Friday, December 29, 2006

How to Appreciate Shakespeare

Marginal Revolution offers a glimpse into Rosenbaum's "Shakespeare Wars" with this post on how to appreciate Shakespeare.  More specifically he examines Rosenbaum's list of the best Shakespeare performances, including Orson Welles Chimes at Midnight which I'd never even heard of.

And it does not go unnoticed that Kenneth Brannagh is not even on the list.


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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Ophelia's Garland Speech

I don't know about you all, but probably the most pitiful part in all of Hamlet comes when Ophelia enters to pass out the flowers to her family and we get to see what's happened to the poor girl:
"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts," said Ophelia to her brother Laertes. "There's fennel for you, and columbines. There's rue for you, and here's some for me; we may call it herb of grace o' Sundays. O, you must wear your rue with a difference. There's a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died."
Anyway, the San Francisco Chronicle has up a lengthy article detailing what each individual herb meant.    It's quite a detailed article, explaining what each one means, how Shakespeare referenced it, and a guess at why Ophelia speaks of it.  But I'm not sure of all the leaps it makes.  For instance rosemary is for remembrance, repelling witches, and chasing away bad dreams.  But for Ophelia, "distraught and depressed over her father's death and Hamlet's odd behavior, the mention..indicates...her brittle self-image and lack of confidence."  What?  Huh?  I suppose maybe there's some sort of "This is all a bad dream I'm having, and I want the rosemary to protect me from it", but that's a stretch. 

More About Ophelia...

Thursday, December 21, 2006

CGI Shakespeare : Cool! Highly geeky.

I've posted about computer animated Shakespeare videos before, but this is the first time I've seen a computer-generated creation try to actually act.  Pendulum Studios put together this scene of Marc Anthony doing the "All is lost..." speech ("triple turn'd whore!").  Pretty intriguing stuff.  There's an actor doing the voice, that's not computer generated.  But it's interesting to see how far the movements and facial expressions have come.  The graphics purists are already picking on things like the rendering of the hands, but I'm more interested in the face.



Title says it all, really.



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Monday, December 18, 2006

The Gory Side of Macbeth

Ed Friedlander, M.D. is a doctor who writes about Shakespeare.  I've linked to his stuff before.  Recently his page on Enjoying Macbeth came up (which I don't think I've linked before) and it's worth a look for it's brutal description of the violence, if nothing else.  He comes right out in the first page and warns people that it's not family entertainment, and goes on to not only point out every scene of violence, but to put them in proper historical context.  Yet he still keeps it very accessible, even pointing to oddities like why no one suspects Lady Macbeth, even when she comes out with her "What, in our house?" line.  Methinks the lady doth protest too much!  Wait, wrong play.

Anyway, lots of great info on that page, far more than most I've scene.    Worth checking out.


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Dressing for Shakespeare

We don't get much opportunity to post graphic-intensive stories, so I thought that this link to Dressing Shakespeare would be fun.  Both male and female garments are broken down and described by their pieces.  I learned something -- I always pictured the high female collar as something worn strictly by royals (probably since I've only ever seen pictures of Elizabeth in it).  Now I know different.


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Shakespeare is Good for Your Brain

I'm falling behind.  The other day a study came out that suggests reading Shakespeare is good for your brain

"The brain appears to become baffled by something unexpected in the text that jolts it into a higher level of thinking."  Ok, that makes sense.  That's the same sort of logic that suggests that people do puzzles, play games, and so on.  in other words, exercise your brain.  Can't say I have a problem with that!

There's a book coming out called "Shakespeare Thinking" on the subject.  How does someone get an entire book out of that?  I guess I acknowledge the value of the finding but I'm not sure that it's all that related to Shakespeare specifically.  They're basically saying that when you encounter word structures that are unfamiliar to you, your brain has to work harder to get them to make sense.   When trying to explain this to people I always used the example:  "I have of late but wherefore I know not lost all my mirth."  Had Shakespeare said "I have lost all my mirth as of late and wherefore I know not", it would have been more in tune with the way someone today would say it ("I'm bummed out lately and I don't know why").   But as written it's got a much nicer cadence to it (something that we all recognize as iambic, ba BAH ba BAH ba BAH..) that the typical reader wouldn't necessarily know, but would still be able to process. 

The obvious question to ask is what happens to those of us for whom reading Shakespeare is not "something unexpected"?  Do we no longer get the cerebral kick that folks more in tune with more "pedestrian" reading get? 


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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sponsored Post : The Scholarship Blog

I know that I get a bunch of traffic from high school students researching their Shakespeare homework.  Having been down this road before I know that if they think Shakespeare is hard, wait until the time comes to fill out those college applications.  Given the choice between memorizing Cymbeline, and filling out financial aid paperwork, I'll take Cymbeline.

The Scholarship Blog is one of many sites that hopes to help kids get into college by offering scholarship information, tips for essay writing, templates and other useful advice for making the application process as easy as possible.   Their blog is intriguing to me.  It appears to follow news in the scholarship and college admissions area.  For instance I see a story about academic dishonesty, affirmative action, and drop-out rates among Latino students.  My question is, who is the audience for this information?  High school students?  Not sure that they're interested in such things.  The parents, maybe.  Educators, certainly.  But why would educators be following a blog that's setup by a company offering scholarship tips? 

What I do like about this site is that it really appears to be all about the information, and not about the quick buck.  Anybody who's into web development and search engine optimization (SEO) these days can tell you that one of the big money items is in linking to college scholarship "deals".  A friend of mine even runs a company that offers a directory of such links and he's making a fortune.  But I had to go through this site and hunt around looking for affiliate links or other clues that they're trying to drive you down paths that will make them money.  There are some Google AdSense ads, but they're not annoying about it.  It's actually a very nice site that's heavily loaded with information.  Honestly, to the point of being pretty dry.  You really need to be interested in what you're reading for this sort of stuff.

The simple and sad fact is that college is insanely expensive and everybody knows it.  I've got 3 kids now and eventually they're all going to be heading for college, I can only imagine what that's going to cost me.  So when somebody comes along that looks like they're offering legit, non-biased information and not simply trying to get me to click on the dancing monkey, I've got to put it in the "good stuff" folder.  Once you're done with that paper on Romeo and Juliet, go bookmark it for this spring when you really need it.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mad Madam Mim's

I've never noticed this particular b log before, but Mad Madam Mim has just posted a metric boatload of Shakespeare links, documents and analysis.   Seems to be mostly Macbeth and Othello.  Have to keep an eye on that one.


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Friday, December 01, 2006

Ooo! Let's do a year end list!

