Sound of Mind

I have struggled an incredible amount with my personal direction and how I wished to attack act five of Hamlet given the “endless possibilities” I have previously mentioned in blog posts, that Voyeur offers. That being said, it is surprisingly difficult to come to any concrete resolution about the fifth act of Hamlet because of Shakespeare’s wide vernacular and thus hard to draw comparisons with my tool. What I’ve decided to focus on for this blog post, lest I go insane with “endless possibilities,” is the questionable ambiguity surrounding Ophelia’s so-called suicide. I would also like to lead into the relationship of Ophelia’s death to Hamlet’s and how Ophelia’s death laid the groundwork for Hamlet’s final speech.
The rhetoric surrounding Ophelia’s death is very passive. Heavy usage of words that give way to her surrender to death, such as “incapable of her own distress” and “creature native…unto that element,” (4.7.2) suggest a far more unintentional death rather than suicide. The proceeding line “heavy with their drink” allude to act five when heavy is used only once more in the rest of the play when addressing the duel between Laertes and Hamlet.

Although this hypothesis is highly subjective, the intentional use of “heavy” in conjunction to “drink” when a multiplicity of words could have been used, can be regarded as an element of foreshadowing as “drink” is mentioned 10 times so closely to “heavy” and envelopes the death of the cast. Shakespeare may have intentionally threaded these words together so the connotation when the words presented themselves again would provide the same feeling of inescapable fate when they are each “pull’d…to muddy death.” (4.7.2)


Although Laertes and Hamlet exchange forgiveness and understanding and meet one another’s demise by poison tipped sword, Claudius’ intention of getting Hamlet to drink the poison as a backup plan is evidence once more of the inescapable design of his demise for even if he survived the duel he would be forced to be swallowed up by the drink. So too, does Gertrude meet her demise by said poison-filled cup and Hamlet’s insistence for Claudius to drink. Although each of these deaths can be viewed as murder, it is due to the play’s progression that it may just as well be viewed as each a suicide because of each character’s inability to move passed their pursuit of revenge. As a result, the deaths of surrounding characters that have no desire to revenge are mere casualties in male driven inertia to a damned fate. Ophelia’s death, although similar in vernacular to Hamlet’s death scene, is unjust and unintentional due to her secondary status and distance from the play’s central theme.
However, Hamlet cannot just be viewed as strictly evil in his blind rage towards revenge of his father’s death. He too, in many ways, surrenders himself to death just as Ophelia does as both are complacent in light of potential knowledge of their fate. Hamlet knows he will die if he were to but look at the circumstance in which he falls, much like Ophelia when she “fell in the weeping brook.” It is evident, however, that their misery was more inescapable than their death and so death is sweet because of it’s “silence.” The connection here becomes clearer in the table below.

“The rest is silence” finishes Hamlet’s life. King Hamlet dies with poison dropped into his ear. Ophelia continues to sing while she is drowning right up until she reaches her death…
In the image presented above, one can see that the final point in which Ophelia is mentioned in the play is also at the precise point in which “silence” is mentioned in conjunction to her name as well as with “good,” but not with “bad” nor with “music” or “sound.” Although this may seem loosely connected, the few times “silence” is mentioned throughout the play (5 times) it is mentioned always within the larger circle of “good.” This could prove the importance of Hamlet’s final speech as his life (from the start of the play) is filled with the ghost and the overwhelming flow of Hamlet’s contemplation being constant “noise” in his mind. Although he claims his madness is feigned, his contemplative nature suggests his mind is never quiet especially in times of distress, which would play heavily on even the most sound of mind. When Hamlet says “the rest is silence,” (5.2.370) there is a peace that he seems to embrace – King Claudius is dead, the man who poisoned the ear’s of men in more ways than one. In connection with his significant last words, Ophelia’s death is harolded with her singing melodious tunes and is finally silenced by death. Her singing, especially at a point when she is drowning and singing is clearly inappropriate, is perhaps metaphorical of her innocence which is in essence who she is and what she represents to each character in their affiliation with her. In hanging on to singing right up until the bitter end, she is defined mad. much the same as Hamlet’s defining characteristic is easily his contemplative nature which in displaying throughout the play has played a key in revealing to others his madness. He too, is contemplative right up until his death: until silence. the silence of death after so many words used to describe the chaos of noise is perhaps what makes this a comedy in the end term because everyone ironically is put to peace with silence. “Silence” although a selectively used word, is the key in this play.

