Monday, February 28, 2011

Some Love For Dame Judi

Shakespeareans already have plenty of reasons to love Dame Judi Dench - but a few more never hurt. This article takes a quick trip through her career, sprinkling in some behind the scenes stories that just make her all the more awesome. My favorite? During Antony and Cleopatra, when her Antony (played by Anthony Hopkins, by the way) died in her arms whispering "You do act five, I'll be having a nice cup of tea."

Bonus points for the comparison to Sarah Bernhardt - who I just mentioned earlier today, and I swear I had not read this article when I did that. Small universe.

Washington Shakespeare Company To Repeat Klingon Performance

In case you missed it this past fall, the Washington Shakespeare Company is going to repeat their very popular night of Klingon Shakespeare:

"It's very entertaining," said Chris Henley, artistic director for the Washington Shakespeare Company. The company will act out scenes translated into Klingon from both "Hamlet" and "Much Ado About Nothing."
I gained much appreciation for this project when I realized that Mark Okrand - the guy who actually invented the Klingon Language - is chairman of the WSC board :). That's a match made in heaven. :)

Coming Soon : The Secret Confessions of Shakespeare's Wife

In this book of historical fiction, Anne Hathaway Shakespeare isn't the forgotten wife left behind to raise children as her playwright husband lives a theatrical life. In Ryan's version, Hathaway makes her own mark on the London art scene and writes some of her husband's plays - but without getting the credit.
Such is the description given for Arliss Ryan's "The Secret Confessions of Shakespeare's Wife", which it should be clearly noted is a work of fiction, people. Fiction. Relax and enjoy.

Compare with Shakespeare's Wife, by Germaine Greer if you want something more in the biography genre :).

Gender-Reversed Hamlet?

Helen Mirren just did it for Prospera in Taymor's Tempest, so why can't Yvonne Flack do the same with The Suffragette Hamlet, her own "truly new play" that gives her a chance to take on what she considers to be "every classical actor's dream, and secretly, every actress's."

I just never seriously thought I would be able to take on the role until [director Darcie Flansburg] approached me with the idea of a reverse-gender Hamlet.

What boggles my mind is that these students of their art - Ms. Flack's "entire dissertation is based around non-Western adaptations of the play" - seem not at all interested in mentioning Sarah Bernhardt, the legendary actress who portrayed Hamlet 100 years ago. Does this woman truly believe that a woman can't play a man's role?

NOTE - Do NOT miss that Sarah Bernhardt link, where we actually dug up some extraordinarily rare footage of Ms Bernhardt's fight scene with Laertes, in 1899! How often do you get to see THAT?

Taymor's Tempest, Coming to DVD

It was just recently that I was speaking with Christine, a fellow Shakespearean, about Shakespeare movies. Coriolanus, Gnomeo, The Tempest. "Who am I kidding," I told her, "It's The Tempest. I may not have loved it but I'll almost certainly get it on DVD when it comes out."

Well, it's coming out September 13. Will you be getting it? Apparently one of the extras is "Julie Taymor interviewing Russell Brand, as William Shakespeare." Having now read that, I may break it into little pieces shortly after watching it. We shall see.

I'm Gonna Make Cordelia An Offer She Can't Refuse

Wait, wait, wait... The Godfather was supposed to be a modern version of King Lear?

Ten Academy Awards nominations and the winner of 3 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay; the top-grossing film of the year, and a $134 million box-office hit; set in the mid to late 1940s NYC to the mid 1950s, a 10 year period, with Marlon Brando as Don Vito Corleone, head of the crime family; it was filmed as a modern version of Shakespeare's King Lear (featuring a king and three sons: hot-headed eldest Sonny, Fredo and Michael); the 'honorable' crime "family," working outside the system due to exclusion by social prejudice, was threatened by the rise of modern criminal activities - the "dirty" drug trade. Family loyalty and blood ties were juxtaposed with brutal and vengeful blood-letting, including Corleone's attempted assassination in 1945 after he refused to bankroll a crime rival's drug activities...

[ Spotted on's history of the Oscars ]

Anybody want to discuss that? Beyond the "king separating his empire among three children" bit I'm not sure how long it holds up. Is this a legitimate comparison, or more like how Lion King is supposed to be Hamlet?

Oh, There You Are, Gnomeo. At The Top Of The Chart?!

In case you missed this, our dear animated Shakespearean gnomes are now sitting at the #1 Box Office spot!

Granted, box office charts are an incredibly relative measure and based entirely on what else opened that weekend. But still! Three weeks in, and this kids movie is still hanging in there. That means more people have the chance to go see it. I still contend that's a good thing.

On the same subject, check out this article at Jim Hill Media which speaks of Disney's own happiness at the success of this one, and how honestly they had no idea. What to do now that their next kids' movie, Mars Needs Moms, comes out next week? Where should the advertising budget go? Decisions, decisions...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Do Over! Definitive Cinematic Versions. Go.

Ok, fine, nobody was willing to claim that any film could live up to the title of being the definitive interpretation of a play. I have to concede.

But I'll take Alexi's idea and open up a more specific topic -- definitive cinematic versions. Will that make everybody happy? What is the definitive cinematic version of, say, The Tempest?

What's a better definition for "definitive" in this case - would you call it the one you'd recommend to a friend as their first exposure to the story? Or would you go the other end of the spectrum and say, "No matter how many film versions of X you've seen, you simply must see Y."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Definitively. Maybe?

Today, Ian said to me that Taymor's The Tempest was far from the definitive film version of that play. Which made me think of a question.

What are the definitive versions?

Choose a Shakespeare play, and tell me what you feel is the definitive film version of that play. Availability of the film in question is not relevant - if ever in your life you get a chance to see Chimes At Midnight, you must see it. Please explain what your working definition of "definitive" is.

If we need some form of common ground to start the discussion, let me offer this - the definitive version is the one you would recommend to someone who has little/no experience with the play. This film will be their first exposure to it, therefore you want their experience to be as close to Shakespeare's ideal vision as possible.