Wow, it's December already.  Got the shopping done?  For whatever gift giving holiday you celebrate?

A favorite pasttime around the net is to produce as many "year end" lists as possible.  To the point of insanity, or at least nausea.  I want to play too.

What sort of year end list can we make up?  Best Shakespeare movies?  Best Shakespeare books?  I love the idea of just doing "Best Plays", since it shouldn't be based on the year-end.  Jasper Fforde does a wonderful series of books (his Thursday Next series) where one of the storylines involves the book awards, and how for example Heathcliffe would always have to campaign for "Best Troubled Romantic Lead, Male" every year, even though his book was written...well, a long time ago. 

Looking for ideas.  Or, maybe I'm just bored.


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Monday, November 27, 2006

Shakespeare Gifts?

UPDATED December 2010 - Check out the latest Guide to Gifts for Shakespeare Geeks!

Every year about this time there's something Shakespearey on my christmas list -- videos, books, little bobblehead action figures. This year I thought I'd see if I could get my wife a little something Shakespeare in return. She's not the sort of fan I am. She's not, in general, into the whole theatre/literature scene pretty much at all. So I'm a bit stumped about ideas. I'm looking for tips.
Jewelry is a clear choice, she's a big fan of jewelry. But not something gimmicky like little Yorick skull earrings or something. Shakespeare's Den has an interesting selection - I like the Moebius Strip bracelet, though I wish it was a better sonnet :). And the Romeo and Juliet pendant was nice. I just thought of something - she does wear a charm bracelet, it would be nice to put a little Shakespeare something on that. But alas it's a gold bracelet and it seems like all of Shakespeare's Den stuff is silver.
A nice piece of clothing would also be an option, but harder to come by without being gimmicky and having Shakespeare on it just for the sake of branding (like the ubiquitous tote bags, etc...) The sonnet scarf is a neat idea, but I'm not sure I love the design.
What else? Somewhere I can't remember I saw an engraved R&J photo album which was nice (the wife's big into memories and photo albums) but it was like $150, which struck me as a bit crazy for a photo album.
So, what else is out there? How do you put a little Shakespeare into somebody's life?
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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Shakespeare on Film

If you're interested in Shakespeare adaptations on film, I have for you Duncan's Shakespeare, a blog which focuses on exactly that.  He (they?) seem to be doing mostly modern adaptations, but maybe they'll work backwards.  The blog was last updated in late October, so I'm hoping they keep it active.


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Shakespeare Error Messages

Maybe it's just the geek in me, but I thought "If Shakespeare Wrote Error Messages" worth a link:


Brevity is the soul of wit; too many arguments.

'Tis nothing to you, for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so, except for that bad command or file name.

Fie, thy grief is a fault to heaven, a fault against the dead, a fault to nature, and a fault of segmentation.

Something wicked this way comes -- oh good, permission denied.



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Monday, November 20, 2006

The Shakespeare Sketch

I hadn't actually seen this one yet -- maybe I'd just passed over it because I don't usually go for the Rowan Atkinson stuff.  But I've just given it a listen, and it's quite funny.

"Ok, take out victim and coward.  How about be, or not to be?"

"You can't say that, it's gibberish!"


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Friday, November 17, 2006

Romeo and Juliet : Police Log

Continuing on the Romeo and Juliet theme, here's another question.  We all know about the "ancient grudge" between the Montagues and the Capulets.  The play starts out with a fight between them.  One of the great stylized moments of the Luhrman version was the closeup on the guns and how they were all different "brands" of "sword".

But something I've always wondered is, just how violent are they toward each other?  We know that they've "disturbed the streets" what, three times previously, the Prince tells us?  But are we talking about glorified shouting matches, where neither side is really interested in doing anything more than flaunting their manhood?  At the start, the worst we get is a thumb biting.  And even then, whoever it was (Sampson?) has to ask, "Is the law on my side if I say Aye?"  So we see that while he hates the Capulets, he doesn't want to get in trouble, either.  Swords come out, Benvolio attempts to beat them down, and then Tybalt joins the fray.  We get the feeling that this has all happened before.  What I'm wondering is, had it not been stopped, would someone have gotten hurt?  Is it really violent, or just walking that edge?

Another thought -- Montague's first words to Benvolio are, "Who set this ancient quarrel new abroach?"  That could be interpreted as meaning that the two families have not been clashing in the streets lately, that things have been settling down.  The Prince doesn't say that they've disturbed the streets three times in the last month, after all.  Later, Capulet mentions to Paris, "Tis not so hard for men as old as we to keep the peace."  So maybe this ancient grudge is actually nearly forgotten, before suddenly being thrust back into the spotlight.


What I'm wondering is, when Mercutio and Tybalt are killed, what's the reaction of the crowd?  How would a third party look upon the news story the next morning?  Is violence just a part of daily life, and these were just two more stupid kids who ended up dead?  Or do we have a case where it's understood that yes, they hate each other, but it's all talk, nobody gets hurt.  Then, when somebody does finally get hurt, it has that much more impact, like "Holy cow, Romeo, what did you do???"  Did Mercutio enter into the sword fight with Tybalt without ever thinking that he might actually get hurt?  Did they not think that they were playing a life and death game?  This sort of gets back to the idea from an earlier post about maturity levels and how old these kids are.  They can act grown up, they can play with weapons like they were toys, and probably are in the habit of doing exactly that.  But then the violence finally tips over the edge, and that's when everything comes crashing down.

Dare I say it?  Momma always said, it's all fun and games until Mercutio gets it in Act III. :)


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Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Happy Ending Shakespeare Company

By William Shakespeare

GUARD. Do you hear something?
GUARD. Oh, never mind then.

I like it.

Troilus and Cressida

Found this quick  link to a blog where they're having a fairly lengthy discussion about Troilus and Cressida.  Not one of the plays you hear much about, so I thought I'd share the link love.


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Romeo and Juliet : How old is Romeo?

There's a simple question. Sure, we all know that Juliet is 13, the Nurse comes right out and tells us. And often I think that we then make the leap and assume that Romeo is 13 as well.

But that's hardly true, is it? Would that imply that Mercutio, Tybalt and Paris are also all about 13? Surely it was the case that men simply chose younger wives (Capulet is much older than his wife, is he not?), and actually we can assume that Romeo and the others are what, maybe late teens, early 20's?

It wouldn't stage well these days to point out that age difference, of course. I can just imagine R&J being closed down because it promotes pedophilia or something. But honestly I'm cool with it (the age difference, not the pedophilia!)- the more I read the play (I'm studying it lately for a project I'm doing), the more I appreciate the fact that Juliet is the most mature person in it. So the fact that she's 13, surrounded by people that are sometimes generations older than her, is quite impressive. I don't need to make her older to justify anything, and I don't need to make Romeo younger to get it to balance out. 

