Monday, 28 August 2017

The Section 44 Circus

"Be Subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the Emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him ..." 1 Peter 2:13

It's been a while since I have written anything that pertains to either a current event, or something that our politicians have got up to, but that probably has something to do with there not being all that much of interest happening. That is since the Trumpet was 'unexpectedly' elected as the President of the United States, and has been stumbling from one blunder to another while cycling through staff faster that I cycle through my clothes. However, even though the machinations of the Trumpet make some groan with bemusement, others laugh with disbelief, or cringe with horror, it is more of what is going on here in Australia that has caught my attention of late. However, before I go on I probably should at least acknowledge the Bible verse that I opened with.

The thing is that the Bible commands Christians to respect their governments, elected or otherwise, as they have been appointed by God. While this is one verse that is regularly trotted out when a Christian friendly government is in power, it seems to be conveniently ignored when dealing with a government that is not seen as being particularly Christian (at least by certain segments of Christian society). Mind you, I probably should make it clear that I'm not a particularly big fan of the various institutions that have come about these days, especially since in many cases they seem to be little more than a joke. In fact, the only conservative Government currently in power in the Anglosphere that seems to actually have their heads screwed on properly are the English, and even then they had made some incredibly stupid decisions over the last couple of years (well, okay, there is also the Kiwis).

Yet, Christians are commanded to respect their governments, which I have to admit is a very hard thing to do when all we seem to have in power are a collection of clowns that really don't know the first thing about running a country. In fact here is a list of skills that you require to be elected to parliament:

No, that isn't a typo - there is actually no requirement whatsoever to be an elected representative. Okay, to be elected on the platform of one of the parties you probably do need something, but in the end, while you need to be a person of good character, and probably have some background experience, the ultimate skill you need to be pre-selected is the ability to network, (that is making) the right friends). In fact Bob Hawke and John Howard were right to bemoan the lack of experience that our career politicians have today - who have basically gone straight out of university politics into a politician's office without any experience in the real world.

I probably should mention that being of good character only applies to being elected on a platform for one of the political parties - in Australia at least it doesn't matter how long your criminal record is, as long as you aren't in gaol, you are eligible to be elected to parliament. Mind you, good luck keeping it hidden because you can be assured that your opponents will make it known as soon as they become aware that you have been a very naughty boy (or girl). Even then, the power of celebrity does have the ability to be able to over come these objections.

On the question of eligibility, this leads me to the topic that I was originally going to actually write this post about:

Citizen of Where ...

The Australian Constitution governs the eligibility of who can be elected to parliament, and while I could make mention on this being a legal matter and me not being a lawyer, that would be incorrect because even though I am technically not a lawyer (or a practicing one at least), I do have a law degree, and I did study Constitutional law. Mind you, Constitutional Law was probably one of the hardest subjects that I took, and it was compulsory. Also, it is one of those areas of law that tends to be pretty specific, and quite narrow - the only court that hears constitutional law cases is the High Court of Australia, which happens to be the highest court in the land.

I was going to jump straight into the legalese, but I then realised that many of you probably won't have any idea as to what I am talking about. Basically, Section 44 sets out, in a round-a-bout way, the things that prevent you from being a member of parliament (and the only crime that carte blanche makes you ineligible is treason). One of them is being the subject or citizen of a foreign power. Ironically, if you type 'section 44' into Google here in Australia you suddenly get a list of news stories relating to this constitutional farce.

So, a few weeks ago there was an announcement by one of the Greens Senators - Scott Ludlum, that it turns out that he is a citizen of New Zealand as well as being a citizen of Australia and as such was ineligible to sit in parliament, so he resigned. He was immediately followed by another Greens senator, Larissa Waters. Well, with two Greens Senators resigning nobody was really all that worried, particularly since when a senator resigns, the party to which that senator belonged simply picks the next candidate in line. However, things started going pair shaped when suddenly we had a member of cabinet, Matt Canavan, announcing that he is also a citizen of another country and as such also potentially ineligible (though, not surprisingly, the rules for the members of the government were somewhat different, or interpreted differently, than the rules for everybody else). Well, since he was a senator, that didn't pose a problem, but the next character did.

You see, the ruling conservative party in Australia (the Coalition of the Liberals and Nationals) holds onto power by a one seat majority. Suddenly, one of the lower house MPs reveals that he may be ineligible due to a possible connection with New Zealand. New Zealand pretty quickly confirmed he was actually a dual citizen (though why they kept quiet until then is beyond me). That would have been all well and good, except that this particular fellow, Barnaby Joyce, happens to be deputy prime minister. Anyway, a full list can be found here.

Needless to say that the farce continued with members of the government crying foul, and claiming that the opposition Labor party are actually traitors who were encouraging a foreign government to bring down the lawfully elected government of Australia. Well, that might just be true, but the whole thought of New Zealand being seen as a foreign power is just plain ludicrous, since there there are very few, if any, other countries in the world that have a closer relationship than does Australia with New Zealand. Yet, despite the fact that we could almost be considered a single nation, the reality is that we are two separate countries, and if what Julie Bishop said is true, then she is actually right.

Something Fishy

This isn't the first time that this problem has arisen, but it is rather surprising that it has come out of the wood work all at once. Okay, I suspect that there has been some rather sloppy housekeeping in relation to some of our elected officials, and the way that this government is going, shooting their mouths off, making knee jerk reactions, and generally being sloppy and untidy seems to be the norm these days. However it is interesting that it was actually the Greens that were the first to come to light.

Except that it isn't. I remember when I studied politics in year 12, my teacher told us that the two major parties basically hate independents and minor parties. The thing is that they believe that an ordered parliament is one that has a clear cut opposition and government. The problem with independents and minor parties is that they don't tend to vote the way that either party wants them to vote. The other thing is that in order to get legislation through they have to negotiate, and that involves work, and one thing politicians don't seem to like doing is working. So, they look for ways of trying to even the score.

I remember being told about a independent named Phil Cleary who was elected to parliament in 1992. However he was disqualified on the grounds that he was on unpaid leave from his job as a teacher at a government school, another aspect that makes you ineligible. The catch was that when the major parties referred him to the High Court, the judges decided to look at the candidates of the major parties as well, and it became clear that they were also ineligible due to them being dual citizens.

