Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tube Drivers Reciting Shakespeare


A new initiative will see tube drivers reading out classical quotes with their announcements.

The drivers are to be given a book of quotations that will include Shakespeare, Goethe and Friedrich Engels and are expected to read out quotes with their daily announcements to passengers.

I like it.  The closest I ever saw to this in Boston was the overhead speaker guy in South Station who’d actually say “Good morning everyone … and have a nice day.”  Hey, it’s Boston, sometimes it’s harder than Shakespaere to get good manners out of people! :)

[ I particularly like this story because I can post it on my other blog, too. ]

Lighting Up Shakespeare


All right, purists, you’re gonna love this one.  Just how close to “original” Shakespeare performance can you get?  Scene breaks? Stage directions?  Accent?

How about lighting?

The linked project attempts to mimic tallow candles using modern LED technology.

The project is broken down in to a few sub-projects:

  • The colour temperature of the candle-light.  Tallow candles were used which produce a difference colour flame to modern day paraffin candles.
  • Making this colour using LED colour mixing. My next project will be to create the colour of candle light that is not necessarily metameric but that looks the same to the eye when in a black space.  This can be used for basic shows and practical lanterns where the reflection of light is very minimal.  Next I will try to match the colour metamerically using a range of colours to mach the spectral diagram of the candle.  This will be more difficult and less cost effective but will provide a more accurate result.
  • The amount of light available.  How bright was the stage?
  • The flicker of the candles.  Incorporating this into the recreation.
  • The spread of light.  LEDs are quite directional so making the light spread as much as a candle would.
  • Adding all of this in to chandeliers and footlights that seem realistic yet have no naked flames.

Sounds very cool, and makes me wish I’d taken more of an interest in theatre while I was still in engineering school!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fan of Shakespeare Tavern ?


Looks like they’re a little short on funds this year.  We’ve written about the Tavern’s style of Shakespeare performance on a number of occasions, and Ann is a regular contributor here at Shakespeare Geek.

So if you like the work they do down there and want to help em out, maybe throw them a few bucks on ye olde paypal link?

1 Thing I’ll Hate About 10 Things I Hate About You


We’ve covered this before, but “10 Things I Hate About You”, the series, starts next week.

I was interested, or at least curious, until I got to this quote from executive producer Cameron Covington:

“I decided in the beginning that there’s enough distance between Shakespeare and us that we can free ourselves of some of the things Shakespeare dictated to the movie.”

Apparently this guy things that 10 Things was a more-popular-than-average teen comedy because of some other reason?  If you take out the Shakespeare, then it is exactly the same as every other teen comedy ever made.

Does anybody remember the movie Peggy Sue Got Married, with Kathleen Turner and Nicholas Cage?  She goes back in time and decides to do her wannabe rockstar boyfriend (Cage) a favor by writing him a song that’s sure to be a hit.  Then he comes back to her with it:
”I made a few changes, I changed the yeah’s to ooo’s, and now I think it’s a lot better. Listen.  She loves you, ooo, ooo, ooo!  She loves you ooo, ooo, ooo…with a love like that….”

“That was the Beatles, you idiot!”

Shakespeare Events Calendar Filling Up Nicely

Shakespeare Events Calendar

(Subscribe to the feed here)

Well, my little side project seems to be coming along quite nicely, thank you very much.  What’s going on this summer for Shakespeare in your part of town?  Get it on the calendar!

Subscribe to the feed.  Show it to your friends.  Make sure that every Shakespeare event you know about is well attended.

More Adored Than Shakespeare?


Over the last couple days I’ve heard my fair share of “Michael Jackson was the Shakespeare of our generation” comparisons on Twitter, trust me.  But I found this article particularly moronic in its adulation.

I hate the opening premise – that while Dickens and Mozart and others may have been stars in their time, it wasn’t until modern technology arrived that we could have had the “superstar” like we know it today.  That’s the “what if” game and all its variants –what if Shakespeare had access to the net, what if Shakespeare had to deal with today’s copyright law, etc etc etc.  It is an unfair and pointless comparison.  Imagine you have two paintings, A and B.  You show A to 10 people, and they all like it.  Now, show B to 100 people, and they all like it.  Obviously, B is 10x better than A, right?  More people liked it.

But it is the closing bit of the article that puts me over the edge:

Sure, you may love Shakespeare or Hemingway, and you may appreciate your elected officials. But it is highly unlikely that your favorite author or elected official will occupy the same space in your sentimental bank of memories as the folks who provided the score for those special times in your childhood, adolescence, youth, etc. Naturally, love is a sentimental affair.

Do you really want to go here?

Don’t get me wrong, I can tell you vivid memories about being a teenager when the Thriller video came out, how it was a special event when MTV would play the full length version and we’d all schedule the time to sit in front of the tv.  The stories we told about the girl in the video, whose name I never forgot – Ola Ray. 

And, and, and….well, and nothing.  That’s about it.  I remember the moonwalk and the up on the toes thing, and I’m sure at one point or another we all tried to do it.  But honestly I think that breakdancing and “parachute pants” were more of an influence on my particular corner of the world than Mr. Jackson and his one sequined glove.

