Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sonnet 27

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travel tired;
But then begins a journey in my head,
To work my mind, when body's work's expired:
For then my thoughts, from far where I abide,
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,
Looking on darkness which the blind do see
Save that my soul's imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which, like a jewel hung in ghastly night,
Makes black night beauteous and her old face new.
  Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,
  For thee and for myself no quiet find.
As I flip through my sonnets book looking for material, Sonnet 27 caught my eye.  Does this entire sonnet basically come down to, "When I lay to go to sleep at night I can't stop thinking about you, so I just stare into the darkness and try to imagine your beautiful face and think about how far we are away from each other?"

I love it.

Friday, February 22, 2013

(Living In This) Danish Paradise

Danish Paradise

by Bard "First Foolio" film

You wanna tell me what this play is all about?

As I walk on the battlements of Elsinore,
I take a look at my skull and set the table on a roar.
’Cause I been antic dispositionin’ so long that
Even Ophelia thinks that my mind has gone.
But I ain’t never stabbed her dad if he didn’t deserve it.
Hidin’ back behind an arras? You know that’s unheard of.
You better watch where you’re putting that poisoned cup
Or you and your new wife might have to drink some up.
I really hate to be, but I gotta be.
You can see my solid flesh in my soliloquy, fool.
I’m the kind of Dane the traveling players wanna be like
On the stage every night
Reciting lines in the spotlight.


We been spending most our lives
Living in this Danish Paradise.
My father’s ghost is nice
Visiting this Danish Paradise.
Where are old Yorick’s gibes?
Not in this Danish Paradise.
One stab wound should suffice
Killing in this Danish Paradise.

Shakespearean Hip Hop Lyrics

Ok, so, yesterday I was challenged to do a Shakespearean Hip Hop mashup game.  This is trickier than it sounds because on the one hand you've got source material that's stayed pretty constant for the last 400 years, and on the other you've got a musical genre that's pretty much entirely evolved within the last, what, 40 years or so?  So your definition of hip hop might be different from mine.

With that in mind, enjoy!

Shakespearean Hip Hop Lyrics

  • "Won't the real Cesario please stand up, please stand up, please stand up?"
  • "U Can't Touch This Dagger"  - M.C. Duncan
  • "I sang a hey, non, the nonny, the nonny,
    To the hey hey nonny, I can stop
    The singing to the down-a-down rhythm;
    In his grave rain'd many a tear.
    Fare you well my love! Hey nonny a-down."
        - Sugarhill Ophelia
  • "I like sack butts and I cannot lie." - Sir Falstaff-a-lot
  • "Don't push him 'cuz he's close to the edge, Macbeth tryin' not to lose his head."
  • "Accidentally killed your wife? I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but Emilia ain't one." - I(ago) Z
  • "Mama said knock Laertes out! I'm gonna knock him out!"  - LL Kool Hamlet
  • "So Montagues and Capulets across the land, take it from us, parents just don't understand." - DJ Lazy Lawrence and Escalus, the Fresh Prince

Want To Be Part Of Our ShakeShare App?

I hope that everybody is enjoying ShakeShare : Shareable Shakespeare, the free iPhone app (Android users, see below) that combines the best of our #hashtag Twitter games with a huge database of Shakespeare quotes and images for you to share with your friends.

How would you like to be part of it?

You may have noticed a number of quotes *about* Shakespeare appear in the app.  One of my favorites is, "After God, Shakespeare has created most."  Or, "Try to be Shakespeare, leave the rest to fate."  I searched long and hard for as many instances I could find of famous people talking about Shakespeare (that reminds me, I'd bet I can probably find Abraham Lincoln saying something positive about our playwright as well...note to self....)

Anyway, then I thought, why just famous people?  Why not anybody that loves Shakespeare?

So here's my pitch.  Hit me with a quote about what Shakespeare means to you.  It has to be relatively short, like maybe a tweet's worth (around 150 characters, tops).  I also need to know how you'd like to sign it.  Your choices are:  anonymous, your name (first/last), or your twitter handle.  I recommend the latter, since if nothing else maybe it'll drive you some followers.

I can not promise to include everything I get.  No advertising or other obvious misuses of the idea.  This is not for that.  This is for people that love Shakespeare to get a chance to tell the world why they love Shakespeare. I reserve the right to edit for formatting and space considerations.

