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.