Feel free to debate that, too. :) But no fair saying "go see it live", this is specifically about the ability to share a film, and to know that you can see a film, recommend it to a friend, and then have the experience of that film in common with others. That's near impossible with live theatre.

Private Romeo

Private Romeo is about to add to the list of modern Romeo and Juliet retellings. This time the story takes place in a boy's military academy, and takes the form of, what was it that Bardfilm told us to call it, a meta play? Where the plot has them acting out Romeo and Juliet the play, while simultaneously their lives mirror the story?

If "boys military academy" didn't give it away for you, I'll say it up front - this is a gay version of the story - or is it homosexual? I'm not sure what the preferred was is to say that, and I'm copying "gay Romeo and Juliet" right from their homepage so I'm assuming it's ok. I mentioned Were The World Mine, a gay version of Midsummer, to the creators of the movie who swear to me that theirs is nothing like that.

Judge for yourself, there's a very well-produced trailer on the site. I like the way they mix up the verse with the story, and am very very pleasantly surprised to see Queen Mab playing a big role. What I can't figure out from the trailer, though, and maybe this is deliberate - where is the "two households" bit? All I see is boys at a military academy. So, what, is it two different schools? Two different grade levels? I honestly have no idea, I can't tell which is a Capulet and which is Montague. Is this just a case of the gay gentlemen trying to survive in a world of straights?

Take Juliet out of the picture for a moment, an R&J is one heck of a male bonding story. You've got best friends goofing around, you've got enemies, you've got fights, you've got watching each other's back, you've got loyalty. If you want to make a bunch of that take place on a basketball court, why not? Of course, somebody has to play the Juliet role. I think that how they pull that off will be crucial to the success of the storytelling. This is not going to be a case where they name one of the boys Julian or something like that and we're supposed to figure it out -- Juliet is called, by name, multiple times in the trailer. So somebody's playing that role, as that role.

Now, I wonder if their soundtrack will be as killer as Were The World Mine? :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Romeo and Juliet Jeopardy

We're always on the lookout for good Shakespeare games, so here's a simple online Jeopardy game specifically about Romeo and Juliet Act One, or Act Two. It's a shame they didn't do all five acts :).

The game appears to run on the honor system -- pick a category and an amount, then read the question. You can then ask to reveal the correct answer, and it's up to you whether you think you got it. If so, score yourself some points. Doing this, and then hitting continue, will blank that particular square from the board and require that you pick another one.

Cute idea. I could see it having some use in a classroom, perhaps as a study guide. Really, though, it's just a fancy way to do flashcards.

There's plenty more to be found at Jeopardy Labs.

Tree's Tempest

Here's an interesting find. An online version of Beerbohm Tree's 1904 The Tempest, including all his edits to the text, cast list and so forth. I've got to sit down and read this, I'm intrigued. Does anybody know details about this particular version, and why somebody might have gone to the trouble of preserving it like this?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ke$sha As Shakespeare

Popeater has a funny collection of pop songs as spoken word pieces, like that time Jude Law read Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" on one of the late night talk shows.

Not much Shakespeare, but it's Sunday and I'm linking it because it's amusing - and because the book critic doing Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" does bring in a King Lear reference :).

"I thought I knew what 'try to touch my junk, junk' meant. A junk is a boat. So, you know, she could be in China."

Saturday, February 19, 2011

King Arthur

So today I was hanging out watching one of the many King Arthur movies, and a question dawned. Surely this story is far older than Shakespeare. Would Shakespeare have known this story? Do we have any idea why he chose not to tell it? I realize that there were many stories to retell and obviously he couldn't retell them all, just curious whether this one was significant back then and there was a reason why he never put his spin on it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ask A Director About ... Macbeth!

Here's a fun new feature for everybody. You may recognize Alexi as one of our most frequent commenters here on 'geek. Well, Alexi also happens to be directing The Scottish Play coming up, and we had an idea for a feature called (obviously), Ask A Director. What sorts of questions do you have for Alexi? I know I'd like to get the inevitable curse question out of the way by asking whether there was any particular bouts of bad luck on his set? Any injuries?

What else would you like to know? No boundaries, though of course Alexi's not required to answer, either :). Let's try to keep questions to the subject of directing this particular show, if at all possible - we've all got plenty of opportunities to voice our opinions on general issues of the day in other posts.

Who's got a good question?

Ambition. Deception. Guilt. Madness. Shakespeare's most harrowing tragedy has it all. See a twelve-person cast bring the rise and fall of Macbeth and his Lady to life in this innovative production.


Thursday, March 17th, 6:30 PM

Friday March 18th, 6:30 PM

Saturday, March 19th, 11:00 AM matinee

Saturday, March 19th 7:00 PM evening show

and Monday, March 21st, 6:30 PM

Location: St. Colman Church, 11 Simpson Road, Ardmore PA.

Admission is $6. Tickets can be pre-ordered at

The ShakesPEER Group is a not-for-profit student-run theatre group. Previous productions have included Othello, Merchant of Venice, Hamlet, and The Importance of Being Earnest.

The production's Facebook page can be found here:
View a trailer on Youtube here:

Who Do We Blame / Where Do We Start?

Fresh topic, spinning off the Gnomeo related discussions re: the Disnefication of Shakespeare.

I think we all generally agree that we'd like to see more acceptance, familiarity and understanding of Shakespeare in the world around us. We don't want to hear that he's hard, or boring, or complex, or irrelevant. We want our kids to approach the subject in school with excitement, not fear. We want to spot a Shakespeare reference in the wild and discover to our great joy that we're not the only person in the room that understood it. :) Fair enough? Any of those statements untrue?

Ok, next question. Why don't we have this, and where should we focus our attention in order to fix it? I'm referring here to actual people - you can't fix a system or an infrastructure unless you can communicate with the people who made it that way in the first place.

I figure there's at least three logical places to start:

1) Education. I'd say "teachers", but I don't think that's enough - I think many are probably constrained by curriculum requirements, standardized testing, out of date text books, stuff like that. So I'll make this the broad category of "people who are charged with educating our children." (NOTE, since I know I've got plenty of teachers reading!! I am not intending to suggest that every teacher everywhere is doing it wrong. Hardly. I'm saying, and I hope we're in general agreement, that there is often an overall attitude toward how and when Shakespeare should be taught, that is perhaps out of date and in need of some overhaul.)

