I got an email from a friend a couple of days ago going “Hey, wanna do something social? Haven’t seen you for a while, and I’d like to.” After kicking around a couple of ideas, she mentioned that she’d been interested in going to see Christopher Marlowe’s Dido: Queen of Carthage by the Theatre Pro Rata, and was I interested?
I was, but after saying that, had a moment of “Boy, is it possible to major in Medieval/Renaissance Studies in college and have gaps in your knowledge” – I’ve never actually taken a class that taught Marlowe’s work, and I’ve only read his Faustus (and that a very long time ago.) And Elizabethan drama was not something my father, the theatre professor, gravitated to (he was much more likely to aim at Molière, a longtime fascination of his, or various other French playwrights, if he was not focusing on his primary interest, ancient Greek (and by extension, classical era) plays.
[In contrast, I’ve read all of Shakespeare at one point or another, and seen most of it in performance in some form, often multiple productions. And I’m familiar with Dido’s story both from the Aeneid, and from both listening to and performing in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, which premiered in 1688.]
All of this combined, it seems a good time to do a refresher in Marlowe, and on this play in particular. And at the same time, I want to balance that with experiencing the play as a play, rather than a written work. Because it’s actually sort of rare that I go to see things without knowing a fair bit about them in advance.
So, my decision is to do some reading and learning about Marlowe and general background before I go, but not to actually read the play. (Though I may see about rereading the relevant section of the Aeneid again.) However, because we’re going Saturday, I don’t have time to get books from the library in time, so my focus is of necessity online materials.
And, because I figured it might amuse, I thought I’d share how I go about that.
Production information and starting points:
People mostly agree that Marlowe wrote Dido relatively early in his career – some people think it was the first play he wrote, some people think it was the second. The most common date given for it is 1584 (based on dates for the troupe that’s recorded as playing it in the first publication), when Marlowe was still at Cambridge.
Marlowe was born in 1564, as the son of a shoemaker in Canterbury. His parents had 9 children (6 of whom survived into adulthood: Marlowe was the second child, but his older sister Mary died when he was four.) His intellectual gifts were recognised quite early, and he eventually gained a scholarship to the King’s School (the choir school associated with the cathedral) which focused on a heavily classical education.
He then went to Cambridge, finishing his BA in 1584 (and his MA in 1587), again, focusing on the classic Latin authors – he wrote at least one play (now lost) before Dido. Marlowe went on to have an even more exciting life as an agent of the Queen (plus the circumstances around his death), but I’m skipping those right now as not relevant as background for this play.
The story of Dido, Queen of Carthage comes out of the core of the Aeneid, when Aeneas leaves Troy, and has not yet reached Italy. Carthage was a small country to a small empire in Northern Africa (what is now Tunisia). Dido is also known as Elissa (perhaps a variant on the Phoenician Elishat – Dido as a name may be related to the Phoenician word for wanderer.)
At any rate, the basic story is that Dido and her brother Pygmalion were children of the king of Tyre. After the king dies, Dido and Pygmalion were supposed to become joint heirs to Tyre. By this point, Dido had married (Virgil names her husband as Sychaeus), a man who was wealthy and powerful. Pygmalion attacks and murders Sychaeus to gain his wealth, Sychaeus appears to his wife in a dream, and tells her both where his wealth is hidden, and to flee Tyre. She does, and ends up founding a new city-state, Carthage.
Virgil’s take on the rest of the story is that as the Gods are shooing Aeneas off away from Troy, so he can eventually go found Rome. He lands in Carthage, and he and Dido fall in love, aided by the interference of Juno and Venus. Another king (Iarbas) is jealous (Dido having previously turned him down), and he prays to Jupiter to make Aeneas go away. Gods being Gods, this is what happens (and Aeneas does not handle it well), leaving Dido alone. She cannot bear to live, and kills herself (in Virgil, she builds a massive funeral pyre, stabs herself with a sword Aeneas left, and swears eternal enmity between Carthage and the descendents of Troy (foreshadowing the Punic Wars.)
Marlowe’s work is based heavily on Virgil, but he adds a number of elements – a subplot of Anna (Dido’s sister) and Iarbas, and Aeneas’ first attempt to leave Carthage.
In some versions of the story, part of the reason for Dido’s suicide is that Iarbas has enmity toward her in specific (because she wouldn’t marry him, but would love Aeneas), and so removing herself from the stage (so to speak) will be better for her country.
The Marlowe Society has lots of nice background. The actual date of the play is unclear: people are currently seeming to settle on 1585-86ish, but it might be 1584, or it might be later. Some people think it must have been written after the less proficient (in terms of stagecraft) but better known Tamburlaine, which was probably written in 1587.