The Constitution

Anyway, before I continue I will reproduce it for you, if you can actually get your head around the rather archaic legalese:

Any person who:
(i)  is under any acknowledgment of allegiance, obedience, or adherence to a foreign power, or is a subject or a citizen or entitled to the rights or privileges of a subject or a citizen of a foreign power; or
(ii)  is attainted of treason, or has been convicted and is under sentence, or subject to be sentenced, for any offence punishable under the law of the Commonwealth or of a State by imprisonment for one year or longer; or
(iii)  is an undischarged bankrupt or insolvent; or
(iv)  holds any office of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth; or
(v)  has any direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any agreement with the Public Service of the Commonwealth otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company consisting of more than twenty-five persons;
shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
But subsection (iv) does not apply to the office of any of the Queen's Ministers of State for the Commonwealth, or of any of the Queen's Ministers for a State, or to the receipt of pay, half pay, or a pension, by any person as an officer or member of the Queen's navy or army, or to the receipt of pay as an officer or member of the naval or military forces of the Commonwealth by any person whose services are not wholly employed by the Commonwealth.
The particular part we are looking at is part (i), and it can be quite deceitful in a way. The problem with dual citizenship is that you may not actually realise that you have it. This was the case with Barnaby Joyce, who was born in Australia, and the only reason he was a citizen of New Zealand was because one of his parents was a citizen. Yet, the odd thing is that back when the Constitution was written, and for a time afterwards, he would have been eligible since New Zealand is not only a member of the Commonwealth, but part of the British Empire. Furthermore, Ludlam and Waters would have also been eligible (though Americans wouldn't've because American was not part of the empire).

This is why there has been calls for change, if not to the constitution, at least to the interpretation of it. Back when it was written, it was basically being subject to a foreign, non-British power, such as France or Germany. These days that is technically irrelevant. Okay, I would probably want the leaders of Australians to be, at least, citizens of Australia, and if they weren't born here, then of course I would like to see them renounce their former ties. 

The thing is that by acknowledging that these mistakes are going to be made, particularly in the case of Nick Xenopohon, who is a 'British overseas subject', it makes a lot of sense since his position has no weighting whatsoever in Britain. He can't hold a British passport, and he definitely cannot work there - well, he can, but he needs to obtain permission. The problem with changing the constitution is that it is really, really hard to do, though when it comes to interpretation, all it needs is a couple of willing judges.

The Burka

Of course, these isn't the only act in this three ringed circus, particular since while all this was going on a woman wearing a full face cover burka walked into the senate chamber as sat in the chair normally reversed for Pauline Hanson. Well, actually, it turned out to be Pauline Hanson, who then proceeded to earn the ire of the rest of the chamber. Mind you, she's sort of that type of person because she tends to be ultra conservative. Back in 1996 she was elected to parliament and started sprouting out how the Asians were going to take over Australia. The major parties then basically ganged up on her and made sure that she lost the next election.

For the next so many years pretty every election you could expect to see (or hear of) her running, and sure enough the perseverance paid off. With the huge swings against the coalition in 2016, we suddenly discovered that not just her, but a number of her colleagues, were also elected. Mind you, things had changed in the ensuring twenty years, and all of the sudden we find the Coalition suggesting that maybe it is time to start working with her. Then again the Coalition is pretty much being controlled by the conservative rump, which is one of the reasons this parliament seems to be just one, whopping, great big farce.
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The Section 44 Circus by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me

Monday, 21 August 2017

Staedel - The Medieval and the Masters

I've been meaning to sit down and write about the Staedel, and in particular exploring some of the artworks therein. Basically the Staedel is the Art Gallery in Frankfurt that is dedicated to paintings - sort of. While they do have a sculpture museum just a short distance down the road, when you wander into the modern art section of the museum (which happens to be in the basement), you suddenly see how art ceases to have any real defining aspect - in a way who ever decided to split art up into paintings and sculptures and place them in two different museums really didn't seem to have any real understanding on the nature of art.

Well, some places will have a separate gallery dedicated entirely to modern (or contemporary) art, such as Paris and London (though you will discover that there are no sculptures in the National Gallery, and whenever I ask a Londoner where I can find the sculptures they simply shrug their shoulders and make a comment along the line that art doesn't particularly interest them). However, here in Frankfurt they had moved the sculptures into the sculpture museum and left the paintings, and the modern art, here.

As you have probably worked out, there are three sections to the museum, with the Modern Art located in the basement, art from the 18th and 19th Century on the first floor, and the art of the old masters on the upper floor. Mind you, if I had known how the museum was set up I would have started at the top and worked my way down as opposed to the other way around because, honestly, there is something about Modern Art that really seems to take a lot out of you. However, in these next couple of posts I'll be looking at various works of art located in the Staedel, including the exhibitions that we saw.

Schaufenster des Himmel

The English translation on the website was 'Heaven on Display', which I have to admit didn't come across as well as 'Windows of the Heavens', which is the literal translation from the German. Anyhow, this small exhibition that was in one of the rooms off of the entry hall and contained a number of artifacts from the Kloster Alternberg, a secularised monestary (or more precisely a nunnery) in the town of Alternberg, a short distance north of Frankfurt. Unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take photos in here, but that is okay because I have since found images of the particular artifacts elsewhere.

Anyway, the two main items were the Altenberg Alterpiece, which is normally closed, but had been opened for this particular exhibition. Along with this we have a wall hanging which depicted the story of St Elizabeth of Hungary, and the altercloth of the last judgment. The Kloster was established sometime between 1260 and 1270, whereas the alterpiece was completed sometime around 1330. Since the 1920s the wings of the altarpiece have been in possession of the museum, however this exhibition had it in its complete form.

Fortunately I found some images on the internet, including one of the altarpiece (which is above). As you can see the central part is a carving of the Madonna and Child, which is probably the most common work of medieval (and early modern) art you will come across. Okay, while it is no doubt a popular topic of the time, we much also remember that the birth of Christ is central to the Christian faith - it represents God bursting into our world and becoming human like us so as to provide us a way of from the cycle of sin and death that we have found ourselves caught up in.

On each of the wings are four scenes, the scenes on the left being when the angel appeared to Mary, the scene of where Mary and Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist) meet, a nativity scene, and the flagellation. On the right wing we have the slaying of the dragon, no doubt representative of the defeat of sin that was the result of Christ's death and resurrection, the King and Queen of the region at the time the alterpiece was created, the blessing of Mary (or it could actually be the immaculate conception), and the adoration of the magi.

The picture below is a section of the atlarcloth that, well, lay over the altar, and this section depicts the adoration of the magi. This scene is where the wise men from the east, most likely Persians, though I do have this odd belief that one could have been from India and one from China. The Bible never actually tells us how many there were (or where they were from, except to say they were from the East, so they were obviously neither Greek or Roman), only that a number of wise men, or magi (which suggests that they were Persian), arrived within two years of his birth bearing gifts - it is that there are three types of gifts listed that gave rise to the myth of the three wise men.