2) Parents. My kids are growing up on Shakespeare because I love it. But what about all the kids out there whose parents hated Shakespeare, and thus have no interest in instilling a love of the subject in their kids? Can we approach them, and enlighten them regarding what they missed? If we're assuming that Shakespearean education has been somewhat broken for a very long time, we can't hold it against the parents that they hated Shakespeare in school. We can, however, attempt to fix it.

3) The kids. "Blame" is not the right word here, but it's a place to start. If you weren't hanging out on this blog, when would you think to expose kids to Shakespeare? High school? Maybe middle school? Why is that, exactly, because you just trust the educational system and that's the way it's done? Why not elementary school? As we address a younger audience we continue to simplify, focusing more on the story and the action and less on the words. So how far back can you take that? Couldn't I read The Tempest to my 2yr old as a bed time story? What's the difference between that and Cinderella? If we start by assuming that there are certain kids who simply should not be exposed to Shakespeare, I think we're doing them a disservice.

There's no right answer - the only right answer is, obviously, "start everywhere." What I'm looking for is the chink in the proverbial armor (so to speak). The place where, if we focused enough energy, we'd break through and cause some real change.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Shakespeare Got To Get Paid, Son

You may have seen the NY Times article going around, but Slate's got a quick summary if you prefer. A bunch of authors (James Shapiro among them - is he our James Shapiro?) get together and argue that only through the invention of the paybox, so that authors could profit from their works, did the world see the likes of Shakespeare, Marlowe, etc.... If they weren't getting paid for their work, they would not have existed.

That may be a gross summary of a summary, but I don't have time to get into it right now. The whole point of the article is pro-copyright, anti-Web (at least, the aspect of the web that says "blah blah blah everything should be free").


Monday, February 14, 2011

Who Wants Free Stuff?

Regularly I get offers to review product. Got one today, as a matter of fact. Sometimes the request will come with, "And do you know any other Shakespeare bloggers who might be interested?"

It dawned on me today that while yes, yes I do, I do not always have contact info for those people. (I'm looking most directly at you, Bill from Shakespeare Teacher. Hint hint.)

So, fellow Shakespeare bloggers - if you'd like to be considered when publicists come knocking on my door, please take a moment and drop me a note saying so. I'll tuck it away in a list someplace so I can find it next time I need it. I can't promise anything about when such offers might come along, but I can say that if you're not on my list then you won't get mentioned - that way nobody's wasting anybody's time if you're not interested in doing reviews.

You all know me, you know I'm not going to go spamming you. In general my method has always been to forward the publicist's request to the blogger, and let you make up your mind, rather than just randomly handing out your address to whoever asks for it.

If you'd like to be on the list, please specify the URL of your web site so I can tell people about it. Thank you.

Guerilla Gnomeo

Just had a great idea. This weekend my kids spotted actual Gnomeo and Juliet merchandise! In this case, one of those sticker books that we get to keep our kids happy - 12 pages of like 100 stickers, and half a dozen blank scenes to fill. At the time I had no interest in dropped $7 each on 3 copies of the same book, though I was pleasantly surprised to see at least some attempt at merchandising.

But then, just this morning in fact, I had an idea. Why don't *I* get one of those books for myself, and then plaster the stickers all over town? A little guerilla marketing?

What the heck, can't hurt, right?

Next Up for Ralph Fiennes? More Romans...

The most interesting bit about this article on Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus movie is his plan for more Shakespeare!

Fiennes may not be done with bringing Shakespeare to the screen; he says he could imagine taking on "Antony and Cleopatra."

"Not only is it an extraordinarily great love story, but it's written arguably quite cinematically," he said. "I can't help feeling (that), if Shakespeare was alive today, he would write very easily for the cinema."
Nice. We could use another A&C.

15 More Romeo Stories

I always read lists like this. Always. Because you knew never know if it's going to be a rehash of all the standards we've seen before, or if there's going to be maybe 1 that's new to me -- or, like this list, be almost entirely new content!

We're talking about adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, by the way. And I can honestly say that of the 15, I had no idea that about 10 of them were Romeo and Juliet stories. That doesn't mean I'm interested in going to hunt them all down, of course (some are even foreign films), but it's nice to know there are journalists out there who are still actually researching their stories and not just churning out the cut and paste jobs for Valentine's Day.

Bonus - #12 on the list is local favorite Sealed With a Kiss, which the reviewer calls, "one of the modern Romeo & Juliet adaptations that most respects the original’s text" and "almost a retelling more than a revision."

#13 of course is Gnomeo (why else would they be publishing such a list?) and I agree with the summary here, as well:

Nor does it prevent them from arrogantly boasting to their audience that their film, Gnomeo & Juliet, has a more exciting opening than the original play, and a better, happier ending. Apparently gnomes know as little about humility as they do about tragedy.

West Side Toy Story? My Gnomeo and Juliet Review

How do you review a movie that you've been waiting four years to see? My perception is drastically screwed up, I know that. Do I review it for the Shakespeare? It won't hold up well, we already know that. Do I ignore the Shakespeare and review it as a generic kids' movie? We all know I can't very well do that :).

Let's start with the Shakespeare, then, shall we? Just how much of the story is kept? For about the first half or so, it's not bad. There's the blue Montagues (led by mum Lady Blueberry), and the red Capulets (led by Lord Redbrick). Gnomeo is the hero of the blue team, along with his best pal "Benny" and a dog-like Shroom as their pet. There is no Mercutio character. For the red side we have Redbrick's daughter Juliet, literally stuck up on a pedestal by her overprotective father, and troublemaker Tybalt, who thankfully is not double cast as the love interest for Juliet (like we see in Sealed With A Kiss).

Friday, February 11, 2011

What Will You Write On The Valentine's Day Card?

