Tuesday, June 28, 2011

No, They're Not Digging Him Up.

I've avoided this week's "Shakespeare may have smoked pot" story because, frankly, it doesn't interest me all that much. Not only is it not very new (link to a story from Nov 2000 - about the same guy, even), but it's being reported horribly. Once you wade through all the ridiculous articles ranging from "Dude, Shakespeare smoked bowls??" to "Of course Shakespeare smoked pot, haven't you ever seen Midsummer Night's Dream?" it seems that everybody's reporting the story as "Dig him up to see if he smoked pot."

The problem is, they're not digging him up.

If given the go-ahead, Prof Thackeray will use scanning equipment to create a 3D image of the bard.

Prof Thackeray said: ‘We are confident that we could complete our work without moving a single bone.’

I suppose the only interesting question to me is, what if they did conclusively find evidence that Shakespeare was smoking something while he wrote? Would that change your opinion of him at all? Just as importantly, how do you think it would change the world's opinion? Do you think there's any possible way that people would suddenly begin to dismiss him because of that? Or, from the opposite angle, would that be the single greatest vote in favor of marijuana legalization in the history of the drug?

I guess there are interesting questions after all. :)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

We Have Our Romeo

Haley Steinfeld's Juliet now has her Romeo - and his name is Douglas Booth. Looks like a Romeo. Got a bit of a young Leo DiCaprio thing going on. I don't recognize any of his other credits.

For some reason, the article's description of Romeo amused me:

"...the coveted role of Romeo, an accomplished swordsman and adept lover..."

Really? I never really thought about Romeo's swordsmanship, and just always figured that his victory over Tybalt could just as easily have been a lucky shot, given the circumstances (a vengeance-crazed Romeo against a mostly-all-talk Tybalt?). Calling him an accomplished swordsman sounds more like a description of the Hamlet/Laertes duel to see who was better.

And "adept lover"? That makes him sound like something of a Don Juan character with a lot of notches on his belt, doesn't it?

Who writes this stuff? And who felt obliged to add that kind of color to the story, as if people didn't already know it? Doesn't the whole "fall in love despite the bitter rivalry between their two families" thing pretty much sum it up for most of the planet?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cracked, on Shakespeare's Filthy Jokes

Saw the headline and immediately assumed they'd go straight for Malvolio's "C's, U's and T's" joke. But no! They go for the F bombs.

Actually, I never really thought of it. We all know that Shakespeare could be filthy when he wanted to, but how often did he go for the F word? The examples that they give in the article ("what is the focative case? I'll firk him!") had never really stood out to me.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Twelfth Night Giveaway!

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to review Wayne Myers' The Book of Twelfth Night, or What You Will: Musings on Shakespeare's Most Wonderful (and Erotic) Play [review can be found here]. Since it spends so much time describing famous productions of the play, I suggested that it needed some pictures.

Well, Wayne happens to be a follower of the blog, heard and agreed with my comments, and I'm happy to report that the latest edition addresses this very issue! I'm looking at a brand new copy with over a dozen pages of Twelfth Night images. Very cool!

I'm also happy to announce that the author has generously donated some copies for us to give away! And, since we've just launched Shakespeare Answers, this seemed like a golden opportunity to cross promote.


1) Create an account on Shakespeare Answers, if you do not already have one.

2) Answer this question. This is so that people interested in entering the contest can all be counted in one place. If you don't know the answer, wait a moment, someone else is bound to (even if the author needs to give a little help...) Repeat answers are allowed, you don't have to be the first one. This is just a place to check in.

3) Contribute to the site in at least three (3) additional ways. This could include asking a question, answering one, or commenting on someone else's question or answer. The more you interact with the site, the higher your reputation/karma score gets. (Higher scores will not increase your chance of winning).

4) The subject does not have to be Twelfth Night - but if you *do* have a question about Shakespeare's "most wonderful (and erotic) play", then the author himself may be the one to answer it!

5) Contest ends on midnight Friday, June 24.

6) Three (3) names will be chosen at random from eligible entries received. Winners will receive a copy of the latest edition of Wayne Myers' book. (As always, we must be able to notify you if you win, so please use a real email address when you create your Answers account, as this is what I'll be using to contact you.)

