Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Arden Is Released!

Wow, cool!  After hearing that Arden, the Shakespeare virtual world, was "taking a break", I didn't expect to hear from them.  I certainly didn't expect this release, where they've opened it to the public.  I would have blogged this sooner, but I had to get my order for Neverwinter Nights (the game engine required) first :).

Castronova's comments on the failure of the project are interesting.  Basically, the game wasn't fun.  No monsters.  Too much text, too linear.  He seems pretty down on the project, the blog entry has several comments that sound like a sarcastic "Ha!  Good luck!' to the next guy to try it.

Rest assured I *will* be playing this. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Shakespeare in Esperanto

"Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet" has an article up about the Folger getting Esperanto editions of the works that caught my eye.  Why?  Because I know Esperanto (well, I did, long ago) and it so happens that I own a copy of Hamlet, translated into Esperanto by L.L Zamenhoff himself.

Unfamiliar with Esperanto?  It was (is?) a very interesting experiment in breaking down cultural barriers by attempting to create a universal second language.  Simple enough idea - keep your own language and culture, but also have this second language so that no matter where you go in the world, you can communicate with the people there.  When I was studying the language I used to read fairy tales from China, for example.  I had a penpal in the Netherlands, with whom I played chess by email. 

Once, in a playwrighting course, I had written a scene that involved a troubled genius, one of these "Good Will Hunting" kids, who had been committed involuntarily to a mental ward.  He was refusing to cooperate with doctors by speaking in his own language.  Which, of course, was actually a recitation of Hamlet in Esperanto (the character unveils this in the play, to his favorite doctor).   After the class one of the readers caught up to me and said, "What was that, that the kid was saying?"

"Hamlet in Esperanto, just like he said."  I said.  "Really."


Esti aux ne esti!

Shakespeare Story Night

Ok, now the longer story, as promised.  At the dinner table my 3yr old mixed Regan in with a story about her imaginary friends, and then Goneril.  "And who is the good daughter?" I ask.  "The one who came back to save the Daddy?"

"Cordelia," she says.

My 5yr old, however, has not heard the story of King Lear as my 3yr old has.  So naturally she wants to hear it, and I deliver the same fairy tale version that I did a few weeks ago.  What's the difference between a 3yr old and a 5yr old?  When I'm done with the story this time my 5yr old asks, "What happened to Regan and Goneril after the story ends?"

"Oh, they were very sad," I told her, "Because they'd been so mean to their sister and their Daddy that they left and didn't want to be around them anymore."

"Oh," she said, "Well, do you think that maybe they went to the King's house, and said that they were sorry?"

I told her that the story does not go into this part, but in our version, sure, it's quite possible that this did indeed happen.

"Do the other Shakespeare story," says my 3yr old, "The one that you hear me playing."  So I retell them The Tempest as well.

"Are there any more stories?" 5yr old asks.

"Oh, absolutely," I say.  "Shakespeare wrote lots and lots of stories.  I suppose I could tell you the most famous one of all, the one about Romeo and Juliet."

Well, this just fascinates her.  The most famous one of all?

And now I've gone and committed myself, because while I wanted to get Romeo and Juliet into the mix (since it is the one they are most likely to experience outside my house), I did not have a proper plan for how to spin it with a happy ending.  The Tempest has no death.  And King Lear, with a simple "Cordelia comes back and saves her Daddy" gets a happy ending and we leave out the rest.  But Romeo and Juliet, without anybody dying, was not something I had all ready to go.

It was easy to explain that Romeo was Juliet's "one true love" - this is a concept well understood via the Shrek movies.  Romeo getting in trouble became "Romeo got into a fight because of a big misunderstanding," which made for some interesting discussion about human nature as my 5yr old kept asking, "Well, when the police came, did Tybalt explain to them that the fight was not Romeo's fault and that it was all a misunderstanding?" and I told her, "No, Tybalt wasn't really a good guy like that.  He knew that Romeo had run away, and it looked bad, so when the police came he just said 'Well, Romeo ran away so he must have been the one that started it, and so Romeo was the one that got into trouble.'"

