Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A Midsummer Nightmare in India

As I was reading up on haunted places found in the world, I came across a place in India called The Haunted Ruins of Bhangarh. After learning of how it became the top ten haunted places in the world, I couldn't help but see the similarities the haunted legend had when compared to one of Shakespeare's plays "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
For this topic, I would like to point out the shocking similarities between the legend of The Haunted Ruins of Bhangarh in India and the Shakespeare Play "A Midsummer Night's Dream".

The Time Frame:

Bhangarh was established in 1573, there is no indication that that was the year the legend started, but over the years the city has been declining rapidly in population especially after the famine in 1783.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" was written between 1590 and 1596 and was said to have been published in 1600. This was about 20 years after Bhangarh became a city. Now this is just a theory, but it is possible that Shakespeare got this story about the legend from merchants who have been there, and Shakespeare decided to loosely incorporate the legend into one of his plays. He has done this before. With the play "The Tempest" he gathered information from merchants that have explored the Atlantic Ocean, the Americas and even Bermuda. India is already referenced a number of times in "A Midsummer Night's Dream", so why not.

Oberon and Singhia and Guru Balu Nath Connections:

When I was reading up on the legend of the city of Bhangarh, I found a lot of similarities with this place's haunting beginnings and Oberon's character in "A Midsummer Night's Dream".
This place has two legends, I will expand on both.

In the first legend of the city Bhangarh, it was said to have been cursed by a magician named Guru Balu Nath. Now the word "guru" means "teacher" in both Hinduism and Buddhism beliefs, but it means more than that. It's like a "spiritual teacher", almost like a "prophet". Balu Nath sanctioned the construction of Bhangarth on only one condition... that "The moment the shadows of your palaces touch me, the city shall be no more!" Later a descendant prince raised the palace to a height that shadowed Balu Nath's forbidden retreat. Balu Nath then placed a curse on the town. To this day, no one is allowed to be in the city after sunset. The government even put signs near Bhangarh that forbid the fearless venturers to enter.
The connection I bring up in this legend, is Puck calling Oberon "King of Shadows", which he only calls him that once. This alone is interesting, because the curse is based on "shadows" touching the "guru" who can be deemed as a "king" sometimes.

The other part of the legend of this cursed city is about a Princess of Bhangarh named Ratnavati. On her eighteenth birthday she started to get offers of marriage from other royalties in neighboring regions. In her area lived a tantrik(a type of magician) named Singhia, who was in love with the princess, but knew that the match was impossible. One day Singhia saw the princess's maid in the market getting oil for the princess. He used this opportunity to put a love spell in the oil. The spell would make the princess fall desperately in love with him if she touched the oil. The plan backfired, because the princess apparently saw it happen beforehand, the princess then poured the oil on a boulder that later rolled and crushed Singhia. Before he died he placed a curse of death to fall on all those who dwelt in the city. The following year Bhangarh had a battle with Ajabgarh in which Princess Ratnavati was killed in.
The connection I found in this legend is "the love potion". Singhia wanted the princess to fall in love with him so he made a potion to do just that. In "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Oberon and Titania argued about whether or not to keep the boy Oberon stole from an Indian king. Oberon decides to take a flower that has been hit by one of Cupid's missed arrows, and have Puck place the dew from that flower into the eye's of Titania, so that she may fall in love with the first thing she sees. Puck also used the "love potion" to make the other main characters fall in love with each other. Puck does a poor job with these attempts. Either way how the story begins, it makes you wonder if Oberon is "The Love Guru"?

Bottom and Reincarnation Connections:

In some Asian religions there is a belief in reincarnation, but for the sake of this connection we're going to primarily focus on Hinduism. In this religion, depending on what you've done in the past life, you will be reincarnated into a variety of forms. If you're lucky you will come back has a successful human being, but if you're not, you come back as something lower than that. Most times when this happens you'll come back as an animal
In the play Bottom wanted to play every part in the play "Pyramus and Thisby". Gender didn't matter, he wanted to play the female Thisby, species didn't matter he wanted to play a lion. To me, this is a hinted symbolism that Bottom represents the belief of reincarnation. It's evident in not only the numerous roles he wanted to be in the play, but that he eventually ended up with a donkey as a head to symbolize his character of being overly confident, stubborn and a bit of an ...

Puck and Karma Connections:

Throughout the play Puck(AKA Robin Goodfellow) creates all types of chaos with his mischievous acts. When Oberon asked Puck to make one of the Athenians fall in love with one another, Puck gets the characters wrong and makes a mess in their relationships. This sounds a lot like karma. Everything you could imagine bad happen to you, happens to you.

The Indian Changeling:

I mentioned about an Indian boy that Oberon had taken from a king earlier, but I didn't mention why Titania didn't wan the Changeling. She didn't want the Indian boy, because he was a son of a dear friend of hers. It basically didn't sit well with her, knowing that the boy was stolen from a family who she knew and loved. With this boy briefly being described, it kinda makes you wonder if the fairy realm is located in some haunted forest in India.

What do you think about all these connections? Did Shakespeare base "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on a "A Midsummer NIGHTMARE in Bhangarh"? I'll let you decide...

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Fate of the Weirdos

When I was on a California trip with my brother's, we were trying to look for origins of words that we would call each other like: nerd, geek or even dork; while looking on my phone for the answers, I found the word "weird".

Now I know what you're thinking, "What does this have to do with Shakespeare?" Rest assured, there is a reason behind all this. Originally, the word was spelled "W-Y-R-D". It still sounded the same, the only difference (other than the spelling) was that it meant "fate" or "destiny" in Old English. Over time the word eventually changed to the spelling it is now, "weird".

Anyway, knowing that the word "weird" meant "fate" and that it was talking about the "Fate Sisters" we can safely assume that Shakespeare took this well-known mythology and incorporated it into one of his bloodiest plays... "Macbeth"!
Back then, when they were talking about "fate", they were referring to the "Fate Sisters" found in Greek Mythology. You might know them from the Disney movie "Hercules" and even both versions of "The Clash of the Titans"(Side note, the 1981 version is better).

It makes sense, because of his continues references of Greek Mythologies throughout all of Shakespeare's plays. I mean he even coined the phrase "It is all Greek to me."

Going back to the Sisters mentioned in Greek Mythology. We may not know them as the "Fate Sisters" in "Macbeth" but we do know them as the "Weird Sisters", AKA the three witches who prophesied of Macbeth's future reign as king. The "Weird Sisters" were labeled this, because of their "supernatural" ability to see the future. As we all know "supernatural" can also mean something out of the ordinary, strange and even "weird."

So if you are ever called a "weirdo", just remember... you "pick" your own "destiny"! Wink wink!