Any questions?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Books like The Shakespeare Stealer

Hi gang,

This topic has come up, in general, over the years. This time, though, I've got a specific twist in mind. Susan uses The Shakespeare Stealer to introduce her 6th graders to Shakespeare - in 7th and 8th grade her kids work on an actual Shakespeare play (last year Henry V, this year The Tempest).

So, here's Susan's question : We've done Shakespeare Stealer 5 years in a row now. Do you know any other good fiction novels, appropriate for middle school, that would serve as a good introduction to Shakespeare? If it ties in to The Tempest, bonus!

(It dawns on me that I should pick this book up for my kids. I don't know why I haven't yet.)

Hamlet! A Game in Five Acts

I'm always on the lookout for Shakespeare games, particularly those that would help introduce my kids to Shakespeare. Well, not introduce, since I've done that - but, games that will allow them to learn more about Shakespeare without having to already have a high school education, you know?

Hamlet! A Game in Five Acts looks promising (although it does say 12+). If I understand the game correctly, you have an ending in mind, and you try to manipulate to play to achieve your ending. I already dig that. Plays with the whole "bloodbath ending" idea while still suggesting that most of the elements of the original will still be in there, somewhere.

So, for instance, you might get an ending card that says "Ophelia married to Hamlet. Horatio dead." (I made that one up). You have to figure out how to make that happen. If Ophelia ends up dead, you can't win. Each turn in the game is a Scene, and within each Scene your characters can perform Actions to make the play go their way. So for instance an action might be "Ophelia commits suicide", *but* the requirement for that action is "Ophelia is insane." So before you can play that action, you need to have played other actions that cause Ophelia to lose sanity points. "Hamlet rejects Ophelia. Ophelia loses 1 sanity point." You get the idea.

Somebody buy this so I can learn more about it :). With that 12+ rating and a price tag of almost $20 I can't bring myself to do it. My oldest daughter may be able to figure it out but with the 5yr old still not knowing how to read yet, I have to focus my game purchases on things that can be played on family night.

That is, of course, unless the author of the game happens to be listening and wants to send me a review copy? Hint hint hint! Anybody know this Mike Young fellow? :) I'm sure there's value in hearing about my 5/7/9yr olds successfully playing his game, no?

Shakespeare's Dad's Business

I think most of us know, at least superficially, the story with Shakespeare's dad. He was a successful businessman and local politician, until something happened that brought it all tumbling down. He even stopped going to church, possibly for fear of being held accountable for his debts? I've forgotten the details, but I"m sure I've read the gist of the story in many biographies. Probably involved in wool-dealing (a crime at the time?) and usury (lending of money with interest).

Well, here's a page that breaks down his "crimes" in pretty spectacular detail. His business partners, his court appearances, all broken out and explained. Amounts, and what they meant ("21pounds for 21 tods of wool?"). Additionally there's details about exactly what John Shakespeare's crimes were, and which things were technically illegal but still done on a wide scale (such as loans with interest).

Lots of data here for somebody who's interested in the subject and may not have already had it. Looks to be from a paper published in 2009, so if you're on top of things it may be old news. But everything is carefully footnoted so if you're in a research mood, you could have a field day with this one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Review : The Tragedy of Arthur

[ Ok, so I'm a little late on this one. I have to admit I was highly confused when, within days of even *receiving* my copy, my feeds were flooded with everybody else in the world putting up their review. How do these people read so fast??" ]

This will make the third book I've read on the "What would happen if a new work of Shakespeare turned up?" idea. The first two attempted to be glorified Da Vinci Codes complete with murder, car cases, and twist endings.

The Tragedy of Arthur is very much not that kind of book, and I love it. It is not about finding a lost work like Cardenio or Love's Labour's Won. It is about a man named Arthur Phillips (which also happens to be the name of the author) who is handed a previously unknown Shakespeare play called, appropriately enough, The Tragedy of Arthur. The only known copy, as a matter of fact - which means that he would be the copyright holder, and thus in financial control of the world's most valuable artistic discovery.

