Monday, February 26, 2007

Mental Floss on Lady Macbeth

When I saw the article title, The Brutal Ladies Behind Some of History's Biggest Bullies, I knew that Lady Macbeth had to show up in there someplace.  I'm pleased to say that she does indeed, and you get a little history lesson in the process (hint, she was a real person and not what Shakespeare made her out to be).


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Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Complete Works [Abridged]

Ok, I finally got around to seeing "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged]" this weekend (sometimes known as The Cmplt Wrks of Wlm Shkspr and other silly titles).  The premise, if you haven't heard of it, is that 3 guys do the entire works of Shakespeare (that's 37, possibly 38 plays, and maybe sonnets?) in 90 minutes.  As you can imagine, it's a comedy. 

Did I like it?  It's interesting that one of the advertising lines for the play is:  "If you like Shakespeare, you'll like this play.  If you hate Shakespeare, you'll love this play."  Well, since I love Shakespeare, I didn't really love this play.  It's funny, sure, in a pretty standard stand-up comic sort of way.  Somebody had the idea to start with Shakespeare and then reduce it down to jokes that everyone would get.  Example:

Romeo:  Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized...

Juliet:  What did you just say?

Romeo:  I said, call me but love, and I'll...

Juliet:  Call you Butt Love?

Romeo:  Can we get on with the scene?

Juliet:  Whatever you say, Butt Love.

Get the idea?  It's always interesting when somebody writes standup comedy and people perform it for years to come, because you get to see if you can spot the jokes versus the ones the new actors have thrown in.  For instance, this weekend's performance contained a reference to bald Britney well as a reference to Janet Reno.  Janet Frickin Reno?  When's the last time she was in the news, Clinton era?

The treatment of the plays, for the most part, is actually well done.  They open with a silly intepretation of Romeo and Juliet to get the audience warmed up.  Good choice, since it's the most popular play.  Want to know how much of a Shakespeare geek I am?  I actually found myself looking forward to the ending of their version of R&J, just because it's Romeo and Juliet, for god's sake, it has to be good, until I realized that it was two guys doing it as a comedy, so I was probably not going to do it the justice I'm hoping for.  And the entire second act is devoted to Hamlet, because it is the most complex one (debatable, but that's a concept the audience can get behind).  For Hamlet they do take it a bit more seriously, including one of the actors having a nervous breakdown because he just can't take the pressure.

Macbeth and Othello get a fair amount of stage time, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra less so.  The histories are done like a football game, and the comedies are all smooshed down into one comedy that makes heavy use of Shakespeare's 4 major comedic devices.  I was a little disappointed in that, particularly since The Tempest got no real love.  I don't think of the Tempest as being one of the formulaic long-lost cross-dressing identical-twins comedies, although it does have the shipwrecked aspect that he used a few times.  Oh, and Titus Andronicus is done like a cooking show.  The only play that doesn't get any love at all is Coriolanus, the best they can come up with for that one is an actor who refuses to do it because he doesn't like that the name has "anus" in it.  Haha? 

Perhaps the biggest disappointment for any Shakespeare geek is King Lear.  King Lear gets *one* joke, during the Histories football game, where the ball ends up with King Lear.  They throw a flag for "fictional character on the field" and then go back to the game.  That's it.  That's disappointing.  If there's any debate that Hamlet is not the best thing Shakespeare ever wrote, the contender in that battle would be King Lear.

So, overall, it was ok.  Cute.  Not what I was hoping for.  I brought my wife, figuring "It'll be enough Shakespeare for me and enough funny for her."  But honestly it wasn't enough Shakespeare for me and wasn't funny enough for my wife. See it if it comes around, but don't drive an hour out of your way to find it like I did.


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Friday, February 23, 2007

To Tube Or Not To Tube

Speaking of geeky Shakespeare things, you had to know that I'd post a link to this video that's making the rounds.  In parts it's quite good, and I appreciate the effort taken to rewrite the entire soliloquoy. 


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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Shakespeare In Love ... Biggest Oscar Turkey

There's always been trivia contests about which movie didn't get the Oscar, but should have.  How about the reverse?  How about those that won the awards and didn't really deserve it?  Welcome to the Oscar Turkeys. And guess who is the big winner?  Most Undeserving of All Time for Best Film? 

Shakespeare in Love.

Oh, well.  I liked it.  I agree it maybe wasn't Oscar worthy, but I liked it.


