Friday, July 22, 2005

Admin: Can I put a righthand nav on this template?

Sorry if this is a stupid question but I'm hoping I've got enough readers that somebody can help me. The template I'm using for this blog has no concept of a righthand gutter, and I'd like to add one. There's just not enough room down the left hand side, I don't want everybody to have to scroll infinitely if I want to put up a set of interesting links. Why can't I create a righthand sidebar just like the left? It's all CSS, which is not my strong suit :(. Should I use a different template? I couldn't find one that had gutters down both sides.


Strange interpretations?

Upon hearing that we're about to experience Hamlet in a wading pool wearing water wings, a coworker and I got into a discussion about why Hamlet seems to be the play that has the wildest interpretations. I attribute it to the underlying theme of Hamlet's dementia, feigned or otherwise, and the overall emphasis on what's going on in his head as opposed to reality.

But it did bring up the question of just how odd a presentation of Shakespeare can get. I once saw a performance of I believe Midsummer Night's Dream, if I'm not mistaken, where Oberon periodically lapsed into what turned out to be Klingon. Or the "post Apocalyptic" Macbeth where poor Banquo lost his head courtesy of a powered automobile sunroof.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Shakespeare Forums

Does anybody know where all the Shakespeare Forums are hiding? I'm surprised to discover very few. I see Savage Shakespeare, but is that all?

A friend who runs a popular Hemingway site told me that his attempt to start up a forum was a big disaster as it was rapidly swamped with people wanting answers to their homework questions, instead of people who wanted to actually discuss Hemingway, so he took it down. I wonder if Shakespeare sites suffer from the same problem?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The real sound of Shakespeare?

By opening night, they will have rehearsed using phonetic scripts for two months and, hopefully, will render the play just as its author intended. They say their accents are somewhere between Australian, Cornish, Irish and Scottish, with a dash of Yorkshire - yet bizarrely, completely intelligible if you happen to come from North Carolina.

Director preparing play on Shakespeare's personal life

Iranian director Khosro Amiri announced on Tuesday that he is currently preparing a play that tells the story of the personal life of Shakespeare entitled “Mystery of Shakespeare’s Dolls”.

“My new play is a modern tragicomedy which reveals hidden aspects of Shakespeare’s life,” he added.

“Shakespeare is blind drunk in this play. He has four dolls and writes all his masterpieces based on his own personal life. For example, he writes Macbeth because he has problems with his wife and her family; that is, Shakespeare appears totally different on stage,” he explained.

Monday, July 18, 2005

All the Shakespeare Stuff You'd Hope to Find

Shakespeare's Den is great for a laugh even if you're not in the mood to buy. Anything and everything that's ever had Shakespeare's mug plastered upon it (including mugs, natch) can be found here. Of course there's also every book, wall hanging and statue you might imagine as well.

Some gems:

  • Shakespeare bobblehead doll
  • Shakespeare action figure
  • After Shakespeare mints
  • Hamlet finger puppets
  • Shakespeare "celebriduck"

I don't get an affiliate fee, either, so there :-P. I just wish my wife would let me buy half this stuff.

Starring Karl Rove as Falstaff

I don't have enough of an opinion on the politics surrounding the whole Rove thing to really take a stand either way. But when somebody makes such an articulate case comparing Rove to the "calculating, corpulent and very good at self-preservation" Falstaff it merits a mention. I wasn't about to pass up an article that has gems such as this one: "It's time for Bush II to be less Prince Hal and more Henry V. There is no better, smarter or meaner political operative than Karl Rove. But Bush II cannot afford to keep Falstaff on staff." It even reads like a Shakespeare lesson :)!

Now is the winter of Iraq's discontent?

Here's a great way to get people talking about Richard III again -- portray him as Saddam Hussein. Biggest complaints are coming from the Richard III society, who are quoted as saying "We already have our work cut out for us as it is without going to this extreme."

I'll bet that if they'd portrayed him as Bill Clinton nobody would bat an eye. :)

Friday, July 15, 2005

What, no parseltongue translation?

Harry Potter fans aren't that nuts, says this article about just how nuts they are. They haven't, quote, "gone the Star Trek route and translated the works of Shakespeare into parseltongue yet". Referring of course to the fascination with the Klingon language that has inspired so many a Trekkie/Trekker over the years. (Parseltongue, by the way, is the snake-language of Harry Potter, in case you're not much of a fan.)

But maybe that's not so far off, if you look at your Star Trek history. A few words of the Klingon language were specially commissioned for I believe it was the second movie. The producers found a real linguist, Mark Okrand, to do the work. It was a hit, so they included more and more in the movies and the series. And before you knew it, a cult following was born.

Why not in Harry Potter? Stranger things have happened.

