Wednesday, December 21, 2005

When Love Speaks

Oooooo, want this. When Love Speaks is a CD of celebrities doing performances of Shakespeare sonnets and other famous works by you know who. The sample included in this all-flash site is Alan Rickman doing Sonnet 130 ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun..."), but the CD also contains Richard Attenborough doing #17 ("Who will believe my verse in time to come...") which I recited at my wedding, and Joseph Fiennes doing "Our revels now are ended..." from The Tempest.

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Hamlet's Castle is Haunted

It appears that Hamlet's castle is haunted. Or, at least, Kronburg Castle, which claims to be the inspiration for Shakespeare's greatest work.

"Windows and doors fly open, stacks of paper disappear and reappear elsewhere, and tables set themselves," she said.

Most of the employees have reported strange happenings at the restaurant, such as two seeing inexplicable gray shadows waft by and another claiming to have seen the ghost of an old man in the kitchen, Pedersen said.

Whatever they are, they seemed to be good-natured and don't frighten the guests.

I like it. I wonder if the ghost is Polonius? Getting a snack? Seems like there's a "not where he's eaten, but where he eats" pun in there someplace.

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Happy Holidays, Everybody!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately, been a busy few weeks. We're entertaining at my house for Christmas this year and trying to get the addition finished before everybody shows up. I'm still on the lookout for good stories, but right this moment I don't have the time to dig through as many sources as I usually do.

So, have a great holiday, whichever you may be celebrating - although I believe some of the major ones all overlap this year, right? First day of Hannukah is the day after Christmas, and isn't Kwaanza(sp?) always celebrated during that week anyway?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Michigan Shakespeare fans rejoice

Patrick Stewart is coming. As part of a 3 week visit from the Royal Shakepseare Company to University of Michigan in late October, Stewart will play Anthony in Anthony and Cleopatra, and Prospero in The Tempest.

I think I knew that Stewart was doing the Royal Shakespeare thing, but I'm not sure I ever realized that it's here in the states. I thought it was an England thing.

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Is this a dagger that I see before me? Shakespeare's Smoke and Mirrors

As a geek I have to love this article that explains how Shakespeare may have done the "dagger that I see before me" trick in Macbeth. I guess I never really thought about Shakespeare using special effects before, and assumed that maybe an all-black dressed stagehand held the dagger and walked backwards or something.

Not so, says the article, which details the work of Professor Iain Wright. Wright stumbled across the work of John Dee, a scientist during Shakespeare's time. "I suddenly ran up against this description of a man staring back with amazement at a floating dagger, and of the 'marvellous glass' that produced it," says Wright. He logically goes on to make the case that Shakespeare would have known about such tricks and worked them into plays like Macbeth, not only for the dagger but perhaps for the ghosts themselves.

Twelfth Night : Send in the Clown, but tell him not to be funny - Arts & Culture: No clowning around with Shakespeare

My local paper has this story about Kenny Raskin, a long time professional clown, doing the role of Feste in Twelfth Night in Cambridge. The irony, he says, is that he has to try very hard not to be funny. "He's more commentator than clown," says Raskin.

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Monday, December 12, 2005

What Shakespeare Character Are You?

Quiz: What Shakespeare character are you?

I can't remember if I ever posted this, but I'm pretty sure I never took it. Just did, and it told me I'm Iago. Dang!

Iago- Sneaky and devious.

You befriend and betray.
Get a grip!
Which Shakespeare character are you?

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Shakespeare on "Tookie" Williams

I like this post because I appreciate that somebody can break out the Shakespeare to support their position (even if I may not agree with the position). Arnold Schwarzenegger has denied clemency for "Tookie" Williams, so this user over at Talk Politics suggests that maybe the governator should have read his Merchant of Venice.

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Shakespeare Hated Christmas

I had never before seen this parody entitled Shakespeare and Christmas, by Max Beerbohm. The premise chosen is that since Shakespeare only ever mentioned Christmas once in his entire body of work - and even then, in not very flattering light -- therefore he must have utterly loathed the holiday.

I think it's funny.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Do You Squidoo?

Is Squidoo the next big thing? Created by Seth Godin with the premise that "everybody is an expert in something", Squidoo attempts to take all the best elements of the Web2.0 world (RSS, blogs, flickr, tags, etc...) and wrap it all in a user friendly, build-it-up-from-pieces way so that anybody with a desire to make a place for information on topic X can do so.

I know that most blog approaches, like this one I'm using, are limited in the "and what else can it do?" sense. For instance, if I find another RSS feed that I might want to include here, can I do it? I have yet to figure it out. And if I want to add some Links to a section on other Shakespeare sites, I have to go edit and publish the template by hand. Nasty. With Squidoo, everything is build into the dynamic GUI where you drag and drop sections around the page.

Naturally I've already hooked myself up: ShakespeareStuff. Tell me if you like it. Where would you normally visit - there (where they have an RSS feed back to here), or here? Why?

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Music of Shakespeare's Plays, New CD by Ensemble Chaconne

Music of Shakespeare's Plays, New CD by Ensemble Chaconne:

Don't know anything about it, but people were interested last time I had a story about the music of Shakespeare.

Among the many selections are “Willow, Willow” sung by Desdemona before her murder in Othello; “It Was a Lover and His Lass” (As You Like It); “O Mistress Mine” (Twelfth Night); “Hark, Hark! The Lark” (Cymbeline); “Take O Take Those Lips Away” (Measure for Measure); “Full Fathom Five” (The Tempest), "Go from My Window” from Ophelia’s mad scene in Hamlet; and “Greensleeves,” Shakespeare’s best-known ballad tune (quoted in The Merry Wives of Windsor), an allusion to women of ill repute, recognized by their green sleeves.

I'm curious about the Ophelia song. I wrote the beginning of a play once that I called "Ophelia's Song". The idea was that, like R&G Are Dead, it focused on the scenes between the scenes, what Ophelia was up to when she wasn't on stage. The story was that she and Hamlet definitely had a relationship going, and he'd convinced her that he was just "playing" mad. I like that scene where she enters and gives the flowers to everybody. It might be the most tragic bit in the whole play, short of Hamlet's final deathbed speech. Especially if there was a little more meat there to work with. Shakespeare didn't really give her much depth.

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Shakespeare Quotes (about him, not by him)

I stumbled upon ThinkExist today, so of course I punched up Shakespeare like I always do. I got a bunch of other people's quotes talking about Shakespeare, which is actually kind of cool:

"If ever a human being got his work expressed completely, it was Shakespeare. If ever a mind was incandescent, unimpeded..., it was Shakespeare's mind."
- Virginia Woolf

"Shakespeare knew the human mind, and its most minute and intimate workings, and he never introduces a word, or a thought, in vain or out of place; if we do not understand him, it is our own fault."
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

"If you locked Shakespeare in a room with a typewriter for long enough, eventually he'd write all the songs by the Monkees."

"After God, Shakespeare has created most."
- Alexandre Dumas Pere

"The aim, if reached or not, makes great the life : Try to be Shakespeare, leave the rest to fate!"
- Robert Browning

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Will (Shakespeare) & Grace

Scene : Jack is over the apartment reading a script that Will has written. Jack has just discovered, to his shock, that "there are lezzies in this."

Jack: Will, I beg of you, please let them be played by men. No one will know the difference. That's what Shakespeare did when he had lesbos in his scripts.

Will: Yes, who could forget the coven of high school gym teachers in Macbeth?

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Shakespeare Deja Vu

So after finding that Shakespeare reference and being at google anyway I went looking for more Shakespeare Simpsons references. Ending up at I typed "shakespeare" into the search and, while I did not get any interesting hits, I did notice that the search engine is Prospero Technology.

That's just weird.

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Simpsons Shakespeare : A Star is Burns

Just caught a Simpsons Shakespeare reference I never noticed before. In "A Star is Burns", where the town holds an indy film festival, Barney the town trunk creates his own 'art' film, in black and white, showing the horrors of life as an alcoholic.

He quotes a line from Othello "about a drinker" (and credits it as such): "To be now a sensible man, by and by a fool, and presently a beast." That is Cassio, Act II, scene 3.