You want to compare that to Shakespeare?  Really?  You want to talk about 9th grade English class where we read Julius Caesar at the same time as we were studying Ancient Rome in social studies, and I once put “Ab Urbe Condite” into an English paper because I thought it was cool?  Nobody knew what it meant.  Or how the teacher handed our papers back once and told Matt White, the cool preppie kid, that his paper was excellent…only to then tell me that mine was outstanding?  (That did NOT make me friends with the cool preppie kids.)  How about when there were only 8 of us in class, 4 boys and 4 girls, the year we had to memorize and recite the balcony scene from R&J?  And how Leah Dinapoli and I were the only ones to actually memorize the thing properly, and she even said to me “You and I should have done it together”?  Mrs. McCormick’s 10th grade class with Macbeth, or Mr. Corey’s 12grade showing of Olivier’s Hamlet, and how he dashed to hit Pause on the VCR when it came time to explain to us what “Oedipus Complex” meant?  (Let’s not forget back in Ms. Cunningham’s Romeo and Juliet class where she showed the Zeffirelli, topless scene and all.  Exciting times for a 15yr old Shakespeare geek, let me tell you).

Or should we go on to college, where I got a job working on a Shakespeare video game and read every play multiple times, developing a database of 1000 questions about the works?  My humanities minor on the role of insanity as a defense mechanism in the tragic hero, comparing Hamlet, Long Day’s Journey into Night, and Death of a Salesman?  How about going on a date to see Mel Gibson’s Hamlet, 9:55 show on a Sunday night and being the only ones there?  Having the manager tell us that they wouldn’t run the movie without at least 6 couples, and then hanging out in front of the theatre hoping that five others would show up? (They did!)

How about when our college theatre group did a 3 day performance of The Tempest, and my girlfriend at the time played one of the fairies?  I sat enraptured in as close to the front row as I could, for every performance, watching the magic (and never forgetting it).  I even remember the pose she struck over the sleeping king, growling at Sebastian and Antonio during that big scene.  And we partied with the cast later, and helped strike the set when they were done.  Jeff Waldin played Prospero. 

Should I go on?  Because I can. 

Let’s be real.  Michael Jackson was a fine entertainer.  Made lots of music, broke new ground in many ways.  But when you start making comparisons like these, putting him up against somebody that’s already stood the test of 400 years, and then having the gall to say things like “never been anyone like him…and probably never will” then you’re just asking for an argument.  I’ve listened to Michael Jackson music.  But I’ve sat in the grass of Boston Common and watched them build the stage for a Shakespeare play, and the very sound of the tools they used would give me goosebumps in anticipation of what was to come.  Who knows, maybe some folks can say the same about a Michael Jackson concert. 

Let’s talk about it again in 400 years.  I’ll bring my guy, and you see if you can still find anybody performing yours.

Saturday, June 27, 2009



Cute compilation video about people giving strange answers to game show questions.  Linked because there’s a Shakespeare question in the middle – but for bonus points see who can spot the even better Shakespeare joke?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Google Lit Trips


I don’t have Google Earth installed, but I can see where this would be a very creative addition to the study of classic literature.  How does geography play out in Macbeth?  When Macduff says “I’ll to Fife” where is that?  Where exactly is Birnam Wood?

You get the idea.  You have to dig a little bit for the Shakespeare, but I found a Macbeth in the 9-12 section.

Somebody with Google Earth download one of these and see what it’s about, if it’s just a map or something more animated.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

King Lear and Copyright


Any story that opens up with “So I was goofing off….” will either be interesting or really pointless.  This one is somewhere in between, and argues that well known point that since Shakespeare borrowed liberally from existing known works, that under current copyright law he would have been sued out of existence.

First and foremost it’s worth noting that this argument is about as valuable as saying that he’s a bad speller according to today’s dictionary.  He had no spelling rules to work with, so you can’t go applying rules that didn’t exist for him.

With that in mind, it presumes a world in which, even with all this copyright law, Shakespeare still would have gone ahead and stolen the works, which is ridiculous. 

There is one sentence that addresses the point:

If Shakespeare had plenty of money, he could have contacted all the copyright owners and paid them whatever they asked, but if he didn't have enough money, the result would have been he would have been unable to afford to write King Lear.

which goes back to my first argument – you’re setting up a completely hypothetical situation. 

Everything I’ve read tells us that Shakespeare was indeed a very shrewd (some would say penny-pinching) businessman who knew the rules of his own game well enough to garner multiple revenue streams through his writing as well as his ownership stake.

Let’s think about *that* Shakespeare in this modern world.  First of all he’d get a piece of the action everytime somebody wanted to print his work, so right there’s a nice piece of change to work with.  When somebody like Thorpe comes along and tries to publish the Sonnets without permission?  Then he’s the one getting smacked down, and Shakespeare reaps the profits.  We’re not even getting into extended media rights for movies, cable tv and so on.  I think that the best assumption is Shakespeare would have been a very rich man indeed.

Having said that, I feel pretty confident in saying that he’d be the type to not only get all his paperwork in order and purchase the existing rights, but to invent new forms of contract that would allow him maximum return on his investment.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Monty Python of His Day?


