Saturday, October 31, 2009

Shakespeare Geeks on The Bench

Courtesy of our friend Carl Atkins comes this pointer to the case of Bernard Kerik, who if I understand it right is a former head of New York City corrections department, and is either in the midst of a corruption trial or appealing one, or something. 

Anyway, it seems that Mr. Kerik’s half a million dollar bail was just revoked by US District Judge Stephen C. Robinson on grounds that he (Kerik) was disclosing confidential information about his case.

Why is it here?  Because this particular judge likes to quote Shakespeare:

The judge recited Shakespeare's Sonnet 29 in reference to Kerik, to illustrate his point that Kerik sees himself as an outcast unjustly attacked by the federal government.

The actual line, for those not familiar, is “When in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state.”  I’m guessing the judge picked up on the “I all alone beweep” bit, i.e. “No one else is weeping for you, buddy.”

Friday, October 30, 2009

Anthony Hopkins to Join THOR

Bonus points to the article’s writer who starts off with “Sounds more like a Shakespeare play than a superhero movie,” because yes, yes it does.  Kenneth Branagh going from Hamlet to Marvel is strange enough, but adding in Anthony Hopkins as Odin?  Anthony Hopkins who is set to play King Lear sometime next year?

I’m actually both intrigued and a little worried by this.  How can a man play the most powerful of all the gods, and then switch over to a frail old man who spends most of his time between raging against those same gods, and cowering before them?  It’ll be genius if he can pull it off.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

And Now…. Sir Ian.

Just a little piece on Sir Ian McKellen from the Boston Globe this week, for those who are fans.  Thoughts on the popularity of his Shakespeare versus his Gandalf and Magneto, and what his next project will be (alas, though a “classic”, it’s not Shakespeare).

If you’re at all sitting there and thinking to yourself that old Shakespearean actors must be a complete bore to listen to, do not miss Sir Ian Pretending.  He may not get to use it much in his blockbuster roles, but the man’s got a killer sense of humor.

Please Do Not Joke About Burning A First Folio

We have a gazillion (that’s a scientific term for “metric buttload”) of books about the publication of the sonnets, but how many do we have about the First Folio?  I mean, I’m sure like all things Shakespearean there are more than a few, but it’s not like I see them knocking down my door like the aforementioned sonnet books.

Hence my curiosity about Paul Collins’ “The Book Of William”, where he goes in search of the known 230 copies of the most important book in the history of literature.  Sounds like he’s got a sense of humor, too:

“In a room filled with middle-aged men in spectacles and dapper linen blazers for the July heat, I’m the one guy who looks most likely to douse himself in lighter fluid and scream gibberish about Freemasons,’’ he jokes. Later, at auction, he finds himself “within spitballing distance of Steve Martin.’’

I have to admit I cringe at the image (lighting the book on fire, not spitballing Steve Martin).  I’ve read too many “DaVinci Code for Shakespeare” stories.  Is it wrong of me that in the image he describes he never actually mentions burning the book, but I care more about that than the human being? :)

I wonder if I’ll be able to get my hands on this one?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Curse You, Macbeth Witches

So this morning on the way out the door to school, my oldest daughter showed me a Halloween poem that was pinned to the school-stuff wall.  As she read it in the sing-songy poem voice that little kids are so good at, I noticed it is very similar to the obvious, from Macbeth.  I told her that I’d get that one for her to bring to school.

Problem #1:

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one

Somebody break those last two lines down for me, so that they a) rhyme and b) scan?  It looks like the Toad line doesn’t have enough syllables, and despite all our discussions on counting and timing and such, I can’t figure out how to break it up to keep the rhythm.


Problem #2:

For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Pretty sure nobody’s gonna like me teaching “hell” to 7yr olds.  Looking for something I can swap in there to keep the general idea but not push the boundaries.

Problem #3:

Liver of blaspheming Jew,

Pretty sure no version of that’s gonna make the final cut. :) 

Here’s the edited version that I’m working on.  Doesn’t need to be particularly long, it’s more important to whittle it down to something that 7th graders would be allowed to recite without getting strange looks.  I may just chop the first verse and go with the middle (“Fillet of…”) plus the bumpers.  But then I still need to swap out “hell broth”.

Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone   [ <—problem 1]
Days and nights has thirty-one 
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.  <-- #2
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Oh, Sure … *Now*.

What caught my eye was not the Playing Shakespeare, but rather the sponsor – DeutscheBank.  The title of the project is actually “Playing Shakespeare with DeutscheBank.”

It helps the story to know that I was employed by DeutscheBank in the 1998-2002 era.  More specifically I was employed by Scudder Stevens and Clark, oldest mutual fund house in the US I believe, which then became Scudder Kemper Investments (bad move *), which then became Zurich Scudder, which then became DeutscheBank, which then led to the whole northeast office being shut down.

I have no love for DeutscheBank.  Whether they play Shakespeare or not.

(*) For the financial inclined – Scudder was, like, the inventor of the retail mutual fund.  A product whose whole purpose in life was to tell the end consumer “You don’t need a financial advisor to buy this for you, and eat up all your money in fees.  You can buy it direct.”  And then they went and bought a financial advisor company.  Oil and water, is that the expression?  I was in IT at the time, and I remember at least one meeting where the advisor people demanded their own web infrastructure so that the database of customers who were still stuck paying for advisors would never ever get the opportunity to see the world of do it yourself.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Agincourt Was An Even Fight?