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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sketchy Thoughts

Ever wonder what Petruchio and Kate would like like as wasps, what with that whole "where a wasp doth keep his tongue" banter?  Sketchy Thoughts wondered exactly that.  The results are pretty neat, actually.  It's just sketches, nothing complete, but I appreciate the fact that he "just sketched them out over dinner."  That's exactly the kind of random Shakespeare reference I like to link to.  Man could have drawn anything he wanted, and he drew Petruchio and Kate.  Gotta love that.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Shakespeare's Atoms

I go back and forth over whether "Shakespeare geek" means "I'm a geek about Shakespeare stuff" or it means "I'm a geek who's into Shakespeare."  In support of the latter argument we have this link about calculating how many of Shakespeare's atoms we inhale. Sure, the science is silly, but it's geeky and it's Shakespeare.

"Breathe in, hold it there, enjoy the Shakespeare, breathe out.  Aaaah.  Repeat!"

BONUS:  "So there's also a little Buddha in all of us."


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Shakespeare Dreams

So I had this weird Shakespeare dream this weekend.  This will probably make no sense :).  Apparently I had published some claim about  particular plot device of Shakespeare's, claiming that Julius Caesar was the first time that he had used it.  However, an old college friend and I had just discovered that it was actually used in Hamlet as well, and we were trying to figure out how to reconcile the new discovery with our published conclusions.  What's interesting, though, is that the plot device as best I could remember it had to do with one character seeking out another character's killer (a whodunnit story, in other words), only to have it unveiled that he was the killer all along.  In the case of Hamlet, we were looking for the killer of Polonius.  But everybody knows that Hamlet killed Polonius, so it's not really a mystery.  I have no idea how Julius Caesar played into it, since the dream seemed mostly to be about analyzing Hamlet.  Like I said, it basically makes no sense from the start because Shakespeare didn't write detective stories.

Once I woke up and this all dawned on me, I started wondering what Hamlet would have been like if it really was a mystery.  Perhaps Hamlet sees Polonius emerging from Gertrude's bedroom.  Hamlet's already pretty messed up in the head about what's been going on in his mom's bed, so he redirects some of his rage at Polonius (instead of Claudius) and ends up killing the old man in secret.  Now the play can go on quite differently.  Hamlet never has to be sent to England. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Aren't Dead.  Ophelia doesn't necessarily go crazy and kill herself.  Sure, her dad's dead, but it's not like her boyfriend is the one who did it (as far as she knows, at least).  Meanwhile Laertes probably returns to avenge his father, but with no one to challenge he's at a bit of a loss as to what to do next.  Perhaps Hamlet is smart enough to twist events so that everybody believes Laertes killed Polonius?  Then poor Ophelia probably would kill herself after all. The girl's a bit fragile.


Anyway, now I'm just babbling, and I've got work to do.  I wanted to document that dream, since it's not often I dream about Shakespeare.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ooooo My Desdemona

Somebody by the name of "Old Cheeser" (who is apparently younger than me :-/) gets credit for finding this link of the kids from FAME doing Othello.  Yes, you heard that right . The kids from Fame.  Remember that show?  They're gonna live forever, even if their tv show doesn't?  Doing Othello.  Thank you television gods for not making it Romeo and Juliet or Midsummer yet again.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Anthony? Cleopatra? Not so hot.

Looks like this is the month for archaeological finds.  First it was a skeletal Romeo and Juliet, and now we have a coin depicting Anthony and Cleopatra.  The only problem is that they don't look like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  They look pretty...rough.


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Such Shakespeare Stuff is now

Hi Everybody,

I've had the domain reserved for awhile now, but haven't done anything with it.  I keep telling myself that the blog is just a blog, and the domain is where I'll build some cool new wiki/blog/rss/podcast thingie the likes of which the world has never seen, but it's been a year and that's never come close to happening.  So, now that Google lets us point domains at blogspot addresses, it seems logical to do just that.

Apologies in advance if you happen to hit the new domain while things are moving over.  I hope everybody likes the new name.  And hey, who knows, maybe I really will start coding up something original and putting a bit more emphasis on the "geek" part :).



Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Shakespeare Sonnet Shake-Up

When I first got an email asking me to look at Shakespeare Sonnet Shakeup I made the mistake of thinking that it wasn't spam.  After all, I run a Shakespeare blog, so I regularly get people emailing me Shakespeare stuff to look at.  I looked at it briefly, made some suggestions back to the author, and then put it in my list of stuff to post as I got time.  I wasn't terribly impressed, so I wasn't in a great hurry.