I was just blogging that because it was a Simpsons reference. It only just dawned on me as I wrote it that IT'S OTHELLO AGAIN!

Man. Seriously. Othello week.

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AP Wire | 12/02/2005 | Racine County inmates rehearse Shakespeare's 'Othello'

AP Wire | 12/02/2005 | Racine County inmates rehearse Shakespeare's 'Othello':

Seriously, it's like Othello week or something. I can't get away from him.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Shakespeare for Warriors

Ha! You may think that an article entitled Shakespeare for Warriors is going to be all about Henry V and the infamous "St. Crispin's Day" speech, but you'd be wrong!

Well, after the first couple of paragraphs, that is. "We happy few, we band of brothers" is brought up as something that one SEAL quotes to his fellows before heading into battle. (Oddly, I actually wrote that quote on a card for one of my groomsmen at my wedding. Although I took out the "sheds blood with me" part :))

But what's cool is that the article then totally goes in a different direction - to Othello, no less. Quick show of hands, how many people think of Othello as a particularly military play? I never did. But the article looks at Othello's weaknesses (and Iago's strengths) from that perspective, about how Othello is a total fish out of water in Venice rather than the tented fields, and how quick he is to believe Iago simply because he is more comfortable with the military language that Iago speaks to him.

Desdemona does not come off well here. She's entirely the instigator, says the author. And "When given the choice between trusting the diabolical Iago, a warrior with many kills under his belt, or his new wife Desdemona, the Venetian, Othello doesn't hesitate. He goes with what his officer says : soldiers don't lie." "Band of brothers" ends up being Othello's downfall.

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Othello at Clairity's Place

Clairity's Place has got up a great article on "loss of faith" in Othello. Must be a big Othello week, I was actually googling for a different Othello story that I'd lost when I turned up this one. Definitely a nice change of pace instead of always reading about Hamlet, R&J and Macbeth.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Blogging Shakespeare Dreams

Nope, not talking about the act of blogging dreams about Shakespeare. Last night I actually had a dream about blogging Shakespeare.

For some reason there was lots of commuting on the train going on - I remember myself and several others having to walk from one train platform to another. And at some point I think I picked up one of those small weekly papers, like a college thingie. And on the front page, in a side bar, was an article entitled "Love gave us Dr. Seuss, Churchill, and Shakespeare. Why?"

I remember thinking, "Man, I have to read that and blog it. Must find out the Seuss/Shakespeare connection! But what the heck is Churchill doing in there?" Actually in the context of the dream I remember getting all blurry eyed at the prospect of just how amazing such an article was going to be.

Woke up before I ever got a chance to read the article. But what a weird combination. Are there similarities between Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss? Sure, people over the years have had fun doing Seussian versions of the Shakespeare classics (some better than others), but that's not what I'm talking about.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Roger Daltrey on Shakespeare

I don't know why exactly Reuters interviewed Roger Daltrey of "The Who", but here it is. I particularly like his take on Shakespeare (he once acted the part of Dromio for a BBC Comedy of Errors, you see). Apparently Shakespeare was the Pete Townshend of his day, and thus Mr. Daltrey was not intimidated in the least.

Anybody besides me got an image of Will doing that cool guitar windmill thing that Townshend always used to do?

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Intelligence, design and Shakespeare

I love this article on intelligence, design and Shakespeare, een if I'm not sure I understand it.

It starts out talking about the holidays, and then with a quick "here's the rub" (nice!) slides quickly into using words like "big bang cosmology" and "particle accelerators." The story, of course is about "intelligent design" and whether it should be taught in biology courses as an alternate theory to Darwinian evolution. Fair enough. It brings up Newsweek's position on the subject, where they noted that Darwin carried the Bible with him on his travels.

But then we get the Stephen Hawking quote that ends "for then we would know the mind of God," rapidly moving on to "What, after all, do we really know?" and then to "Engineers design routinely. they examine the design of others...."

(Meanwhile I'm scanning and thinking "Where's the Shakespeare?")

To close the article, the author circles back around to the "frozen" variety of human speech - writing. And then asks a bizarre question - "Why is the play called Julius Caesar, when he dies in Act III? Shouldn't it have been called Brutus?" He then gets all philosophical about whether Shakespeare had a reason for doing that, and if he showed us and we simply haven't realized it.

I'm going to have to come back and read this one a couple of times, it's making my head hurt.

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Shakespeare My Butt

Ok, this is different. This morning in my Google news I saw a reference to the Canadian band Lowest of the Low whose album "Shakespeare My Butt" is ranked #10 in Top 100 Candian Albums of All Time. Not bad when you consider that Neil Young is on there at #7.

But then, upon googling for more references, I found
Shakespeare My Butt!: From 'Marsupial Elvis' to 'No Place'... on the Trail of the Pointless Quest by John Donoghue which appears to be a completely unrelated book project.


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Sunday, November 27, 2005

Shakespearean Leftovers

There's really nothing about Shakespeare in this article, other than the first sentence. But I just couldn't resist a story that starts with the classic "There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio...." and then goes on to discuss what to do with the turkey leftovers.

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What's on your Shakespeare Wish List?

Tis the season, as they say, and I don't have any time for political correctness. So let's just assume that you're going to soon celebrate some holiday that is traditionally a gift-giving occasion. Is there "Shakespeare stuff" on your list? Like what? Last year I got three books about Shakespeare -- Garber, Greenblatt and Bloom. I'm still working my way through them :), so no books for me. Movies? Other geeky gadgety stuff? I have a bust of Shakespeare on my bookshelf.

So what other sort of Shakespeare stuff have you got, or do you want?

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Guesswork about Shakespeare beats TV 'Science" Any Day

The Herald has this article that appears to be about Shakespeare, but I'll be darned if I can figure out what the heck the man is talking about. Although it starts with a discussion about analyzing Shakespeare, it actually appears to be a review of three different BBC television shows - none of which appear to have been about him. Maybe the first one, but I have no idea. Who is William Boyd? Who is Rupert Graves?

Anybody want to translate for me?

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Shakespeare Works!

While trying to hunt down a different project called "Shakespeare's Guide to e-Learning" I found KJ-Films' "Shakespeare Works!" which looks even more interesting. The project contains a 30minute film about Shakespeare (focusing on a key question for the 11-14 age group, "Why is he so famous?") as well as an interactive CD loaded up with games and other such things.

At 175 euros for a 5 seat license it seems somewhat expensive for most of the school budgets I've known, but I can't fault somebody for needing to make some money. Make money on the first project, that'll give you the impetus to do another project.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

Bill Bryson doing Shakespeare?

For those who do not recognize the name, Bill Bryson is perhaps best known for "A Walk in the Woods" (in which he walks the Applachian Trail) and "A Short History of Nearly Everything" which is pretty self-explanatory. I have not read either, personally, though both have been recommended.

So it was with great interest that I caught the tail end of this interview with the man:

What are you working on next?

I'm doing two biographies - one on me, one on William Shakespeare.

Actually, it makes for an interesting question -- is there really all that much new under the sun in the Shakespeare biography world that yet another one is needed? Over the last few years alone we've seen quite a few. I wonder if Bryson is going to bring any new insight to the Bard's life? Maybe reveal that the plays were actually written by Bottom or something? :)

Y.P.R.: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, Told Entirely in Emoticons

Y.P.R.: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, Told Entirely in Emoticons

I think that basically sums it up. :)

King Lear II : Courtesy Vaclav Havel

CJAD 800 : News: Vaclav Havel, former Czech president, is planning to write a new play. Says he's got it all in his head, and just has to write it down. The quote of the story comes here: "He has said earlier, however, he planned to write a play based on William Shakespeare's King Lear, as well as an autobiography." I'm trying to figure out if that means one play that combines the elements of King Lear and autobiography, or if he's talking about two separate projects.

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Lay on, Macduff indeed!

I only just caught this link about Hugh Hefner's Macbeth out of the corner of my eye when I finished the Romeo and Juliet quiz. "Oh good lord," I thought, visions of Caligula running through my head.