This one caught me off guard.

Henry V’s “happy few” were not outnumbered five to one by the French at the Battle of Agincourt, as traditionally believed, but were in a much more even fight, according to new research.

I don’t think it’ll change my opinion of the speech at all, but this new research suggests that rather than 4 to 1 odds (24,000 French against 6,000 English) it may have been closer to 12k to 9k. 

By the way who’s the genius that clearly states the 24k and 6k figures, but also says “5 to 1” earlier in the article?  Am I missing something?

Thou Base Footballer!

I suppose this is a nice article about a particularly well rounded football coach who is happy to share with you his favorite kids’ shows, heavy metal band, and even Shakespeare plays – he’s partial to Henry IV Part II, an interesting choice.

Here’s the thing, though.  We’re talking about Jim Schwartz, coach of the Detroit Lions – the worst team in football. 

No, seriously.  This is the team that set the record for going winless last season (to be fair, Schwartz was just hired this season), but who are starting out something like 1-5 so he’s got a long road ahead of him.  Maybe a little less time watching Phineas and Ferb and reading Dan Brown, and more time watching video of the game.  I don’t see anybody doing one of these profiles on Bill Belichick.

[ For the curious, Schwartz was hired away from the Tennessee Titans, who now hold the dubious distinction of losing 59-0 to the New England Patriots last week. ]

Bric-a-Brac Theatre : Romeo and Juliet, starring Christopher Walken?

I’m not quite sure what I just watched, but I like it.  Narrated by Christopher Walken, this little movie tells the story of Romeo and Juliet from Cupid’s point of view.  Of course, Cupid is voiced by John Madden, Romeo is Nicholas Cage, and a few other surprise “guest” voices.  Neat.


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shakespeare and New Media

Folger’s reporting on a call for papers for a special issue of the Shakespeare Quarterly called “Shakespeare and New Media”:

Shakespeare's works have provided launch content for new media technologies since the seventeenth century, as Peter Donaldson has observed. At the turn of the 21st century, we are experiencing particularly rapid transformation of our basic tools for studying, teaching, learning, reading, performing, editing, archiving, and adapting Shakespeare.

Shakespeare Quarterly invites submissions of essays on the impact of media change, now, in all these arenas of Shakespeare studies. Submissions that make innovative use of new media publication modes, such as hyperlinks to the Folger Shakespeare Library's digitized collections, are particularly welcome.

I know I made it into somebody’s PhD thesis once upon a time (they requested permission to cite the blog), and somebody over in the Oxfordian camp used some material from Shakespeare Geek in their recent newsletter as well.   Maybe we’ll make this issue as well? :)  Hint hint?

Madness? This is Shakespeare!

Ok, that meme is long dead, but it’s true that Gerard Butler is still pretty much known as “the screamy guy from 300, the Sparta movie.” 

Well pretty soon he can add Coriolanus to the list, which when you think of it is probably not that much of a stretch.  I expect Coriolanus to wear more clothing.  And I never saw all of 300, so I’m not quite sure what Sparta guy’s relationship was to his mother.  Kicking people into bottomless pits could maybe work in both.

UPDATE : Ralph Fiennes is actually slated to play the lead, no word on who Butler will play. Thoughts?

UPDATE 2 : Thank you, Twitter!

“It looks like I might be doing Coriolanus, the Shakespeare play, the movie version… the adaptation of. Ralph Fiennes will be directing and playing Coriolanus and I’d be playing Tullus Aufidius his nemesis!”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gnomeo and Juliet Is Really Happening

[Thanks, Twitter!]

If we go all the way back to April, 2006 we find our first mention of Gnome and Juliet, the Disney animated version of Romeo and Juliet, in the world of garden gnomes.

Looks like it is actually happening, as you’ve got Eugene Levy on video talking about doing voice work for it.  Scheduled for release in 2011.  Cool!

I just wish I could get somebody to listen to me and do The Tempest, instead of R and J again.  After all, I’ve already got a version with seals.


UPDATE : Since Levy does not mention it, here’s a link with more of a direct Disney connection.  It’s part of their Miramax studios.

If Shakespeare Were Alive Today …. What?

I see this question all the time on Twitter.  If Shakespeare were alive today he’d be writing soap operas.  He’d be hanging out with Lady Gaga.  He’d have a blog.  And so on.

Pretty much all of those come from folks with little more than the typical knowledge of “Shakespeare as great writer” much like you’d associate “Einstein” with “genius” without having a clue about what the latter contributed to science.  Ya know?

So I’m curious.  Most of us here are fairly well versed in Mr. Shakespeare, all facets of his life.  What *do* we think he’d be doing? 

Here’s a couple to get it rolling:

* I highly doubt he would have had a shotgun marriage to Anne Hathaway. That alone could alter his whole life story.

* He could work “virtually” anywhere, and wouldn’t have to leave his wife and kids in one town while he trekked off to live miles away for most of the year.

