Thursday, March 31, 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Madison. I'm so excited! 12-02-2004

Madison at my sister Sarah's wedding rehearsal, 12-03-2004. I love her expressions.

Crossing the Bar

Foremost among the poems that helped me form my inner self has to be "Crossing the Bar" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Not only is it his final say (he requests that this poem be included as the last poem in any collection of his work), it also sums up my inner belief in just wanting to see the Pilot. I actually said this poem over his gravestone at Westminster Abbey in London.


Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
--Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The Road Not Taken

This poem by Robert Frost made such an impact on me. I would say it is the thing most responsible for allowing me to be comfortable with myself, and letting others be what they are. What do you think?

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

The took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

--Robert Frost

Monday, March 28, 2005

Superman is a Dick

You ever want to see Superman not being so nice? National Lampoon has catalogued some of his more horrific examples of covers of his comic books where he is, well...a dick.

Funny, stuff. I think I am going to try to print these out at work to save!

Saturday, March 26, 2005

He's from my district, Bremerton, Washington, you know. I bumped into a few times in the hall but never got to teach him.

Education is not on the teacher

We had a short day today with it being conferences week. And I have to vent some steam for a minute.

The Romeo and Juliet essay on who was responsible for their deaths, a simple five-paragraph essay using quotes and I even gave a sentence-by-sentence outline, was due today. I teach roughly 80 kids in my three English classes. I received twelve papers today. They have had the assignment for over two weeks and we even worked on it in class. Granted, I give the students four free "late work" coupons, which some of my serious honors students are planning on using so I will be getting more papers on Monday. And the "late work" coupons are just one way of conning them into turning something, anything in. This is the only essay so far this semester and only the second piece of written homework for the semester, and the semester started February 1st!

This is ninth grade. I already have to structure all the "homework" into daily classwork or it simply will not be completed. Hell, it's not even completed as classwork half the time. How, How, How do I make them stand up and want to be educated?

Again, I am only ranting about that bottom percentile that refuses to work, those recalcitrant students that make my days longer and make me spend less time on the students who want to be there. Most of my students are great. But in this age of "No Frickin' Child Left Behind," why am I spending all of my energy on the bottom percentile?

So I admit, I leave some behind. There are two boys in particular in my fourth period class that during the three days the students were preparing their acting group scenes for Romeo and Juliet, they literally spent three days staring into space, even after repeated prompting by me that they needed to accomplish this task. So they get up to perform their scene after even more prodding, and just stunk it up. I knew there was trouble when the kid asked me how to pronounce the very first word in the scene, "Sirrah," as he started to act. They had three days to look up the words and get comfortable with the language, especially with all the guidance I was giving.

And then I had this boy in for conferences this week. His mother is oblivious. She keeps saying, "I'm trying to work with him," even after last semester's report card has five out of six F's and the current progress report is even worse. Did he turn in the essay today to raise his grade? No. He says he still has a couple of paragraphs left.

My curriculum is rigorous and relevant. Those that took the task of the group acting scene, and then earlier this month the individual Shakespeare speech memorization, are really doing well. It is working.

So, for these few, do they deserve to bring down the rest?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A Paper on Wuthering Heights

Matt Butcher
English 222
Ms. Zeedyk
December 11, 1992
An Investigation of Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights has been considered one of the greatest love
stories of all time. Simply calling it a love story, however, would
not do it justice. It is a tale of love that is stronger than death.
It is also a tale of passion and revenge. With its unique style and
structure, Emily Bronte's only novel, Wuthering Heights, has become a
classic of English literature.
The love story of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff was very
unconventional for the time period in which it was written, the
mid-19th century. When Catherine marries Edgar Linton of Thrushcross
Grange instead of Heathcliff, Bronte is making commentary on the
social structure of the time. "It would degrade me to marry
Heathcliff now," says Catherine. The class system is very much a
force behind her decision to marry Edgar. Even though she is
betraying Heathcliff as well as her own heart, the class system is
more important. The outlook of the marriage is everything. This
choice sets up the rest of the novel's plot and the foundation for
Heathcliff's revenge.
If this were an ordinary love story or romantic novel, one would
have to look at Heathcliff as the villain and Catherine as the
heroine. Catherine dies before the novel is half over and at first
the reader is left wondering at how Bronte can sustain the novel for
two hundred more pages. The next generation also brings a unique new
outlook to the story.
The passion in Wuthering Heights is only restricted by the
reader's imagination. In the last meeting of Catherine and
Heathcliff, they embrace other with such desire that Catherine wishes
they could hold each other until they were both dead. "And now he
stared at her so earnestly that I [Nelly] thought the very intensity
of his gaze would bring tears into his eyes; but they burned with
anguish: they did not melt." In this embrace, Heathcliff holds her
so hard that there were "four distinct impressions left blue in the
colorless skin." In earlier accounts of their feverish love, it
seems like Bronte holds back only because of the time period. It
would have been considered filthy then, but today would probably be
seen as quite tame.
The love between Heathcliff and Catherine is one that goes
beyond thee physical plane of existence. They seem not only to love
each other, but to be one with each other. As Catherine tells Nelly,
she loves Heathcliff "not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because
he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and
mine are the same." This passionate love even goes beyond life into
death. "Two words would comprehend my future--death and hell:
existence, after losing her, would be hell," says Heathcliff when he
discovers Catherine's impending death. Even after both their deaths
they are still together. A little shepherd boy tells Nelly he saw
Heathcliff and a woman out on the moors, after they were dead.
Heathcliff is a character that the reader starts to look at in
earnest. He is by far the most dynamic character in the novel. His
lifetime obsession of revenge is one that the reader absolutely has
to know how it affects the other characters. Although the reader
begins to sympathize, considering how he was treated and his lost
love, he cannot help but think how Heathcliff is in charge of this
story. The narration seems to delve into Heathcliff's thought
processes. While Heathcliff may be revenge personified, he has a
direction and a reason that the reader can clearly see. He is the
one character that a reader will remember.
Revenge is another significant theme throughout Wuthering
Heights. Heathcliff was treated so badly by Hindley Earnshaw as he
was growing up that he thirsts for vengeance. Heathcliff is also
warring with Edgar Linton, mainly because of his marriage with his
beloved Catherine. His whole plan consists of the takeover of both
the Grange and the Heights as well as the degradation of Hindley's
son, Hareton. Heathcliff swears to treat Hareton as terribly and
cruelly as Hindley treated Heathcliff. Heathcliff is a man torn
between his love of Catherine and his hate. He never swerves in his
course to eradicate his enemies. In reading the novel, the reader
can plainly see why Heathcliff believes he was wronged. One can
understand why he seeks revenge.
The structure of the novel is an odd one but one that works.
Mr. Lockwood is the true narrator of the story. Nelly Dean,
housekeeper of both houses at different times, is privileged to much
information. She relates her tales to Mr. Lockwood when he is
seeking information about his landlord, Heathcliff, when he takes
residence at Thrushcross Grange. Most of what Nelly sees is
believable. While this type of narration generally tends to distract
from a story, it works in this case better than an omniscient
narrator. Her position in the houses would receive the information,
especially since she is Catherine and Cathy's mother figure. The
reader tends to forget that Nelly is the narrator and is just a
character in the story.
The style of Wuthering Heights is simple and clear but written
with intensity. When describing the Heights and the moors in the
opening chapter, Bronte paints a picture that lasts with the reader
throughout the story. It seems that Bronte picked all of her words
carefully, even down to the choosing of the names of her characters.
There is no humor or true happiness in the book, but the reader gets
drawn in to these powerful charcters. While all the characters seem
to have one major flaw that prevents the reader from sympathizing
with them, these characters are so intense and drawn so well into the
reader's mind that we are compelled to understand them. Nelly Dean's
narration is so fluent that the reader believes to actually be
watching the events unfold before him, and all the characters seem to
speak for themselves. The characters gain lives of their own. Their
words are not forced.
Of the novel, the only fault that I can attribute to it would be
Heathcliff's disintegration at the end. When he finally possesses
both houses under his control and now has the ability to crush Cathy
and Hareton before their love grows, he no longer has the will to do
it. This is not significantly explained, although Heathcliff does
make a remark about thwarting himself. All he can do is think of
Catherine. After defeating all of his original enemies, he must not
see the point of destroying Hareton and Cathy. He is one step away
from his final revenge that he has planned his whole life for and he
cannot pull the trigger. Since before Catherine's death almost
twenty years ago, he cannot finish his plans. All he wants to do is
get to Catherine as fast as he can. It doesn't seem believable that
he couldn't have waited a little longer, considering that Catherine
has been dead for eighteen years.
Whatever Wuthering Heights is, every reader will give his own
interpretation. It is simply a love story. It is a tale of good and
evil, of revenge and retribution. After finishing the story, one can
see why it has been aptly called a classic of English literaure.

