Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Reading Shakespeare = Playing Chess ?

So I've been discussing quite a bit lately. I'm finally getting into a stride where I have a number of sources of good discussion to keep me going and not just lecture my coworkers. I also started playing SuDoku this week as well, which has gotten me thinking about chess and "game trees" (have I mentioned how much of a geek I am?)

What I thought of last night is just how similar "analyzing" Shakespeare is to a good game of chess. Mathematically speaking, the number of possible positions in a chess game is effectively infinite. Much like, say, the number of interpretations of Hamlet. The so called "best" positions, though, are the ones that have been travelled the most and studied for years by the masters. They have come to be the best not because it's been proven to be so (otherwise there would never be any upsets in a chess game, it would be 'solved' as we say in computerspeak). Part of chess is to listen to the experts all look at the same board and say "Here is what I would do in this position, and why..." and "Past masters in this situation did the following." The only definition of a "wrong" move is one that can be demonstrated to be wrong, aka one that loses the game for you. Even if all the masters say that the right move is knight to d4, and you opt instead to go Queen to b6, then you certainly have that option. But you'd better be in a position to prove why your move is better than the recommended one. It might seem impossible, since there is such a vast body of knowledge already in place that tells you to do something else. But if you believe strongly enough that your move is correct, then go for it. You might be right. You might change the wisdom.

The parallels to thinking about Hamlet are just outstanding. Is Hamlet insane, or not? There's no right answer - there's just the answer that the "masters" have for the most part come to agree upon. If you feel that there is sufficient evidence for both options (or branches of the game tree), then it is up to you personally to decide which you feel is stronger. The same strategy can be applied throughout the whole play. Whenever there is a crucial question, you can say "What does popular opinion say?" and simply take it using the "Others know better than me" approach, or else you can peek under the covers and realize that there are actually many options at each of these points, and you can find a substantial bit of evidence for all of them. Then you get to decide which you like better.

Who knows, you might suddenly discover that an idea has come to you based entirely on how you've read the play thus far, and now you go from the other direction, you ask yourself "My idea is X, what's the popular opinion on that?" Not "is it right or wrong", but "what have other people thought about it?" And, again, you decide for yourself whether you buy it or not.

In chess, there is an "end game". That is, the final sequence of moves where you have less and less choice about what is going to happen. If you've played well thus far, you will be on top during the end game and hopefully be victorious. If you have not, then you'll suddenly discover that you made a mistake a dozen moves ago and it's been inevitable ever since. (This is almost exactly where that sudoku puzzle thing I mentioned resembles chess, you fill in a square that you think is right but only 12 moves later do you realize it was a mistake and you have to go all the way back). The interpretation of the play is the same way. If you hit your first crucial question and choose an interpretation, but then by the end of the game you're saying "Wait, now, that doesn't make sense...." then you have to consider going back and revising your answer.

The crucial difference, of course, is that a chess game must end, and there is a winner and a loser. Technically, I suppose, you could have winners and losers of Shakespeare interpretation if you staged all the various combinations and then looked to see which ones bombed at the box office :). But that's pushing my metaphor a bit.

Just something to think about when you're cruising through the plays looking for the "right" answer to some fundamental question. Chances are there's no right answer any more than there is a "right" move in the middle of grandmaster chess game. Is Hamlet insane or not? Does Gertrude know about the murder or not? What do *you* think?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

[Admin] 100 Blogs in 100 Days

This isn't technically a Shakespeare reference but it's a great resource for people looking for interesting blogs to read. Since I want them to consider me interesting :), it's only fair to share the love. BlogHerald is doing 100 blogs in 100 days, where they make recommendations about some of the best blogs out there that you might have never heard of. Check them out the next time you're looking for something new to browse.

A Shakespeare Game: Title Letters

Ok, here's a game that I just thought up while decoding some filenames on my computer. How well do you know your ? Can you tell the title of a play just by the first letters? For instance TTOHPOD is The Tragedy Of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Every word (including the/a/of...) is included. Got it? Good.



Monday, August 29, 2005

Anybody got a spare $59k for a Fourth Folio?