Then I spent the next week watching references to it show up everywhere.  Programming forums.  Download of the Week.  I even saw a flat out "press release".  The thing's being heralded like the discovery of Cardenio.  Given that I never received any sort of answer back from my email, I'm going on the assumption that the person who wrote it just basically blasted out the announcement to anybody and everybody who might listen.  And given what it is, I'm surprised at the number of people that did.

If you haven't seen it yet, it's a little web form where you pick random lines from the sonnets to build your own.  It forces you into a rhyming scheme by only offering you rhyming lines at any given time.  "Create your own sonnet!" it says.  This is roughly equivalent to writing a short story by picking random words out of the dictionary.  What you are almost certainly guaranteed to get is absolute gibberish.  I suppose if you already knew the sonnets like the back of your hand and knew exactly how to piece together some key lines, you might be able to produce something that made sense.  But if you already knew how to do that you wouldn't need the tool. 

People seemed to pick up the story on the idea that it could teach students about poetry.  How, exactly?  The only place I could find any actual useful info was under the "English sonnet" link, and all that did was to copy a page directly out of Wikipedia.  Leading people to believe that you can create an Elizabethan sonnet simply by having three quatrains followed by a rhyming couplet is the same as telling them that haiku is just about counting syllables. 

It's also pretty buggy.  Here's my sonnet:

And all things turns to fair, that eyes can see
By those swift messengers returned from thee
Come daily to the banks, that when they see
Come daily to the banks, that when they see

In tender embassy of love to thee
Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see
In tender embassy of love to thee

Thine by thy beauty being false to me
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me
And all things turns to fair, that eyes can see

Perforce am thine and all that is in me
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me


Not sure the ABAB/CDCD/EFEF/GG rhyme scheme allows for me to use the exact same rhyme in every single line.  Or, at least, that's what my ninth grade English teacher Ms. Cunningham told us, otherwise it'd be AAAAAAAAAAAA.  And how hard would it have been to write something in that doesn't let you use a line a second time - much less, use it right after you just used it?  Shakespeare is not Robert Frost, I don't recall any "Miles to go before I sleep and miles to go before I sleep" in the sonnets.  We won't even cover the fact that it's complete gibberish with no context at all about when an idea starts or ends, since I assume that everybody knows that going in.  Maybe the button should say "Create your own gibberish".

I give this one a pass, unless your idea of a "fun toy" is pretty much anything that involves clicking the mouse.  It certainly has no real Shakespearean value.

 UPDATE:  Jim Yagmin, the author of the application, has gotten back in touch with me.  He says that he only sent out the link to a few blogs such as mine that he thought would be interested, and that others just picked it up and ran with it.  Also that he thought of it as a "fun poetry widget" that I was taking too seriously.   

Fair enough.  I'll admit to posting grumpy, primarily because everybody seemed to be jumping up and down over a story that I had chosen to put in the queue.  I think it was the treatment of it as more than just a "fun poetry widget" that got me going, though, because I really could see some potential in it -- just not right now.  As I mentioned I had already written back to the author with suggestions about giving the lines some concept of context so, for example, you couldn't start a quatrain with the end of a sentence.  And if the whole page was dedicated to explaining what a sonnet is (and not just the rhyme scheme!) then it really could be very educational.  Who knows, maybe Jim will continue to work on it and I really will be recommending it as a serious educational tool in the future :).


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Monday, February 12, 2007

And now, some hatin' on Harold Bloom

I love how eloquently contrasoma makes his point when paraphrasing Harold Bloom:

"Hamlet" is the greatest thing ever. Fuckin' seriously. You say "I know" but you don't. Because you're retarded. I'll float the interesting idea of Hamlet being the first fictional character to create himself, but I won't go anywhere with it. Instead I'll devote half of this mess to verbatim quotation, throw my hands in the air and say "who can know what Hamlet means, since no mortal has ever matched his powers of cognition?" Achieve same effect by feeding your Shakespeare TA five pints of bitter. PS: I'm the greatest critic in teh world. It says so on the dustjacket.

He then goes on to tear Bloom a new one, saying that "Bloom owes his readership better than retreat in the face of genius."


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Ten Unpopular Opinions

I'm sorry that I almost missed Cesario's blog post entitled "Ten Unpopular Opinions : The Shakespeare Edition."  She posted it a few days ago and I am very behind.  The list is funny -- Titus Andronicus as a farce that should be played like a Monty Python skit?  "Claudio and Hero -- so doomed."    But it also shows a deep understanding of Shakespeare, making leaps that many people would not dare make because they're simply not the common thinking (hence unpopular opinions, I suppose).  "The Macbeths have the best marriage in all Shakespeare."  "Shylock is not the hero of Merchant of Venice."  "Lear's Fool is a subject relative experienced only by Lear himself."  I mean, you can pick any of them and have discussion all night long.  Great stuff.


