The Emperors New Sonnet by Jose Garcia Villa: An Analysis

A critical analysis of Villa's classic wordless poem.

The Poem:

The Emperor’s New Sonnet


Just a background on the author, Jose Garcia Villa was a Filipino poet, short-story writer, painter, and literary critic who was awarded the National Artist of the Philippines for literature in 1973. He was known for being one of the renowned “artsakists” of his time who believed that art should be for art’s sake. And although he advised his students that poems are “written with words, not ideas,” he released poems such as The Bashful One, which consists only of a comma, and of course, The Emperor’s New Sonnet, which contains nothing at all, other than the title.

On normal circumstances, I would go through a poem line per line in analyzing one, and see how every line would contribute to the overall meaning. However, the poem to be tackled has no meter, no extended metaphors, no symbolisms, nor any text whatsoever. All we are banking on is its title, which alludes to the popular children’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes, which was written by Hans Christian Anderson.

Hans Christian Anderson / Wikimedia

The story is an attack on snobbery and pretension, and makes fun of people who do not have their own say on what is beautiful and tend to rely on other people’s judgments before making their own. It tells its readers that sometimes, we need to view things as innocent as a child would so that we could plainly see what true beauty is, free from all social conditioning that often warps their perspective on things.

With this in mind, let us now tackle the poem by Jose Garcia Villa, which has no words at all. What we have here is something that tells readers that it is a poem, although in reality, there really is nothing. There is no beautiful weaving of words, and it seems like the poet is mocking the reader by telling them to accept the blankness as poetry, in the same way that the weavers the emperor in the story hired expects him to accept his invisible suit as one of the most beautiful in the world.

In all objectivity, there really is no poem in The Emperor’s New Sonnet, although it calls itself one. Although there are literary critics and intellectuals who can extract some meaning from the blankness, there would undoubtedly be that child in us that wants to shout out that this is not a poem, and that it is only a blank page.

We can probably borrow the moral lesson in the story and put it into the context of this poem. There are probably times when, like the characters in the story, we have felt the need to convince ourselves that a work of art is beautiful, just because some ruling body deemed it so, even though we ourselves did not genuinely appreciate it. There must have been some time when you came across some abstract painting and thought that it was something a child could have done, and yet you just kept mum about it, because it was supposedly created by a world-class painter. Or a time when an artsy-fartsy friend asked you what you thought about this foreign film you totally found boring, and answered that it was nice. Or a time in English class where you were forced to nod and say that you liked a certain short story, even though you did not understand a single thing from it.

Oftentimes we are too quick to suppress our own judgments; for fear that other people may find us “less-cultured” or even downright stupid if we would not agree with them. In effect, we no longer practice our critical thinking, thinking that anyway, there are authorities who can decide for us, and we wouldn’t mind being enslaved to their judgments because we can readily dismiss that they are right.

However, this shouldn’t be the case, and The Emperor’s Sonnet tells us this in its own eccentric way. It plays on how readers would think of it, on whether the blank space is a poem or not, while reminding them of the message in the story The Emperor’s New Clothes.

On why Jose Garcia Villa wrote this (if you would call that writing), I could make a guess. He was known to be one of the harshest critics of Filipino poetry in English in his time, and has angered many of those who received his critiques. And I wouldn’t exactly blame the subjects of his critiques for their reactions. To one literary collection, for example, he wrote: “The poetry you print is unforgivable. It stinks. My God, if I had judicial power, I’d throw you in jail for publishing such rot and exemplifying them before the public as good poetry, thus submerging the public still more.”

In one essay, he wrote that there wasn’t anyone who was educated enough in poetry in the Philippines. The country, according to him, was “deluged with poet-simpletons—triflers in verse, poets without crania—the producers of featherweight poetry.”

Perhaps it was his frustration with Philippine poetry in English that drove him to create The Emperor’s New Sonnet. Frustrated, or maybe even disgusted, with the praise that some of the Filipino poets were getting from the critics, he may have written the poem to target those who readily accept the so called “featherweight” poetry of his time, who were, perhaps, reading poetry in the same way that the emperor’s ministers and the townspeople were looking at the emperor’s “suit.” Perhaps with this poem of his, he sought to serve as the child in the story to challenge what he felt was a sorry state of Philippine poetry in his time.

Whether you’re still debating with yourself if this is a poem or not, it is undeniable that Villa’s The Emperor’s New Sonnet shall continue to provoke and baffle its readers for many years to come.


The Critical Villa: Essays in Literary Criticism by Jose Garcia Villa, compiled and edited by Jonathan Chua

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Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Plot Summary of Volume Two

In: Books
The tale of Frankenstein touches on issues of bioethics, morality, religion and existentialism. Here is a summary of Volume II of the three volume story of Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was written in three volumes. Links at the bottom of the article will take you to the summaries of Volume one and two as well as to an introduction and character summary.

Plot Summary Volume II

After a time of grieving with his family over the death of William, Victor sets out on a journey, not to pursue the monster but to find relief from his despair. He sets out toward the Swiss Alps on horseback and finds that his spirit is lightened by the magnificence and beauty of the mountains. It has been two months since the execution of Justine.

Victor decides to make an ascent to a glacier field during a particularly cloudy day. It is an invigorating and soul satisfying climb and his heart is overwhelmed with joy over the sight of the mountains beyond. As he sits in a recess of the rock he utters these words “Wandering spirits, if indeed ye wander, and do not rest in your narrow beds, allow me this faint happiness, or take me, as your companion, away from the joys of life.” It is at this moment that he sees the figure of a man approaching him across the ice at superhuman speed. As the man gets closer Victor realizes with rage and horror that it is the monster. He resolves to wait and engage the monster in mortal combat.