But! There's a catch. Arthur's father gave him the book. Arthur's father also happens to be a professional counterfeit man who has spent his life in jail for those crimes. He swears, however, that the book is an original that he really did find, not forge.

What to do, what to do?

I ended up quite loving this book. It starts with the story of the children, Arthur and Dana, as they're raised by their debatably criminal father, who also happens to be a lifelong fan of Shakespeare. Arthur, the narrator, never really gets into Shakespeare. Dana, his twin sister, takes to it like, well, a Shakespeare geek. Truthfully, Dana is a far more interesting character than Arthur. A struggling novelist himself, Arthur spends way too much of this memoir whining about his relationship with his father and how he's taking the memoirist's privilege of making difficult memories seem easier, etc etc etc... Meanwhile, I'd like my girls to grow up like Dana. It is 9yr old Dana who goes to visit her father in jail, and then promptly recites the court room scene from Merchant of Venice loudly enough for the guards to hear. Later in life, when Dana goes through her inevitable teenage rebellion from her father, she does something so unthinkably rebellious that I laughed out loud. She becomes an anti-Stratfordian. (Ok, maybe I take back what I said about my kids growing up like her!) I can just imagine, her poor dad is in prison and their entire conversation is through written letters, and she's taunting him with her theories about the Earl of Oxford. I think I would have planned an escape.

Is the plot believable? When I heard that it was about a counterfeit-man who claimed to have a Shakespeare play, the ending sounds pretty obvious. Of course it's fake, right? Well, that's what's cool - the book's not going to tell you. Some of the characters think that it is, some don't.   

There's much to geek out over. We learn about how to test paper and ink not just for age but for materials and composition. We learn all about Shakespeare's word choices, what he would and wouldn't do, how his early years differ from his later years. We learn about merchandising, and copyright law. Professor Crystal makes a cameo and gets to say cool things like "All the rhymes rhyme in original pronunciation! That's good!" If you understand who that is and what that sentence means, you're probably going to love this book :)

And then? Here's where the author takes it over the top. He actually wrote an entirely new, five-act Shakespeare play. You heard that right. The play in question? Is actually included. Obviously it's not going to pass the ink and paper tests :) but the most hardcore geeks among us can have a grand old time digging through word choice and narrative structure and decide for themselves whether this one could pass for the real thing. I have to admit that I have not yet read through the play (it is not required to complete the book), but I look forward to doing so.

A very refreshing change indeed from the car-chase-laden Da Vinci Code meets Cardenio that I've been subjected to in the past. I'm glad I got to read it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sorry Folks, No Nude Juliet

Following up on our previous story about 14yr old Hainlee Steinfeld possibly getting naked for her turn as Juliet, the director has confirmed that it's not happening. The rumor came about because the script - which clearly says "get naked" - had been leaked, so when the 14yr old was cast, it didn't take long to put 2 and 2 together.

The script was written with a 20yr old actress, the director tells us. Once an age-appropriate Juliet was cast, they went back and snipped all the naked stuff.

I will cut the director some slack for assuming that he was using the gossip mill to generate buzz for his movie with the story. I won't, however, forgive him for the quote in the original story where he said that he went with a 14 yr old girl for Juliet because "that's the way Shakespeare did it."

Friday, June 10, 2011

The 2005 Commonwealth Hamlet Continues to Haunt Me

I have seen Commonwealth Shakespeare in Park on Boston Common for many years now. I have seen their Midsummer, As You Like It, Comedy of Errors, Much Ado, Macbeth, Shrew, and Othello. I want to say I may have even seen them do a Tempest, a long time ago. But there's one that I missed.

It's 2005. They're doing Hamlet. To the best of my knowledge they've not done Lear, so I try to explain to those close to me that this is, like, *it*. The big one. The must see. My wife and I have arranged to meet up with friends for dinner at a nice nearby restaurant (Number 9 Park, if you know the area) for the last weekend of the performance. When the day arrives? Torrential rains are in the forecast. I am not missing Hamlet. We head into town, and the rain begins. We're not even sure our friends will make it in. It is a few hours before showtime, and I am using my phone (which, 6 years ago, was no iPhone let me tell you!) to keep trying the CommShakes homepage to see whether the show has been cancelled, and I see no notice. I call the number, but only ever get an answering machine. It is *nasty* outside. Raining cats and dogs. There is no way there is a show tonight.