New Skin

New Skin
Ceaseless wandering, no soul to be jealous of,
Feeling you out there waiting
Like feeling the new skin after a scab,
Too new to be yours…yet…
Soon grows in and becomes
Wondering how you ever survived without it
You didn’t.
You had to be cut first,
A piƱata that lives to be beaten,
And after the fiesta seeing your tatters,
Thinking that the smiles on the children’s faces were
The smiles you were born to be cut open for.
And seeing your eyes look at me,
Feeling every drop of blood course out of my veins for you,
For you,
Where I am truly at heaven,
Born to have your love cover me like a blanket on a January night.
You picked up my pieces and healed me over,
My new skin
copyright Matt Butcher 2001

A Paper on Hamlet

Matthew Butcher
English 412(G)
Dr. Colvin
10 October 1993

Oedipal Regression

For many years, critics have delved into the possibilities of Hamlet and the Oedipus complex, began by Ernest Jones in his book Hamlet and Oedipus. Lora Heller and Abraham Heller do not agree. In their article, "Hamlet's Parents: The Dynamic Formulation of A Tragedy," they present valid textual arguments, competing with Jones' observations. They say that this Oedipal motivation of Hamlet is "finally unacceptable... because if an unresolved Oedipal conflict is the crux of Hamlet's problem, then Shakespeare has given us... an intensely neurotic, incapacitated tragic hero."
One main thing that the authors work off is the lack of a significant bad relationship between Hamlet and his father. This "assumption, truly, cannot be supported textually." The Hellers go on to say that this means that Hamlet regressed to the period of Oedipal conflict rather than never coming to Oedipal maturity. The Hellers cite the first meeting of the Ghost and Hamlet as one that shows no indications of a conflicted relationship. "His unthinking, whole-hearted, instant support of his father, 'that I.../ May sweep to my revenge.' I can find nothing in this scene but the non-dependent, supportive love of a mature young man for his father, and the admiration and respect of father for son." This last sentence shows how the Hellers have presented their evidence and draw cunningly cold assertions with confidence.
Another main bit of evidence that the authors bring forth is one line spoken by Gertrude in the scene where the Ghost comes to remind Hamlet of his promise not to hurt his mother: "To whom do you speak this?" (III,iv,131). "As addressed to the Ghost, these words strongly stress the fact that in Hamlet's regressed state the appearance of his father utterly castrates him." This leads the Hellers again to Hamlet's regression to the Oedipal state. In the first meeting, Hamlet was a strong, collected character in speaking and is now different. Hamlet "is no longer the same person whom his father's appearance in the mother's bedroom once again threatens with an old childhood fear."
The Hellers also present the fact that Hamlet feels an intense hostility towards Gertrude. While Claudius did indeed
do the deed, Hamlet, suddenly deprived of the father he had identified with, believes that "it was his mother who essentially murdered his father." The authors come specifically out to say that they don't believe in Gertrude being an accomplice in the murder. "The words of the Ghost imply a two-fold motive for Claudius: the Queen and the crown." The Hellers are not afraid to make a statement, which they then backup with textually supported facts.
Getting to the heart of the Oedipal question, the authors speak of Hamlet identifying Claudius as his mother. This is based on Hamlet's words: "father and mother is man and wife,/ man and wife is one flesh; and so, my mother" (IV,iii,54-55). "This is an attempt to focus on the murderer as the Ghost directed." Hamlet can satisfy his own urges against his mother and appease the Ghost at the same time.
The Oedipal conflict is then easily seen as a regression. "It is an everyday commonness that the death, especially the sudden death, of the parent with whom the child was identified is often interpreted by the child as a murder by the surviving parent toward whom he has long felt hostility."
One of the main reasons I like this article is how blunt the authors are. The Hellers come right out in a clear, concise manner and state exactly what they want to say. There is no hedging on their points and that makes me accept them easier. This is by far the simplest article I have read so far in grammar and sentence structure but it was one of the best in content and meaning.

Heller, Lora and Abraham Heller. "Hamlet's Parents: The Dynamic Formulation of A Tragedy." American Imago 17 (1960): 413-421.

To Raise a Toast

Next time you're in the pub, raise a glass and sing
this song.

My intention is to die
In the tavern drinking;
Wine must be at hand, for I
Want it when I'm sinking.
Angels when they come shall cry,
At my frailties winking:
"Spare this drunkard, God, he's high,
Absolutely stinking!"

Goliardic poetry

circa 1100 A.D.

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My old American lit professor

Forrest Robinson was my American literature teacher at Western Illinois University. I wouldn't admit it then, but he taught me a lot about how you hold yourself up in front of others. I even dug through back issues of poetry magazines to find his older stuff. I still have a copy of his poetry book signed by him.

Three Poems

wind rattles the window pane.
rain falls
I hear the damp north star
as the brittleness leaves
in mats of leaves, brown tree trunks
bright in the rain this night of jewels
tiger eyes
burn, as your fingertips
touching mine
gather together
set great oaks threshing
the evergreen to singing.


Where does the wind go
when the sail falls slack?
A mighty fullness riding waves
cut and folding white foam
casting spray
now hardly leaves a wake.
The sun falls hard and harsh
upon the mirror sea
leaving the tall mast, the spars
without the creaking sounds
of stress, of motive.
Where does the wind go, where
does the strong wind go?

(Both poems were published in the First Issue of Mississippi Valley Review, Fall 1971.)

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Madison in her Princess coat. She's special.

Shakespeare is hard, but so is life.

Barry Spacks Poetry

I came across these poems wasting time in the stacks at the library of Western Illinois University. They are nice and simple yet powerful. I think I am going to do an introductory activity for my students with them.

    After Storm


     By the river

     where we went under

     our spirits stroll

     hand in hand--

     through the tall grass by the river

     where our bodies lost each other,

     down the long banks of the river

     where we drowned

     broken and rushing

     like branches after storm,

     helpless and swirling

     branches in the river.


  --Barry Spacks


To a Lady


     Dear lady, by your fingertips

     you rhyme me to a feather.

     I run the rapids of your arms

     from here to Minnesota.

     You sun me bright, you sigh me on

     till half of Iceland's burning.

     I bless you for your leafy ways.

     My breath be all you're wearing.


  --Barry Spacks


Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Hunt for the Werewolf

From eighth grade, no less. Again, I know it's not good, but if my students could write like this I'd be on cloud nine! Heavily influenced by Stephen King and that one Werewolf story he did with art by Berni Wrightson. I even include one of those parenthetical sentence interrupters that King uses.

The Hunt for the Werewolf
by Matt J. Butcher
10-20-86 to 11-9-86
Dedicated to Eric Reeb

The gun clicks; it is ready for the ammunition to be put in. It is a sawed-off Winchester 30.06.
The man holding it is named John. He has on duck hunter clothes: plaid deerstalker cap, plaid coat with a white T-shirt underneath and Levi's 501 blue jeans.
It is dark in this shed he is in. The his arm raises in front of the moonlight coming through one of the windows. In his hand he holds one solitary bullet; the moonlight glints off its silver composition. He quickly loads it into the gun as if with a vengeance.
"One shot," he says, actually directing his speech to someone out there. "That's all I need."

The wolf ran through the bushes with a wild urge- to kill. Its brown fur rubbed against the bark. A red liquid that is not his own falls from his teeth and mouth along with his drooling saliva.
Its cry could be heard probably ten miles away.
It did not know when to stop, how far to push it. He is savage in this form. Many he has killed; many he will
(if not stopped)
kill. Most in cold blood; some in self-defense, some for prey.
Then he stops- maybe another urge or perhaps a willingness to keep on going. Sleep is a factor every animal struggles to overcome (or accept). It has taken this beast. He falls on his stomach in a clump of moss. His eyes are tightly shut.

