Friday, August 31, 2007

Oh, is that what "Roman fool" means?

A man playing Brutus paused and excused himself, saying "I seem to have stabbed myself" in Aspen during an outdoor performance of "Scenes from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar" on Wednesday.

"Actors normally don't use real knives...but I hadn't thought an actor might stab himself," the director said.

Brutus was taken to the hospital by Portia (nice wife) for stitches.  Who knows, maybe while she's there she can be treated for the whole "swallow'd fire" thing.

Shakespeare Comes To McDuffie. How Quaint!

I'm sorry, maybe I'm the only one that finds this article amusing.  It's about the director for a little community theatre somewhere in Southtown (it never says the state -- South Carolina, maybe?) putting on some Shakespeare.

It starts out with a quote from The Tempest, but they're actually doing Midsummer's.  Perhaps the author could have started out with "What fools these mortals be" instead? :)

Reasons why they chose this play (direct from the article):

  • Since it's Shakespearean, it's public domain and she doesn't have to pay royalties.
  • It's a comedy.
  • "It really hadn't been done before around here, so people wouldn't be too sick of it."
  • It was a favorite of Mr. Holubar, a college friend of hers, who died their freshman year.

(So glad that the #1 reason is the royalty thing, and the last one mentioned is the whole "honoring a dead friend" thing :))

I like how the article quotes the Washington Post, that Dream is "filled with love and laughter, mischief and matrimony and a whole lot of magic spells."  It really does give you the feeling that these people have never actually seen a Shakespeare play before.

Perhaps funniest of all, of course, is that the town is called "McDuffie" and nobody saw fit to pun on that.  Just imagine if they'd done Macbeth?  Everytime somebody mentions the name on stage, the audience could scream like a rock concert:

"Lay on, Macduff!"

"WOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh, wait, he's not talking to us.  NEVER MIND!"

(The entire plot of the 1980's movie Porky's II revolves around the conservative southerners trying to shut down a school Shakespeare production, which I believe is also Midsummer.  There's a classic battle between principal and priest comparing who had more dirty words, Shakespeare ("what, with my tongue in your tail?") or the Bible (something something book of Solomon).  But for the life of me I can't find anything online. )

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Summarizing Sonnets The *Right* Way

Found via Samizdat blog, this e-book entitled Threading Shakespeare's Sonnets makes me wishI could run around to all of those other sites on the web that claim to do a paraphrase / summary of each sonnet and say, "No, you fool, this is how you do it."  Instead of trying to paraphrase word for word, Professor Bennett instead starts a conversation about what Shakespeare is trying to accomplish in the whole - the "threads of thought", so to speak.  Most of the commentary is in the form of questions, backed up by references to the text.  What you end up with is a commentary that assumes you already know what you're talking about, while at the same time reminding you.  Doesn't treat you like you're stupid, in other words.

Example (from Sonnet 17, a favorite of mine):

Here he looks to the future and the possible survival of the youth despite all-powerful time. Initially he questions what “the world” will think. Will it believe the speaker’s account of the youth’s worthiness (“high deserts,” l. 2)? If there are doubts, heaven (which by rights is more just than time or the world) knows that the speaker’s verses are like a tomb or monument that conceals the youth’s real life by not showing half his good qualities. (Note the change from the treatment of the grave and tomb in Sonnets 1 and 4).
After this pat on his own back, the speaker reveals more concern with appearances. He praises the physical beauty of the youth, especially his face and eyes (which will later prove to be deceptive)....

Also nice is the regular reference back to common themes (threads) in the other sonnets. The work is presented as PDF / ebook, rather than HTML, but I'm not sure why he could not have chosen to dynamically link such references.

Still, an excellent resource and I'm glad I found it.  Go browsing for your favorite sonnet and see what it has to say.  (Rats, I'm a little disappointed in the short treatment that 130 gets!)

Monday, August 27, 2007

My Plan Is Working

Today I heard my 5 yr old singing at the lunch table.  Soon, her 3 yr old sister joined her.  This is a common occurence.

What they were singing, however, caught my attention.  They were singing "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day".

I said, "Katherine, what did you just say?" so fast that she thought she was in trouble.  "It wasn't bad, sweetie, it was a good thing.  I wanted to hear you say it again."

