Friday, September 28, 2012

Bard Baby Names

[Thanks to reader Angela for the link!]

When each of my children was born, people would ask me whether I was going to name them something from Shakespeare.  I did, in my own way.  Katherine, my oldest, knows well the story of her shrew-ish namesake (and her little sister loves the story about the beautiful younger daughter who all the boys want, who can't get married until the mean older sister finds a boy who likes her).  She gets double points because her middle name, Delia, reminds me of Cordelia, the best of daughters.

My second child, Elizabeth, is not so much a Shakespeare name as a Shakespearean one - and I've even had conversations with her about that.  Her middle name, Anne, also happens to be the name of Shakespeare's wife.  So there ya go.

The boy was tricky.  It was easy to pick "classic" girls' names that have been around long enough that they meant something to Shakespeare.  But for boys we get a whole lot of Italian / Spanish sounding -o names (Banquo, Romeo, Petruchio etc...) while the more English sounding names (Richard, Henry, Edgar, Edmund...) just didn't do anything for us.  So the boy didn't get a Shakespeare name.  He's Brendan.  One day Brendan Fraser will do some Shakespeare and then we'll have a connection.

But!  I'm deep into the story and haven't served up the link to Shakespeare Baby Names that Angela sent me.  It's funny that the author clearly tries to suggest that only realistic names were included (so no Iago), but then Cymbeline is in the list.  Really?

Lots of minor characters listed, obviously because they had a modern connection already (like Celia, Audrey, Marina, etc...) but does that mean I could have called my son Christopher and argued that he was named after Christopher Sly from the induction of Shrew?

I still don't see many names on the boys' list that would have made it in my house.  Caliban? Horatio?  Interestingly the list includes Richard, but no Henry.  What's wrong with Henry?  My son is in class with a Henry right now.

Theme Song Shakespeare : The Britainy Hillbillies

Somehow the other day, Bardfilm and I got onto the subject of the Golden Girls.  Remember that show?  It wasn't long before we were singing the theme song (luckily over instant message so one one had to hear such a thing), and it wasn't long after that that we started inserting the theme songs into random Shakespearean situations.  Thus was born our new game..

Theme Song Shakespeare!

Entry #1 : The Britainy Hillbilles, by Bardfilm

Come and listen to my story 'bout a king named Lear--
A crazy British monarch well-stricken up in years.
"Daughters, what can you say to show you love the king?"
Cordelia spoke up and said, "Daddy—nothing." 
Nothing? Nothing will come of nothing. 
Well, the next thing you know, old Lear's out on the heath.
Regan said, "Now, that's a big relief!
But I think that our Lord Gloucester's trying to help out that guy."
So she and hubby Cornwall plucked out both his eyes. 
Oh, that vile, vile jelly. 
Well, now it's time to say goodbye to Lear and all his kids.
They're mostly lying dead on stage, done in by what they did.
You're all invited back next week to this locality
To have another helping of Shakespeare'n tragedy. 
Swimming pools—with Ophelia drowned in them—movie stars—betrayed by their own ambition.

Obviously these are much longer than our usual games and not the sort of thing where we can put together 20 of them in one post.  Look for more coming soon!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Very Best of Shakespeare Geek : Bardfilm Guest Posts

If there's something I've learned over the years I've been doing this, it's that there's two sure fire ways for a post to pull crazy traffic.  The first is to hit the SEO (search engine optimization) just right so that you show up on the first page of Google results (see "How old was Romeo?" for an example) (( Oh, thank you Google for letting me know that Li'l Romeo is 29 years old.  Wow. ))

The second way?  The second way is to get Bardfilm to write you a guest post.  Every time he drops a new list on my virtual doorstep, I know it's going to be a good day.

If you've not had a chance to read them all, you're missing out.  Let's fix that problem.  Gathered together here, right now, for the very first time on stage simultaneously, I present Bardfilm's Lists:

If you're not subscribed to Bardfilm's own site, what are you thinking?  Go do it.  Right now.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Shakespeare in the Hunger Games?

Yes, I'm reading them.  Technically, listening on audio book.  I like to know what the latest pop culture things are all about.  Just don't ask me about 50 Shades of Grey...