The man awakes with a startle.
"Where the hell am I?" he yells, jumping up. Surrounding him is the forest. He lay on a thick bed of moss. He is completely naked. He covers himself with a large piece of the fungus even though no one is within ten miles of him.
A small breeze whips up. His brown hair waves. He runs to the nearest road, picking up more leaves on the way.
He does not really know he is going towards a road; he can feel it. Something is pulling him somewhere.

John stands up in the shed, revealing his dark complexion as the sunlight lightly touches his face. His jacket collar is up, the rifle is in fire position.
The doorknob to the shed turns. John quickly ducks behind an old barrel. From the smell, it holds gasoline.
The door cracks open. It reveals the man who was asleep naked on the clump of moss.
John suddenly stands up, knocking over the barrel of gas. "What the hell you doin' here? This is private property!" His gun points right at the intruder.
The intruder jolts behind a full wooden chair, not much cover for a rifle shot. "N-nothing!" he stammers. "I fell asleep in the woods and someone stole my clothes!"
John lowers his gun. "Come with me," he says, leading the intruder into his small cabin not fifty yards north of the shed.
John lets him into the kitchen and gives him a hot cup of coffee. Steam ushers upwards out of its cup, caressing the man's face.
"What's your name?" asks John after he gets back from his room with some old clothes.
"Thank you," he says, taking the clothes, immediately putting them on. "My name is Richard."
"Well, Richard, what were ya doin' out in the forest. And don't gimme that same bullshit story that ya don't know!" complains John with a highly inquisitive tongue.
"All I remember is that last night, around midnight, I awoke with a startle. My sheets were soaked. I was in a cold sweat. Then I felt my bones aching, like they were growing. I blacked out not knowing anything past that. This usually happens about once a month but I always end up in bed in the morning.
"My next memory is of lying on a patch of moss. I ran here, hoping to find some clothes." Richard tells this story while buttoning up a red and black flannel shirt that is twice as big as he normally wears, and slipping on a pair of Levi's jeans and boat shoes.
"So, where would ya be headed if ya left now?" asks John.
"Probably Martinsville, if I'm anywhere close to it," Richard replies.
"Martinsville is four counties east a here," blasted John.
Richard just looked at him, dumfounded.
"Well, why not just sit down and talk awhile. I've got my truck parked outside, I'll drive ya home tomorrow," John suggests. Richard nods his head and sits back down.

John and Richard talk until about eleven o'clock at night. Not noticing how late it really is, John invites Richard to spend the night all over again.
Richard gets situated on the couch and starts to sleep.
The cuckoo clock begins to chime twelve o'clock. Richard springs up to a sitting position. His sheets are sopping wet; he is in a cold sweat. It is silent. He is not really himself, more or less, he is in a daze of death, staring her in the face.
His muscles and bones expand. Brown hair forms on his face, chest, arms, and legs in abundant quantities. His face turns into that of a wolf. The rest of his body will follow in suit. He is the werewolf!
He howls quickly up at the full moon that is just passing from behind as cloud.
John races out of his room, thrusting his door open wildly. He sees the werewolf crouched over on the couch, growling viciously.
"Well, Richard, two nights of a full moon! Came back didn't ya?" John yells. "Knew ya would; now you're mine!" He raises the rifle with the loaded silver bullet.
He aims the rifle carefully at the creature's heart. But the werewolf bolts out the door before John can fire. The door flies off its hinges.
"Dammit anyway!" John yells. "That dumb thing ain't goin' nowhere! I still gotta score to settle!" He starts out the door following the trail of the werewolf.
The werewolf runs and John is fast on his heels.
The chase goes on for about forty-five minutes until the werewolf gets cornered on a cliff. The rocky outlet of the mountain protrudes out about one hundred yards to the ground. The only way out was through John.
John is right there behind him.
"Well, now, Richard, what do ya plan to do? Can't jump! So come on! Face me!" he yells.
The werewolf turns around showing his dagger-like teeth cascaded in drool. He has no time to think. He does what he has to do. He pounces on John. Even though fifteen feet away, he times it perfectly.
John's rifle points at the werewolf's face. He has waited for this moment since this same werewolf, thirty years ago, killed his mother when John was only twelve.
"Now's the time!" John shouts right before the rifle blasts and Richard's claws tighten into John's neck.

Chapter VII of 1984

In senior English, Mrs. Lehman had us write an additional chapter to George Orwell's 1984. Man, this was a good assignment and I need to utilize this in my class.

Matt Butcher
Mrs. Lehman
Honors English IV
24 April 1991


The Chestnut Tree Cafe had little excitement in it tonight. The bartender was pouring drinks for only three men at the stools. Of course, over in the far corner table, was Winston Smith, brooding over his chessboard and a bottle of Victory Gin.
Winston took another gulp of the foul tasting stuff and saw what would happen if he moved his bishop to e3. Lately, chess was occupying most of his thought. His job did not take much. He could no longer attend the usual clubs as he had. He sat here in the cafe as he had for years, ever since O'Brien.
"What happens to you here is forever," he had said. This was Winston's forever, lonely sitting in the cafe with his chess and his best friend.
Winston had not always been lonely. He vaguely remembered someone. An image floated in front of his eyes, someone with a blue jumpsuit and a red sash around her waist. Yes, it was a female. His lips fumbled with her name but no sound ushered forth. "Julia."
He shook his head free of the image. What would happen if he moved his queen to c7? Another shot of the gin poured down his throat.
There was a sudden draft coming from the direction of the door. Winston could not prevent himself from looking. His eyes exploded with surprise mixed with fright when he saw the figure that had just walked in.
There was no mistaking it. After all the long hours that he had spent staring into her eyes, he recognized her instantly. It was Julia.
She was a big woman now. The years since O'Brien had taken their toll. She no longer had the curves of her youth. There was no real feminine beauty at all. The blue jumpsuit was now noticeably larger, rounder at the hips and thighs and more protruding at the stomach and chest. But it was her eyes that Winston remembered. The rest of her, he did not know.
She was standing with her hands on her hips. Winston noticed that the sash was no longer there. She slowly surveyed the room with a glance. There was a bit of shock in her eyes when they met Winston's. She came over and sat down across the table from him. Julia stared intently at the chessboard. Winston took another gulp from his glass and moved his rook to c8.
A few moments of silence passed. Winston hoped that the telescreen was not looking at them. Then again, nobody ever paid much attention to him anymore. He just wanted this moment to last.
Then she spoke, cracking the silence. "They're coming, Winston. It will be soon."
Winston nodded in mute agreement. He knew his death would be coming. He just never knew when.
"Why did you tell me this?"
Several more minutes passed. "I owed you a favor." She never once lifted her gaze from the board. "They threatened me with something I couldn't bear. I told them to do it to you. I betrayed you. All I cared about was myself. But I still owed you something."
She picked up the black queen and placed it on f6, next to the white queen; both were protected by a pawn.
"We can never meet again now, Winston." She abruptly got up and walked out the door.
Winston sat still, not saying another word the entire night. He knew the end was coming. He has been expecting it, since he left the Ministry of Love. He just never knew when.
Then it hit him. He moved his bishop to e4. Checkmate. White had won again.
He knew it would come. It could be tomorrow, next week or even next year. He just never knew when.

Teacher's comments: Pretty bleak‑ just like Orwell's. 94.

A Paper on King Lear

Matthew Butcher
English 412(G)
Dr. Colvin
17 November 1993

The Trials of King Lear

Justice is a strong theme of Shakespeare's King Lear. The use of trials seem to indicate this rather strongly. "The movement of the plot, the character of Lear's mind, and, above all, the larger meaning of the play have been dramatized with incredible aptness as trials." Dorothy Hockey, in her article "The Final Pattern in King Lear," supports this immensely.
Hockey's main emphasis is how the trials of Lear further Shakespeare's comments on the subject of justice. The significantly repeated pattern of Lear is the trial. "In presenting several kinds of trial, Shakespeare comments on two major themes--love and justice." The love test of the first scene is just such a case. "The action pattern. . . is that of a trial, suggesting justice, and the quality being weighed is love." Cordelia fails to place unselfish love before everything else. "Cordelia's 'Nothing' places a youthful sense of self-righteous honesty--something akin to a sense of justice--above love that is freely given."
Lear also puts a love test to Cordelia's suitor Burgundy.
What in the least
Will you require in present dower with her,
Or cease your quest of love? (I.i. 194 ff.)

