NO OLVIDEMOS EL CASO DORA ALVES

NO OLVIDEMOS EL CASO DORA ALVES

por Alexis Morales Cales – 29 de julio de 2016

 

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https://suarezepr68.wordpress.com/2015/07/29/acusada-vilificada-y-finalmente-exonerada-el-caso-de-dora-ivellise-alves-troche-maestra-de-cabo-rojo/

 

Para los que no conocen el caso lo resumo. Una maestra de Cabo Rojo, muy querida en su pueblo, fue acusada de maltrato por unos estudiantes y sus padres. En lugar de hacerse el proceso normal de citación, mandaron unas patrullas a interceptarla en la carretera y a la vista de todo el mundo la esposaron y la arrestaron como a una prófuga. De inmediato unos medios de prensa pasaron la noticia comenzando un show mediático. En la prensa se juzgó a la maestra antes de ir a corte. Se anunció con bombos y platillos una orden de protección para los estudiantes. Una alta fianza, grillete. De ahí en adelante varios días de titulares sobre la maestra Dora Alves. Una maestra que laboraba en la Escuela Luis Muñoz Suffront de Cabo Rojo, muy querida en su pueblo, fue acusada de maltrato por unos estudiantes y sus padres.Contra la maestra de más de 14 años de carrera se estaban conduciendo simultáneamente otras investigaciones en el Departamento de la Familia, en la División Legal del Departamento de Educación así como una querella radicada a nivel de la División de Delitos Sexuales, Maltrato de Menores y Maltrato Institucional.

 

Mientras tanto una mama, daba entrevistas en video para PRIMERA HORA hablando de palabras soeces, improperios, comentarios de burla escritos en las libretas, ninos parados frente a la pizarra mientras otros mimos se rien de ellos. “Mi nene esta temeroso de socializar con otros ninos, se pasa llorando, ya no quiere ir a la escuela… Mi nene es de educacion especial.” Supuestamente los niños y niñas de cuarto grado estaban afectados emocionalmente..

 

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 En lugar de hacerse el proceso normal de citación, En horas de la tarde del viernes, 27 de marzo de 2015, el fiscal Carlos Cáceres sometio cargos en ausencia por violaciónes al artículo 58 de la Ley 246 del año 2011 para la Seguridad, Bienestar y Protección de Menores. El juez Emilio Mulero Aruza determino causa para arresto con una fianza de $21,000.00 Enviaron a la Unidad de Arrestos Especiales de la Policia de Mayagüez a interceptarla en la intersección de las carreteras PR-100 y PR-101 en Cabo Rojo a eso de las 7:45 a.m el lunes, 30 de marzo de 2015.

 

Cuando hablamos de la Unidad de Arrestos Especiales de la Policia, hablamos de lo que en los estados del norte llaman “Special Weapons and Tactics” o SWAT. Estas unidades altamente militarizadas son usadas para situaciones peligrosas como arrestos de narcotraficantes, traficantes de armes y prófugos peligrosos. Y eso fue lo que enviaron a arrestar a una maestra de 53 anos mientras ella iba en su auto con sus hijos, llevandolos a la escuela y a la vista de todo el mundo se le cruzo un auto atras, se cruzó otro auto por el frente, la bajaron del auto con armas largas, la esposaron y la arrestaron.

 

. Se anunció con bombos y platillos una orden de protección para los estudiantes. se presentaron cargos por maltrato institucional. La jueza Carmen Montalvo encontró causa para su arresto con fianza de $21,000 y un grillete electronico. De ahí en adelante varios días de titulares sobre la maestra Dora Alves.

 

Cuatro meses más se cayeron casi todos los casos sin ir a juicio. En la vista preliminar los acusadores – cuyos padres contaban a la prensa que durante meses fueron objetos de burlas y que eran víctimas de maltrato emocional – se contradijeron unos a otros. Cuando fueron confrontados con sus propias declaraciones, bajaban la cabeza y admitian la falsedad de sus acusaciones.

 

Una madre le contaba a PRIMERA HORA, “Les decía que los negros apestan”

 Otra decia “A mi nena le dijo ‘tu oyes por el c…’”

 Otra decia, “Mi nene esta temeroso de socializar con otros ninos, se pasa llorando, ya no quiere ir a la escuela.”

 Otras hablaban sobre palabras soeces, improperios, comentarios de burla escritos en las libretas, ninos parados frente a la pizarra mientras otros mimos se rien de ellos.

 

Al ser confrontados en la vista preliminar, los estudiantes decían:

 

“Es que el director me dijo que dijera…”

 

Ahora los padres decían:

 “Es que nos reunieron para decirnos cómo poner una denuncia…”

 

Y todo resultó en la admisión de una conspiración criminal. La División Legal logró con sus contactos criminales en el Dpto. de Justicia que quedara una acusación de maltrato, que se verá en septiembre. Es un caso como el del Manco, como el de la dominicana, como el de los tres de Aguada. Fabricado por elementos criminales dentro del gobierno. En este caso, por la pandilla que opera en la División Legal del Dpto. de Educación. Confiemos en que los jurados de este caso tomen nota de este patrón de actividad criminal continua dentro de la agencia que se supone esté para educar. Y que en cambio está para fomentar la criminalidad y la violación de derechos civiles. Que recuerden que TODOS los casos anteriores que sometió la División Legal contra Dora Alves concluyeron con los testigos diciendo: “La División Legal nos reunió…” “Me dijeron que dijera…”

 Apoyemos a Dora Alves desde ahora hasta el juicio en septiembre.

https://suarezepr68.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/vistas-en-alzada-contra-maestras-por-alexis-morales-cales/

 

Marisol Martínez (https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009814363346&fref=ufi):

 En la Escuela Manuel Ruiz Gandía en Arecibo, una estudiante hizo falsos contra un maestro. La policía llegó y lo esposó haciéndole vergüenza frente a todos. Lugo sucedió que la joven se retractó, dijo que había inventado las mentiras porque el maestro era muy estricto. Pero el Mr. se quedó afectado emocionalmente. Quién te devuelve tu honor y tranquilidad luego que te mancillan?

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“LA ESPOSA PREMIO” por Alexis Morales Cales

 

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“La Esposa Premio” por Alexis Morales Cales

https://www.facebook.com/alexis.m.cales/posts/1214760558536052

 

En Puerto Rico hay 5,000 familias que pueden considerarse clase alta, menos de una décima del uno por ciento de la población. Entre esas, hay 50 familias que son la clase dominante y cuyos apellidos suenan todos los días en noticias de negocios, política y espectáculos. Dentro de esas 5,000 familias de clase alta y las 50 dominantes hay las mismas situaciones que hay en las familias de clase media al igual que en las barriadas y caseríos, tanto en lo bueno como en lo malo. Hay personas ejemplares, hay drogas, hay violencia doméstica. La diferencia es que la parte negativa no suele difundirse en los medios.