Turns out they're referring to Roman Polanski's 1971 "The Tragedy of Macbeth", produced by Hefner. Haven't seen it, or for that matter ever even heard of it, but it appears from the reviews that it was pretty good. And not just for Lady Macbeth's nude sleepwalking, although you have to wonder if Hefner was at the production meetings saying "Darnit can I get at least some nudity in this thing?" No word on whether Francesca Annis, who played Lady Macbeth, was Hef's girlfriend at the time. :)

"Romeo and Juliet": The Quiz

"Romeo and Juliet": The Quiz:'s got a new quiz up. I got 8 out of 10. I always falter when they start asking questions beyond the context of the play itself, like who wrote the ballet entitled Romeo and Juliet. (Yes that's a question but no I'm not giving you the answer :))

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Cinematizing Shakespeare

If Shakespeare were alive today, he'd be writing movies. So starts this great commentary on the history of Shakespeare's plays in film.
(Did you know that the very first Shakespeare-on-film was actually King John, a silent film in 1899?)

Some choice quotes tell you where the journalist's heart lies: "Film directors continually talk about 'opening up' Shakespeare for the big screen. To me, this always brings to mind Jack the Ripper opening up the innards of his East End victims in order to slice out their entrails." He picks a number of adaptations including Prospero's Books, Brannagh's fulltext Hamlet, and Iam McKellen's Richard III and dissects their attempts -- too literal from stage to screen? Too liberal?

My personal rule has always been that if you keep the text in tact, then you can visually present it however you want. I don't have to like it, but you can still do it and get away with calling it Shakespeare. But once you get rid of the original text, then forget it, you're doing your own thing.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Beep. It's from Hamlet. 2B? NT2B?=??? - Yahoo! News

Beep. It's from Hamlet. 2B? NT2B?=??? - Yahoo! News:

Dot Mobile has a plan to offer SMS-ified versions of the classics in order to keep kids interested. "bothLuvrs kill Emselves" sums up Romeo and Juliet, while "MadwyfSetsFyr2Haus" is the climax of Jane Eyre.

Kill me now.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Self-Referential Shakespeare

In the final scene of Macbeth, the hero enters asking, "Why should I play the Roman fool, and die on mine own sword?"

In the final scene of Julius Caesar, Brutus tries to convince one of his soldiers, "Good Volumnius, Thou know'st that we two went to school together: Even for that our love of old, I prithee, Hold thou my sword-hilts, whilst I run on it."

Anybody got another spot where it looks like one Shakespeare play references another?

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Monday, November 14, 2005

The Tempest in Bermuda

I think some of us would like to hang out with this guy. Don Kramer may only be just another guy starting a business in the Bermuda insurance market, which sounds like a sleeper, but he's named his company "Ariel", a direct and deliberate reference to the Tempest.

He's not even been particularly sneaky. This is his second business, you see - the first was indeed named Tempest, back in 1993.
Both companies are "property-catastrophe reinsurers", whatever that means.

I like how simply the article (in a Bermuda newspaper) calls the Tempest "Bermuda based" as if that was agreed upon fact. :)

What do you think -- if Mr. Kramer had perhaps grown up in my generation, with today's education, maybe he would be calling his companies Gilligan and Skipper?

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When coaches quote Shakespeare

Nothing terribly newsworthy, I just always like to link it when I find a Shakespeare reference on the sports pages. Reminds me of high BIZARRO WORLD.

Nothing against Bernie, but the coach was waxing poetic in a realm - the underside of an NBA arena - where you hear more 50 Cent than Henry V.

Said Bickerstaff: “It's like that Shakespeare quote: Fault lies not in the stars but in ourselves.”

I particularly like how the writer of the article couldn't help but take a Shakespeare jab himself. High school literature nerds unite!

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Henry the What?

No good Shakespeare news stories or sightings to report recently so I might as well start up with more personal stories. Last night for the first time in a long time Kerry and I were able to sit on the couch and read the newspaper in the evening, both kids asleep. "Oh hey," she says, "Henry the Eighth."

"That's a Shakespeare play," I say, curious.

"No, wait," she says, reading, "Is that eight? What's V?"

"V is five. Probably Henry the Sixth, then."

"Nope, just V."


She hands me the paper. Sure enough the headline is, "Highschool performs Henry the V."

Henry "The" V? Never heard it called that before :). Methinks the writer is perhaps not a Shakespeare fan.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Savage Shakespeare Spouting Chickens

SavageChickens is just the kind of comic I like. It's small - written on yellow stickies. The humor is in the joke, not the artwork. And there's lots and lots and and lots of Shakespeare references. Go check it out.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Shakespeare : The Comic Book

I just found so I can't say I know much about it. But I like the idea. As the newspaper article I saw put it, "Half a loaf of Shakespeare is better than none." In other words, even though many hardcore fans (like myself) would normally insist that you have to stick with the original language, if the choice is between giving up the language versus losing them completely, I'll give up the language.

Plays include Midsummer's, Macbeth, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, and Twelfth Night. The site even has screenshots which is very cool. I see that the "modern english" version is literally right next to the original, so at least they haven't totally foregone the source.

Their summary of Macbeth is weird. Is he really an essentially good man? Where's the evidence of that? Sure, his wife is the one that pushes him into all the really bad acts, but is it true to say that we know he was all that good in the first place? He didn't take much convincing, after all.

I agree with them, though, that his speech on learning of his wife's feath is "amongst the most powerful and haunting in literature." It is so completely and totally unexpected for where it is that (when done justice) just hits you like an emotional freight train.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

O for a Muse of Fire!

Wow, wish I'd thought of this Shakespeare-O-Lantern! Very cool indeed.

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Cursed be them that move his bones!

Oh no no no no, tell me that this story about digging up Shakespeare's body is a Halloween joke. Apparently some American scientists have become convinced that Shakespeare was murdered by his son in law? Would that be the one who married the younger daughter, where Shakespeare deliberately rewrote the will at the last minute to make sure that the son in law wouldn't get anything? The son in law who was involved in some sort of scandal where he got another woman pregnant?

I don't think it's cool to go digging up bodies just to satisfy your own curiosity.

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Book Review: William Shakespeare`s the Tempest by Marianna Mayer

Book Review: William Shakespeare`s the Tempest by Marianna Mayer

I like that The Tempest can easily be converted into a children's book, which I think I've mentioned before. But apparently we should stay away from this one. "There's little wonder, and less of Shakespeare, however, in this leaden picture-book adaptation of the famous romance." Oh.

The other night I asked Katherine (who is 3) if she wanted Daddy to make up a story on the spot. She said yes. So I told her the story of a little girl named Miranda who lived on an island with her daddy, a magician named Prospero. Long story short she got very confused, very fast (and did ask where Miranda's mommy was). Since I was winging it I didn't have good consistent answers for all of her questions. But it does give me hope that she's getting to an age where she can understand just a story, without pictures to back it up.

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Friday, October 28, 2005

CBS News on Shakespeare Authorship

CBS News reports on the Falstaff (aka Henry Neville) theory. The only reason I'm linking to this one, since it's actually an old theory that we've already discussed, is that the article seems to be making fun of the Falstaff argument and provides more evidence against than for it.

"Shakespeare had never been to Venice. So how could he write Merchant of Venice?"

I mean, honestly, is that a real question? Ray Bradbury's never been to Mars but I liked his "Martian Chronicles."

I like the rebuttal: "Shakespeare never once mentioned that there were any canals in Venice. That suggests to me that it was written by someone who had read books about Venice, but had never actually been there."

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ABC News: Elvis still tops dead celebrities, Shakespeare hot

ABC News: Elvis still tops dead celebrities, Shakespeare hot

What they mean, in case you don't feel like reading, is that if Shakespeare's works were still under copyright and thus making his estate money, he would be generating an estimated $15million a year, which would put him #5 on the "dead celebrities" list - behind Elvis, Charles Schultz, John Lennon and Andy Warhol.

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Shakespeare makes me feel smart!

