Friday, September 30, 2005

The Dick and Jane Hamlet

The Dick and Jane Hamlet is pretty cute, and worth a link. I'd never seen it before.

"See the man. What a funny man. His name is Hamlet. He is a prince.
He is sad. Why are you sad, Hamlet?"


On the way he passes a brook. In the brook he sees Ophelia. Ophelia is drowning.

"Where are you going?" asks Ophelia.

"I am going to find Uncle Claudius."

"Glub, glub," says Ophelia.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Joey Shakespeare

Watching Joey on NBC tonight and John Larroquette is doing some stunt casting.

Joey: I saw you do Shakespeare on Broadway!

Larroquette: Twelth Night?

Joey: I don't remember the date, no.


Larroquette: Listen! You're in way over your head, buddy!

Joey: Don't quote Shakespeare at me!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

'English geniuses' map launched

BBC NEWS | UK | England | 'English geniuses' map launched

A map of English "genius" is being made available to combat perceived ignorance about creative and scientific pioneers. Just 59% of 1010 Britons knew As You Like it was by Shakespeare...5% thought he'd written Wuthering Heights.


Time Line of Banned Books in the United States

Time Line of Banned Books in the United States

Interesting because Merchant of Venice is on the list. Doubly so because it was banned in 1980! Book banners choose funny battles to fight. If they knew half the filth that Will was writing in some of his "comedies" they'd all keel over.

The only thing I think is sillier on the list is the banning of Little Red Riding Hood because it depicts the title character bringing wine to the grandmother and some school system didn't want to encourage underage drinking. Eh?


Watch out, Richard III!

Watching "RadioActive Man" episode of the Simpsons tonight, where the movie of the comic of the same name comes to town and all the kids flock to play sidekick Fallout Boy. Bart is just so good that when he leaps on scene in front of all the other kids who are trying out and says the catch phrase, "Watch out, Radioactive man!" they all applaud his brilliance.

"Thank you, thank you," he says, taking a bow. "It's all in the delivery." Adjusting his tone and wrapping his cape around his shoulders he continues, "Now is the winter of our discontent..."

"Oh no! Run!" screams Ralphie, and runs away.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Why Teach Shakespeare?

Over on "Englicious" is a wonderful 3 part post deliberating the proper answer to the Why Teach Shakespeare? question. I hope to get over there and write something when I have more time to breathe, but I wanted to get a link up so that anybody who stops by here first knows about it.


Friday, September 23, 2005

When you see this, quote some Shakespeare

Hooray for whoever thought to do a Shakespeare meme!

If you're seeing this, and you've got a blog, it's your turn to quote some Shakespeare and pass it along.

I will not yield,
To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet,
And to be baited with the rabble's curse.
Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane,
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff,
And damn'd be him that first cris, 'Hold, enough!'

Macbeth V.8

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Monday, September 19, 2005

Almost Before We Spoke, We Swore

The New York Times brings us this fun article on the history of swearing. Yes, of course Shakespeare is in it. And not just for the occasional "Zounds!" I never knew that Much Ado About Nothing is a dirty joke.

I remember reading Taming of a Shrew in 9th grade high school. There's a line between Petruchio and Kate, near the beginning, where they are bantering back and forth. At one point she calls him a 3-legged stool and he says "Thou hast hit on it, come sit on me" or something like that. I always figured that was about as filthy as I thought it was. Later in that same conversation when they're doing some punning on wasps and stings, Petruchio gets a chance to say (on the subject of leaving) "What, with my tongue in your tail?" I mean, good lord. I'd hate to be the English teacher trying to explain why that scene is funnier that the students think it is.

And let's not even get started on the Nurse from Romeo and Juliet. She talks like a trucker. Does thou fall upon thy face? Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit!


Batman Shakespeare Bust

I wonder if Kerry will let me have this. Remember the original Batman series, with Adam West, where they would open the door to the batcave by flipping back the head of Shakespeare's bust and throwing the switch? Well, now,
you too can have that bust! Neat. They say that it really works. I'd love to connect it up to like the garage door or something.