- Plot summary
- Dramatis Personae
- Themes (notably the pettiness of the Gods, unrequited love, Marlowe’s challenging of convention about how relationships are negotiated, and the contrast of the romantic plot against a moralistic plot where you see very different takes on the characters.)
That last bit has a lot in it that’s reminiscent to me of Euripides, who does the same thing. (More specifically, who has an interesting trick of spending half the play making you think sympathetically of a character, and then turning that on its head.)
One other interesting note is that on the 1594 quarto, one Thomas Nashe is given credit along with Marlow for writing Dido. Again, the Marlowe Society has lots of details.
Okay. Now I think I’m ready to go take in the play, without feeling like I know exactly what’s going to happen.
I’m currently working, in another tab on my browser, on a resource page of videos about copyright. As part of that, I realised there’s a bit of personal background I wanted to talk about, but that doesn’t fit the goal of that page. So, here it is.
My contradictory background:
I spend a lot of my personal life in several communities where resources and wonderful stuff are widely shared (generally with an ethic of respecting the creator’s preferences) while recognising that current copyright law has some pretty serious flaws. And of course, my professional life is in a world where use of copyrighted work in an educational context is terribly confusing and often contradictory, even though some kinds of use clearly improve learning, understanding, and connection with amazing resources and creators. The current methods for using a work while respecting the effort of the creator are confusing, complicated, and often too expensive (both in time/energy and in things like licensing fees) for individual teachers or smaller schools to negotiate well, even with the best of intentions.
I’m also the child of a father whose published and unique creative work created a meaningful financial benefit for his family (though it was never his primary income). As an adult, I have created a variety of material, some of which I share freely, some of which has more restrictions for various reasons. I have friends and acquaintances who spend time creating creative work for many and various reasons, but who need to sometimes use the law to protect their livelihood, or use of their material in ways that can be anywhere from confusing to utterly misleading or even risky (for example, I have friends who’ve had instructional materials copied without the relevant safety or background information.)
I recognise that copyright does help with the creation of works of larger scope and time, as well as giving creators some legal options if their work (and time, and effort) are abused. (And I have some book-length projects I’d like to tackle where committing that kind of time and energy is only sensible for me if I have some control over the finished product’s distribution.)
And I’ve handled DMCA removal requests in multiple settings over the years. I think the DMCA is an even more flawed law than copyright in general, because the practicalities of the law make certain kinds of legal responses anywhere from effectively impossible to very expensive – something most individuals can’t address. I’ve also seen it used as a club to shut down responses to discussion, to make life difficult for someone on the wrong side of an online argument, and much more in that vein. And yet, it’s currently the only real tool for handling online situations where one person copies another person’s work without permission.
What I’d like:
I’d like a world with reasonably consistent copyright terms, limited to a length of time that allows the immediate personal heirs to benefit (20 or 25 years, perhaps, rather than the current complex system of 50 or 75 years from various dates.) Enough time that the infant child of an individual creator could reasonably have their needs as they grow supported by sales of the work. Not so much time that they are relying on it rather than making their own way in the world.
(I have friends who disagree with me on this one, and think copyright should end at death. I’ve known enough people – including my father – who were working on various projects while dying of terminal illnesses that I think something that protects rights for a period of time after death is only sensible. Otherwise, these people will be more likely to go do something else like spend all their remaining time with their family, and everyone else loses out on their take on that project.)
I’d like a world where corporate copyrights were handled more sensibly. I want companies who do great research, and create wonderful works of art, and do other nifty things, to be rewarded. That’s only sensible. But I think that copyright law should also recognise that they have a certain benefit of scale that individual creators do not have the same access to.
I’d like a world where tracking down the copyright holder was a pretty simple thing to do – a central registry that could be accessed in a relatively trivial manner. (The technology’s there for it now: we just don’t have the collected data stored in a way that makes those connections easy.) Such a registry would also make it easier for people who, for example, were fine with non-profit uses to give quick permission.
And I definitely want a system where handling misuse of someone’s material online were much improved – in terms of the creator identifying their own work, in terms of having misused material removed quickly and easily, and in terms of handling malicious and incorrect complaints well. Again, the technology is there: I would cheerfully pay a yearly fee to dump my blog posts and other submitted materials into a third-party registry that date and time stamps them, so that any future complaint could be compared against that registered material, if it meant I knew I could handle any material used without permission quickly and easily.
I’m a realist: I don’t think I’m going to get any of these things, any time soon. But one can hope – and more importantly, one can take steps towards all of these things over time.
One of the huge issues this week was the ongoing conversation (and sometimes argument) about eBooks and libraries. As you may know, OverDrive (the primary seller of eBook services to libraries) sent out a letter late last week with some concerning news: namely, that Harper Collins wanted to significantly change its ebook terms, so that once you ‘buy’ an ebook to be distributed via Overdrive, it could only circulate 26 times, and then no more. (And in addition, that it would remain checked out for the full length of the loan term, even if the reader ‘returned’ it, and could not be read by multiple readers at once – in other words, not taking advantage of the digital nature of the product.)