* He’d have the potential for worldwide recognition, and as such could have potential audiences with a number of world leaders.  However, unlike his own time, he wouldn’t be constrained by fear of pissing off those leaders and ending up in jail.  He could be much more direct in his political commentary.

* Assuming he made a success of himself I expect he’d spent a great deal of time suing people for copyright infringement.  Back in his day it was much harder to bust people for it, but we do know that Shakespeare was the litigious sort who wouldn’t let a debt go unanswered, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him attempt to go after the pirates.

* While he’d be good at self promotion and no doubt have a fairly significant brand associated with his name, I wouldn’t expect to see him hanging out on Twitter for example. Why give it away?  He’s a business man, people pay him for what he writes.

Back To Edward III For A Minute,8599,1930971,00.html

I said I’d come back to this story when I had a moment and could find a good link.  The Time article seems to get all the relevant details, including some examples of the important phrases found in Shakespeare’s work that are also to be found in Edward III.

Don’t get me wrong, the computer geek in me thinks it’s an interesting story.  I just think the reporting on it is a little … overboard.  Look at the title - “How Plagiarism Software Found A New Shakespeare Play”.  Found?  New?  Now look at the very first paragraph of the article:

Yet the software may have settled a centuries-old mystery over the authorship of an unattributed play from the late 1500s called The Reign of Edward III. Literature scholars have long debated whether the play was written by Shakespeare — some bits are incredibly Bard-like, but others don't resemble his style at all. The verdict, according to one expert: the play is likely a collaboration between Shakespeare and Thomas Kyd, another popular playwright of his time.

So how do you find a new play that is centuries old, and long considered to maybe have been Shakespeare already?  And am I the only one that sees that big old likely right in the middle of the last sentence? 

Much of the rest of the article (and the story overall) is directed at the general populace, less so than we geeks.  We know, for instance, and are not bothered by the fact that Shakespeare collaborated with other playwrights.  Yet the article phrases it like, “Why would Shakespeare need to collaborate?”, taking the classic position of Shakespeare as literary god who put perfect pen to page and never blotted lines.

When we start saying that Shakespeare wrote 39 plays instead of 38, somebody let me know.  Heck, I still haven’t read Noble Kinsmen yet! :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Just Another Marlowe Monday

Also making an appearance in my “star for later” bucket is Casablanca Girl’s “Hamlet / Dr. Faustus” crossover.  At 1000 words or so it’s a pretty quick read.

The premise is kind of neat.  Everybody’s quick to point out that Hamlet at Wittenburg is complete anachronism, as the university did not exist in Hamlet’s time (it did in Shakespeare's).  So then was Shakespeare maybe copying directly from Marlowe?  Is the connection deliberate?

Marlowe. Kit, Marlowe

Always fun to talk about the mystery man that some feel was indeed Shakespeare himself in disguise (that is, Marlowe wrote as Shakespeare – stay with me, people.)  I’m not quite sure the larger point of this article at “La Stampa”, and I think this might even be part 6 of something larger, but it’s loaded with good Marlowe info that casual geeks may not have already known:

This is what the “School of Night”, which formed around Sir Walter Raleigh did. Here the greatest original minds of the day thought and discussed in secret the unthinkable and Raleigh, another self-made man of extravagant tastes, and the Queen’s favourite became Marlowe’s patron. Like Tamburlaine Raleigh was a man of humble origins who was setting out to conquer the “New” World in Virginia and was capable of barbarity in Ireland. Like Dr Faustus were the mathematical genius Thomas Heriot who created modern algebra and went to Virginia, the “Wizard Earl” of Northumberland, the greatest contemporary Alchemist/scientist Dr John Dee and the cosmologist Giordano Bruno; all friends of Marlowe in the School of Night. Indeed both Raleigh and Marlowe were accused of “atheism” though they were probably, like later Isaac Newton, Arians; denying the divinity of Christ.

I’m no Marlowe Geek so I can’t speak to how much of the article is the same old stuff, how much is just restating urban legend, and how much might actually be new.  But I found it a nice change of pace from all the “Computer proved Shakespeare didn’t work alone!” stories cluttering my newsfeeds this past week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Prospero Lost

Now, see, how come I don’t get to review stuff like this?

More than four hundred years after the events of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, the sorcerer Prospero, his daughter Miranda, and his other children have attained everlasting life. Miranda is the head of her family’s business, Prospero Inc., which secretly has used its magic for good around the world. One day, Miranda receives a warning from her father: “Beware of the Three Shadowed Ones.” When Miranda goes to her father for an explanation, he is nowhere to be found.

I’m dying to make a joke about Ethan Hawke playing Miranda, you realize. :)

When Shall Comm Shakes Perform Again?

For those in the Boston area:  I note with serious interest that Commonwealth Shakespeare, the wonderful people who bring us Shakespeare on the Common every summer, are sending out mysterious messages on Twitter about another play, coming in November.  How exciting would *that* be?  I highly doubt it’ll be free and outdoors, but then again, who knows what they’re up to?

Hamlet Was Gay?