More Harry Potter / Shakespeare ...

Top Twenty Female Actors

Found over at, this guy's list is particularly interesting because of all the Shakespeare on it:

Judi Dench ('nuff said)
Emma Thompson (formerly married to Kenneth Branagh, starred in Much Ado about Nothing, Henry V...)
Joan Plowright (formerly married to Laurence Olivier. Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, Merchant of Venice ... )

The name of the game is to see how many of his top 20 have Shakespeare in their resumes. I was hoping the answer would be "all", but alas Cher had to fail me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Shakespeare and Star Trek

Every good geek knows that Star Trek is loaded with Shakespeare references. Mostly in Next Generation, where Captain Picard just quoted it all the time, and Data kept performing it on the Holodeck, but also in the original series and the movies as well.

I found a site that tries to track as much as it can. It's pretty impossible to get them all, given how many episodes Star Trek ran through, but it's a start.

One of my favorites has always been Star Trek VI, in particular during the final battle scene where Christopher Plummer (playing Klingon General Chang) cries, "Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!" Gives me chills. Even better for a whole different reason is when the shot switches to the Enterprise, and they can hear Chang taunting them over the speaker:

Chang: "I am constant as the northern star..."

Dr. McCoy : "I wish he'd just shut up."

Monday, July 11, 2005

Shakespeare in the Park Time

Don't know where you're at, but I'm sure there's a local Shakespeare in the Park you need to visit. Up here in my neck of the woods it'll be Hamlet performed on Boston Common. Performances start July 16 and run every night at 8pm (excluding Monday), Sunday night show at 7pm. Performances run until August 7. Currently planning to attend August 5. See you there!

Hamlet Stinks

Got your attention? Good. :) I'm actually referring to the strange obsession with smells, particularly bad ones, throughout the play. Maybe this is a generic high school essay question, but I don't recall ever noticing it before. What's up with the smell?

  • "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." Not technically a direct reference to smell, but certainly conjures up the notion.
  • "My offense is rank, it smells to heaven..." (Claudius)
  • "...if you find him not within a month, you will nose him as you go up the stairs..." (Hamlet referring to what will happen to Polonius' dead body after sitting around for a month)
  • "And smelt so? Pah!" (Hamlet, with Yorick's skull)

(Any others I missed? I don't count the Ghost saying "I scent the morning air" because we're talking about bad smells here.)

Do all the latter references exist just to reinforce the "rotten" notion from the opening scene?

Friday, July 08, 2005

I knew I couldn't be the only one

I just discovered another Shakespeare blog today, which has apparently been around forever and appears to be hitting many of the same stories I am. Good, that means I'm on the right track :). This one is managed by the editor of Shakespeare Magazine.

Best Selling Authors on Amazon

Amazon's Top 25 Bestselling Authors of All (Amazon) Time list is out, and as you have unfortunately guessed, Shakespeare is NOT on the list. The list covers the top 25, and I hear that Shakespeare was 26...right behind Tom Clancy. And they can only refer to the 10 years in which they've been in business, which is why I wrote it like I did re: "all time".

Remember, though, that this is "best selling". I expect that most people experience Shakespeare in high school when a book is handed to them, which they promptly return at the end of the school year for the next kid to use. If they're exposed to Shakespeare at all after that it's to buy the movie.

Look at who is on the list. JK Rowling and Dan Brown seem like obvious choices, in much the same what that somebody might say that Britney Spears outsells The Beatles. It's probably true once you crunch the numbers from a certain angle, but that doesn't mean it feels right.

Many (most?) of the books on the list seem to be in the management/motivational category. I'd think those a) tend to be more expensive than regular paperbacks, and b) tend to be bought on corporate expense accounts.

Glad to see Dr. Seuss so high on the list.

I understand most of the choices. But Dr. Phil??? And the South Beach Diet guy?? Shakespeare got bumped for these people? Oy. Just goes to show how meaningless "best selling" is as a metric. Shakespeare suffers from not being a fad.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Orson Scott Card does Shakespeare

If you're a reader of science fiction at all then you must known Ender's Game, Card's classic story of a boy genius who (reluctantly?) saves the universe. (Later Card expanded it to a many book series, but die hards will tell you the original should have been left as it was :)).

His newest is Magic Street, where "The residents of Baldwin Hills, a middle-class African-American L.A. neighborhood, get caught up in a battle between the king and the queen of the fairies in this wonderful urban fantasy..." Points for you if you said, "Hmmm, that sounds like Midsummer Night's Dream" because that's exactly what the author has done, putting Oberon, Titania and Puck straight into the book.

