juliet. As an aspiring screenwriter I have always been aware of the director’s potential to alter the tone of what was written and this film presented me with a brilliant example.

Up until watching this film my only other exposure to the play was Baz Luhrmann’s film version. Of course Mr. Luhrmann took huge creative liberties by updating the film to a more modern time and transforming the feuding families into gun slinging gangsters. However, my main interest lies in the pivotal scenes where Mercutio, Tybalt and Romeo enter into mortal combat.

While Baz Luhrmann’s version is distinctive in that the battle takes place with guns and cars rather than swords, his tone is similar to what I expected after reading the scene. Mercutio and Tybalt aggressively attack one another and Tybalt takes advantage of Romeo’s interference delivering the fatal blow (gunshot in this instance) to Mercutio. Soon after, Romeo kills Tybalt in a rage of vengeance. Each assailant is intent on killing his adversary.



Zeffirelli takes a totally different track. In his film Mercutio and Tybalt’s fight seems more of a fool hardy skirmish between two young bucks vying for alpha status. The killing of Mercutio appears to be a tragic accident that occurred during the confusion of Romeo’s intervening. Tybalt even has the opportunity to finish off Mercutio at one stage and reneges allowing him to rejoin the fight.

Romeo’s revenge duel with Tybalt, although begun in anger, still does not seem to be intent on the death of his foe. The fatal blow is struck when Tybalt falls on Romeo’s sword and both seem quite shocked. Zeffirelli appears to have taken the young age of the boys into account in his version. Yes, their families are involved in a bitter feud and they must fight and exude machismo, but killing is not something that is done lightly. It is most likely that the sword fights would have ceased at a savage cut. Once blood was shed a victor could be announced.

The lesson for me is this: If you are writing a script or screenplay never get too attached to it exactly as you imagine it. Performance is a collaborative effort and once all the artists have had their input (Directors, actors, musicians and so on) it will very probably be quite different from your original imagining. Hopefully it will be enhanced. Not even The Bard is immune.

Oz Lit Peer Review 1

Reading your definition of utilitarianism I was struck by what that means for us today. The destruction of the environment leads most to believe that we need to awaken our connection and interdependence to the land if we are to survive as a species. Ironically the respect and care that the native Australians felt for the land is what we need to rediscover. What was considered utilitarian back then is devastating the world we live in. What the clever people considered to be the best use of resources has led us to the precarious situation we find ourselves in today.


Shakespeare Peer Review 1

Yes, it is nice to know that Shakespeare’s writing is not completely unattainable, but it sure feels like it sometimes! I am hoping that Michael will help us find at least some of the keys to unlock the mysteries in these multiple layered plays. There is so much to be found in Shakespeare’s writing. It truly is an adventure!


Weeks 1 & 2: Margaret Preston “The Expulsion”

This provocative painting is a fascinating play on the idea of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden of Eden. The white angel is casting an Australian Aboriginal Adam and Eve out of paradise and appears to have locked the gate behind them. This image provides a thought provoking allegory on the way the white invaders forced the Indigenous people off the beautiful unspoiled land that was once their home. So much can be read into what seems like a simple idea. By tweaking a familiar concept the artist can arouse such a vast sea of questions. I was reminded of this painting by Gordon Syron which I saw a long time ago, but has always stayed with me. The title “A Jury of His Peers”, adds to the image’s message.

godon syron

The feeling that must have been all too familiar for Indigenous Australians brought so vividly to life!

Weeks 1 & 2: Juliet “My only love sprung from my only hate!”


I had one great “aha!” moment during our first lecture regarding Romeo and Juliette. Michael was explaining the violent and hateful environment in which Romeo and Juliette managed to nurture such a boundless devotion. A classmate used the word ‘juxtaposition’ to describe this and the lights came on for me! The love shared by Romeo and Juliette may seem over-the-top to most readers, but the fact that it came to life in such a tumultuous and savage habitat attests to its strength and vitality. In order to survive in such a vicious climate Romeo and Juliette’s love had to be extreme.