You're welcome to leave comments here, or just email me directly. In the meantime, if you are enjoying the app I hope that I can beg the favor of requesting a review?  Apps live and die by their reviews, not just the quality but the quantity as well.  If an app only ever gets a handful of reviews and all 5 star ratings people just come away thinking "Big deal his friends and family rated it, that doesn't count for anything."  The longer an app has been in the store the more reviews it's expected to have.  So if you could please take a moment and help me boost that particular statistic, it would go a long way toward making sure the app stays alive and healthy for a long time to come!

I have a new update coming soon where I've added a metric ton of new quotes and images, so if you're quick you can get your name included in the next roll out!

What About Android?

Listen.  I hear your pain.  I carry an Android device, for heaven's sake.  Think about that. I don't even have daily use of my own app.  There's a couple of reasons why I had no choice but to roll out the app for iPhone first:

1) My day job is writing iPhone apps.  That means that all my tools are for iPhone development, and more importantly all my thinking is geared in that direction.  Much of ShakeShare was, in fact, me teaching myself a number of important things that I then applied to my full time job. To simultaneously write two apps (one I get paid for, mind you, and one I do on my own) in two entirely different technologies?  Both would have suffered drastically for it.

2) The app is centered around wallpaper-like images, on which we superimpose our quotes.  These images have to look nice at the correct full screen dimensions.  In the iPhone world this is easy because all devices are the same size (the app is not even optimized for iPad or iPhone 5, for precisely this reason).  It the Android world this is not only difficult, it is impossible.  So I can't simply port it over directly, I have to rethink how it works as well.

3) I can only stretch myself so thin.  Every project I roll out, I have to maintain.  I wish I had nothing to do all day but maintain Shakespeare Answers and Not By Shakespeare and Blank Verse (which is broken anyway) and the blog and the merchandise shop and Twitter and Facebook and multiple apps.... But I can't.  I try these things, and then I have to pick and choose how I spend my time focusing both on what people are interested in but that I can also meaningfully do something with.  Last year I tossed out a "Shakespeare Insult Kit" app for Android.  It flopped.  Literally, single digits worth of people got it.  That doesn't bother me.  But what if I'd taken twice as long to build the app for two platforms, only to then have it flop?   Twice as much effort down the drain. I have to factor such things in when I decide which projects to pursue.

The good news is that ShakeShare is highly dependent on its database, and that is device independent.  So it's not a complete rewrite.  And, so far, people seem to like and use the app.  I get a steady stream of new downloads, and try to keep producing steady updates.  I do want to do an Android version, if for no other reason than because I think that I myself should be able to carry it around!  All I can ask is your patience.  I haven't forgotten you.  I just need to find the right block of time combined with the right set of ideas about how to port it, to make it happen in a way that makes me feel like I didn't bang out a piece of junk just to check the Android box and forget about you all, you know?  If I can't do quality I don't want to do it, and I don't think you want me to either.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Advice for Newcomers (With a Twist?)

Reader Oscar writes to me:

I'm a Spanish reader, and I'm very interested in Shakespeare, but I'm a newcomer. I've just read only some works by Shakespeare, but my purpose for 2013 (in reading terms) is to deepen in the Master's works. I'd like some guide about it, I mean, what are the works I must begin with, the most difficult ones, etc. Could you help me? I'd thank you so much...
Although I told him that we'd discuss it here, I did ask a few questions, at least one of which I think puts an important twist on the question:

  1. As a Spanish reader, does that mean that Oscar is reading the plays in English, or in a Spanish translation?  Does that change your answer?  Are there some plays that might be altered in translation more strongly than others?  What happens to the more "poetic" of the plays?
  2. What is the reader's interest in the life and times of Shakespeare, and Elizabethan history in general?  The works take on a different level when you look at them in context of what was happening around Shakespeare at the time.  Which plays are more timeless, and which really require an understanding of Shakespeare's time to fully appreciate?
In writing back I suggested Much Ado About Nothing.  High quality romance, one of Shakespeare's best couples.  Easy plot to follow.  Not too many lengthy poetic passages to deal with in translation.

So with all that in mind, let's discuss.  Where should the newcomer start?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Women of Will : Ticket Giveaway!

If Shakespeare had “bonus content,” this would be it! Women of Will is an engrossing investigation of the Bard’s art and psyche through his female characters (from Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing” to Viola in “Twelfth Night” and everyone in between!). Portrayed by two of Shakespeare’s greatest modern interpreters, Tina Packer and Nigel Gore, it is a true tour de force performance which gives a unique and exciting perspective on some of the most well-known classics in the English language.
Our pal Bardfilm is giving away tickets to the show Women of Will!  Go check it out.

Poisoned *and* Stabbed?

We need to discuss more play topics.  I've been poking around my other site Shakespeare Answers, looking to see some of the most popular questions.  What follows isn't one of the questions, but it got me thinking :).