Romeo can be older and still be rash and impetuous. Juliet can be young and be the smart one. I'd rather have that than have to imagine a 13yr old Tybalt delivering lines like "I hate the word, as I hate Hell, all Montagues, and thee...."

Update: While looking at the trivia for Luhrman's movie, I just learned that apparently Natalie Portman auditioned for the role of Juliet, but because of her small frame it was thought that, in her words, "Leonardo looked like he was molesting me." The director said the same thing I said above, only backwards -- "Leonardo was 21, but could look 18 - and she made him look 21." In other words he looked too old, not that she looked too young.  So that certainly backs up the idea that you have to cast R&J of roughly equivalent ages to avoid squicking out your audience.

Have more Shakespeare questions?  Be sure to visit our sister site Shakespeare Answers, where an army of Shakespeare geeks is waiting to help!  Why go slogging through wikipedia entries when you can get an actual person providing a real answer to your specific question?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Much Ado About Reworked Shakespeare

So the other day I get an email from the author of Shakespeare Reworked, Roger Tudor, asking me to check it out.  He's offering, in his words, a "modernised, completely understandable, fully hyperlinked, illustrated e-text version of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ that keeps all of Shakespeare’s original rhythm and rhyme scheme."  It's a for sale e-book.  I'm intrigued.  (As a matter of fact Roger and I have been engaged in spirited debate ever since over the supposed religious sacrilege of even attempting such a feat.)

Since he was good enough to send me a copy of the PDF, I put it on my PDA and have been reading.  You know what?  I like it.  I really do.  This is not some sort of borderline novelization where he just went off and retold the story his own way.  Nor is it one of those thesaurus-driven translations where he went through the text and swapped out all the hard words for easy ones.  (Have I mentioned how much I hate those?)  Instead he's endeavored (over 10 years, he tells me) to match rhythm and rhyme as well.  What he ends up with is indeed something that feels very much like a Shakespeare play, only you realize while reading it that it's easier to understand than you remembered.



Beat.  Alas! he gets nothing by that. In our last
conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and now
is the whole man governed with one: so that if
he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him
bear it for a difference between himself and his
horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left,
to be known a reasonable creature. Who is his
companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother.


Beat.  Ah yes, but he gets nothing out of those!  During our last
conflict most of his wits limped away, and now the whole
man is managed by a scrap of wit - so that if he has
enough wits about him to keep himself warm, let him
regard it as the single difference between himself and his
horse;  since it is his only sign of superiority, to be
regarded as a reasoning creature.  Who is his closest
comrade now?  Every month he has a new brother-in-

That's a quick and easy sample, partly because I'm not intimately familiar with "the good bits" of Much Ado, but also because I'm at work and don't have time to pore over both texts looking for a better one.  I was going to hunt down Dogberry and the whole "I am an ass" bit, but didn't have time.

The book itself is also heavily hyperlinked ,and sprinkled with illustrations and music references.  Personally, for me, I don't need that.  If I'm going to read it I'm doing so for pleasure, on my PDA.  Not for research, and not sitting in front of a browser.  But I'm sure I'm not his regular audience.

Go check it out, if you're not grossly offended by the thought of reworked Shakespeare :).  For that matter, I'll leave with the question that I'm debating with the author: 

What's your position on the subject?  Are the "original" words sacred text that should forever be studied and performed as is, even if the modern audience drifts away and Shakespeare is left entirely in the hands of the ivory tower academics to examine, analyze and debate?  Or Shakespeare merely engaging in what modern authors should as well, namely to take the words and ideas of his predecessors, incorporate his own and keep them in front of a changing audience?

My position is best summed up as this : If it is true that the potential audience for Shakespeare's work has dwindled over the years, it is a failing not of Shakespeare's work but of our(*) ability to get it out there in front of people.  And by "our" I mean "people that *get* Shakespeare".  People that know how good it is, and the sort of impact it can have on your life.  I don't know about anybody else, but I want to share that.  It's not my profession.  It's not even something for which I've got a great deal of evidence or experience.  I read books by Garber and Bloom and Greenblatt and think, "Good books, but these people have made careers out of studying Shakespeare.  Do they still connect with an audience that ...well, doesn't?"

When I find people who claim to not understand Shakespeare, or worse who claim to hate it, that makes me sad.  Where possible, then, I work to better educate people's understanding of the topic.  I'm pretty sure that I will never point to a reworked Shakespeare and tell somebody "Here, read this instead, it's the same general idea."  That very sentence makes me flinch, actually.  If I knew I could hand something something and say "Read this, not only will it make you want to experience Romeo and Juliet for yourself, but you'll discover that maybe it's not as alien as you might have thought," I think that'd be my ultimate desire.  If somebody asked me what kind of Shakespeare book I think I'll ultimately write, I think I just described it.

Anybody else?


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Shakespeare Chronicles

What's almost as good as reading Shakespeare?  Reading books about Shakespeare.  Even better, novels about stuff having to do with Shakespeare.  The Shakespeare Chronicles is a new novel by James Boyle that's released under Creative Commons.  Which, among other things, means that you can download it a piece at a time for free, or get the ebook for $1.50, or get the paperback from Amazon. Your choice!

A novel that is part literary mystery, part historical detective story, built around an obsessive search for the true author of Shakespeare's works.

Stanley Quandary is a professor of English and a very ordinary man.  But then he starts to have the strangest and most realistic dreams, dreams that seem to solve one of the greatest mysteries of all time, to expose a conspiracy of silence that is over 400 years old.  They even suggest a way to win back his estranged wife. Of course, he might be going insane...

Works for me!  Sounds a bit like The DaVinci Code for us Shakespeare geeks.  I've already downloaded my copy.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

SMB's Blog

I don't really know much about SMB's blog, but I think it's worth a link.  It appears to be kids writing about Shakespeare:

On the 19th October a lady named Fiona, from the Young Shakespeare Company came to act out for us The Twelfth Night. It starts off with a brother and a sister on a boat and they were shipwrecked. They thought they lost each other  but each saved themselves, they really missed each other...

The categories mention "Year 6", which is not a United States school designation, so I'm not really sure how old they are.  Is that like 6th grade, which would make them maybe 11 years old?  Regardless, I like to support such things.  They seem to be enjoying the experience and not writing things like "Ug, Julius Caesar, I hate this..." like I tend to see in most of the LiveJournal blogs I find :).