Look what I found on ebay today when hunting for stuff! 1685 RARE WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE FOURTH FOLIO Plays Poems

Sounds silly to see such a thing on eBay, but the pictures are very nice. I wonder if it's legit? No bids at time I'm posting this.

Embracing Technology in the Classroom: One Professor's Story

I like this story about innovative classroom technology on a number of levels. In college I studied technology for the classroom. So stories like this that touch on all the latest and greatest -- RSS, blogs, wiki, Flickr, etc... -- catch my attention. I think it's all a good thing.

Why on this blog, though? Look at the project that is described:

Students selected a Shakespearean sonnet and conceptualized a digital presentation that conveyed a particular interpretation. Using PowerPoint, students divided the sonnet as they wished, selected images and music for their interpretation, and designed the layout. Some students interpreted the text with their families in mind, building family pictures into their presentation. On every level, Amtower said, the students were engaged.

Technology in the classroom? Cool. Technology being used to teach non technical subjects, like ? Triple cool.

Pictures of the Globe

During some search engine browsing I stumbled across this page containing a zillion pictures of the Globe Theatre that somebody obviously took during a trip. They're from all sorts of angles, inside and out, distance and close up. Nice to have a fresh look at this sort of thing.

Also posted because it comes from Gweepnet, which is the brainchild of some of my fellow alum at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Great Shakespeare program, given that it's an engineering school. I saw "The Tempest" while there. Hi, Professor Vick!

Shakespeare and the Players

Shakespeare and the Players

Wow. I'm not even sure what to make of this, I've just begun going through it. From the front page: "Shakespeare and the Players is a survey through postcards of the many now unfamiliar English and American actors who played Shakespeare's characters for late Victorian and Edwardian audiences." The images are just fascinating...


Quiz time again. Last words.

Have I posted this one before? It just showed up in my mailbox today, so if I have, that means that is rotating through them. Anyway, enjoy. I like "last words" because it's come to be the sort of thing that people know about their Shakespeare. I always thought a good category on Jeopardy would be "first words / last words" where during the first round all the questions were about famous first lines, and in the second half it would be all famous last words.

I realize the point about "These quizzes don't prove anything about your knowledge of Shakespeare", and you're right. But they're still entertaining. I got 8 out of 10, and I'm pleased with that. Gotta work on my Othello, apparently.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Onion | Shakespeare Was, Like, The Ultimate Rapper

The Onion | Shakespeare Was, Like, The Ultimate Rapper

Hey, it's from the Onion. Funny stuff.

Shadowplay : Shakespeare as secret political rebel?

Here's an interesting story for a Sunday morning. In her new book "Shadowplay", author Clare Asquith presents the case that was writing coded political messages into his plays. Asquith claims to be the first person to have discovered the code, as well as crack it.

A little sample, from the article...


The sun represented divinity, and so sunburn denotes closeness to God. Shakespeare described himself as 'tanned' in Sonnet 62.

Turtle dove:

A traditional image for the apostles, used to signify those who remained faithful in the face of persecution.


The story of Philomela, who was turned into a nightingale, was an image of the desecrated church and its covert protests.

Red rose:

A term used by Catholics for their 'old, beautiful' religion.


The new, Protestant religion, associated with black print and sober dress.


Devotion to the five wounds of Christ led to patterned emblems on the banners borne against the new regime. Shakespeare uses it in the form of flowers, birthmarks or heraldic blazons as a marker of Catholicism.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Sneaky, but I'll give credit. Shakespeare Holds Up You Are a Dog Japanese (huh?)

Shakespeare Holds Up You Are a Dog Japanese on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

When I go to a site like looking for Shakespeare stories, a bunch of Flickr photos that have also been tagged as Shakespeare show up down the side. So when I saw this one entitled "Shakespeare Holds Up You Are a Dog Japanese", I said "huh? What?" I had to click it. Was it some weird translation from Japanese to English?