Anyway, I discovered (and I don't think it's a spoiler) that the bad guy's first name is Coriolanus.  Really?  That caught my attention quickly.  I wondered why for awhile, but could not immediately make the connection.

Then I learned that a girl who has her tongue cut out is named Lavinia.  Aw come on!  That can't be coincidence.

Of course, there's an obvious connection to Roman history running through the games (not even counting the whole bread and circuses, gladiatorial thing).  Once I started looking I realized that other characters are named Cinna ("I am Cinna the Poet!  I am Cinna the Poet!!"), Octavia...heck there's even a Caesar.

So does anybody know whether the author had any Shakespeare thoughts in mind with these stories?  I'm guessing that perhaps she had enough passing familiarity with Shakespeare that she was able to pull names at will, and just used them as she saw fit.  The Lavinia thing probably isn't a coincidence, I suspect that when she was seeking a Roman name for her girl with no tongue, Lavinia was the obvious choice for anybody who knows who that is.

Friday, September 21, 2012

More Shakespeare TV Adaptations

I saw a brief mention yesterday of "America's Son" being picked up by Fox:

This project focuses on a Kennedy-esque political family. When the family’s favorite son and presidential hopeful is killed in a car crash, his son (described as being a JFK, Jr. type) returns to D.C. to find out the crash that killed his father wasn’t really an accident.
But I was unaware of ABC's venture into a similar (potential?) space with Westside:
ABC also has a Shakespeare-based project on tap called Westside, which is generally referred to as being based on West Side Story.
The Cinema Blend article  goes on to talk about how far removed the projects are from Shakespeare, so that they "don't suffer too much."  Fair enough.

But perhaps we should point them to Sons of Anarchy, which will be heading into its sixth season?  The show about a motorcycle gang has long been seen as drawing upon Hamlet for its inspiration. Though I've never seen it (not really the kind of thing we watch at my house), I did spot the connection back in 2009.

I've also just realized that in my article, the creator said that he planned a 5 year run of the series to mimic the 5 acts of Hamlet.  And that it's now been renewed for a sixth season.  Hmmmm.

Where Do You Stand on the Richard III "Discovery"?

I didn't post much last week about the possible discovery of Richard III's bones, because so many other stories already beat it into the ground.  We did have some fun with the puns, though:

  • To repeat, archaeologists are not 100% sure that this is Richard III - they only have a hunch.
  • Somebody please tell me he was found on a Wednesday so we can call it Hump Day?
  • You might think Richard III would have been great at the new "Gangnam Style" invisible horse dance, but he was partial to the Humpty Hump.
  • Ironically, they found the bones of a horse right behind Richard.

You get the idea.  If you like them, they're mine, if they're awful they're Bardfilm's. ;)

Anyway, by not posting I realized that I was denying the Shakespeare Geek audience the opportunity to get together for discussion, so here be that post.  What are your thoughts?  Do you think it's him?  Where do you stand on the whole "Richard III wasn't really the bad guy he's been painted by history" angle?

As I've mentioned, I'm just plain not that familiar with the story of Richard III, so I have little opinion on the matter other to say that I make no connection between what Shakespeare wrote, and what reality was.   He could have been a saint for all I know.  Though probably not.

My favorite quote from the linked story, by the way:
"If Richard was the kind of plotter Shakespeare makes him out to be there are a lot of questions to be answered, like if he was so power-hungry why didn't he kill his brother King Edward IV?"
"Oh yeah?  Well what about all the people he *didn't* kill, huh?  How come nobody ever talks about that?"  That sounds like a line out of a Saturday Night Live skit.

Well The Good News Is, There's Ice Cream

Methinks that Stanley Wells was jonesing for some Cherry Garcia.

One of the thatched farm buildings in Shottery, Stratford, where Anne Hathaway grew up, has been converted into a snack kiosk by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who is responsible for the buildings.