"I was singing Shall I compare thee," she said like she didn't fully understand the significance.  Because, well she doesn't.  :)

They know that line because it is the ringtone on my phone.  My 3yr old calls it "The song your phone sings".  My 5yr old knows it as Shakespeare.  I am anxiously awaiting the day that they can recite even more of it.  I realize the words mean nothing to them, but the memorization is a powerful tool.  After all, they can both do the Catholic Lord's Prayer and Hail Mary, even though most of the words are gibberish to them.

If one of them manages a full stanza, I'll make sure to record and post it for posterity :).

Anybody needs me, I'll be over here beside myself.

Take That, Rowling : The Most Expensive Books of 2006

This would be books sold at auction, in case you were curious, and the lowest price on the list is over $400k.  So dear Mr. Potter doesn't get to crack this top ten.

 But guess who got the #1 spot?  Gee, how hard can it be to guess, I mean, really, what blog am I posting to?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Business Analysis, ala Shakespeare

Forbes magazine offers, via Jerry Bowyer, the "Much Ado About Nothing Analytical Tool" for reading the business news.  It goes like this:

  1. Make two columns on your piece of paper.
  2. For everything you find that is factual, like "Hero is faithful", write it in the left column.
  3. For everything that is more about feelings and perceptions, like "Claudio thinks Hero is not faithful", write it in the right column.
  4. Then when you're done, read the columns separately.

Extended out to the business news, the left shows you a picture of how the world really is, while the right shows you how the people perceive it.  Bonus points to the article for recognizing that it's a matter of time for the right to catch up with the left.  In other words, eventually the facts do come out and people stop fooling themselves.  At least, about that set :).  By that time, a whole new set of facts has emerged for people to fool themselves.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Mr. Rogers As Macbeth

The above post has so much Shakespeare goodness that I don't have the time to summarize it all.  Go read.  Right on the money that Shakespeare may be a master, but that doesn't mean that he's above a little poking fun.  I have not yet checked out the media files, but as they say in the geek circles, "dugg for the Branagh reference at the end." :)  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Now That's a Review

Ages ago, I remember it well, I was a front end manager at the neighborhood supermarket during my freshman year of college.  The woman who worked the night shift me was a retired English professor.  We got to talking about Shakespeare (shows how long my geekery goes back, I guess) and King Lear came up.  She said, and it's always stuck with me:  "If the entirety of human civilization were to die out tomorrow, all evidence of its existence erased save one thing, that one thing should be King Lear."  I found it a powerful endorsement, to say the least.

Allison Croggon's review of Peter Brooks' King lear is damned near art all by itself:  " seems to me that when I say something is a masterpiece, I mean that its achievement is not that it rises into some lofty empyrean sphere where history no longer exists. It’s a masterpiece because it does the opposite: because it makes a gesture so potent that it seems to draw all human experience into its gravity, because it reaches deep into individual and collective memory and hauls experience, naked and bloody, into the present."


Go read the whole thing, you won't regret it. 

A Shakespeare Geek's Dream

[I just realized that this story from the other day ended up on my other blog...]

The other day I blogged about how bringing home a Shakespeare action figure kicked off a whole round of telling my 3 and 5 yr olds stories from Shakespeare.

Yesterday I hear my 3yr old playing and she says, "The girl was on the island, and then the witch threw her in the dungeon."

"What's the witch's name?" I ask, nodding at my wife to "Watch this..."

"Sycorax," says my daughter.

Love it.

The best part is how she knows about Sycorax (the witch from The Tempest, by the way) in the first place is even better.  I don't tell them about her, because she's not really crucial to the main storyline.  "Daddy," asks my 5 year old, "How many girls are in this story?"

"Just one.  Miranda is the only girl."

"But in my book, I saw somebody else with long hair, and I think it's another girl."  I may have mentioned that I have a comic book version of The Tempest kicking around.

"That's probably one of the pirates," I tell her.

"I don't think so," she says, and goes to get the book.

Sure enough, she's looking at a picture of Sycorax.  So I have to explain how that's the witch Sycorax, who ruled the island until Prospero came and kicked her off. And how she was Caliban's mom, and mean to Ariel and put her in a tree, until Prospero rescued her.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Wait, You're Doing What Now?