Burgundy fails, just as Cordelia did. "Burgundy places worldly goods before love."
Paralleling the first love test is the incident of the retainers in II.iv. "When Lear turns from one tiger-daughter to the other, fighting to retain 100, then 50, then 25 followers, he is again demanding an outward, visible sign of--to him--respect and honor, but--to us--love, if his daughters could only find it in their hearts."
In a speech in III.ii., Lear, obsessed with the idea of justice, sees the gods as bringing their enemies to the final bar of justice.
Let the great gods,
That keep this dreadful pudder o'er our heads,
Find out their enemies now. Tremble, thou wretch,
That hast within thee undivulged crimes
Unwhipp'd of justice. Hide thee, thou bloody hand;
Thou perjur'd, and thou simular man of virtue
That art incestuous. Caitiff, in pieces shake
That under covert and convenient seeming
Hast practis'd on man's life. Close pent-up guilts,
Rive your concealing continents grace. I am a man
More sinn'd against than sinning. (III.ii.49 ff.)

"When he speaks of his own guilt, Lear stands before a greater bar of justice."
Hockey points out that it is hardly coincidence that Lear's two maddest scenes both use the trial pattern. "Lear at his maddest is Lear most justice-minded." The joint-stool trial of is the peak of madness in the play, according to Hockey. It is also one of the scenes most concerned with justice. Hockey refers to a paper by a Robert Heilman who calls this a "duplication" of the play's first love test. Can the heartless be brought to trial? This is exactly what Lear attempts. "By using the trail pattern of action and now combining it with madness Shakespeare dramatizes the supremacy of love over justice, for justice can neither force nor punish its shortcomings."
In the sixth scene of the fourth act, Lear switches between being a clear-headed judge and a madman. He is the judge when he holds court, talking in verse. He is showing his madness when he speaks in blank verse. "Blank verse, then, here and in the joint-stool scene sets off and emphasizes the trial pattern."
"'I am a very foolish fond old man.' One piercing line gives us the hard lesson of the play, putting justice and love in their proper places as no love test ever did." Freely given love and remorse for the injustice he has wrought have displaced Lear's concern for love from others and the injustice he has suffered. Nothing could be further from the mad preceding scene.
Hockey also thinks that Gloucester's blinding comes across in the form of a trial. "The placing of the scene adds emphasis to it as a trial, for it immediately follows the strongest trail scene of the main plot, the joint-stool scene." Hockey quotes from Cornwall to show that his repeated command emphasizes the trial motif.
Go seek the traitor Gloucester,
Pinion him like a thief, bring him before us.
Though well we may not pass upon his life
Without the form of justice, yet our power
Shall do a court'sy to our wrath, which men
May blame, but not control. (III.vii.23 ff.)

Hockey says that "lovelessness" is on trial. "The trial is a mockery of justice. . . a dramatization in trial form of the need for love, not vengeance."
Hockey now says that the conclusion of the play is another kind of trial, a trial by combat. Albany has arrested Edmund, with Goneril as accomplice. "The ensuing trial by combat is carried out with ceremony: The trumpet sounds, Albany casts down a glove, Edmund casts down a glove, the heralds reads out the summons, the trumpet sounds three times, and finally Edgar appears, armed. Formal question and answer follow. Edgar bids Edmund draw his sword for justice. . . Edmund's reply that he will fight, though by 'rule of knighthood' he might delay, is repeated by Goneril after Edmund has fallen." Here is the play's last trial, one to recall the opening.
At the very end of the play, Lear sentences himself as if all the play's action had been a trial. He would now be happy in prison with Cordelia. "Justice. . . is of little concern; repentance, forgiveness, and reunion with a loving daughter are Lear's choice." His lesson is learned. "We judge him, too, condemning him for foolish pride and unbalance values, pitying him for his overwhelming suffering and rejoicing at his dawning consciousness of others."
Hockey does a marvelous job throughout this article. Her objectives are clear and well-defined; her support is solid as concrete. Hockey's easy language and simple structure make the paper easy to read. Hockey effortlessly shows that the trial motif dramatizes the larger meaning of King Lear--justice.

Hockey, Dorothy C. "The Trial Pattern in King Lear."
Shakespeare Quarterly 10 (1959): 389-96.

A Paper on Measure for Measure

Matthew Butcher
English 412(G)
September 20, 1993
Dr. Colvin

A Freudian Relationship

Shakespeare invokes many Freudian references in Measure For Measure. According to Rupin W. Desai's article "Freudian Undertones in the Isabella-Angelo Relationship of Measure For Measure," Isabella and Angelo constantly encounter Freudian slips in their conversations. "Shakespeare, with true Freudian insight, has made their mutual austerity conceal an emotion that is the converse of what is outwardly visible." In his paper, Desai wishes to put psychoanalytical attention on this relationship, especially on Isabella.
The first point that Desai raises is that of Isabella's chastity. She feels flattered by Angelo's attention to her, "that at the play's end her interceding on his behalf shows that women, 'however virtuous,' are willing to pardon any act which they think incited by their own charms." Desai goes even further to say that Isabella and Angelo come together anyway, their relationship reaching "its consummation in her finding her way--vicariously through Mariana--into Angelo's bed."
The Freudian undertones start much sooner in the play though. In their first encounter, Desai states that it is Isabella that tempts Angelo.
Isab. Gentle my lord, turn back.
Ang. I will bethink me. Come again tomorrow.
Isab. Hark how I'll bribe you. Good my lord, turn back.
Ang. How? Bribe me? (II,ii, 143-146)

"Isabella prolongs the interview by offering to 'bribe' him, a word that Angelo immediately, and understandably, interprets as being loaded with sexual possibilities."
One other passage from Isabella that Desai points out is even more densely loaded with Freudian descriptions.
He hath a garden circummured with brick,
Whose western side is with a vineyard backed;
And to that vineyard is a planched gate
That makes his opening with this bigger key;
This other doth command a little door
Which from the vineyard to the garden leads.
There have I made my promise
Upon the heavy middle of the night
To call upon him (IV,i, 26-34)

"The two enclosures, one leading into the other, the gate, and the little door, can be viewed as symbols of vagina, uterus, hymen, and as os uteri, respectively; while the two keys, one bigger, the other smaller, stand for phallus and sperm, respectively." Desai makes known that "such minute descriptive detail is unnecessary for Shakespeare's dramatic purpose." These details, in Desai's opinion, must be more for Shakespeare's Freudian significance rather than his dramatic one.
Another of Desai's emphases is how Isabella and Mariana basically become one character by the end of the play. Angelo wronged both women and, as they appeal to the Duke, kneel before the Duke in unison and barely speak in the last few hundred lines. It "brings home to us the close psychological identification of the two women who are, in some sense, really only one woman: Isabella."
In a complicated sentence, Desai tells us that Angelo and Isabella marry in a way: "Thus, whereas the Duke is Angelo's surrogate and Mariana Isabella's surrogate, the definite marriage of Angelo and Mariana and the probable marriage of the Duke and Isabella are, in fact, a marriage between Angelo and Isabella by double proxy."
This article, in my opinion, does not make the play more sensible. The underlying sexual tension between Angelo and Isabella is one of the play's main focuses. All Desai does is to present emphasis on the details, which isn't really necessary. By a careful examination, the reader picks this up anyway.
Desai also confuses the reader when he talks of Isabella and Mariana being really one woman. I do not see much of a basis for this. If Mariana is Isabella, then Isabella does fornicate with Angelo, thus losing anyway. They have to be two separate individuals to me or the play does not work. Isabella's chastity is an indisputable factor in the outcome of the play. To make her lose her chastity in this way does not fit the equation for me. The antagonist cannot win it or there is no conflict near the end and the ending itself would be completely different. By this equation there shouldn't be a Mariana at all. I just don't see how this "one woman" emphasis fits Shakespeare's purpose and Desai fails to present it in any discernible way.
All in all, the article presents unsupported facts for the author's main points. The Freudian aspect of this article, other than the sexual innuendos that are easily deciphered, has slipped my mind.

