Monday, June 28, 2010
The Tavern is very highly regarded for their "original practice" style, and we've spoken of them often here on the blog. One of their staff, Ann, has been a regular contributor in the past (though I'm not sure if she's still hanging out with us). If you've got some bucks to donate and want to support Shakespeare, Atlanta can certainly put your generosity to good use.
at 10:19 PM
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Every time I showed my wife the t-shirts I was making she'd say, "I don't like big stuff on the front. Why not make just a little Shakespeare up in the corner, like an emblem? And then put something big on the back if you want."
Worth a shot.
I've added three new shirts, all in the same basic style - a white-on-dark image taken from the Chandos portrait that I use as my logo. The image really only works in this scheme - I've tried dark-on-light but it doesn't look good. Please note that "Customize" button - all of these are available in all men's and women's styles and colors (just dark ones).
The difference between the three is in the text:
at 3:39 PM
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
We know that modern audiences tend to appreciate a story with even the hint of a Shakespeare plot line : West Side Story. Ten Things I Hate About You. Lion King. "Hey," people tell each other, "Did you know that's based on a Shakespeare story?"
Thing is, we also know that Shakespeare simply rewrote existing stories.
So if you remove Shakespeare's words and retreat back to the story, where does the inherent value and appeal come from? Do we like it because we associate it with Shakespeare and therefore lift it up more than we might? Or are we looking at the deeper story that predates Shakespeare, that caused even Shakespeare himself to say "Hey, that's good, I should borrow that."
Take Romeo and Juliet. We know that Shakespeare rewrote that one. He added characters and changed some stuff around. So what if we staged the Romeo and Juliet story today, without those additions? Would it still work? And if it didn't, would that be because it wasn't as good a story until Shakespeare got to it? Or has the Shakespearean version become so ingrained in our brains that if we recognize it as "not Shakespeare" then it's just not as good?
at 9:07 AM
Monday, June 21, 2010
Whenever an interesting question comes up where Shakespeare didn't necessarily make it clear what he meant, people start to split up. Some folks dig into the text, and others move away from it and into pure conjecture.
So I'm imagining a line. On the far left is "perfect Shakespeare". As if we jumped in a time machine and travelled back in time 400+ years so that we could see, and thus mimic, exactly what Shakespeare meant and said and why he meant and said it. Of course we'd have to actually go back and live there for a little while to get the right frame of reference, we couldn't just pop in for a show, but you get the idea.
On the other hand is pure interpretation. Or at least, pure in the sense that you've retained only the essence of the original, to the point where maybe "inspiration" is a better idea. West Side Story comes to mind, or Lion King. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is an interesting case, because on the one hand it's entirely the imagination of Stoppard, but he's weaved it beautifully into the original source material.
So, where do you put yourself on that spectrum? Would the time machine be interesting to you? Do you care at all about West Side Story sorts of production that have no actual Shakespeare content? What's your opinion on each end?
I'm somewhere closer to the "inspiration" side than the time machine side. I think that for Shakespeare to have remained relevant for this long, the important part has to lie more in the common core than in the details of what that specific audience would have known going into the show. I do like source material. That's where I draw the line. If ya ain't speaking lines that Shakespeare gave you, then have a nice day and go wait over there. I'll enjoy you, but you don't get to be in the same camp as those that use the source. Make sense? Take Shakespeare in Love. Obviously, most of the lines in that movie are not in their original context. Don't care - they're still good lines.
It's not that I don't like the lessons in Elizabethan history. They're ... interesting. But when the lesson becomes "To understand Shakespeare you have to understand the following," I start to lose it. I don't *want* that to be true. I want to be able to meet someone who's never heard of Shakespeare and say "Watch this" and know that he can still come away seeing the genius. You may understand it more if you study it, but that of course is true of everything. When it's presented as an obstacle to understanding, that's when I camp myself on the side of the folks that don't and possibly never will know or care about that stuff. And then I go searching for as much of that core/essence that I can find, and share it with those folks.
at 8:41 PM
Saturday, June 19, 2010
I like when I have questions about a particular scene in Shakespeare, and it turns out that there is no answer. That means I didn't miss something :). In this case the question was, "Does Ophelia hand out real flowers corresponding to what she says, does she hand out something like sticks or other generic thing that she's only imagining are flowers, or is she holding nothing at all?"
I posted on the question and got two answers - "I've seen both" and "It depends on the director." The second came from ... ahem ... Stanley Wells. Why he's following me on Twitter I have no idea, but it gave me a thrill.
