Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Michael Ondaatje’s “Elizabeth”

Michael Ondaatjes Elizabeth portrays the life of the English Queen Elizabeth I. Ondaatje fuses prose and poetry, fact and fiction, realism and surrealism. The outcome of this fusion creates a high degree of dramatic realism. It illustrates the advance and transition from childhood to adulthood.

The Poem opens with a young person Elizabeth glean apples with her father ( king Henry VIII) and Uncle Jack (fictional character); preceded by a rouse to the zoo. The atmosphere suddenly shifts from going to the zoo, to ice search with Philip (King of Spain) on a cold winter day. Abruptly, the atmosphere and time shifts again to describing Marys (Elizabeths half sister) teething. Then jumps to a dancing scene with Elizabeths confidant, turkey cock (Lord doubting Thomas Seymour), which is followed by the execution of Tom. Finally, the poem ends with a rather little description of Elizabeth writing poems with another confidant, the Earl of Essex.

The narrative lines and descriptive passages sedulous in Elizabeth do not flow logically and coherently from point A to point B. The names do not appear to be in historical and chronological orderliness; however, they fit into a generalized image of the political mayhem, betrayal, and punishments of that time. Elizabeths stepsister ?Bloody Mary Tudor, Marys husband Philip II of Spain, the unfortunate Lord Tom Seymour, and her late favorite, the Earl of Essex, were all executed.

Ondaatjes Elizabeth alters from child-voice through adolescent-voice to adult-voice, catching the tone of severally stage of maturity. Ondaatjes imitation of the tones shows how Elizabeth must, through debilitating maturity and obscure situations, sacrifice passion to power, as how a young swayer would have to. For example in stanza three, Philip broke the ice(19) and whence he [Philip] kissed me [Elizabeth](22), suggests that revere is deceitful, and is to be avoided. Furthermore in stanza five, I kept the cognise in my palm manger it blistered(34) connotes that love is painful and not time-worthy. Death is present and apparent in last stanzas as both threat and momento mori (remembrance for the dead), even to the young mischievous girl who hid the apple in my room/ till it shrunk wish a face/ growing eyes and teeth ribs(7-9).

The symbolic references to apple(2) and snake(12) conjure up the blood between Elizabeths life to that of whirls and Eves. The evil, deceptive snake in Adam and Eve convinces Eve to eat the apple, which in the end leads to her downfall. Elizabeths father, King Henry VIII of England, compliments and sides with snake in the zoo, by describing it as Smart(16).

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This siding of the snake might insinuate to the readers of the residing evil within him. In stanza three, the image of ice fishing and eating raw, uncooked fish implies a primitive and cruel way of living. A primitive life is a austere one. The correlation between the snake, the father, and the primitiveness can lead to a sense of danger in Elizabeths life. Elizabeth senses the danger and evades it by go sly and controlling. This is indicated by the tonal transition in as she slides from thoughts of Tom, soft laughing(28) and turning / with the rhythm of the sun on warped branches, / whod hold my breast and watch it move like a snail / leaving his quick urgent love in my palm(30-34), to his beheading, and finally to her later cool(44) flirtations with bloodless young Essex(45). Nevertheless, Elizabeths control of voice captures the readers attention.

Elizabeth is one example of Ondaatjes attempts to fend traditional poetry writing. And he achieves it in the incoherency of events, the un-rhythmic lines and the second base stanzas. Yet, the whole poem is a remarkable performance, and therefore remai

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