How’s *that* for an attention grabbing headline?  Such is the premise of Myrlin A. Hermes’ coming novel, “The Lunatic, The Lover, And The Poet,” waiting for me this morning.  The book comes out in January, but sometimes I get sneak peeks like this :)

A 16th-century Divinity student at Wittenberg University, Horatio prides himself on his ability to argue both sides of any debate--but does not fully believe in anything. Then he meets the beautiful, provocative, and quite possibly mad Prince of Denmark, who teaches him more about both earth and Heaven than any of his philosophy books.
But his patroness, the dark and manipulative Lady Adriane, employs her own seductive wiles to test whether the "platonic true-love" described in Horatio's poetry is truly so platonic--or so true. And when a mysterious rival poet calling himself "Will Shakespeare" begins to court both Prince Hamlet and his dark lady, Horatio is forced to choose between his skepticism and his love.
Laced with quotes, wordplay, thespian in-jokes, bed-tricks, cross-dressing, and a steamy bisexual love-triangle inspired by Shakespeare's own sonnets, this witty, sexy new novel will make you rethink everything you thought you knew about the Bard.

There’s a video trailer up on her site, if you’re curious.   What’s got me thinking is that right at the end the word ‘satire’ flashes on the screen.  Is the whole thing a joke? A comedy?  At first I thought it was just traditional net slash fiction gone book length.  But now I wonder …

Monday, October 12, 2009

How Old Is Too Young?

Over at The Shakespeare Place, regular commenter JM has finally put up a topic that’s near and dear to my heart : kids and Shakespeare. 

Regular readers know my answer.  Cruise back through the archives (sorry, I am way too busy at the day job to bring up the links) and you’ll find recordings of my kids – as young as 2 – reciting Sonnet 18.  Or my 3yr old naming her Barbie dolls Regan and Goneril, and asking to sleep with King Lear under her pillow.  Or my 5yr old asking me to explain Hamlet’s ghost.  Or drawing the shipwreck scene from The Tempest on the back of her placemat at breakfast.

The all too common response to Shakespeare among schoolchildren is “Oh, no.”  What I get from my children is “Oh, cool!”

I think that most people start late, and then only come to appreciate what Shakespeare really means later in life.  I am hoping beyond hope that my kids get the kind of jumpstart I never had, and who knows, maybe go on to discover depths as yet undiscovered.

Edward III, Now With More Shakespeare

[ ADMIN : For some reason I cannot access any of the key articles about this breaking topic, even though it’s all over my newsfeeds.  I’ll try to update this post with pointers when I figure out what the problem is. ]

When I go on vacation, I like to seek out used bookstores.  When I find those, I like to seek out Shakespeare books.  I recently found a 100yr old Venus and Adonis that I have to get around to blogging more about.

But once I saw Edward III, by William Shakespeare.  “Odd,” I thought, “Shakespeare never wrote an Edward III.”

According to today’s news, that’s half right.  A researcher claims, with the help of his computers, that Shakespeare worked with Thomas Kyd to write this play.

I want to see the original articles because I want to see how frequently people are saying “did write” and how often they’re saying “may have written.”  Because if it’s the latter, well then, didn’t we already know that?  And haven’t we proven nothing?  May have also implies may not have, after all.

But if it’s pitched as conclusive prove, definitely did, then I think that’s just silly.  No amount of textual analysis is going to *prove* anything.  It’s going to raise your confidence higher, perhaps so high as to be indistinguishable from proof, but that still doesn’t make it proof.

More info on the story when I get some links to work.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Two Hours’ Traffic…But Talk Fast!

BardBlog’s got a good point, noting the difference between the prologue from Romeo and Juliet clearly saying “two hours’ traffic of the stage”, and with the more accepted feeling that Shakespeare must be 3 or 4 or even 5 hours long.  Why the difference?

It’s all in how quickly you deliver the lines, apparently.  “Stop acting between the lines!” he tells us. 

Shakespeare’s plays (and most other classical works) are not natural everyday speech, it’s thought and action. When people criticize Shakespeare saying “nobody talks like that!” smack them. I mean, say, “That’s the point!” People think a lot faster than they speak, and if the verse is thought, then the words need to move a lot faster than natural speech.

Of course there are times when the verse should be spoken slower, and maybe even (gasp!) pause.

I guess I’d have to see it.  Somebody show me a scene and say “These people are playing it too slow” and then show me that same scene and say “It should have gone more like this.”  Then I’ll understand better what’s being discussed here.

How Iago Defines The World

Now there’s a scary headline if I’ve ever heard one.  How bad is the world, exactly, if you’re defining it in Iago terms?

The New York Times spins off the recent badly reviewed Othello, by Peter Sellars, to look at who Iago is and what he’s always meant.

Focusing on the themes of “transparency” versus “secrecy”, the article takes  a number of interesting turns.  The new movie “The Invention of Lying” comes up, as does Michael Jackson’s death, David Letterman, and of course, Obama.

The moral agony of “Othello” is, in fact, that its bone-chilling villain is the only character who is in possession of the play’s truth. Through his machinations, Iago demonstrates that directness and honesty are, indeed, not safe — and in fact never are — because the overly transparent victim sometimes invites the predator’s manipulations and so becomes complicit with him.


Friday, October 09, 2009

Oxford : The Movie

More info about disaster-king Roland Emmerich’s new movie about the Authorship question.  Turns out that it’ll be a “political thriller” about Edware de Vere.  I like how the interviewer starts by asking “Marlowe?” rather than Bacon.  Of course, the answer when someone says “Bacon?” is “I’d love some, thank you.”