Nope. It's the author of a book entitled "You are a dog" who has taken a picture of her (his?) book leaning up against a Shakespeare book. It's a silly joke about the position of her book in classic literature (kindof an updated "Shakespeare's not fit to shine my shoes", the way I read it), which she recognizes is silly. What she did do wonderfully though, and the reason she earns a link from me, is that with some creative tagging she's getting a bunch of people like me to go check her book out on Amazon. I like creative ways to generate traffic that aren't misleading, and technically there's nothing misleading about this. I may not have understood what it was, but when you look at it, everything is right there.

Got a Shakespeare Question?

I'm not sure if the audience for my blog right now is primarily Shakespeare experts, or people with Shakespeare questions looking for help. I'm hoping it's a mix of both. So let me try an experiment. If you're out there and you've stumbled across the blog because you have a question that you're looking to get answered, tell me about it. I'll post it up here and we can get some discussion going among those who might have the answer. Very often you'll find that the answer isn't cut and dried, yes or no. It's a matter of personal opinion and interpretation. Was Hamlet truly mad, or just acting? No one really knows. But it's fun to ask and throw your two cents into the mix.

I can't promise that I'll post every single question, because my other site used to get a regular trickle of the same question over and over again ("wherefore" means "why", in case you were planning to ask). But if it hasn't already been discussed to death, I'll try to get it up here. If it has already been discussed to death, I'll point you to it.

Also note that we're not really into doing anybody's homework for them, so come prepared with an answer to your own question. "I think Act 2 Scene 3 is really about...." is a much better way to start than, "Can somebody tell me what happens in Act 2 Scene 3? I need it by 10am tomorrow."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Author takes her series seriously

Lexington Herald-Leader | 08/25/2005 | Author takes her series seriously

I like Rita Mae Brown after reading this article. Not only does she say cool literary things like "Genre books are a sonnet...if you stay inside the format, you can say anything you want," but she also says uber-cool things like "any reader would have to be a 'blithering idiot' not to be thrilled by the pyrotechnics of Shakespeare."

To be fair, I'm not taking "blithering idiot" as particularly insulting. I think that she's pointing to people who never read Shakespeare and just assume that he was dull and boring. There are plenty of people out there who really do try, and want to understand, but sometimes find it hard. That's not the same thing.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Speaking of celebrity Shakespeare

I found this story funny about Tom Cruise "being happier in a previous life, when he was Shakespeare." Turns out that the whole interview with him and all the quotes is a big hoax, but it's being picked up and reported as truth, and he's all upset over it. Maybe he should take some anti-depressants or something.

Tag :



Not really sure what joke to make here. I find it none too surprising that such an announcement from Jessica Simpson comes hot on the heels of revelation that Marilyn Monroe had wanted to get into more Shakespeare as well. Once again the standard question, what role would she play? What evidence has there been in anything that she's ever done to give a hint that she can play something with depth?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hurricane counting

The Hurricane Name Game

Friend Rob pointed out to me this morning that if we get up to hurricane O, then Shakespeare geeks can geekout over hurricane Ophelia. :) Personally I'm thinking that hurricane Miranda, to get in the Tempest reference, would be that much cooler. But I'll take what I can get.

That is all.

The RSS Debate What’s in a name

The RSS Debate What’s in a name

Not the most Shakespearey article I've ever posted, this one deals more with the whole "RSS" thing I've been talking about lately and gives a little history, particularly about people's desire to change the name.

Playbill News: Today in Theatre History: AUGUST 23

Playbill News: Today in Theatre History: AUGUST 23: 1937 Eva Le Galliene is Hamlet in a new production of Shakespeare's tragedy, opening tonight at the Cape Playhouse in Massachusetts. Le Galliene, while an obviously odd choice to play the Danish prince, is not the first female to take on the role. Sarah Bernhardt had done it as well. Also in the cast is future stage legend Uta Hagen, making her professional debut as Ophelia.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ... work for Julius Caesar?

When I saw this article about HBO's new series "ROME" in my Shakespeare news alerts I thought for sure the connection must be to Julius Caesar. Perhaps mentioning that the whole "Et tu, Brute?" thing was concocted by Will, and not factually accurate.

Wrong. "[Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo] are the only two ordinary soldiers mentioned by Caesar in his book, so the idea was to do a sort of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern take," says Bruno Heller, the series' co-creator, executive producer and writer. He refers, of course, to the two minor characters in Shakespeare's "Hamlet" who became the title characters of a widely acclaimed Tom Stoppard play.