A Paper on The Merchant of Venice

Matthew Butcher
English 412(G)
Dr. Colvin
11 September 1993

A Reconsideration

The problem of The Merchant of Venice has always been its unity. Most critics state there are two plots being interwoven together, the Shylovk plot and the romance plot. In Graham Midgley's "The Merchant of Venice: A Reconsideration," the romance plot is thrown out altogether. Midgley suggests that the two focal points of the play are Shylock and Antonio. "The scheme of the play is, if I may reduce it to ratio terms: As Shylock is to Venetian society, so is Antonio to the world of love and marriage."
Shylock and Antonio are seen as kindred spirits by Midgley. They share a kinship of loneliness. As to Midgley's ratio, they are both outcasts.
Shylock is only a part of the Venetian society because of his money. Midgley points out that Shylock is not an accepted man to begin with. "The important thing is that he is a Jew in a Gentile society, that all he is and all he holds dear is alien to the society in which he has to live. He is an alien, an outsider, tolerated but never accepted." Midgley goes on to say that being a Jew is not important in itself but what being a Jew has done to his personality is. Shylock's values and ideas are far left of the liberals that inhabit Venice. He is an outcast by the society, not the society outcast by Shylock.
When his daughter Jessica elopes, this is the crucial point in Shylock's development. It pushes him over the edge in that he now coldly and calmly tries to collect his fee from Antonio, Antonio representing all the evils that the Venetian society has imposed upon him. "And behind this calm front, the burning sorrow of Jessica's shame is still there:
The pound of flesh which I demand of him
Is dearly bought. (IV.i.99)

Dearly bought by Jessica's shame, surely, for which he holds Antonio scapegoat."
Antonio is not outcasted by his society but rather by his loneliness within. Midgley delves deeply into the homosexual overtones of his character. "Antonio is an outsider because he is an unconscious homosexual in a predominantly, and indeed blatantly, heterosexual society. . . The fact which strikes one above all about Antonio is his all-absorbing love of Bassanio, his complete lack of interest in women. . .and his being left without a mate in a play which is rounded off by a full-scale mating denouement." Midgley states that it was Bassanio's mention of the possiblity of marriage which place Antonio into such a melancholy state at the beginning of the play. He would gladly give up his life for Bassanio. "The death is, in a way, welcome, for it is his greatest, if his last, opportunity to show his love." This is why he never fights Shylock's claim or even questions it. Antonio does not want to live in a cruel world without Bassanio.
"I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano,
A stage, where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one. (I.i.77-9)

The parallel between Shylock and Antonio is the framework of the play. Shylock is outcast by society and Antonio is outcast by his love for Bassanio. "There is the basic kinship in the Jew and the Merchant. the kinship of loneliness."
In the final analysis, I agree with Midgley's main points. I read this play before in high school and never encountered the possibility of Antonio's homosexuality. After reading this article more of the play makes sense. It also makes it easier to revolve the play around Shylock and Antonio.
As Midgley said himself in his opening paragraph, he wrote this piece to discuss exactly what the central issues of the play are. Critics have disagreed in the past and Midgley wanted to clear all the gibberish, making a new point that is more sensible than its predecessors. This article clears up many questions I have had with my experiences of the play.

Midgley, Graham. "The Merchant of Venice: A Reconsideration." Essays in Criticism, 10 (1960): 121-133.

A Paper on Henry IV Part I

Matthew Butcher
English 412(G)
Dr. Colvin
28 September 1993


One of the many prevalent metaphors in 1 Henry IV is the

metaphor of liability, the ethical obligations in terms of

financial indebtedness. In the article "1 Henry IV: The

Metaphor of Liability," the author E. Rubinstein expounds upon

this, bringing this metaphor across the whole spectrum of the

play. It tells of the moral nature of the main characters, fixes
the world of the play as one in which practical cunning is

dominant, and serves the purpose of expressing the play's general
sense of time closing in.
Rubinstein shows how the metaphor helps the reader understand the moral nature of the main characters. In light of Prince Hal, this metaphor shows him as one who "can be trusted always to pay off his debts."
So when this loose behavior I throw off,
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better than my word I am,
By so much shall I falsify men's hopes. (I,ii,203-206)

Rubinstein points out the "precise metaphoric relation between tavern debts and the transcendent ethical obligations of his station--the debt which, unlike that of the tavern, he 'never promised,' but which he will most certainly pay." There is one scene mentioned by Rubinstein (I,ii), where Prince Hal has a great "willingness to pay up at the hour of reckoning" of one of his tavern debts. The author relates that this shows how his future kingship is the ultimate test of his understanding of obligations.
One area where Rubinstein considerably excels in his explanations is on this passage from Falstaff:
Bardolph, am I not fallen away vilely since this last
action? Do I not bate? Do I not dwindle? Why, my
skin hangs about me like an old lady's loose gown. I
am withered like an old apple-john. Well, I'll repent, and that suddenly, while I am in some liking; I shall be out of heart shortly, and then I shall have no
strength to repent. An I have not forgotten what the
inside of a church is made of, I am a peppercorn, a
brewer's horse: the inside of a church! Company,
villainous company, hath been the spoil of me.

From the above passage, I see no correlation to the them. As far as I'm concerned, there is no "reference to financial liability," Rubinstein's main thesis. He brings this up to show Falstaff's moral immutability in contrast to Hal's "susceptibility to moral influence and moral change." The entire quote above is then, simply, a fundamental contrast so that the author can concentrate on Falstaff. It is excellent background support. The next couple of examples are concerned almost exclusively with Falstaff's accountability.
Rubinstein then moves into the comparisons of the King to Prince Hal. One speech that the author points out rephrases Hal's pledge to face up to the demands of rule.
. . . Therefore lost that title of respect
Which the proud soul ne'er pays but to the proud.

The King defines "himself as creditor, thereby stressing the specifically filial import of Hal's vow to live up to his obligations."
The author then delves into his second main theme, in which practical cunning is the key to every triumph. He cites a lot of examples, of a the vocabulary of commerce and the prominence of monetary metaphors. It is "appropriate that the resolution of the war must depend on a young man who can always be trusted to pay his debts." He also notes Hotspur's downfall. "Hotspur's sin was precisely his failure to pay up--to render 'Those prisoners in your Highness' name demanded' (I,iii,22)."
Rubinstein's last point is the sense of time closing in. Every debt has certain time limits. The author again cites many specific examples. Now concentrating on Falstaff, the author pushes his most powerful point, Falstaff's "profoundly anti-aristocratic sense of battle." In a war, debts are paid with lives, and Falstaff is apprehensive of "the fearsome battle that will provide the play's only possible climax and unite in carnage the entire kingdom." Falstaff brings together all the metaphors of liability in the play.
Prince. Why, thou owest God a death. [Exit]
Fal. 'Tis not due yet, I would be loath to pay
him before his day--what need I be so forward
with him that calls not on me? (V,i,126-129)

The different responses define the two men. "The metaphor of liability is employed to demonstrate and vindicate Prince Hal's coming glory."
This article helped me to understand one of the basic underlying themes of 1 Henry IV, a theme which I myself would not have grasped. It enhances my enjoyment of the play. Rubinstein presents sound arguments and conclusions that I couldn't help but to admit to. He did an excellent job.

Monday, March 21, 2005

My dad and Morgan in Seattle last year. I fyou know Seattle, you know exactly where this picture was taken, the famous hog right in front of the fish vendors in Pike Place Market. Right behind them is where they usually film the vendors throwing fish, you know, when you watch a football or baseball game in Seattle. It's uncanny how much I look like my father.