The problem is that they were supposed to get permission, and didn't. They were unaware that the building was classified Grade I ("the building is of exceptional interest, sometimes even considered to be internationally important"). They are now on the hook to get "retrospective" permission and, if that falls through, could be required to put the building (actually just a "pea shed") back to its original condition.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Modern Sonnets

Paul Edmondson from Blogging Shakespeare alerts us to mark the date for October 20th, when Roehampton University will be hosting a symposium entitled Shakespeare and the Contemporary Sonnet:

Which Shakespeare sonnets do modern poets refer to again and again? What still attracts them to the sonnet as a form, and to Shakespeare’s poems in particular? Are there sonnets that resist adaptation in terms of theme, sexual politics, structure? Is the original 1609 sequence still important or do a small number of sonnets now stand alone? What are the challenges and possibilities afforded by adapting Shakespeare’s sonnets into modern idiom and modern culture?
Sounds like a neat topic.  Naturally it's more on the academic side, not the kind of thing that we casual hobbyists can just zip off to.  Maybe they'll do some live tweeting or blogging of what content comes of it?

[ If you want to see just how much depth can be found in even a single sonnet I point you to Paul's previous article "Miracles in Miniature" where he talks about working through Sonnet 29 with a group of people and how you could talk about it for hours, down to the last syllable and punctuation mark. ]

Prince of Cats! Hip Hop Shakespeare Comic

Though not a huge comic fan myself, I'm always curious when a new comic / Shakespeare adaptation pops up.  I've seen my share of graphic novels and "Manga Shakespeare," and the Kill Shakespeare series has certainly had its share of the spotlight lately.  Then there's the classic, Neil Gaiman's Sandman books.

So here we have new entry Prince of Cats, a "hip hop" retelling of the obvious (Romeo and Juliet,  just in case it's not obvious -- Prince of Cats is something that Mercutio calls Tybalt).  I'm about as far from "street" as they come, so I'm not sure how much of an opinion I get on this sort of thing.  Mostly because I don't know how much it takes itself seriously and how much is a play on the classic "blacksploitation" flicks of old.

As always I'm interested in the source material, and how much survives.  From the screenshots found in the article I see gems like these:

"Sheeeeit, where's Tybalt?"


"Indeed, knave! Redeem thy kicks for thy skin."

Interesting.  I'll leave it up to other more "culturally sensitive" folks to tell me what I'm supposed to think of this project.  I didn't want to ignore it just because I don't know what to say about it.

One question, though -- why is that one dude wearing his hat down over his face?  He looks like a character straight out of Fat Albert.

I Want To Be Buried in McLean, Virginia

While researching a new game (coming soon!) I noticed that the new center of the Shakespeare universe might well have turned up in McLean, Virginia?!  Check it out:

View Larger Map

You might need to zoom in to get the details.  See anything amazing?

Birnam Wood Drive.  MacBeth Street. Oberon Way. Titania Lane. "Agin Court". Cawdor Court. Dunsinane Court. Hamlet Park. Falstaff Road. Ariel Way. Capulet Court. Elsinore Ave. Timon Drive. Lear Road.
Are you kidding me?!  Is anybody in the audience from this neck of the woods who can explain how exactly this little slice of heaven came to happen?   I wish I'd known about it during my trip down to Washington DC earlier this year, I might have made a special detour!

Monday, September 17, 2012

There'll be no "Kissing Shakespeare" in my house!

I tend to keep half an eye out of "Young Adult" novels with a Shakespeare twist, and several references to Kissing Shakespeare popped up this weekend.  My oldest daughter enjoyed books like The Shakespeare Stealer (which, I realize, I never reviewed here) so I scan the plot:

In this story we meet Miranda. The daughter of two famous actors with the New England Shakespeare Company, she finds herself beginning to despise acting.
Ok, so far so good.  Shakespeare name, Shakespeare content.
After opening night of Taming of the Shrew, where she basically performs the lead role as a statue, a boy who’s a senor year transfer student from England that no one has really spoken to, comes up to her and tells Miranda she has to come with him. Apparently this Stephen Langford is from 1581 and he’s there to tell her that THE William Shakespeare is in danger.
Again, not a problem - the whole "young hero/heroine needs to travel in time to save a famous historic figure" is a common plot.  A little confused about playing the lead in Shrew as a statue, though.  Did they mean Winter's Tale?
What does Stephen Langford want her to do? He wants Miranda to seduce Shakespeare so that the future bard will forget all about becoming a priest.