 

Yo no estoy entre las 50 familias ni entre las 5,000 y creo que por mi situación económica estoy más cerca de las familias de barriada y caserío. Pero sí tengo amistades y contactos dentro de las 5,0000 familias de la cúpula social. Así puedo ponerlos al tanto de cosas que pasan en ese mundo.

 

Un fenómeno social de esa alta aristocracia es el de la esposa premio. Cuando un joven de los altos niveles tiene unos grandes logros profesionales y/o económicos por su propio esfuerzo, se le busca una compañera que sea un verdadero premio. Una muchacha hermosa, que lo convierta en la envidia de todos, que la pueda presentar con orgullo en las reuniones sociales. A eso se le conoce como la esposa premio. Una verdadera muñeca que lo ponga en las nubes.

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¿Dónde consiguen la esposa premio? No tiene que ser de la misma altura social, pero tampoco de muy abajo. Puede ser una reina de belleza, o una top model o algo por el estilo. Ese tipo de muchacha suele deslumbrarse al ser contactada por la élite social de los intocables. Y acepta fácilmente ser la esposa premio aunque no sabe que la han clasificado así. Más bien ella cree que ha sido la premiada al casarse con un miembro de la aristocracia.

 

Por lo general la nominada a esposa premio está tan en las nubes que no se da cuenta de los documentos que firma antes de casarse. Se los presentan de tal forma que piensa que es lo normal al unirse a un millonario o multimillonario. Es después de la noche de bodas que gradualmente se va dando cuenta del negocio que ha hecho sin saber que estaba haciendo un negocio.

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El acuerdo matrimonial tiene unas estipulaciones económicas que convierten a la nueva esposa en una empleada a sueldo. Se le asigna una cantidad que va desde los $5,000 hasta los $25,000 mensuales. Suena a fortuna, pero hay la letra pequeña indicando que eso es todo a lo que tiene derecho y que no tendrá bienes gananciales. Y si se divorcia, el sueldo se reducirá a una modesta pensión.

 

El contrato que la muchacha no ve como contrato estipula que se le paga esa cantidad para sirva de compañera sexual, para que le dé hijos al que la contrata y que se presente con él en las actividades sociales y profesionales. Se le añaden beneficios como viajes y tratamientos de belleza para mantenerle su figura de esposa premio.

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Hay unos aspectos que no se escriben en el contrato pero son parte de la vida de la esposa premio. No tiene derecho a ser parte de la familia del esposo, solamente participará en actividades donde la familia se reúna con otras familias del jet set.

 

En la última parte del siglo XX, entre algunas de esas familias ha surgido la moda de intercambio de parejas y de las llamadas parejas “swinger”, que pueden añadir a sus encuentros el sexo entre tres y la tercera puede ser una niña.

 

En menos de un año la esposa premio se dará cuenta de que no ha sido escogida por amor, sino que ha sido un negocio mas de una familia. Su condición de esposa premio le obligará a recibir castigos sin derecho a ampararse en la Ley 54. Si tratara de hacerlo, será referida a una institución siquiátrica con una orden judicial que la familia del esposo conseguirá fácilmente.

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Esa terrible situación ha llevado a no sé cuántas esposas premio a convertirse secretamente en chillas premium. Pueden hacerlo dado el caso de que sus premiados esposos están tan metidos en negocios y actividades fuera de la casa que tienen mucho tiempo para hacer sus propios encuentros.

 

La esposa premio que busca el amor verdadero en un tercero no está exenta de los mismos riesgos de las de barriada. En su libro VECINDARIOS EXCÉNTRICOS, Rosario Ferré habla de mujeres que han muerto jóvenes sin que sus muertes hayan sido catalogadas como asesinatos. Murieron de repente, sorpresivamente, era que estaba enferma y no lo decía. En último caso, ,murió en medio de un asalto domiciliario.

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Eso no se puede hacer en un caserío, pero ustedes saben cómo funciona el sistema con los de clase alta. Alguien dirá que hubo un caso que sí hubo acusaciones. Sí, puede suceder si no se hacen todos los contactos rápidamente antes de que la noticia llegue a los medios. En 1950 un empresario no supo hacer los contactos a tiempo, o creyó que era demasiado listo, y enterró a su esposa en su cementerio privado, pensando que nadie lo veía.

 Ese es el mundo de la esposa premio. Una vida de la cual pocas han logrado salir con vida. No es muy distinto de lo que viven muchas mujeres pobres. La diferencia es que esas otras no firman contratos y sus esposos pueden ser acusados por Ley 54.

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Ad Supernis Regis Decus

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http://la.wikisource.org/wiki/Ad_superni_regis_decus

Codex Calixtinus

Ad superni regis decus

[f. 215 (186)] Magister Albericus archiepiscopus Bituricensis

Ad superni regis decus, qui continet omnia

celebremus leti tua,

Iacobe, sollempnia.

Secus litus galilee

contempsisti propria.

Sequens Christum predicasti

ipsius imperia.

Tu petisti iuxta

Christum tunc sedere nescius.

Sed nunc sedes in cohorte duodena alcius.

Prothomartir duodenus fuisti in patria.

Primam sedem duodenam possides in gloria.

Fac nos ergo interesse polo absque termino.

Ut mens nostra regi regum benedicat domino.

 

To the jewel of the supernal king who contains all things, we happily celebrate your feast, James. From the Galilean shore you scorned worldly things. Following Christ, you foretold his kingdom. Without understanding him, you sought to be near Christ, but now you sit in the cohort of twelve on high. You were the first martyr of the apostles in your land. You hold in glory the first seat of the twelve. Lift us, therefore, to the eternal heavens, that our mind may bless the king of kings, the lord. — Master Alberic, Archbishop of Berry

 

“Gated Communities for Rich and Poor”

Judge Gelpi quotes author and sociologist Zaire Zenit Dinzey-Flores and her book “Locked In, Locked Out” various times in his July 6, 2016 decision in favor of the Watchtower Society…

https://www.scribd.com/document/317741217/LAS-CALLES-EN-LAS-URBANIZACIONES-CERRADAS-SON-PUBLICAS-y-por-tanto-sujetas-a-la-libertad-de-expresion-Orden-del-en-caso-Testigos-de-Jehovah-6-juli

 

“Gated Communities for Rich and Poor”

by Zaire Zenit Dinzey-Flores

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http://scission53.rssing.com/chan-6359075/all_p19.html

http://voidmirror.blogspot.com/2014/06/gated-communities-for-rich-and-poor-by.html

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Sociologist Zaire Zenit Dinzey-Flores discusses how the concentration of class and racial privilege in gated communities takes place alongside the spatial concentration and confinement of the poor. She argues that gates help sort and segregate people, physically and symbolically distinguish communities, and cement inequality.

 

“You drive to the gate. The community is in the shape of a U. You come in one gate and leave through the other. When you get to the gate, you will have a dial pad. You have to dial my number. Here is the number. Wait for me to answer. I will ask you who you are. You will tell me. Once you talk to me I will push the button to open the gate and let you in. The gate will open. You will be allowed in. You will drive to my house. I will be outside waiting for you.”