Seeing Eye to Eye

After a bumpy road of fiddling, frustrations, and findings – I believe I have broken through the surface of being worthy of the title “Voyant,” or perhaps as the french may call it: “voyeuse.”   Cheap jokes aside, I feel I have molded my mind enough around  Voyeur to be able to call it my specialized field above others.  Although I initially lacked this confident resolve in my previous post, continued meetings with a constructive team has seen me through to viewing Voyeur and Hamlet with a fresh set of eyes.
The tool enables a broad look at word connectivity within the text. Visual tools like “knots,” “word trends” (as examined in “Getting Off on a Bad Foot”) and “lava” provide a variety of mediums through which to display evidence in a specific fashion or equally varied to appeal to a broader user base. For each and ever self-contained “side tool” there is the option to either play or to read further into it so previous knowledge of any tool is completely unnecessary.   Our group met with more than a little confusion when attempting to analyze the mystery surrounding  knot interpretation.  After both playing with it individually and within group meetings we have come to a semi-understanding of the somewhat erratic knotting patterns.  Without the Hermeneuti information page, we would not have had any clue where to start in comprehending the tangling mess.  Any  way you choose to slice it, Voyeur is undoubtedly user friendly and that is potentially the key to what sets this apart from both its predecessor TAPor and as well from all other digital analysis aids.

As far as analyzing 3.4 has gone, the only obstacle I have encountered has been my own stubborn preference.  As a group, we have come up with several ways in which to tackle interpretation using our tool.  No matter which hypothesis we might have selected, we would have an ample amount of evidence supporting it due to our new understanding of Voyeur.
Some examples have been*:

  • Is Hamlet truly feigning madness or is it deeper than he fully understands?
  • Sexual tensions and the relationship between Gertrude and Hamlet – strictly familial?
  • What is the purpose of Polonius in this scene and why did his death come about in such an under-exaggerated manner?
  • Analysis of the presence of the ghost and the only tender picture painted for Hamlet and his dysfunctional family.

*Stay tuned to find out where we went with our brilliance…Coming to you, this Monday at 9AM (MT)!
On my own, I have played around with both aspects of scene versus entire corpus analysis and I far prefer examining the entire play and other plays/literary works in conjunction with  Hamlet. Although Voyeur has proven more than useful and enlightening to examine a specific scene and its advantages are obvious – my specific tastes lead me to seek wider horizons.  Perhaps my eyes are bigger than my stomach, however phase one has but whet my appetite for the main course next phase.
On another note, one of phase 1’s project requirements realized with the highest has been having been part  of such a reliable and hard working group.  There has been plenty I, and each one of us for that  matter, have put forward individually.  However, it would have taken a considerably longer time if we had not all pushed forward in united effort.  For every discovery that I have personally made using Voyeur, such as seeking out connections of good and evil and their escalating value within the play, I have had at least one peer add their discoveries to my own creating more concrete conclusions rather than theories. Past academic experience has proven a particular rarity in being placed in a group of such high work ethic and dependability.  Our communication is solid both inside and out of meetings and peer brainstorming is equally distributed and all opinions examined with respect.  Aside from newly acquired expertise, I would certainly  bring the copacetic nature that this group has exhibited forward into phase two.

Putting aside preconceived notions and discovering something useful

As my initial process with Voyeur comes to a close (or rather a new beginning) I can now securely say that I have entered into the world of digital humanities and embraced a new way of analyzing text.  Referring back to Katy’s first blog post of the traditional “cookie-cutter” method of analyzing text (go to Katy’s blog post here:\”Momentary Panic and Gradual Acceptance\”), I felt a little uneasy venturing into this unknown world of digital humanities.  I had no faith in my computer skills or how any of these tools would help me analyze text.  Now looking back, I have realized that suffering the long and tedious process of going through a text with only a pen or pencil in hand, is not the only option!  I find it ridiculous that I actually thought that the traditional method was easier. It was only easier, in my mind, because it was all that I knew.  I tested the water of digital humanities first with Wordhoard and was intrigued that I now possessed a single program on my computer that would instantly take me to any Skakespearean play I needed.