[* The following is a press release. ] Announces Top 10 Most Romantic Quotes

Be Romeo or Juliet This Valentine’s Day and Get “I Love You” Help from the Master

BOSTON, MA, February 11, 2011- Shakespeare Geek, the oldest online Shakespeare blog today revealed the Top 10 Most Romantic Quotes from Shakespeare just in time for Valentine’s Day. The quotes sure to inspire romance, were selected based on votes from the site’s audience, who count themselves among the Bard’s most devoted fans.

“Valentine’s Day is once again upon us, and whether you’re having flowers delivered to your sweetie or you’re handing them over yourself, the hardest part is often writing something romantic in the card,” said Duane Morin, creator of “Consider these suggestions from Shakespeare, as they’ve been scoring points with significant others for over 400 years. You want to find something that means something to both of you.”

The Top 10 Most Romantic Shakespeare Love Quotes:

I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is that not strange? – Much Ado About Nothing

I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes. – Much Ado About Nothing

I have loved you ever since I saw you; and still I see you beautiful. – The Two Gentlemen of Verona

My heart is ever at your service. –Timon of Athens

I will swear I love thee infinitely. – Henry IV (Part 1)

For where thou art, there is the world itself. – Henry VI (Part 2)

One fairer than my love! the all-seeing sun Ne’er saw her match since first the world begun. – Romeo and Juliet

Sweet, above thought I love thee. – Troilus and Cressida

Love is a spirit all compact of fire. – Venus and Adonis

This is the very ecstasy of love. –Hamlet


Duane Morin is the owner and operator of (, the oldest Shakespeare blog on the Internet. He is the author of Hear My Soul Speak : Wedding Quotations from Shakespeare (, an ebook containing all of Shakespeare’s most romantic lines, organized and explained for easy understanding, available now for Amazon Kindle, Apple iPad, and other e-Reader devices.

You Going? Yes or No.

Quick question, easy answer. Gnomeo and Juliet opens today. You going? Everybody knows my answer. :) Saturday, 12 noon show. 2D.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shakespeare Meets Shrek

I've been saying that since before I realized the director of Gnomeo and Juliet also directed Shrek 2, by the way :). Why oh why did we have to get the guy who directed the worst of the Shrek movies? :(

Anyway, one thing I do like about these reviews is that most of them are coming down on the side of "Should have been more Shakespeare" :

Director and cowriter Kelly Asbury ("Shrek 2") finds a few jokes and a few moments of heart, just enough to lift "Gnomeo" above most recent animated B-movies. But it's a pity he didn't err on the side of Shakespeare and not of "Shrek." The pathos and wit of the Bard bests the sight gags and one-liners of the Big Green Ogre every time.

Well amen to that, brother. Here's hoping that somebody else runs with the idea and puts together my dream Shakespeare animation - The Tempest. You don't even have to change the ending!

Curse You, Emily Bronte!

I don't understand how Wuthering Heights beats Shakespeare for most romantic line. This poll, conducted by Warner Home Video, tells us that "Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same," is the most romantic line in all of English literature.

I've never even *heard* that line. I read Wuthering Heights like once, back in high school, and never went back for seconds.

Shakespeare actually turns up third with "But soft what light through yonder window breaks..."

I think their methodology was flawed. What did they do, pick that single line to do battle for the complete works of Shakespeare? I'll take this one, any day:

For where thou art, there is the world itself,

With every several pleasure in the world;

And where thou art not, desolation.

No contest.

Kickstarting Shakespeare

Got some extra money lying around? Want to help advance the dream of "more Shakespeare"?

Take a visit over at which tries to connect artists (film makers, mostly, it seems) with financial backers. I've seen random projects go by recently, and it only just dawned on me that I can type "Shakespeare" in ye olde searcheth box and see no end of ideas about how to interpret Shakespeare.

Many seem to be "We want to take our existing troupe on the road" projects, or "We want to record something we've already been doing", but if you poke around you'll find a number of original script projects looking to be turned into reality.

So if you want to do something with all that extra money besides giving it to me :), why not check it out? I have no affiliation to the site or any of the projects, and quite frankly I'm not fully sure how it works. They apparently run on (and promote) the "all or nothing funding" idea. So if somebody says they need $5000, and they only raise $4000, then both parties walk away with no commitment. It's not like you as the contributor have to put something up front and then try to get it back later.   

How do you know, even with 100% funding, that the project will happen? Well, you don't. And that's where the risks come in. There's a lengthy FAQ on the site that does a good job of explaining how they try to minimize this risk, though.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Avoid These Products Like the Plague! And Avoid the Plague, Too!

As a public service, Bardfilm and Shakespeare Geek want to warn you about the following Shakespeare products, each one of which has proven in some way unsatisfactory. Note: Thanks to Pursued By A Bear, whose offhand remark inspired this list.

Shakespearean Products to Avoid

Claudius Brand Ear Warmers

Earl of Gloucester Eye Patch Set.

King Lear Retirement Village: Bring Your Own Knights!

Hamlet™ Brand Anti-Depressants.

Friar Lawrence's Guaranteed Sleeping Tablet / Alarm Clock Gift Set—You'll Never Oversleep Again!

Lavinia's Medical Supply Tongue Depressors.

Antigonus-Brand Teddy Bears—Fun for the Whole Family!

Lady Macduff's No-Worry Child Care.

Cleopatra's "Asps of Steel" Workout Video.

Alonso's Three-Hour Cruises, serving Naples, Tunis, and an unknown, airy-spirit-inhabited island.

Matching "Romeo & Juliet" T-Shirts that say "Will you still love me when I'm old and gray and fourteen?"

Funeral Baked Meats Wedding Catering.

The Juliet GPS: Wherefore art thou? [Yes, we know what "wherefore" means: That error is why this product is being recalled!]

Romeo's Window Repair: What through yonder window broke?

Shylock's Ultra-Accurate Kitchen Scales: Never take more or less than a just pound!

Prospero's Freudian Analysis: You are such stuff as dreams are made on.

Hamlet's Dog-Walking Services (Specialty: Taking Care of Great Danes).

Crimson-Colored Macbath Salts—They will your bathtub waters incarnadine!

Drunk and Seen the Spider Pub and Insectarium.

When Shall We Three Meet Again Travel Agency.