So, let's talk about it, since it's not a simple answer. I think that most folks agree that the flowers she describes are not a random assortment. Each has a meaning, and thus a message. If it is staged that she gives out the actual flowers, I personally think that would ruin it. She still had enough wits about her to find the flowers and then deliver them like secret messages to their targets, like some sort of fish wrapped in newspaper ala the Godfather? I don't think so.
At the other end is the idea that she's got nothing - that she's delusional, and imagining that she's holding the flowers. This makes far more sense. She wants to speak her mind to the queen and king, but she's unable to do that. So she imagines herself picking these flowers and being bold enough to walk up and hand them out. She's not, of course. That's the point. Hamlet can handle it, she can't.
Know what I just noticed? Maybe I'm stupid for never seeing this before, but ...
- Hamlet's dad? Dead. Killed by someone he would have thought to be a trusted friend/family member. The person he'd naturally turn to, his girlfriend, has basically dumped him.
- Ophelia's dad? Dead. Killed by someone she would have thought to be a trusted friend/family member. The person she'd naturally turn to, her boyfriend, is essentially stolen from her given that he's the one that killed her dad.
- Hamlet probably had no strong relationship with his uncle Claudius before this. So while it is a shock to be sure, as any murder would be, it's not that "my whole world has been shattered by this news" order of magnitude that, say, Ophelia experiences.
- Hamlet has at least one friend, Horatio. Ophelia has nobody.
- Hamlet, the prince, has got the whole castle wondering what's wrong with him and how they can fix it. Ophelia's own father thinks he knows everything about his daughter, and thus pays attention to nothing.
at 9:02 AM
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Well the idiot's getting his day in court yet again, and now we learn that he actually mutilated the book in a moronic attempt to somehow disguise it:
Raymond Scott, 53, ripped the binding, boards and pages from the 1623 Shakespeare First Folio before claiming to have discovered it in Cuba, Newcastle Crown Court heard.
So much about this story makes me angry. To steal anything is bad enough. To steal a nearly one-of-a-kind item, that much worse. To then deface it, because you're too stupid to realize that every smudge on every page of the book has been micro-catalogued, and changing page 1 does not mean that pages 200-300 are not exactly the same? That's criminal. On top of that the guy has totally make a mockery of the whole system, showing up to court in various silly costumes, usually climbing out of a horse and carriage or some other ridiculous means of transportation.
Send him to jail, fix the book as best we can, and let's move on.
at 9:33 PM
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Over the past few months some folks have mentioned getting "mailbox full" messages when trying to email me. Most of the time somebody was trying to send an attachment, so I just assumed the attachments were too big.
Today I discovered that my quota was set at like 1% of its capacity. That'd certainly explain it!
I apologize for the inconvenience. If you had something to email me and gave up because you couldn't get through, please try again.
at 12:22 PM
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
The Momentum Theatre Company are my new heroes for their Theatre Truck which does literally what I just said, they've built a portable "actors' jungle gym" that reminds everybody of a Transformers robot. And their first show? "A very physical interpretation of The Tempest." Awesome.
[ Found via Facebook, courtesy Jim W. Thanks Jim! ]
at 12:24 PM
Monday, June 14, 2010
Weeks after Hitler took power in 1933 an official party publicationWhile the Nazis were banning all "foreign influences", Hitler himself gave Shakespeare a pass, something they did for no one else.
appeared entitled Shakespeare - a Germanic Writer, a counter to
those who wanted to ban all foreign influences. At the Propaganda Ministry,
Rainer Schlosser, given charge of German theatre by Goebbels, mused
that Shakespeare was more German than English. After the outbreak of the
war the performance of Shakespeare was banned, though it was quickly
lifted by Hitler in person, a favour extended to no other.
My question is this - how do you feel about that? Does it say more about Shakespeare, or about the Nazis? Is it possible that there is a germ of something in Shakespeare's work that reinforces what the Nazis believed in? Or is the other way around, is there something so universal in Shakespeare's work that it still managed to touch whatever shred of humanity might still be buried inside them?
I suppose there is a third option, which seems the most likely the more I think about it -- that the Nazis were just very, very good at corrupting whatever they wanted to say whatever they needed. Just because they found idea that they liked in Hamlet does not in any way suggest that Shakespeare meant for them to be there. Or is that just hindsight, protecting our literary idol?