I’m obligated to click on any link that promises a list of stuff we may or may not have known about Shakespeare.  Typically I either knew it already, or it’s a list that just spouts out some typical urban legends that nobody really knows for sure about.

So I’m happy with this list that starts out with Venus and Adonis and then moves right on the Love’s Labour’s Won (pointing out that it is probably another name for Shrew) and Cardenio, adding that it might have been written by Humphrey Moseley?  There you go, I learned something.

The middle – about the shotgun wedding, and all the words and cliches added to the English language – are pretty standard stuff. 

Then it ends again with more detail than you usually find, including credit to David Garrick for bringing Shakespeare out of obscurity 150 years after his death.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Midsummer Night’s Lorax

I won’t be the first person to compare Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss.  I just wanted to point out something that clicked in my head the other day and freaked me out a little bit:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in:
And with the juice of this I'll streak her eyes,
And make her full of hateful fantasies.

At the far end of town where the grickle-grass grows
And the wind smells slow and sour when it blows
And no birds ever sing excepting old crows
Is the street of the Lifted Lorax.
And deep in the grickle-grass some people say
If you look deep enough you can still see today
Where the Lorax once stood, just as long as it could,
Before somebody lifted the Lorax away.


Those sound nearly identical to my ear.  Dr. Seuss was even closer to Shakespeare than I think people realize.

[And for the record, how brilliant is that opening?  It’s my favorite Seuss.  Look at the alliterative work – grass grows…smells slow and sour when it blows…birds ever sing excepting old crows…  I’ve got about half that book memorized.]

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Hot Girl, Bad Article


One of the many, many ways that Shakespeare geeks can count themselves lucky is because of Megan Fox’s tattoos

I think I find this more sad than funny, but the article above – which basically says that the poor girl’s covered enough of her body with ink, thank you – also says this:

…Including An Inscription On Her Right Shoulder Blade. It Reportedly Is A Reference To Shakespeare’s King Lear And Reads: “We Will All Laugh At Gilded Butterflies.”

Reportedly?  Actually it is an *actual* Shakespeare reference.  The text is a bit wrong, true, but I don’t think that word reportedly means what the author thinks it means.

Am I being too picky?  Ok, how about this one:

The Tattoos May Have Led To Comparisons With Megastar Angelina Jolie, Who Has Least A Dozen All Over Her Body.

May have?

Way to take a stand.

Let Kenneth Branagh Play Thisbe!

I thought this story funny about how the people involved with the new Thor movie would get “a three hour one-man show” from the “very Shakespearean” Kenneth Branagh as he’d walk through every single part.
Comic geeks may not appreciate that as much as we Shakespeare geeks who are left wondering if there’s a bit of old Bully Bottom in Mr. Branagh?

“An I may hide my face, let me play Odin too!”

    “Have you Loki’s part written?”

”Let me play Loki too! I will roar and it will do any man’s heart good to hear me.”

Shakespeare Events Calendar

Ok, who wants to help me out with an idea?

I’m tired of missing the good shows because I don’t hear about them until too late.  I may not get to go to many anyway, but at least if I know about them ahead of time I have a shot at it.  I’m sure others are in the same boat.

So here’s what I’d like to try. I’m setting up a public calendar to track Shakespeare events.  Once I get a few on it I’ll send the link around.  Using Google Calendar you can get an RSS feed of events as they come up, too, and thus always be alerted to new ones.  Not to mention the integration with Google Maps so you can see immediately whether an event is half a country away from you.

What I need, of course, are events.  If you’re in charge of an event and you’d like to be on the calendar, please send me the following info:

  1. Event / Organization Name
  2. Play(s) Performed / Description of event
  3. Dates it will run
  4. Location
  5. Link for more info

Thanks!  Should be interesting to see if I get quickly overwhelmed.  If I do, I’ll just open up the calendar so anybody can contribute.

Empathy For Tybalt?

Saw this as a Google search term in my logs today, thought it was interesting. Not exactly two words I tend to put together, empathy and Tybalt.

Am I missing something? Is he not the classic example of everything that is wrong with this sort of situation? The whole “We hate each other and nobody can seem to remember why….but I don’t really care, I don’t need a reason” type of character?

Maybe there’s something to this. Let’s look where we see him: Jumping into a fight in the very first scene. Not, like Benvolio, trying to stop it. Heck, Tybalt doesn’t know how it started or who started it, he just sees swords drawn and wants in on the action.

Later he’s willing to ruin Capulet’s party by starting a fight in the middle of it. Maybe, *maybe* we can start to side with him here a little if you truly believe that he's defending his family honor, that he believes Romeo is there to ruin the fun. We know it’s not the case, but part of empathy is being able to see things through other people’s eyes.

Next up, he challenges Romeo to a duel. This is just logical behavior for him, as predictable as Laertes coming after Claudius to avenge Polonius’ death. In Tybalt’s world, if you are dishonored, you challenge the person to a duel. Primitive by today’s standards? Sure. But he’s not acting by today’s standards.