When the monster arrives Victor threatens to kill him. The monster responds, “All men hate the wretched; how, then, must I be hated, who am miserable beyond all living things!” “You purpose to kill me. How dare you sport thus with life? Do your duty towards me, and I will do mine towards you and the rest of mankind. If you will comply with my conditions, I will leave them and you at peace; but if you refuse, I will glut the maw of death, until it be satiated with the blood of your remaining friends.

Victor lunges at the monster intending to kill him but the monster is superior and eludes him. The monster declares that his life is precious to him and he will defend it but he has no wish to be in opposition to his creator. “I am thy creature”. He tells Victor that he will be docile and mild to his natural lord and king if Victor will only fulfill his duty. He asserts that he is due the justice, clemency and affection of his creator. “I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed” He claims that he was, in the beginning, benevolent and good but that the exclusion from the joys of life has made him a fiend. His desolation and pain are apparent as he begs compassion and goodness from Frankenstein. 

A long dialog ensues between the monster, as he defends himself and asserts his rights to compassion and joy. Frankenstein rejects and curses him. The monster insists that Victor accompany him to his hut to hear the tale of how he came to gain the knowledge of language and life and joy. Victor complies with the request out of a sense of duty and indeed begins to feel his responsibility to his creature.

The monster and Frankenstein arrive at the hut that the monster calls home. A fire is lit and the monster begins his monolog of remembrances of his creation and the dawning of his awareness and enlightenment. He reflects on the joy of living and the excitement of discovering and experiencing his sensory faculties and his growing comprehension of the world into which he has come.

He turns then to the dark and hateful experiences that have caused him to flee into isolation. He has been chased and attacked with stones and weapons and reviled whenever he has sought contact with humans. It is in fear that he has sought refuge in a hovel adjacent to a cottage where the De Lacey family dwells. He dwells on his isolation “no Eve soothed my sorrows nor shared my thoughts; I was alone. I remembered Adam’s supplication to His Creator. But where was mine? He had abandoned me, and in the bitterness of my heart I cursed him.”

In hiding, he begins his observation of the family through a hole in the wall between his hovel and the main cabin and learns a great deal about the normal relationships among people. He observes a poor but gentle family and learns about reading and music and affection. He is able to learn language through his close observation. He becomes fond of the family and finds ways to help them secretly. He dreams of the day that he can reveal himself to them and win their affection in spite of his dreadful appearance.

The day arrives when he decides to reveal himself. He first approaches the blind father when the others are gone. He appeals to his sense of charity and love for others. The old man is warm and encouraging to the monster. In the midst of their conversation the others return and upon entering the cottage are horrified. Felix strikes out at the monster beating him while the women scream and faint. Although the monster could easily break the bones of Felix and destroy him, he flees instead in sorrow and pain.

The failure of his efforts to connect with the family has driven him to deep despair and rage at his creator. As he processes the events he decides that he will make one more effort to win the hearts of the De Lacey’s. He returns to the cottage but finds that they have moved out. In a rage he burns it and destroys the garden that was regularly tended by Felix. He leaves the region to find Victor Frankenstein.

As he reaches Geneva he encounters a young boy playing and decides that perhaps he can make friends with the child. When he reveals himself to the child the child begins screaming and the monster picks him up and tries to quiet him. The child tells him that his father is M. Frankenstein and that he will come to rescue him. When the monster discovers the child’s identity he kills him and finds pleasure in the revenge he has taken upon Victor. He leaves the dead child and flees into the mountains.

Now that the monster has told his story to Victor he makes his demand. He tells Victor that he wants a wife. The wife is to be similar in nature to himself. When Victor completes this task the monster promises he will disappear to the jungles of South America and he will never bother mankind again. He pleads with Victor to grant this request out of mercy and compassion. Victor is reluctant to relent to the monster’s request and argues that if he creates a second monster then they will bring more destruction and grief to humanity. The monster vows that he will kill everyone that Victor loves if he does not undertake this task.

Victor relents and he and the monster part company. Victor and the monster have spent the entire day together on the glacier and it takes Victor until late at night before he makes his way back to the village and ultimately home to his family and to make plans for the commencement of his task.

Proceed to Summary of Volume III

Return to Summary of Volume I

Proceed to Introduction to Frankenstein

Proceed to Character Summary of Frankenstein

What Are The Two Types of Sonnets?

In: Books
A description of the sonnet including a discussion of the Petrarchan and Shakespearean forms.

What is a Sonnet?

A sonnet is a specific type of poem. It has 14 lines, and is written in iambic pentameter. There are two types of sonnet: Italian (or Petrarchan), and English (or Shakespearean). The type of sonnet is determined by its rhyme scheme.

Iambic Pentameter

Each line of a sonnet is divided into 10 syllables and 5 iambs. In poetry, a pair of syllables is also called a foot. An iamb is a special pair of syllables, one unstressed and the other stressed.

The iambs give the sonnet a very recognizable rhythm when it's spoken aloud. To hear what iambic pentameter sounds like, say the first line of Shakespeare's Sonnet 101 out loud:

O truant Muse what shall be thy amends

This ebb and flow from stressed to unstressed syllables is iambic pentameter in action.

Besides using a very specific poetic meter, sonnets also have recognizable rhyme patterns. These patterns determine whether a sonnet is Petrarchan or Shakespearean.


Petrarchan (Italian) Sonnet

The Petrarchan (named after the 14th century Italian poet Francesco Petrarch), or Italian, sonnet has an octave (or octet) of eight lines followed by a sestet of 6 lines. The octet and the sestet have their own rhyme schemes. There are several possible rhyme patterns for an Italian sonnet. The most common patterns for the octet are: abbaabba and abbacddc. The sestet has a pattern of defdef or dedede. Taken together, the most basic rhyme patterns for a Petrarchan sonnet are: abbaabba defdef, and abbacddc dedede.

There are many variations of the rhyme scheme in a Petrarchan sonnet, which is one of the characteristics that makes it different from the Shakespearean sonnet form.