Thoughts? Is it even possible to have a rational discussion about Nazis?
at 10:00 PM
Sunday, June 13, 2010
On the one hand this can be a good thing. There's plenty of Shakespeare-related stuff that I want to do and just never have time for, so maybe in the coming days I'll actually get to some of that.
On the other, let's be realistic - there's nothing I can do with this site, even under the most generous of circumstances, that would pay my mortgage and health insurance. So I need a day job.
Thus my interruption and temporary plea. If you happen to know of anybody in the Massachusetts / New Hampshire area, your company or otherwise, hiring folks in the "software architect" space, particularly the Java/Rails flavor, please hook a geek up and send me details. I've got 20 years of experience as a professional software engineer, web and otherwise, and have touched more modern technologies than I could name (it would be shorter and more accurate to just say "all of them"). Please do not just send links to your friend-who-is-a-recruiter, I have plenty of recruiters on the case already. What I need now are the leads that are more often filled by word-of-mouth that never make it out to the agencies.
Thanks very much!
On a related note, just because the site isn't my main source of income doesn't mean that your generosity goes unappreciated. My sincere thanks to the people that have been hitting that Tip Jar button and those buying merchandise! I shall do my best to invest it all back into improving the site's quality and adding new features.
Ok, back to Shakespeare. Have I said thanks? Thanks!
at 9:37 PM
Even better? I threw out the idea recently of performing Pyramus and Thisbe during the wedding reception...and she tells me she convinced her groom to go for it! I still don't know if she's kidding, that is just too awesome to be true.
Now we have a favor (ahem) to ask about ... favors. I want to be in this wedding, because she wants to give out Shakespeare favors. How cool is that?
Idea #1 is Mini Leather-bound Shakespeare.
Need more ideas. What makes a good "Shakespeare wedding favor"? I swear this has nothing to do with my Shakespeare wedding book, although I will almost certainly add a section on favors now that it's come up. :)
at 9:19 PM
Friday, June 11, 2010
Plimoth Plantation invites you to a lively,
hour-long live performance of snippets of Shakesperean songs and scenes.
Shakespeare in a Song is a unique production combining the words of
Shakespeare set to modern and traditional tunes, interspersed with
performance excerpts from some of the Bard's most popular plays. The
Unicorn Singers, an 18 person-chamber chorus, will be joining The
Plimoth Plantation Players (a 6 man Shakespeare production company) for
this unique performance of historic words coupled with contemporary
at 6:49 PM
Still, though, nice to imagine. Although I don't think I'm ready for her to play Cleopatra, I'd like to pretend she can still get away with Helena/Hermia in Dream, maybe. Or she'd make a killer Shrew. Work her way up to Lady M.
If we got Angelina doing Shakespeare, what role would you give Brad Pitt?
at 6:45 PM
Thursday, June 10, 2010
So with that in mind and some help from NiceTranslator.com I typed that sentence (using "To be or not to be, that is the question" in case there were grammatical considerations in some languages) and asked it for a translation into some 50 different languages. I'm not sure how well this is going to handle all the special characters, but we'll worry about that later. Right now I'm fascinated by the languages that fit a sort of "B O N B" pattern, where B is their word for "to be", O for "or", "N" for not.
I imagined something like a Shakespearean Rosetta stone, where you knew that the language in front of you, that'd you never seen before, represented Hamlet. How much of that language's rules, vocabulary and grammar might you be able to discern?
The similarities, rather than the differences, are most fascinating. Consider Dutch: Zijn of niet zijn, dat is de vraag. Fits my "B O N B" pattern quite nicely. Now consider Turkish : Olmak ya da olmamak, bu soru için. With a slight change to the second instance of B (olmak -> olmamak), it still fits. But would you have ever imagined similarities in language between Dutch and Turkish? Or Czech: Být či nebýt, to je otázka, where the negation is written as a single word, Být becoming nebýt.
Disclaimer : I'm aware that these probably go under the heading of "literal translation" and thus are more subject to matching the pattern in the original source, than if you were to ask a native speaker to translate it more freely. Understood. But there are still plenty of languages on this list that don't fit the pattern, so clearly there's some level of reasoning that goes into the translation.
at 2:23 PM
at 10:35 AM
Wednesday, June 09, 2010
Know what it takes me all of 10 minutes to learn? These suck. Why does every language lesson start you out on Hello, GoodBye, Yes, No, and then "I speak German. Do you speak German?" No I don't speak German, I know how to say Hello and Goodbye. How about some actual vocabulary or grammar? I don't want to learn this language to have a polite but shallow conversation about the weather, I want to learn the language to actually learn the language. I would rather speak like Tarzan and be able to get my point across than to be limited to polite shrugs and repeatedly saying "I didn't understand you." They say that it's easier for children to learn a foreign language, and I think I know why. It has nothing to do with our brains, it's because children don't know what they don't know, and they have no fear of sounding foolish because to them it's the only way to communicate. We as adults are so worried about speaking properly right away that it takes us way too long to get any sort of foundation in what we're saying.