British Literature II

Matthew Butcher
English 210-1
Dr. Colvin
8 October 1993

1. The sonnet form had major developments in England from Wyatt through Shakespeare. Differences in themes, techniques, rhyme schemes, and other individual differences contribute to these developments.
The sonnet was introduced to England by Sir Thomas Wyatt The Elder. Wyatt's themes came from a Petrarchan source, a collection of 366 poems called Canzoniere, "but his rhyme schemes came from other Italian models. The usual Italian rhyme scheme imitated by Wyatt consisted of an octave, abba abba, and a sestet, cddc ee. This structure was already beginning to break down into the "English" sonnet, three quatrains and a couplet. He also used iambic pentameter. Wyatt's poems were with a "cheerful, lively independence" as a characteristic.
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey used a form of the sonnet that became known as the English sonnet. It contained three distinct quatrains and a couplet but with a different rhyme scheme, abab cdcd efef gg. Surrey has also been noted as "the first English poet to publish in blank verse--unrhymed iambic pentameter--a verse form so popular in the succeeding four centuries that it seems almost indigenous to the language."
Edmund Spenser created a form of the English sonnet with perhaps the most difficult rhyme scheme. He overlaps the quatrains with abab bcbc cdcd and then a final couplet, ee. Spenser's sonnets, especially from Amoretti, are mainly love poems, drawing on characteristic and conventional themes and conceits. What is characteristically Spenserian about them is his yoking of the spirit and the flesh."
William Shakespeare's sonnet form became so popular that it adopted his name. The three quatrains in a Shakespearean sonnet "work equally and successively to prepare for a conclusion in the couplet." Shakespeare also drew on the Petrarchan structure of the octave setting one situation and the sestet turning in an entirely different direction. Shakespeare made good use of rhetorical strategies in his sonnets, "some begin with a reminiscence, some are imperative, others make an almost proverbial statement and then elaborate it." The imagery of these sonnets is also very deep drawing off many different sources, especially nature.
The sonnet underwent many changes once it arrived in England. All of the contributions from the above mentioned authors eventually transformed the sonnet into what it is today.
2. The Faerie Queen can be seen as a manifestation of Sir Philip Sidney's theory of literature, presented in his The Defence of Poesy. Sidney says that the main objectives of the poet is to delight and to teach. Sidney's responses to the four objections raised by advocates against poetry go wonderfully with what Spenser is doing in The Faerie Queen.
The first objection is that there are more fruitful types of knowledge than poetry. Sidney refutes this by saying that the highest knowledge is moral knowledge. Spenser's main purpose in The Faerie Queen is instructing the reader morally. It can be seen as an allegory showing the readers the evils of life and telling them to avoid them. In short, The Faerie Queen is a story of a culture's ethical and spiritual morals.
The second objection is that poetry is a bunch of lies. Sidney says, "if lying is to affirm, what is false?" Poets tell the moral truth. Spenser relates the "right" way to proceed in life. That is what the House of Holiness represents. It cleanses the Redcrosse Knight's vision and cures his will so he can begin to tread down the "right" path. Traveling is Spenser's metaphor for the Redcrosse Knight's progress. His ways are the right, moral ways.
The third objection is that poetry infects us with bad desires. Sidney says that poetry doesn't infect wit, rather wit infects poetry. In other words, poetry corrects. The Faerie Queen tells of religious and political turmoil in subtle ways. The House of Holiness can be seen as a parody of St. Augustine's City of God. A battle can be seen as the Church of England over Rome or Christ defeating Satan or other such allegorical representations. It tells us of good ways and doesn't incur bad desires.
The fourth and final objection is that Plato himself banished poets from his Republic. Sidney says that Plato banished poetry, not because it was bad, but because it was abused. Spenser makes his Faerie Queen an intelligent work for many of the reasons above. To instruct us morally is Spenser's main purpose. This cannot be seen as an abuse of poetry.
The poet, according to Sidney, must also present a "golden world." The reader tends to imitate this world. The poet should present a perfected nature. This is what Spenser does.
3. In many ways it is possible to see Dr. Faustus as an outgrowth of the earlier dramatic tradition, especially the morality plays, both in technique and in thematic.
Dr. Faustus got the important aspects from morality plays, such as theology, philosophy, medicine (aka natural history), and law. But Dr. Faustus is no longer straight didactism or allegorical. There are real, particularized people on stage that have our attention as they fall through some willful act of their own. They must be noble at the beginning and fall into an ignominious position at the end. Dr. Faustus is built on a parody of mystery plays, the story of saints and martyrs. Instead of the main character traversing upwards to holiness, Faustus goes down to damnation.
The easiest comparison to draw is that of Dr. Faustus to Everyman. When the seven deadly sins come out in Faustus the audience can immediately grasp the similarity to Everyman's characters. Everyman uses straight allegorical representations for its characters, while Faustus moves into representation. In the latter, the audience can decipher what the characters are supposed to stand for, rather than just naming the character what it is.
Faustus is immediately an outgrowth of this early morality play tradition. Drama becomes what we know it from these two works.

Graduation speech



Members of the Somonauk Board of Education, Administration, faculty, family, and friends:


On behalf of the Class of 1991, I would like to welcome you to this year's commencement exercises.


As we, the graduates, leave this auditorium today, we embark on a new adventure in our lives.  This experience reminds me of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's famous poem "Ulysses."  In it, Ulysses, the hero of Homer's Greek epic, leaves behind the security and familiarity of his home to set sail for new adventures.  This is much like what we will experience today as we leave behind our years of schooling and set off into our futures.


In Tennyson's poem, Ulysses says he intends  "To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."


We can relate this line to all our lives.  We strive to reach the goals we set in life.  We seek the new experiences that life has to offer.  We attempt to find the answers to questions that life presents.  And, most importantly, we will not yield in all our life endeavors.


May we, the Class of 1991, "drink life to the lees" and triumph as did Ulysses as we set off on the next great adventure of our lives.


****I delivered this speech as salutatorian at my high school graduation class in 1991. Mrs. Lehman helped me immensely. I actually think she did most of this for me.

British Literature I

Matthew Butcher
English 210
Dr. Colvin
11 September 1993

1. One can compare and contrast the two genres of epic and romance by citing examples from Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green knight. Both are classic representations of their respective categories.
Beowulf is a classic epic. It is a long narrative poem written in a heightened style, focusing on heroic deeds and on one main heroic protagonist in particular. The heroic character is central to the foundation of the culture. Beowulf is the hero and man of action. He heard of the horrors of Grendel and would dispose of the beast with his might. ". . .of mankind he was the strongest of might in the time of his life, noble and great." That is what an epic hero is. He boasts of his past accomplishments ("In my youth I have set about many brave deeds.") and boasts of what he will presently do with might that is only his ("I scorn to bear sword or broad shield, yellow wood, to the battle, but with my grasp I shall grapple with the enemy and fight for life, foe against for.").
Also in an epic, and thus in Beowulf, the antagonistic threat must be to the survival of the culture. Grendel has taken Heorot hostage. Heorot was an important place in Hrothgar's domain. It was "a great mead-building that the children of men should hear of forever." It was the place that brought his kingdom together. By attacking Heorot, Grendel attacks the foundation of Hrothgar's empire, threatening the survival of that culture. Beowulf fits all the classic determinations of an epic.
A romance contains many of the same characteristics of an epic and only varies slightly. A romance deals mainly with the chivalric adventures of a knight, motivated by love and righteousness. The knight is also a lover defending his Christian culture against threats to its values.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is of the romance genre in those respects. Gawain is a classic knight of chivalry. He was one of King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table. The three major interests of medieval romance consist of knightly bravery, ideal love, and Christian action and values. The Green Knight employs all these things of Sir Gawain. The plot tests how noble and honorable Gawain is. ". . .an opportunity to study how successfully Gawain, as a man wholly dedicated to Christian ideals, maintains those ideals when he is subjected to unusual pressures.
As is evident from above, the two genres of epic and romance share many of the same traits but vary in certain respects.

2. In the Canterbury Tales, Chaucer implements a great deal of irony. With his church-type characters, Chaucer writes a satire on the church itself. He also chastises the entire class system.
Chaucer tackles the evils of the present church system through his descriptions of his church characters. With subtle wording that seems to flatter the character, Chaucer in fact debases the character and viciously attacks the church.
There's the Nun that Chaucer shows to be anything but chaste and plain. She wore expensive jewelry ("She wore a coral trinket on her arm") and had a brooch that read Amor vincit omnia. That doesn't seem to comply with the vows of a nun. With the Friar, Chaucer shows how this profession is degenerating. "For in so eminent a man as he/ It was not fitting with the dignity/ Of his position, dealing with a scum/ Of wretched lepers." Friar also gives absolution for gifts. "Sweetly he heard his penitents at shrift/ With pleasant absolution for a gift." A Friar should not do these things. The Pardoner carries common items trying to pass them off as religious artifacts. "For in his trunk he had a pillow-case/ Which he asserted was Our Lady's veil." The monk is not studious and hates books. "Was he to study till his head went round/ Poring over books in cloisters?" Monks are also supposed to be exempt from worldly possessions but this Monk, according to the text, had fine fur on his sleeves and gold fashion pins.
The Pardoner's Tale is also a satire on the church itself. The Pardoner wanted to tell a scary story to make people but pardons, therefore pushing his own occupation and enriching his wallet.
Chaucer also shows contempt for the class system. The characters of the supposedly higher class are rotten and corrupt while the lower class are good and kind.
The Woman of Bath was promiscuous. "She'd had five husbands, all at the church door,/ Apart from other company in youth." "And knew the remedies for love mischances,/ An art in which she knew the oldest dances." The Doctor carried his own drugstore where he could make money for himself. "All his apothecaries in a tribe/ Were ready with the drugs he would prescribe/ And each made money from the other's guile." "Yet he was rather close as to expenses/ And he kept the gold he won in pestilences." Sounds like the Hippocratic oath to me. The Franklin was a man that lived for pleasure. "In whose opinion sensual delight/ Was the one true felicity in sight."
The Parson, though a holy man, was truly good. "He much dislike extorting tithe or fee,/ Nay rather he preferred beyond a doubt/ Giving to poor parishioners round about/ From his own goods and Easter offerings." The Plowman was also as good man. "He was an honest worker, good and true,/ Living in peace and perfect charity,/ And as the gospel bade him, so did he." Chaucer, by the text descriptions, also thought well of the Knight.
From the surface the reader doesn't see the ironic fun Chaucer is making of the church and the class system. Delve a little deeper tough, and it is there.