After the Kloster was decommissioned the regional rulers decided to take many of the works of art that were inside and parcel them out among themselves, which meant that many of them ended up in private collections (and many of them probably still are). However, over the decades many of the works of art have slowly found their way back into the public sphere (though no doubt a number of the pieces on display here were borrowed from such private collections, which is why photography was forbidden). The final piece which I will show is on display at The Met in New York, and is stained glass window depicting, once again, the adoration of the magi.

This is something that appears to be a regular occurrence in the works of art in the collection, and seems to raise an important idea. In a way what is happening is that the wisdom of the world is acknowledging the reality of who the baby is claiming to be, though the suggestion is that the wise men come from the East (Persia and India) as opposed to the West (Greece and Rome). It is like our top professors appearing at a modern maternity ward and not so much paying homage to a child in a cot, but actually worshiping the baby and acknowledging him as God. The concept is actually quite absurd, and the only reason many of us don't see it as such is because we either dismiss it as a fairy tale, or are so used to the story that we don't really acknowledge how bizarre it really is. Anyway, we probably don't actually recognise the magi as being some of the top academics of the day, probably because we don't actually have any writings claiming to have come from any of them, and we also have a much more Greco-Roman view of the world.

Anyway, I will leave the works of the Kloster here and move on to the works of the masters.

The Old Masters

I was originally going to follow my original route through the museum, but upon realising that an exhibition on relics from a medieval monestary really doesn't sit all that well with a exposition on a number of contemporary artworks. As such I decided that I would instead start at the top, and in my next post look at the works of art from the modern and contemporary periods (as well as some of the works by Georg Baselitz, which was the other exhibition in the museum). The other thing that I noticed is that there are awful lots of works in the museum, and if I were to look at every one I'd probably be here forever, so instead I'll look at some of the more prominent ones.

However there is one problem: the painting that I wanted to start with I have no idea of its name, and while I was able to do a Google image search, all I came up with was the title "Die Einführung der Künste", which I have to admit did come from the Staedel website, though the website also indicated that it was painted by Philipp Veit between 1834 to 1836, which left me scratching my head because I felt that it was a bit too late for the 'Old Masters' period. Still, if that is what the website says, then I'm going to run with it.

However, if you do consider the painting, you will notice that there seems to be a merging of the old and the new. Veit was actually pretty conservative and was a member of a Roman Catholic sect known as the Nazarene, which tended to hold fast to the medieval traditions. In a sense there is only one type of legitimate art and that is religious art. Pretty fundamentalist in a sense, but then again there are quite a number of fundamentalist cults who believe that all art is bad (through shalt not create an image), and the only literature one should read is prescribed literature.

Yet it also says something about the nature of Christianity, and that it isn't a backwards religion that hinders progress, but it is a religion that is vibrant and cultural. The idea suggests that before the introduction of Christianity Germany basically made up of disparate tribes that wandered around beating up Romans for fun. In time Christianity had a transforming effect upon the population, in a way civilising them and causing them to settle down so that one's excess energy is exerted through art, literature, and culture as opposed to bashing people's heads open.

Well, it seems that the founder of the museum, Johan Friedrich Staedel, which happened to be a pretty wealthy, and a quite influential banker, had a vision for this museum. In fact these paintings, the previous one and the present one (Triumph of Religion in the Arts, by Overbeck) where not only commissioned by Staedel, but commissioned for a specific purpose, and that was to promote religion through the arts, in particular a rather conservative branch of Catholicism. Once again the above painting evokes the religious art of the medieval ages, and we have the image of the Madonna as the central focus, and is flanked by the twelve disciples. However, on the ground we have a gaggle of artists, all falling over each other to capture the image that is the newborn Christ.

In another sense, with the rise of the scientific and secular world through the age of enlightenment we see a movement away from the religious. This museum was established during the heart of the Romantic period, when the focus was more upon the classical as opposed the the Christian. It seems that there was an attempt being made to try and create a movement within the artistic community to move back to the traditional, religious roots as opposed to the secular world as it now stood.

The above painting is by Van Cleve and is known at the Trypich with the Lamentation. Actually, calling it a painting is probably a little inappropriate as it is more of a three paneled work that would normally go on display in a church (and you certainly see quite a lot of them in the various churches around Europe). This one is of the anointing of Christ's corpse, an event referred to as the lamentation. This scene occurs just after he was taken down from the cross, and his corpse anointed before being wrapped and placed in the tomb. On the right panel you can see somebody holding the crown of thorns, while on the left panel somebody is holding the cloth that would be wrapped around his head. However, what is interesting is that the image of his face is already on the cloth, as if its use had been foretold.

Dieric Bouts - The Prophecy of the Tiburtine Sybil
The Sybil was a prophetess from the Ancient World who was said to be able to predict the future, though as is the case with most prophets they generally spoke in riddles. There was one in Greece, and one in the Etruscan town of Tibur. This particular Sybil was said to have been approached by the emperor Augustus to be asked whether he should be worshiped as a god. I suspect the answer was yes, because he did end up claiming to be a god, and after his death was deified.

However, the above painting is not of that event, but of an apochryphal event that occurred sometime later. The Sybil was said to have prophesied the coming of Emperor Constantine, who would banish the enemies of Christianity and then establish it as the sole religion of the empire. However, that sounds rather dubious, the prophecy that is, because it appears to be similar to the Donation of Constantine, a forged document that was said to have been given to the Pope to take charge of the Roman empire. Interestingly, the Sybil also went as far as to predict the coming of the anti-Christ, after Constantine established his throne in Jerusalem, who would rise from the tribe of Dan and then rage war against Christianity.

Pfullendorf Altarpiece
The creator of the Pfullendorf Altar is unknown and as such is simply known as 'The Master of the Pfullendorf Altar'). Only four panels of the altar survive, one of which is in the Staedel (as shown above). The altar piece on one side depicts the life of the Virgin, while the other side (which has been destroyed), depicts the passion (that is the events in the week leading up to Christ's death and resurrection). In the above scenes we have the annunciation (where the angel appears to Mary to tell her that she will give birth to the Christ); the visitation, where Mary meets with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist; the nativity; and what is apparently 'The Death of the Virgin', though it looks more like the presentation at the temple than anything else.

Preparation of the Cross
Another work of which we don't know the identity of the artist, so we refer to him as the Strasbourg Master. Anyway this is a crucifixion scene, but it is one with a difference in that there are two different styles: the Rhennish style in the background, and a more Germanic style in the front. One thing that you notice about many of these paintings is how anachronistic many of works are: they tend to use a modern style of dress as opposed to traditional Roman styles. Actually, one of the main reasons is probably because they didn't know how Romans dressed, or if they did, the particular artist, and the audience didn't.