Shakespearean (English) Sonnet

The other main form of sonnet is the Shakespearean, or English, sonnet. As the name suggests, this form was used by William Shakespeare, though he did not create it. This type of sonnet differs from the Petrarchan sonnet in both its structure and its rhyme scheme.

Shakespearean sonnets are divided into three quatrains of four lines each followed by a couplet of two lines. And unlike the Petrarchan sonnet, Shakespearean sonnets have a rhyme pattern that never varies: abab, cdcd, efef, gg

Mastering the Basics

Of course, recognizing the poetic meter and the rhyme scheme of sonnets is just the beginning. Knowing the basics of this influential form of poetry is just a springboard to discovering its true and enduring beauty.


Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Volume One Plot Summary

In: Books
The tale of Frankenstein touches on issues of bioethics, morality, religion and existentialism. Here is a summary of Volume I with links to the remaining summaries of Vol II and III.

Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus in 1816. This work is now in the public domain and can be downloaded for free on most e-readers and computers. For a summary of the main characters and introduction and notes see the links at the end of the article.

Frankenstein Plot Summary Volume I

Victor Frankenstein has been raised in gentility by doting parents. He has two younger brothers Ernest and William and an adopted sister, Elizabeth, to whom he is engaged to be married.

Victor is exposed to death for the first time when his beloved mother dies from scarlet fever after nursing Elizabeth through her own bout with the disease. His brooding obsession with life and death is awakened and he eventually leaves for university to study science and philosophy at Ingolstadt. 

As a student, Frankenstein applies himself to the goal of creating life and renewing life where death has taken life. He works night and day in isolation and at the expense of his health. Through horrifying and gruesome experiments Victor is soon successful.

The monster awakens, his eyes open, he breathes his first breath. Victor flees from the chamber to his bedroom in shock leaving the monster alone. Victor finally falls asleep on his bed. Dreams of death and corruption fill his mind until he awakes in horror. As he awakes in the dim room he becomes aware that the monster is standing next to his bed reaching out his hand to him and attempting to speak. Victor escapes the touch of the monster and rushes from the house.  While Victor is fleeing his creation he runs into his best friend Henry Clerval. He brings Henry back to his apartment and finds the monster is gone. Victor falls ill and is nursed throughout the winter by Henry. We hear nothing of what has become of the monster during those months. We just know that he is gone.


As spring arrives Victor regains his health and is cheered by Henry. They engage in study together and take a walking tour later that year. It has been nearly two years since the monster has disappeared. Victor appears to have forgotten the abomination and looks forward to his return to his family in Geneva. As he returns from his tour he finds a letter from his father. He finds that it contains dreadful news. His brother William has been murdered!

Victor begins his journey home deeply grieved over the murder of his youngest sibling. As he nears his home he is determined to visit the site of the murder and must take a boat across a lake to do so. It is a stormy night and as he lands on the bank he observes a large and ghastly figure in the flash of lightening. He recognizes the monster immediately. He is stunned and with anguish realizes that it his creation, his monster, that has killed his innocent brother.

Victor resolves to remain silent about the monster for fear that he will be thought mad. When he finally reaches his home he finds that there is a suspect identified who will stand trial for the murder. It is the beloved servant girl, Justine, who is accused. She stands trial and is convicted. Victor does not come forward to reveal the existence of the monster and the girl is hanged. Victor is now responsible for two deaths at the hands of his monster.

Proceed to Summary of Volume II

Return to Character Summary

Return to Introduction

The Life and Works of Rabindranath Tagore

In: Books
Rabindranath Tagore was the author of some of the greatest works in Literature and he was also the greatest Bengali writer of all time.

Rabindranath Tagore was one of the most famous Indian writers of all time. He is the only person who has written the National Anthems of two countries, which are India and Bangladesh.

He was born in 1861 to a rich Bengali family belonging to the newly created Brahmo Samaj. At the age of seventeen he was sent to England for his formal education in Law but he returned without a degree to pursue writing poetry, novels, dramas etc in India.

Tagore had written his first poem at the tender age of 8. After his arrival in India from England, he published many poems and short stories, but this was  primarily written in Bengali, so these works did not have a wide appeal beyond the confines of Bengal.

His full-fledged writing Career had begun when he went to look after his family estates in modern day Bangladesh. The works of Rabindranath Tagore gained a wider audience after his famous Collection of Poems; "Gitanjali" was translated by him into English and then published in the year 1912.

He was the author of many famous Novels, such as Gora, which is considered to be one of his best works and is the  largest one, concentrating on the life of people in the Bengali society of British India, which was divided into Hindus and the Bramho Samaj. Gora is also considered by many to be an Epic. Other famous works of his like Ghaire Baire and Chokher Bali have been made into movies.

Famous short stories by him include "Cabuliballah" or "The Fruitseller from Kabul" and "We crown thee King". Popular Dramas by him inculde "Raja", "Visarjan", "Valmiki Pratibha" etc.

For his excellent work, the British Crown knighted him in 1915. But due to his political views, which were critical of the British Rule in India, especially after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, he later returned his Knighthood.

After handling his estates, Tagore set up the famous Santiniketan Ashram where he then continued to live. From there, he set up "Sriniketan" or The Institute for Rural Reconstruction and he was also responsible the creation of "Vishwa Bharti", a college that has now become a University.

Many of Tagore's poems have been turned into songs with music composed for them. He also wrote Non-fiction and he also wrote an essay, titled, "Nationalism in India". He died in the city of his birth, Kolkata(Calcutta) on 7th August, 1941.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Plot Summary of Volume Three

In: Books
The tale of Frankenstein touches on issues of bioethics, morality, religion and existentialism. Frankenstein was written in three Volumes - here is the summary of Volume Three with links to the others.