"Paradox" merits a link just for the magnitude of the task she's set herself (as an independent study, no less).  She's writing a Shakespearean style play about the Bard's life, based on the connections between his life and his works.  She's got the dynamics of his marriage from Richard III, and now she's on Merchant of Venice having seen a book entitled "Shylock and Shakespeare."

She then launches into a comparison of Portia to women in the church of Latter Day Saints, and a lengthy discussion of her own thoughts on her (someday) LDS marriage.  Quite an intriguing post.

Good luck!

Lincoln, Shakespeare or Jesus?

From The Advocate in Louisiana comes this interesting letter looking at the common confusion of quoting Shakespeare, Lincoln and the Bible.  It caught my eye because while discussion of Shakespeare vs the Bible is quite common, I don't often hear Lincoln thrown in there.  As a matter of fact I had no idea that Lincoln was a Shakespeare fan (apparently Macbeth was his favorite play, and John Wilkes Booth had played Macbeth).

Unlike many articles on the subject, however, the author does not answer any of his "Who said it first" questions.  So you're not going to learn anything new.  As a matter of fact the whole letter is actually written by a commitee member for the Lincoln Bicentennial. 

Mrs. Shakespeare and the Sonnets,,2150903,00.html

[via An Alternate Kettle of Fish]

Interesting (and lengthy) article all about Anne Hathaway, better known as Mrs. Shakespeare.  What's her story?  More to the point, what's her relationship to the sonnets?  After all, we've spent 400 years talking about whether Shakespeare was gay, and who the Dark Lady was, but rarely do we have any glimpse into Shakespeare's relationship with his own wife.  The author of the article, Germaine Greer, wonders under what circumstances Hathaway first saw the sonnets (remember they were published in 1609 but some where written as much as 20 years prior).  Her theory is that she was given a copy after they were published, and not by Shakespeare.  What happens next?

Very interesting glimpse into a subject not typically covered in the usual Shakespeare biography.

Looking At The Forest After It Snowed

"I know who owns these woods, it's a guy from in town.  He won't mind if I hang out here for a minute.  My horse has no idea why we stopped out here in the middle of nowhere, though, I can tell by the way he's shaking his harness.  It's pretty quiet.  Anyway, nice woods, but I've still got a long trip ahead of me."

There you go, now you don't have to ever read "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost.  Enjoy.

Look, I can do it with anything.  How about "O Captain, My Captain" by Walt Whitman?

"Hey Captain, that was a pretty scary trip!  But good news, we found the prize we were looking for, and now we're almost home.  I can hear the bells ringing and the people waiting for us on the shore.  Oh no!  There's blood on the deck, the captain is dead."

Ok, one more.  Anybody like Poe?

"One late night I was in the library, and I had nearly fallen asleep when I heard someone knocking.  'Must be someone at the door,' I thought.  I remember it well, it was a cold December night and I'd been watching the fire in the fireplace, trying to get my mind off of my lost Lenore.  ..."


Raise your hand if your sarcasm detector is going off. :)  Your friendly neighborhood Shakespeare Geek just read one too many stories about yet another dumbed down Shakespeare where "Is this a dagger that I see before, the handle toward my hand?  Come let me clutch at thee, I have thee not and yet I see thee still"  would be translated as "Oh look, a dagger.  Why, that's odd, my hand went right through it, what's up with that?"

Monday, August 13, 2007

But Would He Have Made Regular Backups?

This article from The Chronicle of Higher Education called "Hamlet.doc?" starts out with a nice discussion of the multiple Lears and Hamlets problem.  No scripts exist in his hand.  We don't know when something is his own idea, or a memorial reconstruction from his actors.  Sometimes it's just a plain mistake, and we might think it's perfection.

Then the article goes on to say "but what if Shakespeare was using a word processor?"  He could have made backups.  He might have had version control.  Tracked changes.  "We might have learned that the play was originally called Great Dane." :)

The article uses a term I quite like, "born-digital."  Literature, in other words, that has only ever existed in digital form.  We in the software world like to say, "As soon as you print it, it's out of date."

The Toy's The Thing Wherein I'll Catch The Attention of My Kids

Last week on vacation I reported purchasing a "Shakespeare action figure".  Without even opening it, this has fascinated my children.  "Mommy bought Daddy a toy?  Are you excited, Daddy?  When do you think Mommy will let you play with it?" and so on.  Suddenly it's like I'm one of them. 