But...15 minutes before showtime? The rain stops. Sun comes out. Hurray! I rush over to where the show is to be - empty, of course, except for some stage hands tending to the flooded sets. "I'm here!" I say, "Start the show! The rain's stopped!"

They looked at me like I was insane. Perhaps, at that moment, I was. My wife (our friends had bailed) led me away as carefully as she might have led a mental patient while I just repeated "But....it stopped raining. Hamlet. It's not raining anymore....."

Thus did I miss my chance to see Hamlet in the park. But hey, I'm not bitter! I've seen their Comedy of Errors, and that's just as good, right? Right?? :) I have never again waited until the last weekend to see a show. I've even gone so far (the Midsummer year) to see the show once myself first, and then see it again with friends.

My point in rehashing that story is to link to what's become of their Hamlet, Jeffrey Donovan. He's now the star of the television series "Burn Notice", and is coming back into town for a staged reading of a play called "Burn This", something I don't really know anything about.

Check out these quotes from the article, which I'm sure was written just to taunt me...

“That was, to this day, one of the greatest experiences of my life,’’ Donovan says. “To not only be given one of the most cherished and difficult roles in Shakespeare’s canon, but to do it in front of my hometown, basically. . . . It gives me chills even now.’’

Maler says the production was one of the highlights of the company’s history: “Seeing the way the audiences of Boston, and particularly young audiences, would gravitate toward his performance was unlike anything I’ve ever seen.’’

Argh. Why can't I get *that* on DVD? I get enough David Tennant. Where's the CommShakes petition?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Mad Libs Shakespeare

The inventor of Mad Libs, Leonard B. Stern, has died.

It seems only fair to mark his passing with a little Mad Libs Shakespeare. This is a quicky so it's not formatted well (and you basically have to DIY), don't read the second half until you're ready to fill in:

1 Verb

3 Noun

4 Noun

5 Verb

6 Plural noun

7 Plural noun

8 Adjective

9 Noun

10 Plural noun

11 Noun

12 Plural noun

13 Verb

14 Verb

15 Verb

17 Number

18 Adjective

19 Plural noun

20 Noun

21 Past-tense verb

(*) I realize that a few numbers are missing, I realized after doing this that words were repeated but didn't feel like renumbering all the slots :)

To __1__, or not to __1___: that is the __3___:

Whether 'tis nobler in the __4___ to __5___

The __6___ and __7___ of __8___ __9___,

Or to take _10____ against a __11___ of __12___,

And by opposing __13___ them? To __14___: to __15___;

No more; and by a __15___ to say we end

The heart-ache and the _17____ __18___ __19____

That flesh is heir to, 'tis a __20___

Devoutly to be _21____.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Summer Shakespeare : Creative Ideas?

I hope that regular reader/contributor Bill doesn't mind me reposting this message he sent me on Facebook, but I thought it would make great conversation and surely more opinions on a question like this is better than a few.

Question: I'll be teaching a semester long Shakespeare class this year. If you were in high school again, and were able to take a class like this, what are some issues that you'd like to tackle.

Reading list: Othello, Shrew, Merchant, Tempest, and one more, undecided.

Any thoughts?
I'm not sure the range he has to work with (i.e. is he specifically asking about parts of the text to study in detail, or ways to structure activities in the class), but maybe he'll chime in with answers.

One thing that comes to mind, which I take from the local Rebel Shakespeare group here, is to include performance. Public performance. "Bill's Class Presents, Scenes from Shakespeare!" Preferably outdoor, if you can find a place. Or in a classroom if you must. Get friends and family to come. Nicely combines the ideas of "Shakespeare must be performed", demonstrating / showing off what you've learned, as well as serving as a sort of informal final exam / graduation ceremony.