Not to the Marriage of True Minds Divorce Attorneys.

Some are Born Great Midwives and Doulas.

Some Achieve Greatness SAT Tutoring Services.

Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon Them Pilates Lessons.

Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth Dentistry.

More Relative Grounds Coffee Shop and Café.

Give us your Hands if We be Friends Manicurists.

“Is this a Dagger?” Optometrists, Ltd.

Every Third Thought Mortuary Planning Services.

The Princes in the Tower Boarding School: Leave your kids with us and never worry about them again.

Malvolio Brand Yellow, Cross-Gartered Stockings. [A bad idea in any age.]

My Mistress' Eyeliner: Make Your Eyes Something Like the Sun:

Lady Macbeth's Stain Remover.

Richard III's Snow Removal Services: Where's the Winter of your Discontent Now?

Petruchio's Marriage Counseling Services.

Leontes' Home Paternity Test.

Othello's Energy-Efficient Auto-Off Nightlights: Put out the light, and then put out the light!

Bobblehead Caliban.

Our thanks for this guest post to kj, the author of Bardfilm. Bardfilm is a blog that comments on films, plays, and other matters related to Shakespeare.

Blind Cupid

As Valentine's Day approaches, I'm getting inundated with "Shakespeare's Most Romantic Valentine's Love Quotations" links. I find most of them incredibly boring, because so little thought goes into them. They all say the same thing, and for the most part there's little thought in them other than "Oh hey look, Shakespeare mentioned love, let's use that."

My favorite example?

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
(A Midsummer Night's Dream)

This quote shows up on pretty much everybody's list, for the fairly obvious reason that it says Cupid right there in it. I wrong here in thinking that this is not really a great sentiment for writing in a card to give to your loved one? Hi Sweetie! Just thought I'd tell you that looks aren't important.

It's a nice sentiment, in general. We like to think that love, like beauty, is more than skin deep. But do you really want to look someone in the eye and say that?

Did anybody watch Glee this week, the "Silly Love Songs" episode, where Puck decided to sing Queen's "Fat Bottom Girls" to ...umm, well, the curvy girl who he's got a crush on? I have no idea of her name, I don't follow the show closely enough. But it's a similar idea - he seems to think the song's got some deep message, and she's just sitting there thinking "You just sat here in front of the whole glee club and called me fat over and over and over again."

By the way, if you'd like to see an actual list of quotes compiled specifically for this purpose - organized by who might say it, when and why, might I suggest my book on the subject?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

A Great Intro To Shakespeare

Ok, now we're talking. Moviefone's Family Film Guide tackles Gnomeo and Juliet from exactly the right angle. Of course it's silly. Of course the ending is changed. It's a movie for children, for pete's sake. Good info as well about any parts that might be scary or inappropriate for children (it's G rated, so not really), whether the 3D is worth it (as expected, it's not) and even some talking points to work on with your kids after the movie. I would have loved if the reviewer included something about "...and to encourage their interest in Shakespeare, you could go here here and here." Instead she ends with "go get some Elton John music and have a dance party."

Where My Bob Dylan Fans At?

Once upon a time I so much as mentioned Bob Dylan in a post, and it rapidly became one of my largest traffic spikes ever. And there wasn't even any meat in that post, just a friend comparing Dylan and Shakespeare.

Well this time I've got a better link and I'm hoping that some of those Dylan fans stuck around to appreciate it. Our friend and long time contributor Bardfilm wanted to make the connection between Bob Dylan's folk narrative in a song like "Seven Curses", and the Shakespeare's problem play Measure for Measure. He did this for his class (he teaches Shakespeare for a living), so this is not just some random grab for web traffic. This is an entirely independent project that *deserves* some recognition. That's different.

What he's done is to sing Measure for Measure. In 5 minutes. As Bob Dylan. To the tune of Seven Curses. Accompanied by a video, with finger puppets.

Regular fans of the site may have already seen this link go by on Twitter or the Facebook page, but it dawned on me this morning that it really merits a post of its own so that the blog readers who only stop by via RSS feed can see it as well. Normally I don't play the "blog post pointing to a blog post" game, because that's a game that results in way too many links and not enough original content. I'm making an exception here because of the quality (and quantity!) of content in this most. I think more people need to see it. Truthfully I'm hoping that we can get this little effort enough attention that he's convinced to do it again. I've always been a big fan of learning and memorizing Shakespeare through song, and stuff like this is a golden opportunity.

I call this post Where My Dylan Fans At, and I mean that. All it took originally was for one Dylan fan to post my link on a Dylan fan board, and traffic the likes of which I've never seen came pouring in. I'm hoping that someone can extend that same favor to Bardfilm's effort. I don't even want you to link this post - link directly to him.

[And for the record he's neither asked me to post this, nor even knows that I'm doing it (though I expect he'll notice soon enough)]

Thy Week in Geek : January 30 - Feb 5

Look at this, just the second installment and already I'm a day late. Hope you folks appreciate these :) Since I clearly do not have the time to do a proper summary of the entire week (given that those summaries would each depend on how busy the previous week was), I'll prune it down to just the most interesting posts...

The most notable push this week is the long-awaited (by some!) arrival of Gnomeo and Juliet, Elton John's animated musical tribute to Shakespeare. We've been talking about this literally for four years now, and I don't think anybody has expectations that it's going to be the next Shrek, but we can dream.

First, we've got a review and a look at what it's up against at the box office this weekend.

More interesting, I hope, is my plea for Shakespeare Geeks of all shapes and sizes to do what they can to make sure the world at large gives this movie a chance : What's In A Gnome? To show that I'm not messing around I even dug up my old Cinderella Story from out of the archives. I wrote that two years ago, and I still want it just as much.

On a lighter note, Bardfilm brought us one of his famous lists, this time pondering Why Would You Watch A Shakespeare Play When You Could Watch The Super Bowl?

Not wanting BF to have all the fun I offered up my own list with Why Hamlet Can't Date You, a riff on one of Twitter's "top trends" that floated across my radar one day.