 

Following Ramiro’s careful directions, I entered Extensión Alhambra a subdivision of colorful, concrete, one and two-story single-family homes located in Ponce, Puerto Rico’s second largest city, in the southern part of the island. Extensión Alhambra which looks like a mid-century American suburb, was intended to be an exclusive community for middle- and upper-middle-income families, its name evoking Spain’s famous Moorish castle, the Alhambra. When it was built in the early 1970s, Extensión Alhambra was open to all. But in 1993 residents took advantage of a 1987 law (Ley de Cierre, or “closing law”) that permitted communities to build gates for protection. With that law, many previously open and private middle-class housing subdivisions were gated—part of the vast array of communities worldwide that form neighborhood associations, erecting fences and fortresses, and taking protection into their own hands.

 

Less than half a mile from Extensión Alhambra is a very different kind of gated community. Here, in a development called Dr. Manuel de la Pila, twenty low-rise multiple-dwelling buildings, totaling 906 units, comprise the largest public housing community in the city of Ponce. Dr. Manuel de la Pila is one of 337 public housing projects built in Puerto Rico as part of the massive post-war U.S. federal public housing push that by the second half of the twentieth century had furnished Puerto Rico with more public housing units than any U.S. city—after New York.

 

Like Extensión Alhambra, when it was first built Dr. Pila was an open community. But early one November morning in 1994, two years after a private firm had taken over its management, three helicopters carrying national guards and police descended upon the project, officially occupying it. Operation Centurion, popularly known as Mano Dura Contra el Crimen (Strong Arm Against Crime), had dictated that the largest, presumably most dangerous public housing projects should be gated in order to reduce crime. Over the course of four years, nearly a quarter of

Puerto Rico’s 337 public housing developments were “rescued” or “occupied,” leading to arrests of residents, the establishment of police outposts, and the erection of fences to control movement. Dr. Pila became a gated public housing development.

Gates and guards have typically been ways for privileged communities to “defend” themselves, creating secure residential environments. In their quest for security, gates symbolize “withdrawal [from the city]” and they also produce fear, according to

Teresa P. R. Caldeira, professor of city and regional planning at the University of California. Promising to protect residents from crime, as well as from fears of declining property values and loss of prestige and exclusivity, gated communities enable affluent residents to imagine that they can leave the unruly, dangerous spaces of cities behind.

The concentration of class and racial privilege in suburbs, fortressed enclaves, securitized buildings, and private islands takes place alongside the spatial concentration of poverty in ghettos, favelas, and barrios. Residential gates for the rich have also led to the rise of gates for the poor—in favelas in Brazil, South African townships, peripheral urban migrant settlements in China, and even in some public housing developments in the United States. The built environment sorts and segregates people, physically and symbolically distinguishing communities from one another. Whether one is locked inside or kept outside is determined by one’s race, class, and gender. In both kinds of gated communities, controlled access points restrict movement in and out. However, living in gated communities of the rich and poor are vastly different experiences.

The privileged gates of Extensión Alhambra offer a retreat into a secure, idyllic community; newly privatized street and sidewalks are restricted to sanctioned, paying community members, who can decide who is allowed inside. In the impoverished community of Dr. Pila, in contrast, government and private overseers control the movement of residents. So while the gates of Extensión Alhambra permit their affluent residents to exert greater political and social influence over their home turf, in Dr. Pila they have the opposite effect, diminishing residents’ power. In privileged communities, gates lock undesirables out; in poor communities, they lock them in. In both cases, gates are erected to serve the interest of the upper classes, who are primarily white. In other words, gates reproduce inequality, and cement or—to use Michel DeCerteau’s term—“politically freeze” social distinctions of race and class.

 

IN AND/OR OUT

Ramiro greeted me warmly. To enter the well-appointed homes and interior gardens of Extensión Alhambra, where he lived, I had to find people who would vouch for me and arrange for me to gain entrance. Once inside the gate, I had to justify myself and answer their interrogations about who I knew, what I was doing, and why. I came to understand that the residents of Extensión Alhambra were suspicious or confused about me because of my brown skin, which contrasted with the light-skinned people depicted in the photographs sitting on Ramiro’s living room coffee table. According to the 2000 Census, most residents of these privileged communities racially identified as “Caucásico” (Caucasian) or “Blanco” (white)— “race symbols,” in the words of economist Glen Loury, which are enlisted to help navigate these newly privatized community spaces. Negotiations of membership and belonging occur; outsiders and insiders are sorted and profiled.

 

The residents of Dr. Pila know that they are the ones affluent Alhambra residents wish to keep out. “The controlled access in Extensión Alhambra allows people from that area to enter,” one woman explained. “They think people from public housing want to go there to rob them. For them, we are society’s scum.” Another Dr. Pila resident agreed: “When they put up that gate in Extensión Alhambra, it was so that the people from public housing would not go there, so that the vermin would not enter.” Residents of both private and public communities told me that a race credential was required for someone to enter community spaces. A resident of a nearby private upper-middle class community that had been unsuccessful in putting up gates said that her whiteness prevented her from entering Dr. Pila: “I would be in a panic,” she said, “because I feel different even physically [as a] a blonde woman!”

Gates separate adjacent neighborhoods, freezing race, class distinctions, and demarcating social distances; they segment identities and mark the “unmarked.” Gates position and remind specific bodies of their rightful place, delineating identities and neighborhood limits, and discouraging movement. They also remind people that public housing is dangerous. Together with media representations of crime, they reinforce the idea that dark young males, in particular, are unemployable, dangerous, and criminal.

Rafa, a dark-skinned, bored young man who lived in Dr. Pila, explained, “You go and ask if they have [any work] and they say they don’t. And then they give the job to the favorites.” Residents of public housing projects often spoke about being turned down for jobs, which they saw as related to their place of residence. Don Ramon, an employer at a job fair organized by the social workers in Dr. Pila, said he was there to offer job opportunities that were typically denied to residents of public housing. Dinora, a resident, described a job interview. When she got there, the supervisor asked her where she was from. “When I told him I was from Dr. Pila,” she said, “his attitude changed to ‘I’ll call you if anything comes up.’ He went from an attitude that the job was for-sure to an attitude, once I said where I lived, of ‘I’ll call you later.’”

The physical and symbolic meaning of the gates were obvious to public housing residents. As one woman told me: “By putting up our gate,” they’re not interested in “protect[ing] our community, or its residents.” What they are doing, she said, is “isolat[ing] public housing from wealthy people. They have no reason to think they’re better than us. We’re all people.” The gates cement physical separation. Public housing residents resent not being able to take their children to trick-or-treat during Halloween in the more privileged areas. Opportunities for engaged contact are practically nonexistent.