More “disaster” jokes are just too easy.  But man, the Oxfordians are gonna be in seventh heaven when this comes out, aren’t they?

“Pssst!  Dude, this guy dies before Macbeth is written.  How we gonna get around that?”

“Time machine!”

Young Hamlet’s Agony

I always stop and read when I see Shakespeare references mixed in with politics.  Here we have somebody comparing Obama’s needed decisions about what to do in Afghanistan with the melancholy prince of Denmark.  I believe the point of the comment, and I need to read more, is that much like our beloved Hamlet, Obama can’t seem to make a decision to save his life.

Don’t know whether that’s an accurate assumption or not, I have to read both articles.  But I wanted to get the link up so I didn’t lose it over the weekend.

Macbeth, Othello and King Lear Walk Into A Bar

No, seriously, that’s how the article starts:

Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear walk into a bar... what happens next? Director Sam L. Linden ’10 and his cast have worked to answer just that question. The Hyperion Shakespeare Company’s newest production, “Seven Deadly Sins of Shakespeare,” has created a user-friendly version of Shakespeare’s works in a short, action-packed montage of sins and laughs.

Doing a “sampler” of Shakespeare scenes isn’t particularly new, but the canon offers so much to choose from it’s fun to see how people put different scenes together to make a connection.  Here, the director’s going with “7 deadly sins”.

But is it off target in its interpretation, or perhaps just a little too shallow?

Whether it is the wrath of the Macbeths, Iago’s envy of Othello or Falstaff’s gluttony, each scene will present the audience with a collage of human flaws and malicious intent.

Wrath of the Macbeths?  I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve heard wrath as a defining word for that play, rather than ambition or obsession.  And is gluttony the best word for Falstaff, or just the easiest?

The Seven Deadly Sins, and yes I had to go look these up, are commonly summarized as:  Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride.

Which Shakespeare characters would you put in each role? I’m immediately tempted to associated Lear with wrath, but I recognize that that’s for his “come not between a dragon and his wrath” comment. Still, though, his temper does have something to do with his problems.  Given the choices, is Macbeth better defined by greed?

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Shakespeare In Love … With Roman Polanski

Ok, when I saw a Roman Polanski story turn up in my newsfeed filters I assumed there’d be some reference to his 1971 Macbeth.

Nope.  In this case it’s a Shakespeare In Love reference.  It seems that producer Harvey Weinstein was at the forefront of recently circulated Hollywood memo of support for child rapist Roman Polanski.  Weinstein was also the producer for Shakespeare in Love.

But wait!  The connection is deeper, the article suggests.  We Shakespeare geeks know that Shakespeare In Love won the Oscar for best picture in 1999, beating out Saving Private Ryan, which many people still scream is the greatest tragedy in the history of that particular award.  So be it.

Gary Thompson argues that Weinstein is typical of Hollywood’s growing insular nature, where it no longer cares about anything but itself:

…its story of a theater troupe outsmarting censors reminded all of the writers and actors who vote for the Academy Awards how wonderful they are.

He then goes on to suggest that this is Weinstein’s method – make movies that flatter actors and writers, because they’re the ones that vote.  They don’t want to be reminded of WWII, they want to be reminded of how wonderful they are.

I don’t know if I agree or not.  But I do know that the next time the topic comes up I’ll have a point to make. :)

It’s Time Once Again For Meet The Geeks

I haven’t done one of these in a little bit, and the growing number of Shakespeare sites out there reminds me that maybe I should.

A blog’s only as good as its content, and as much of that content comes from the comments, as from the original articles.  I can’t take credit for that.  Nor do I want to single out individuals, since missing folks would be a huge faux pas and I’m not typically good at that sort of thing anyway.

So I regularly like to open it up for folks to introduce themselves and their projects.  Free plug time.  Who are you, and what’s Shakespeare to you?  Actor, director, teacher, student?  Got a site of your own?  A show?  A book? Let’s hear it.  I’m officially giving permission to include links.  It’s not much, but the least I can do as a thank you for your contributions is to throw a little traffic your way.

Ground rules : It’s gotta be a Shakespeare thing, if that’s not obvious.  I’m not so much with the spamming.

I’d Love A Romeo, But I Think I’m More Falstaff-Shaped

Now, see, this is just a tease.  Normally I do not get dressed up for Halloween, but apparently kids’ school is having a family night and going as a family implies that we all get dressed up.  The thought most certainly crossed my mind (I just mentioned it on Twitter not 10 minutes ago) about doing something Shakespearey.

Wouldn’t you know it, but the Shakespeare Theatre Company is having a costume sale!

Because the theater has covered a lot of Shakespearean ground since 2006—remember Twelfth Night, Hamlet, and Macbeth?—the selection is diverse. Period details such as doublets, cloaks, and armor pull an elaborate character together—or check out some of the unexpected options, such as animal headdresses or 1960s mod fashions. And it’s not just clothes, either: There’ll be jewelry, masks, and props such as sculpted wedding rings and table settings from The Taming of the Shrew.

Alas, it’s down in Washington DC and I’m no way near there.  But if you are, go check it out!

More details can be found here:

(There’s gotta be a joke in here someplace about going as Bottom and not needing a costume at all…..)

