Tag Archives: Lady Macbeth

Can “Defiance” Defy the Odds?

Defiance is a combination of both a TV show and a video game

Defiance premiered on Showcase Monday night, to lukewarm reviews. I, on the other hand, rather liked the show, and will be watching further episodes. Defiance takes place 33 years after Earth is invaded by an alien ship, called The Ark, transporting seven different types of sentient beings from the same solar system. They arrive on Earth, terraform it to their liking, and now the aliens and humans are trying to co-exist in the dystopia. Defiance is the town that rose up from the ashes of St. Louis.

Julie Benz is terrific as Mayor Amanda Rosewater. She plays her with a maturity that haven’t yet seen in her other roles. Grant Bowler is Joshua Nolan, a scavenger who makes his living collecting and selling the remains of The Ark as they fall to Earth (a phenomenon known as Arkfall). He arrives in Defiance and gets into trouble defending a boy accused of murder. He gets out of trouble by agreeing to find the real murderer and winds up staying on as sheriff of the town.

Defiance may suffer from a case of trying to do too much too soon. I don’t think I’ll ever learn all of the alien species (collectively known as The Voltans), and the soap-opera style subplots pile up until the last minutes of the two hour episode. In spite of the premise’s predictability (for example, I knew Nolan would become sheriff the moment the current sheriff is killed), and inconsistencies (Why terraform a planet to rid it of its greenery when it is the greenery of the planet that makes it desireable?) I enjoyed the show due to its nod to Shakespearean archetypes. I loved the Romeo and Juliet vibe going on between the son of the Tarr family and daughter of the McCawley clan. Just as entertaining is the scene between Datak and Stahma Tarr in the tub. Upset that his son will marry a human, Datak rants that his wife will spoil his bath if she continues to talk about his son’s choice for a mate. That’s when Stahma channels her inner Lady Macbeth and convinces Datak that if the children marry and something were to happen to the girl’s father and brother, then their family would stand to inherit the McCawley business and eventually control most industry in the town. The implication is that Datak will have something to do with the death of the male McCawleys. Later, when Datak is disgusted by his son’s conformation to the human custom of giving the McCawley girl a ring as a promise to wed, Stahma calms him by suggesting the mere fact the children are engaged will be enough to prompt Papa McCawley’s demise.

Defiance is unique in that quite a bit of money and planning has went into the simultaneous release of the show and video game and (according to online sources) the hope is that watching the series will unlock hints for the game and playing the game will further endear viewers to the characters. While I won’t be playing the game any time soon (that’s just not my thing), I am looking forward to next Monday’s episode, especially in light of the cliff-hanger posed by the episode’s final moments in which former Mayor Nicky Riordan, played with sinister flare by Finnoula Flanagan, hints that there is something subversive about to happen in the near future that will change life on the planet as they know it.

I will definitely be watching; will you?

graphic from:http://www.slashgear.com/defiance-is-both-a-tv-show-and-a-video-game-08276908/#entrycontent

About the Author

Elise Abram, English teacher and former archaeologist, has been writing for as long as she can remember, but it wasn’t until she was asked to teach Writer’s Craft in 2001 that she began to write seriously. Her first novel, THE GUARDIAN was partially published as a Twitter novel a few summers back (and may be accessed at @RKLOGYprof). Nearly ten years after its inception Abram decided it was time to stop shopping around with traditional publication houses and publish PHASE SHIFT on her own.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!

Macbeth and World Without End

Teaching grade 10 Academic English in a GTA school has been a challenging task to say the least. Right now, I am struggling with how to teach students to write a “3R Journal” for the Independent Study Projects (ISPs) which are worth 15% of their marks for the semester. The “3Rs” stand for “Retell”, “Relate”, and “Reflect”. Students are given a long list of questions they can choose to answer in each category based on a novel they selected for the ISPs, but they have difficulty using critical thought to produce a deep analysis. The Retell section does not use literary terminology (i.e., protagonist, antagonist, setting, mood/atmosphere, etc.) nor does it include a discussion of theme; the Retell does not take literature, television and movies into account to do a thoughtful comparison, and the Relate does not look at the real world and evaluate the author’s portrayal of teen issues, given the state of the world in which we live. In spite of the list of question, in spite of my preaching, and, yes, in spite of providing exemplars.