 

GETTING INSIDE THE GATES

Getting inside Extensión Alhambra takes careful planning. Ramiro’s screening interrogation gave him decisive control over my entry and presence in the public streets and sidewalks of the community, much like the power he and his neighbors wield to make decisions about who enters their private home spaces. With the Closing Law that allowed private communities to gate themselves in the interest of safety, security technology came to facilitate the control rich people exercise over private spaces. Private guards follow orders through telecoms or telephones; electronically-powered gates allow owners to exert control through remote beepers, security spikes and electric currents, administering entry and exit as they see fit. In private communities, residents and visitors are welcomed into safe havens protected from outside perils. Whether one is welcome depends on who is seeking entry, and who is doing the credentialing. This credentialing is done by residents; in public housing, in contrast, the government makes such decisions, seizing control from residents. The gate in Extensión Alhambra “is private,” a resident of Dr. Pila told me: “here it is controlled.” When a temporary fence was first built, residents of Dr. Pila thought their own gate would function similarly to that of Extensión Alhambra, with residents controlling entry either through remote access or granting approval to the guard. But in time, their ability to control entry diminished. Rather than work in the service of residents, a police sentry with a one-way mirror came to control residents, federally inspired zero-tolerance regulations demanded that residents be screened, and the government appointed social workers to organize community activities. Residents, not visitors, came under scrutiny. As one woman explained: “I have been stopped, and asked what building I am going to, what am I going to do. They see the face of a crook in me.”

To enter the gated caserío (public housing) was, as one resident said, to lose the capacity to “move freely,” and instead to be controlled, isolated, and actively barred from freedom of contact both inside and outside. Just as residents’ movements were restricted, so were mine. Upon entering Dr. Pila, visitors and residents are signaled to stay out or wait by a sign in front of the guardhouse that reads: “Residential zone with controlled access. Any resident or visitor without identification must identify himself at the entry. Visiting cars are subject to search. Housing Administration.” The sign is a reminder that entering public housing makes one suspect.

As they block access to outsiders and turn public spaces—the street, the sidewalks—into private community property, these gates expand the power of privileged insiders over urban space and development. The gates that lock some in and others out hand control over the city to the privileged, giving the poor little recourse, little control, and less and less power.

 

CEMENTED DISTINCTIONS

Puerto Rico illustrates the ways social inequalities are physically and symbolically articulated in residential urban built environments throughout the world, underscoring differences in power and agency. Throughout the world, security policies have become a popular way to address feelings of insecurity in urban areas. Gates in residential areas and public spaces, security guards, security cameras, and metal detectors sort and divide city residents. In China, for example, new urban migrants are being locked in enclaves in the city’s periphery. There, as in Latin America and the rest of the developing world, as well as in the United States, grave social inequalities are spatialized in residential neighborhoods, new technologies delimit insiders and outsiders, and the rich exert power over the poor.

Community gates signal and reconstitute deep social inequalities, both imagined and real. For the rich, the public is increasingly privatized; for the poor, the private sphere is increasingly subject to public surveillance. For both, social activities are limited to the family unit and to intimate and exclusive spaces. Those who can afford to do so “bowl alone” and live alone. Those of lesser means are subjected to monitoring, control, and surveillance in their places of residence. This bunker mentality diminishes the spontaneity of public life.

Although the gates of Puerto Rico’s public housing are not in operation today, the fences are still there. The police no longer patrol the grounds, and only a boarded-up guardhouse remains. Entry and exit is no longer formally monitored, but the remains of the public gates continue to interfere with everyday routines, segregating and re-inscribing social inequality. Meanwhile, the gates around the private enclaves continue to be fortified by technology. The gates of the poor and the rich face each other, turning residents away from the city and its salutary social promises.

 

 

Recommended Resources

Atkinson, Rowland and Sarah Blandy. Gated Communities: International Perspectives (Routledge, 2006). Provides a wide array of gated community case studies.

Blakely, Edward J. and Mary Gayle Snyder. Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States (Brookings Institution Press, 1999). The first book-length work on gated communities, it provides an account of how gated communities emerged in the United States.

Caldeira, Theresa P. R. City of Walls: Crime, Segregation, and Citizenship in São Paulo (University of California Press, 2000). Examines gated communities and their relationship to crime and class segregation in Brazil.

Costa Vargas, João. “When a Favela Dared to Become a Gated Condominium: The Politics of Race and Urban Space in Rio de Janeiro,” Latin American Perspectives (2006), 33(4): 49–81. One of the few examinations of gates in poor communities, it explores the relationship of gates to urban poverty and race in Brazil.

Low, Setha. Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America (Routledge, 2003). Provides a historical background of gated communities and uses ethnography to see how privilege is contained behind gates.

Safa, Helen I. The Urban Poor of Puerto Rico: A Study in Development and Inequality (Rinehart and Winston, 1974). The first and only book-length study examining life in Puerto Rico’s public housing.

 

>>>

Zaire Zenit Dinzey-Flores is in the sociology and Latino & Hispanic Caribbean studies departments at Rutgers University. She is the author of Locked In, Locked Out: Gated Communities in a Puerto Rican City, from which this article was adapted.

 

source: American Sociological Association

Henry V: My Essay

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Professor James P. Conlan – ENGL 4001 (OU1)

2 December 2008

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Henry V: My Essay by Efrain Suarez

In fierce tempest he is coming…

Keith Dockray, in his book on King Henry V[1], notes the sometimes ambivalent nature of Shakespeare’s Henry V. Laurence Olivier was able to stage the play as a patriotic call to arms during WWII while Kenneth Branaugh later presented it as an anti-war, anti-tyranny drama. Once an icon of chivalry, for many Henry V became infamous as a religious fanatic, an imperialist warmonger, and a coldblooded killer, which to modern ears, should sound familiar. Our position will become clear as we go along.

 

And so this bending student and aspiring teacher will pursue this story and humbly pray your patience to read and judge kindly his essay.

 

I mentioned in class how I thought that Henry V shows us that history tends to repeat itself and how very strong parallels could be drawn from the imperialist King Henry V of England and another more recent world leader. This is why instead of using “Henry” or “the King” I will instead use “The Monarch”.

The Monarch is thinking about making a grab for another country (France). His advisors, for their own reasons seek to advice him on the legality of this idea not that that would have changed anything. The Monarch pauses and before anything else, puts the responsibility squarely on his advisor’s (Canterbury) shoulders[2] for his future actions.

For God doth know how many now in health

Shall drop their blood in approbation

Of what your reverence shall incite us to.

Therefore take heed how you impawn our person,

How you awake our sleeping sword of war. (1.2. 18-20)

He doesn’t say “don’t awaken” but “careful how you awaken”. And in the next breath asks for a legal loophole to make his claim.

May I with right and conscience make this claim? (1.2.95)

He presses his claim on France based on the issue of Salic Law. This law essentially prohibits a man from inheriting through the maternal line, or as Canterbury says, “No woman shall succeed in Salic land”. This question of inheriting through the maternal line is important, because it not only legitimates Henry’s claim to France, but later on his son’s claim as well once Henry marries Catherine of France. Canterbury, as advisor, essentially sidesteps the issue by telling Henry that the Salic Law cannot apply to France since it did not originate there, and that he therefore has a claim to the throne. It is interesting to note that later in the play the three traitors to the monarch were inspired precisely by the idea that the crown of England belonged in “right and conscience” to Anne Mortimer, daughter of the Earl of Mortimer[3].