Can We Call This The Falstaff Contest?

I must be getting old because I don’t understand about 9o% of this “Candy Council of Cool” blog post.  But one bit did catch my attention (more specifically it caught my filter’s attention, and then mine :)).  I don’t fully understand what sort of initiation they’re talking about, but the challenge sounds fun:

First, they had to memorize and exchange Shakespearean lines (Act II, Scene 1 of “The Merry Wives of Windsor”) in 10 minutes; and Second, they had to eat the most number of donuts in 10 seconds!

Memorize Shakespeare and eat donuts?  I think I want to join.

The fact that they picked Merry Wives, featuring our loveably corpulent Falstaff, makes it that much more enjoyable.  I wonder if they did that on purpose?

Happy National(?) Poetry Day

Well I’m not in the UK so it’s not technically my nation, but Shakespeare’s home turf is celebrating National Poetry Day today (Thursday, Oct 8).  It didn’t feel right to not mention it just because I’m over here across the pond.

Anybody want to offer up some poetry for the occasion?

I’ll forego the sonnets and offer up some Ariel, instead:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell.

In Good Gay Company

When you see an article about the Top 10 great people in history who might be gay, the question is not whether Shakespeare will be on the list but what number he’ll come in at.

In this case, the author has him at #10.  No big surprises and no editorializing, either.  In fact his case is full of “people think” logic, primarily about the sonnets.  Nothing new under the sun:

The only indication that Shakespeare could have been gay was his sonnets, which were not intended for publication. A huge fraction of these sonnets address his love for, they say, a young man. If you read them, you’ll be blown away by the intense romantic feelings in them that would really make anyone easily conclude that the poet was actually involved in a homosexual affair.

What I love, though, and wish the article’s author had picked up on, was that he’s got Sir Francis Bacon at #5 but doesn’t mention the Authorship connection at all.  This guy would have been my new favorite person if his description of why we think Bacon was gay had included

The only indication that Bacon could have been gay was his sonnets, which were not intended for publication. A huge fraction of these sonnets address his love for, they say, a young man. If you read them, you’ll be blown away by the intense romantic feelings in them that would really make anyone easily conclude that the poet was actually involved in a homosexual affair.

Ah well, next time.  I can only imagine what they’re saying about this one on the “Alexander The Great Geek” blog. :)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

What Part Of Infinite Gave Them Trouble?

This article on the value (or lack thereof) of “frivolous” research starts out with the example of whether monkeys can write Shakespeare.  The answer is no, they just basically poop on typewriter, though they did tend toward a fondness for the letter S.  This cost a month of research to find out.

The thing that bugs me most about this is that it is the definition of frivolous.  Which researcher misunderstands the concept of infinite?

It is NOT an experiment in the intelligence of monkeys.  It is a statement of statistical probability at infinite scales.  The question was never *can* they, it was always *would* they.  Because theoretically the answer is yes.  Quick reasoning : Have you typed the complete works of Shakespeare yet?  No?  Then keep typing.  Repeat until you do.

The problem is that, realistically, you end up with a more meaningful answer like “It would take greater than the age of the universe to even get through one play.”  So while it might be a true statement, it is a uselessly true one.

On a different note, I’ve lost track the different ways I hear the theorem quoted.  One monkey, infinite typewriters.  A thousand monkeys, a million monkeys.  “Now that we have the Internet we know this to not be true.”  haha.  Insert “twitter” for “internet” and haha again.

My favorite?

If you locked William Shakespeare in a room with a typewriter for a long enough period of time, eventually he would type the complete works of The Monkees.

Update :  Speaking of monkeys, Savage Chickens chimes in today with a particularly relevant comic :)

Burger King Shakespeare

Has everybody caught the new Burger King commercial, the one with Tony Stewart in a lie detector?

The story is that Burger King’s new pitch man will be connected, live, to a lie detector and asked how much he loves the new Whopper.  Interesting?

I’m pointing it out here because one of the questions the examiner asks is, “Do you love the Whopper more than the works of William Shakespeare?”  He, of course, says yes.

He is not a Shakespeare geek.

(*) I’m looking for a video, or the transcript, but can’t find either yet.  So if anybody knows the exact Shakespeare quote, let me know.

Practical Jokes in Shakespeare?

I’m taking this one straight out of Emsworth's blog because he basically called me out by name:

If the Shakespeare Geek were inviting his readers to rank their favorite practical joke scenes in Shakespeare, our favorite would be the trick Falstaff’s fellow villains played him on the highway near Gadshill. (Our second favorite is the hilarious scene in All’s Well in which the blindfolded Paroles all too readily betrays his comrades.)

Ok, people, whatcha got?  Do we count Puck’s translation of Bottom as a practical joke?  Does setting up Beatrice and Benedick count as a joke?  Should we make a list of what all the practical joke scenes *are*, before we discuss which is best?

Who Exactly Is The “Great Killing Machine”?

David Bates of “Reading Everest” introduced himself and his blog to me this weekend, and I find his current post about Macbeth pretty cool. 