The South End Newspaper - Shakespeare makes me feel smart! - A&E - News

I like this article for the upbeat tone that it brings to taking Shakespeare classes in college. "Shakespeare's plays are actually very interesting and hilarious. In fact, they're among the most interesting and hilarious plays I've ever read."

And also: "Believe it or not, knowing that you're able to converse with someone about Shakespeare is very fulfilling...much more fulfilling than talking about how many shots of Tequila I can drink before I vomit or how the OC makes me cry."

Where was she when I was in college? :)

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Disputed Elizabethan portrait not Shakespeare, National Gallery says

NewsFromRussia.Com Disputed Elizabethan portrait not Shakespeare, National Gallery says.

I'm not up to date on all the various images of Shakespeare out there. But apparently this "Grafton" one has been deemed a fake. Or, rather, not really a fake in the sense that it was ever passed off as Shakespeare, but rather that people incorrectly assumed it was him. One of the arguments is that for the time of his life that this would have been painted in, Shakespeare was almost certainly too poor to afford that sort of costume.

These are the same people who also found that the "Flower portrait" was a fake from the 19th century.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Podcasting News: No Time to Read Hamlet? Put a Study Guide on Your iPod!

Podcasting News: No Time to Read Hamlet? Put a Study Guide on Your iPod!
I am NOT a fan of just giving kids the Cliff's Notes (or Spark Notes, or whatever) for Shakespeare. I would much prefer to see Shakespeare on the iPod be people performing it (as the ShakespeareCast does), or at least discussing it and trying to put a more fun, personal spin on it. Moving the SparkNotes to an audio form will hopefully get the kids into it more as they actually get to hear portions of the play performed. But I wonder if their ears will glaze over the same way their eyes do when they get bored, and they'll just try to mindlessly copy down what they hear?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I've been keeping an eye out for a Shakespeare for a long time, and now ShakespeareCast has come along. Very cool. It appears to be a high school theatre group who is actually going to podcast their own presentation of the plays, starting with Romeo and Juliet. Right now it is just filler, with the kids reading the sonnets.

Even still, the very existence of the podcast is a good thing, and you should subscribe. It's nice to hear the sonnets read aloud. I hope for good things from them.

Iago reborn on Reality Television?

Reality TV Magazine: Jim Bozzini Leads On The Apprentice Martha Stewart
This is a silly thing to link to but it's funny because when I'm not posting about Shakespeare on this blog I'm posting about reality TV on my other blog. In particular this story is about Jim, the evil/crazy one on Martha Stewart's Apprentice. The producer likens him to Iago, saying Jim "seems nutty enough not to be a threat in the short term, but in the long term his calculated razor sharp mind intimidates the competition."

I don't particularly like Jim, as I've mentioned on the other blog, and want him voted off. But comparing him to possibly Shakespeare's greatest villain is a bit much.

Royal Shakespeare Company on CD

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Arts | Dame Judi part of Shakespeare CD
No word on how much it costs or where to get it. These are recordings of live performances. Plays include King Lear, Richard II, War of the Roses (what?), Coriolanus (featuring Olivier) and All's Well That Ends Well with Dame Judi Dench.

Ah, found it : Royal Shakespeare Company homepage. I can't link directly to it because it's in the shopping section and you get a session parameter. But look for "Essential Shakespeare" in the audio CD section. 15.95pounds. I don't know how much that is in US.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Shakespeare, in Concert

If you're in Charlotte, NC this sounds pretty cool -- a Renaissance Music concert featuring "original music from Shakespeare's plays". They play on historical instruments and even provide commentary and context for the play so you understand the placement of the music. Plays include Twelfth Night, Henry V, Merry Wives, Tempest, Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth.

Interactive TV Apps, Starting with Shakespeare

I love it. One of the great things about Shakespeare that many people forget is that his work is now in the public domain, and thus its often the first place people go for quality source material when they want to try something new. The BBC is at it again, this time with
Interactive TV Apps.

Known as "red button apps", the four productions (Much Ado, Macbeth, Shrew, and Midsummer's) will allow the viewer to view various scenes in original text, from a variety of angles, with the help of a glossary, interviews with the actors, and so on.

From the first paragraph, in a parenthetical note: "the productions...are part of a BBC initiative, dubbed "ShakespeaReTold", that is designed to bring Shakespeare's work to new audiences via TV, radio and the web)." Love it! I only wish that over here in the US we had a similar appreciation for the man.

Upscale shopping in Shakespeare's day

Finally, some fun stuff to post. Ever wonder what shopping was like in Shakespeare's day? Did young Will hang out at the local equivalent of the mall, listening to the 400yr old version of CDs?
The Folger Library has a new exhibit on exactly this subject. The "Royal Exchange", Britain's first shopping mall (according to co-curator Linda Peck), housed 120 tiny shops and was opened by Queen Elizabeth in 1570. I like the story that the merchants moved their goods around between the shops behind the scenes so that the queen would not see how empty it was.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

NPR : 'A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare'

I can't listen to this NPR piece on 'A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare' because I only do MP3, not streaming formats like RealAudio. So somebody tell me if it's good.

Talk of the Nation, October 18, 2005 · Professor and author James Shapiro talks about A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599. The book provides a look into the daily life of the playwright during a time of personal upheaval and prodigious creativity. During this period, Shakespeare produced Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It and Hamlet.

Reading and writing about poems

This article on reading and writing about poems might be the most boring treatment of the sonnets I've ever read, but if it's the sort of thing you need to finish your homework, then here you go.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 30 uses terms from finance and law. How does the use of particular words or a pattern of diction affect tone and meaning or contribute to the "message" of the poem? Here you should also notice any unusual word choice and consider its function.



Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Shakespeare Is Elementary

Shakespeare Is Elementary

This looks pretty neat - Shakespeare at the elementary school level. I love the opening picture, just the idea of kids that young drawing Shakespeare is very cool to me (much like my 14month old daughter playing with one of my Buddha statues like a toy and learning how to say "Buddha" :)). Makes it real.

They have a timeline of Shakespeare's life, and summaries of a number of plays. It's interesting to see Hamlet explained in about 5 or 6 sentences. (Poor Laertes doesn't even get a credit, he's just known as "Ophelia's brother" :)) Even then, you could take exception to some of the assumptions -- "Ophelia goes crazy because Hamlet says he doesn't love her and she drowns herself." There's at least two debatable ideas in that sentence.

Hey, whatever. If it's working and giving kids an appreciation of the Shakespearean characters and stories, I'm all for it. I hope that it inspires them to learn more about each play and just how deep everything really is, and not just to quote back what they memorized.
Ophelia's a person, after all. Maybe there were a few other factors involved then just "Oh no he doesn't love me." And if she was crazy, could she really drown herself?

See, get me started and I can't shut up...


Friday, October 14, 2005

Scooby Doo Meets Hamlet.

Scooby Doo Meets Hamlet. And I would have, too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!

I want somebody to do Hamlet in the style of Clue. "It was King Claudius, in the garden, with the lead pipe!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Baz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet -- Watch it again.

In my morning's browsing I found this excellent (and positive!) review of Luhrmann's famous Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps I should say "infamous" as there are plenty of purists out there that would take the Zeffirelli version over this one anyday. This reviewer, however, reminds us just how good a movie this is (as opposed to how exact an interpretation) by pointing out the homage to classic spaghetti Westerns, John Woo, and Shakespeare's other works scattered throughout the movie ("Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Hot Dogs"?)

I've always been a believer that whatever it takes to make Shakespeare accessible to the masses -- without sacrificing the original! -- is worth encouraging. If Leonardo DiCaprio screaming his lines at John Leguizamo is what it takes, then so be it. At least they're not rapping.

This review makes me want to watch it again. What more can you ask from a review?


The Puck Building

I found the Puck Building's entry on Wikipedia this morning in my batch of Shakespeare links. I recognize the place from the opening of tv show Will and Grace (which is noted in the article, gotta love Wikipedia). But I never knew it was supposed to be Puck. Guess I never really pictured him in that sort of hat.