By quoting the book of Numbers[4], the advisors can quote “conscience” but the legality or “right” is not mentioned and The Monarch conveniently doesn’t ask, even though he knows full well what’s at stake.

For never two such kingdoms did contend

Without much fall of blood, whose guiltless drops

Are every one a woe, a sore complaint

‘Gainst him whose wrongs gives edge unto the swords

That makes such waste in brief mortality. (1.2.25)

It is Henry’s ability to make himself sound like  a Christian king, rather than a delinquent., and in so doing uniting the church behind him.

We are no tyrant, but a Christian king;

Unto whose grace our passion is as subject

As are our wretches fetter’d in our prisons” (1.2.241-243).

As a result, he is able to turn the civil wars in England into a unified crusade against France. This allows him to avoid the problems that Scotland normally poses and also to tap into Ireland and Wales for soldiers. His connection with the church further provides him with cash to undertake his battles. This contrasts strongly not only with his wild and undisciciplined youth, but also with the uncontrolled Dauphin who treats Henry V like a joke by sending tennis balls. Henry indicates that,

“His [the Dauphin’s] jest will savour but of shallow wit

When thousands weep more than did laugh at it” (1.2.295-296).

 

And off they go, in “fierce tempest”[5] to France. Meanwhile those who manufacture weapons and military clothing have their day and the military propaganda machine gets to work inspiring the soldiers on.

And silken dalliance in the wardrobe lies.

Now thrive the armourers, and honour’s thought

reigns solely in the breast of every man.

They sell the pasture now to buy the horse,

Following the mirror of all Christian kings, (2.0.3)

What happens when the traitors[6] (or advisors who disagree) threaten The Monarch’s Plan? He throws a fit.

…See you, my princes and my noble peers,

These English monsters! …

Thou that didst bear the key of all my counsels,

That knew’st the very bottom of my soul,

That almost mightst have coin’d me into gold,

Wouldst thou have practis’d on me for thy use,–

May it be possible that foreign hire

Could out of thee extract one spark of evil

That might annoy my finger?

…And whatsoever cunning fiend it was

That wrought upon thee so preposterously

Hath got the voice in hell for excellence;

…But he that temper’d thee bade thee stand up,

Gave thee no instance why thou shouldst do treason…

…Why, so didst thou. Come they of noble family?

Why, so didst thou. Seem they religious?

Why, so didst thou. Or are they spare in diet,

Free from gross passion or of mirth or anger,

Constant in spirit, not swerving with the blood,

Garnish’d and deck’d in modest complement,

not working with the eye without the ear,

And but in purged judgement trusting neither?

…I will weep for thee;

For this revolt of thine, methinks, is like

Another fall of man. Their faults are open.

Arrest them to the answer of the law;

And God acquit them of their practices! (2.2.76-141)

And why is this revolt akin to another fall of man? The Monarch now sees himself as acting as god’s behalf and whosoever is not for the Monarch is now against him. This is why he will weep.

Of course The monarch has stopped worrying about the blood that will spill in this war, but that doesn’t stop Exeter from making King Charles of France worry about it.

(The Monarch) bids you, in the bowels of the Lord,

Deliver up the crown, and to take mercy

On the poor souls for whom this hungry war

Opens his vasty jaws; and on your head

Turning the widows’ tears, the orphans’ cries,

The dead men’s blood, the pining maidens’ groans,

For husbands, fathers, and betrothed lovers,

That shall be swallowed in this controversy.  (2.4.102-109)

So Henry blames King Charles of France for the suffering he will unleash on the grounds that Charles should yield his crown immediately or start a war.

And so begins the bloody constraint.[7] in Harfleur with The Monarch working up his troops into a bloody rage.

…when the blast of war blows in our ears,

…imitate the action of the tiger;

…Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;

Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;

Let it pry through the portage of the head

…Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,

Hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit

To his full height. On, on, you noblest English,

…Follow your spirit, and upon this charge

Cry, “God for Harry! England and Saint George!” (3.1.1-34)

Later The Monarch seeks out the governor of Harfleur and plays his card.

Take pity of your town and of your people,

Whiles yet my soldiers are in my command,

…If not, why, in a moment look to see

The blind and bloody soldier with foul hand

Defile the locks of your shrill-shrieking daughters;

Your fathers taken by the silver beards,

And their most reverend heads dash’d to the walls;

Your naked infants spitted upon pikes,

Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confus’d

Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry

At Herod’s bloody-hunting slaughtermen.

What say you? Will you yield, and this avoid,

Or, guilty in defense, be thus destroy’d? (3.3.105-120)

The issue of inheritance, one central theme in the play, is about of keeping families together. Henry makes this clear at Harfleur, where his rhetorical tactics heighten the impact of the violence, implying not only the massacre of soldiers and the trashing of the city, but also the erasing of whole families,[8] the ruin of paternal patterns, and the dishonor of all the mothers.

What becomes clear that what Henry is really threatening to destroy is the entire inheritance structure of the town, without which Harfleur would lose its identity. This connection between family and inheritance explains why Henry refuses to marry Catherine the first time King Charles offers her to him. Henry does not only need Catherine as his wife, he also needs the assurance that Charles will make him his heir. The placing of blame comes up again when Henry tries to make the governor of Harfleur accept responsibility for the rape and pillage he will allow his troops to pursue. The governor of Harfleur yields the town, begging for mercy as he does so. However, although Henry still refuses to take responsibility for his actions, he cannot escape the judgment of his troops. As will be seen in Act Four, they blame him for leaving behind widows and fatherless children.

Harfleur is taken, but King Charles intends to meet The Monarch with France’s sharp defiance[9]. He sends a messenger to the monarch with these words;

Thus says my King:

England shall repent his folly,

see its weakness and admire our sufferance

…tell him…

he hath betrayed his followers,

whose condemnation is pronounced. (3.6.108-122)

Yesterday and today, when the Monarch is cornered by his own actions, he is left with no recourse but to place himself and his troops in the hands of a higher power.

We are in God’s hand(s now)… (3.6.155)

And so once again the Monarch places the responsibility for his decisions on someone else’s shoulders.[10]

The chorus acts like a medieval CNN. The viewer entertains conjecture[11] with imagined wing[12] aided by images provided by the chorus. Far from being an impartial narrator of events as they unfold, the chorus calls the “traitors”

Three corrupted men…of hollowed bosoms

filled with treacherous crowns(2.0.22)[13]

and describes the scene of battle at Harfleur[14] in an almost majestic way.

The Chorus’ reminders that we are watching a theatrical representation of history also serve to remind us that history only exists in its representations.[15] So history is relative to who’s speaking.