This particular painting is where Christ is being lifted up, while we see the guards playing dice in the foreground, and the tomb in the background. Further, notice how the location appears to be very much a temperate European climate, with what appears to be a European city in the background. However, I do note that there does appear to be some Middle Eastern looking characters in the painting.

Friedeich Lessing - Johann Hus at Constance
This painting caused quite a stir when it was acquired by the Staedel becuase it is of a pretty controversial topic - the Reformation. Remember that the Staedel was originally set up by a rather conservative catholic who belonged to an incredibly Conservative catholic sect. So, when a painting of a reformer appeared the strictly catholic curator resigned in protest. In a way it seems a little surprising that even in the early 19th century the Reformation was still quite a sore point to many of the Catholics in and around Germany. In a way we don't seem to be as concerned these days, though since I am not Catholic I personally can't tell.

I should point out that this painting hangs at the entrance to the Old Master's Gallery, very visible to those who ascend the stairs.

 Van Bloemen - Landscape with Ancient Ruins
Upon looking at this painting at first it seems that it may has a religious under-tone, particularly since the figures in the foreground could quite well be Joseph and Mary. However, it also appears that they may be in Egypt, if the ruins are anything to go by. However, the presence of the cattle suggest that this may not be the case, until I look at the character that they are speaking to - it could be that the cattle belongs to this person. Yet there is no mention of anything religious in the title, it is just called a 'Landscape with Ancient Ruins', which suggests that maybe the painter left it for us to work it out ourselves.

Yet as I look into the background I see a place that looks suspiciously like Ancient Rome, or at least the ruins of Ancient Rome, and the place in the foreground also has a Roman feel about it. Thus, the whole flight to Egypt idea is no doubt incorrect. Instead, what we are looking at is a vision of what remains of a once great empire - in a sense what we are being told is that all empires are destined to fall, and when they do fall it does not mean that it is all over - life continues, and in a way prospers. Sure, there will no doubt be a period of chaos and suffering, be we have become too comfortable in our lifestyles that if our society were to collapse we would be in an awful lot of trouble, especially since the division of labour means that we have become so specialised that we would know the first thing about foraging for, let alone growing, food.

Yet life goes on, and can be prosperous, though our view of prosperity is different to the prosperity in this particular painting. This is in a way a pastoral idyll, an idyllic scene of beauty and serenity. We have once view of luxury and peace, but the artist of the pastoral piece sees it in a different way - simplicity is actually the key, and a desire to live a simply life uncomplicated by the world around us should be a bigger goal that attempting to make our lives as noticeable, and as extravagant, as possible.

Roedlant Savery - Orpheus Charming the Animals

I could be wrong, but my understanding was that Orpheus was the Greek Hero who invented music and the musical instrument (just as Jason was the hero who invented the boat). Anyway, Orpheus wasn't just a good musician, he went way beyond being even a great musician - he was one of the best, and while I would suggest that even the great musicians of our time would pale in comparison with his genius it pretty much goes without saying. In a way, his music was so good that even the animals would stop and listen to it, as is the subject of the above painting.

However, a Greek legend wouldn't be a Greek legend if there wasn't some really nasty and sharp edge to the story (which is one of the reasons that I love Greek stories - they aren't afraid of making their heroes human, and flawed). Orpheus' wife, Eurydice, died on their wedding night when she was bitten by a serpent. However, Orpheus was allowed to descend into Hades and rescue her, on the grounds that on the way out he did not look back. However, as he was leaving, with Eurydice following close behind, he heard a noise, looked back, only to see Eurydice return into the underworld as a shade.

Thus, I come to the end of the first part of my post on the Staedel, and what fitting way to finish off this post with one of the Staedel's treasures, a painting by the master of the masters, the only old master who is known by his first name (everybody else is known by their last), Rembrandt - The Binding of Sampson.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Scottish Play

MacBeth - Title

It is been over a year since I have returned from Europe and I realised that I haven't yet written about Macbeth. Actually, there are quite a lot of things that I have been meaning to write about, both on this blog and on my travel blog, that I simply haven't got around to doing just yet. I guess a part of it is because there is an awful lot of stuff that I could write about, and also with work and with other things that have got in the way, the amount that I have been able to write has been limited. However, of late I have only intended to post one post a week (and one post a fortnight on my travel blog), and there has been plenty of stuff for me to post that I guess letting a number of things drift isn't all that bad. However, I did see Macbeth, and I should at least put some time aside to write about it.

However, before I actually get onto the play itself I probably should say a few things about the venue I saw it in - The Globe. This would be the second time I have seen a play here, though I have discovered that you really do need to book ahead if you want to see the play when you actually want to see it - I would have preferred to see A Midsummer Nights Dream but when I finally got around to booking the tickets (and that was something like three months before I got there), all of the sessions that I wanted to see it at had sold out. However, there were still plenty of tickets for the Scottish Play, which I have to admit actually isn't one of my favourites, but it was at the Globe so I guess I would have to put up with it.

Shakespeare's Globe

Except that The Globe is probably one of the most horrendous places where you can actually see a performance. Sure, you do have standing room, but honestly I really don't want to spend three hours standing on my feet while watching a play, and my brother definitely wasn't all that keen. However you do have seats (which was where the middle and upper class people of the day would sit), however they are the most uncomfortable seats that I have ever sat on. Fortunately you can get cushions for a pound each so that sort of solves that problem. Yet there is another problem, as I discovered, and that is if you get the wrong seat you may just find yourself staring at a pillar for the entire night, as happened to me. Fortunately there was some space either side so I did end up being able to see the play. However, we they describe a position as being restricted view at the Globe, take their word for it - it can be incredibly restricted.

Performance at the Globe

The Staging

One of the things that stands out with the globe is that they always use traditional clothing, or at least the plays that I have seen performed there have done so (and I have only seen two, though I have also seen a couple of others in the cinemas with the 'Globe on Screen' productions). The other interesting thing that they do is use puppets - this was the case with Dr Faustus where Lucifer and Helen were both puppets, and the same was with The Scottish Play - the Wyrd Sisters were giant puppets as opposed to human actors. While I haven't seen any other performances of either Macbeth or Dr Faustus, this is a technique that I haven't really seen elsewhere, and I find it quite good because it gives the particular character a much more outerworldly aspect to it.