Mrchnt f Vnc by Tm Stpprd

3 hour play too long for the attention span of your typical 11-15 year old? Wish Merchant of Venice was about 30 minutes instead? Better call in Tom Stoppard to make it happen. A BBC documentary follows the staging of Stoppard's shortened play by the National Youth Theatre.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

So now it's the Henry Neville theory?

Oh, great. Falstaff wrote the plays? The new book "The Truth Will Out" claims that Sir Henry Neville, nicknamed "Falstaff", was the real brains behind the operation.

The "evidence" described is just painful:

* Neville's ancestors (Edward III and John of Gaunt) are described with such accuracy that they could only have been written by someone with special knowledge.

* Neville had acecss to a letter about the Bermuda Shipwreck of 1609, "thought to have" inspired The Tempest.

* the plays could only have been written by someone deeply familiar with court life.

Yeah, that makes me want to run out and get that one. Real groundbreaking stuff, there. Aren't points 1 and 3 basically the same thing? Could I sum them up as "They're just so good, it's impossible for Shakespeare to have written them!" Is that evidence?

BBC - Radio 4 - Interpretations - 2/3 Macbeth

BBC program where two gentlemen, John Caird and Simon Russell Beale, discuss their interpretations of Macbeth. I find it odd that the short summary refers to Macbeth as Shakespeare's most popular tragedy. I have to think that either Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet would take that title.

If the audio link is no longer working (I have it on my list of things to listen to), I found the original link on BowBlog, where there is a link directly to the MP3.


Monday, October 03, 2005

Kevin Spacey on Shakespeare

You have to love an interview that is entirely about Shakespeare, like this one with Kevin Spacey. He chickens out of most of the questions, refusing to name a least favorite play and saying "They're all good, I don't have a favorite" to picking a favorite one. But who knew he was playing Richard II? I don't really see it.

Edit: I originally wrote "Richard III" because I read the article wrong. It's Richard II.

Friday, September 30, 2005

The Dick and Jane Hamlet

The Dick and Jane Hamlet is pretty cute, and worth a link. I'd never seen it before.

"See the man. What a funny man. His name is Hamlet. He is a prince.
He is sad. Why are you sad, Hamlet?"


On the way he passes a brook. In the brook he sees Ophelia. Ophelia is drowning.

"Where are you going?" asks Ophelia.

"I am going to find Uncle Claudius."

"Glub, glub," says Ophelia.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Joey Shakespeare

Watching Joey on NBC tonight and John Larroquette is doing some stunt casting.

Joey: I saw you do Shakespeare on Broadway!

Larroquette: Twelth Night?

Joey: I don't remember the date, no.


Larroquette: Listen! You're in way over your head, buddy!

Joey: Don't quote Shakespeare at me!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

'English geniuses' map launched

BBC NEWS | UK | England | 'English geniuses' map launched

A map of English "genius" is being made available to combat perceived ignorance about creative and scientific pioneers. Just 59% of 1010 Britons knew As You Like it was by Shakespeare...5% thought he'd written Wuthering Heights.


Time Line of Banned Books in the United States

Time Line of Banned Books in the United States

Interesting because Merchant of Venice is on the list. Doubly so because it was banned in 1980! Book banners choose funny battles to fight. If they knew half the filth that Will was writing in some of his "comedies" they'd all keel over.

The only thing I think is sillier on the list is the banning of Little Red Riding Hood because it depicts the title character bringing wine to the grandmother and some school system didn't want to encourage underage drinking. Eh?


Watch out, Richard III!

Watching "RadioActive Man" episode of the Simpsons tonight, where the movie of the comic of the same name comes to town and all the kids flock to play sidekick Fallout Boy. Bart is just so good that when he leaps on scene in front of all the other kids who are trying out and says the catch phrase, "Watch out, Radioactive man!" they all applaud his brilliance.

"Thank you, thank you," he says, taking a bow. "It's all in the delivery." Adjusting his tone and wrapping his cape around his shoulders he continues, "Now is the winter of our discontent..."

"Oh no! Run!" screams Ralphie, and runs away.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Why Teach Shakespeare?

Over on "Englicious" is a wonderful 3 part post deliberating the proper answer to the Why Teach Shakespeare? question. I hope to get over there and write something when I have more time to breathe, but I wanted to get a link up so that anybody who stops by here first knows about it.


Friday, September 23, 2005

When you see this, quote some Shakespeare

Hooray for whoever thought to do a Shakespeare meme!

If you're seeing this, and you've got a blog, it's your turn to quote some Shakespeare and pass it along.

I will not yield,
To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet,
And to be baited with the rabble's curse.
Though Birnam wood be come to Dunsinane,
And thou opposed, being of no woman born,
Yet I will try the last. Before my body
I throw my warlike shield. Lay on, Macduff,
And damn'd be him that first cris, 'Hold, enough!'

Macbeth V.8

Technorati :

Monday, September 19, 2005

Almost Before We Spoke, We Swore

The New York Times brings us this fun article on the history of swearing. Yes, of course Shakespeare is in it. And not just for the occasional "Zounds!" I never knew that Much Ado About Nothing is a dirty joke.

I remember reading Taming of a Shrew in 9th grade high school. There's a line between Petruchio and Kate, near the beginning, where they are bantering back and forth. At one point she calls him a 3-legged stool and he says "Thou hast hit on it, come sit on me" or something like that. I always figured that was about as filthy as I thought it was. Later in that same conversation when they're doing some punning on wasps and stings, Petruchio gets a chance to say (on the subject of leaving) "What, with my tongue in your tail?" I mean, good lord. I'd hate to be the English teacher trying to explain why that scene is funnier that the students think it is.

And let's not even get started on the Nurse from Romeo and Juliet. She talks like a trucker. Does thou fall upon thy face? Thou wilt fall backward when thou hast more wit!


Batman Shakespeare Bust

I wonder if Kerry will let me have this. Remember the original Batman series, with Adam West, where they would open the door to the batcave by flipping back the head of Shakespeare's bust and throwing the switch? Well, now,
you too can have that bust! Neat. They say that it really works. I'd love to connect it up to like the garage door or something.

Not for $300, though. $50, maybe.

Friday, September 16, 2005

"I have set Shakespeare in 1950's America, Samurai Japan...."

The Stage Online :: Newsblog - Quotes of the week....

I like it. Man's got a point -- why does everybody think that the only way to make Shakespeare accessible is to put it in the early 20th century?

I like his description of that, too -- "This type of productions lacks specificity, encourages woolyy acting...It instills in me a quiet longing for death."

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Speak Up, Shakespeare Haters

For the most part when I talk about Shakespeare, I'm preaching to the choir. Odds are that the people who are coming by this blog are already fans of Shakespeare and all we can ever really hope for is an exchange of ideas / interpretations about the plays.

What I'm curious about, though, is the Shakespeare "haters". Seems like it's really a love/hate thing with the man. I don't find many people that just have no opinion. I'm curious why people don't like him, because I want to see if I can change that. Was it too hard to learn the plays in school? Did you start too early and not have the life experience? Was it all about the language? Couldn't connect with the characters?

I'm honestly curious. I'm hoping somebody drops in and sheds some light. I think you're missing out.


A Little Shakespeare for the Football Fans

Nick Saban, new head coach of the NFL Miami Dolphins, quotes William Shakespeare as a source of motivation and inspiration. Unfortunately the article doesn't mention any specific quotes! That's no fun. The article actually says "In the days leading up to his first game..." he quotes Shakespeare (among others), so I went back a few weeks looking for what he may have said, but nobody seemed to write about it :).

Still interesting, though, that it gets a mention now. I'll be watching closer to see if he busts out any Shakespeare during a press conference. But if it's St. Crispin's Day, I'm going home. That's too cliche.


Tom Stoppard's son to play in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Now this is neat. Ed Stoppard, son of Tom Stoppard, will play Hamlet in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, written by his dad.

The interview's a good length, and Ed covers his thoughts on what R&G did to Hamlet as a play (by giving us a behind the scenes and essentially making fun of the poor melancholy Dane), lines that were cut from Shakespeare in Love (also by dad Tom), how he got his name, and "Mick Jagger and David Bowie coming around for tea."