Come sleeping potion time, I opted to explain that Juliet would go to sleep like Snow White.

"But a kiss would wake her up!" guesses my 5yr old, who is one step ahead of me.  I had not made that connection.  I decide to go with it.

"Yes," I say, "But only from Romeo, her one true love."

So in our version, Paris tries to kiss Juliet to wake her up, but it doesn't work.  Her family then realizes that Paris is not her one true love, and kicks him to the curb.  Romeo comes back on the scene, kisses Juliet, she wakes up, and they run away together.

I am not as happy with that version as I am with my Lear and Tempest.  Although the concept of R & J has been introduced, and I'm pleased with that.  I told them that we have a picture on the wall that shows Juliet's actual balcony (a gift from relatives who went to Italy).  They found this very impressive.  They already knew what a balcony was (there dollhouse has one), so I see opportunities to teach them the actual balcony scene.  I told them that when they get to high school they'll have to memorize it.  "Oh, then, I would have to hear it many many times," said my daughter.

"Oh, you will," I said. :)

Maybe next time I'll go with Midsummer.


How To Melt A Shakespeare Geek

Just a quickie for now.  Longer post after the kids go to sleep.

Tonight, at the dinner table, my 3yr old daughter comes out of the clear blue with, "Daddy?  I wish there was a Cordelia doll, so I could snuggle her and love her."

Daddy offers a wordless "My universe just clicked into place" smile to Mommy.

"And I want a Regan doll!" chimes in my 5yr old.

"Regan?" I ask.  "She's a bad guy."

"No, not Regan," she corrects, "What's the name of the girl on the island?"


"Yeah, Miranda.  I wish there was a Miranda doll!"


Take that, Disney!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Shakespeare Gifts : What Shakespeare Stuff Do You Want For Christmas?

Ok, ok, fine, not everybody celebrates Christmas, yadda yadda yadda. I do, and it's my blog.

As the holidays approach, everybody's got their gift guide. Gifts for Mom, Gifts for Dad, Gifts for Geeks, Gifts for CoWorkers. How about gifts for the Shakespeare lover?

It's easy to point at Shakespeare's Den, and say "Go nuts."

But let's talk details. You hoping for books, or movies? Or toys?

I don't really have time to collect Shakespeare movies. A friend gave me Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead last year, and I've actually never even watched it. I know, bad me. I've read the actual script, just never seen the performance.

What about you?

Othello on Film

If you're a fan of Othello, Stage Matters has a series of film reviews looking at all the classic interpretations of the Moor, including Olivier, Wells, Laurence Fishburne (possibly included because of Branagh's Iago), and even a BBC version with Anthony Hopkins that includes an Olivier anecdote.  The review, that is, not the film itself.

Shakespeare and Music : The Book

Everybody on this blog by now knows that I'm teaching my kids to memorize Shakespeare by singing it.  Now I've got a book to point to that says why that may indeed work better :).  "Music, Language and the Brain" specifically cites Shakespeare for his "wonderfully talented use of rhythm, imagery and auditory patterns."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Studio360 on Hamlet

I just received an email that Studio 360, a public radio show hosted by Kurt Andersen, will be doing a bit on Hamlet this weekend (Nov 23).    The subject of the piece is actor Scott Shepherd and his experimental "duet" with Richard Burton's Hamlet in the 1964 film.

The show is also available as podcast, which is why it hit my radar to begin with.  In general I'm unfamiliar with the show.  Any fans out there?  Should I be subscribed?  Do they normally do Shakespeare sorts of things?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Review : Interred With Their Bones

When I heard about "The DaVinci Code, only with Shakespeare" I was intrigued and told myself I'd hunt down this Interred With Their Bones novel and see for myself if it was any good.  So I was pleased when the folks at Dutton sent me a copy for review. 