Something of a pleasant surprise. I rarely find people referencing R&G are Dead at all, much less trying to do their own version of the idea.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Gift for My Daughter

Ok, here goes nothing. When my daughter Katherine was born I wrote her a baby diary detailing every day of Kerry's pregnancy. One of those, "It's not something she'll understand now, but maybe when she gets older she'll appreciate it" gifts.

When Kerry was pregnant with Elizabeth I knew that I'd have to do something similar, but not the same. It hasn't been easy, and I haven't been doing a very good job of trying. Her first birthday is next week and I owe her this special gift.

So, I present a sonnet. I hope it's good.

She looks at me and all my cares of mind
Dissolve like fleeting clouds from sun-warm'd skies.
Halt, Time! Preserve this wonder that I find
When I behold the heavens in her eyes.

But would the echoes of her laughter fade,
A cold eternal silence in their wake?
What dreams left unfulfilled, what bliss delayed,
If I should all of her tomorrows take?

Her future's yet to come, mine lies unfurl'd:
'Tis not for me alone that she exists.
For no imagination in the world
Could e'er conceive of beauty such as this.

So put your hand in mine and walk with me,
And know that all my life, I live for thee.

Updated 8/22: Changed a few words around.

I have no idea if it's any good, but I think the most important thing right now has been to finish it. Being the geek I am I did my best to get the Elizabethan form down. It helps that my daughter's name is Elizabeth, because that makes it all the more geeky :), even if I'm the only one in my family gets the joke.

I'm hoping to print it, frame it, and stick it on a wall until she's about 15 years old or so, in high school, and learns what a sonnet is. Then I can point to it and see what she thinks.

Her birthday is Wednesday so I still have a few ideas to futz over it and tweak a word here and there, this is really just the first complete draft. But, again, I want to commit myself to it so that I finish the fool thing and don't put it on the shelf with all the other great ideas.

Shakespeare and Weddings

UPDATED September, 2010 - My new book, Hear My Soul Speak : Wedding Quotations from Shakespeare, is available now!

This article from Newsweek about how to give a wedding toast recommends not quoting Shakespeare. As the article says, "Some of your guests may have even heard on MTV that he's dead."

But it did get me thinking. Shakespeare's not exactly known for writing many happily married couples, or having much that's very nice to say on the subject. If you're in the market for Shakespeare wedding quotes, what have you got?

When I asked my wife to marry me I said, 'There'll be time enough for Shakespeare, and limousines and travelling around the world..." before popping the question. So I knew that I'd have to do something at the wedding. We didn't do much with speeches (not even the dads, just the best man), so pulling the microphone over for myself and giving a speech to everybody would have been a little over the top. So instead, during one of our dances together, I whispered this in her ear:

Who will believe my verse in time to come, if it were filled with your most high desserts? Though yet Heaven knows it is but as a tomb which hides your life and shows not half your parts. If I could write the beauty in your eyes, and in fresh numbers number all your graces? The age to come would say This poet lies, such hea'enly touches ne'er touched earthly faces. So should my papers yellowed with their age be scorned, like old men of less truth than tongue, and your true rights be termed a poet's rage, stretched meter of an antique song. But if some child of yours were live in this time, you should live twice, in it and in this rhyme.

That's Sonnet 17, if you don't recognize it. I realize that some of my grammar is off, and I deliberately didn't type it out in the correct format, because I did it from memory whispering it in her ear, and I'm not sure it really matters where the linebreaks were.

When we did the wedding video I made sure to work the "If I could write the beauty in your eyes..." bit right into one of the credit screens.

Henry V, the Movie (again)

Thank Shakespeare High for the word that there's a new Henry V movie in the works. It looks like something independent, without even a reference on the Internet Movie Database. Perhaps they should have chosen something that Kenneth Branagh hasn't already tackled? The comparisons are going to be obvious (and, I expect, fairly painful for Mr. Babakitis....)