Lastly, in anticipation of finishing The Story of Edgar Sawtelle I posted A Hamlet Story, where we discussed the origins of The Lion King and pondered exactly how little Shakespeare can be in a story before you can't call it Shakespeare anymore. Bardfilm pointed us to the official rules for defining that sort of thing. Who knew?

Monday, February 07, 2011

Bad Spam Filter! No Cookie! [Admin]

Hi everybody,

Just a quick note that I've been struggling with my spam filter lately, as it seems to be grabbing more good comments than bad ones. I see regular posters trying to submit their comments several times over. I have neither "approve this user always" button nor "turn off spam filtering altogether" button, so I don't have a good solution to the problem yet.

In the meanwhile, if you're trying to submit a legit comment and you think it's being filtered, drop me a line and let me know so I can go fish it out. I get no notification that there's messages waiting my attention, either :(.

Gnomeo : A Review! A Good One! (Not Mine).

The reviews are coming in for Gnomeo and Juliet, and it may be better than expected:

In truth the movie almost works as an Elton musical, as hits like 'Your Song', 'Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting' and 'Crocodile Rock' are weaved into the score by composers Chris Bacon and James Newton Howard. John and partner David Furnish are producers and appear to have called in a few favours by getting their celeb chums to do the voice work (Michael Caine, Matt Lucas, Ozzy Osbourne). Director Kelly Asbury adeptly conjures up a sweet romance between the star-crossed pair Gnomeo (James McAvoy) and Juliet (Emily Blunt). Blunt is particularly feisty as the girl gently rebelling against her well-meaning but overprotective father Lord Redbrick (Caine). And props to whichever of the nine hacks gave her the line "Ooh, my giddy aunt!"

I don't get the "giddy aunt" reference.

I think this particular reviewer, who ultimately gives the movie 3 out of 5 stars, comes at it from the wrong angle. He compares it to Zeffirelli and Luhrmann, and that it is "not even close to being the definitive movie version." Umm....YA THINK?

[ Why do I care so much about this movie? ]

Box Office Best Bets?

The Today Show provides us a list of what movies are opening this weekend opposite Gnomeo and Juliet. Who do you think will get the top box office?

  • Gnomeo and Juliet. We've discussed this. A bit. :)
  • Just Go With It, an Adam Sandler / Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy. Somebody remind me the last time either of them had a hit?
  • The Eagle. Every time I see this trailer I swear I think it's Coriolanus, but it's not. I have no idea what it is, though. There's ghosts, what appear to be indians, and Roman centurions. I've just learned in this article that it's based on a book - I had no idea if it was supposed to be a comic graphic novel or what.
  • And last but not least .... Justin Bieber. In 3D. The less said about this, the better.
So, wait, did I say who would win at the box office? I think young Mr. Bieber may have my gnomes at a disadvantage.

[ Why do I care so much about this movie? ]

Friday, February 04, 2011

Films That Take Liberties

Starting on a brief interview with Kelly Asbury, one of Gnomeo and Juliet's creators, SFGate ends with a fairly standard list of "films that take liberties with Shakespeare." Linked for those who may not be familiar with every item in the list. There's at least one I'd not heard of.

By the way, if you're wondering about the approach to Shakespeare Mr. Asbury prefers, let me quote him:

"I think Baz Luhrmann's 'Romeo + Juliet' is a work of genius," Asbury says. "I think 'West Side Story' is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, musicals ever put onscreen - or stage, for that matter. I, frankly, like Zeffirelli's 'Romeo and Juliet' very much, too. I grew up with that. ... I loved it; I loved the score, I loved the acting."

I'll let you all make of that what you will. :)

Why Hamlet Can't Date You

Twitter keeps its finger on the pulse of what's important these days by publishing Top Trends. What are people talking about with the most urgency? Sometimes it's obvious and newsworthy, like Egypt or Tunisia. Other times it's silly like #IfYouOnlyKnew or #ICantDateYou.

Shakespeare can do trendy. Oh, yes. And silly! With that I give you the Shakespeare version of #ICantDateYou:

"I can't date you because you're married to my brother. Who I just poisoned. And honestly your son annoys me." -Claudius

"I can't date you, I'm not the man you think I am. In more ways than one." -Viola

"I can't date you, you're like seriously the only other human being besides my dad that I've seen in my entire life."  -Miranda 

"I can't date you, you're my ancient's wife and you'll just want me to promote him or something." -Othello

"I can't date you, your insanely jealous husband already thinks I knocked you up."  -Polixenes

"I can't date you, even though I am madly in love with you and did follow you into the forest. Because now that you're actually paying attention to me you're kinda creeping me out." -Helena

"I can't date you, you look like an ass." -Titania

"I can't date you, my wife would kill me. And you. And any witnesses." -Macbeth

"I can't date you, I'm Prince of Denmark and my will is not my own.  Plus I've kinda got a thing for my mom.... what the... who wrote this? Who the hell is Freud?" -Hamlet

"I can't date you, you're not Jewish and my dad would freak. Oh, what the heck, let's do it."  -Jessica (Shylock's daughter)

    Sometimes the funniest stuff comes and goes in the blink of an eye on Twitter, so if you're not already following ShakespeareGeek (and his partner in crime Bardfilm), what are you waiting for?!

      Trochee Fixation

      Today's XKCD comic has nothing to do with Shakespeare, but come on, there's not a Shakespeare geek among you that can see a headline like "Trochee Fixation" and not want to click :).

      Thursday, February 03, 2011

      Next Up? Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus

      Taymor's Tempest has come and gone, and next we're about to be bombarded by musical animated garden gnomes. But don't forget that Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus is coming up quickly - it debuts at the Berlin Film Festival next week!

      "It's a political thriller", he explains. "A story of power-politics centred around one man and his relationship with his mother." Coriolanus is an unpopular Roman general who, under pressure from his mother Volumnia (Vanessa Redgrave), seeks to run for consul. Having won over both the Roman senate and the mob, he is undone by the connivances of two tribunes. As a result he is branded a traitor and banished, before forming a coalition of sorts with mortal enemy Tullus Aufidius (Butler) – and returning to Rome in search of vengeance.