So, here's my idea. I don't have the skills to run with this, but maybe somebody out there does. I think it could be a winner. I know I'd jump all over it:
Take a completely different approach. Start with a classic work of literature (I'd say "...for Shakespeare Geeks", but why limit it?) For each lesson take a snippet of some piece of literature that the English-speaking student is expected to have some familiarity with. Now, teach that snippet in a different language. Work through the translation. Explain word choice, grammar choice, and even cultural significance if it's necessary. My German friends are quick to point out that the complete works have two entirely different translations. Perfect. I would like a lesson that compares them and explains to me, as an English speaker, how and more importantly why they differ. You wouldn't have to explain Shakespeare, though, and that's the best part. We've already come into it knowing what the other person intended to say. It just so happens that he said it differently, and you're explaining to us why he chose those words to express himself instead of the ones with which we are more familiar.
Bonus, since Shakespeare in particular is so well-suited to performance, this approach lends itself wonderfully to both written and spoken lessons. You could go either way. I can see text side-by-side on a page, or I can hear somebody recite "To be or not to be" in German. I'd expect that the best solution would be a combination of the two.
I'd be willing to bet that a student of this method would be able to read documents in their new language must faster. Maybe they wouldn't be able to hold much of a conversation, true. But people have different priorities. I don't know anybody who speaks German, and even if I did chances are that they probably speak English as well. But on the other hand there's all sorts of literature written in German (including German web pages?) that I might want to read. Now what?
If a German-language speaker out there wants to give this a shot, I'll volunteer as first student.
at 9:54 AM
Over on DeviantArt we have Tasper's homage to Myst, ala The Tempest:
I'm at work so I don't have much of a change to play it, but I couldn't not link it. How often do we get a Tempest game?
at 9:24 AM
I've taken the best of our discussions on the topic and put them together into an e-book called, Not by Shakespeare : Correctly Attributing The Most Popular Things That Shakespeare Didn't Say and made it available for download. It's free and it's only about 7 pages. Many of my regular readers will no doubt already know everything that it says, but I'd love it if people can do me the favor of reading/downloading and maybe rating it? Helps the rankings.
The challenge is this : Bookmark that. Or download your own copy, your choice. But now be on the lookout, be it via Twitter or Facebook, email signatures or Google searches. When you spot one of these incorrectly attributed quotes, send the person a nice note and a link to this document. Let's see if we can fix the problem. I'd expect that most people don't really care who said it, but at least now they know and I bet they'll stop calling it Shakespeare next time.
at 9:11 AM
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
I'm wondering about something different. In what country/region, not counting the United States and Great Britain, is Shakespeare most beloved? That is, in what non-English language do they speak of him the most? I'm not asking about translations, since after all you translate him once and you're essentially done. I mean how much stuff is written *about* Shakespeare in foreign languages? Could I for instance find the equivalent of a "No Fear Shakespeare" or a "Lamb's Tales" in Chinese or Arabic? I'm not even sure how I'd go about finding something like that out.
Update : A strong vote for Germany! I had no idea there were so many resources.
at 1:02 PM
I've always assumed that there was some sort of connection, but never knew what it was. Apparently neither did Mr. Asimov
(who I am now trying read for research into my wedding project), who speculates that either Shakespeare was working on the comedy version and decided to try his hand at telling a more serious version ... or that he'd written the serious version and now wanted to poke some fun at himself. Once Mr. Asimov has answered a question (in this case as being unanswerable) I no longer have motivation to waste time trying to answer it myself :).
But it does offer up a place for opinion. What do you think the relationship is between the two plays, in Shakespeare's mind? Was he working on them both at the same time? Which came first, and fed the other? Or are they really independent and the overlap has more to do with the common source material he drew from, nothing more?
Personally I like to think that he did R&J first and then satirized himself in Dream. But I have no evidence to back that up one way or the other.
at 10:31 AM
Monday, June 07, 2010
Ah well, I'm not going anywhere. We'll do something special for the 10 year ;)
Anybody want to see some ancient history? Check the links to my original posts:
- Shakespeare ala Wikipedia, June 8, 2005: http://blog.shakespearegeek.com/2005/06/shakespeare-ala-wikipedia.html
- Thou odiferous rude-growing harpy! June 8, 2005 http://blog.shakespearegeek.com/2005/06/thou-odiferous-rude-growing-harpy.html (Man, that insult generator has been around longer than I have!)