In the play, fathers are figures whom sons must emulate, more often than not in the form of valor on the battlefield. (Sound familiar?)  Henry calls on the sons of England to duplicate their fathers’ exploits not only to avoid dishonor, but more generally to avoid losing their inheritance rights. (3.1.17-23) the interesting question here is whether he’s trying to convince just them or himself.

The Monarch doesn’t say “stay the course”, he says;

‘Tis good for men to love their present pains

Upon example; so the spirit is eased;

And when the mind is quick’ned, out of doubt,

The organs, though defunct and dead before,

Break up their drowsy grave and newly move,

With casted slough and fresh legerity. (4.1.18)

Once more the chorus sounds;

…The confident and over-lusty French

Do the low-rated English play at dice;

…And chide the cripple tardy-gaited Night

Who, like a foul and ugly witch, doth limp

So tediously away. The poor condemned English,

Like sacrifices, by their watchful fires

Sit patiently and inly ruminate

The morning’s danger; and their gesture sad,

Investing lank-lean cheeks and war-worn coats,

Presented them unto the gazing moon

So many horrid ghosts. O now, who will behold

The royal captain of this ruin’d band

Walking from watch to watch, from tent to tent,

Let him cry, “Praise and glory on his head!”

For forth he goes and visits all his host,

Bids them good morrow with a modest smile,

And calls them brothers, friends, and countrymen.

Upon his royal face there is no note

How dread an army hath enrounded him;

Nor doth he dedicate one jot of colour

Unto the weary and all-watched night,

But freshly looks, and over-bears attaint

With cheerful semblance and sweet majesty;

That every wretch, pining and pale before,

Beholding him, plucks comfort from his looks.

…And so our scene must to the battle fly… (Prologue, Act 4)

After this battle, we see the ambivalence inside the monarch’s head, as he speaks to a soldier disguised as a common soldier imitating in a way the descent of Christ to earth.

 

I think the King is but a man as I am. The violet smells to him

as it doth to me; the element shows to him as it doth to me; all

his senses have but human conditions. His ceremonies laid by,

in his nakedness he appears but a man; and though his affections

are higher mounted than ours, yet, when they stoop, they stoop

with the like wing. Therefore, when he sees reason of fears as we

do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish as ours are;

yet, in reason, no man should possess him with any appearance of

fear, lest he, by showing it, should dishearten his army. (4.1.99- 108)

The Monarch has a problem with the moral responsibility of this war[16], but not because of he is “but a man” but precisely because the reverse is true; and since the Monarch has consistently tried to pass the blame for the battle off onto others, William’s blaming of Henry for what happens to his soldiers in 4.1.128-134 amounts to heresy. It is Henry’s inability to accept personal responsibility for his actions that makes him challenge Williams. The Monarch’s violence, divinely sanctioned, is superior to the violence of the common individual;

The King is not bound to answer the particular endings of his soldiers, the father of his son, nor the master of his servant; for they purpose not

their death, when they purpose their services…

Some peradventure have on them the guilt of premeditated and

contrived murder; some, of beguiling virgins with the broken seals

of perjury; some, making the wars their bulwark, that have before

gored the gentle bosom of Peace with pillage and robbery. Now, if

these men have defeated the law and outrun native punishment,

though they can outstrip men, they have no wings to fly from God.

War is his beadle, war is his vengeance; so that here men are

punish’d for before-breach of the King’s laws in now the King’s

quarrel. Where they feared the death, they have borne life away;

and where they would be safe, they perish. Then if they die

unprovided, no more is the King guilty of their damnation than he

was before guilty of those impieties for the which they are now

visited. Every subject’s duty is the King’s; but every subject’s

soul is his own. Therefore should every soldier in the wars do as

every sick man in his bed, wash every mote out of his conscience;

and dying so, death is to him advantage; or not dying, the time was

blessedly lost wherein such preparation was gained; and in him that

escapes, it were not sin to think that, making God so free an

offer, He let him outlive that day to see His greatness and to

teach others how they should prepare. (4.1.146-172)

And with these ideas burned into their minds, they’re off to the battle of Agincourt. Instead of “mission accomplished” the phrased used is “The day is yours” (4.7.79). One cannot escape the irony of the Monarch, after leading his troops into such a tough and costly battle, requesting Non Nobis and Te Deum to be sung (5.0.117), once again perhaps attributing everything that has just happened to God’s will.

And at this point, as Mans states[17] in her introduction of the play, the battle clarifies and solidifies by way of war and bloodshed the pedigree of the winner while obscuring those of the loser, the Dauphin.

If, Duke of Burgundy, you would the peace,

… you must buy that peace

With full accord to all our just demands… (5.2.69-72)

Vae Victus…

So it’s pretty obvious that the wooing of Catherine is a farce.

So…

This star of England. Fortune made his sword,

By which the world’s best garden he achieved,

And of it left his son imperial lord.

Henry the Sixth, in infant bands crown’d King

Of France and England, did this king succeed;

Whose state so many had the managing,

That they lost France and made his England bleed…

In th end, nothing ever really ends.

 

 

henryv1

 

About the cover photo…

http://www.flickr.com/photos/archphoenix/1521122270/

[1] http://www.renaissancemagazine.com/books/henry.html

[2] The sin upon my head, dread sovereign! , 1.2.96

[3] See Mans’ introduction to the play in The Norton Shakespeare, Second Edition, pg 1476.

[4] 1.2.98

[5] 2.4.99

[6] Grey, Cambridge, and Scrope

[7] 2.4.97

[8] See Mans’ introduction to the play in The Norton Shakespeare, Second Edition, pg. 1474

[9] 3.5.37

[10] 1.2.96

[11] 4.0.1

[12] 3.0.1

[13]Not unlike these days when pacifists are called unpatriotic

[14] 3.0

[15] http://phoenixandturtle.net/excerptmill/stetner1.htm

[16] See Mans’ introduction to the play in The Norton Shakespeare, Second Edition, pg. 1477

[17] in The Norton Shakespeare, Second Edition, pg. 1474

Malice and Silence: The Women in “Titus Andronicus”

titusandronicus-poster

by Efraín Suárez Arce

for Professor James P. Conlan

English 4001

24 October 2008

 

 

 

Malice and Silence: The Women in “Titus Andronicus”

  1. Lavinia

According to Bernice Harris, in her article[1]  literary bodies, much like “real” bodies, are often seen, interpreted and used to signify something else. Lavinia’s sexual status, first as virgin daughter, then chaste wife, and finally mutilated widow is used as a representation of family honor and, conversely, shame. These representations are also used to appropriate, articulate or validate more general claims to political authority. This is why Titus Andronicus illustrates a profound relationship between sexuality and the state. It is in Lavinia’s name that Bassianus is the first to defer a use of force in the beginning of the play.

…And her whom my thoughts are humbled all,

gracious Lavinia, Rome’s rich ornament,

That I will here dismiss my loving friends.

(1.1.47-53)

We see that Lavinia’s introduction into the play is as a device to affect a transfer of power. Later, to show his thanks as well as his newly established authority, Saturninus claims Lavinia to serve as

Rome’s royal mistress, mistress of my heart, And in the sacred Pantheon her espouse … (1.1.241- 42).