As for the texts themselves, why not make that undecided one something from the later plays, like Winter's Tale or Cymbeline? It seems like The Tempest is it for the later stuff, that's all kids ever see. I think it's important to show that not every play met the structured definition of history / tragedy / comedy. I suppose Tempest covers that, but so often discussion of that play is all about it as Shakespeare's farewell to the stage, and less on questions of "It's not really a comedy or a tragedy, what is it?"

Although the idea has been done to death, I'm sure that today's high school kids would get a kick out anything involving new/social media mixed with Shakespeare. We have no end of Twitter/Facebook versions of the plays. You could perhaps have them come up with something in that area. We certainly didn't have that when I was in high school! :)

Who else has ideas for Bill?

The Real Ophelia?

Big news today about the finding in a 1569 coroner's report about Jane Shaxpere who died when she was picking flowers near the water, fell in and drowned.

Sound familiar? The scholars who spotted it are quick to ponder whether this is the story that was in Shakespeare's head when he created Ophelia. Sure, he would have only been 5 at the time - and he wrote Hamlet nearly 40 years later, but it's certainly reasonable to think that he would have known the story and it could have served as inspiration. The fact that her name is almost identical to his suggests that she could have even been a relation. If not, the common name would have helped to keep the story in his memory.

What I'm finding a bit of a deja vu is .... didn't we know this? The details may be new but I could swear that we knew about some real factual evidence for the goings-on in Hamlet. Am I thinking of a different story? Does anybody know what I'm thinking about? I know that somewhere in my reading (and I think it was in a regular book, not on the net, which is why I'm having trouble googling it) I read about the death of someone that would have been local to Shakespeare, that may have served as a model for someone in one of his plays. Maybe I'm just backfilling the story to be about Ophelia, but it's going to bug me until I know for sure what story I'm thinking of.

UPDATED On a clue from Sean, the other source is Katherine Hamlet (or possibly Hamnet, but still...)  What's really weird is that Sylvia over at TheShakespeareBlog wrote this up two weeks ago, and apparently had not yet seen the new 1569 finding?!  Check it:  http://theshakespeareblog.com/?p=233

Shaxpere?  Hamlet?  Is somebody pulling our leg, here? Seriously. 

Our Anniversary

It took a reminder from Bardfilm, aka KJ, my friend, collaborator and sometimes conspirator ;), to remind me that six years ago today, on June 8, 2005, Shakespeare Geek was born. It's funny (if a bit embarrassing!) to see how far we've come from simply reposting links and newsfeed articles, to becoming one of the most popular places on the net to come and talk about Shakespeare. We've got actors and directors, writers, professors and students, children and parents. I think we've done a pretty good job in demonstrating over the years that Shakespeare really is universal.

I never quite knew what I wanted this site to become when I started it, because every time I thought "Do I want to focus on [specific audience]?" I thought, "No, it's more than that. I don't want to alienate [people not in that audience]." I wanted a site for everybody. At the time, I assumed that this would imply a very non-academic slant, something geared toward the "parents working with their kids to help them with their Shakespeare homework" crowd. Why? Because I have no "cred", academically. Who am I to talk about Shakespeare? I have no degree in this, it's not my full time job. I'm not even a theatre geek. :) I just have a love for the subject.

Turns out, so do a lot of people :). And they all eventually find a home here.

I keep saying "our" and "we" and will continue to do so because the best content on this site comes from you folks Half the time all I do is ask the question - sometimes a good one, sometimes a stupid one :) - and you're the ones that deliver the good stuff. Often the discussion will quickly get way over my head, so I just sit back and enjoy watching the conversation take place. Other times we stumble across items that cause even the experts to learn something new. I'll always remember the post on Shakespeare Sports where Alan Farrar spotted a sports references in the sonnets that Carl Atkins, who wrote a book on the subject, had missed ("Should have been cited by at least eight editors," said Carl at the time). Stuff like that always amazes me. All I did was pose the question.

As the site has grown I've often considered rebuilding it on a different platform, getting away from the blog idea and moving to more of a dedicated platform. But to do that would be incredibly disruptive to what we've built here, so I keep putting it off. Still, though, our little corner of the Shakespeare universe has grown....