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Shakespeare Biography : Meet Bill

Update Feb 18, 2010 - Sorry to the sudden surge of traffic hitting this page, but it looks like the "Meet Bill" link has died. No further information available. Oh, well. Stay, hang out, look around. Questions we can answer?

[Ok, there's a story that goes along with this that I'll share shortly...]

Meet Bill is a bit different from the typical Shakespeare biography.  Example?

When Will was eighteen he fell in love with Anne Hathaway. After the requisite amount of headbanging they were married.

Oh.  I'm not sure whether to debate the bit about how much he really loved his wife (who was, what, ten years his senior?) or to laugh over the "requisite headbanging" that came before the marriage (she was knocked up when he married her, right?).

The Bard's group was bad. They kicked ass so bad his competitors used to send out speed writers, shorthand artists and bribe other actors in his plays to try to make their own bootlegged copies of his plays. The unauthorized "boots" were known as "The Bad Quartos." (Weird but true.)

I like the style.  It obviously addresses an audience not usually coming to look for Shakespeare biographies.

Ok, you want to hear the story too?  This is one of those stories that I like to call "The universe is small" stories.  This weekend I was playing around at GoDaddy looking to see just how many variations of Shakespeare domains were out there, how many were being cybersquatted, and so on.  One of the first I stumbled across was the fact that was actually registered 10 years ago, for the Luhrman movie.  I'd never known that.  Never been to that site.  Saw it for the first time this weekend.  My browsing led me to the Wikipedia page for the movie (not the play), where I found some errors and corrected them.

Now go look and see where this Meet Bill site is hosted?  But I found it strictly in my morning's headlines, I did not ever actually browse through that site.  Weird.


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Shakespeare Never Went To Sea

It's articles like this one about Shakespeare's experience at sea that I really enjoy. 

Simple premise -- Shakespeare didn't know how much time was meant by the nautical concept of a 'glass'.

Evidence -- passages from The Tempest and All's Well That End's Well seem to indicate that he thinks it means one hour, when actually it means half an hour.

Conclusion -- Shakespeare never went to sea.  Or, at the very least, he was not an experienced sea-traveller. (They do offer up the possibility that he travelled once in his life and simply forgot the specifics of the term over the years).

Real conclusion -- <em>For believers in “alternative Shakespeares”, the sea-glasses are more of a crux. The 17th Earl of Oxenford and Sir Henry Neville, to take two popular current candidates, each crossed to the continent several times. Oxenford, according to his partisans (though non-Oxenfordian scholars disagree), even sailed with the English fleet opposing the Armada, subjecting himself to the discipline of a sailor.</em>



Friday, February 09, 2007

Ten Ways To Say I Love You

Valentine's Day is fast approaching, have you gotten the gifts and arranged the flowers yet?  Don't wait til the last minute to order the flowers, you'll pay through the nose.

As far as gifts go, Luxist has Ten Ways To Say I Love You, which is actually a box of gold-tipped chocolates accompanied by Shakespeare love quotes.

If you're more of a do-it-yourselfer, buy whatever chocolate you like and then head on over to Clusty where you can search for 'love' references in all of Shakespeare's work and pick your favorite.  You'd better get started, though - there's lots of them!  Luckily Clusty offers a nice categorized breakdown for your browsing pleasure.

Personally I might go with something from Sonnet 153, which we spoke of previously.  I like that image of "my mistress' eyes" being just the thing to rekindle Cupid's fire.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Skeletal Romeo and Juliet

5000 years ago makes it a little too early, and they never did make it to Mantua, but this article about two skeletons found locked in an embrace is loaded with enough Romeo and Juliet references to make it worth a link.  An outstanding archaeological find, to be sure, though the whole "wife was probably sacrificed to keep the dead husband company" thing kinda puts a morbid spin on the romantic aspect.

Monday, February 05, 2007

How much of a Hamlet are you?

I thought this "quiz" was cute enough to link.  I'm a type B - way too analytical to be a good Hamlet.  I should practice long pauses and just saying whatever comes into my head.  Make sure you click on the other "services" at the top of the page.

I didn't realize it at first, but these pages are actually hosted by <a href="">Jasper Fforde</a><img src=";l=ur2&amp;o=1" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />, creator of the Thursday Next series of novels that I've blogged about several times.  In the fourth book of the series Hamlet is a major character, so I have to assume that these pages were some sort of viral campaign to draw attention to that.