He intends to claim her virginity. Yet his interest in her is not strictly sexual, for it is Tamora, the stolen Gothic queen, who has incited Saturninus’ lust.

Saturninus says that he intends to use Lavinia to advance the Andronici name and family (1.1.238-41) which, of course, will strengthen his own political position: to claim sexual access to Lavinia places him in a potential kinship relationship with Titus.  At this moment, Bassianus seizes Lavinia and proclaims,

…this maid is mine. (1.1.276)

He claims that he and Lavinia are already betrothed to each other. This is a significant event. By claiming her, Bassianus disrupts the alliance that Saturninus and Titus are about to establish through her, an alliance that is worth – to Titus – even the life of Mutius, one of his own sons. Titus says to Mutius, before killing him:

Barr’st me my way in Rome? (1.1.291)

Lavinia’s power is also related to her sexuality and her function as a “changing piece” (1.1.309), a function which is depends first on her virginity and later on her stained marital chastity. First, Bassianus calls her “Rome’s rich ornament,” as if she belonged to all; then, her father claims her as the “cordial” for his later years. Next, Saturninus names her not only Rome’s royal mistress, but also his own. Titus complies.

Lavinia’s silence, when she can still choose it freely, is useful to her. Silence was highly esteemed as a womanly virtue and at the same it is convenient for her. When Bassianus claims Lavinia as his wife, she neither resists nor assents, so she might or might not be complicit. Perhaps her silences are her own tool and weapon. While Titus, Bassianus, and Saturninus all have a stake in Lavinia’s virtue, Tamora would have her virtue undone; as a chaste wife, Lavinia is Tamora’s antithesis. Yet Lavinia would have Tamora see the two of them as similar: when Demetrius and Chiron threaten rape, Lavinia pleads with Tamora on the basis of shared gender:

O Tamora, thou bearest a woman’s face (2.3.136)

She pleads with Chiron:

Do thou entreat (Tamora) to show a woman’s pity (2.3.147)

“I will not hear her speak,” is Tamora’s response to Lavinia’s claims for an essential womanhood. Tamora also uses Lavinia as an exchange item, just as Bassianus and Saturninus do. Since she cannot strike directly at Titus, Tamora chooses to revenge herself on Lavinia. Lavinia’s refusal to say the word “rape”, referring to an impending sexual assault as that which “womanhood denies my tongue to tell” and as a “worse-than-killing lust” (2.3.174, 175) reminds the audience that even to speak of rape brings a woman shame.

According to Emily Detmer-Goebel[2], Lavinia’s silence after the rape calls our attention to the act of revealing the rape; the suspense builds as each character responds to the sight of the raped and mutilated Lavinia. The responses to her– from the laughter of the rapists and the poetry of her uncle, to the fear of her brother Lucius and the blind madness and bloody revenge of Titus – suggests how this scene can be seen as a dramatization of the culture’s varied stance regarding a woman’s claim of rape.

Lavinia’s rape and mutilation turns her into an unfamiliar, unknown presence to the men around her: Marcus leads her to Titus and says,

This was thy daughter (3.1.63, emphasis added)

Lucius, Lavinia’s brother, exclaims,

This object kills me (3.1.65; emphasis added)

For the uncle she is no longer a daughter and for the brother she is no longer a sister. Even Lavinia’s nephew runs from her. He says,

Alas, sweet aunt, I know not what you mean (4.1.49)

For her father, she becomes a “map of woe” (3.2.12). No longer able to reflect his masculinity or his power, she now represents his shame and sorrow. This is why when he kills her he says,

Die, die Lavinia, and thy shame with thee,

And with thy shame thy father’s sorrow die. (5.3.45)

In a way, her rape and mutilation had already killed her in the eyes of her father.

But before we dismiss Lavinia as the silent woe-is-me victim, we should consider that before her death, Titus has Lavinia catch her assailant’s blood in a bowl.  What does she do with the blood? Maybe she drank it…Crazy?  Sure, but this is pre-Christian Rome. If Alarbus’ blood can grant peace and finality to Titus’ dead sons in the beginning of the play, it’s possible that Demetrius and Chiron’s may also allow the same for Lavinia. As a Roman woman, she would have known that only death would release her from her shame.

II.Tamora

In the play’s opening scene, Saturninus remarks in an aside:

A goodly lady, trust me, of the hue

That I would choose were I to choose anew (1.1.261-62).

He’s referring to Tamora. As queen of the Goths, a people who have been spent many years at war with Rome, she is an enemy of the state. As a captive led through the streets of the capital, she is publicly humiliated. Titus’ display of her and her children increases her dishonor and so becomes a display of his own political, military and masculine power, Tamora recognizes this herself when she says:

…we are brought to Rome to beautify thy triumphs”(1.1.109-10).

Tamora hates Titus and his sons even before her first born son Alarbus is brutally killed as a sacrifice to the dead Andronici. As a sexual object, Tamora can claim a degree of authority for herself; it is the only way she can invest herself with a value beyond being a symbol of who won and who lost a battle. Tamora is a figure of a woman who owns and enjoys her own sexuality without any inhibitions (which is a big no-no), perhaps owing to the fact that she is from a different culture. This could account for Saturninus’ attraction to her, in that she functions as a figure of uninhibited sexuality itself. This also accounts for how influential and dangerous she is. She uses her sexuality to exert control over the emperor, as we see later in Act II,

My lord, be rul’d by me, be won at last… (1.1.439)

Yield at entreats; and then let me alone. (1.1.446)

I will not be denied… (2.1.478)

So instead of being a passive victim of the men’s control, she uses the body to control the controllers for her own ends, namely the destruction of the Andronici.

Notes

Detmer-Goebel, Emily “The need for Lavinia’s voice: Titus Andronicus and the telling of rape”<http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3421/is_2001_Annual/ai_ n28871111/pg_1?tag=artBody;col1>

Gibaldi, Joseph, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers,

Sixth Edition The Modern Language Association of America 2003

Harris, Bernice “Sexuality as a signifier for power relations: Using Lavinia, of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus” June 22, 1996  <http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2220/is_n3_v38/ai_18796172?tag=content;col1&gt;

“Titus”  (DVD-1999) Dir. Julie Taymor USA. 162min. 1999

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Alan Cumming

The Norton Shakespeare”, Second Edition – Stephen Greenblatt (General Editor), Harvard University Press, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Photos:

The “Lady in white” photo is from <http://www.rsc.org.uk/explore/workspace/index_2008.htm>

The Titus Andronicus poster is from <http://www.pbs.org/shakespeare/works/work170.html>

 

[1] Sexuality as a signifier for power relations: Using Lavinia, of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus.”