Not for $300, though. $50, maybe.

Friday, September 16, 2005

"I have set Shakespeare in 1950's America, Samurai Japan...."

The Stage Online :: Newsblog - Quotes of the week....

I like it. Man's got a point -- why does everybody think that the only way to make Shakespeare accessible is to put it in the early 20th century?

I like his description of that, too -- "This type of productions lacks specificity, encourages woolyy acting...It instills in me a quiet longing for death."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Speak Up, Shakespeare Haters

For the most part when I talk about Shakespeare, I'm preaching to the choir. Odds are that the people who are coming by this blog are already fans of Shakespeare and all we can ever really hope for is an exchange of ideas / interpretations about the plays.

What I'm curious about, though, is the Shakespeare "haters". Seems like it's really a love/hate thing with the man. I don't find many people that just have no opinion. I'm curious why people don't like him, because I want to see if I can change that. Was it too hard to learn the plays in school? Did you start too early and not have the life experience? Was it all about the language? Couldn't connect with the characters?

I'm honestly curious. I'm hoping somebody drops in and sheds some light. I think you're missing out.


A Little Shakespeare for the Football Fans

Nick Saban, new head coach of the NFL Miami Dolphins, quotes William Shakespeare as a source of motivation and inspiration. Unfortunately the article doesn't mention any specific quotes! That's no fun. The article actually says "In the days leading up to his first game..." he quotes Shakespeare (among others), so I went back a few weeks looking for what he may have said, but nobody seemed to write about it :).

Still interesting, though, that it gets a mention now. I'll be watching closer to see if he busts out any Shakespeare during a press conference. But if it's St. Crispin's Day, I'm going home. That's too cliche.


Tom Stoppard's son to play in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Now this is neat. Ed Stoppard, son of Tom Stoppard, will play Hamlet in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, written by his dad.

The interview's a good length, and Ed covers his thoughts on what R&G did to Hamlet as a play (by giving us a behind the scenes and essentially making fun of the poor melancholy Dane), lines that were cut from Shakespeare in Love (also by dad Tom), how he got his name, and "Mick Jagger and David Bowie coming around for tea."

Weezer says Farewell ala Prospero

The band Weezer has fans concerned that they're calling it quits after leaving a particular Shakespeare quote in the liner notes of their last CD. The quote is Prospero's, from the Tempest, and will be familiar to fans of the play:

“This rough magic / I here abjure, and, when I have required / Some heavenly music, which even now I do / To work mine end upon their senses that / This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff / Bury it certain fathoms in the Earth / And deeper than did ever plummet sound / I’ll drown my book.”

The Tempest is often referred to as Shakespeare's final work (although evidence suggests that he at least co-wrote three more plays after this one). But this speech in particular is usually considered to be his personal farewell.

Weezer won't say if that's what they meant, other than "...I thought it's a really nice way to say goodbye, if it is a goodbye."

Inspiring Measure for Measure

Is it possible that a rape trial inspired Shakespeare's Measure for Measure? The article tells the story of Christopher Beeston, fellow Elizabethan actor who was accused of rape in 1602. Both men were members of the Lord Chamberlain's men during the 1590's, though Beeston changed over to the Earl of Worcester's men in 1602.

The "evidence" seems to be little more than a similarity to Lucio (who admits to making a prostitute pregnant) and Angelo (who threatens to rape someone). To say it inspired the whole play might be a bit of a stretch, but it does appear to be a good example of the sort of thing that was going around in the daily news and gossip of Shakespeare's time and how easily he would have snuck it into his own work.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Authorship : Shakespeare written by a woman?

I'd never heard the theory that Mary Sidney Herbert wrote the works of Shakespeare. I've always heard either Marlowe, de Vere, or maybe Bacon.

The article is a press release for an event in which the founder of the Mary Sidney Society, Robin Williams, will discuss her evidence for the theory.


Enjoying "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare

It seems that this Ed fellow is doing a whole series. I just yesterday found his Midsummer's, and now here's Enjoying "Hamlet".

