Our tendency to romanticize it notwithstanding, childhood is tough. It is not, primarily, the time of nonstop games and fun that we would all like to remember. Childhood is marked by fun and games, to be sure, but it is also marked by a feeling of powerlessness in the face of larger and older adults. These adults are in full control of nearly every aspect of children’s lives. From when they go to bed to what they eat, children are allowed to make very few choices of any significance. Because they are smaller, younger, weaker, and less trusted to be able to make wise decisions than are adults, children can easily feel powerless or even unimportant in comparison with these adults.
The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien’s classic of children’s literature, features a protagonist who has to deal with the sense of powerlessness and inferiority that children can easily feel. Bilbo Baggins, the novel’s diminutive hero, is dramatically smaller and several years younger than the thirteen dwarves whose adventure he shares. Indeed, the dwarves initially see him as a sort of a child who cannot possibly help them in their quest for treasure. Bilbo proves himself to be a true hero throughout the course of the novel, however, saving the dwarves’ lives more than once and providing the secret to killing the dragon Smaug. Tolkien obviously meant for children to identify with Bilbo Baggins, and his heroics were clearly intended to bring pleasure on a far more personal level than the exploits of a superhuman hero such as Sir Lancelot. Indeed, it can be argued that by choosing to make Bilbo the smallest and youngest member of the party, Tolkien allows his child readers the pleasure of identifying directly with his her…
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…t children are far more inspired by the triumphs of other children than they are by the triumphs of adults or even adolescents, and so he wrote about a character who does vindicate himself and mature, but who remains, for all of that, a child. Children who read this novel will still undoubtedly be treated as though they are incapable of fending for themselves, and they will still undoubtedly be terrified of things around them, but they will feel a sense of vindication whenever they think of Bilbo Baggins. After all, Bilbo proves that one can be brave, wise, and heroic despite the fact that one is a “mere” child.
Carter, Lin. Tolkien: A Look Behind “The Lord of the Rings.” New York: Ballantine Books, 1969.
Crabbe, Katharyn. J. R. R. Tolkien. New York: F. Ungar Pub. Co., 1981.
Tolkien, J. R. R. The Hobbit. New York: Ballantine Books, 1965.
Biblical Figures and Ideals in Shakespeare’s Richard II
Biblical Figures and Ideals in William Shakespeare’s Richard II
William Shakespeare’s Richard II tells the story of one monarch’s fall from the throne and the ascension of another, Henry Bullingbrook, later to become Henry IV. There is no battle fought between the factions, nor does the process take long. The play is not action-packed, nor does it keep readers in any form of suspense, but rather is comprised of a series of quietly dignified ruminations on the nature of majesty. Thus, the drama lies not in the historical facts, but in the effects of the situation on the major characters and the parallels drawn by Shakespeare to other tales. The outrage felt by Richard and his fellow royalists is not due from a modern sense of personal loss, but from the much more important sense of loss of order, which came most predominately from the strictly Catholic sensibilities of the time. In Richard’s time kings were believed to be divinely appointed and “not all the water in the rough rude sea can wash the balm off from an anointed king” (III.iii, 54-5). This disparity between the perceived will of God and the way in which the events unfold creates trouble in the minds of the characters and the audience. Shakespeare makes it clear that this is not just a simple switch of power, rather a series of events whose meanings and effects penetrate far deeper than the mere surface of the story.
Although not as advanced in its stagecraft as many of Shakespeare’s other plays, the intricate web of metaphor and poetry in Richard II makes it perhaps the most meaningful and intense of the historical plays. Richard is not the sniveling villain a lesser playwright might have made him, but a philosopher and a poet whose ideas of majesty have been c…
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…49-50), desiring to repent his sin toward Richard in Jerusalem.
The historical reality of this story is merely that a bad king was replaced by a better one. However, Richard II is not merely a play about a few men long dead; it is about betrayal, dignity, sacrifice, and redemption. Seen through Shakespeare’s eyes, the story is not even only about the characters contained in it, but about biblical figures and ideals that enrich the play, allowing this drama to speak to its readers no matter their location in time and space and enticing all to say, of Richard, as of Christ of Shakespeare: the King is dead, long live the King.
Shakespeare, W. “The Tragedy of King Richard the Second.” The Complete
Classic Shakespeare. Toronto: Harcourt Brace Johanovich, Publishers, 1997
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.