Don’t need to carry you around anymore! Ha Ha! :

But, I never took the time to make new discoveries about WordHoard and found it visually unappealing.  I gave up just as easily with the other tools; I assumed they would be just as uninteresting – and of lesser use.  Surprisingly, I ended up with Voyeur as my tool, which I knew least about.  Like I said in my previous blog post (check out my first blog post here!: “Initial Responses to Voyeur“), I thought it was only a bubbleline chart.  Yet now I was forced to look at this tool, figure out its purpose, and find a way to use Voyeur to help me discover new things about Hamlet.  And it wasn’t easy – until I let it be that is.  Once you find the right browser (avoid using Chrome and Safari – for Mac users) and get over the glitches of Java (as Nicole, my fellow group member will tell you, “it’s not your fault, it’s Java’s”) Voyeur has become one of the most useful online tools I have ever come across.

One of the major discoveries that I came across with Voyeur was that I realized it will take me to direct themes within the play.  My favourite tools became the Word Cloud, Word Trends frequency chart, and the Words in the Entire Corpus tool:

I began to correlate these three tools into finding different themes within Hamlet and how the terms were related according to how many times they occurred together or apart and so on.  When I was fiddling around with the program, I was inspired by Katy’s idea of taking a modified version of 3.4 and uploading it onto Voyeur.  I decided to go onto Sparknotes and then proceeded to create a copied and pasted document of 3.4 in the modern text version (check out No Fear Shakespeare for Hamlet).  I then compared the major terms in both versions, and also uploaded both at the same time and compared the two.  I am still looking deeper into this but what I have concluded so far is that the concept of “good” versus “evil” is a more evident theme in the modern text including the words “virtue”, “heaven”, and “devil”.

When you notice the repetition among certain terms and how they interlace you can then start asking deeper questions like I did by comparing the original and modern texts.  TAPoR is another tool that is similar to Voyeur where there is a word count (and other things I don’t know about yet until the group presentations!) but without the visual components.  For me, as a visual learner, the visual components are what make Voyeur special and interesting to play around with.  However, there are definitely some tools on Voyeur that are unnecessary.  If you didn’t see my previous post called “Are these necessary?” (check it out here!: “Are these necessary?“), I will explain – some of the tools are quite repetitive and appear almost “complicated” because Voyeur already has other tools that do the same thing in a more clear manner. For example, these tools (Word Fountain, Lava, and Knots):

all seem hard to read and understand.  Some of the comments I received on my previous post about these tools said they are visually appealing (maybe) but agreed that they are hard to understand.  So why have them?  Perhaps I should keep an open mind but so far I don’t see their significance!  As a group, we Voyeurans (can that be a word now?) found little use for not only the above tools I just mentioned but also some other visually confusing and also repetitive tools on Voyeur.  There is always room for improvement when it comes to technology.

Are these necessary?

  

I think my fellow Voyeur group members will agree, but the Knot tool, Lava tool, and Word Fountain tool (above) seem quite useless compared to the other tools on Voyeur.  I guess it provides an alternate visual representation of the text but to me it seems unclear and visually “messy”.  What do you guys think?

Getting Off on a Bad Foot

Admittedly, my first taste of Voyeur was tainted by it having been the only tool tutorial I had missed out on.  That having been said, I learned what I could from the video and web tutorials available online.  This was an immediate drawback to the tool for me as it all seemed very relative to previous text analysis tools and was presented it in somewhat of a bland fashion. In addition, the online tutorials created an image of an overly complex application of which the payout was not worth its difficulties.  In light of this, it seemed all too unfortunate that Voyeur, irony of ironies, was the tool assigned to me.
Post contract discussion and signing with fabulous Group D, I set about that very evening devoted to Voyeur and determined to unravel its bland mysteries…
As it turned out, Voyeur (formerly known as “Voyant”) has and continues to contribute to my more complete understanding of Hamlet.  Moreover, I was taken off-guard when I realized how entirely mistaken I was by labeling the program as “bland.”  As began to immerse myself into the aid and although it was a bumpy road in trying to understand how to achieve any analytical directives, I found myself enraptured with the endless possibilities of “word trends” and similar word frequency monitors and charts.  In the screenshot provided below, one can easily see how much you can read from the simplicity of searching the word “or.”  Squared off in red is the “segments” option where the user can select the amount of segments in which to stretch or squish the specific “revealed text,” in our case: Hamlet.  I have chosen 5 segments so as to better view my search results within the chart as Hamlet has 5 Acts, the math is pretty straight forward.
Additionally, squared off in blue in the same screenshot below, deeper exploration of the text is at the users fingertips as the “corpus reader” is open directly beside all of the companion exploration tools.  Aside from providing visualizations of the word frequencies, side blue bars of varying strengths guide you to the heaviest densities of your searched word.  Clicking on one of these bars (located to the left of the text) brings you directly to the specific segment in the play and highlights each searched word within the text.  Using the provided example “or,” in the blue square, a perfect example of the juxtaposition of the usage of the word.  Especially with the use of “or,” contrasting words like “heaven” and “hell” are set against each other and provide scrumptious brain-food for thought.  In my case, I was spurred on by this specific search and borrowed many of the opposing words I found and came up with some of my own, to discover what other secrets lie within the play.