Quoting Harold Bloom he refers to Macbeth as the killing machine – but then goes on to point out that Macbeth is only responsible for 3 deaths, and those offstage.  Hamlet, meanwhile, Shakespeare’s most intelligent character and certainly the darling of Bloom’s work, is directly responsible for the deaths of Claudius, Polonius (even if he didn’t know it was Polonius, he still wanted him dead), and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  He’s debatably got a hand in Ophelia’s insanity and eventual suicide.  As David asks, what would he have done to Gertrude if the ghost hadn’t stepped in?  (Actually he asks whether Hamlet would have done Gertrude in before Polonius, but I don’t think that was ever a possibility.  After, though, when he’d gotten himself worked up….)

Macbeth *is* a killing machine.  He’s introduced that way.  Everybody loves the “unseamed him from knav to chaps” line, describing Macbeth’s prowess on the battlefield.  I think that his physical size and power has a great deal to do with the point of the story.  It’s not about who’s the biggest and strongest.  Macbeth the monster is manipulated by his wife.  She then goes down to her own internal demons, not to some assassin’s blade.  Does Macbeth remain a killing machine at the end?  Is Macduff fighting the same guy he would have in the opening scene?  Or is the monster a broken shell of himself at the end?

UPDATE : Link to the original post, which I shamefully forgot when I originally posted this.  My sincere apologies to David.

Prominent and Obscure Shakespeare Plays

Lifted from a comment on my Top Ten Shakespeare Plays story, Michael5000 did a far deeper look at the plays based on things like how well people can recall the name of the play, how well the books sell, and so on.

I’m not going to steal his thunder, but I am going to zero in on a couple of fascinating things:

* One of his lists echoes our own list almost identically, except for one glaring difference – Henry VI shows up on theirs.  Nobody in all of my voting has even mentioned Henry VI.

* His most obscure, Two Noble Kinsmen, is hardly a surprise – until recently it wasn’t even considered part of the complete works!  I only learned about it in 2005, personally.  Never read it.

* Measure for Measure shows up on his obscure list.  I’ve had several people put it on their top ten best list.  That sounds like a “hidden gem” of Shakespeare’s if I’ve ever heard one!

* In the final analysis, Lear ranks surprisingly low.  That’s a good indicator of what he’s measuring (not that that’s a bad thing).  People are way, way more familiar with Romeo and Juliet.  People will go through their whole lives without knowing anything about Lear.

Anyway, it’s a great bunch of data that folks can have a field day with.  Which play is the most quotable, and is that a good indicator of the play’s popularity?  What about how often the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has chosen to perform certain plays over others?

Go check it out.

Bard’s Dream : More IPhone Shakespeare!

Ok, let’s face it, if you’ve got an iPhone you’ve got the Complete Works app.  It’s free, it’s awesome, go get it.

But is that it?  Is Shakespeare on the iPhone done?

Oh, heck no.

Omnitoons has thrown down the competitive gauntlet with their Bard’s Dream, a graphic novel adaptation of Midsummer Night’s Dream.  With it’s new $1.99 price (more on that later) I’m hoping to start a stampede for this one.

I was skeptical at first, especially with a $2.99 pricetag for a single play (in a competitive landscape where the text of the complete works is free?)  But then they released a Lite version (act 1 only) and I got a peek, and my opinion completely flipped.  I’m very impressed with this idea.

I wonder, of all the people in that opening paragraph who have the free Complete Works app ever actually *read* the thing.  I’ll admit, I don’t.  I keep it for reference, but I don’t break it out for pleasure.

With Bard’s Dream you could cruise through the something like 1000 frames and just enjoy the pictures.  You know the play, but you don’t know how they’ve chosen to render it, so there’s something new.  Even better, and maybe this will turn out to be their hook, is that they’ve packaged both the original and “modern” translation, and you can flip back and forth.  (This by itself is not new, we’ve reviewed Manga Shakespeare and Classic Comics which have done the exact same thing – but dynamically putting them both in front of you at the same time?  Wonderful idea.)

Disclaimer : When I saw the app come through at $2.99 I commented on Twitter that I found it too expensive.  This got me in contact with the Omnitoons folks, and I made my case – no opportunity to take it for a test drive, competing against the free version, etc…  I suggested more like a $1.99 price.  I don’t expect that I’m the only one they talked to, but now that they’ve actually *done* it, I certainly feel obliged to back them up on their decision.  I am not getting any sort of kickback or affiliate link out of the deal.

It’s not perfect.  1000 frames is a *long* story.  You don’t get much text on a page.  In a graphic novel world you might see 6 or 8 frames on a page, but here you’re getting 1 frame at a time.  That ends up making a relatively short story like Dream look like War and Peace.  On the other hand, you just paid for this visual entertainment, so you want to get your money’s worth, no?  There’s something to be said for it not being over too quickly.

Four things I’d like to see:

1) Turn the engine into a player in general, and give me the chance to buy more plays.  If Hamlet comes out as a micropayment for 99 cents inside this app?  I’d be all over it.  Heck, I’d probably buy them all like that – and now suddenly you can envision a company making something like $38 off the complete works, while the competition is giving it away.  That’d be fun.

2) I’d love to see the language flipper be more dynamic so that, right from the page, you could change back and forth.  That’d bring it closer to the side-by-side approach used by some of the No Fear versions, and give people a better understanding of “Oh, ok, when Shakespeare says this he really means that….”