I would never have imagined that you could say so much about Hamlet in a single page. Granted it is one mother large page. But he does cover everything you could imagine -- scene by scene description, plot and character synopsis, and about a zillion historical sources for what went into the story, as well as people who took the ideas from Hamlet after Shakespeare and ran with them in even more directions.

It's finding sites like this one that make me sigh and put away my own book project and fall back into "See? It's all been done already..." mode.
Nothing against Ed - I'm incredibly impressed with this page. I just wish I could do it, too :).

Monday, September 12, 2005

Enjoying "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare

Enjoying "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare

I particularly enjoy finds like this because they are remarkably close to what I hope to someday write. It's a simple introductory guide to Midsummer's that tries to make it very fun, and most importantly, very approachable. Within the first few lines the author even states one of my own mantras, namely "Bring your own experience into it in order to decide what it all means to you."


Friday, September 09, 2005

Richard II: A self study guide

Trolling through today I found this Richard II study guide. Since you don't often find such material on one of the lesser known plays, I thought it worth a link.

August Wilson: An American Shakespeare

Just a quick little acknowledgement and tribute to playwright August Wilson, who has advanced liver cancer.

"...America's Shakespeare is dying. This is all the more reason to pay tribute while he lives."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Hobart Shakespeareans

Oh, somebody else please tell me that they're watching POV - The Hobart Shakespeareans on PBS? I've just started it on Tivo, and I'm loving it.

Here you've got a teacher that comes right out and says "I teach these inner city kids everything the system wants them to learn...and then I teach them Shakespeare because I love Shakespeare, because my dad read it to me at bed time, because I want them to have my passion for it. I use Shakespeare as a microcosm for everything I want them to learn." Nice.

These are young kids -- fifth grade, maybe? I'm wondering how much they "get" Hamlet a little bit. I just listened to a scene where he summarized Hamlet as saying, "Hamlet is about....what? One word. Starts with a D. It's about.....death, right?" Until he said D, my one word would have been "revenge". Before he said one word it might have been "children and parents". I think it's about much more than just death.

Either way, it's still good. I like this guy.

Such Shakespeare Stuff - Blogging Shakespeare Everywhere You Look

12 books that changed the world

Guess which Shakespeare is one of the 12 books that changed the world?

Trick question. They count "First Folio" as a single book :).

Monday, September 05, 2005

Tips for Memorizing Shakespeare

Been told that you have to memorize some ? Been there, done that. Probably Romeo and Juliet, right? Balcony scene? You're not alone. You probably resent the assignment. You've probably already tried it and aren't doing too well, and are looking for ideas.

I'm with you. I think the whole concept of "Memorize some Shakespeare, it'll be good for you" might be the worst thing that teachers do when it comes to the subject. Because they do it all backwards. You have no context for the words, you've probably been told "don't even think about watching the movie until after you read the script", and you probably don't really care in general. You're just doing it because you've been told to do it, and you want to get it done as soon as possible.

I have an easy way to demonstrate how bad of an idea this really is. Let's take a song that I like. Say, Astronomy Domine, by Pink Floyd. It helps if you've never heard it. Now, memorize it. Why? Because I said so. Because I've told you that it has value, and I'm the teacher, and I'm in a position to punish you if you fail. Do it on time, too, or else you fail.

Even if you succeed, do you think you'll ever like that song? Sure, maybe you could recognize it and even pull a few lines out of your memory, but would you know what the words mean? Would you care? Not likely. Very early on in your education I'm quite sure that they started watching for something called "reading comprehension", which means that you can do more than just repeat the words, you can actually understand the meaning of what it is that you're saying.

So why isn't this true with Shakespeare? The way it is positioned -- memorize first, understand second, appreciate last (if ever) is just totally backwards. The most important thing to you has to be just being able to mindlessly repeat the words so that you can pass the assignment. And you then promptly forget them after you get your passing grade.

I'll show you a little trick. Right now, off the top of my head: When shall we three meet again, in thunder lightning or in rain? When the hurly burly's done, when the battle's lost and won. That will be e'er the set of sun. Where the place? Upon the heath. There to meet with...Macbeth! I come, Greymalkin...Paddock calls....Anon, Anon......Fair is foul and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air!