      I'm very curious to see how this one does. I've got a soft spot for the Tempest, but Coriolanus is a different story. Certainly one of the lesser known plays, rarely taught in school, and a political thriller at that? Certainly a niche audience. Fingers crossed that it makes a good showing.

      A Cinderella Story (from the Archives)

      Imagine you're in school again. You're a teenager. For the sake of argument let's assume you're also a girl (bear with me :)) You are handed a copy of Cinderella (the text, not the movie!) and told this is what we'll be studying this semester. There will be a final exam.

      What do you do? Groan? Worry? Whine about how hard it is, how you don't want to do it, how it's not relevant to kids these days? I mean, really, what's a "ball"? Sounds dirty. What exactly does "cinder" mean, anyway, and why is this one girl stuck cleaning them? Why doesn't she call DSS if her stepmom is so bad? I don't get this story, it makes no sense! Nobody would do the stuff these people do! If this girl is old enough to get married to the prince, why doesn't she go live on her own? (And so on....)

      Or do you laugh about it and then never look at the text until the day of the final, where you waltz through all the questions from memory? After all, it's a story you grew up on. Everybody knows this story. It doesn't matter that you don't have to clean the chimney, you can still have days where you think your mom and your big sisters are being mean to you. And even though fairy godmothers don't really show up and sing BibbidiBobbidiBoo in real life, it doesn't stop you from daydreaming about somebody to come along and sweep you off your feet. It's a *fairy tale*, after all. It's not about the setting or the vocabulary or the specifics, it's about the bigger picture. That's why there's a cliche about things being "a Cinderella story" and everybody knows what that means.

      Now tell me why Shakespeare can't be like that.    Why doesn't Disney do a movie about The Tempest, and why don't kids grow up learning the story of how Miranda avoids the monster Caliban, defeats the pirates who try to take the island from her father (with the help of Ariel), meets the prince and sails off to live happily ever after? The "original" text can come later, just like most children's experience with Cinderella goes as far as the Disney movie, and only when they are older do they actually get to read "the original". (If you want a different example try Wizard of Oz, lots more differences between the original and the movie there).

      Here's the big difference that I think is stopping everybody: Every parent out there who reads Cinderella to their kids, also had Cinderella read to them as a kid. It's almost like a privilege, like a gift you can't wait to share with them. Most every parent, however, hated Shakespeare in high school, and thus wouldn't think of exposing their kid to it any sooner than they had to.

      If I ever get off my butt and write my book (well, technically, to write a book I suppose I would have to in fact sit back down...), it'll be to solve that problem, right there. Something to break that cycle. I could use a little help, Disney! Are you listening???

      [ This post first appeared June 3, 2008. ]

      What's In A Gnome?

      Everybody knows that Gnomeo and Juliet is coming. What I want to know is, do you care? How much? You could see this as a warning sign of the apocalypse, I suppose - animated musical Shakespeare with talking garden gnomes?

      Not me. As I'm sure everybody realizes, I'm downright irrational about this. It's Disney. Talking about Shakespeare. In wide release. This is the dream! I first mentioned Disney adaptations of Shakespeare back in March, 2006. I absolutely positively dream of a world where children from the time they can be plopped down in front of a television set can watch, over and over again, a DVD of Midsummer Night's Dream or Tempest or Twelfth Night....or yes, even a tamed Romeo and Juliet. Long time followers of the blog know that I've been pursuing that dream down whatever avenue I can. Sure, I think that The Tempest is a much better choice (among other things you can embrace the ending instead of rewriting it!!), but I digress.

      Nobody, but nobody, teaches Shakespeare to three year olds. It's madness. Well, duh, obviously not nobody because you all know that I'm doing it so by definition there could be others as well, that's not my point. My point is that my kids, at this age, will in all likelihood never meet another child their age that has the kind of Shakespeare exposure they do. As they get older that's obviously changing, but remember I've been at this game for 4+ years now, and when my 4yr old son runs up to one of his friends and says, "Hey Matt! To be or not to be!" I've yet to see another little 4yr old say, "That is the question!"

      But imagine a scenario where you get to lead with this, instead: "Hey, have you taken the kids to the new Disney movie yet?" Now imagine how many Yes answers you get. Now take every 4 yr old that saw the movie and ask them what it was about, and listen to them tell you how Gnomeo and Juliet want to be together but their parents won't let them. Well, being 4yr olds they're more likely to remember the various fart jokes that I'm sure abound, but once you buy the inevitable DVD and they've had a chance to watch it 20 times? And buy the merchandise? My 4yr old can tell you the story of Buzz and Woody or Shrek and Donkey at the drop of a hat, so I have no reason to think that the story of Gnomeo and Juliet would be any different.

      I know, sadly, that this is almost certainly not going to happen. I may know that this is a Disney-backed production, but that doesn't mean that they're leading with the Disney brand. I don't see a Magic Kingdom logo and Tinkerbell giving that little sparkly blessing. It's Touchstone. Touchstone is good, don't get me wrong. But Touchstone isn't a merchandising machine, and my kids certainly don't know their Touchstone from their Miramax. I expect that this movie will be average, at best. And when you ask if people have seen it, maybe you'll get half the number of Yes answers that you would if it was a true Disney production. I highly doubt that we'd ever see merchandising. My kids are unlikely to get stuffed garden gnomes.

      ....but just imagine if they *did*. It makes me happy to dream about that.

      Why would you watch a Shakespeare play when you could watch the Super Bowl?

      Although Bardfilm doesn’t have any visceral objections to the Super Bowl, he does find Shakespeare more interesting. In the list below, he offers some of his reasons. Enjoy them—and follow the hashtag #ShakesBowl on Twitter to see what other reasons people come up with—and to add your own to the mix!

      Shakespeare is better than the Super Bowl . . .

      . . . because most Super Bowls are only four quarters long. All Shakespeare plays are five acts.

      . . . because millions have been talking about Hamlet for over 400 years—but how many remember who won Super Bowl IV?

      . . . because you can be sure that neither Macbeth nor Macduff will call time out in the middle of their exciting battle.

      . . . because the ads during a Shakespeare play . . . well, all right. Super Bowl ads are pretty good.