  • Not By Shakespeare where we set the record straight about who should get credit for stuff like "When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew," because boy, it ain't Shakespeare.
  • Hear My Soul Speak My book! Tired of only ever hearing "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments," I took it upon myself to compile all the best wedding quotes from across all of Shakespeare's works, complete with explanation of who said it and what it means. Whether you're the best man looking for a toast, or an invitee looking for something to sign in the guest book, Shakespeare offers something for everybody.
  • Shakespeare Geek Merchandise Be proud of your inner geek! Half the fun in wearing my "Mercutio Drew First!" t-shirt is in those rare times when somebody actually *gets* the joke, and I know I've met a kindred spirit. (If you want to support the site, buying something's always greatly appreciated. This is the only blatant plug that you'll find in this post. Thanks!)
  • Shakespeare Answers   Sites like WikiAnswers and Yahoo Answers may have us at a slight size disadvantage, but we've got something that no amount of general-content sites can ever hope to have -- love for our subject. If somebody's got a question about Shakespeare for me, I deeply and seriously want them to understand my answer. I'm not interested in just giving them enough to get a good grade on their homework. If you've got a question I expect you to walk away with enough knowledge about your question that you could be the one to answer it next time somebody asks *you*. Too often are the wide open sites filled with garbage, joke answers and spam. Shakespeare Answers will be full of nothing but the absolute best answers to any Shakespeare question that someone out there might have, because I know that my audience is already full of exactly the kind of Shakespeare lovers like myself who can provide those answers. Join up now and take part in the fun!
  • Over 2100 Twitter followers!  Are you in on the fun? Sometimes the most hilarious stuff goes by so fast it never even makes the blog!
  • Over 650 Facebook fans! If this is where you prefer to get your news, I've got you covered. (Although I'll never understand the folks that comment on blog posts via Facebook comments instead of coming back to the blog! You miss most of the conversation that way!)

Who know what's next? I'd like to do more in the ebook arena. I'd like to do more with mobile app development. Life is busy. There's day job, there's family commitments. I can't always commit the kind of time and resources to the site that I'd like, but I do try, I'll always promise that.

Thanks, everybody, for six great years, and for helping to make Shakespeare Geek quite simply the best place around to talk about you know who!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Chunks o' Shakespeare

One of the books I'm working through on my Kindle (the title escapes me, I will update when I'm near Kindle again) has to do with memory. I just hit a patch that covers some fairly well-known ground -- the human memory can basically handle about 7 things at once, and by "chunking" that information in order to associate it with higher level pieces of information in your memory, you can make it seem that you're getting more out of it. In other words, those 7 things that you really remember could each be composed of 7 things, which could each be composed....

...the example in the books? Memorize the letters HEADSHOULDERSKNEESTOES. Assuming that you can read English you're probably going to spot four words HEAD/SHOULDERS/KNEES/TOES and presto, you only have to memorize 4 words, not 22 letters. Even better, if that children's song is now stuck in your head, it's really like 1 big piece of information.

So my question is this. Surely most of you have some randomly sizes bits of Shakespeare memorized. Why and how? Can you pin them back to any sort of "chunking" as described above?

I'll give you a small example of my own. Back in college, the girl I was dating was in The Tempest. Instead of flowers for opening night I got her a musical carousel with unicorns on it and an inscribed quote, "Now I will believe that there are unicorns." It is a small example, but that quote is forever associated with that memory in my head.

Similarly, I've told the story a million times about having that epiphany moment over Hamlet's joke, "Thrift, Horatio, thrift! The funeral-baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables!" (Although for some reason my memory always wants to insert "thrice-baked" and I don't know why).

Anybody else have similar stories? My examples are small, I'm looking for examples of how somebody can get through an entire Shakespeare play that way.

What If Shakespeare Wasn't Public Domain?

A few years back, i had a coworker that ran a Hemingway site. He was, other than the difference in authors, a lot like many of us. He had no special academic background in the subject, he was just a rabid fan. Read what he could. Collected books. New opportunities to discuss new ideas? Jumped all over them. Hosted a forum where he posted his ideas to get discussion going, answered questions when he knew the answers, and so on.