3. The literature we have read tells a great deal about the culture that inspired it. Beowulf is a surviving epic of a time period almost forgotten. Beowulf is a tale that the reader can just imagine being told by a medieval scop in an ancient land. An analysis of its contents even displays the religion of the period. Beowulf contains strong Christian overtones and values. "But while admitting such values, the poet also invokes many others of a very different order, values that seem to belong to an ancient, pagan, warrior society." Even though Christianity was a strong influence of the author, it had not destroyed the older pagan traditions. Beowulf also delves into the relationships of the time, between the warrior and his lord and between kinsmen. When a warrior, or thane, promised allegiance to his lord it was a relationship based on "mutual trust and respect." For kinsmen, "each rank of society was evaluated at a definite price, which had to be paid to the dead man's kinsmen by the killer who wished to avoid their vengeance." These aspects of Beowulf tell a lot about the rime period that inspired it.
Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales does an excellent job of examining the ills of the period. As explained in Question #2, Chaucer satirizes the entire church system. The Tales were also influenced by the emerging changes of the world, "economically, politically, and socially."
Sir Gawain is important because women begin to become increasingly important in literature. Literature also begins defining love and creating conventions of love.
Everyman is a classic example of the popular morality plays of its time. These plays were to teach illiterates good moral sense. Its cousin, the mystery play, was a representation of Biblical texts. The morality plays were presented as allegories, to teach the populace about being good.
From in-depth analysis of any of these works, one can bring forth a flood of information relating to the time period.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Essential Software

Zone Alarm is a free firewall. Free. It blocks programs from going to the internet unless you want them to. It blocks programs from getting to your computer. I have been using it for five months now, from a recommendation from PC World magazine. I have absolutley loved it. I trust it implicity, especially since I was worried when we got our DSL line for the computer. Get this software.

Classes scheduled

My Masters degree is beginning. Classes start April 4th. My first class is Seminar in Poetry. I already have an access code for National University so I can access their online libraries.

I am nervous and excited at the same time. I absolutely must get this done. It's an automatic $5,000 raise on my teacher's salary when it is completed. I want to concentrate on some high level literature critical analysis, not spend it on a stupid masters of education or spend my time languishing with some of the low level stuff I have to teach these ninth graders.

The time commitment is scaring me the most. It's ten classes, about a month a class. They are all online classes so the time will be spent probably later in the evening, after Madison has gone to bed. There will be a lot of reading, and even though I am an English major, I have never been a fast reader.

I want to do this. I am excited about the challenge. I need to concentrate on the challenge not the little hassles it will bring on my life. A Masters degree in English. And then I will go on for my PhD in English. I have always wanted to be called Dr. Butcher, just for the pun on the name alone. The sense of accomplishment this will bring will be enormous.

BOOK part 1

My cell phone buzzed with that irritating series of beeps. And I had just sat down with my bottle of Labatt’s Blue to watch Monday Night Football. I hoped it wasn’t work as I let it ring three times before I even moved. Only work would be calling me now. Unfortunately, on my job, it meant that somebody was dead.
I snatched the phone off the countertop in the kitchen. That little screen showed the name and number of the person intruding in my life. “Hey, Mike,” I said into it.
“Detective Smith,” replied the gruff voice. Mike was my partner but he always had this way of calling everybody by their official title and last name. It was a quirk that I never got used to, almost distancing in a way. “We’ve got a big one tonight.”
I couldn’t believe it. I just worked all weekend and long hours too. And I’m dying to see Miami trash Buffalo tonight. I missed all the games yesterday and I think the disappointment showed in my voice as I said, “For the love of God, who could it be.”
Mike paused before replying, apparently wanting to draw out my suspense. I didn’t feel suspense, only annoyed. “You’re gonna love this one. Your best friend was just shot in the head.”
Now Mike perked my attention. It was rare to work on cases of people you actually knew. But my best friend? This was probably his sick idea of a joke. He was actually going to make me ask again. I had a girlfriend once that was like that, saying a statement like, “Boy, I had a bad day,” and then waiting for me to respond with a simple. “Oh, yeah. What happened.” As if my response actually pushed the conversation forward. If I had a bad day and wanted to tell somebody, I just told them, not wait for somebody to feign interest.

Morgan at the Kitsap Mall's children's playground.

Madison. Need I say more?

Amy, dark and mysterious.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bryan Singer's Video Blog

Bryan Singer is well aware of the fan base around Superman. He is posting video blogs online every 2-3 days on He has only put out two so far, but that's because production just started. These videos are an amazing insight. The second one shows the director's mind on how he wants to make the camera pan up to look out a window. I am so glad they chose the director of X-Men. That just tells me this will be made right. I just pray that the story is cool.

Rumors have it, out of the mouth of Singer, that Superman returns from a 4-5 year absence (went to Krypton or something). For the latest updates, check out Superman Homepage.

Photo booth. Morgan was young. I don't even remember when this picture was taken. I look at it and just say, "Wow." I'm a lucky man.

Tron Deadly Discs. The greatest video game. Ever.It simply consisted of one guy in a room and throwing discs as weapons in an arena-like setting. No final stage. Just keep playing for points. And getting points was tough. Simple. But that is what makes a great game. Gamemakers are forgetting that. I tried playing that "Enter the Matrix" and I didn't know what to do or where to go, and I understand video games. Tron Deadly Discs was the best because it was simple. I used to play it on Intellivision. If only I still had this game...

Baseball Theory

My buddy Brian brought up the current baseball woes in Congress regarding steroids. I keep thinking about it...

This may be crazy but hear me out. I bet there's a conspiracy. No, no grassy knoll or a 1969 soundlot set up to look like the moon, but a real blackhearted conspiracy. I bet that the bigwigs in baseball, I mean the people behind the real money aspect of the game, the "smoking men" of baseball to use an X-Files reference, I bet they put some people up to this steroids usage.

After the strike year, the year they cancelled baseball in the middle of the year, the same year I really think that the Chicago White Sox would have made a run for it, people lost interest in baseball. I know I did. The numbers did not come back after baseball came back. Many fans stayed away. Ask most sports people and they will say the number one reason baseball came back to the fans was the great home run chase between Sosa and McGwire.

So these guys behind the scenes probably picked a bunch of guys that would go along with it, guys that already had some numbers. They knew what steroids could do, and what's better to watch than not only one guy trying to break the holy grail of records but TWO guys fighting for it. Sosa and McGwire got lucky and reacted well with the steroids.

There are other instances. I really think Bret Boone of the Seattle Mariners was juiced during the phenomenal 2001 season when the team won 116 games. I think Bonds has to be, or he's some comic book mutant with the superpower of home run hitting. Plus, how can a record that stood since 1961, and before that 1927, be beaten five times in less than four years. And not just beaten by one like Maris did to Ruth's record (or like Manning did to Marino's touchdown record this year to show more than just baseball), but shattered. Sosa 66 and 63, McGwire 70 and 65, Bonds 73.

Granted, this is just my wacky theoretical conjecture. I have no evidence, just my gut. After Enron, I think upper management of any business is capable of anything. And I bet they thought that if there were no physical evidence, no test results, that it would never be proven. Win-win. Win for the players whose names have been indelibly impressed upon us and win for the baseball business managers and their full pocketbooks.

I betcha. You'll see...if these congressional committees really push the issue, if it's really looked into. But maybe the smoking men covered their tracks well enough...

I betcha.