The thing with the Globe though is that it's purpose is the capture the authentic feel of watching a play in Shakespeare's time - to an extent. Sure, the seats are pretty uncomfortable (though you can buy pillows), and there is also standing room, but a part of me suspects that back in Shakespeare's day the smell would have been pretty pugnent, but that has a lot to do with our society being a much cleaner society that the people of Shakespeare's time, though I also suspect that you probably became quite used to the smell. However, despite the theater being pretty uncomfortable, it is still quite popular, as can be attested by the fact that it can be really hard to get tickets to see a play unless you get in pretty early, and also for seats with good views you will certainly being paying a premium price.

Macbeth & Lady Macbeth

Anyway, it is probably not necessary for me to run through the plot of the Scottish play because being one of the more popular plays, and also one that is thrashed to death not only in Highschool but also on the stage and screen (I can think of at least four versions of the play that have appeared on the screen including the Michael Fassbender version, the Roman Polanski version, the Throne of Blood by Kurosawa, and a little known Australian version which I call 'Macbeth with Machine Guns'). So, instead of simply repeating something that probably everybody knows I will simply jump straight into talking about a few things that I picked up while watching this particular version, and if you really want a rundown of the plot then you can always go to Wikipedia.


What I might do is look at the two main characters of the play and that is Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, and since Macbeth is the title character I will start with him. Anyway for a while I view the Scottish Play as simply being little more than a Hollywood action movie told from the perspective of the villain instead of the hero. In a sense that is still very much the case because it is clear that Macbeth is the villain, and in a way becomes more and more villainous as the play goes on. However, unlike your typical Hollywood villain, there is actually depth to Macbeth, and in a sense what we are seeing is a character not so much developing, but descending further and further into the pits of despair. In fact one thing that sort of stands out in these works of literature is that there is much more to the villains than simply some guy dressed in black that cackles evilly while twirling his moustache.

The Bloody Deed

No, when I come to think of it describing the Scottish Play as simply a Hollywood movie in reverse is probably being a little too simplistic. In reality most Hollywood movies are incredibly shallow (and are becoming moreso) and one thing that Shakespeare isn't, especially when it comes to his characters, is that he is shallow. No, while Shakespeare does have villains in his play, such as Iago, I would say that the characters in Macbeth aren't villains in that sense. Rather it would probably be better to term them as anti-heroes. Antagonists yes, but villains no. So with this in mind let us consider Macbeth.

The problem with Macbeth is that he lets himself be swayed by people - first by the Wyrd Sisters and then by his wife. However, what is interesting is that nobody seems to step in and say 'hold it, I really don't think you should go down that road'. Mind you, there probably wasn't much of an opportunity for that to happen because while one might laugh off the Wyrd Sisters, when Macbeth told his wife of the encounter she began to push him to speed up the process by assassinating Duncan when he was asleep in his castle. As a side note I do sort of wonder why it is that everybody was so dull as not of suspect Macbeth of the murder.

In a way there was a way out for Macbeth right up until he committed the deed, but once he had committed the deed that was it, the die was cast. It wasn't just a crime, it was a crime of the most hideous proportions - not only did he murder a guest in his house, and the king nonetheless, but he murdered him while he was asleep. Sure, we can put some of the blame on his wife, but the reality is that he did the deed, and because he did the deed he must be responsible for it.

Macbeth Holding the Knives

What does come about is the nature of sin and how pervasive it is. Sure, as a Christian I believe that there is no sin that Christ's death cannot absolve, but the thing with sin is that it is so pervasive, and so destructive, that it makes us believe that we will never be forgiven for it. Macbeth is cursed, and haunted, and this follows him for the rest of his life. In a sense once he has committed the deed, and pushed from his mind any chance of redemption, he descends further and further into madness until such a time as he meets his fate.

Yet let us consider the Wyrd Sisters for a minute. They aren't so much sin, but temptation - they tempt us with promises of power and immortality, but they don't tell us the whole story. They tell Macbeth that he will be king, and they also tell him that he will not be killed by a man of woman born. They tell half truths, and these half truths hide a catch. It is similar to the serpent in the garden that tells Adam and Eve 'but did God really say?'. The thing is that Macbeth not only listened to them, but went to seek advice from the wrong person.

Lady Macbeth

I was going to raise the point that Lady Macbeth doesn't actually have a name, but that is not necessarily the case - she does, but since she has married Macbeth she takes Macbeth's name. However, when I think about the monarchs of the era their wives did have names, and names that we know. Also, it isn't as if this was a technique that Shakespeare used in all of his plays because of the other plays that I know, the female characters, particularly the monarchs, all have names. So it is interesting that Lady Macbeth simply takes the name of her husband. Maybe it has something to do with them both being implicated in the crime, or maybe it has something to do with trying to force us to focus more on Macbeth than on her.

Yet we simply cannot absolve her of any responsibility - by no means. Okay, she, like the Wyrd Sisters, plays the role of the tempter, but she also does more than simply put the temptation into Macbeth's mind, she goads him on to commit the deed. In one sense she is ambitious, and in another sense completely twists the idea that behind every great man there is an equally great woman. Rather, it is suggested that behind an evil man there could also be a woman who is just as evil - yet this is something that we do not necessarily want to acknowledge - we want to commend the women who support the great men, but when we have a wicked man all we see behind them is Eva Braun.

Wyrd Sisters

However Shakespeare leaves us in no doubt that Lady Macbeth is not a nice person. In fact she shows her cowardice in that she is more than willing to cut and run than to stand beside Macbeth in his moment of strife. She is ambitious, so ambitious that she is willing to resort to murder to get what she wants. The ambition defines the type of character that she his - manipulative, sly, and when everything goes balls up, decides its time to cut her losses. Sure, she kills herself, but as some have suggested suicide can be the cowards way out, and in the case of Lady Macbeth, as it is in the case of Hilter, this is something that I am not going to argue about.

Let us also consider the famous line 'Out, Out Damn spot'. Like Macbeth's curse of never being able to sleep again because he killed a man in his sleep, Lady Macbeth's hands will never be clean again. She has blood on her hands, and the thing with blood is that it stains, but the stains are so strong, and go so deep, that no amount of scrubbing will every get it out again. Yet Macbeth even comments on the amount of blood that came out of the king, and this is a warrior that has just come back from war - you would expect that he would have killed many men in his adventures, so it is interesting that he takes note of the immense amount of blood that comes from the king.

A Propoganda Piece

One thing that seems to always come up when we talk about The Scottish Play and that is how it is basically a propaganda piece. Actually, it wasn't something that I really thought about until I saw a documentary once called 'The Real Macbeth', that actually took us back into the mists of history to see the story upon which the play was based. The thing was that James, who was King of England at the time, was a Scottish king, and the story of Macbeth was something with which he would have been familiar. The other thing that is interesting is how at the end of the play we have McDuff invade Scotland with the help of the English, and also with their help overthrow Macbeth and install him as king.