Big, big difference? Hemingway is not public domain. Imagine all the things about Shakespeare that we take for granted - how often we freely cut and paste as many pieces of text, as long as we want, whenever we need to make a point. Need video? There's almost always a YouTube clip of somebody reciting the sonnet or performing the scene that you need. He had none of that. He dreamed of the sort of concordances and textual analyses that we take for granted with Shakespeare. How many different words did Hemingway use? How did his vocabulary change during his career? Can't do it.

So I wonder ... how would your life be different if Shakespeare were not public domain? Let's say that, like Winnie the Pooh, somebody along the line *had* the rights to Shakespeare's works, and sold them. And that the entity who now owns them has aggressively marketed them, and rigorously defended their copyright. How would your life be different?

I'm pretty sure this blog wouldn't exist. I can go out and buy a book on Shakespeare like anybody else, but what I really needed was the forum where we could talk about it. I'm not a theatre person or an academic, so I am not normally surrounded with Shakespearean resources (be they scripts or people). So if you suddenly took away my ability to make my point in text by preventing me from cutting and pasting a portion of a scene from a play? Or, worse, hung the spectre of the takedown notice over my head so that whenever I did cite text I could potentially receive such a scary lawyer letter? I can't see how it would ever get off the ground.

UPDATED: If you're coming in from Twitter, don't be shy!  How do you think the world would be different if Shakespeare were not public domain?

A professor on Twitter wanted to make sure that everybody knew that not every *edition* of Shakespeare is public domain, and that her notes and emendations were copyrighted!  I pointed out that, if Shakespeare were not public domain to begin with, she wouldn't have had nothing to write notes on :)  No response.

The Shakespeare Tavern said that their budget would go up, which is certainly true since now they'd have to pay for rights to produce the plays :).  But, I wonder, if Shakespeare wasn't so universal, would there even be a market anymore for full-time Shakespeare houses?

A Director Who Understands Marketing over Shakespeare

Hey! Pssst! Want to see a 14yr old girl naked?

That's the underlying message in news stories like this one about the new Romeo and Juliet movie, starring 14yr old Hailee Steinfeld, and it's inclusion of nudity / sex scenes.

I'm well aware that Olivia Hussey was underage (15, was it?) when she played Juliet in Zeffirelli's 1968 version. What bothers me here, and maybe this was true back then as well, is this idea of leading with the press release, so that everybody knows the real story of this movie is a chance to see a naked underage girl.

I may have cut the director a little slack if I didn't see this quote in the article:

Director Julian Fellowes said he needs an age-appropriate actress for the role, because that’s how Shakespeare did it.

What the....what does that even mean? Shakespeare would have had a *boy* in the role, for starters, and I'm pretty sure he didn't write in any explicit sex scenes!

And then he caps it off thusly:

“My version is a romantic story – one that keeps pretty true to Shakespeare but is, I hope, more accessible.”

So, you know, another genius bent on *improving* Shakespeare by giving us *his* vision.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Magic, The Gathering : Othello Edition

I love people who are creative enough to come up with stuff like these Magic cards in an Othello edition. I always have a million ideas for games, but lack the attention span to make a complete and consistent set of rules for them, as well as the resources to make the necessary materials. (I usually get stuck in that limbo of "I'll make a video game - no, a card game! No, a video game! No, a board game....")

Not this guy -- visit the link to check out his Othello card (he is a Hero/Villain card, depending on what other character cards are in play), or maybe his Desdemona (power 1 / defense 1, not a strong character...) And this is only one of a number of sets! Very impressive.

The question has come up before, but it's always fun to ask again - does anybody know any Shakespeare card games? Stuff like this - where players could use their knowledge of the subject as well as learning more about the subject during the game - is the best. Not just talking about some other game's rules where the cards have been decorated with Shakespeare images.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Shakespeare’s Globe London Cinema Series

I'm trying to figure out what exactly this is. There's going to be movie versions of Shakespeare plays shown nationwide? At a movie theatre near me? That could be cool. I wonder what movies ...