Here’s where it gets interesting, because of Romeo’s reaction to the challenge. Tybalt doesn’t know it, but Romeo is now his family (having secretly married Juliet). So Romeo showers him with love like a brother. What’s going through Tybalt’s head? Obviously he thinks he’s being mocked. Here he is trying to do the right and honorable thing to do, reclaiming his honor (although much like the bad guy in Karate Kid II (Ralph Macchio Goes To Japan) he never seems to realize that he is the one costing them their honor, not restoring it). Had Mercutio not been in the picture, things might have turned out differently. Tybalt might have declared Romeo a lunatic and refused to battle.

Instead – Mercutio drew first. Don’t forget that. Mercutio did not defend Romeo from harm. It was Mercutio who basically attacked Tybalt unprovoked (we can do “empathy for Mercutio” later). Well, we all know what happens next, Tybalt gets in the lucky (cheap?) shot, Mercutio dies. How’s that play out for Tybalt, though? Does anybody think Tybalt was actually trying to kill him? Or was it an accident? It was a dirty blow, no doubt about it, but that doesn’t mean it was supposed to be a killing one.

I think here’s it’s strictly up to interpretation. Back in the Zeffirelli version it was played out more like “kids taking things too far” – but in the Luhrman version with Jon Leguizamo, Tybalt *is* physically beating Romeo, and Mercutio’s rescue is much different. They really are trying to kill each other:

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

As You Puppet


As You Like It, for kids – with stuffed animal puppets.  Sounds like the kind of thing I’d rush to, if it wasn’t in Toronto.  But, hey, maybe some of my readers are in the neighborhood.

[If anybody knows of local performance like this, variations on Shakespeare for kids, please let me know. I’m happy to spread the word.  I can’t post every announcement about every adult traditional Shakespeare show, but I do like to help popularize the kid versions.]

Sayest Thou “Nay!” To Cawbe, For ‘Tis Whack


This story’s about a week old and reasonably silly, but it was not until I re-heard it on NPR that I caught the Shakespeare hook.  Whether it’s true or not, the story goes that criminals behind bars in England have resurrected centuries old slang as a sort of modern code, using words like “cawbe” for cocaine and “inick” for cell phone.

Depending on which story you read the slang is either Elizabethan or “more than 500 years old” (are those the same thing? how long did that woman reign??), and may or may not have actually appeared in Shakespeare’s text.

What I think is quite silly is the quote about this being “the most ingenious secret code we have ever come across.”  For starters, you’ve already cracked it, haven’t you?  I mean, I’m hearing about it on NPR Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me.  How good could it have been?  I’d think that the most ingenious ones are, in fact, the ones you don’t know anything about yet :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

In Praise Of Melancholy : Can Tragedy Make You Happy?

Here’s a question that’s maybe better for the philosophy blogs, but I heard this phrase - “in praise of melancholy” – the other day, and it made me think of King Lear.

Now, nobody will say King Lear is a happy play.  Words thrown around tend to be more like “gutwrenching” and “agonizing”.  It is also heralded widely as one of greatest pieces of literature in the English language.

Nobody sees King Lear and comes out of it saying “Well, that was fun.”  But here’s my question – does it make you happy?  Do you, at some deep level, feel better about…things?  I’m not talking about the entertainment of seeing a good production.  I’m talking about watching the story of King Lear play out on the stage as if you were watching the lives of real people.

I’m trying to think of the best way to explain it.  I think it’s similar to when people say they enjoy a good cry, or enjoy scaring themselves near to death.  There is value in expanding the range of how you experience life – both the highs and the lows. 

Another analogy that comes to mind is going to the gym and waking up the next morning in pain.  The pain is really only at one level, and though it certainly hurts, your brain is able to go a level beyond and say, “Yes, but that’s good for me, I’m happy that I got the workout because it will ultimately improve my quality of life.”

Know what I’m talking about?  Who can say it better than I’m doing here?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pixton : Shakespeare Comics


After learning about a high school group that won an award for their work with creating a comic The Tempest I decided to check out Pixton, the comic creator.  I’m quite pleased with all the Shakespeare I found.

True, it’s not like most of these will be winning awards anytime soon.  But that’s not really the point.  If there are classrooms out there where the project is to create a comic book out of a Shakespeare play, and that helps the kids actually follow along with character and plot, I’m all for it. 

I guess I’d just hope that if all you’re aiming for is character and plot that elementary school kids could do this.  If you’re talking about high school kids then I’d like a little bit more understanding than just “Brutus kills Caesar because that’s what it says he does.”

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Julius Caesar in the 21st Century


This one caught my eye for a number of reasons:

* It’s relatively local (Maine) so I have a shot at getting to see one of their productions.

* One of Shakespeare’s few historically factual plays, “Caesar” is based on the Roman leader’s assassination by his Senate.   (Is that true?  I suppose ‘factual’ is what makes the point, there.)

* “This play may be the single most brilliantly executed and relevant performance I’ve seen in the last six years.”


The reviewer seems a little too pre-occupied with the political climate for me.  Both Brutus and Portia are played by women, which is fine, but the fact that nobody added any lesbian references, showing that it is “just a marriage”, is somehow a “poke at the topical issue” of gay marriage?  No, no more so than making Caesar also a woman is somehow necessarily a Hillary Clinton reference.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Why Memorize?