Shakespearey Pictures

Flickr: Photos tagged with shakespeare

It's a slow Shakespeare day :). So have a link to Flickr's interesting photos that have a Shakespeare tag on them. Part of the fun is guessing the relevance to Shakespeare before you click.

Compendium of Hamlet References

Titles from HAMLET, Act I

This site is cool and deserves mention if only for the amount of work it must have taken. Start with Hamlet alone, and work your way through the entire play, finding quotes that have been referenced as the title of other works. Example: Edith Wharton's "The Glimpses of the Moon" is probably referenced back from I,iv: "What may this mean That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel Revisit'st thus the glimpses of the moon..."

The entire play is analyzed like this. I think I'd like some links, where relevant, to the resources cited. After all, what good is having this master list of references (I presume that they are all books, no movies) if I can't explore them further? Philip K. Dick wrote a book/story called "Time Out of Joint." Great. I want more info. Now what? I can go search Amazon, but this is a resource just screaming out for some affiliate links.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Lunar Park conjures comparisons to Shakespeare's Prospero

I think that Lunar Park is going on my reading list. For one, it's written by Brett Easton Ellis, author of such classics as American Psycho, Less Than Zero, and The Rules of Attraction. But moreso for this paragraph of exalted praise, way down the article:

And yet, for all of the references to himself and his work, the shadow of another famous writer looms over Lunar Park: Shakespeare. To begin with, there are numerous nods to Hamlet in the story itself: the father's ghost haunting the son wrapped in turmoil, Ellis wracked with remorse and near disintegration (not to mention the fact that Ellis and his family live on Elsinore Lane, and that local landmarks include the Fortinbras Mall and Horatio Park). And yet -- with all of Lunar Park's rich fantasy and horror elements -- the Shakespearean character that looms the largest over Lunar Park isn't Hamlet but is instead the magic-illusionist Prospero from Shakespeare's last play The Tempest. Ellis -- like Prospero -- is ultimately the creator of the novel's increasing chaos.

So for those of us out there that are keeping notes of "novels that have lots of Shakespeare bits", this one might be a keeper. That is, if you're into the dark and gory side of things. Ellis is not known for writing about puppies romping in fields of daisies.

You'd rather discuss what?

I wrote about Justice O'Connor's connections to Shakespeare, so it's only fair that I blog this article about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' position on a few controversial(?) topics back in 1972 when he was in Catholic school.

"I would prefer to discuss Shakespeare's double entendre ... without a blonde giggling and blushing behind me," he wrote on the subject of women in the (then all boys) classroom.

I wonder if Justice O'Connor was more of a giggler, or a blusher.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Gimme a head with Shakespeare, Long, Beautiful Shakespeare

When asked about my favorite plays I tend to mention Hamlet and HAIR in the same sentence. Bonus points if you already knew that there's loads of Shakespeare references in HAIR anyway :).

So you just know that I'm going to post this link about a musical version of "Two Gentlemen of Verona" written by John Guare ("The House of Blue Leaves) and Galt McDermott ("HAIR"). It was actually written back in 1971 and it's come back to New York.

Here's trivia. The most obvious Shakespeare reference in HAIR is the whole "What a piece of work is man" song, which is lifted verbatim from Hamlet. Ok, not verbatim, since it starts out with "I have of late..." which is technically in the middle of the speech. Additionally, just before "Let the Sunshine In" the chorus is singing "The rest is silence....the rest is silence....." over and over again, also from Hamlet.

There's a really good third reference as well, and it's not from Hamlet. Who knows it?

Got costume needs? Try Home Depot

Here's a fun one. If you're involved in any upcoming Shakespeare performances and need some tips on costume creation/maintenance, Sarah Lorraine Goodman has her Elizabethan Costumer's Guide to Home Depot for you. I have to admit I have no knowledge of the topic at all so I don't know if her advice is any good, but I think it's a neat connection to make. I especially love the idea of a bunch of people in costume wandering the aisles looking for plastic zip ties because their corsets need reboning.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Hindu Business Line : Much ado about investing

I'm not quite sure why this article teaches the basics of investing using Shakespeare characters, but it does. In particular the story is Shakespeare gathering his characters and informing them that he was hoping his latest stock would go up and it didn't. So they all chime in on other factors that might be at work.