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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Speak the Speech, I Pray You

If you're a Shakespeare fan, and you've got an MP3 player, then run don't walk to Speak the Speech, who are doing free, downloadable audio performances of Shakespeare's plays. Right now they've got The Tempest (woohoo!), Twelfth Night, As You Like It, and Henry IV Part 1. The next shows will be Julius Caesar and Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Eh? What crazy order are they going in??

Seriously. Free audio performances of Shakespeare are actually few and far between. Lots of places will do the sonnets, or assorted soliloquoys, but if you really want an entire play in MP3 format you used to have to go find yourself a copy of Arkangel or something, and that runs well into the hundreds of dollars.

I've just started in on the Tempest. I like it. It's a performance, not just a reading, so you've got background music and sound effects. It's a little like old time radio drama.

While you're at it, don't forget about Shakespearecast, who are going through a production of Romeo and Juliet. Right now they're on Act III Scene 4. Unlike Speak the Speech, which offers up the full play at once, ShakespeareCast is doing it podcast style where you download portions are they become available. Your choice!

The Bookcast : The Shakespeare Wars

Ok, download this interview with Ron Rosenbaum right now.  I haven't read "The Shakespeare Wars", but even listening to the man speak makes my face hurt because I'm smiling from ear to ear and nodding my head up and down furiously at my computer speakers.  From his personal explanation that seeing Peter Brooks(?) production of Midsummer's "changed his life....made him into a Shakespearian, like a secret society...people who are forever forlorned, forever seeking an experience to equal it," to his simply exquisite description of the two endings of King Lear, and how a simple reference to a feather is what makes the play truly Shakespearean.  Even without seeing the entire play, somehow he manages to convey something that in just one line could still bring tears to your eyes.

I am deeply and truly fascinated.  Go now.  Listen.


Romeo and Juliet ... as a Disney(*) Cartoon!

(*) sort of

I've said before, many times, that I think The Tempest is ripe for Disney picking.  Little girl living with her Dad (note no mother figure?) on an island with her playmates, a sprite name Ariel (have to change that to avoid Mermaid confusion) and the mischievous sea monster Caliban.  Enter Prince Ferdinand, with whom she falls madly in love.  Throw in a couple of bad guys Stephano and Trinculo, in league with Caliban, who are easily dispatched, a few other bumbling cast of characters to round it out.  Little girl learns that she's actually a princess (or close enough, she's whatever she is when she's the daughter of the Duke of Milan) and everybody sails home for a wedding and a happy ending.  Perfect.

Until I get that, be sure to check out Sealed with a Kiss, a new animation by former Disney guy Phil Nibbelink (Fox and the Hound, Black Cauldron...).  He's done his own thing here, a 2D Flash animation with hand drawn art that depicts Romeo and Juliet as...seals.  Get it? 

The big downside is that it's a highly limited release, strictly in a few California theatres.  If you're in the neighborhood, though, go see it and tell us how it is!  This is the sort of thing that the second it appears on video, I'm getting it for my kids.  Disney should do more Shakespeare.  Yes, yes, I know it's not Disney doing it, but I'm sure he'll keep the flavor and style that we all know and love.

More Animated Shakespeare...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Shakespeare Prequels!

Dinosaur Comics has got a great idea for a new series of books --

Shakespeare Prequels!  I love it.


"It'll be Hamlet, only he's happy and well-adjusted, walking around saying 'I certainly hope my father doesn't get murdered!' and then Ophelia says 'Thats right, baby!  I, incidentally, plan to remain sane." and then there's IRONY!  Shakespeare fans love irony!


Don't we just, though? :)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Elizabethan Food has several pages up on what "we" eat.  I'm going to assume that "we" means "people of Elizabethan society" given the context. The information is quite extensive, including information on how things were measured, when and what meals were eaten, and so on.

Over at a site called Seat of Mars you can actually buy Elizabethan food for yourself.  I may have to try that.  "Mixed sweet spiced nuts" sounds good.

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Pericles, or, Hey! The King is having sex with his daughter!

For those of you that have wondered what "Pericles, Prince of Tyre" is all about, check out Heaneyland's hysterical recap:


PERICLES: Hello, king. I'd like to marry your daughter.

ANTIOCHUS: Well, first you have to answer this riddle. Answer incorrectly, and you die:
My first is in Paris, my second in France,
The rest is...whatever, I'm having sex with my daughter.

PERICLES: about if I answer that tomorrow?

ANTIOCHUS: Oh, sure, think about it as long as you like.

PERICLES: (aside) I suspect he's having sex with his daughter. I probably shouldn't say anything about it. Maybe I'll just go back home to Tyre. (he exits)


I also love the fact that he belongs to a Shakespeare reading group that is going through every single play, reading them aloud.  Nice.  Which I could find the time to do such a thing!


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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hamlet "Tag Cloud"

A "tag cloud" is an attempt at visual representation of word frequency. The bigger the word, the more often it appears.  So, what words are the most common in Hamlet?

Most of them are obvious - the names of characters, and stuff like "Enter" or "Have" (Haue).  It's interesting after you get past them, though, to look at the next ones:  father.  heaven.  soule. 

Pretty neat.  I'd like to see this done for all the plays.  I remember hearing something in high school about the number of times "dark" and its synonyms are used in Macbeth.


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Friday, October 20, 2006

Shakespeare versus Hemingway

At my previous employer, I had a great deal in common with the QA guy.  He was a Hemingway geek.  Ran sites about Hemingway.  Had that dream project of creating the next great text on Hemingway's works.  Naturally we got along well and often has discussions about Shakespeare and Hemingway.  Most of the time, though, they were of the "Here's what's great about my favorite author..." variation, without much crossover.  (At least Shakespeare's works are public domain, whereas Hemingway's copyrights are still very much aggressively defended.)

I've changed jobs recently . Much to my surprise I find myself in conversation with a coworker who claims Shakespeare and Hemingway to both be favorites of hers, both of whom she has studied in depth.  Fascinated, I point out my history with the Shakespeare/Hemingway connection.

"Well, they did both have very similar styles," she says.

"Eh?" I say, maybe too loudly.  "Shakespeare is all about the interaction between characters.  Everything's in the dialogue.  Maybe I read the wrong bits of Hemingway, but isn't he the one that's famous for writing for 50 pages about a guy going fishing?  Or sitting alone in a restaurant having dinner?"

"That's true," she says, laughing.  "Very often there's only one character at a time.  When you're reading those, though, you need to look not just at the words Hemingway used, but the ones he didn't.  Especially foreign language.  When does he choose to switch to a foreign language, and why?"  She goes on to tell me that this is what fascinates her about people in general - listening to how different people communicate the same circumstances, and what words people choose to use (or not).

At that point we got back to work.