Funny, I just scanned this article and said, ‘Ok, I get the idea.’ Then, something I’ve never done before, I searched my non-Shakespeare feeds for Shakespeare references, and there it was again.  So, I read closer.

The West’s most famous wordsmith, William Shakespeare, gained his education by memorizing the epic poetry of the classical world. Through this practice, the Bard developed an ear for the sophisticated rhythms and patterns of language, helping him churn out some of civilization’s most cherished pieces of literature. Moreover, by memorizing the myths and stories of the ancient world, Shakespeare had a fountain of creative resources to draw upon as he wrote his plays.

Almost the entirety of Abraham Lincoln’s education was self-directed. Lacking formal schooling, he consumed books with an insatiable desire, reading snatches of them whenever he could. He also committed to memory numerous passages from his favorite books. It enabled him to learn the musicality present in great writing. It’s no coincidence that the mind that produced the Gettysburg Address had at its immediate disposable snippets from the world’s finest authors.

Bonus for the implied Lincoln/Shakespeare connection :).

Unseam’d Shakespeare : Macbeth 3


Linked because I dig the name of their company (“Unseam’d Shakespeare” – dancing on a dangerous line naming your theatre group with a line from the Scottish play!) as well as the name of the play, Macbeth 3. Not even 2? Where was 2?

It’s a typical theatre review, but I did find this piece ironic enough that it reads like an Onion article:

To emphasize the play's universal and eternal themes, director and fight coordinator Michael Hood chooses a timeless setting not tied to any geographical or ethnic location.

Now, see, there’s an original idea. :)  [Note to the author of the article, you just wasted 26 words – it would have been more original, ala the Onion, to actually set Macbeth in the time and space Shakespeare intended.  Unless you knew that and were deliberately padding to reach your word count in which case brilliant!]

Shakespeare Geek Versus The First Graders

Who wants to hear about my visit to first grade?

I’m happy to say that I did not chicken out, I did not “plan B” it (that would be “Harold and the Purple Crayon”).  I really did walk into a room prepared to read Shakespeare – The Tempest, ‘natch – to a group of first graders.

I came prepared with:

* My bust of Shakespeare (tiny one, maybe 6” high)

* Shakespeare action figure

* Shakespeare pop-up Globe Theatre

* Three copies of The Tempest – Shakespeare Can Be Fun, USBorne, and Manga.

* Printouts of scenes from the play, to use as takeaways


Nobody recognized Shakespeare by sight – thought he was Abraham Lincoln.  But when I said his name, a bunch of hands shot up.  Apparently the “Magic Treehouse” books are popular, and there’s a Shakespeare edition of one of those.

They also understood “400 years ago” when I said “Between Columbus and the Pilgrims.”

My favorite student is the one who fed me the straight line, “What kinds of stories did he write?” giving me the opportunity to say, “Oh, well, he wrote about kings, and armies, and wizards and witches and ghosts and shipwrecks and sea monsters…”

“And princesses?” one girl asked hopefully.

“…and princesses, and princes and sword fights and weddings and happy endings…” I added.  Couldn’t have played that one better.  They seemed to quite love that.

They *loved* the action figure.  Played with him the whole time.

Didn’t fully understand the Globe Theatre.  Thought it was cool as a popup, and if I’d had more room to work I would have explained to them that they were the audience and I was the actor, but I had to basically show it and put it away.

The story itself was difficult, as I expected.  The concept of “I will read passages, but some of it I’ll just tell you, so we can get through it” was confusing to them.  They kept asking, “Can’t you just read all the words without skipping any?”  Some kids thought it would be better to read every word, but then to only get as far in the book as we were able.  But, I persevered.

Problem #2 was the attention span.  While I knew I would get interruptions, I had no idea how many (or how annoying).  Some were trivial, like “My name is Alana, that sounds like Alonzo” or “My brother is 14, you said Miranda is 15.”  But there’s always that one kid who, with the introduction of every character, “Is he good?  Is he bad?” over and over again, no matter how many times the character is brought up.  I mean, I’m 2/3rds the way through and I say Prospero.  “Is he good?  Who is he?”  You want to explain to this child that if he actually paid attention to the answers to his own questions he wouldn’t have to ask the same ones over and over again.

Problem #3 was the concept of good and evil.  They haven’t finished the unit on Nietzsche yet (they couldn’t get beyond it, *badump*), so I had to explain every character in the black and white of good, or bad.  Sebastian, fine, we’ll call him bad.  But what about Alonso?  He did a bad thing in helping to get Prospero kicked out of Milan, but in the end he repents.  I made the mistake of saying “Everyone on the ship was basically bad guys” and then when Ferdinand shows up (I forgot!) they’re all “Why does Miranda like him?  You said he was a bad guy.”  D’oh. 

Caliban, Trinculo and Stephano I got away with calling “loopy on too much medicine.”  One girl surprised me by saying, “Were they on drugs?”  So I explained that no, not drugs – but that they’d lost that tiny little cup you’re supposed to use for just a little medicine, and that now they’re drinking it straight out of the bottle, and look what happens when you do that!