I don't know when I got old, but I don't want to see the work "seduce" anywhere near the words "young adult", thankyewverymuch.

:)  All kidding aside, my daughter is 10 - I'm well aware that there's an entire audience of later teens that can deal with such topics while still falling under the "young adult" category.  I'm just not going to push it. In my house we're still in the midst of an ongoing brainwashing experience, where every time we stumble across even the most innocent kissing scene my wife and I will screw up our faces and yell 'EWWWWW!  KISSING!'  so that this is the first thought in our daughter's head when the subject comes up, for as long as possible. ;)

Chasing Shakespeare

While poking around IMDB for Shakespeare movies I spotted the indie Chasing Shakespeare, starring Danny Glover.  The link above has the most information, and that story was dated a year ago.  IMDB lists the film as having as 2012 release.

The plot? "A love story between a young African-American man and a Native American girl with a passion for Shakespeare."

Well, at least we know this one will have some Shakespeare in it.   Has anybody seen this one, or heard of it?

The Immortal Bard, by Isaac Asimov

I saw a reference to this Isaac Asimov short story and thought, "Ooo, it sounds like I would like that!"  Then I googled for it, found it available for reading online, and the link was already purple - meaning that I'd been there before.  Go figure! :)

It's a short and easy read, and the plot is familiar enough - Shakespeare + time travel.  What does Mr. Shakespeare think of how we've elevated him in the past few centuries?  Of course, much like Mr. Shakespeare, Mr. Asimov had the same talent of taking a story that's been told countless times and putting his own personal spin on it.

Isaac Asimov is famous among Shakespeare geeks for other reasons as well, most notably his own guide to Shakespeare, with which I've had something of a love/hate relationship.

Coming Soon : Shakespeare's Daughter

I noticed a new movie in IMDB today called Shakespeare's Daughter. The cast is a number of big names - Eric Roberts, Chevy Chase, Tom Sizemore, Bonnie Wright...

The plot so far is only the short synopsis, "Eugen Devlin, a once famous, and now reclusive poet searches through his past looking for redemption and peace."

I don't expect that it's got much if any Shakespeare material in it (other than the almost obligatory references to Shakespeare's literary genius, like something out of Good Will Hunting), but who knows?  Does anybody know the material?  I'm wondering if it's perhaps based on a book or something that might tell us what to expect.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Delighted Beauty Project

Back in May I mentioned the "Shakespearean Rosetta Stone" project where a line was taken from Othello:

If virtue no delighted beauty lack,
Your son-in-law is far more fair than black.
And the world was asked, "Translate this line into your language."  The idea was to take a culturally sensitive line and look at how that aspect plays into the translation."

Anyway, I've learned that the Delighted Beauty site is up and running, and you are invited to participate.   They are inviting full multimedia contribution of any translation along with its back-translated English version.

The best I could offer is Esperanto, but I don't know it nearly well enough to do translation.  Anybody going to participate?  Let us know in the comments!

So, Who Wants To Teach Me About Mumford & Sons?

I don't believe that the band Mumford & Sons is new, but I do know that I've been hearing them a lot more on the radio lately, and they're going to be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live next week, so something's definitely happening in their story arc.

The name of their debut album?  Sigh No More, which is a quote from Much Ado About Nothing. Honestly I'm not loving that particular song, but maybe it will grow on me.

Rather than do some quick Wikipedia searches and pretend like I know something about the band, I figure the reference in the subject line will be enough to attract the fans who can come and school me.  This is why the blog has been successful  - I just open up the conversation and let you folks do the talking.

So, somebody enlighten me - what's up with Shakespeare and Mumford and Sons?  Are there lots of references?  Have they spoken about this in interviews, and is there a specific connection they're working from (I'm reminded of the stories about Sting being an English teacher, for instance).  If a new fan stumbles across the band almost entirely because of the Shakespeare thing, what's the best song to point them to?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Once Again, Geeklets Knock Me For A Loop

So tonight it's bath night and I'm pouring water over my son's head in the tub.  "Look, a double bubble!" he says.