Hamlet both poisons and stabs Claudius.  Why?

If you stab somebody and he doesn't die - stab him again, no?

In some interpretations Claudius is merely wounded ("O, yet defend me, friends; I am but hurt.") and then Hamlet forces him to drink the poison at swordpoint(?).  In an interpretation like that it seems as if Hamlet's calm cool and collected (albeit a little insane) and is definitely thinking of providing a suitable ending for Claudius, now that he's got him cornered.

But it also seems equally plausible that Claudius is already mortally wounded by Hamlet's envenom'd blade, and a clearly insane Hamlet has to hold him up to pour the poison down his throat.  If he'd just waited a few seconds maybe Claudius would go on his own.  So, as noted - instead of stabbing him again, he opts to poison him some more.  Does that make sense?

I've always taken the position that it's that "Follow my mother!" line that tells us all we need to know about Hamlet.  It's revenge for her, not for his father, that finally spurs him to act.  The whole "Dude, you're dead and you just haven't fallen down yet, give it a second" revelation by Laertes certainly helps shift Hamlet into a "Now or never" mode, but if you take out Gertrude's poisoning, would the scene have gone down the same?  Would being mortally wounded himself have caused Hamlet to finally act?  Or would he have gone to the undiscovered country still talking about it?

Did You Watch Shakespeare Uncovered?

So, did you watch Shakespeare Uncovered?  I've got all 6 episodes (there were 6, right?) on DVR and have been trying to find the time to watch them, because I don't want to miss anything.

I find my attention span with stuff like that does an interesting thing.  Here's the way I put it in conversation earlier today:

They have this weird effect on me where a single line - or, hell, pretty much David Tennant on screen at all - is overwhelmingly spine tingly.  But then they switch to the narrator/host/expert who talks *about* Shakespeare and my mind tends to wander right out of the room. When it comes to the "about" Shakespeare part it's in a different league.  "Oh, Shakespeare wrote The Tempest while he was dealing with his daughter's controversial engagement to a man who'd impregnated another woman,  I never made that connection before…."  is interesting, but not in the same way that watching performance is.
Does that make sense?  I like learning about Shakespeare.  I do.  But Trevor Nunn talking about directorial choices in staging the shipwreck just doesn't hold my interest the same way that the actual shipwreck does.

If you missed Shakespeare Uncovered, the entire series is available (or maybe coming soon?) to DVD.  Attached is the press release I received this morning:

PBS’ latest and greatest salute to the Bard -- the six-part series “Shakespeare Uncovered” -- has left the airwaves, but the critically acclaimed show and a variety of great Shakespeare-related content is available online.  HD-quality streaming versions of the six “Uncovered” episodes can be found here, along with character quizzes, two colorful (and quite helpful) infographics that lay out key plot points from HamletMacbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as well as links to full broadcast versions of plays from the PBS archive, and lesson plans for teachers who use Shakespeare in the classroom.

Produced by Blakeway Productions, 116 Films and THIRTEEN in association with Shakespeare’s Globe, Shakespeare Uncovered combines history, biography, iconic performances, new analysis, and the personal passions of its celebrated hosts  Ethan Hawke (the episode on Macbeth), Jeremy Irons (Henry IV & V), Derek Jacobi (Richard II), Trevor Nunn (The Tempest), Joely Richardson (the comedies), and David Tennant (Hamlet) to tell the stories behind the stories of Shakespeare’s greatest plays.

“If the marvelous ‘Shakespeare Uncovered’ had been around when all of us were first introduced to the Bard, the world might be a better place, or at least a happier one. Here, in fresh and exciting ways, some of Shakespeare's greatest works are examined and, yes, revealed, in ways that will make all but the expert fan rush to read or see them again.” – The Wall Street Journal

Bard lovers can find all the content at  For more information about the “Shakespeare Uncovered” digital offerings, contact us or call 212-576-2700.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Heigh My Hearts! Cheerely, Cheerely My Harts! Yare, Yare!

So I'm home today for Presidents' Day, catching up on Shakespeare Uncovered, and from the other room I hear this line (the subject line, that is) come out of my television...

...and I'm *there*.  A storm.  A ship going down.  A sailor shouting orders to his shipmates, urging them to put their backs into it to keep them all alive.

I'm reminded of this quote by Peter Brook: "Each line in Shakespeare is an atom. The energy that can be released is infinite—if we can split it open."

My question is this, though.  Is it all in our heads?  How much of that energy is in our own minds and interpretation of what we're hearing?