Last problem was one of pictures, which I kind of expected.  In the version of the book I used, different people wrote each picture.  So in one, Caliban is green.  But in another he is orange.  Likewise with Ariel who sometimes looks like a butterfly, sometimes like a fairy, heck, sometimes a girl and sometimes a boy.  Though I tried to explain this, hyping the whole idea that this was an imagination story and that you had to decide for yourself what you thought each person looked like, I still got “Now who is that?” for orange Caliban even when green Caliban was just 2 pages ago.

We ran half an hour anyway! And even then I only really got to the harpy scene.  The teacher for the next segment came in so I had to wrap it up, and basically did the “Prospero comes out and says Haha, I’m alive!  I want my kingdom back! And then Miranda and Ferdinand say “we’re getting married!” so everybody celebrates.  Prospero tells Ariel that she can have the island, throws his magic books in the water and sails away to go play with his grandbabies.  The End.”

Overall?  Glad I went for it.  I would much rather get a semi-positive response to Shakespeare than a resounding response to some random book off the shelf.  I even told the kids “If you like this story you have to remember to go home and tell your parents to get you some William Shakespeare, and your parents will be all Huh? What?”  Given a better understanding of what I was walking into, though, I think that I would much rather talk about Shakespeare for half an hour, then feel like I had a specific book I was trying to get through, you know?  Ask me to talk on the subject and you can’t shut me up (as I’m sure you’ve noticed).  But bringing a book makes it rigid, and you feel like if you do not get through it, then you will have failed.   I may even have tried that today, but technically this is supposed to be “celebrity reader” and I had no idea if the teacher wanted me to specifically focus on reading (rather than performing) something, so I didn’t think I had that option.

Next time.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Dread Pirate Roberts Theory of Authorship


I love this because I knew exactly what he was talking about the minute I heard it.  Fan’s of geek fantasy movie “The Princess Bride” should recognize the reference as well – that no matter how great the legend, there is no one “Dread Pirate Roberts.”  It is a role, filled by rotating players.

One answer to the authorship question does suggest exactly this, that “Shakespeare” was more a brand than a person, and numerous playwrights took turns (for whatever reason) writing under that name.

I don’t know that it has any more merit than any of the other theories, but it does seem the most flexible.  When the facts don’t fit for play X by playwright Y, just insert a different playwright!

Dead People You’d Most Like To Meet


Ok, Jesus I can see in the top spot.  Even if you’re not the religious type you have to figure that the guy must have done something to have his own religion.

Our boy Shakespeare is #3 on the list. 

I can’t figure out the rest, though.

#2 is Princess Diana?  Really?  I’ve never understood that.  I think my feelings for Princess Diana were summed up the day, a few weeks after her death, I was at the garage and saw a woman reading Diana’s biography.  In conversation this woman told me, “You know, I never really knew how much I idolized Diana until she died.”  Doesn’t that tell you something?  That maybe it’s *because* she died that you are so enamored of her life?  That, you know, when she was alive she wasn’t that interesting to you?

#4, strangely, is Albert Einstein.  On the one hand I’m impressed with the intelligence of a readership who wants to meet Einstein.  But at the same time, how many of these people do you think are scrambling go to hear Stephen Hawking speak? 

Last is Marilyn Monroe.  Honestly, I think that other than getting to ask “Are you sleeping with both the Kennedy boys?”, I can’t see why she’d be on the list.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Best Laid Plans of Mice And Shakespeare Geeks

So I think I may have mentioned, I went in to my daughter’s preschool class to be a “celebrity reader” a few months ago.  Not wanting to push my luck with the Shakespeare (and not having a version handy that I would consider appropriate), I went with the modern Shakespeare – Dr. Seuss . I was a big hit.

Well my oldest daughter is in first grade, and also has a similar “parents feel welcome to come in and read” program which I have studiously avoided.  First graders, for those who aren’t parents, are far wilder than preschoolers.  Much less likely to pay attention, much more likely to say “You stink” or “We hate this book” if they had this book, or, you know, if I stink.

But school’s coming to a close and I may not get the chance to do this again, so I break down and tell the teacher I’ll come in this week.

BUT!  I have a plan.  I head to Amazon and grab The Tempest : For Kids (Shakespeare Can Be Fun series), even getting the extra shipping to make sure it shows up on time.  This series has a number of things going for it:

* written by an elementary school teacher, for her students

* written in rhyming verse, ala Dr. Seuss

* illustrated by her students, ages 7-8 (which I guess makes them more like second or third graders)

Now, I’m getting into it.  I’ve got visions of bringing my now several versions of this story and letting them be passed around the class while I read from this one.  Heck, maybe I’ll even bring my Shakespeare bust and sit him down on the desk with me.

But this is where my schemes gangs aft agley.  Book arrives, and it is indeed beautiful.  Brightly illustrated on every page, not just with images but with paraphasings of key passages.