 The best part, though, came the day we got home.  While unpacking, Mr. Shakespeare was left sitting on the kitchen table, and was still there while we had lunch.  That's when the real questions came.  "Yes, but Daddy, who was Shakespeare?" my 5yr old asked.  "What did he do?"

"Well he wrote stories," I said.

"What kind of stories?  Were there any girls in the stories?"  My two oldest are girls, you see.

"Oh sure, he wrote stories about girls all the time.  There's that one about the girl named Miranda on the island that I've told you about, Shakespeare wrote that one."  Speaking of The Tempest, by the way.

"The girl on the island is a princess!" my 3yr old pipes up.

"As a matter of fact she is a princess," I confirm.  "But she doesn't know it yet.  A long time ago she was forced to leave her kingdom with her father, who was a very powerful magician named Prospero, when the bad guys came and took over the kingdom.  Miranda and her father escaped on a boat and ended up on the island."

"A boat?  Are there pirates in this story?"

"You know, there are pirates in this story, I'm glad you asked.  Two pirates named Stephano and Trinculo were washed up onto the island when their ship crashed.  There they met the seamonster named Caliban, and together they tried to take over the whole island!"

...and so on.  This went on, off and on, all day.  Over dinner my 5yr old asks, "Was Caliban nice to Miranda and her Daddy?" and from down the hall in the bathroom I hear my 3yr old yell, "Are you talking about Shakespeare?"

I turned to my wife and said, "You realize I'm in absolute bliss right now, right?"

By the way, I'm not supposed to get the toy (which has disappeared from the kitchen table) until Christmas.  But after seeing results like that I might buy them their own!  There was another series of smaller, almost "Little People"-esque figures called "Lord Crumwell's Oddfellows Genius Collection" that might be worth investing in, especially if I can come home one day and find my 3yr old playing with Shakespeare and Beethoven alongside her Barbies.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Shakespeare Kitsch Heaven

I'm on vacation this week, down Cape Cod.  And as we're trolling the center of town we (my wife, mother in law, myself, and 3 kids in tow) wander into one of those shops that's loaded with street signs, movie posters, lunch boxes and all sorts of other random kitschy goofy stuff that, well, no one in their right mind would buy.

And then I saw the Shakespeare bobblehead.

I took him reverently down from his shelf and walked over to my wife like I was 7years old again about to ask for a new bike.  She told me it was silly. I told her of course it was silly, that's the point.  My mother in law told her to get it for me.  While they debated, I put it back and kept looking.  Then I saw a collection of what looked like Fisher Price Little People, only they were all classic geniuses - Picasso, Freud, Beethoven, Einstein, and Shakespeare.  My 3yr old is at a phase where she's a total packrat, always carrying a little toy in her hands.  The thought of her carrying a teeny Shakespeare around the house just thrilled me to no end.  But alas, I showed it to her hoping I could come up with an excuse to buy it for her, you see, but she just said, "Where are the princesses?" so I decided not to blow the $20. 

At last I saw the action figure.  I knew it existed, I'd seen it in the Archie McPhee catalog.  Not quite as goofy as a Shakespeare bobblehead, but still fun, and half the price.  Apparently I'm getting him for Christmas. :)

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Romeo and Juliet

Tad Davis, in what appears to be his first post on a new blog, merits a link for the depth of his analysis of Romeo and Juliet while still remaining actually readable.  It's not a small novel, it goes maybe 10 paragraphs, but he manages to touch upon the loneliness of Juliet in the second act, points out a few of the more overt sexual references, makes a comparison of Lord Capulet to King Lear, offers some thoughts on staging in the Globe, and even hypothesizes parallels to Shakespeare's own children.

I'm not sure I agree with his opening line that the play "has to be his most heartbreaking one."  It's certainly his most popular and approachable (who hasn't been in love with someone that society told them they couldn't have?)  But I think that both Cordelia and Ophelia both die more tragic deaths than Juliet.  


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Shakespeare Rules

I'm guessing that "The Dench" refers to Dame Judi Dench.  I'm no actor, but I found the rules interesting.  I think we often assume that the greatest actors we see have some sort of natural instinct for it and everything just happens.  It's nice to be reminded that they have to work at it as well.  The greatest actors still take direction.


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