Weezer says Farewell ala Prospero

The band Weezer has fans concerned that they're calling it quits after leaving a particular Shakespeare quote in the liner notes of their last CD. The quote is Prospero's, from the Tempest, and will be familiar to fans of the play:

“This rough magic / I here abjure, and, when I have required / Some heavenly music, which even now I do / To work mine end upon their senses that / This airy charm is for, I’ll break my staff / Bury it certain fathoms in the Earth / And deeper than did ever plummet sound / I’ll drown my book.”

The Tempest is often referred to as Shakespeare's final work (although evidence suggests that he at least co-wrote three more plays after this one). But this speech in particular is usually considered to be his personal farewell.

Weezer won't say if that's what they meant, other than "...I thought it's a really nice way to say goodbye, if it is a goodbye."

Inspiring Measure for Measure

Is it possible that a rape trial inspired Shakespeare's Measure for Measure? The article tells the story of Christopher Beeston, fellow Elizabethan actor who was accused of rape in 1602. Both men were members of the Lord Chamberlain's men during the 1590's, though Beeston changed over to the Earl of Worcester's men in 1602.

The "evidence" seems to be little more than a similarity to Lucio (who admits to making a prostitute pregnant) and Angelo (who threatens to rape someone). To say it inspired the whole play might be a bit of a stretch, but it does appear to be a good example of the sort of thing that was going around in the daily news and gossip of Shakespeare's time and how easily he would have snuck it into his own work.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Authorship : Shakespeare written by a woman?

I'd never heard the theory that Mary Sidney Herbert wrote the works of Shakespeare. I've always heard either Marlowe, de Vere, or maybe Bacon.

The article is a press release for an event in which the founder of the Mary Sidney Society, Robin Williams, will discuss her evidence for the theory.


Enjoying "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare

It seems that this Ed fellow is doing a whole series. I just yesterday found his Midsummer's, and now here's Enjoying "Hamlet".

I would never have imagined that you could say so much about Hamlet in a single page. Granted it is one mother large page. But he does cover everything you could imagine -- scene by scene description, plot and character synopsis, and about a zillion historical sources for what went into the story, as well as people who took the ideas from Hamlet after Shakespeare and ran with them in even more directions.

It's finding sites like this one that make me sigh and put away my own book project and fall back into "See? It's all been done already..." mode.
Nothing against Ed - I'm incredibly impressed with this page. I just wish I could do it, too :).

Monday, September 12, 2005

Enjoying "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare

Enjoying "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare

I particularly enjoy finds like this because they are remarkably close to what I hope to someday write. It's a simple introductory guide to Midsummer's that tries to make it very fun, and most importantly, very approachable. Within the first few lines the author even states one of my own mantras, namely "Bring your own experience into it in order to decide what it all means to you."


Friday, September 09, 2005

Richard II: A self study guide

Trolling through today I found this Richard II study guide. Since you don't often find such material on one of the lesser known plays, I thought it worth a link.

August Wilson: An American Shakespeare

Just a quick little acknowledgement and tribute to playwright August Wilson, who has advanced liver cancer.

"...America's Shakespeare is dying. This is all the more reason to pay tribute while he lives."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Hobart Shakespeareans

Oh, somebody else please tell me that they're watching POV - The Hobart Shakespeareans on PBS? I've just started it on Tivo, and I'm loving it.

Here you've got a teacher that comes right out and says "I teach these inner city kids everything the system wants them to learn...and then I teach them Shakespeare because I love Shakespeare, because my dad read it to me at bed time, because I want them to have my passion for it. I use Shakespeare as a microcosm for everything I want them to learn." Nice.

These are young kids -- fifth grade, maybe? I'm wondering how much they "get" Hamlet a little bit. I just listened to a scene where he summarized Hamlet as saying, "Hamlet is about....what? One word. Starts with a D. It's about.....death, right?" Until he said D, my one word would have been "revenge". Before he said one word it might have been "children and parents". I think it's about much more than just death.

Either way, it's still good. I like this guy.

Such Shakespeare Stuff - Blogging Shakespeare Everywhere You Look

12 books that changed the world

Guess which Shakespeare is one of the 12 books that changed the world?

Trick question. They count "First Folio" as a single book :).

Monday, September 05, 2005

Tips for Memorizing Shakespeare

Been told that you have to memorize some ? Been there, done that. Probably Romeo and Juliet, right? Balcony scene? You're not alone. You probably resent the assignment. You've probably already tried it and aren't doing too well, and are looking for ideas.

I'm with you. I think the whole concept of "Memorize some Shakespeare, it'll be good for you" might be the worst thing that teachers do when it comes to the subject. Because they do it all backwards. You have no context for the words, you've probably been told "don't even think about watching the movie until after you read the script", and you probably don't really care in general. You're just doing it because you've been told to do it, and you want to get it done as soon as possible.

I have an easy way to demonstrate how bad of an idea this really is. Let's take a song that I like. Say, Astronomy Domine, by Pink Floyd. It helps if you've never heard it. Now, memorize it. Why? Because I said so. Because I've told you that it has value, and I'm the teacher, and I'm in a position to punish you if you fail. Do it on time, too, or else you fail.

Even if you succeed, do you think you'll ever like that song? Sure, maybe you could recognize it and even pull a few lines out of your memory, but would you know what the words mean? Would you care? Not likely. Very early on in your education I'm quite sure that they started watching for something called "reading comprehension", which means that you can do more than just repeat the words, you can actually understand the meaning of what it is that you're saying.

So why isn't this true with Shakespeare? The way it is positioned -- memorize first, understand second, appreciate last (if ever) is just totally backwards. The most important thing to you has to be just being able to mindlessly repeat the words so that you can pass the assignment. And you then promptly forget them after you get your passing grade.

I'll show you a little trick. Right now, off the top of my head: When shall we three meet again, in thunder lightning or in rain? When the hurly burly's done, when the battle's lost and won. That will be e'er the set of sun. Where the place? Upon the heath. There to meet with...Macbeth! I come, Greymalkin...Paddock calls....Anon, Anon......Fair is foul and foul is fair, hover through the fog and filthy air!

That's the first scene of Macbeth. Nobody ever told me to memorize that. I can do it with large hunks of different plays, too. I'm not even an actor, I've never had to get up on stage and recite any of it. It just sticks for me, sometimes.

So having said all that, I can finally get to the tips. Some ideas for you, in no special order:
  • See if your teacher will let you memorize a passage of your choice. Many will, assuming that it is of an acceptable length. This gives you more freedom in finding a passage that is more comfortable for you. Some people find the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet just too sappy to take seriously. So maybe take something from the great sword fight that Romeo and Tybalt have in Act Three? Or even something from the Chorus at the very beginning. Juliet's "Gallop apace, you fiery footed steeds..." bit is great, once you realize that she's basically hanging out at the window saying "I wish it would hurry up and get dark so Romeo can get here."

  • See the movie! How are you supposed to know what these words sound ou like if you don't hear someone speak them? Always remember that Shakespeare wrote plays not novels. His words were meant to be performed. If your teacher insists that you not do this, then ask if you can complete the assignment by copying down the words instead of reciting them. If all you did was memorize what the words look like on paper, you can't be expected to know what they're supposed to sound like.

  • Get some context for the words, by any means necessary. Ask somebody who has read the play, if you can't see the movie. You need to have some clue about what the words are supposed to mean, otherwise I could just as well be asking you to memorize "blue garbage cat does triangle five table hands title"... or any other string of random words. In the balcony scene, Romeo is hiding in the bushes and has just seen Juliet come out onto the balcony. He's talking to himself, trying to find words to describe how beautiful she is, how she stands out against the night sky (that's where all that "Juliet is the sun" stuff comes from). Juliet, meanwhile, is also talking to herself out loud, saying "Of all the men in the world, how come I had to fall in love with one of my family's mortal enemies?"