But *dense* with text.  This book is over 60 pages long, with 10+ full sentences on each page.  For 6yr olds that is a tremendous amount of information, and there’s no way they can meaningfully follow the story if I attempt to read it in one sitting.  I even tried to time it, and reading quickly – without interruption for questions – it would take me near to half an hour to get through the thing.  Heck, I was on 9 minutes before we even saw Caliban!

In short, there’s no way I’m reading this to my daughter’s class.  Even though it’s written by a school teacher I’d now call this the kind of thing she could read to them over multiple sittings, not as one drive-by by a random parent who they won’t see again,

Although my daughter and I found a replacement book today (Harold and the Purple Crayon), I haven’t given up hope.  I will either dig up my Usborne version and see if I think it’s good enough to keep their attention (from what I recall there aren’t enough pictures, and still too many words)., or if I have the time and energy if I can actually paraphrase this one down to just a sentence or two per page, so I can keep the pictures and still get the story across in about 10 minutes.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Best Death Scenes


There’s actually no Shakespeare in this list.  That is, until the person in the comments mentions Orson Welles in Chimes At Midnight!  That’s a Shakespeare geek right there, let me tell you.

But it does bring up the question of doing our own list.  Who in the movies has done the best Shakespearean death scenes?  Gibson’s Hamlet, or Olivier’s?  DiCaprio’s Romeo, or … that other guy’s?

Shakespeare : Teen Takes


If the news of Emile Hirsch doing Hamlet is interesting to you, then perhaps you might want to go hunt down some of these “teen remakes” of Shakespeare.  Nothing regular readers haven’t seen before, but a nice collection with YouTube snippets from each.

I don’t think that Luhrman’s Romeo+Juliet is in the same company as “She’s The Man”,  one being a modern interpretation and the other more of an “inspired by / retelling”.  But that’s getting picky.  I’ve always said, the more interest people show in Shakespeare, the better. Even if it is just to go see the hot young celebrities.

My Five Best People Who Possibly Never Lived


When I saw this was tagged Shakespeare, I assumed that the author would drop in Romeo or Hamlet or somebody.

Nope, he’s talking about Shakespeare himself.

Christian Hamlet


Not really my thang one way or the other, but the linked blog post discusses over Christian references in Hamlet.  The usual suspects – the ghost’s description of purgatory, Hamlet’s choice not to kill Claudius while he is “fit and season’d for passage”, and so on.

Thought I’d post it if anybody’s up for the discussion.  I didn’t really think there was a question about Hamlet being “overtly Christian”, was there?  Now, see, if Claudius had sent Hamlet to Vatican City, that’d be a different topic.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

How Did I Miss This? *Who* Wrote The Tempest?


I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad about this.  Seems just last week there was a 2 day Shakespeare conference right in my backyard (Watertown, MA).  Unfortunately it was about Shakespeare Authorship - “mostly Oxfordians”, the post tells us.  So perhaps it would not have been my cup of tea.

Not too much new under the sun, presentations by the author of The Monument:

It is Whittemore’s theory that Her Majesty was not the “virgin queen” she claimed to be. He maintains that Elizabeth in the late 1560s began an affair with Edward de Vere, and, after staying out of public view for six months, bore a son, Henry Wriothesley [pronounced Risly], 3rd Earl of Southampton (1573-1624). Henry would join Robert Devereux (1566-1601), 2nd Earl of Essex, in the so-called Essex Rebellion against the government in 1601. This failed, and Essex was beheaded as a traitor, while Henry was reprieved and imprisoned in the Tower until Elizabeth’s death (the “three winters cold” in Sonnet 104). Henry, as royal issue, could have claimed the throne as King Henry IX, last of the Tudors. The Sonnets are viewed as written by de Vere to his son, the dedication to “Mr. W.H.” reversing the initials to conceal the identity of the addressee.

and “Shakespeare By Another Name”:

He stated that the plays characterized people from de Vere’s life – which is plausible. Not so convincing was his statement that the author “stopped creating new work in 1604, stopped reading in 1604, stopped reporting in 1604.” He proposed that the standard chronology of the writings is “a polite fiction.”

What *is* new, at least to me, is the theory of poet Marie Merkel (author of a book on Titus Andronicus) that The Tempest, very late in Shakespeare’s life and very different from all other works, is in fact so different because it was written by …

…Ben Jonson?!

…She also compiled several dozen words that occur in “The Tempest” and in Ben Jonson (1572-1637) but nowhere else in the Bard’s plays.

Her conclusion is that “The Tempest” was written by Jonson, who, she says, was still obsessed by this play in 1631. She doesn’t explain how Jonson came to provide his lengthy prefatory encomium to “my beloved, The AVTHOR Mr. William Shakespeare” in the 1623 First Folio of the plays, in which “The Tempest” was printed first. She is preparing a book on Jonson and the play, and will doubtless address this question.

That’s different.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Ye Gods It’s an Odd Numbered Year, Time For Another Hamlet Movie


I don’t care who stars in it, or who is directing it.  Neither of those things will alter the odds that I see it (I almost certainly will, I just can’t promise I’ll sit through it.  Not after Ethan Hawke.)

Make different movies.  How about a nice Winter’s Tale?