"Double bubble toil and trouble," says I.  "Fire burn and cauldron bubble!"

"Fillet of a fenny snake," I hear out of the 8year old.

"Holy sh*t!" says I, who did not realize that they knew the speech.  (Ok, I didn't really say that, but I certainly thought it :))  It's not like any of those are commonly used words, after all.  "Ok, you caught Daddy by surprise, I did not know that you guys knew that speech."

"Oh sure," says the 10year old, "Everybody knows that speech.  Fillet of a fenny snake, in the cauldron boil and bake."

Seriously, the only time I know of that they would have heard that speech (other than the opening line) was when I taught the 8yr old's Brownie troop.   Either it just stuck somehow, or they've been exposed to it in other ways.

Pretty soon they're going to come at me with Shakespeare knowledge that they picked up independently of me.  I can't wait.

Friday, September 07, 2012

More on the Psychology of Romeo and Juliet

A couple weeks ago I stumble across a mention of The Romeo and Juliet Effect in a book about motivation and will power.

Today among the various Shakespeare feeds I scan I spotted this 2008 Psychology Today article entitled, "Romeo and Juliet's Death Trip: Addictive Love and Teen Suicide."  

There are no great insights to be found.  The author pretty much skims the story for various death references and ties them all back to suicide, including the claim that Romeo is suicidal over Rosaline at the opening of the play.  I think that's a bit much.  That's not suicidal, that's emo.  Not the same thing.

The article's at least entertaining, though, and I appreciate that.  I wonder how far his tongue was in his cheek while writing it?

Father Laurence tries cognitive behavior therapy:
I'll give thee armour to keep off that word:
Adversity's sweet milk, philosophy (read "psychology"),
To comfort thee, though thou art banished. . . .
rouse thee, man! thy Juliet is alive,
For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead;
There art thou happy: Tybalt would kill thee,
But thou slew'st Tybalt; there are thou happy too:
The law that threaten'd death becomes thy friend
And turns it to exile; there art thou happy:
A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back;
Happiness courts thee in her best array.
But then (oy!!!) the good Father resorts to pharmacology: he gives Juliet a potion to make her appear dead.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

College Shakespeare (in Boston)

Bard in Boston has been collecting a list of fall shows playing at some of our many Massachusetts colleges, including an all-female Taming of the Shrew, and a "a creative encounter with Shakespeare's Hamlet, incorporating movement, music, martial arts, sound and song"

Maybe I'll make it to some of these!  I really don't see nearly enough Shakespeare, relative to how much is around me at all times.  Maybe some of the more North Shore schools will get added to the list?  I'm looking at you, Merrimack College ...

A Dogberry Spinoff?

In this interview with Joss Whedon about the upcoming Much Ado movie we learn a couple of interesting bits:

  • Although the Shakespeare readings at his house have been going on 10 years and started during Buffy, Sarah Michele Gellar did not take part.  I expect he threw this in there because it's a frequently asked question - she's still arguably the most well known name to come out of that series (that is, outside the Whedon universe).
  • Nathan Fillion, cast as Dogberry, had never read Shakespeare before.  "People are thinking spin-off!" Whedon says.
He goes on to talk about how a Shakespeare movie is similar to The Avengers, but isn't that what all directors and actors do when they're interviewed?  Talk about how it's all basically drawing from the same source?  I get his point - that both works are ensemble pieces, and you need to clearly understand and present why each character is there - but I wouldn't call it a groundbreaking opinion.

What got me most curious was that spinoff idea.  Could you imagine that?  You take a well known cast of characters from a world where spinoffs and sequels abound (that being the comic/sci-fi world).  Then you drop some Shakespeare on them.  They don't need to glorify the text like we do - they just want to see their favorite characters having new adventures.  So, why not?

We've talked about Shakespeare sequels in the past, but I don't think we've ever done spin-offs.  What would a Dogberry spin-off look like?  Could you get a movie out of it, or a whole television series?