Fan Fiction

Anybody a fan of fan fiction? That's when somebody takes the characters from a well-known story and runs off with them in some other direction. It's particularly huge in the Star Trek universe, although Shakespeare has also gotten the treatment. I personally started one called "Ophelia's Song", which had the premise that Ophelia and Hamlet were plotting everything together, until Hamlet went overboard and killed her dad causing her to go nuts. I never finished it.

No man is an island...he's a peninsula.

From the Guardian comes this interesting article about the role of islands on classic and modern literature. Specifically cited are Treasure Island, Homer's Odyssey, and Robinson Crusoe, to name a few.

I'm trying to think if Shakespeare ever wrote anything about islands.

:) Just kidding. The Tempest takes up a good two paragraphs in the center of the article.

P.S. The quote in the title comes from Jefferson Airplane.

Phrases Shakespeare Invented

I love stuff like this. Quick, which of the following words or phrases can be traced back to Shakespeare: handkerchief, nincompoop, tchotchke, or gild the lily?

Answer, courtesy Times Argus: Vermont News & Information

I actually have a whole book of Shakespeare's invented words kicking around someplace, I'll have to go dig it out of the attic.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Lost in a Good Book (A Thursday Next Book Review)

I would never have known about this series of books if not for the friend who gave it to me as a gift. Lost in a Good Book, by Jasper Fforde, is probably the first science fiction / historical literature crossover I've ever encountered. Imagine a world where not only is it possible to travel through time, but also to jump directly into the pages of classic literature. Imagine a world where Richard III is performed Rocky Horror style where the audience dresses up like their favorite characters and shouts out the lines. Thursday Next is a "literary detective" in this world, typically following up on misdemeanors such as over-zealous performances of the Fool in King Lear. But when Archeron Hades, super villain, starts stealing and killing characters from works of literature, she's put on the case.

There are several books in the series, I've read the first two -- The Eyre Affair, and Lost in a Good Book. While neither is Shakespeare specific, the Shakespeare references abound. Listening to the audio book in the car I almost had to pull over out of traffic when she got to the bit about the "Baconians", going door to door with their literature trying to convince people who really authored the plays. The existence of lost work "Cardenio" also plays a major role in Lost in a Good Book.

If you're in the mood for something different, and especially if you're a geek who hates having to bridge the gap of choosing either something literary or something science-fictiony, I seriously suggest you go check these out. They're heavier on the lit than the science, I'll admit - all the time travel stuff is pretty slushy - but the entire concept is just so downright silly and fun at the same time that they're great.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Just like Romeo and .... Romeo.

Or, actually, Juliet and Juliet. This is only semi-Shakespeare related, but it's funny. The big news in Boston today is that our famous swan couple "Romeo and Juliet" is actually two females. Given that Massachusetts was the first (and still only?) state in the nation to legalize same sex marriage, the jokes are flying that much faster. (People have already begun debating over whether or not the state should invest in a real "Romeo", or whether or not the pair serve as a symbol for Massachusetts' stance on same sex couples.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

That's Entertainment

I've got another one for you. If I'm ever asked which play is my favorite, I have a hard time answering. My answer goes somthing like, "Hamlet. Well, it depends, Lear and Macbeth have some cool bits as well...and Iago's a great villain..." and then I realize that I'm naming all the great tragedies and add, "But for the comedies, Taming of the Shrew is very funny..." and before I know it I've named a dozen plays :).

So, here's my question. Which play is the most *entertaining* to you? Not which one you feel is the best literature, and no special limitations on the question (best plot, best tragedy, etc...). You've got a chance to sit in the audience for the performance of one of Shakespeare's plays. Which one do you pick?

I think I may go with Romeo and Juliet. Something of a populist choice. I think it's got a good blend of comedy (hello, Nurse), supporting characters (Mercutio!), action, plot, and tragedy. I may love Hamlet to death, but as I mentioned somewhere else, there are parts that make me want to fall asleep. I love Macbeth mostly for the ending, I get confused by much of what goes on. And so on.