3) Much like Classic Comics did, make 3 versions.  Keep the original text, a “modern” text that tries to be a direct translation, and then a “quick text” which is much shorter and looser.  I turned my 7yr old geeklet daughter loose on this app with the modern text, and it was still too advanced for her.  But, she’s the perfect audience to appreciate the graphic novel illustrations.  So if the text was a little bit more on target for her, she’d be a total fan.

4) There’s a typo on their title screen, they call it “Nights Dream” with no apostrophe.  In all their literature it’s correct, they just missed it in their title graphic.  That’s incredibly trivial, but it bugs me :).

I think I’m going to like this company.  I originally commented that I love their attitude – in the description of their own app they even write of the competition, saying something like “Besides the app that we all know everybody has, including us.  How could we not?”  Then later, they refer to their “modern” translation as being for “intelliwannabees”.  That’s pushing the boundaries a bit, you run the risk of turning off people who actually want that translation.  But I loved it :).  I especially love that they spotted my commentary, opened up a dialogue, and appear to have listened.

If you’re a Shakespeare Geek with an iPhone, you’re gonna want to check this one out.  Now that they’ve got a free Lite version (whether or not that was at my urging as well, I don’t know :)), what have you got to lose? How many of us live by that “more Shakespeare is always a good thing” mantra?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

What’s Worse Than Perez Hilton Talking About Shakespeare?

It looks like the new Othello, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is getting some pretty bad reviews.

What’s even worse is that Perez Hilton, quite possibly the most hated  celebrity blogger on the planet, saw fit to mention it.

Seriously, anyone who’s only value add is to scribble “FML!” over a picture of the star isn’t allowed to use the word Shakespeare.  Slow gossip day, you think?  Maybe he can ask him if he supports gay marriage!  Or maybe he could call him names and see if he gets punched in the face?

Oh, wait, that was a different Will.I.Am.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Apparently There’s Quite A Lot In A Name

Interesting find here at “Dewey Dink” blog called, “Shakespeare, or, How To Destroy At Elizabethan Idol.”  It seems to start with the premise of “You think Shakespeare was trying to make a bold statement about what was wrong with his culture, but really he was just playing into what he knew would work.”  Which we’ve heard before – the whole “is Merchant of Venice anti-Semitic, or what?” argument.

I’m linking it, though, for the emphasis that the author puts on messages left by Shakespeare in character names.  They include:

Othello –> a cross between “brothel” and “bordello”

Desdemona –> contains “demon” right there in the middle

Romeo –>  “Rome”, a symbol of the Catholic Church

Juliet –> “J”esus

Rosaline –> Rosa, the Rose, aka Virgin Mary

Lear –> leer, a suggestive sidelong glance suggestive of sexual desire or malice

Hamlet –> a small village without a church (emphasis his)

Macbeth –> …beth –> Elizabeth, as in Queen Elizabeth

Shylock –> wedlock / warlock

Portia –> Porcius –> Pig

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Columbine Shakespeare

Why did I never hear that Eric Harris, one of the Columbine school shooters, quoted Shakespeare all over the place?

The first reference is a quotation from The Tempest: “Good wombs have born bad sons.” Eric wrote this in his school planner on the day marked “Mother’s Day” (he also reportedly recited the line on a video he made about the upcoming attack).

The article in general I think is a little weak, I’m more interested in the Shakespeare connection.  Oh, he has an overachieving brother so you think that maybe he’s referring to himself as the bad son, that maybe he’s got some image issues, feels like he disappointed his mother?  You need a degree to read that into it?

Then the article takes a bit of a leap, though, with the second reference:

Eric also made another reference to The Tempest. He complained about people who “criticize anyone who isn’t one your social words, ‘normal’ or ‘civilized’ – see: Tempest and Caliban.”


What the article does not mention (does anybody know the answer to this?) is whether, being a high school student, Harris had in fact just read The Tempest?  It’s not uncommon – just watch Twitter – for kids in the middle of their literature homework to identify with aspects of the particular story, whatever it may be.  If you tell me he was an overachieving kid in his own right who was never assigned Shakespeare, but who read it of his own accord and made the connections himself, I’ll find it fascinating.  But if he’s quoting The Tempest just because it was on his homework that week, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal any more than if he’d had Cheerios that morning and commented on those.

Hamlet Recites Poker Face, by Lady Gaga

I don’t follow any of the late night talk shows.  I did notice, courtesy FeliciaDay on Twitter, that Jude Law, who is currently doing Hamlet on Broadway, was on Jimmy Fallon.  Normally that wouldn’t ping my radar at all, since rolling credits on people is common in such references.  I can’t tell you how many stories about Gwynneth Paltrow I’ve read just because she was in Shakespeare in Love.  Or Joseph Fiennes, now starring in the new series Flash Forward, for the same reason.

But the story cropped up a couple of times, and I got some more information.  Not only does Law engage in a Nerf duel with Jimmy Fallon, but he “reads dramatically” from Lady Gaga’s hit(?), Poker Face.

It’s a short clip, but if you’re interested in such things you might find it fun.  They don’t actually talk about anything in the 3 minutes of this clip, so I’m left wondering if this was like the closing portion of a longer segment or something.