"...the series will kick off in June with The Merry Wives of Windsor followed by Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2 in August and closing in September with Henry VIII. "

...Oh. Not really sure how this is going to play to a nationwide US audience. Why those in that combination? They couldn't squeeze in a tragedy, or a better known comedy?


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Oh What The .... Again?

I know that Roland Emmerich's new movie Anonymous is coming soon and will tell us that Oxford wrote Shakespeare.

But save a little bit of your scorn, oh ye Geeks, because apparently that's not the only authorship movie in town. Be on the lookout in 2012 for a *Marlowe* movie?!

This information comes from a press release by the author of The Shakespeare Conspiracy, Ted Bacino:

The second movie, based on his book, The Shakespeare Conspiracy, by Ted Bacino, is scheduled for release in early 2012 and credits Marlowe with the writings. It is being produced by the Motion Picture Hall of Fame and Borone Films.

I don't know much else we'll hear about what could be a vanity/indie project, but I figured it was worth a mention. 'Tis the season for Authorship debate, I guess.

Blot Some Lines

A long time ago we had a great discussion over that classic quote about how Shakespeare "never blotted a line," and the follow-up "Would he had blotted a thousand!" Did that imply that he made 1000 mistakes that should have been erased ... or that he could possibly have made room for 1000 more moments of genius?

Tell me your least favorite line(s) in Shakespeare. The one that makes you cringe, and which he'd never written it. Makes you want to just take your red pen and strike it from existence, because it just doesn't *feel* right.

I'm not talking about snipping of entire characters and speeches because you need to cut down on time and/or people. I'm talking specifically about lines that rub you the wrong way because they don't flow like they should, or they sound out of character, stuff like that. As if you were a modern editor and were sending notes back to the author with whatever the mark is that's the editor's equivalent of "WTF were you thinking here, Will?"

I ask because I'm wondering whether people will accept the challenge, or whether I'll get a lot of "Every word Shakespeare wrote was perfect" debate.

The Proper Way to do a Memorable Quotes List

So, Stylist Magazine wrote me today with a link to their Shakespeare's Most Memorable Quotes article. I get lots of similar requests and often brush them off as linkbait. But this one is actually quite good, and worth a link, and I'll tell you why.

First, there's 40 of them, not just 10. So even those most of them are the same old classics we've heard a million times, there's plenty in there that you're not used to seeing make the cut - including selections from Merry Wives and Measure for Measure.

Each quote is cited - play, act and scene. I can't tell you how much it bothers me when I cruise through the various quote databases online and find quotes mistakenly attributed to Shakespeare, because people just blindly copy something from one place to another with no research or concern for quality.

There's a picture for just about all of them of an actual stage (or film) production. So part of the fun is recognizing which productions you've seen, and which actors you can spot. For a small handful they went with a drawing or book cover - I wonder why? And, having said that, does anybody know where that Lear image comes from? It's quite jarring.

Note as well, if it doesn't become obvious, that there's both rollover text as well as a slide show. So you can either hover your mouse over each image to check out the quote, or just click on one to zoom in, and then page through all of them. The user interface engineer in me appreciates that very much.

So, something for everybody. Even if you know all the quotes you can still have fun checking out the images. Somebody over there didn't just try to drum up some traffic by sticking Shakespeare's name on a bullet list. They actually put some research into it. Well done, Stylist!

Narrative Timelines

Here's a question I don't think we've ever covered before. Does Shakespeare ever play with anything other than a traditional, sequential timeline? In other words, is there ever a time when Scene 3 takes place chronologically before Scene 2? For example in a flashback, or a staged re-enactment of one of those many "Here let me tell you what happened offstage..." moments? I know that there are a good handful of instances of "Ok, now, flash forward a few years." But does he ever, for any reason, flash backward? Would an Elizabethan audience have even understood that concept?

The opening to Taming of the Shrew would be close to what I mean, if it started with grandparents Petruchio and Katherine being pestered by their grandchildren to tell the story of how they met. Know what I mean? It's certainly a standard form of storytelling these days, and I'm wondering whether it would have been completely alien to Shakespeare and his audience.