Frankenstein Plot Summary Volume III

Victor Frankenstein travels to Scotland and takes up residence on one of the remote Orkney islands to begin his task of making a mate for the monster. He has already dawdled at home and traveling with his friend Henry Clerval and he fears that the monster is watching him. He is afraid that the monster might kill Henry as a warning. The monster has promised Victor that he will watch him and will come for his mate when she is ready.

As he begins his task of yet another creation Victor is again horrified and disgusted with the task at hand. He ruminates about the promise of the monster to leave civilization but reasons that this new creature has made no such promise. He fears that she may hate the monster and be repulsed at his appearance and suffering another rejection the monster may in the end still pursue vengeance upon humanity.

Frankenstein questions his right to buy peace at any price by potentially bringing destruction on mankind. At this moment as he is questioning his decision to move forward, the monster appears in the window. At the sight of the monster, Frankenstein is driven to madness and begins to tear apart the creature that was to become the monsters mate.


The monster howls in despair and withdraws. Several hours later he returns and confronts Frankenstein again. He asks what Frankenstein’s intentions are. “Do you dare to break your promise?” “Do you dare destroy my hopes?” The monster promises to make Frankenstein’s life “so wretched that the light of day will be hateful to [him]”.

He continues, “Man! You may hate, but beware! Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness forever. Are you to be happy while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness?” He tells Victor that he will be with him on his wedding night. Victor assumes that the threat is toward himself. He believes that his wedding night will be the night of their final struggle.

Victor leaves the island on a boat at night with a basket full of the body parts and material from his destroyed female monster. He dumps it in the deep water and becomes carried away in his boat to England. He is intercepted upon landing and taken to the magistrate where he is accused of murdering a young man who’s body was found on that very shore. He is taken to a room and shown the body of none other than Henry Clerval. The black finger marks around his neck reveal that he has been murdered by the monster. He is taken before the courts and released on proof that he was on the Orkney Islands at the time his friend was murdered.

Victor’s father comes and retrieves him and they travel back to Switzerland and to their home. Victor had decided that he and Elizabeth will be married quickly so that the night of his final battle with the monster will come quickly. He imagines how it will be - the monster attacking him and he defending himself. He imagines that it will be traumatic for Elizabeth to see him engaged in battle with this horrific monster. He is uncertain as to whether he will prevail or be killed by the monster. Either way he will be released from his torment.

The wedding night arrives and Victor is prepared for the inevitable battle. He is nervous and distracted. His bride is concerned about his odd behavior and he sends her to bed alone and asks for her patience. He promises to tell all the next day if she will only wait and not ask any questions this night. As he valiantly waits in the outer chamber prepared for battle he hears his beloved bride scream. He rushes in and finds her dead, lying across the bed.

The monster, still at the window, grins and points at Victor’s dead bride. Victor pulls out his pistol and shoots at the monster and the monster flees diving into the lake beyond. A crowd of people have gathered in Victor’s room and a hunt for the monster ensues. The crowd follows his tracks and throws nets into the lake but he is nowhere to be found.

We are now returned to the present location of Robert Walton’s ship at the North Pole where Frankenstein tells Robert that the rest of the story is tedious. His father has died in his arms, not being able to bear any more sorrow.

As Frankenstein vows at the graves of his loved ones to take vengeance on the monster he hears the voice of the beast speak out “I am satisfied, miserable wretch! You have determined to live, and I am satisfied”

The chase ensues and Frankenstein pursues his nemesis throughout Europe and Russia and to the North Pole. Frankenstein’s rage keeps him from abandoning his pursuits to lands where he is certain he cannot survive. He begins his pursuit on a sledge pulled by dogs but the breaking of the ice separates him from the monster. We come full circle in our story as the ice upon which he floats is brought to the side of Walton’s ship.

In a final revelation of self examination Frankenstein confesses his arrogance and pride in what he has attempted. “like the archangel who aspired to omnipotence, I am chained in an eternal hell.” Knowing that death is imminent, he begs Walton to take up his task of pursuing and killing the beast.

The ice breaks and a path to the south is opened. As Walton’s ship begins it’s journey homeward, Frankenstein passes into eternity. Walton enters the cabin where the body of Victor Frankenstein lies and finds the monster bent over the corpse muttering expressions of grief and repentance.

In the final pages of the book the monster reveals to Walton the struggle and pain that he has suffered in bringing pain and sorrow and death to those loved ones of Victor Frankenstein. He claims that in the beginning of his existence his whole being overflowed with happiness and affection, that he desired love and fellowship but was spurned. He asks the question “Am I to be thought the only criminal, when all humankind sinned against me?”

He leaves the ship with the promise that he will end his own wretched life.

“But soon I shall die, and what I now feel be no longer felt. Soon these burning miseries will be extinct. I shall ascend my funeral pile triumphantly and exult in the agony of the torturing flames. The light of that conflagration will fade away; my ashes will be swept into the sea by the winds. My spirit will sleep in peace, or if it thinks, it will not surely think thus. Farewell”

Return to Plot Summary of Volume Two

Return to Plot Summary of Volume One

Return to Character Summary

Return to Introduction and Brief Summary

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: Introduction and Brief Summary

In: Books
The tale of Frankenstein touches on issues of bioethics, morality, religion and existentialism. One dark and gloomy night Mary Shelley is challenged by Lord Byron to write a horror story and she successfully complies.

An introduction and brief summary of Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus

Mary Shelley was 18 years old when she wrote Frankenstein in 1816. It was first published in 1818 and revised in 1831 by Mary Shelley herself. The book was conceived and written as a challenge from Lord Byron to his guests one gloomy night. The guests included Mary Shelley and her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Frankenstein is written in epistolary format - that of letters and journal entries of Robert Walton an explorer attempting to discover a passageway through the North Pole. Walton has indeed made a remarkable discovery! A man and a monster in an existential struggle in the barren land of the arctic. The story of the monster’s creation and the ensuing battle unfolds as Victor Frankenstein lays dying in a cabin aboard the ship of Robert Walton.