Think of it like this.  Imagine someone has never read The Tempest. The first thing we ask ourselves is, "Why am I hanging out with this person?" but we can get past that, because he stands his round at the bar.  It's come up in conversation after talking about the Olympics closing ceremony and your friend has asked you to explain the story.  So you start here.  You quote this line, and you try to explain how those words in that order paint the picture that you felt above.

Can you do it?  This line isn't particularly famous. Brook didn't say "Certain lines in Shakespeare," he said "Each line."  I get it (I think).  I feel it.  I'm not kidding with the above description, it crashed over me like a tidal wave.  One line.  It was awesome.  And I found myself wondering if it was something in the line itself (and, of course, the delivery), or if it was really little more than conjuring up a memory of what I've seen in the past, something that I would be hard-pressed to ever explain to another person who hadn't also seen it.


(* PS - Since it's come up, the subject line spelling comes from First Folio. Eagle-eyed readers will spot that the URL is different from the subject, because I did alter it when I found a typo.)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Geeklet 1, Geek 0

Been a long time since I posted a geeklet story.

I'm in the kitchen tallying up girl scout cookie money when my wife calls in from the other room, "What year did Elizabeth I ascend the throne?"  I realize that she has picked up one of the kids' Shakespeare books and is quizzing me.

"Umm...." I say.  History was never my strong suit.  "Since Shakespeare was really young.  I'm going to guess 1560's."

"Wrong!" she tells me.  "1559."

"I was close!" I call back, "I was within 10 years. That's not bad."

But then geeklet in the other room hears half the conversation and says, "What's Mommy need, Daddy?"

"Mommy was just asking me when Elizabeth I became queen."

So geeklet tells me, "1559."

Very nice.

UPDATE - I'm told that the actual date is 1558.  Blame the book - the one that my wife was reading from is the one that my kids already read.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Shakespearean Pick-up Lines for Valentine's Day

You all know that Shakespeare Geek has produced a great book (Hear My Soul Speak: Wedding Quotes from Shakespeare) on how and why to incorporate Shakespeare into a wedding. But how do you get to that point? Can Shakespeare help you get a date so that, sometime in the future, you can use Shakespeare (and Shakespeare Geek's book) when you tie the knot?

You have to start somewhere, and Bardfilm has come up with a list of classy lines (with considerable additions and emendations by Shakespeare Geek himself) to enable you to introduce yourself to that special someone—just in time for Valentine’s Day!

Shakespearean Pick-up Lines

If I said you were the most beautified, would you say that beautified was a vile phrase?

Can I just tell you, your eyes are nothing like the sun. And what's up with that wiry head of hair you got going on? Wait, where you going? Come back, it gets better! Your breath reeks! Call me!

You're like a good production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  You both have a nice Bottom.

To be or not to be? With you, the former. Without you, the latter.

Hey, that guy de Vere wrote you this sonnet and told me to put my name on it. No, wait, no he didn't, he's dead. 

Now is the winter of my discontent. Won't you make it glorious summer by going out with me?

I noticed you hitting it off with that fair youth. Care to make it a three-way?

You look like an angel. Or at least a minister of grace. 

You must know Shakespeare ’cause my heart just did a swan dive. Because he's, like, called the Swan of Avon sometimes. Get it?

Ever seen a beast with two backs? Want to help me make one?

If you were a statue, I'd wish I were Leontes and you were Hermione, who was pretending to be dead for sixteen years. And not really a statue at all.

If I start behaving like an ass, will you start behaving like Titania?

I bet your phone number ends in 1599 because that's the most probable date for the composition of As You Like It.

Hi. My name is Julius, and when I saw you, I said to myself, "Julius, seize her!"

God hath given you one face, but you made yourself another. You didn't need to. I mean, the first one was fine.

Let's go back to my place and tear some sheets, Doll!

O, somebody bring me a bucket of water ’cause I just found my muse of fire! Hey, baby, did you ever ascend the brightest heaven of invention?

You. Me. Dance floor. Now. Don't give me no ado about nothing. 

The fault is not in our stars but in your eyes. I mean, the stars are in your eyes. Or something.

They must have left the gates of purgatory open—look who walked out! Besides Hamlet's dad, I mean.

There's nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so - and I'm thinking you look good.

I'd LIKE for YOU to PLEASE go OUT with ME. Ever been picked up in iambic pentameter before?

I'd rather compare thee to a summer's NIGHT, if you don't mind and if you get my meaning.

I don't want to brag, but I did once hear my last girlfriend referring to our sex life as the "sound and the fury." I didn't catch what she said after that. Or immediately before.

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.