Cawdor Castle

The story goes that there are two types of Scot - the highlanders and the lowlanders, and there was no real love lost between them. James was a lowlander, but then again pretty much all of the Kings of Scotland were lowlanders. The reason for this was that Macbeth was the last of the Highlander Kings, and what was actually going on at the time was a struggle between the highlanders and the lowlanders over who would end up ruling Scotland. We all know who won, but it is also interesting to note that even to this day the image of the Highlander brings about the picture of a wild and savage man, where as the lowlanders are seen as being refined and sophisticated individuals.

Creative Commons License

The Scottish Play by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me

Monday, 7 August 2017

Dracula - Rise of the Vampire Craze

We recently finished reading Dracula at our bookclub, and while I have already written a review on the book, I felt that not only was there much more I could say, but I simply cannot leave the book at simply the book because of the huge amount of influence that it has had on our society. For instance, people have said that after reading the book as young person they so fell in love with it that they ended up carrying it everywhere and regularly consulting it (I have a problem - what will Dracula do?). Well, I'm actually not all that sure whether Dracula can be considered a practical guide to life in the way that the Bible is, but also I am not surprised that there are such reactions to the book.

Personally, I would be surprised if there was anybody out there in the Anglo-American world who hadn't heard of Dracula, or vampires - the image of the vampire that first appeared in Bram Stokers books is incredibly pervasive, to the point that there is at least one movie a year that is released where the vampire is the villain (or hero). On top of that there are countless numbers of books, TV series, and even a roleplaying game based around these creatures, however the creature that we are so familiar with, the lord of Transylvania, and member of the Order of the Dragon, wasn't always the creature that we know and despise.

However, before I go into that too deeply, first I will look at the book (and the author), and then explore the history of vampires. Then I will tackle some of the themes of Dracula, including ideas on immigration, evil, and of course the idea of sexual frustration (which I suggest is actually a modern invention as opposed to something that was intended at the writing of the book). Finally, I will close by exploring the legacy of Dracula, mostly through the films, but also in some other areas as well.

Bram Stoker

Abraham Stoker was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1847 and had a passion for writing and theatrical criticism. He developed this during his time at University, where one of his teachers connected him with the Dublin Evening Mail. Through this he came into contact with Henry Irving when he was in Ireland, was invited  back to London to work in the Lyceum Theatre (which Irving owned) as his personal assistant and business manager. The job wasn't an easy job, and Irving was a pretty harsh taskmaster, but Stoker persevered.

It was here that Stoker conceived the idea for the novel, and over a period of ten years, while working at the Lyceum, he put the novel together. The novel itself is nothing new since there were a few vampire stories that had been published earlier in the 19th Century, and Gothic Horror was a genre that had gained a lot of traction, thanks in part due to the success of Frankenstein. Further, the style of the book, in that it was made as if it was a collection of letters, newspaper articles, and journal entries all put together, was a standard way of writing (quite a number of novels were actually written in the first person, in the form of a journal or a letter). Yet it was a novel that while it experienced some initial success, and was warmly welcomed by the population, it wasn't till some time down the track that the concept, and the character, really took off.

The story is basically about how Dracula, a lord in Transylvania, travels to London to wreck havoc on the British capital, and how a group of intrepid adventurers eventually defeat him. The story opens with one of the protagonists, Jonathon Harker, traveling to Transylvania at the behest of his boss to finalise a land transaction. It is this opening scene, with Harker being imprisoned in the castle, that has become a staple of many haunted house/castle, stories (including The Rocky Horror Picture Show).

There is a theory that Stoker based his character on Vlad the Impaler (or Vladislav II of Wallachia), however it was Vlad II (his predecessor) that first earned the title Dracula, which was in relation to him being admitted to the Order of the Dragon, which was an order of knights. However, there are references to Dracula (which was actually the family name) and him being involved in the war against the Turks. Further, much of Stoker's concepts came from him researching a lot of superstition that came out of Transylvania.

History of the Vampire

I'm not going to go too deeply into the vampiric legends from which the story of Dracula eventually came about namely because the wikipedia article is so detailed it would take me quite a while not only to read it, but to also regurgitate it into a more simplified manner. However, what I will suggest is that the story of the vampire is nothing new, but rather a collection of ancient legends that Stroker brought together to create his book. Obviously, Stoker's vampire was a mish-mash of a lot of legends, and the blood sucking fiends that wander around castles in lounge suits, hypnotising their prey, and having control over the animal kingdom aren't necessarily the original monsters - rather these are a creation not only of Stoker, but of those who came after him (and even then there were a number of vampire stories already in existence - it is just that Stoker's rendition ended up being the best).

In all honesty the vampire isn't even necessarily a bloodsucker - rather it is a creature that feeds on the life force of other humans. Sure, they are actually dead, or should I say undead, which is why they are attracted to humans, and the lifeforce - it is the life force of the living that keeps them alive. One thing that sticks in my mind was an anecdote that was mentioned at the book club. The thing is that for most of history vampiric creatures were actually believed to be real. The suggestion was that if somebody in the village was suffering from a wasting disease the belief was that there was a vampiric creature in their midst, and they would actually dig up graves to see if there was a corpse that hadn't actually rotted.

The term vampire is also relatively recent, having come over to the English language in the 18th century. According to Wikipedia, the term came from the French word vampyre, which in turn came from the German vampir, which in turn came from Serbia, no doubt through the Austro-Hungarian empire. Etymologists believe that the term was at least Cyrillic in origin, having been found across the region. One theory is that it originated from the Turkish word for witch. However, I will leave it at that, refer you to the wikipedia article, and move on to the themes of the book.


The Nature of Evil
When I was in my final year of highschool, I had to do a project where I studied three books with a similar theme. One of the books that I chose was Dracula, and thanks to the Copolla film (more on that later), I was going to write a project on love in literature. However I pretty quickly found out that Dracula had nothing to do with love, so instead decided to explore another aspect - evil. The thing is that Dracula is the epitome of all that is evil. Notice how he is repelled by anything that is holy. For instance they despoil his grave with communion bread, and also repel him through the use of the cross.

The thing with Dracula is that he has cheated death, and it seems that the idea of cheating death only comes about if you are willing to give up all that is good within you. As such he can only survive by feeding on the life blood of humans. Also notice that while he doesn't necessarily live alone in his castle, he might as well be alone because the only other creatures that he lives with, the female vampires, detest him, and he detests them. Dracula is a loner, simply because when you have become so overwhelmed by evil, you can no longer experience the joy, and the goodness, of a relationship with other people.