So I'm still left with the question:  Hemingway and Shakespeare, similar styles or not?  I think I get what she was saying about word choice and communication.  But she's referring to the author's choice of words to communicate with the reader/audience.  Which is fine, and correct in both cases - after all, "Hamlet says" is really "Shakespeare wrote that the character of Hamlet would say..."

Part of the problem for me is that I read the plays like reality.  I just assume that these characters exist.  I don't play the "What did Shakespeare mean here?" game, I don't look for political jobs or secret Catholic messages.  I just see humans interacting with each other.  So when I read Hemingway I tend to see the exact opposite - almost everything I've read of Hemingway's is centered around one person who might be communicating with the world around him, or with his own innermost thoughts, but there certainly aren't any other people on the page with him.

(When I was in the second grade, which I guess would have made me about ... 7 years old? I had to be in the hospital for a little while.  An aunt of mine who knew that I liked to read brought me some books.  One of them was "The Old Man and the Sea".  Not knowing anything about Hemingway, I read it.  Can't say I necessarily *got* it (it's about a guy that catches a fish and then loses it before he gets home, right?), but I can say that I was reading Hemingway when I was in the second grade :)).

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A Virtual Shakespeare World

I've never been a big fan of what's known as "massively multiplayer online roleplaying games" (MMORPG).  They're big virtual worlds where you pay a monthly subscription fee to don an avatar and cruise the world of your choice, often populated with the usual dragons and other bad guys, but not always.

Well, what if somebody made one all about Shakespeare?  Edward Castronova has been granted $240,000 from the MacArthur Foundation to produce "Arden: The World of Shakespeare", built entirely around the plays of the Bard.

Ok, can I just say that I would *so* be there?  They used to call Everquest (one of the original MMORPGs) "Evercrack" because of it's addictive nature.  They ain't seen nothing yet!

"Honey, you coming to dinner?"

"Damnit, you distracted me, now Laertes ran away.  I'll be down when I kill him."

Unfortunately it clearly says that this is an "academic" project, which might well mean that it never makes the store shelves. 

The article is loaded with good stuff about how the game, which will be based on Richard III to start, will work.  For instance, you'll have a "play book" and one of the treasures of the game will be various Shakespearean texts:

"If you collect the 'To be or not be' speech and then take it to a lore master or to a skilled bard, he can then apply the magic to your broad sword or you (could) utilize the magic in a battle situation to give you this massive (advantage)," Castronova explained. "So there (will be) this intensive competition to get the best speeches of Shakespeare in your play book.

What can I say?  Want it.  I'm actually going to write to the guy directly this evening and see if I can get some inside scoop, maybe get my name on the beta list.

And don't think I didn't miss the coincidence that "Arden" shows up again this week (see earlier Arden of Faversham story).


I present Lego Hamlet

Always interesting to see what YouTube will turn up.  Have some Lego Hamlet:

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Animated disembodied head doing Hamlet? Ok.

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This might be one of the weirdest things I've ever seen.  It's some sort of computer graphics test, so the author chose to do a recitation of To Be or Not To Be (from the credits it appears to be Brannagh's version, actually).  So behold, a head on a pedestal doing Shakespeare.




Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Strange Brew" based on Hamlet??

Ok, my friend Rob points me to this theory that the movie Strange Brew is based on Hamlet.  You know, the movie with Bob and Doug McKenzie in it.  Hamlet.  I am saying all those words together, even if your brain refuses to read those sentences.

Check it out, it's actually more than a theory.  I find it hard to believe that everything takes place at "Elsinore Brewery" and that the "owner" is killed by brother "Claude" being all just a big coincidence.


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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Oooooo, pretty. Somebody buy me this. :)

Anybody besides me want a Shakespeare Portrait made up entirely of the script from Hamlet?  I'm just geeky enough to find that very cool.  Maybe it's because I'm from the days of making ASCII art on your printer.


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Arden of Faversham: ???

Ok, somebody tell me how come I'd never even heard of Arden of Faversham, one of the "missing plays" of Shakespeare?  I'm familiar with Cardenio, Love's Labour's Won and Sir Thomas More, but Arden of Faversham is a new one on me.  Apparently it's about the 1551 murder of Thomas Arden, mayor of Faversham, by his wife. 


Anyway, a bunch of scientists claim to have proven once and for all that Shakespeare wrote it.  Using "computational stylistics" they've essentially created a fingerprint for Shakespeare's style, and they say that the play matches with a high enough accuracy to state that it was written by the same man.

Of course, nobody's mentioning this idea that if you don't believe Shakespeare wrote *any* of the plays, then this doesn't really prove anything :).  What they're really saying is that "Whoever wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare also most likely wrote this one."

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Juliet Club

I may have heard of the Juliet Club before.  Something about answering letters written to Juliet about love and romance advice.  Apparently there's a contest for the best one.

Neat site, especially if you're a Juliet fan.  They even offer a CD full of everything you could possibly want to know about Juliet.


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Friday, October 13, 2006

Iambic Pentameter, Explained

I've done this topic before, but Sonnet Writers has a nice article up that explains iambic pentameter graphically, putting the emphasized syllables in bold.  Some of it is a little borderline to me, obviously coming from the "sonnet writer" camp and not the Shakespeare camp, like where he says "Sonnet 30 follows iambic pentameter very nicely."  Oh?  In which sonnet does he not do that, exactly?  And "there appear to be some exceptions" to the 5 (he says 10) iambs per line rule, although there are "logical reasons for these."   Maybe he just said that wrong -- they *appear* to be exceptions, but they're not, and here's why.

Other than that, though, he breaks it right down to the individual syllable, explaining when some words run into others ("many a", 3 syllables,  becomes more like "man ya", 2 syllables) or the other way around, where "be-moan-ed" is 3 syllables but "van-ish'd" is 2.


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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Tragedy of The Broccoli : Why "It's Good For You" never works

Even though I've never been a teacher of Shakespeare, I'm often pondering the whole "Why learn Shakespeare?" question, as if I might stumble across the answer.  After all, I took the classes in high school just like everybody else, and claimed to hate them just like everybody else.  But then I got to college and had to pick a humanities project, and found myself strangely drawn back to Shakespeare.  When a chance came to work with an educational videogame company and pick my project, I chose Shakespeare.  Before I knew it I was becoming quite the Shakespeare geek.

But enough of that rambling, back to the topic at hand.  My memories of learning Shakespeare in high school are of the "broccoli" variety.  You can guess what I'm going to say next, right?  "Trust me, it's good for you, just do it."  Bleh.  Does that ever work?  I'm pleasantly surprised to see the universe looking out for me, as Kathy Sierra over at Creating Passionate Users has an article on exactly that topic.  She's got a picture of broccoli right at the top of the article!