On the title page of her novel is this quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost.

Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay

To mould me man?

From darkness to promote me?

Milton’s words summarizes the monster’s perceived right to claim his creator’s affection and attention. This tragic story is one of cruel rejection and disdain by the creator directed at his creation.

It is unfortunate that the subtitle, The Modern Prometheus is often left off of contemporary editions as it is indicative of the over-reaching arrogance of Victor Frankenstein. However, this modern Prometheus has nothing to give his creation; no fire stolen from the gods nor any “Eve to sooth his sorrow“. The monster is left to experience pain and sorrow with no intervention from the god he so pitifully desires.

The monster is driven to rage and vengeance when he experiences the scorn of humankind. He has no connection and no one with whom he can be intimate. As he confronts his maker and asserts his rights to affection and companionship he demands that Frankenstein make for him a mate, equal to himself in appearance and stature.

When Frankenstein fails to comply, the monster wreaks havoc upon his life. The monster brings to Frankenstein the same pain and isolation that has been imposed on himself by virtue of being created.

The final battle between Frankenstein and his monster ends at the northernmost regions of the earth. The creator seeking the death of his creature and the creature luring his creator to a final encounter.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is downloadable for free since it is now in the public domain. If you have a Kindle or other e-reader you can have it in seconds.

Proceed to the Character Summary of Frankenstein

Proceed to Plot Summary of Volume One

Proceed to Plot Summary of Volume Two

Proceed to Plot Summary of Volume Three

The Bheel Mahabharata and Tale of Draupadi and Sex with Visuka the Snake King

In: Books
The Bheel Mahabharata recounts that Draupadi was a woman of exceptional beauty with golden hair and milk white complexion. The news of her beauty reached Visuka the snake god, who ruled over the Patal or the nether world. Visuka was enamoured of Draupadi and he mounted his horse and set forth towards Hastinpura where the Pandvas resided, with a one point agenda to possess the beautiful Draupadi.

The Mahabharata is a well known epic by Vyasa the poet from the Vedic age.  The Mahabharata is a story of two clans of ancient Hindustan, the Pandva’s and the Kaurava’s who finally met in battle at Kurukshetra in about 4000 BC. 

The Pandva’s were 5 in number and one fact of the Mahabharata that is accepted by all is that the five brothers married Draupadi a princess whom Arjuna had won in a swayamwara. This was polyandry as practiced in ancient India.

The Bheels are a tribal community in Central India who also believe in the Mahabharata. They also have their own version of the Mahabharata, but it has significant aspects which differ from the published version by Vyasa. It is possible that Hindu religious heads exorcised these chapters from the original Mahabharata. Whatever that may be, the Bheel version of the Mahabharata   paints an entirely different picture of Draupadi the queen who had married the 5 Pandva brothers.

The Bheel Mahabharata recounts that Draupadi was a woman of exceptional beauty with golden hair and milk white complexion. The news of her beauty reached   Visuka the snake god, who ruled over the Patal or the nether world. Visuka was enamoured of Draupadi and he mounted his horse and set forth towards Hastinpura where the Pandva’s resided (it was their capital and is approximately at the same place where the Present city of Delhi is located).

Visuka soon locates the cloud palace of Draupadi and with his whip he entwines her slim waist and drags her to him. He tells her he loves her and is hungry for her body. As per the Bheel Mahabharata Arjuna the warrior Pandva approached but he was defeated by Visuka who tied him with a strand of his hair and hung him over the bed where he planned to mate with Draupadi. Visuka ordered Draupadi to prepare a meal of 32 courses for him after which he repeatedly mated with Draupadi while a hapless Arjuna just watched. Next morning after Visuka left Draupadi untied Arjuna and also served him a sumptuous meal. This state of affairs continued and the Bheel Mahabharata says that Draupadi repeatedly and willingly mated with Visuka who was like a lion and after every encounter he was fresh as ever. Ultimately Arjuna requested Draupadi to find out how Visuka could be killed and Draupadi promised to do so.

The Bheel Mahabharata records that ultimately Visuka was killed by the illegitimate brother of the Pandva’s Karna, after Draupadi was able to discover the secret of how he could be killed. These chapters are missing from the original epic of Vyasa. Many people have wondered whether this tale could be true. Many sociologists also wonder how the Bheels have incorporated this tale in their version of the Mahabharata. There could be many reasons for it. One of the foremost reasons is that the Bheels a tribal group in the ambit of Hinduism worship Visuka the snake god. Over centuries this story got transplanted in the Mahabharata to glorify the snake god. The second reason is that it formed part of the original Mahabharata but was removed by the higher caste Hindus.  The tale of Draupadi and her sexual liaison with the snake god Visuka makes interesting reading.

The Theme Love and Hate in Shakespeare's 'Merchant of Venice'

In: Books
The Merchant of Venice is a play both about love and hate. Shakespeare projects these emotions through the Jewish and Christian characters and the settings for the play, Belmont and Venice. Love and Hate are the backbone of the play and collectively they form the dominant theme.Shakespeare thus proves he is a master of human emotions and their presentation on the stage.

William Shakespeare wrote the play "The Merchant of Venice" during the years 1596-98. Shakespeare was not a simple dramatist but a man who presented human emotions in a subtle way. His play the Merchant of Venice covers the entire gamut of human emotions.

He writes about love, revenge, evil and friendship. The story is about, Shylock a wealthy Jew, who lends 3000 ducats to his enemy Antonio. Shakespeare creates an enticing tale. Antonio is rich, yet he is forced to borrow money from Shylock as all his money is locked up in ships which are far away. Antonio for this reason has to take a loan from Shylock as he wants to help out his friend, Bassanio. Antonia is unaware that this act could cause his death. 