Hitchcock Review: The Man Who Knew Too Much

Hitchcock actually made two movies called The Man Who Knew Too Much. This first one from 1934 starring Peter Lorre is known as the British version, coming a full 22 years before the lavish Hollywood remake starring James Stewart. This is an excellent movie, very fast paced and full of wit.

A couple has their child kidnapped in order to prevent them divulging any information that a dead spy has told them. Can you see the theme of regular people facing extraordinary circumstances seeping out? Hitch again makes it compelling to the average viewer because we are the star, putting ourselves in the position of the leading characters.

The great part of this movie is that you never scream at the characters for what they should be doing. The bad guys are very bad and do not commit any stupid mistakes, although you can see the appropriate ending coming as the mother, a famous sharp-shootist, saves her daughter. There's always a reason that they don't shoot on sight, in order to keep the others from prying. And Peter Lorre, who did not know English at the time and had to learn the part phonetically, was extremely scary. That sneer of his made it possible for him to explode at any time. Hitch contains it until an explosive final confrontation.

This movie receives a major recommendation as I believe it sets some cinematic foreshadowing of movies to come.

Friday, March 18, 2005


Coldfire is a story I created as a freshman in high school for Mr. Knudtson. I was really influenced by Jack London's To Build a Fire. Looking at it now, I see immaturity, yet promise. I really have to write more. The extremely interesting thing is that I remember having a discussion with the teacher on purposeful sentence fragments. If only some of these ninth graders here could have an intelligent discussion with me on complete sentences and sentence fragments, this job would be easier. Here it is: Coldfire.

A short story by Matt Butcher
Dedicated to my best friend, Eric S. Reeb

The blazing, brilliant blizzard confronted the meekly warm cabin. The modest hearth raged with a comforting fire for James and his son Derek. But even the fire was not enough. They both wore three parkas over three wool sweaters with dual pairs of pants. A 1942 winter in the Yukon is not a good place to be.
Derek sat in front of the fire, his face red from the heat. His hands, without gloves, were outstretched over the fire. If they were any closer they would have been burned.
James was at the pot-belly stove stirring up the canned salmon in one pan while snow melted to drinking water in another. His face had such a look of giving up that he wouldn't look directly at his son. As he placed the food on a plate for Derek, he said something that sounded as if he had no hope. "Tomorrow mornin', once daybreak sets up, I'm gonna try ta make it ta town." He looked into the fire as he spoke.
Derek, being a wise fifteen, swallowed his mouthful and stared at his father to see if he was joking. He hoped.
"It's a whole day's journey on foot," his father continued. "But I can make it during the day. As long as the sun's out ta keep me warm, I'll make it. We need supplies bad. That salmon you're eating is the last. It's too early in the winter ta wait fer good weather. I gotta chance it." His gaze did not leave the fire. He knew it was do or die. Literally.
"You can't," pleaded Derek. "Even on dogsled we couldn't make it in seven hours. And the dogs are dead. You can't make it. The cold'll slow you down."
"The winter came too soon ta prepare for," explained James finishing his dinner. "The big blizzard came in so fast we couldn't go ta town ta get supplies. Thar's nothin' in the icebox but ice! If I don't chance it we'll die as surely as anythin'.
"Now in the mornin', I'll leave probably even 'fore dawn. I'll bring back a dogsled. You'll stay here an' I'll be back within two days." James picked his plate off his lap, stood up and walked to the old, tiny kitchen. He knew the question that would pop into Derek's head. He didn't want to answer it. Or even think about it.
Derek spoke the question even though the answer was already in his mind. "What if you don't make it?"
Acting surprised, James stood paralyzed, as if the question was irrelevant, although he knew it was the topic. "Don't talk like that, son. I'll be back." The last sentence was whispered to himself.
That was the end of that. Derek wouldn't say another word. For an extra twenty minutes, he sat before the fire, gazing and staring at the destructive force that was its trademark. The one log transcended into ashes as he watched. He admired it. Something that powerful must be admired. And he feared it all the same; as he will.

James had left before Derek had even awakened. There was nothing for Derek to do anyway, so a good book might be in order. It would be two days before he'd eat again. And two days before his fears would be pushed aside for others.
There was an adequate selection of books-from Charles Dickens to Mark Twain. Tom Sawyer came down off the shelf in his hands. He sat by the fire to read.

When he finished A Tale of Two Cities, he put it back upon the shelf. He was scared now.
He looked at the 1942 calendar with pictures of Miami and other sunshine havens. One solid week had passed. He had even missed that week's "Jack Benny" radio program because he was in the middle of The Call of the Wild. It's a good thing he didn't read To Build a Fire or he'd have been paranoid.
He was hungry.
Very hungry.
He had been through the icebox twenty-three times; he counted. He had almost literally licked it clean. It was hanging open, showing that the cupboard was bare.
His father would not be coming back. He knew that now as he stared at the brilliant blanket of snow laying over the frozen ground. His father's tracks had been filled and covered by snow.
He had to try it himself.
He knew the way; he'd been over it a million times. But now the way seemed much harder, much more dangerous, much more hated.

Dawn reached the Yukon cabin and Derek left his home forever.
He was dressed in his own as well as his father's clothes. He knew how to keep from freezing inside the cabin, but meeting the cold directly stunned him. At first he thought his eight layers of clothing weren't enough.
The first three hundred yards were the easiest. He slipped over a sheet of ice once after that. He basically had no control over his hands. His face stopped the fall.
His forearms were frozen.
His two thick pairs of gloves were not enough. He had to warm them, or gangrene would set in, if it hadn't already.
He fumbled into his pocket the best he could with his right hand. He barely clasped upon a box of matches. As he slid them out of his pocket, three fell to meet the snow. The rest were safe though, as his hand huddled them against his body.
Fifteen paces brought him next to a clump of trees, ones still alive and others dead on the ground.
When he tried to grasp a match in order to light it, they all spilled to the ground, all except two. Out of thirty matches, he had two left. If they would light.
The first match he slipped between his index and middle fingers the best he could. He scraped it against the wood. Again and again he scraped it until it broke. A frozen cry of defeat escaped from his pursed lips.
One match left.
One chance left.
As he mentally crossed his fingers, the last match lit upon striking the wood the second time. He began to bring it slowly over to a pile of dead dry branches to build the fire, but the wind blew the life from it. No sense giving up, he thought. Better get going before it gets dark.
Cold 1, Derek 0.

He finally realized that he could barely move his legs anymore, that it was sheer force of will that kept him going. He could see only the sun behind the snow-covered trees to the west. And it was getting colder.
"I want fire.
"Warmth, heat. Blazing heat that'd singe my flesh, get the freezing snow off my skin."
He barely missed the smoke column that was rising in the short distance, being so caught up in his thoughts and driving force. He made it. He had beaten the coldfire.
As best and as hard as he could, he lumbered forward in quickened paces. Fire was closer now.
It was only twelve minutes until Derek reached the center of the seven building town of Lestersville. The General Store was twenty paces away. He made it!
As he rushed in, the door almost broke off its hinges. The warm air of indoors met the invincible cold.
"Shut the door, kid!" screamed a husky voice from the back of the store as its owner rushed to the front. He hit the door with the bulk of his body to close it tight. Derek just sat there staring. Saliva had frozen his lips shut.
The man turned around to meet his quiet customer. A spark flared in his mind. "Hey, ain'tcha Jim Porter's son?"
Derek nodded.
"Well. how'd ya get way out here from your cabin?" the man questioned, guiding Derek towards the fire in the back. "Ya gotta be cold, but the fire'll warm ya up."
Then the fire reached Derek's waiting eyes. He rushed out of the man's pushing hands in small strides towards the blazing salvation.
When he ran past, Derek kicked a crate of whiskey. It broke and began to leak along the floor.
Then Derek slipped. His feet went ahead of him and crashed into the stove, knocking it over. A lone log with a small touch of orange fire leaped from the impact and hit the whiskey-drenched crate.
It took only two seconds for the whiskey to ignite. This accelerant was enough to spread it throughout the room.
"Kid!" screamed the man. "Come on! Before you're blocked in!" But before Derek could move, the fire swept along the floor, totally isolating him from freedom.
In a situation such as this, you would expect Derek to wish he had never wanted fire so much, started wishing for impossible things that he should have done.
But he didn't. He wanted fire, wanted it badly. He couldn't cheat himself from his one desire since he left the cabin. At least Derek had the comfort of heating his frozen body before the fire completely engulfed him.