The way to win the battle, the article goes on to say, is to invoke optimism and hope.  Emphasize the pleasure.  "Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear," it says. 

I think the best teachers know this.  Nobody is really hoping to say "Sit down and shut up, and just read the thing so we can get out of here."  Every teacher I've spoken with goes out of their way to seek out games and quizzes and activities for the students to do, and inevitably breaks out the movie at the end of class.  They know that it should be fun.  I guess the real question is, does the fun outweigh the "you have to do it, it's good for you" weight that comes with the subject matter?   Is the real hurdle not with the subject matter at all, but with some students' instinctive rebellion against anything they're forced to do?  Do calculus teachers have the same problem?

Just some rambling thoughts on the subject so that I get them down.  Feel free to chime in while I get back to work.


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Monday, October 02, 2006

Bart Simpson as Hamlet

The Simpsons have done Shakespeare a couple of times. I'm not sure I remember this particular scene, though. Bart as Hamlet, Ralph Wiggum as Laertes.

Here's my mad face! Rrrrrrrr!

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Shakespeare the Meerkat

Ok, I've known about Shakespeare the Meerkat for awhile, but never really saw any reason to post since I don't follow the show.  For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, the Animal Planet television channel has a show called "Meerkat Manor" which is some sort of animal reality show.  They follow around like 40 meerkats and try to produce the documentary style footage up as dramatically as they can, like a mother meerkat defending the babies from predators, and so on.  One of them is named Shakespeare.  He's apparently quite popular, with more than a few blogs on the subject.


Well now there's something to post about.  Apparently season two of Meerkat Manor has started, and Shakespeare is missing.  Even the Today show picked up the story, but they don't have a link up yet.  People are very upset.  The producers are being realistic about it - they've said themselves that they just don't know what happened to him.  I think people forget that this is a show about animals tracked in the wild, so simply losing one is actually quite possible.  The producers assume that Shakespeare is dead and that they just haven't found the body.


Sunday, October 01, 2006

The 7 (Yes, 7) Noble Kinsmen

Anybody want to play a murder mystery Flash game based on Shakespeare?  BBC has one up called Seven Noble Kinsmen.  I don't have time to play it in much depth, but I did get through the long intro (which is completely non interactive, just keep hitting Next) and eventually you end up in the mansion in the classic "Reclusive and potentially evil genius has invited all of his enemies to his mansion for revenge" plot.  Somebody play it through and tell me if it's worth it :).


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Shakespeare's World : Then and Now

Want a travel agent's view of Shakespeare's World?  For a change of pace from talking about politics and religion of the day, why not look around the actual geography of the time?  This Internet WebQuest was created by a junior high school student named Hugh Peebles (at least I think he's a student, I assume he could be the teacher) and plays itself out like a game : ask the team a question ("What, in your opinion, caused a middle-class English boy to become one of the world's greatest writers?") and then turn them loose on the Internet to go research things like Holy Trinity Church, Stratford on Avon, The Globe, and so on.


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Supergun Cinema ?

I don't know what Supergun Cinema is, exactly, but I'm fascinated by these posts that keep popping up in my regular reading.  It appears to be the blog of somebody who is writing a screenplay about people writing a screenplay based on Shakespeare's works, which is in turn modelled after Shakespeare's works.  Got that? 


Apparently his previous movie was called "Macbeth 3000" so Shakespeare figures prominently in his work.   The image caption in one of the related blog posts says "Macbeth + light sabers + Batman + snow + car chases + Super Dave + an Iraqi chemical weapons plant + a pedophile + Star Trek = comedy gold..."


I'm intrigued.


Shakespeare Classes at University of Washington

This looks interesting.  University of Washington's "Educational Outreach" program is offering free courses over the net.  Interesting to us, that is, because they have two Shakespeare offerings:  Hamlet and Shakespeare's Comedies.

Haven't had time to read them in depth yet, but I've got them bookmarked.   Something like this I wish came in a PDF, I find that I'm more likely to read things like this if I can print them out all nicely formatted.  I don't like reading web pages for too long.


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Monday, September 25, 2006

To be, or not to . . . Oh, never mind - Health - Times Online

To be, or not to . . . Oh, never mind - Health - Times Online

Did Shakespeare have his bad days when he wrote just to get the wordcount up? Did he wake up hungover, look at a half finished page and think "Where was I?" Dominic Dromgoole, artistic director at the Globe, thinks so. He shows a number of examples (specifically from The Tempest, Macbeth and King Lear) where he feels that the Bard wasn't quite firing on all cylinders.

It's an interesting position to take. If you take the position that every word was perfect, then you're just being silly - Shakespeare was a man just like everybody else. But if you cite specific passages and say "This is awkward" then people will come out of the woodwork to defend that particular passage and tell you that you simply didn't understand it. At least this opinion is coming from somebody who is in the business of staging Shakespaere, so when he says "There's no way to deliver a line like that with any passion" he's got some degree of experience with it.

Does this remind anybody else of Polonius? "The most beautified Ophelia? That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase..."

Friday, September 22, 2006

David Hasselhoff Wants To Do Shakespeare - Starpulse News Blog

David Hasselhoff Wants To Do Shakespeare - Starpulse News Blog

Title really says it all, don't it? The only real question is what role he should play? Maybe he and Jessica Simpson can start out with a Troilus and Cressida or something. See if either of them realizes that there's more to Shakespeare canon than just the biggies.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha (1968) - Ghost Dance Sequence - Google Video

I have no idea what to make of this. The Adventures of Goopy and Bagha (1968) - Ghost Dance Sequence is something that BoingBoing refers to as "Ethnic psychedelia by India's filmic Shakespeare". If somebody wants to comment and clarify the connection to Shakespeare, feel free. I'm guessing that "filmic Shakespeare" is like "Kenneth Brannagh."

Studio 60, Tom Stoppard, and Shakespeare.

I never followed West Wing, so I don't plan to follow Studio 60. But if you did (and/or you do), you might enjoy Just Eat the Damn Peach's idea that there should be a new version of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, starring Bradley Whitford and Matthew Perry.


Monday, September 18, 2006

Grammar Lessons, Shakespeare Style

Shakespeare's Grammar: Rhetorical Devices is really something out of a high school English class, but I love the use of examples from Shakespeare to show such vocabulary lesson concepts as alliteration, anaphora, and onomatopoeia. Ok, I'll admit some of the terms are new to me, too. Fair is foul and foul is fair? That's your basic "chiasmus" right there, ya see. And "Take thy face hence?" What you've got there is a synecdoche.