Shylock is one of the few characters created by Shakespeare who personifies evil. He is a malevolent and blood-thirsty old man. He is hates his enemies and has no compassions or humanity towards them. He is the opponent  of Antonio, who is naive and good. Antonio is the man; who has to prepare his defense against the “devil" Shylock.

The other dominant theme of Shakespeare’s play is love. Among the various themes presented in the Merchant of Venice the most important is the nature of true love.  Shakespeare presents love in all its dimensions. The friendship love is shown through Antonio towards Bassanio, romantic love is shown through Portia and Bassanio and self love is shown through Shylock.

But overall the theme of romantic love runs as an undercurrent in the play. Portia is rich but lonely and the secret to her heart is the casket.  Shakespeare shows the reader how different people view true love through a variety of suitors and caskets. He also shows what is most important to the suitors and in some cases it is not true love, but material things and outward appearance.

The first suitor who tries to win Portia's hand is the Prince of Morocco.  Shakespeare presents him as an arrogant man concerned with outward appearance, and not true love. Portia falls in love with Bassanio and shows her love by hinting which casket has the key to her lonely heart. Shakespeare also shows that love transcends all boundaries when the daughter of Shylock Jessica elopes with Lorenzio, a Christian.

When William Shakespeare wrote, the Merchant ff Venice, he created a female character that has a very great influence on the play. In the Merchant of Venice, Portia is a woman that saves the life of a man using her head. A similar character is Beatrice, from ‘Much Ado about Nothing’. Both of these ladies add to the main theme of the plays because of their brains, and smart remarks, as well as showering love and care.

The Merchant of Venice is a play both about love and hate. Shakespeare projects these emotions through the Jewish and Christian characters and the settings for the play, Belmont and Venice. Love and Hate are the backbone of the play and collectively they form the dominant theme.

The Salem Witch Trials Vs Arthur Miller's The Crucible

In: Books
The purpose of this article is to investigate the events that led up to the Salem witch trials, representatives of the government, legal and religious institutions that presided over the trials, and the outcome of the trials. The historical inaccuracies embodied in Arthur Miller's dramatic presentation the Salem witch trials, entitled The Crucible, will also be examined.

The Salem Witch trials of the 1690’s had an enormous impact on the colonial community of Salem, Massachusetts.  Twenty (20) people died during the hysteria.  The Salem witch trials were such a miscarriage of justice that researchers, 300 years after the events, continue to speculate on the causes and the impact they had the community of Salem and the colonies in the New World.  

The purpose of this article is to investigate the events that led up to the Salem witch trials, representatives of the government, legal and religious institutions that presided over the trials, and the outcome of the trials.  Also, the rationale for the historical inaccuracies embodied in Arthur Miller’s dramatic presentation of the Salem witch trials, entitled The Crucible, will be presented.  

Research reveals several suspected causes for the Salem witch trials. While some people may consider the residents of Salem, Massachusetts as ignorant, cruel and superstitious, the truth is that they were just like people of our modern times with fears, desires and greed. These human emotions, combined with religious fervor and a lack of understanding of disease, contributed to the hysteria that made the Salem witch trials possible. The stresses of the poor economic conditions, frontier wars and conflict among the Salem church congregation’s members have also been sighted as factors that contributed to the witch hunts.  Stories of strange illnesses, night meetings in the woods, demonic possession, voodoo, and ghostly visitations culminated in the trials during the spring and summer of 1692.  Not much about this tragedy was predictable or logical! 

The colony of Salem began as a small Puritan settlement under British rule in 1629. In 1641 England made witchcraft a capital crime that was punishable by death. This was the legal foundation that made the Salem witch trial possible. 

The winter of 1692 was exceptionally cold. A young girl named Betty Parris began to have spasms. The illness was accompanied by high fever and pain throughout her body.  It was reported that she “dashed about” and “dove under furniture”.  The local physician, Doctor Griggs, suggested that Betty may have been practicing witchcraft.  According to Dr. Griggs, this could have caused Betty’s strange behavior.  

In the next few weeks, Dr. Griggs saw similar behaviors in other young women in Salem.  One of the girls was Elizabeth Hubbard. By late February, church clergymen and the townspeople had become involved and pressured the 12-year old Elizabeth to identify who had caused her to behave so strangely. Elizabeth blamed Tituba, an Indian slave from Barbados, for her behaviors and illness. She also accused Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne of practicing witchcraft. On February 29, 1692, arrest warrants were issued for Tituba, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne.  

As the number of allegations of witchcraft rose, Governor Phips saw the need to create a new court just to handle the witchcraft cases.  Five judges were appointed.  The magistrates included Cotton Mather, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin. William Stoughton, who was passionate about cleansing the land of witches and witchcraft, was Chief Justice.   

Bridget Bishop was the first accused witch to be brought to trial. She was almost sixty years old. Bridget was the owner of a tavern.  She served alcoholic drinks even on Sundays.  It was reported the she was “critical of her neighbors” and often paid her bills late.  Accused witches had no legal counsel and could not have witnesses to testify about their character.  Bridget was found guilty of practicing witchcraft and was sentenced to death by the jury. Chief Justice Stoughton signed the death warrant on June 10, 1692 and Bridget Bishop was hanged on Gallows Hill. 

Giles Corey refused to stand trial after he and his wife were accused of being witches. They and were sent to prison.  A conviction would mean that his farm would be taken over by the state of Massachusetts.  By refusing to go to trial, Giles hoped that everything he had worked for in his 80 years would go to his family members.  However, the legal sentence for his refusal was to be crushed to death.  It took two days for Corey to die under the pressure of huge boulders.  His wife, Martha, was hanged three days later along with seven other convicted witches.  These were the last victims of the Salem witch hunt. 

