Thursday, February 26, 2015

First Folios for Every State!

Folger announced today the 52 exact locations that will be receiving a visit from the First Folio this spring as part of their celebration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.

Here's my thoughts, in pretty much the order they occurred:

"Boston...Boston...come on, Boston.....DAMNIT!  Amherst." <reads Garland Scott's explanation> "Oh, ok, I guess that makes sense."

"Portland, Maine, eh? Interesting, I've got a vacation weekend planned in Portland for April 10-11, I wonder if the timing will work out?" I don't think so, I don't think this is happening until later in the year. But I do plan to check!

"There's 52 entries in this list, WHO GETS TWO? WHO THE F%^&*( GETS TWO?  Oh...D.C. and Puerto Rico count.  Fine, I guess."

Seriously for a minute there I felt like the kid at the birthday party monitoring the cake slices to make sure nobody gets more than anybody else.

UPDATE : Looking back I see that this is a list for 2016, so (a) my Portland plans this April will definitely not be at the right time, and (b) I've got a whole year to plan a separate trip!

Then again I once got to do this (also thanks to Garland :)), so everything else is just gravy at this point.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Edit for Length, Not for Antisemitism

Making the rounds today is Mark Rylance's visit to see the newly discovered First Folio, and what he said while he was there:
The former artistic director of the Globe Theatre in London, who is starring in the BBC’s Wolf Hall, said: “I don’t think there’s pressure [to remove] the bawdy jokes. He’s bawdier a lot more times than people realise. 
“The pressures I feel are more for times where he will say something very antisemitic,” he said.
Why?

Seriously, why do we single out antisemitism but leave in all the racism and sexism and every other -ism of which Shakespeare is guilty?

How about Claudio's great head-smacking moment in Much Ado About Nothing? Forced into marrying a woman he's never seen and asked if he's ready to go through with it, he replies thusly:
LEONATO
Good morrow, prince; good morrow, Claudio:
We here attend you. Are you yet determined
To-day to marry with my brother's daughter?

CLAUDIO
I'll hold my mind, were she an Ethiope.
In case you missed it, Claudio basically gave "I won't say anything, even if she's black" as a worst-possible-case scenario.

Or should we talk about what Roderigo and Iago say about Othello?  Calling him "thick lips" is about the least offensive thing I can think of as an example.

Maybe we should tackle sexism next? Pretty sure that would just kill the entire "courtship" between Petruchio and Kate.  It could be a one woman show called Untamed Shrew.

The more I think of it the less I can get my head around what Rylance said. How do you even take the antisemitism out of Merchant of Venice? At least I'm assuming that's the play to which he is referring. Isn't it kind of the whole point? If you take out the antisemitic bits, the famous "If you prick us do we not bleed" speech is reduced to, "Actually, you know, people have been very nice to me. I've got no complaints." If you remove the fundamentally antisemitic premise that Shylock is the bad guy *because* he is the jew, then why is he the bad guy?

You don't solve a problem by saying "Let's not talk about it. Let's pretend it doesn't exist." It would seem like much better conversation can come from presenting it as Shakespeare wrote it and then discussing what it means.



Friday, February 13, 2015

Don't trust the internet to do your homework, kids.

I found myself on Answers.com today, poking around the Shakespeare questions.  The answers make you want to punch somebody. Let's look at the question, "How did Rosencrantz and Guildenstern die?"  Here's the answer that 3 people marked as useful:

Claudius sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to go back to England with Hamlet. Before the three of them leave Claudius sends a letter to England telling them to kill Hamlet once he steps on to their soil. The letter is to be delivered by Rosencratnz and Guildenstern, the both of them do not know what the letter says and are merely following the king's orders. It's important to note that Rosencratnz and Guildenstern are Hamlet's good friends and would not have delivered the letter if they had known it was in fact Hamlet's death sentence. Hamlet finds this letter and is convinced that Rosencratnz and Guildenstern were on Claudius' side and wanted him dead as well. In an act of madness Hamlet destroys the letter and rewrites a new one demanding that Rosencratnz and Guildenstern be killed when they step foot in England-no questions asked. He then seals the letter with a seal his father left him. 
Important things to look it and question would be : why is has the seal on him at all times and the sudden burst of irrational revenge towards two of his best friends.
Oy vey iz mir, where to begin?  They get the first part right, about the letter to England.  Then it takes a left turn:
It's important to note that Rosencratnz and Guildenstern are Hamlet's good friends and would not have delivered the letter if they had known it was in fact Hamlet's death sentence. 
Absolutely incorrect. R&G may have at one point been friends of Hamlet, but are now in the employ of the king. Hamlet knows this. He even at one point calls them, "my two schoolfellows, whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd."

It is a valid question to ask how they would have felt about Hamlet's upcoming execution if they knew the contents of the letter, but it is pure conjecture to state that they would not have delivered it. There's nothing in R&G's actions or words to suggest that they would go against Claudius' orders.
Hamlet finds this letter and is convinced that Rosencratnz and Guildenstern were on Claudius' side and wanted him dead as well.
Nope again. After opening the letter he never even mentions R&G. In fact it is Horatio who brings them up.
In an act of madness Hamlet destroys the letter and rewrites a new one demanding that Rosencratnz and Guildenstern be killed when they step foot in England-no questions asked.
Unless you consider the entire play one big fit of madness, I don't know where they get this stuff. In secret he forged a royal document, maintaining the original mission for the voyage. Remember that when he's doing this he doesn't realize he's going to have a chance to escape, he thinks he's going to be standing right next to them when the king of England opens the letter.

Important things to look it and question would be : why is has the seal on him at all times and the sudden burst of irrational revenge towards two of his best friends.

That he has the royal seal is just a plot contrivance of Shakespeare's, and not even a particularly unusual one. What's more interesting as an "important thing to question" is the sudden burst of irrational revenge toward two of his best friends. I'm not sure how many words in that sentence I can find to disagree with. Best friends? Nope, we've covered that. Sudden burst? Again, not hardly. They were on a sea voyage. He had plenty of time to think about it. Irrational? Changing the purpose of the mission and then planning to go through with the mission, that's irrational?  Irrational would be stabbing them in their sleep. Revenge? It's not revenge, it's self preservation. The entire purpose of this transaction is not Hamlet saying "Aha, at last I found a chance to kill Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!"  It's anything but. When Horatio awkwardly asks, "So, you just sent them off to their deaths, then, right?" Hamlet's only reaction is, "They are not near my conscience."

It's stuff like this that reminds me why I started Shakespeare Answers and Not By Shakespeare.