Monday, June 01, 2009

Shakespeare For Guantanamo


Marie from Sourcebooks Shakespeare sent me this link a week ago and I completely missed it, so my apologies.

The question is, since Shakespeare in Arabic is available at Guantanamo prison library, which plays would be appropriate?

I can’t really think of anything funny to say, though.  The only thing that comes to mind is Iago’s “From this time forth I never will speak a word.”

Neil Gaiman on David Tennant As Dr. Who Doing Hamlet


Got all that?  Not really a Dr. Who fan myself so I don’t really get the joke, but the geek quotient when Neil Gaiman writes a soliloquoy to be inserted into Hamlet for performance by David Tennant in his Dr. Who persona is off the charts!

Got Sonnet Questions? Ask the Author!

(Well no, not that author, he’s kinda dead.)

I’m talking about regular Shakespeare Geek contributor Carl Atkins, who also happens to be the author of Shakespeare's Sonnets: With Three Hundred Years of Commentary.   It’s no secret to regular readers that every time the sonnets come up, Carl’s up for some research and discussion.I’ve always wondered if I eventually write a post about all 154 sonnets, Carl will end up cutting and pasting his entire book here in the comments :).

Anyway, for awhile now I’ve been promising Carl a “meet the author” segment where we do a more detailed interview.  Instead of me coming up with a list of questions I’m interested in, though, I thought it might be fun to get some from the audience as well.  What’s most interesting to you?  The Dark Lady?  Homosexual undertones?  How Mr.Thorpe got his hands on the sonnets in the first place?  Whether they were ever intended for publication?

Send me your questions, either via email to duane@shakespearegeek.com or Twitter message.  No fun posting them here for Carl to see and spoiling the surprise.  When I get a bunch I’ll send them along and compile Carl’s answers into the promised “Meet the Author” segment.

Note :  I have no idea how many questions I’ll get, so I do have to say that I can’t promise every question will get answered.  We’ll try, but I don’t want anybody to feel left out if I get 50 different questions and can’t use them all.  Both Carl and I have full time day jobs, after all – and he’s a doctor!

10 Things I Hate About You : The Series


Ok, so, ABC Family is turning 10 Things I Hate About You into a series.  You remember this movie, right?  It’s famous for two things – being one of the more popular modern teen Shakespeare adaptations (Taming of the Shrew), but also as the introduction of a certain Heath Ledger, who went on to fame recently when he died too young.


So what do we think about a series?  I expect that there’ll be no effort at all expended in trying to make the occasional Shakespeare reference, although we geeks would get a kick out of occasionally having one of the kids mention their need to work on certain English homework assignments.

Think it’ll be any good?  Without the appeal of Shakespeare anymore, and with the baggage of “Yes but Heath Ledger is dead now” hanging over it, I don’t think it’ll be anything more than average.

Getting Married On Juliet’s Balcony


As noted in the link, this story itself isn’t new – it was publicized a few months ago that for the right price you could have at least part of your wedding on Juliet’s balcony in Verona, Italy.

Today we can see pictures from the first couple to officially do it.

Lucky ducks.


It’s not often that a new search engine comes along to challenge Google.  Or rather, that happens all the time, but none of them make a go of it.  Who remembers Cuil?  More specifically, who uses it?

Well there’s a new kid on the block getting some love, called Bing.  Catchy name, makes me think of turkey timers .  Bing!  Search is done.  Needs a little sound effect.  Instead of googling yourself you can bing…or perhaps bong yourself.

I thought I’d mention it because the results seem to do something better than Google.  Namely, they seem ordered around the concept of a person or organization (such as yours truly) and not just use of those words together in sequence.  There’s a difference between the person known as Shakespeare Geek, and places where people put those two words together, as in “I am a big Shakespeare geek”.

As somebody trying to build some brand, I appreciate the difference.

Shakespeare and Star Trek


No, not a link to a generic list of Shakespeare references in Star Trek that’s been going around the net since we were all using ftp and gopher.

No, BardFilm is actually digging up video of Startrekkian (ha!) Shakespeare references, and then discussing them in context of the story.  He’s been doing it for quite a little while, so if you enjoy the linked post (I’m a language geek so I found this one particularly interesting), be sure to check out the rest of the series.

New Portrait of Edward deVere?


In the next week SP will be posting pictures of a newly identified portrait of Edward de Vere. This mystery portrait, long affiliated with William Shakespeare, will add even more fuel to the bonfire of evidence suggesting that the 17th Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere wrote under the name William Shakespeare.

I don’t usually post every Authorship story I come across, but people tend to like pictures.

Ye Olde Willy Shoppe?


Seems there’s a bit of trouble, or perhaps irony, brewing in dear Stratford on Avon.  “Romeo and Juliet’s Adult Boutique”, purveyor of … well, I’m sure you can guess … got a license to open up shop in Shakespeare’s hometown.

Given all the sex jokes Shakespeare wrote, I think it would be funny if they just themed the whole store and had nothing but Shakespeare puns everywhere you look.  The “Much Ado About Nothing” section could be right next to “Country Matters.”

…and that’s about as far as I’m gonna take that. :)