The tragedy of the Salem witch trials destroyed the lives many innocent people.


Some of the significant characters in the trials were the following:The accusers included Abigail Williams, Ann Putman, Mercy Lewis, Betty Parris, Mary Walcott, Sarah Bibber, Elizabeth Hubbard, and Susannah Sheldon. 

Abigail Williams, considered to be a leader among the accusers, was about 12 years old in 1692.  She lived with her uncle, the Rev. Samuel Parris.  She made forty-one (41) complaints of witchcraft against residents of the town.  Martha Corey, George Burroughs, Bridget Bishop, Elizabeth and John Proctor, Mary Easty, John Willard, Mary Witheridge, and Rebecca Nurse were some of her chosen suspects.  With the support of Salem community members, Abigail gave testimony in court against seven of the people.  Without the legal complaints of the adults, Abigail’s testimony would not have been heard in court because she was a minor. 

Salem citizens were accused of witchcraft for a wide variety of reasons.  For example, Elizabeth Proctor was accused of witchcraft, because Abigail was seeking revenge and wanted to get rid of John Proctor’s wife after having an affair with him and falling in love with him. 

As for Goody Glover, she was accused of being a witch because children would get sick when they were around her. 

In the case of John Proctor, he was accused of being a witch because he protested against the examination of his pregnant wife who was being charged for witchcraft.  

Overall, many researchers have concluded that greed and jealousy caused the poorer members of the Salem community to create outlandish charges against the wealthier members of the community in order to confiscate their real estate and possessions. In some cases, relatives were accused of witchcraft in order for their progeny to claim their inheritance sooner, rather than later. 

It took many people to fulfill numerous roles for such a travesty as the Salem witch trials to take place.  Key to the drama is the prosecutors and the magistrates who were responsible for conducting the legal proceedings.  Magistrates, John Hathorne and Jonathan Corwin, conducted examinations of Tituba, the Indian slave who worked for Reverend Parris, and others.  Judge William Stoughton   was an enthusiastic witch hunter. Other judges included Samuel Sewall and Cotton Mather. The courts were responsible for determining the guilt or innocence of those accused of being witches.  As one of the most respected and educated judges, Cotton Mather advised the magistrates to allow evidence presented by “afflicted accusers” (spectral evidence).  The nature of the evidence admitted by the judges and magistrates also included the “touch test” (elimination of contortions and other afflictions by touching a witch) and “witches’ marks” (moles or other body marks and deformities).  Hearsay and gossip, too, were considered as credible evidence to prove that someone was a witch. 


While the Salem witch trials lasted less than a year, they left their mark on the history of the young developing nation to become known as the United States of America. By the time the trials came to an end, over 200 people were accused of witchcraft. Twenty (20) people had been killed: 19 were hanged and one crushed to death. 

Many of the 200 people that were accused of witchcraft were sent to prison.  Prisons of the period were horrible, filthy, places. Several of the accused witches died in the Salem jail while awaiting their trial.  Others escaped death by hanging only to die in the horrid conditions of the prison. There was no sanitation system.  Prisoners were fortunate if they had a small chamber pot to use as a toilet. The small cells were filled with human excrement and horrible smells. There was no water for washing clothes or bathing. Prisoners had to pay for sheets, food and water. Few prisoners could afford such items because their jailers stole any money they had. Children and adults were kept in the same miserable conditions. 

Historians have examined and attempted to interpret this period in American history from various points of views.  One of the perspectives that sheds some light on what really happened in Salem is related to the economic status of the various factions in the Salem community. Scholars have noted differences between the accused and the accusers.  Most of the accused lived to the south side of Salem, and were generally more prosperous than the accusers.  In a number of cases, accusing families would benefit from the death of the suspected witch.  They would be able to claim the property of the accused after they were convicted and put to death.  

Also, the accused and the accusers were on opposite sides when the church congregation split over religious doctrine. The church schism that split the Salem community occurred just before the outbreak of allegations of witchcraft.  While many of the accused witches supported the former minister (George Burroughs), the families of the accusers, for the most part, wanted Rev. Burroughs to leave Salem.  

Thus, these two perspectives seem to offer some explanation of the events surrounding the Salem trials. Disputes over property and religious beliefs may have been enough to motivate the citizens of Salem to take drastic measures—to contrive allegations of witchcraft against their neighbors and fellow townsfolk. Greed and jealousy could move human beings to such evil deeds.  It was actually a rather ingenious plot because everything was sanctioned by the courts and approved by the church. These were the most powerful and respected institutions in the society. 

 After the surviving witches were released from the prison, it is reported that there was a period of atonement, when the village attempted to normalize and reunite. Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, issued a public confession of guilt and he apologized for his role in the witch-hunt. Several jurors admitted that they were "sadly deluded and mistaken" in their judgments about the guilt of their fellow citizens. Governor Phips blamed William Stoughton for madness and all of the horrific hangings. William Stoughton refused to acknowledge any wrong doing and felt that he had not been allowed to complete his mission to "clear the land of witches”. The citizens of Pennsylvania responded by electing Stoughton to replace Phips as the next Governor of Massachusetts. 

Historical events are often the source of material for literary works.  Such is the case of The Crucible, a book written by Arthur Miller.  The Crucible dramatizes and illustrates the events of the Salem witch trials. 

According to Salem witch trial historian, Margo Burns, TheCrucible contains several misrepresentations of the actual historical events.  Burns reports that some of the significant inaccuracies in The Crucible include the following: 

First, Miller portrays Abigail as a young woman of 17 or 18 years of age.  In reality, Abigail Williams was only 11 or 12 years old at the time of the trials.  This detail could significantly alter the plot and the events of the drama. 

Second, Arthur Miller characterizes Tituba as a slave of African heritage.  However, the documented facts show that Tituba was an Indian from the Caribbean island of Barbados.  Miller seemed to use an American stereotype in this case. 