Who's next?

It's all good?

Did Shakespeare ever write anything bad? I realize it's strictly an opinion question, but one I think is interesting. Several times recently I've run into people with this idea of reading everything Shakespeare wrote. Having done it once upon a time, it never really dawned on me that this is not a common thing. But, having done it, I still find myself gravitating toward the more well known plays. Give me Macbeth over Timon of Athens any day, King Lear over Pericles Prince of Tyre.

How about you? Have you already read them all? Do you plan to? Do you think that some are just not nearly good enough to even worry about? Or has Shakespeare attained such godlike status that, even if you don't like it or understand it, you'll still find yourself digging for the beauty that must be there and is just temporarily eluding you?

There's something to be said for reading them all, just for the experience. You may, after all, find some particular gem in The Two Noble Kinsmen that personally works for you. More power to you. I encourage you to give it a shot, and I'll at least attempt to discuss them with you if you want. I freely admit that even thought I've read them all I'm not intimately familiar with most.

I expect that you are reading them for pleasure, not for profit. I'm worried for people walking into the complete works thinking "They are all as good as Hamlet, and if I don't 'get' one, it must be my fault." Not necessarily true, and don't let yourself be turned off or confused by Shakespeare by thinking that.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Slings and Arrows : Somebody tell me if it's good!

Darnit, Tivo tells me that I don't get the Sundance channel and thus can't watch Slings and Arrows over the next few weeks. Check out this blurb from the article:

"Slings & Arrows" takes us backstage at the New Burbage Shakespeare Festival, a fictional setting that will ring hysterically true for anyone who's spent time in the world of not-for-profit theater. Torn between mercenary corporate sponsors, who want to erect a ''Shakespeare Village" with themed hotels and costumed fudge vendors, and precious artistes who think ''Hamlet" is a dead text that can be revived with pyrotechnics and grunge, the festival is full of familiar but freshly imagined eccentrics. They're types, but they're so sharply written that they become real even as they remain laughable.

I can't believe I'm going to miss that. I have to check more carefully, I thought I had Sundance. Maybe I'm confusing it with the IFC.

Marilyn Monroe as....who?

So the week's movie gossip is that Marilyn Monroe wanted to do Shakespeare. Tapes to her psychiatrist reveal that Laurence Olivier had told her to get acting lessons with Strassberg, and that she planned to take him up on his offer of help.

The more interesting question is what sort of role do you think she would have / could have played? This apparently happened "shortly before her death" in 1962, so figure she was what, 36? She's probably not doing Juliet. But she's Marilyn Monroe, for pete's sake, she needs a romantic role. Cleopatra? Could she pull off the shrewish Kate? Liz Taylor didn't do hers until 67 - Marilyn could have defined the role ;).

Patrick Stewart does Merchant of Vegas?

Patrick Stewart's the sort of guy that, when he does Shakespeare, you want to go check it out. (When he does "A Christmas Carol" you want to check it out, too). Anyway, he's got a new project -- Merchant of Venice, ala Las Vegas. He's already got Ian McKellen signed up. Apparently he's not getting rave reviews so far, though, as people feel that he's "trying too hard", and "hitting it with a sledgehammer."

What the article doesn't say is whether this is a movie he's filming or an actual production someplace. I'd be surprised to see a movie, after Al Pacino just did his Merchant this year.

Hamlet : What's in a line?

There's a line in Hamlet during the bedroom confrontation that I go right to whenever Hamlet comes up. Something in it just hooked me once upon a time and it's been a personal favorite ever since. It's when Hamlet says to Gertrude, "You have my father much offended."

In my head, that line summarizes the entire play. A major part of Hamlet's anquish lies in his feelings toward his mother. He wants to confront her, but hasn't (yet). He wants to tell her the truth about what he knows, but he can't. And yet here he does both. I don't see it as a throwaway line in their little banter ("Come come, you answer with an idle tongue....go,go, you question with a wicked one...") It's more cathartic than that. I can just picture him screaming it at her - "YOU have MY FATHER much offended!" Is he talking about her o'erhasty marriage, or the fact that she married the murderer? Both, probably. There's agony in the poor kid at this point, absolute torment. His mother is sharing a bed with the guy that killed his father. He's trying desperately to ask her "What the $%^&* are you doing?? Don't you see how sick this all is?"