When I met with Group D, we Voyeur’s shared our personal findings and experiences with the tool that we had discovered independently.  This added even more intrigue to Voyeur and its flexibility as  members of my group taught me additional pros, among them: it is completely customizable!  Aside from the website of origin, Voyeur has a site that allows users to blend their own skins depending on what you want to play around with or favoured gadgets (such as “bubblelines.”)  In the second screenshot, a simple breakdown of how this works is shown: just drag and drop!


As we’re all still experimenting with Voyeur, not all is uncovered yet.  However, as of yet the pros far out-weigh the cons.  Such cons being the bumpy road to discovery and some text visualizations rely heavily on java script: a highly fallible script reader, this shortcoming falling more so on Java and less on the program Voyant.
The experimentation has been more than entertaining with Voyeur, and as a result has already become my favourite tool, to my pleasant surprise.  Personally, I have a high preference for critical writing and analysis, and so the ability to broaden my own understanding of each play, act and/or scene is boundlessly amusing.  I look forward to discovering more independently and with my group.

 

Voyeur: My initial thoughts and responses in Phase 1

Before I began working on this project I did not look at Voyeur at all except in the work shop when it was briefly explained.  All I remembered from the workshop on Voyeur was that there was some sort of bubble chart and tree chart involved.  When I began to fiddle around with Voyeur (or Voyant) I quickly realized there was far more to Voyeur than a bubble chart.  My group and I discovered it was actually a median with sixteen tools that allows you to customize your own page to how you would like to analyze the text.  These sixteen tools are all very similar; they differ mainly by frequency and visual elements.  You just choose your own tools and create your own page.  So if you are someone who likes to compare words, characters, and themes with more of a visual component then you can customize the page to fit with your choice of visual tools.  If you prefer frequency charts and specific numbers, than you can analyze the text with the frequency tools.

Once my group and I began to explore Voyeur and all the tools on our own, we all found it to be very user friendly.  Words are easy to find and compare within a large text by clicking onto it in the text or chart.  Voyeur highlights each time the word appears within the text.  If you clicked on “love”, for example, in the word cloud or any other tool you choose to use, it instantly highlights the word ‘love’ each time it appears.  You can upload your own pdf files into Voyeur to analyze it or you can copy and paste the links.  Voyeur also allows you to take away any words you do not need.  For example, if you upload 3.4 of Hamlet, words such as “and”, “it”, “I”, and so on appear as most frequent.  However, you can take those words out of the text by using an option to do so.  This then allows you to see the important themes more clearly in the visual and frequency tools.

One of the major downfalls I found with Voyeur is that the program does not give you any clear directions to follow.  You have to play around with it and not get frustrated when you cannot figure something out easily.  Another disadvantage is that the frequency of a particular word might not be accurate.  For example, my group and I compared the words “good” and “evil”.  ‘Good’ appeared more frequently than ‘evil’ on the word cloud tool.  But when we looked at the actual pdf text we realized that Voyeur was picking up on ‘good’ in words like “good night”.  As you can see, this can be a problem because if we had not realized this we would have come to the conclusion that ‘good’ as a theme is spoken more often than ‘evil’.

My main goal now is to come up with a clear hypothesis to focus on in 3.4, similar to how we focused on the Oedipus complex in our Wednesday lecture, so that I can find out more glorious things about all that is Hamlet with the help of Voyeur. Here is a link to all the various Voyeur Tools that I mentioned.  You can see an individual image of each tool if you scroll down.  Check it out!