      . . . because the coaches hardly ever deliver the St. Crispin’s Day Speech to their teams during halftime—even though they really ought to!

      . . . because when Hamlet talks about "Singeing his pate against the burning zone," he's not talking about the End Zone.

      . . . because if you feel disappointed at the end of a Shakespeare play, you've been rooting for the wrong people.

      . . . because women in Shakespeare are generally treated with more respect than women dancing at the Super Bowl are.

      . . . because "The Battle of the Century" should refer to something like Bosworth Field, not a Football Field.

      . . . because "Two households, both alike in dignity" seldom describes the Super Bowl matchup.

      . . . because the pre-game show usually consists of a speech like "O, for a muse of Fire" instead of inane chatter.

      . . . because “Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, / Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of Steelers” doesn’t have quite the right ring to it.

      . . . because John Madden seldom delivers a play-by-play on a Shakespeare play.

      . . . because concussions only occur in Shakespeare very rarely—usually by accident when the Scottish Play is being performed.

      . . . because Sonnet XLV begins with “The other two, slight air and purging fire, / Are both with thee, wherever I abide”; Super Bowl XLV begins with a sixteen-hour pre-game show.

      . . . because Because the Black-Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” doesn’t show quite the emotional range of Romeo and Juliet.

      . . . because Rosalind says “my affection hath an unknown bottom, like the bay of Portugal” not “. . . like the bay of green.”

      And don't forget to follow #ShakesBowl on Twitter during the big game for more reasons!

      Our thanks for this guest post to kj, the author of Bardfilm. Bardfilm is a blog that comments on films, plays, and other matters related to Shakespeare.

      Patrick Stewart Honored

      Sir Patrick Stewart CBE is to receive this year's Pragnell Shakespeare Birthday Prize.

      I'm not really sure what that means, but past winners include Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench, so Sir Patrick is in good company.

      Wednesday, February 02, 2011

      True Grit Shakespeare

      I love the paradox : Shakespeare is so difficult and irrelevant to modern society that nobody can understand why we even teach him anymore ... and yet every time a new movie comes out, inevitably somebody compares it to Shakespeare.

      Today's example is True Grit, the current remake of the old John Wayne western. Although the linked interview is with 14yr old Hailee Steinfeld, she quotes co-star Barry Pepper for the Shakespeare reference.

      Combing through the quotes page on IMDB, I found this amusing bit of dialogue that Mr. Shakespeare himself might have penned:

      Rooster Cogburn: The jakes is occupied.

      Mattie Ross: I know it is occupied Mr. Cogburn. As I said, I have business with you.

      Rooster Cogburn: I have prior business.

      Mattie Ross: You have been at it for quite some time, Mr. Cogburn.

      Rooster Cogburn: There is no clock on my business! To hell with you! To hell with you! How did you stalk me here?

      Mattie Ross: The sheriff told me to look in the saloon. In the saloon they referred me here. We must talk.

      Rooster Cogburn: Women ain't allowed in the saloon!

      Mattie Ross: I was not there as a customer. I am fourteen years old.

      Rooster Cogburn: The jakes is occupied. And will be for some time.

      Tuesday, February 01, 2011

      A Hamlet Story

      If you read a story (or see a film) and then somebody says, "Did you know that was based on Hamlet?" then what you'll do is run it back over in your brain and spot all the spots where it wasn't. Take for example Lion King, which I saw without even considering a Hamlet connection. Where's the Ophelia character? Polonius? The relationship between Gertrude and Claudius? Some of them are stretched - are Timon and Poomba *really* supposed to be Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? Or is this a case where they said "Uncle kills father, son avenges" and then just made up the rest?

      However - what if somebody tells you to read story X, because it's based on Hamlet. Then you've got a whole different ball game. Such is the case with The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. This is not my review of that book, which will come when I finish it. Think of this as the intro material that would have padded my review when I finally did get around to it.

      If you know you're reading a Hamlet story, then every plot device, every new character, you find yourself saying "Who is that supposed to be? What's happening here?" A grandfather? There's no grandfather in Hamlet, he must not be relevant. Oh look a random hippie chick? That's weird. Wonder if she'll be Ophelia. It's like a mystery story. When the dad dies - because we all know the dad dies, I hope - you get to sit there and wonder "How did he die? Did the brother do it? Will we learn that the brother did it? What's the wife's relationship to the brother?"

      Hamlet shows us the dynamics of just about every family relationship - husbands and wives, fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, mothers and sons, brothers (Claudius and King Hamlet), sisters (Laertes and Ophelia). It would be difficult to tell a family drama/tragedy and not be able to say "Oh, yeah, a little bit like Hamlet." Rivalry between brothers? A son with an absent father figure and mother issues? Family members who don't want the daughter to go with the man she chooses? All there.

      We already know that this is done ad nauseam with Romeo and Juliet - every "they can't be together, oh the tragedy!" love story ever written has made the comparison.

      But are there others? Does anybody ever write an Othello story, or a Macbeth story?

      Repeat and Repeat and Repeat : Liev Schreiber on Shakespeare

      Although modern moviegoers may know him now as Sabretooth from the X-Men movies, Liev Schreiber is actually an accomplished Shakespearean (which I personally learned when he was a guest on NPR). So when he was the invited guest at Yale University Theatre recently, interviewed by Dean of the Yale School of Drama, the conversation was not about Magneto and Wolverine:

      He added that he attributes his success to rehearsals. Schreiber said he was initially intimidated by the ambiguous notion of success in theatre.

      “In French, rehearsal is called repetition,” he emphasized. He added that it is important to repeat rehearsals until the actors know the verses “upside-down.”

      Luckily, he said Shakespearean verses come much more easily to him than normal script.

      “It’s like a nursery rhyme,” Schreiber said. “It’s so easy to just repeat and repeat and repeat.”
      I appreciate the simplicity of that thought. It says that anyone can do it - but don't fool yourself, it's going to be hard work. He doesn't say you have to repeat yourself a dozen times. You'll have to repeat yourself hundreds of times.

      UPDATED for spelling the man's name right.  Thanks, Christine!