"What was fun was fitting them into black culture and sort of back-writing onto Shakespeare's story that they were black all along and the conceit that William Shakespeare actually knew Titania. That was too much fun. I couldn't pass up the chance to do that," he says.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Admin : New RSS Feed

Hey, sorry for the interruption, but if you're currently subscribed to the RSS feed, could you update and make sure that you're using the feedburner one? I probably should have set that up right when I setup the blog, but who knew that I'd have readers so fast?



Tempest in Your Mind

Found this review in the NY Times about a London production of The Tempest where "...there seems to be little question that everything that happens occurs in one man's mind. Or that this Prospero, who conducts conversations with the figures on a chess board, is experiencing something like a nervous breakdown in iambic pentameter."

I just love that idea. Poor old Prospero, abandoned to die on this distant island, hallucinating about a life where he has the power to exact revenge upon his enemies and watch over and protect his daughter as she grows into a young woman, as fathers are supposed to do. It's sad, but it's a great interpretation. Puts all the fairy/seamonster/magic-book stuff right into perspective if you consider that it's all just the ravings of a man going crazy.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Where would you go in time travel?

I found this article that poses the time travel question amusing not because Gina Accorsi says "probably towards the time Shakespeare lived," but because of her rationale: "There seems to have been less conflict back then."

Methinks she doth assume too much. From what I understand it was quite the battleground at the time between the Catholics and the Protestants, and more than one biographer has tried to make the case that one reason we know so little about Shakespeare is that he deliberately kept a low profile for fear of being branded a traitor and meeting quite a nasty fate.

Hamlet psychoanalyzed

Freud may have done it first, but in this article from Psychiatric Times the notion of psychoanalyzing Hamlet returns, looking at literature as a basic science of psychiatry.

I love this idea. You know that your characters have acquired the sort of depth you're striving for if psychiatrists can analyze them using the same techniques they might use of non-fictional people.

Who said Shakespeare quizzes?

While Googling around for shakespeare trivia I ran into the mother of all Shakespeare quiz repositories. They're categorized by play (three quizzes on Titus Andronicus alone??) and difficulty.

I'm working my way through the "tough" ones. Getting about a 7 or 8 out of 10 on average.

Weird - attempting to identify the play in which a dying character says "A plague on both your houses", which obviously we all know to be Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, I ended up getting it wrong because I typed "Merchant of Venice." I totally don't remember doing so. My only guess is that I started typing "Mercutio", but my fingers knew that the category was plays, not characters, and ended up filling in the name of a play that started with Mer. I hate when that happens.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Justice O'Connor Does Shakespeare

Big news of the day is that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor is stepping down. The only reason it's mentioned here, though, is that fellow justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is quoted referring to O'Connor's surprise appearance in a 1996 production of Henry V. In particular, the quote "Hap'ly, a woman's voice may do some good" is what makes it relevant :).

Anybody think she'll be replaced by another woman? Another woman who's done Shakespeare?

Here's a loaded question - if Bush ever did Shakespeare, what role do you think would have suited him best?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Silly Phillies

I thought this story, analyzing the Philadelphia Phillies' (baseball) season entirely in Shakespeare quotes was entertaining enough to merit a link. If somebody in Boston was literate enough to do that for the Red Sox, I might even have something to say on the subject. But ... it's the Phillies.

Iambic Pentameter hard to read? Try writing a movie in it.

The new movie "Yes" by Sally Potter could easily have slipped under most people's radar if not for the unusual fact that the whole thing is written in iambic pentameter. That's a pretty neat trick.

Other than the straightforward "star-crossed lovers" theme lifted from Romeo and Juliet, there are no other particular parallels to the bard. As a matter of fact I got to the point in the review that says Potter wrote the movie "as a response to 9/11" and pretty much stopped reading right there. I go to movies to be entertained, not preached at.

1599 : A Year in the Life (of you know who)

This is the second time I've stumbled over a review of 1599:A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare so I'm putting up a link. The reason I didn't in the first place is that given my recent reading I'm not sure of the value of something that says "Let's take a specific year and look at all the details of what happened." For instance do we truly know for a fact that this was the year that he wrote Hamlet, As You Like It, Henry V and Julius Caesar? Or is that just the accepted timeline? If it's the latter, that's cool - but it's pretty hard to then write the book like a calendar of events, since it's really only by mutual agreement that this is the case, not any cold hard facts.

One Night of Shakespeare

This coming Sunday, July 3 10,000 British school children in 400 schools will all perform Shakespeare simultaneously. Organizers hope to enter the Guinness Book of World Records for most Shakespeare performances in a single night. What an odd record :).

Apparently, "Pupils will perform their own interpretations of shortened versions of some of Shakespeare's plays, directed and produced by their teachers." Own interpretations of shortened versions? Exactly how much of the original has to remain in order for it to still be Shakespeare?