- Understanding Shakespeare : Romeo and Juliet June 12, 2005 http://blog.shakespearegeek.com/2005/06/understanding-shakespeare-romeo-and.html (My first post of original content.)
- What was Prospero's original plan? June 26, 2005 http://blog.shakespearegeek.com/2005/06/tempest-what-was-prosperos-original.html (Funny how important that question must have been to me, it was one of the first things I put out to my audience. Of course back then I had no audience!
at 1:35 PM
Two years ago I reviewed Blixt's original Shakespeare novel, The Master of Verona. Looking at it now, I'll snip a bit that seems most relevant:
But I can say that I enjoyed this book, very much. I have reviewed books that I felt were a chore, and looked at the end with relief that I could move on. With this one I anxiously returned to my reading each morning and evening (train to work, don'cha know), honestly curious about how it would end. As it seems set up for a sequel, I can honestlyWell it's a few years later, and we never did get that sequel. Now we know why. Well, sort of. David confirms for us that it's not coming (at least, not any time soon), but even he really has no idea why the publisher just sat on it and never moved forward. "Falconer will go into a drawer," he tells us, to "remain my secret for years to come."
say that I'd like to read the sequel. The politics and the prophecy don't mean much to me, but I can appreciate well developed characters and want to see how their lives turn out.
Mr. Blixt's next project (not counting the Michigan Shakespeare Festival) is apparently In The Shadow of Colossus, a "Roman novel." Since I know he's a regular reader and contributor, maybe this post will catch his eye and he'll give us a more detailed update on what to expect (and when)?
at 12:22 PM
Friday, June 04, 2010
I put out a message on Twitter yesterday (so, sorry if you're seeing this twice Twitter followers :)) that I was "Wearing my 'Mercutio drew first' t-shirt and looking for StarWars/Shakespeare geeks who get the joke." The response was quite overwhelming and I had a very large number of clicks through to the site. I later wrote that "In the George Lucas Romeo+Juliet, rumor has it Tybalt draws first." That got an even better reaction :)
Since not everybody follows Twitter I figured I'd post here as well. There really is such a t-shirt, I really did make it, and I really do have one. Comes in a variety of colors (both dark-on-light as well as the reverse) and styles (men/women/kids). Money made on sales goes back into supporting the site, buying stuff for reviews and giveaways, that sort of thing. (There are other ideas on the store as well, bumper stickers and the like, but this particular one seems to be the hit.)
When I put up a poll a few weeks back about the methods that people would find least offensive for monetarily supporting the site, "merchandise" and "tip jar" were the winners. So I am doing my best to fill a demand I was led to believe existed. Was I right?
Mercutio Drew First! Romeo & Juliet Light T-Shirt
P.S. - If you do buy one, could at least one person drop me a note and tell me so? I've newly created this storefront and quite frankly I'm not sure I've got it all wired up properly. So actual independent proof of "I bought product X at time Y" would go a long way toward me knowing that I'm actually getting credit when my stuff sells. Thanks!
at 11:24 AM
Thursday, June 03, 2010
No, this guy wants other people to send him video of themselves doing a sonnet. That's much more interesting.
Surely we've got some geeks in the audience who want a quick 15 seconds of Shakespeare fame? There is of course Will Sutton's project over at Sonnet.ILoveShakespeare.com but that's just audio. Who's got the guts to jump in front of the camera?
at 4:24 PM
Wednesday, June 02, 2010
I was going to call this old news, since the announcement of Patrick Stewart's knighthood went out some time ago (and many of us Shakespeare geeks have been referring to him as Sir Patrick since then). Apparently it's now official, ceremony complete - the article even has a picture.
No word on whether Queen Elizabeth asked him WTF was up with the shrug.
at 10:52 PM
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
- What did Shakespeare spend his money on?
- Did he keep a pet?
- Was he a fan of lighting and sound effects?
- What is his most overrated play?
I have to admit, they cover topics I'd never thought of. Or, rather, thought I'd known the obvious answer to. Was Will a good drinking buddy, or more shy and standoff-ish? Did Will Kemp really leave their group because of creative differences? How often (and when and why) did he get back to Stratford?
at 8:49 AM