My question is, am I completely off in hanging so much on that one line? When it's performed, is it usually done as a throwaway just so they can get through the banter? I suppose "You are the queen, your husband's brother's wife, and would it were not so you are my mother" is the "better" line in the sense that it climaxes the little back and forth and begins to make things happen. But I like the line I cited. It just captures the essence better to me, because only three characters are mentioned in it -- Hamlet and his mom and dad. It brings the play completely back to them makes the play accessible to any parent or child. The "You are the queen..." line makes the situation too complicated.

Lord, I'm talking too much. ok, I'll stop.

Shakespeare font?

I've got an art project I'm working on (a gift, really) and I need to do some text so that it looks like Shakespeare wrote it. I could probably go with any generic script-like font, but I'm geeky like that, I want to know that it looks like Shakespeare's script, even if I'm the only one that recognizes it :).

I'd like to pretend that I have the time to learn enough calligraphy and get enough samples to fake it myself, but that's not gonna happen. So now I'm on the hunt for a font I can pop into Microsoft Word or something and get something close. Anybody know of such a font that can save me all that hunting time? Thanks!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Rained out!

Awww, man, my Hamlet plans got cancelled! Big deal, a couple of trees come down because of the wind, that's just a little tempest :).

Actually kerry and I made it all the way into Boston hoping that the storm would pass over and leave plenty of time for the show. But come 6pm when they had to make the call it was still fit for neither man nor beast and the show was cancelled.

Bummer that this is the last weekend. I'm going to try swinging in on Sunday afternoon for the very last show if I can make it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Welcome, Shakespeare High!

Well my quest for a Shakespeare forum to hang out on has met with success, I'm now all signed up and contributing to Shakespeare High. Even better they welcomed me warmly and encouraged me to plug the blog (which I quickly did :)) and invite people to check it out.

So, in case anybody actually took me up on that, welcome! Looking forward to having some good bard conversation. Hopefully I can actually bring some original material to the mix as well and not just echo what's already been said a few million times over the past 400 years.

Shakespeare in the park, Boston

UPDATE: If you're still landing here, be aware that this is 2005 page! If you're looking for the 2008 season you need to go over here.

Just a quick note to let people know that Hamlet is being performed on Boston Common through this weekend, if you're in the area. My wife and I, and a group of friends from work will be going Friday night. Anybody already seen it? Any good?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Cabbie That Quoted Shakespeare

Not much to say about this story (of the same title), except "How come I never find myself in situations like this?" The ending is particularly nice, since I'm sure that anybody that's a Shakespeare fan like myself will agree with what the cabbie has to say.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Shakespeare Novels

No, not novelizations of Shakespeare. Novels, original works, starting with Shakespeare as a foundation. It's provided fodder for Grace C. Tiffany to do four novels. Her first, "My Father Had a Daughter", is about Shakespeare's daughter. Her second, "Will", is about the man himself and his relationship to his wife. The latest two are "The Turquoise Ring" (Merchant of Venice) and "Ariel" (The Tempest).

It's a neat idea, I will have to keep an eye out next time I need reading material. In general I'm more of a contemporary / science fiction sort, and it seems like this woman is doing more of a feminist alternate history sort of thing, but I'll definitely look more into it and see if any of them are something I might want to read. "Will" could be good, it would be interesting to see his life done as a novel instead of as the plot of countless half hour television shows about bringing him into the present in a time machine.

More Shakespeare-inspired Novels...

Shakespeare Flowers

No special allusion to the text here, just spreading the links for Tim Bray who periodically drops a Shakespeare reference into his otherwise highly geeky blog.

Oh, all right:

First, from the park let us conduct them thither;
Then homeward every man attach the hand
Of his fair mistress: in the afternoon
We will with some strange pastime solace them,
Such as the shortness of the time can shape;
For revels, dances, masks and merry hours
Forerun fair Love, strewing her way with flowers.
- Biron, Love's Labour's Lost