  • Find the rhythm in what you're memorizing, as if it were music. This is poetry, after all. As you read it, tap your hand along and try to get the appropriate dah DAH dah DAH dah DAH sound. Or, in the case of what I just read, DAH da DAH da DAH... WHEN shall WE three MEET aGAIN, in THUNder LIGHTning OR in RAIN? WHEN the HURly BURly's DONE, WHEN the BATtle's LOST and WON... Get the idea? but SOFT what LIGHT through YONder WINdow BREAKS, it IS the EAST...
  • Try to group the lines into a logical set. Usually one "line" is not a complete sentence. Shakespeare did tend to be wordy. "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?" is a complete sentence, but it is a question. So what's the answer? "It is the east, and Juliet is the sun."
  • "Practice" by keeping an ear open for other lines in the play that stuck in your head. It's actually easier to memorize 20 individual lines scattered around the play than it is to memorize 20 in a row. Much of the difficulty in memorizing a Shakespearean monologue is just plain lack of confidence. You get a block that says "I can't do it" and thus you can't. But once you realize that you've already memorized a bunch of lines without even trying, that mental block tends to go away.
  • Try to remember that these are indeed people talking to other people, trying to get their point across. Put some emotion into the words. That's one of the reasons that I say to try finding a passage that you really like. When I was in high school and had to do the balcony scene, there were 4 boys and 4 girls in the class and we were paired up to recite it. And, of course, all of us were painfully shy over the whole prospect, since if we actually did it well, then we'd have to endure endless speculation that we must like each other (ewwwwwww). I remember deliberately doing it badly just to avoid that. So maybe try a scene where Romeo is angry (like after the death of Mercutio), or when Juliet actually stands up for herself.
Click Here and Improve Your Memory Now!
Good luck! Try not to let the experience of memorizing Shakespeare make you hate it for life. There's some good stuff in there, if you listen for it.
More Stories on Memorizing...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I'm a Shakespeare Developer!

Town seeks Shakespeare Developer -- Stratford Star

I couldn't pass up the headline. Being the geek I am I saw it and immediately my brain flooded with all my past ideas about computer programs that intermix the complete works of the Bard, and somebody actually wanting to pay for them.

Too good to be true. Turns out that they want construction people to bid on restoring and operating their American Shakespeare Theatre.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Reading Shakespeare = Playing Chess ?

So I've been discussing quite a bit lately. I'm finally getting into a stride where I have a number of sources of good discussion to keep me going and not just lecture my coworkers. I also started playing SuDoku this week as well, which has gotten me thinking about chess and "game trees" (have I mentioned how much of a geek I am?)

What I thought of last night is just how similar "analyzing" Shakespeare is to a good game of chess. Mathematically speaking, the number of possible positions in a chess game is effectively infinite. Much like, say, the number of interpretations of Hamlet. The so called "best" positions, though, are the ones that have been travelled the most and studied for years by the masters. They have come to be the best not because it's been proven to be so (otherwise there would never be any upsets in a chess game, it would be 'solved' as we say in computerspeak). Part of chess is to listen to the experts all look at the same board and say "Here is what I would do in this position, and why..." and "Past masters in this situation did the following." The only definition of a "wrong" move is one that can be demonstrated to be wrong, aka one that loses the game for you. Even if all the masters say that the right move is knight to d4, and you opt instead to go Queen to b6, then you certainly have that option. But you'd better be in a position to prove why your move is better than the recommended one. It might seem impossible, since there is such a vast body of knowledge already in place that tells you to do something else. But if you believe strongly enough that your move is correct, then go for it. You might be right. You might change the wisdom.

The parallels to thinking about Hamlet are just outstanding. Is Hamlet insane, or not? There's no right answer - there's just the answer that the "masters" have for the most part come to agree upon. If you feel that there is sufficient evidence for both options (or branches of the game tree), then it is up to you personally to decide which you feel is stronger. The same strategy can be applied throughout the whole play. Whenever there is a crucial question, you can say "What does popular opinion say?" and simply take it using the "Others know better than me" approach, or else you can peek under the covers and realize that there are actually many options at each of these points, and you can find a substantial bit of evidence for all of them. Then you get to decide which you like better.

Who knows, you might suddenly discover that an idea has come to you based entirely on how you've read the play thus far, and now you go from the other direction, you ask yourself "My idea is X, what's the popular opinion on that?" Not "is it right or wrong", but "what have other people thought about it?" And, again, you decide for yourself whether you buy it or not.

In chess, there is an "end game". That is, the final sequence of moves where you have less and less choice about what is going to happen. If you've played well thus far, you will be on top during the end game and hopefully be victorious. If you have not, then you'll suddenly discover that you made a mistake a dozen moves ago and it's been inevitable ever since. (This is almost exactly where that sudoku puzzle thing I mentioned resembles chess, you fill in a square that you think is right but only 12 moves later do you realize it was a mistake and you have to go all the way back). The interpretation of the play is the same way. If you hit your first crucial question and choose an interpretation, but then by the end of the game you're saying "Wait, now, that doesn't make sense...." then you have to consider going back and revising your answer.

The crucial difference, of course, is that a chess game must end, and there is a winner and a loser. Technically, I suppose, you could have winners and losers of Shakespeare interpretation if you staged all the various combinations and then looked to see which ones bombed at the box office :). But that's pushing my metaphor a bit.

Just something to think about when you're cruising through the plays looking for the "right" answer to some fundamental question. Chances are there's no right answer any more than there is a "right" move in the middle of grandmaster chess game. Is Hamlet insane or not? Does Gertrude know about the murder or not? What do *you* think?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

[Admin] 100 Blogs in 100 Days

This isn't technically a Shakespeare reference but it's a great resource for people looking for interesting blogs to read. Since I want them to consider me interesting :), it's only fair to share the love. BlogHerald is doing 100 blogs in 100 days, where they make recommendations about some of the best blogs out there that you might have never heard of. Check them out the next time you're looking for something new to browse.

A Shakespeare Game: Title Letters

Ok, here's a game that I just thought up while decoding some filenames on my computer. How well do you know your ? Can you tell the title of a play just by the first letters? For instance TTOHPOD is The Tragedy Of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Every word (including the/a/of...) is included. Got it? Good.



Monday, August 29, 2005

Anybody got a spare $59k for a Fourth Folio?

Look what I found on ebay today when hunting for stuff! 1685 RARE WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE FOURTH FOLIO Plays Poems

Sounds silly to see such a thing on eBay, but the pictures are very nice. I wonder if it's legit? No bids at time I'm posting this.

Embracing Technology in the Classroom: One Professor's Story

I like this story about innovative classroom technology on a number of levels. In college I studied technology for the classroom. So stories like this that touch on all the latest and greatest -- RSS, blogs, wiki, Flickr, etc... -- catch my attention. I think it's all a good thing.

Why on this blog, though? Look at the project that is described:

Students selected a Shakespearean sonnet and conceptualized a digital presentation that conveyed a particular interpretation. Using PowerPoint, students divided the sonnet as they wished, selected images and music for their interpretation, and designed the layout. Some students interpreted the text with their families in mind, building family pictures into their presentation. On every level, Amtower said, the students were engaged.

Technology in the classroom? Cool. Technology being used to teach non technical subjects, like ? Triple cool.

Pictures of the Globe

During some search engine browsing I stumbled across this page containing a zillion pictures of the Globe Theatre that somebody obviously took during a trip. They're from all sorts of angles, inside and out, distance and close up. Nice to have a fresh look at this sort of thing.

Also posted because it comes from Gweepnet, which is the brainchild of some of my fellow alum at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Great Shakespeare program, given that it's an engineering school. I saw "The Tempest" while there. Hi, Professor Vick!

Shakespeare and the Players

Shakespeare and the Players

Wow. I'm not even sure what to make of this, I've just begun going through it. From the front page: "Shakespeare and the Players is a survey through postcards of the many now unfamiliar English and American actors who played Shakespeare's characters for late Victorian and Edwardian audiences." The images are just fascinating...


Quiz time again. Last words.

Have I posted this one before? It just showed up in my mailbox today, so if I have, that means that is rotating through them. Anyway, enjoy. I like "last words" because it's come to be the sort of thing that people know about their Shakespeare. I always thought a good category on Jeopardy would be "first words / last words" where during the first round all the questions were about famous first lines, and in the second half it would be all famous last words.