That's the first scene of Macbeth. Nobody ever told me to memorize that. I can do it with large hunks of different plays, too. I'm not even an actor, I've never had to get up on stage and recite any of it. It just sticks for me, sometimes.

So having said all that, I can finally get to the tips. Some ideas for you, in no special order:
  • See if your teacher will let you memorize a passage of your choice. Many will, assuming that it is of an acceptable length. This gives you more freedom in finding a passage that is more comfortable for you. Some people find the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet just too sappy to take seriously. So maybe take something from the great sword fight that Romeo and Tybalt have in Act Three? Or even something from the Chorus at the very beginning. Juliet's "Gallop apace, you fiery footed steeds..." bit is great, once you realize that she's basically hanging out at the window saying "I wish it would hurry up and get dark so Romeo can get here."

  • See the movie! How are you supposed to know what these words sound ou like if you don't hear someone speak them? Always remember that Shakespeare wrote plays not novels. His words were meant to be performed. If your teacher insists that you not do this, then ask if you can complete the assignment by copying down the words instead of reciting them. If all you did was memorize what the words look like on paper, you can't be expected to know what they're supposed to sound like.

  • Get some context for the words, by any means necessary. Ask somebody who has read the play, if you can't see the movie. You need to have some clue about what the words are supposed to mean, otherwise I could just as well be asking you to memorize "blue garbage cat does triangle five table hands title"... or any other string of random words. In the balcony scene, Romeo is hiding in the bushes and has just seen Juliet come out onto the balcony. He's talking to himself, trying to find words to describe how beautiful she is, how she stands out against the night sky (that's where all that "Juliet is the sun" stuff comes from). Juliet, meanwhile, is also talking to herself out loud, saying "Of all the men in the world, how come I had to fall in love with one of my family's mortal enemies?"

  • Find the rhythm in what you're memorizing, as if it were music. This is poetry, after all. As you read it, tap your hand along and try to get the appropriate dah DAH dah DAH dah DAH sound. Or, in the case of what I just read, DAH da DAH da DAH... WHEN shall WE three MEET aGAIN, in THUNder LIGHTning OR in RAIN? WHEN the HURly BURly's DONE, WHEN the BATtle's LOST and WON... Get the idea? but SOFT what LIGHT through YONder WINdow BREAKS, it IS the EAST...
  • Try to group the lines into a logical set. Usually one "line" is not a complete sentence. Shakespeare did tend to be wordy. "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?" is a complete sentence, but it is a question. So what's the answer? "It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."
  • "Practice" by keeping an ear open for other lines in the play that stuck in your head. It's actually easier to memorize 20 individual lines scattered around the play than it is to memorize 20 in a row. Much of the difficulty in memorizing a Shakespearean monologue is just plain lack of confidence. You get a block that says "I can't do it" and thus you can't. But once you realize that you've already memorized a bunch of lines without even trying, that mental block tends to go away.
  • Try to remember that these are indeed people talking to other people, trying to get their point across. Put some emotion into the words. That's one of the reasons that I say to try finding a passage that you really like. When I was in high school and had to do the balcony scene, there were 4 boys and 4 girls in the class and we were paired up to recite it. And, of course, all of us were painfully shy over the whole prospect, since if we actually did it well, then we'd have to endure endless speculation that we must like each other (ewwwwwww). I remember deliberately doing it badly just to avoid that. So maybe try a scene where Romeo is angry (like after the death of Mercutio), or when Juliet actually stands up for herself.
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Good luck! Try not to let the experience of memorizing Shakespeare make you hate it for life. There's some good stuff in there, if you listen for it.
More Stories on Memorizing...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I'm a Shakespeare Developer!

Town seeks Shakespeare Developer -- Stratford Star

I couldn't pass up the headline. Being the geek I am I saw it and immediately my brain flooded with all my past ideas about computer programs that intermix the complete works of the Bard, and somebody actually wanting to pay for them.

Too good to be true. Turns out that they want construction people to bid on restoring and operating their American Shakespeare Theatre.