[2]  In her article, The need for Lavinia’s voice: Titus Andronicus and the telling of rape

Richard II: My Essay

Efraín Suárez Arce

Professor James Conlan

English 4001 (OU1)

1 October 2008

RICHARD 2ND
RICHARD 2ND by Shakespeare, , writer – William Shakespeare, Director – Simon Goodwin, Designer – Paul Willis, The Globe Theatre, London. Credit: Johan Persson/

Richard II: My Essay

Here we have two very different types of men pitted against each other in what at seems like a struggle for power. Richard II seems to have all the advantages over Bolingbroke. He is the rightful king during a time when kings were believed to rule by divine right. So what caused Richard II’s downfall? two fatal mistakes: the first being the seizing of the Lancastrian estates after John of Gaunt’s death (a violation of the strongly guarded laws of inheritance in place at the time) which made an enemy of Henry Bolingbroke, Gaunt’s son and the Lancastrian heir, as well as encouraging the nobility to sympathize with him. And second, a badly timed expedition to secure control in Ireland, which enabled Bolingbroke to return from exile and find enough support to fight the king when he rushed back from Ireland.

There’s also his detachment from the common people, his out of control spending habits, his questionable funding sources, his dependence on inept counselors and penchant for war, his lack of a concept of general welfare, making policy to suit him. All these factors in the end lead to his forced abdication and the founding of the Lancastrian dynasty. When a character such as York or Gaunt gives him sound advice, he ignores it.

Richard has no sense of justice; He is flippant when he remarks that he has “plucked four away” from Bolingbroke’s sentence, and then he tells Gaunt that he still has many years to live.

Perhaps he’s not totally evil, but he’s so full of himself that he doesn’t notice the impact of his actions upon those around him. This same attitude will, of course, later lead to his downfall. We see that as soon as Bolingbroke is gone, Richard starts. in an effort to get money to prepare for a war with Ireland, which is in revolt he chooses to sell the king’s right to tax as well as write blank charters, or forced loans. After making these decisions, Richard is informed that John of Gaunt, broken down by advancing age and the banishment of his son (Bolingbroke), has fallen ill and will likely die soon. Richard immediately expresses his intention to confiscate Gaunt’s estate, which would technically become Bolingbroke’s land and money.

Now put it, God, in the physician’s mind  To help him [Gaunt] to his grave immediately!  The lining of his coffers shall make coats  To deck our soldiers for these Irish wars. (1. 4. 62)[1]

The social order of the time rested in part on the correct, legal transmission of titles and property. When Richard violates this, he disrupts the social order. Richard is mainly concerned with raising money for a war in Ireland. But when he is faced with a crisis, Richard becomes weak and passive. Faced with the threat from Bolingbroke, he goes to pieces, as far as taking effective action is concerned. His only weapons are poetic words, which he uses first to call up his belief in the divine right of kings and later, when he is overthrown, to dramatize his grief and sorrow.

One of the ironies of Richard II is that Richard is in a way lost from the get go, unable to fix the opening dispute since he is himself guilty of the crime. Mowbray cannot accuse the true culprit, and his understandably outraged at being called a traitor. This conflict, which opens the play, serves as a direct challenge to Richard’s power, a challenge which will build throughout the play. Mowbray and Bolingbroke become so impassioned at one point that Richard orders them,

Wrath kindled gentlemen, be ruled by me

(1.1.152).

He then commands the two men to forget the entire affair and to go home. They, however, refuse to obey Richard. The result is that the King accepts a trial by combat,

At Coventry, upon Saint Lambert’s day:

There shall your swords and lances arbitrate

The swelling difference of your settled hate.

(1. 1. 204-206)

A “swelling difference” that in spite of being lord and sovereign to both parties in the dispute, he seems powerless to resolve. Here we see Richard as an impotent king. Richard sees this quite clearly himself, saying

 

We were not born to sue, but to command;

Which since we cannot do…

(1.1.196-197).

This is a mark of resignation, of defeat for Richard, who cannot control his own subjects. Bolingbroke is Richard’s opposite. He seems to be a practical politician of few words, who knows to seize power when the opportunity presents itself. Bolingbroke does not reveal his thoughts or his motives. He never states overtly that he seeks the crown, but it is he who ends up as king.

Is a king’s authority inviolable? The play also shows the conflict between the legal and divine right to rule, weighted against the competency and/or effectiveness of the ruler. We see the disparity between the king’s unprincipled actions and what he and many other characters in the play see as his divine to govern. The big question here is whether the subjects of a king have a right to overthrow and replace him if he is weak, unwise, or unfair. Richard is believed to be the legal, rightful ruler of England, ordained by God. Richard himself states that his authority comes from God himself;

The breath of worldly men cannot depose

The deputy elected by the Lord:

For every man that Bolingbroke hath press’d

To lift shrewd steel against our golden crown,

God for his Richard hath in heavenly pay

A glorious angel: then, if angels fight,

Weak men must fall, for heaven still guards the right. (3. 2. 58-64)

Ergo, he has a “divine right” to rule. John of Gaunt and the Duke of York support this view even though Richard had shown himself to be a weak and ineffective king who focuses more upon the appearances, rather than the responsibilities, of kingship. Bolingbroke, on the other hand, believes the people have the right to depose the king if he does not act in the best interests of the realm. Many nobles support this view and help Bolingbroke unseat Richard. Bolingbroke acts decisively and, arguably, with moral justification. He also is backed by the support of the people. This also brings us to the conflict between personal loyalty and loyalty to the crown, as shown by John of Gaunt, the Duke of York and the Duke of Amerle.

Harold Bloom, in his 1998 book “Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human,” writes,[2]

Since we are not meant to like Richard, and no one could like the usurper Bolingbroke, Shakespeare has little trouble distancing us from the only actions of the play, abdication and murder.

In his article for The New Yorker, Hilton Als[3] states that by the time Bolingbroke gathers his forces, ousts the King, and claims the throne, it hardly matters to the viewer. He alleges that Richard II is not part of the drama; he is just the intermittent cause of it, peripheral to our experience of the play—until, that is, he loses everything, and begins his transformation from spoiled monarch to sensitive, imaginative poet/philosopher. Well, in the soliloquies of Acts III and V, Richard does seem to become more human, or, at least, more of someone with whom we can identify. I think that he has simply acquired a painful awareness of his misdeeds and their consequences.

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

 

Als, Hilton – Kingdom Come: Michael Cumpsty reinterprets the downfall of Richard I, The New Yorker, 2006, <http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/10/02/061002crth_theatre?currentPage=1&gt;

Gibaldi, Joseph, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers,

Sixth Edition the Modern Language Association of America 2003

The Norton Shakespeare”, Second Edition – Stephen Greenblatt (General Editor), Harvard University Press, 2008

 

[1] All quotes from the play are taken from The Norton Shakespeare, Second Edition,

Harvard University Press, 2008

 

[2] As cited by Hilton Als in his 2006 New Yorker  article, “Kingdom Come: Michael Cumpsty reinterprets the downfall of Richard I”

[3] “Kingdom Come: Michael Cumpsty reinterprets the downfall of Richard I” <http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/10/02/061002crth_theatre?currentPage=1&gt;