I realize the point about "These quizzes don't prove anything about your knowledge of Shakespeare", and you're right. But they're still entertaining. I got 8 out of 10, and I'm pleased with that. Gotta work on my Othello, apparently.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Onion | Shakespeare Was, Like, The Ultimate Rapper

The Onion | Shakespeare Was, Like, The Ultimate Rapper

Hey, it's from the Onion. Funny stuff.

Shadowplay : Shakespeare as secret political rebel?

Here's an interesting story for a Sunday morning. In her new book "Shadowplay", author Clare Asquith presents the case that was writing coded political messages into his plays. Asquith claims to be the first person to have discovered the code, as well as crack it.

A little sample, from the article...


The sun represented divinity, and so sunburn denotes closeness to God. Shakespeare described himself as 'tanned' in Sonnet 62.

Turtle dove:

A traditional image for the apostles, used to signify those who remained faithful in the face of persecution.


The story of Philomela, who was turned into a nightingale, was an image of the desecrated church and its covert protests.

Red rose:

A term used by Catholics for their 'old, beautiful' religion.


The new, Protestant religion, associated with black print and sober dress.


Devotion to the five wounds of Christ led to patterned emblems on the banners borne against the new regime. Shakespeare uses it in the form of flowers, birthmarks or heraldic blazons as a marker of Catholicism.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Sneaky, but I'll give credit. Shakespeare Holds Up You Are a Dog Japanese (huh?)

Shakespeare Holds Up You Are a Dog Japanese on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

When I go to a site like looking for Shakespeare stories, a bunch of Flickr photos that have also been tagged as Shakespeare show up down the side. So when I saw this one entitled "Shakespeare Holds Up You Are a Dog Japanese", I said "huh? What?" I had to click it. Was it some weird translation from Japanese to English?

Nope. It's the author of a book entitled "You are a dog" who has taken a picture of her (his?) book leaning up against a Shakespeare book. It's a silly joke about the position of her book in classic literature (kindof an updated "Shakespeare's not fit to shine my shoes", the way I read it), which she recognizes is silly. What she did do wonderfully though, and the reason she earns a link from me, is that with some creative tagging she's getting a bunch of people like me to go check her book out on Amazon. I like creative ways to generate traffic that aren't misleading, and technically there's nothing misleading about this. I may not have understood what it was, but when you look at it, everything is right there.

Got a Shakespeare Question?

I'm not sure if the audience for my blog right now is primarily Shakespeare experts, or people with Shakespeare questions looking for help. I'm hoping it's a mix of both. So let me try an experiment. If you're out there and you've stumbled across the blog because you have a question that you're looking to get answered, tell me about it. I'll post it up here and we can get some discussion going among those who might have the answer. Very often you'll find that the answer isn't cut and dried, yes or no. It's a matter of personal opinion and interpretation. Was Hamlet truly mad, or just acting? No one really knows. But it's fun to ask and throw your two cents into the mix.

I can't promise that I'll post every single question, because my other site used to get a regular trickle of the same question over and over again ("wherefore" means "why", in case you were planning to ask). But if it hasn't already been discussed to death, I'll try to get it up here. If it has already been discussed to death, I'll point you to it.

Also note that we're not really into doing anybody's homework for them, so come prepared with an answer to your own question. "I think Act 2 Scene 3 is really about...." is a much better way to start than, "Can somebody tell me what happens in Act 2 Scene 3? I need it by 10am tomorrow."

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Author takes her series seriously

Lexington Herald-Leader | 08/25/2005 | Author takes her series seriously

I like Rita Mae Brown after reading this article. Not only does she say cool literary things like "Genre books are a sonnet...if you stay inside the format, you can say anything you want," but she also says uber-cool things like "any reader would have to be a 'blithering idiot' not to be thrilled by the pyrotechnics of Shakespeare."

To be fair, I'm not taking "blithering idiot" as particularly insulting. I think that she's pointing to people who never read Shakespeare and just assume that he was dull and boring. There are plenty of people out there who really do try, and want to understand, but sometimes find it hard. That's not the same thing.


Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Speaking of celebrity Shakespeare

I found this story funny about Tom Cruise "being happier in a previous life, when he was Shakespeare." Turns out that the whole interview with him and all the quotes is a big hoax, but it's being picked up and reported as truth, and he's all upset over it. Maybe he should take some anti-depressants or something.

Tag :



Not really sure what joke to make here. I find it none too surprising that such an announcement from Jessica Simpson comes hot on the heels of revelation that Marilyn Monroe had wanted to get into more Shakespeare as well. Once again the standard question, what role would she play? What evidence has there been in anything that she's ever done to give a hint that she can play something with depth?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Hurricane counting

The Hurricane Name Game

Friend Rob pointed out to me this morning that if we get up to hurricane O, then Shakespeare geeks can geekout over hurricane Ophelia. :) Personally I'm thinking that hurricane Miranda, to get in the Tempest reference, would be that much cooler. But I'll take what I can get.

That is all.

The RSS Debate What’s in a name

The RSS Debate What’s in a name

Not the most Shakespearey article I've ever posted, this one deals more with the whole "RSS" thing I've been talking about lately and gives a little history, particularly about people's desire to change the name.

Playbill News: Today in Theatre History: AUGUST 23

Playbill News: Today in Theatre History: AUGUST 23: 1937 Eva Le Galliene is Hamlet in a new production of Shakespeare's tragedy, opening tonight at the Cape Playhouse in Massachusetts. Le Galliene, while an obviously odd choice to play the Danish prince, is not the first female to take on the role. Sarah Bernhardt had done it as well. Also in the cast is future stage legend Uta Hagen, making her professional debut as Ophelia.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ... work for Julius Caesar?

When I saw this article about HBO's new series "ROME" in my Shakespeare news alerts I thought for sure the connection must be to Julius Caesar. Perhaps mentioning that the whole "Et tu, Brute?" thing was concocted by Will, and not factually accurate.

Wrong. "[Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo] are the only two ordinary soldiers mentioned by Caesar in his book, so the idea was to do a sort of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern take," says Bruno Heller, the series' co-creator, executive producer and writer. He refers, of course, to the two minor characters in Shakespeare's "Hamlet" who became the title characters of a widely acclaimed Tom Stoppard play.

Something of a pleasant surprise. I rarely find people referencing R&G are Dead at all, much less trying to do their own version of the idea.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

A Gift for My Daughter

Ok, here goes nothing. When my daughter Katherine was born I wrote her a baby diary detailing every day of Kerry's pregnancy. One of those, "It's not something she'll understand now, but maybe when she gets older she'll appreciate it" gifts.

When Kerry was pregnant with Elizabeth I knew that I'd have to do something similar, but not the same. It hasn't been easy, and I haven't been doing a very good job of trying. Her first birthday is next week and I owe her this special gift.

So, I present a sonnet. I hope it's good.

She looks at me and all my cares of mind
Dissolve like fleeting clouds from sun-warm'd skies.
Halt, Time! Preserve this wonder that I find
When I behold the heavens in her eyes.

But would the echoes of her laughter fade,
A cold eternal silence in their wake?
What dreams left unfulfilled, what bliss delayed,
If I should all of her tomorrows take?

Her future's yet to come, mine lies unfurl'd:
'Tis not for me alone that she exists.
For no imagination in the world
Could e'er conceive of beauty such as this.

So put your hand in mine and walk with me,
And know that all my life, I live for thee.

Updated 8/22: Changed a few words around.

I have no idea if it's any good, but I think the most important thing right now has been to finish it. Being the geek I am I did my best to get the Elizabethan form down. It helps that my daughter's name is Elizabeth, because that makes it all the more geeky :), even if I'm the only one in my family gets the joke.

I'm hoping to print it, frame it, and stick it on a wall until she's about 15 years old or so, in high school, and learns what a sonnet is. Then I can point to it and see what she thinks.

Her birthday is Wednesday so I still have a few ideas to futz over it and tweak a word here and there, this is really just the first complete draft. But, again, I want to commit myself to it so that I finish the fool thing and don't put it on the shelf with all the other great ideas.