Did I ever tell you about the time I tried a new Mexican restaurant, and told the waiter, "I'd like the chicken and cheese chimichanga, because you can't pass up an alliteration like that." He didn't appreciate the poetic significance.

How do you spell onomatopoeia? Just like it sounds.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Shakespeare Code

Interested in the Francis Bacon theory of Authorship? The Shakespeare Code is a $3.95 ebook, coming soon, that aims to be "the one true history of Francis Bacon."


I .... don't really know what this is

I don't know what Light of Truth is, exactly, but it's definitely Shakespeare, and definitely geeky. I'm not even going to try to describe it, because I don't understand it.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Lego Shakespeare Comics : Why I Blog :)!

Ok, I've got to show some love to Irregular WebComic, a comic strip that's basically Lego characters with dialogue balloons over their heads. I'm digging it because he didn't just do a Shakespeare gag, he has a whole Shakespeare theme.

(I do wish it was a bit funnier, though! Lord knows I love a good Shakespeare pun, but they have to be quick and off the cuff, you can't think of the pun first and then fit the comic to the punchline. Then again I haven't read every one so maybe some of them are better than others.)

Thanks to whoever stumbled me, by the way! I hope people stick around and browse awhile!

Shakespeare Searched

I got a message today about Clusty's Shakespeare Searched engine. Althoug such things exist all over the place, it's nice to see some major search engine love bestowed upon our favorite bard.

It appears to work well enough, allowing you to break down your search by play (or sonnet) as well as character, which is a nice touch. For kicks I just told it to picK Rosencrantz and sure enough it gave me every line of his. Reads like a Tom Stoppard play :).

Unfortunately this one fails in the same way most others do, and that is spelling. Shakespeare often got creative with his spelling, particularly when doing his iambic pentameter thing, and often would skip lett'rs complet'ly. So if you search all the works for "If it were fill'd" you'll correctly get Sonnet 17, but if you didn't know that and searched for "If it were filled" then you get nothing.

Failing #2 is when to use quotes and when not. Search for "to be or not to be" and the appropriate Hamlet soliloquoy pops up - but search it without the quotes and you get King John and Timon of Athens before Hamlet shows up at number 5. But on the other hand search for "is this a dagger that I see before me" with the quotes and you'll get nothing. Search it without the quotes and you'll properly see that the word is "which" I see before me, not "that". So depending on what you're searching you'll often have to try both ways.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How to Retire Rich and Happy

Shakespeare on ... retirement? Ok...Couldn't resist a link to this article on How to Retire Rich and Happy, mostly because it starts out by using Shakespeare's cash management strategies to make a point. Cute idea.

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Will And A Way : Amazon Interviews Stephen Greenblatt

I have no idea how to determine how old this interview with Stephen Greenblatt is, but I just found it so I'm linking it. Greenblatt is the author of "Will in the World", if you don't recognize the name. Normally I'd put up an Amazon link for that but I'm sitting in the waiting room at my garage and just don't really have the patience to do the necessary cutting and pasting :). Anyway, many of
the reviews of that book accused it of being something close to a love letter to Shakespeare from Greenblatt (fill in your own insinuations, there), and after reading it, I can see what they meant. It'll be interesting to see what the man has to say.

It's interesting right from the first paragraph.Did Shakespeare know that he was writing masterpieces? Probably not. According to Greenblatt he was just trying to keep the butts in the seats,so he had to appeal to everybody. Not the sort of answer you'd expect about your Hamlets and King Lears. Titus, maybe :). (I say that for the benefit of the oft-ignored Titus fans in my audience :)).

Another good quote, regarding "the reader who has enjoyed some Shakespeare but is not at all familiar with the mountains of scholarship and endless debates and has no theoretical background", which is the space I've always tried to play in: "First of all Shakespeare is about pleasure and interest...The idea that you actually need an advanced degree to understand Shakespeare is a joke." Exactly.

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Google Book Search is My Friend : Public Domain PDFs!

Today Google announces that their "full view" book search will support PDFs for public domain works. Nice! Remember to search "full view" texts only to get this feature. Try searching "Shakespeare". Go on, I dare you. Many many many many hits. Great stuff. I am going to be very busy.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Shakespeare Audio : Gielgud reads the Sonnets?

The Internet Multicasting Service has some readings of Shakespeare available for listening, including Sir John Gielgud reading a 4 part series on the sonnets, and also excerpts from Mucho Ado and Julius Caesar. Normally I would love this, but the formats are primarily streaming, which I hate. If I can't get it on MP3 and add it to my portable collection, it's as if it doesn't exist to me. But I figure others might not be quite so harsh.

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How To Read Shakespeare

Now this is the type of article I've always wanted to write. "How to Read Shakespeare" breaks it down into approachable bites - sentence structure, grammar, pronoun usage, etc... and shows little tricks for trying to decipher the words into something you can better understand. I agree with the pretty much everything the author says, although he keeps pushing the SparkNotes and I'm not a big fan, there. I'm afraid that students will read the supplementary material and not read the original.

Lately I've been thinking about Claudius' opening words (since I have them to music as part of "Hamlet in Space :)), and they make a good case for the examples the article discusses: "Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death the memory be green...." What? Well, the article says that Shakespeare would freely rearrange the words in his sentences to suit the rhythm he needed, so you have to mentally put them back into the order you'll better understand. Well, I spot "our dear brother Hamlet", so we have "Though yet of our dear brother Hamlet's death the memory be green." Still feels backward, maybe the end needs to go at the beginning: "Though yet the memory of our dear brother Hamlet's death be green." It's at this point that perhaps you pull out the annotated guide if you don't immediately realize that to "be green" is "to be fresh and new". So, finally, "Though yet the memory of our dear brother Hamlet's death is still fresh in our minds..."

Another good one is "I have of late but wherefore I know not lost all my mirth" (another good musical one, this time from HAIR). "I have of late" == "Lately, I have." I have what? Lost all my mirth. "Lately I have lost all my mirth, but wherefore I know not." Knowing that "wherefore" means "why" from the footnotes we do that trick one more time and are left with "Lately, I've lost all my mirth, but I don't know why."

I could do that all day. :)

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Is Tybalt one of the better villains?

I always treated Tybalt as one of Shakespeare's better villains.  He's got nothing but hate in him, and he's not afraid to draw his sword and go one-on-one with any challenger.  Certainly he's a coward at heart, as they all are - he runs after he kills Mercutio, for instance.