Third, Miller chose to omit certain key characters from his play.  One of the main characters who does not appear in the drama is Cotton Mather. 

Miller does choose to name many of his characters after real people who participated in the Salem witch trials, but he uses his artistic freedom in assigning motivation to his characters. 

In conclusion, the Salem witch trials of 1692 were very tragic. Numerous innocent people died for their cause or for false accusation of witchcraft. Many people were involved in the trials, which made it even more important and a big deal to the Salem society. Finally the outcomes of the trials were disastrous. Their neighbors with the approval of the court and the church killed twenty people.  We must be aware that when the Salem witches disappeared, witch hunting in America did not end. There have been reoccurrences of similar events during the hunt for Communists during the McCarthy era of the 1950’s.  Such events could happen again if we cannot break free of prejudices and irrational fears.  Every man and woman has a right to believe what he or she wants, and they should not be punished for it. This is a basic freedom provided in the Constitution of the United States.  Each new generation must learn the lessons of history or risk repeating the same mistakes.  The Salem witch trials should warn us that we must remain vigilant to safeguard our system of justice. 


Boyer, Paul and Nissenbaum, Stephen, eds., Salem-Village Witchcraft: A Documentary Record of Local Conflict in Colonial New England (1972).

Burns, Margo. “Arthur Miller's The Crucible: Fact & Fiction.” 17th Century Colonial

New England. 24 Oct. 2003. 29 Oct. 2005 < fiction.shtml>.

Burr, George Lincoln, Narratives of the Witchcraft Cases, 1648 -1706 (1992).

Coventry, William W., Demonic Possession on Trial: Cases Studies from Modern England and Colonial America, 1593-1692 (2003).

DeRosa, Robin, The Making of Salem: The Witch Trials in History, Fiction and Tourism "History and the Whore: Arthur Miller's The Crucible", pp. 132-140 (2009).

Discovery Channel, "The Salem Witchcraft Trials" (50 minutes)

History Channel, "Salem Witchcraft Trials" (50 minutes)(1998).

LeBeau, Bryan, The Story of the Salem Witch Trials (1997). Norton, Mary Beth. In the Devil's Snare: The Salem Witchcraft Crisis of 1692 (2002).

PBS Home Video, "Three Sovereigns for Sarah" (180 minutes)(1986).

New World Video, "The Witches of Salem: The Horror and the Hope" (35 minutes) (1972).

Roach, Marilynne, The Salem Witchcraft Trials: A Day-to-Day Chronicle of a Community Under Siege.

Silverman, Kenneth, The Life and Times of Cotton Mather (1970).

Weisman, Richard, Witchcraft, Magic, and Religion in 17th Century Massachusetts. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst (1984).

An Analysis of the Poem Reservist Written by Boey Kim Cheng

In: Books
The Reservist by Boey Kim Cheng, who is a Singaporean poet who migrated to Australia, is a ballad that has the characteristics of a free verse in terms of its form, structure, rhyme scheme, and rhythm.

The Reservist by Boey Kim Cheng, who is a Singaporean poet who migrated to Australia (Poon, 2009), is a ballad that has the characteristics of a free verse in terms of its form, structure, rhyme scheme, and rhythm. War is the theme of the poem as indicated by certain war-related phrases, such as “report for service”; “We will keep charging”; “long years of braving the same horrors”, especially “As clarion notes” which directly connotes is a war trumpet. Other war-themed words used in the poem are “battle-weary”, “command” “joust”, and “weapons”.

From the opening stanza, a mix of martial language and physical reality of the irregular soldiers is exhibited. The martial language includes “court-martial fanfare”, “call to arms”, while physical reality of the irregular soldiers includes “grunts”, “pot bellies”, and “creaking bones”, indicate age of the soldiers. Aside from the soldiers who are not sound fit to fight, “rusty armour” implies that they have been doing this for some time, which also refers to the repetitiveness and monotony of war. Along with the comic contrast given by the “sleek weapons” are the ironies from “battle-weary knights”, “the annual joust”, and “the tilting ‘at the old windmills”.

In the second stanza, a figure of speech used connects closely to the poem’s intention and feeling. Through the alliteration of “m” and repetition of “same” in lines 14, 15 and 30 and “again” in lines 11 and 17, monotony is shown. The alliteration of the letter “m” is contained in the quote “masked threats and monsters armed with the same roar” of lines 21 to 22. The monotony of war is shown by lines that feel monotonous, such as “We will keep charging up the same hills, plod through the same forests”. This reference to the situation’s monotony strengthens the intention of the poet to portray war.

More serious in mood, the second stanza suggests that the reservists have no control and are ‘like children placed/ on carousels’, the fairground simile expanded with military exercises described as an “expensive fantasyland”. The reference to “tedious rituals” and those in command as “monsters” clearly shows the impatience of the narrator.

It is up to the reader to decide whether the narrator’s appearance in the final stanza as one of the medaled “unlikely heroes” and discovering “daybreak” and “open sea”. There is also a good effect of the connection of the poem with ancient Greek myth. In lines 30 and 31 which say “We will march the same paths until they break onto new trails, our lives stumbling”, the feeling of fear is evident along with the monotonous and tiresome lives of soldiers.

Assuming the voice and persona of a part-time soldier, the poet has the objective of showing the repetitive nature of war. In the entire poem, there is a self-deprecating and amused tone of the narrator, the army, and the routines. However, the poem ended with a tinge of optimistic tone, indicating that something worthwhile will be achieved ultimately, although it could also be interpreted as a final joke. Generally, the poem successfully created a feeling of fear, monotony, and age that prevailed in the tone.


Poon, A. (2009), The “swaying sense of things”: Boey Kim Cheng and Poetics of Imagined Transnational Space, Travel, and Movement. Postcolonial Text. Vol. 5, No. 4