To remedy this, I have developed a labour intensive (for me) activity in which students write a 3R journal of Macbeth over 3 nights and I take it in and give them feedback so they know they are on the right track in preparation for the second of two journals. This means setting everything aside, including other marking and planning, in favour of providing detailed feedback that most of them will never read. And I get mostly drek in return for my troubles. Maddening.

I have a pretty good exemplar for the Retell portion of Macbeth which I share with the students when I give the assignment back after assessment. I sat down to provide them with a Relate, but found it difficult. I could talk about matters involving the current political climate in Ontario in which the Education Minister has used her power to subjugate, first teachers and then the rest of the public sector, ignoring their right to strike in strict defiance of the labour relations act. In this case, she relates to Macbeth because she is using her power for personal gain, possibly so she can say she single-handedly fixed what is wrong with paying public sector workers their due, and mending the broken budget, while ignoring the fact that she and her colleagues, public sector workers all, earn more than double teachers et al, but we are not supposed to discuss union matters with our students.

I could talk about the recent political upheaval in the Middle East and how many dictators in that part of the world have recently earned their dues, but that may potentially offend the student population, the majority of which are Muslims and may prefer to call these main saints rather than dictators. If I ask them to be politically correct and not refer to Macbeth as “a Hitler”, then I must, too, be equally PC and steer clear of Muslim politics.

I decided to scrap the Retell exemplar, resolved that, as long as the students gave me apples-to-apples comparisons (i.e., friends peer-pressuring one into smoking a cigarette does not equal Lady Macbeth “peer-pressuring” Macbeth into killing Duncan, primarily because a woman was not considered to be the peer of a man and the offenses do not compare in their severity), and gave me examples from the text to back up their assertions—in other words, as long as they tried—they would earn their “E” for excellent. Then I saw last week’s episode of World Without End.

World Without End, based on Ken Follett’s novel, takes place in the 1300s (300 years before Shakespeare wrote Macbeth) mostly in the town of Kingsbridge in which Petranilla (played by Cynthia Nixon) is a character to rival Lady Macbeth in the throes of PMS. Driven to secure her safety and security she schemes, lies, poisons, commits treason and murder to get her son, Godwyn, successfully elected prior. Her son takes the role of Macbeth, allowing himself to be persuaded by her plan for him, eventually driven near mad by his lust for his cousin, Caris, and The Black Death as it ravages his body and mind. He temporarily loses the title of prior—to Caris—due to his illness. With Godwyn incapacitated, Petranilla goes after a new target, this one a son born out of wedlock and given to a town couple to raise. Having poisoned her illegitimate son’s father, Roland, the Earl of Shiring, she convinces Queen Isabella (Aure Atika) to give the priori back to Godwyn, and to give Ralph (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen) the Earl of Shiring title, so he can rule Kingsbridge and take Phillippa, the girl of his dreams, and Roland’s daughter as his wife (nevermind the fact that this makes Ralph and Phillippa half-siblings). So far, in his “new gloss” as Earl of Shiring, Ralph has fared about as well as Macbeth. His peasants revolt, killing his men, and Phillippa commits suicide rather than allow him to touch her on their wedding night.

Another link to Macbeth is talk of witches. If you remember your high school English, Macbeth meets three witches who prophesy his future. Driven by what they say, he and his wife kill the current king. With that done, Macbeth continues to kill anyone who threatens his crown, including innocent women and children. At one time, Lady Macbeth prays to dark forces to give her more manly attributes which links her to the witches as well. In school, I discuss, at length, Elizabethan beliefs which include religion, superstition and witchcraft. This year I was able to use World Without End as a parallel, as both Caris and her mentor are accused of being witches for their practice of “the healing arts”. First Caris’s mentor is hanged for being a witch when she insists on amputating a man’s arm rather than healing it with a poultice of dung. Later, having pissed off the Prior (before Godwyn assumes the position), she, too is accused of witchcraft, and sentenced to death. It is only by agreeing to be a sister of the priori that she is able to remain alive. The notion of religion versus superstition and a belief in witchcraft, the supernatural and the afterlife are themes that are prevalent, not only in medieval literature, but contemporary literature as well.

Next semester, when it is time for the practice 3R journal, I will be able to provide them with a Relate exemplar, a modification of this blog entry. Hopefully that will help students to understand how they can relate their novels to themes and characters in other literature and/or popular culture.

Download PHASE SHIFT for the price of a tweet. Visit http://www.eliseabram.com, click on the button, tweet or Facebook about my novel and download it for FREE!