While I have already mentioned an aspect of his undeath, another aspect is that our life is actually a good thing, and it seems that nothing good can actually come Dracula's way. He cannot go out into the sun, and is tied to the grave in which he was buried. He doesn't have friends, and he doesn't trust anybody - he locks Harker up in the castle because he simply is unable to form a friendship with him. Further, notice how Renfield, while a servant, is simply using his connection with Dracula in the hope that he will also be blessed (or rather cursed) with unlife - however, he never gets his wish, but instead is driven to madness - Dracula is pure evil, therefore there is no reason why he would keep a promise.

Superstition and Science
Another interesting thing about Dracula is how scientific much of the book is. This is not surprising considering that two of the protagonists are scientists, or more specifically doctors. In a way what we are seeing here is a movement further into the scientific age. Sure, we had been living in the age of reason since the 17th Century, however the idea of science had been slowly filtering down to the masses. Take Frankenstein, the book that popularised the Gothic Horror Genre - it is about a mad scientist that uses technology to create a human being.

In a way what Stoker is trying to do is demystify the supernatural, and we see this a lot in many of films and books that come afterwards. The idea of the monster, and of the supernatural, is being pushed to the edges, and an age of scientific dominance is taking hold. However, another aspect is that we have the supernatural going head to head with the scientific - Transylvania is a backwards land still ruled by superstition and inhabited by the ignorant. London is the centre of the greatest civilisation known to man, a civilisation built on reason and technology. What is happening is that the superstition and the scientific are coming into conflict.

This is something that seems to be a constant theme in our society, especially where the church is concerned. There is still a huge debate over evolution vs creation, and the church is either trying to reconcile this new scientific worldview, or actively fighting against it. The interesting thing is that we tend to see the traditional arise in the regional areas, though this is not necessarily the case in Australia - there are still many churches in the city that consider the idea of evolution to be anathema. While one might suggest that there hasn't been a religious war in centuries, I would say otherwise, if we look at the struggle between the church and the secular world.

Actually, I'm not really sure of the extent of Imperialism that comes out in Dracula, and my comments here probably are better explored in the section on Immigration. What we do need to consider is that the book was written when the British Empire was at its height, and there seemed to be nothing that could stand in its way. Mind you, that was before the horrors of the First World War, a war that started the decline of the empire, however at this time Britain stood at the top of the world and there seemed to be nothing that would stand in its way.

Thus it has been suggested that Dracula is a form of an invasion story - an invasion by a dark force from beyond that seeks to either undermine the power of the empire, or to take control. Thus we have a struggle in a different form - both a struggle of science against superstition, and the forces of the empire against the forces of darkness. I guess in that light what we have is the idea that the Empire is an empire for good, and what the empire is doing is spreading civilisation to the corners of the world. However, at its height a being of darkness descends from the backwaters of Europe, no doubt in an effort to fight back against this tide of civilisation.

In a way Dracula represents not just the supernatural and the evil, but also the uncivilised part of the world, and it is a part of the world that is not lying down - in Dracula the forces of the uncivilised are fighting back. This is something that we have seen in the past, with Rome. Rome was the great civilising part of the world, however it was always fighting the barbarians at the fringes, the forces that represented the uncivilised world. However, as it turned out, this force of uncivilisation was not happy to keep Rome in check, it wanted to undermine, and destroy, the empire, which it eventually did.

In light of this we can picture a reason as to why Dracula chose to invade England. England represented light, Christianity, and civilisation, three things that Dracula despised. As such he wasn't content to allow the status quo to continue, namely because there wasn't one - progress was ever moving forward, and the civilisation of the British was moving out to all corners of the Earth. Thus, if Dracula didn't act first, the forces of civilisation would sooner, rather than later, come for Transylvania.

Thus this brings me to the idea of immigration. Maybe it wasn't as much of a concern back then as it is now, but we can also picture Dracula as an immigrant. In a sense, as the Empire expanded and brought more people under its protection, it would open the doors to people from the far flung corners of the world, especially people with money, to come to England to set up shop. This is a concern to nationalists as what immigration does is that it strips away their identity. All of a sudden the streets that were lined with pubs and fish and chip shops now find themselves fighting of the curry restaurants and the Thai massage parlours.

The other concern is that people from abroad don't necessarily have the same values and beliefs as the nationalists do, and this brings about a concern as to further undermining their identity. These days we encounter people from all walks of life from all over the world, and it is a sad thing to note that there are certain ethnic groups that simply aren't trusted. The belief is that back in their own country they lie and cheat each other, so when they come here they do the same. The reality is that lying and cheating simply do not exist on ethnic lines, and in fact anybody and everybody is capable of such behaviour.

One interesting thing is the idea of the bogan (though such individuals exist in pretty much all societies). An English colleague told me than in England they had a group called the Chaz, who are basically pure born Anglos, but tend to be incredibly rough and in her words 'will punch you in the face simply by looking at them'. She tried to tell me that this didn't happen in Australia, but I assure you that it does. The thing is that these groups tend to be incredibly anti-social, but not only are they white, they are also born in the country, yet the media, and the extreme right, seem to want to focus our attention away from these ghettos and point to the easy targets from overseas.

Sexual Frustration
Before I move onto the legacy I wish to say a few things about the idea of vampires and sexual frustration. Honestly, I believe that it is rubbish and is only a construct of modern intellectualism. The thing is that people in Victorian England didn't actually see themselves as being sexually frustrated, and the only reason that we look back on them as such is because we live in a world where we are supposedly sexually free. The problem is that we are simply reading way too much into the book.

However, if there is one thing we should note, and that is that Dracula isn't necessarily sexually frustrated. In fact, if anything, he is pretty free and easy with the whole thing. Okay, he is a vampire, therefore sex isn't necessarily an issue, but notice how the only people he seems to turn are woman. I am not saying feeding on them because there are plenty of people that Dracula feeds on, and plenty of them are male. However, when he is creating vampires he is only targetting women. Maybe, the idea is that in doing so he is liberating them, but notice how the three sisters despise him. It is as if by liberating them he is actually imprisoning them. Maybe, also, he is coming to Victorian England to liberate the women, but once again it isn't as if they women seem to want him to liberate them if the three sisters are anything to go by.

It seems as if this post has become quite long, but I feel that I can't finish it off without a few words about the legacy, and in doing so I will briefly look at a number of films and other media that has since come out. Also, if I have written a review on the film elsewhere I will provide a link, since I am only touching on the subject here.

One of the classic films of the silent era which follows the plot to an extent. It is more of a cut down version, though the film does seem to rush a bit at the end. Two thirds of the film follows the first third of the book, and the creators then seem to finish it off just a little too quickly, particularly with the way that Count Orlok dies. While this film didn't necessarily generate the huge interest in the book, it did flag the story to an extent. Also, the film was actually an unauthorised reproduction, which is why a lot of it was changed (including the name of the vampire), though did pave the way for later films.