Then again...  On the train lately I've been reading the script, because I'm that kind of geek.  And I notice passages like the end of Act I scene i, where Benvolio is explaining what happened to Lord Montague, and I get this:  "The fiery Tybalt, with his sword prepared, which, as he breathed defiance to my ears, he swung about his head and cut the winds, who nothing hurt withal hiss'd him in scorn..."  Does that mean that Tybalt stood there slashing at the air with his sword and not hitting anything?

Then later there is the lengthy passage where Mercutio describes Tybalt's swordsmanship.  Is he being fair, or sarcastic?  Or both?  Is Tybalt a swordsman to be feared, or is he all talk?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Shakespeare High is Podcasting

Very cool, Amy over at ShakespeareHigh has started a podcast. I must have missed the memo, because she's up to her fourth episode and I just found out about it ;). She's going with the "Students Guide to Shakespeare 101" approach. Very tutorial, working through quiz time questions like "Did Shakespeare write in Olde English or Modern English?" Right now she's running it as if the user is sitting down behind an online guide, so I hope for those of us who listen to podcasts away from the computer she breaks from that pattern eventually. One of the major benefits of podcasting is taking it with you so you can learn this stuff on the train, in the car, at the gym, etc... all places where you can't click on the link when the narrator tells you to.

Good luck, Amy! You've got a new subscriber, and hopefully a bunch more :).

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Mercutio fed Romeo his lines?

So I'm going back over Romeo and Juliet for a project I'm playing with, and I just noticed something that I'd never really thought of before. Act I, Scene iv, we see Romeo, Benvolio and Mercutio getting ready for the party . This is where the famous Queen Mab speech comes in. I also think it's interesting that Mercutio, for such a strong character, gets no real introduction, he's just that fun guy that you party with. Mercutio's first line in the entire play is "Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance." Makes me think of characters from Seinfeld or something.

Anyway. The thing I just noticed is this exchange:

Romeo: "I have a soul of led so stakes me to the ground I cannot move."
Mercutio: "You are a lover, borrow Cupid's wings, and soar with them above a common bound."

That sound familiar to anybody? Act II, Scene ii.

Romeo: "With love's light wings did I o'er-perch these walls, for stony limits cannot hold love out."

While Romeo is busy wooing Juliet, he's blatantly stealing lines that Mercutio gave him! That's actually funny. Maybe that's something that everybody else has seen before, but I don't recall my 9th grade English teacher pointing it out. (I do remember her showing us the Zeffirelli(?) film and forgetting to mention there was nudity in it. Never saw anyone run for the Stop button so fast!)

If, just for a moment, you spin the play completely different, where Romeo and his friends really are just college boys looking to get some action after the party (basically what Benvolio and Mercutio wanted), you could have a blast with it. Imagine drunken Mercutio and Benvolio hiding in the bushes underneath the balcony loudly whispering things like, "Tell her Queen Mab hath been with you!" or "Show her your naked weapon!"

Maybe I'm just sleepy, I'm writing this on the morning train to keep myself occupied :).

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Strangling Shakespeare

Matthew Mehan of brings us this article entitled, Strangling Shakespeare. "Britain's leading theatre company seems set on barbequeing the Bard of Avon," the article starts, before going on to review the Royal Shakespeare Company's recent production of Henry VI part II.

"I was in Stratford on Avon for only a day...although it was just long enough to start counting the number of times I heard Shakespeare roll in his grave."

Sounds like he didn't love it.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Who wants to help with a book project?

I'm in a publishing mood lately. A couple of e-book projects of mine (both completely unrelated to Shakespeare) are now online and selling, which I'm pleased with. I've always wanted to get something to paper about Shakespeare, and the question has always been what would that be.

I have an idea for something I'd like to try, but I need people. The project I'm thinking of is more of a compilation / anthology then a traditional "dummy's guide." If any of my regular readers out there are interested in hearing more, or possibly participating, please drop me a line at



"Taming of the Shrew is better than Hamlet."

So while it was still in town I did indeed get to see the Boston production of Taming of the Shrew, and when I get a moment I'll have to write a review. I don't have time for much these days, though, so I'll have to relate a quick story about the couple we went with. I'd actually brought with me, as something of a joke, the Taming of the Shrew comic book. My wife was enjoying reading it, and passing it to our friends. One friend who shall remain nameless said that she's very familiar with the show. Cool. I like finding new Shakespeare friends.

At intermission we're talking about "What do you think of the show so far?" as people often do. Then everybody gives me the generic "I like it," which I can't stand, like saying anything other than that must make you a bad person. Actually it just makes you a person with no opinions. But, anyway. This one person says, "See, to me, this is a better play than Hamlet."


I swear to God, you should have seen me. I've never quite known what it is like to be speechless like I was. So many, many replies going through my brain, trying to filter them and decide which would be the least offensive. Meanwhile, she's still talking. "The comedies like this are the ones that are really entertaining for the people. I can't stand all those dark, depressing ones. Hamlet, Macbeth... "

"Hamlet," I say through gritted teeth, "Might be the greatest piece of literature in the English language. The world is a better place because of plays like Hamlet, not because of shallow nonsense like this. I watch Taming of the Shrew like I watch a generic Kate Hudson romantic comedy." My wife quickly jumps in to change the subject before I begin raising my voice.

"Know what else I hate?" this woman continues, perhaps not realizing or caring how much she has fallen in my eyes. "The Tempest."

"I've read The Tempest to my 3yr old as a bedtime fairy tale," I tell her.

"And did she understand it?"

"She *asked* me for it. Repeatedly."

Luckily the show started back up. Later in the car, we were talking about the fact that my daughter is named Katherine, and how yes of course I knew about the Shrew character, and no it is not a silly coincidence. My second daughter is named Elizabeth well aware of that Shakespearean connection, as well. But when my son was born we couldn't find a good Shakespearean male name we liked. This then got into a conversation about how Shakespeare didn't often use male names that are still in use today.

"Horatio?" this poor woman says.

Gritted teeth time again. " a character in HAMLET!" I force myself to say.

Next year, I don't think we're going with anybody. :)

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Monday, August 07, 2006

ShakespeaRe-Told : Shakespeare on Television

Although I've just missed the first episode (curse me for being so far behind in my posting!), I see that BBC America is doing a 4part, very modern retelling of Much Ado (last night's), Macbeth, Midsummer, and Taming of the Shrew. By very modern, I mean very -- Much Ado casts Beatrice and Benedick as co-anchors on a news program, Macbeth is about an ambitious chef taking over his boss' restaurant (haven't we discussed that one before?), Midsummer takes place at a woodsy family resort of Shrew apparently casts Kate as a ruthless female politician. Note that these productions are "inspired by", and not actual modern dress versions of the original text. But, still, could be fun.

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