I love the internet. It’s fascinating to start surfing for information on a topic, and see where links to related topics will take you.
For example ..... let’s consider “The Faerie Queene” by Edmund Spenser. “Let’s not!”, you may say, but bear with me a minute. We are NOT actually going to read it, as there is no stuffy old professor present demanding that we do so. Rather, we are going to pick away at facts about “ The Faerie Queene”, and see if we can find anything interesting.
Edmund Spenser himself was certainly no slacker. Considered one of the “Great Ones” of English poetry, he managed to endear himself to Queen Elizabeth I to such an extent that he obtained from her a pension for life. “The Faerie Queene” is considered his masterpiece. However, I defy anyone to actually read it, (other than stuffy old professors, of course!), as it is drenched to the point of suffocation with allegory, symbolism, and other such hard-to-read stuff. That it is also an extremely, ridiculously long poem doesn’t help its readability, as I contend that there exists an inverse relationship between a poem’s length and its accessibility. Wikipedia even states that there is no evidence that Elizabeth I actually read any of it.
Edmund never did finish writing it, but even so I believe it is the longest poem in the English language.
As you would expect, the cast of characters in “ The Faerie Queene” is enormous. And some of them have interesting connections. Starting in alphabetical order with the lovely “Acrasia”, whose specialty seems to be seducing knights, we see on Wikipedia that she is similar to Circe from Homer's Odyssey.
Circe? Hmmm ...... that name seems to ring a bell. Wasn’t she the woman who threatened to, uh, “unman” Odysseus?
Turns out that she is indeed the woman who almost turned Odysseus into a soprano. Circe was a witch, infamous for changing men into beasts via various magic. Odysseus was warned of her behavior ahead of time by Hermes, and armed with the “Power of Holy Moly”, (actually the holy herb “moly”), he is able to resist her magic, then force her to swear that she won’t cut off or damage his sensitive parts during foreplay.
What a lovely little story, huh? The ancient Greeks certainly didn’t hesitate to add sex or violence to their tales, even, as in this case, combining the two. (I love the abrupt transition from poisoning, killing, then sex!) Why, then, do their stories seem somewhat dry when we read them today? I believe the problem is one of translation.
I remember reading the Odyssey in class when I was in high school. When we got to the scene where Hermes is telling Odysseus to be careful not to leap into bed with Circe too soon else she will “unman” him, I wondered if that meant what I thought it meant. We were probably reading the Butler translation, and I can’t imagine any proper Englishman writing something more specific than that.
Another example: in one of works of Plato, (I believe it is one of the early Socratic dialogues, but I don’t remember), Socrates says something like, “ .... and we will give birth either to an idea, or a wind-egg.” At least that is how the Victorian Benjamin Jowett translated it. Rather dull and dry, huh? But what if Socrates really said, “... and we will give birth either to an idea, or a fart.” That’s much more dramatic, earthy, and to the point.
Which leads us to our final destination, namely, term papers for sale. What I find interesting about these products, besides their very existence, is that they have a slant which presumably will endear them to the type of folk who find refuge in academia. For example, the term paper on The Odyssey says, “The poem reinforces a view of male authority that rests almost entirely on sexual dominance and the threat of violence, and examining the major female characters in some detail reveals how the poem undercuts female autonomy and power at every step of the way.”
Whew! That should get you some bonus points at the typical university!
So there you go. We started by looking at a work of semi-propaganda written by a male, for a female monarch, then ended with the conclusion that one of the source characters for this work was in fact just another downtrodden woman, no matter how powerful she may appear on the surface, and despite the fact that she initially planned on poisoning and/or castrating the hero of the narrative.
... and for the masochistic!