Being a German film, the story is set in Germany, in Breman to be precise. While the themes of the book are still present, I feel that by setting it in Germany, and in the background of the Weimer Republic, we can look at it slightly differently. Whereas the book explores an invasion of the Empire, the film could be reflecting on the struggles facing Germany at the time. Here the nation was burdened by excessive war reparations, and the country was facing serious struggles. In a way the vampire represents the external force that comes into the country to dominate it. In the same way that Dracula buys up land in Breman, the allies were holding the war guilt over their head and draining the country dry. Where as Dracula could be seen as the evil, external, uncivilising force in the book, in this film, he becomes to represent the victors of the war. In fact I could probably write an entire post on that alone, but I'll leave it at that for now.

Horror of Dracula
I understand that this is the film which gave birth to the modern schlock horror genre, and it certainly is quite a cheesy film. Not that it is bad, but rather it is incredibly dated. Further, I wouldn't even consider the acting to be worthy of greats like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, though I have to admit that it is cool actually seeing the character that Lee is going to be remembered for. The film is basically a retelling of Stoker's classic, though with quite a lot of poetic license (for instance Harker is killed near the beginning of the film, and Van Helsing is the main protagonist). While it isn't worthy of some of the great films of the era, it is still a great movie to watch for nostolgia's sake.

Interview with a Vampire
I have to admit that I haven't read the book, so I am only going by the film here. However, the suggestion at bookclub was that this was the turning point with the perception of the vampire. No longer was the vampire seen as an external, dark, and menacing threat, but rather a creature to be sympathised with. The vampire is no longer all powerful, but rather it is a human struggling with their bestial fury in an attempt to remain civilised, but also knowing that to survive they much sucuumb to it sooner of later. It is here that vampires start to drink from animals, though it is clear that the blood of an animal is only a pale substitute for that of a human.

It is not so much Lestat that we are to sympathise with, but rather Louie. In becoming a vampire, he becomes an outcast, no longer able to live in the world of humanity. Rather he lurks in the shadows, forever struggling with that inner beast that seeks to rise up an dominate him. In a sense the vampire ceases to be the other, and starts to reflect ourselves, and our constant struggle to remain civilised while all of our urges command us to be otherwise.

Now we come to Buffy, and once again I have to admit that I am not all that familiar with the series, though I have watched the movie (and hated it). In one sense it takes the idea of the vampire out of the dark and horrific and thrusts it into the realm of pop culture. Sure, they are monsters of the supernatural, but they are suddenly weakened so that a teenager (and a rather attractive one at that) can easily defeat them with a round of martial arts. However, we also see elements of the struggle between the bestial and the human, particularly with characters like Angel. However, I am only speculating, namely because it is a series that I doubt I will ever go out of my way to watch.

It has been years since I actually watched this film, and it was this film that inspired me to actually do my year 12 project on Dracula. However, I am not all that keen on spending the time to sit down and watch it again, namely because it is actually really bad. I guess turning Dracula into a love story between him and Mina really doesn't seem to work all that well. However, I should point out that in Horror of Dracula, when Dracula is about to bite Mina, there is a bit of sexual tension here, however we should remember two things - sex and love do not necessarily go together, and also Dracula does have the ability to charm his victims.

Vampire: The Masquarade
I probably should make mention of this particular roleplaying game. The reason I do this is because here we once again see a movement away from the vampire as a monster and towards the idea of a vampire as a human struggling with the inner beast. The game revolves around you playing a vampire, and the vampires fall into roughly two categories - those who seek to embrace their inner beast and rule humanity, and those who seek to deny their inner beast and not only live as humans, but to also guide humanity. Honestly, the concept of the game was brilliant, but the issue I had with it was not so much the game, but the people who were playing the game.

The thing with roleplaying games is that they tend to attract those of us who feel on the outer. In the world of the game we are suddenly somebody, and we can do things that we could never dream of doing in the real world. As such there is a danger that we can become trapped in this imaginary world. However, the problem arises when you get a huge group of people together, and all of a sudden they want to vie for control, and then use this imaginary world to behave towards others in a way that they wouldn't dare do in real life because, well, it is just a game.

I watched the first movie, and have no intention of seeing any of the others, or even wasting my time reading the books. However, this is a step further from the idea of the human vs the beast. However, this is also where the idea of the vampire being sexually frustrated seems to have its origin. In one sense, Edward knows his powers, but in another sense he is not only trying to keep them hidden, but he is torn to pieces over them. His fear of the relationship seems to reflect a fear of sex. It is almost as if the sexual human can be equated with the bestial human. This seems to stem from the erroneous Christian teaching that sex is only for reproduction, and at all other times it must be repressed. Yet the denial of one's sexual self isn't just a Christian thing, since Buddhism also teaches this.

What is also interesting is how the books are also moving away from the concept of the vampire being a supernatural being. One scene I clearly remember was when Edward exposed himself to the sun and he shone likes diamonds. I was a scene that was a betrayal of everything that was vampiric and put me off the series for good. However, what we have is a movement away from Stoker's object of horror, and Rice's object of sympathy, to bringing Coppola's object of romance to the front and centre.

Shadow of the Vampire
I'm included to suggest that with this film we come back full circle, but it turns out that this is not the case. Firstly, as I have since discovered, it predates Twilight, however even though it was made in 2000, I still feel that I should end this post with this film. Basically it is a retelling of Nosferatu, or rather it is sort of a behind the scenes look at the creation of the movie, but with a twist - Orlock, or Max Schrek, is a real vampire. However, we see something different because once again we are slowly moving away from the idea that the vampire is the monster and the humans as the heroes - here the concept of the monster is blurred, and  it only comes out at the end who the real monster actually is.

If also reflects one of the themes of the civilised warring against the barbarians, yet it raises the question of whether the civilised are actually civilised. The major characters reveal to us that the lives of the actors, and indeed all of the film industry, is one of debauchery. As they drink, and indulge in drugs, we raise the question once again as to whether we actually live in a civilised society. Sure, Schrek is a monster, there is no doubting that, but what happens to us when our desire to create the perfect work of art overwhelms us and we sacrifice our humanity for the sake a beauty and perfection? Is it the case that we then become the monster?
Creative Commons License

Dracula - Rise of the Vampire Craze by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. This license only applies to the text and any image that is within the public domain. Any images or videos that are the subject of copyright are not covered by this license. Use of these images are for illustrative purposes only are are not intended to assert ownership. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me