Lots of people have great posts on this.
All have some additional good points in the comments.
I’ve seen some people ask where the 26 number comes from. I seem to recall from my library school days that that’s the average number of circulations a hardcover book gets before it needs to be retired for practical reasons (the binding’s falling apart, pages are missing, it suffers an unfortunate mishap, etc.) However, as anyone with basic statistics knowledge can figure out, a lot of books circulate a lot less than that (and therefore do interesting things to the average), and therefore some books also circulate many more times than that, without problems. Picking it as the number for an ebook circulation is therefore even more problematic than it first appears.
Brian at Swiss Army Librarian notes that the Copyright Clearance Center has released a new video called “Copyright on Campus”. He also links to several past videos they’ve done. These are a great resource, and about as fun as anything about copyright is probably going to manage to get. (Note: there’s stuff they don’t address, but there’s only so much you can do in 5 minute videos.)
Other interesting notes:
Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (my favorite new quiz show) has a fascinating post on their blog on why they spell “Gadhafi” that way (as opposed to the 36 other variations out there – the challenge of translating from one alphabet and language into others.) The answer goes back to a letter from Minnesota school children back in 1986.
Doug Johnson has a great post about ways to make research assignments more interesting to students that are very much along my own preferences in this area for two reasons: first, boredom does not lead to great learning, and secondly, learning how to research and evaluate topics you’re interested in has much broader lifelong learning implications than learning how to do academic papers.
(It’s not that academic papers are a bad skill – I still think we ought to teach it, and ask students to do it on an ongoing basis. But that shouldn’t be the only kind of research we teach. Realistically, how often do you do that kind of academic-paper research once you graduate, unless you become an academic? Compared to how often you’re going to get interested in a subject and want to learn more for your own pleasure, or do research to improve your health, or because you’re travelling somewhere, or whatever else?)
Doug also has a post about whether we’re communicating in places where people are listening – something I want to take on here in the near future. (I’m a big believer in the idea that different kinds of technology do different things well, and we should pick the ones that work.)
Dear Author, one of the major romance genre blogs, takes on the question of “When does a reader know too much?” – in other words, how is the reading experience affected by having seen an author interact online, whether that’s a problematic way, an overly personal way, or even a very positive way?
And finally, Cassandra, writing on the DailyKos (not a place you normally expect to see this) has a lovely ode to the role of the public library in her rural Appalachian community, and why the internet access the library supplies is so critical in particular.
A few links for this week:
Why do we use this tool?
I’ve been reading a lot of back posts from Havi Brooks this week, whose stuff I adore and recommend on the productivity/doing stuff better front, but found one from her from 2008 about Twitter that I really liked and wanted to highlight – it’s a great focus on “Why use this tool, what is it best for?” that I appreciate a lot as an approach.
On Borders and bankruptcy:
I’ve been reading various commentary on this (as one does when one’s personal and professional blog reading includes a number of authors naturally interested in the topic of where their books might be sold and what that means), and have been hoping someone would come up with a really great link roundup. Writer Beware has done so! There are some interesting additional links in comments.
(If you write, or are thinking about writing for publication, especially in genre literature, I recommend reading them in general: they bust publishing scams and all those ideas that seem tempting, but don’t quite add up.)
Library stuff :
Welcome to the last post in this series of file management discussions (at least unless people have more questions! I plan to talk about tagging next, which is related, but different. And maybe my thoughts on using Wikipedia and other crowd-sourced tools sensibly. Suggestions and questions and such make me go “oooh” and put particular topics first, so feel free to suggest your favorites)
Anyway, the last topic on file management I really want to address is the question of what to keep. When I started using computers, hard drive space was precious and finite, and at some point, you generally had to look at deleting old material, or saving it to a long-term storage device that was more of a pain to access. These days, not only is storage cheaper, but I can use tools like my Time Capsule and Dropbox so that backing up files takes very little additional time and energy, and that deleting them often isn’t necessary.
(Have a good backup plan. And have a way to back up essential files that lives outside your house, in case of emergency/natural disaster/whatever. Some people swap USB drives with friends, or mail a DVD every few months to relatives out of state, both of which have some password protection options.)
On the other hand, large piles of files we’re never going to touch again, or that can be accessed in other ways make digital clutter that makes it hard to find the stuff we want to use.
So, what do we keep? Here’s what I keep.
Continue reading File management: what to keep
A phone conversation got me thinking about making this. Here’s my day on Wednesday:
Wake up. (To a playlist of amusing music via my alarm clock program, Aurora)
Read email, the various online fora I check daily, my daily round of web comics (because hey, starting the day with either interesting narrative or humor is never bad.) I plan for this to take me between 30 and 60 minutes most days, as it gives my brain time to wake up properly. Time variable, because it depends on what replies I write immediately.
Check my to do list in Things and figure out which things really need to get done today (and roughly what order). I do plan to talk more about how I use Things in the near future, once I finish the file management posts. I even have screenshots ready for it!
Spend some time answering emails about an upcoming community event, make a couple of quick changes to the event website. (This takes me about an hour, because it’s a bunch of emails and fiddly tasks.)
Respond to a couple of emails with possible referrals to potentially interesting jobs. Pause to read professional list mails that have come in in the last couple of hours. (about half an hour)
Write a draft for a cover letter for a job I’m interested in, and set it aside to let it gel a bit in my head. (about forty-five minutes)
Have an early lunch (while reading in front of the computer: joys of living alone.) While it’s cooking, do a bunch of housecleaning in between stirring. While eating, check Twitter, which I’m trying to get better about doing and my Google RSS feeds, including bookmarking several links for this week’s links post.
Come back to working on that letter, and get something I’m happy with, and send it off. (Takes me about an hour, including some more detailed reading about the school.)
Get a call from the programming chair for the event: he’s finalizing the schedule, and has some questions for me about details, since I’m the overall chair of the event and the hotel coordinator. (We’re using a really cool website, sched.org, which makes the schedule available online, on mobile devices, and in various other formats.)
Work on three more letters for other jobs I’m interested in, and send them out. (This takes me a substantial portion of the afternoon, but the letters are more straightforward than the earlier one.)
Settle in to read a book for a bit, while petting the cat. (She never minds this part.)
Have dinner. Watch the lighting of my computer screen slowly change – I’ve been playing with an add-on called f.lux which shifts from blue light (daytime light, inducing wakefulness) to warmer light (more like typical indoor lighting) on the theory that it’s less disruptive to sleep cycles. I’ve been using it for a few days, and it’s definitely easier for me to fall asleep more quickly (after some reading in bed time.)
I have mine adjusted to shift over the course of an hour, and currently shift from daytime to halogen, but I’m considering going all the way to halogen. (My actual lighting in my bedroom, where my laptop and I mostly hang out in the evenings is usually a single lamp with frosted glass and a CFL bulb.)
Write the previous blog post here, on naming conventions and things to think about.
Have a bath. I believe in baths, because it is hard to read books in the shower. In this case, I take time to finish a nice light reading book so it can go back to the library in the morning.
Pull a number of library books together on their appointed shelf, so I can easily drop them in my library bag and take them tomorrow while I’m doing other errands.
Get a phone call from a friend and a friend of hers, asking for help setting up a Dreamwidth account with icons and some other details. I get to do something I dearly love, which is explain technology to someone who is not entirely sure about it, and do so in a way that makes sense to her.
Yay! I get called a goddess for it, which never hurts. (There is a reason my personal business card now includes the line “speaker to technology” on it. As well as “librarian, process geek, infovore”.)
Figure out what I want to have with me tomorrow as I both want to get out of the house for a bit for a change of pace and do various errands. Locations likely include
- Coffee shop (where I will find wi-fi, outlets, and a nice range of drink options)
- Laundromat (wi-fi, tables, and sensibly placed outlets) I’m taking advantage of a thaw to do a big batch of comforter/pillows/other such things that are a pain to haul into the car in Minnesota winter temperatures (and icy pavement), hence the laundromat stop.
- Library (wi fi, but really, just there to grab holds and drop off returns because there isn’t much nearby parking, and I always feel sort of guilty taking a space for long.) 
- YWCA (no wi fi, but I’m going to be in the pool, so don’t need it).
Three years ago, this amount of wi fi – not so much. How quickly life changes. (And that means that I can do meaningful, useful, productive stuff at any of those first three places, rather than at home, if I feel like it. Which, tomorrow, I do.)
Wrap things up, grab a last drink of water, do various other useful ‘time for bed’ type things, and prepare to curl up with book and cat for a bit before going to sleep, at about 9:30pm.
Things I did not do on Wednesday that I wish I had: It was really nice out, and I wanted to go for a walk, but extra housecleaning won. I was also hoping for some time to work on a personal project or two, but I can bring them with me tomorrow. Also, I have an iPod touch, but did not actually use it today. (It got a good workout on Tuesday going grocery shopping with me, though.)
[footnote 1] Also, if I am in my public library branch for more than about 5 minutes, and not obviously wearing an outdoor coat, I tend to get asked if I’m a librarian.
To which the answer is “Yes, but not here…” and depending on what they need, either helping them (if it’s something simple like using the catalog or a self-check-out) or pointing them at the information desk. I don’t mind doing it, but it always feels a little weird, even if I am clearly giving off “Librarian with something of a clue” vibes.