There's a couple of things that worry me about a description like "The DaVinci Code, only with Shakespeare."  The DaVinci Code, in my opinion, was only popular because of its attack on the Catholic Church.  It wasn't necessarily a good thriller on its own.  If you're a publisher, you're cool with that kind of buzz.  Whatever gets your audience reading, right?  But if you're a writer, you might be aiming a little higher than that.

I didn't love DaVinci Code, honestly.  Maybe I'm not that big a fan of the thriller genre.  They all seem to have a certain pattern to them, namely the race between the narrator and the killer to uncover the secret first.  Along the way the narrator runs into puzzles, solves them through some seeming act of brilliance, and then walks straight into some new character who says "It's about time, I've been waiting for you for days."

Secondly is the problem of Shakespeare, which really applies to any book that tries to have a central theme like that.  Namely, are you writing for existing fans of that subject, or trying to entice new ones?  The answer dictates how your book goes.  I fancy myself a Shakespeare geek, although who are we kidding, I am no academic.  Anybody who is in the business of studying Shakespeare (such as the author, or the main character) should know more about the subject than me, I'm thinking.  But a casual reader who is looking for the next DaVinci Code and knows nothing about Shakespeare?  Would naturally need some clues.

On this point, I'm torn, because I don't really know what the answer is.  I'll offer some examples, and let you decide.  It's a thriller, so we know there's a killer on the loose.  There's always a killer on the loose.  And you know what?  If your killer has a thing for Shakespeare, and you're female, and he calls you Lavinia?  If you've read Titus, then you'll be quaking in your boots because you know exactly what that implies.  But if you haven't read Titus, you have no idea.  So the author (via the killer) lays it out for you, leaving a piece of the Titus script at the scene, with the important stage direction underlined (I won't spoil it).  I'm cool with that.  Titus isn't the most well known play, and it's not like she spends pages explaining who Hamlet is.

But later the narrator needs some knowledge of Cardenio, the holy grail of Shakespeare's lost plays.  And it's disappointing how little she has.  She does not make the connection when she spots Cervantes among her clues.  She knows of the existence of The Double Falsehood, but then makes herself a note to look it up on the net because she's unfamiliar with it.  I mean, come on, I've read the silly thing.  And she's completely surprised at a reference to Theobald's three copies of the original, even though it's the sort of thing that makes it to the first paragraph of any story on the subject.  So here's an instance where the casual reader certainly needs a bit of a boost in the facts department, but I found it a little unbelievable that the narrator did not have that sort of knowledge about such an important subject.


Having said that, I'm still enough of a Shakespeare geek that I'll take all the references I can get.  When one character turns to the narrator and says "Sleep now," or something like that, my brain immediately jumped to both "Sleep no more, Macbeth hath murdered sleep!" and "To sleep, perchance to dream, aye there's the rub" and I was wondering which quote the narrator would come back with.  And I get these cool shivers down my spine early in the book when they are actually acting out a bit of the play.  I just love it when somebody delivers that first quote, it's like the start of something beautiful every time.

So, to sum up, I'm tolerating the thriller bits to get to the Shakespeare bits, and hoping that she doesn't dumb down those parts so much that I can't take it anymore.   This is where DaVinci Code had the advantage, because I did not have the same knowledge of the background material that I do here, and I could spend more time saying "Oh, that's interesting, didn't know that."  With this book I'm sure to spend much more time saying things like "Yes yes, we knew that, get on with it!"

Sorry if that was a lame review, but I'm not one to shove my opinions on other people.  I say what I like and why I like it.  Right now I"m not reading it to figure out the mystery, I'm reading it for the Shakespeare bits.  And enjoying it very much.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hamlet, and Revenge

Many a high school essay has been written on the subject of revenge in Hamlet.   The boy spends the entire play waffling on the subject, and even at the end of the play it's questionable whether he avenged his dad at all.

Has much been written on Hamlet's revenge of his mother's death?  She's poisoned, and he springs into action instantly, going so far as to kill the king right in front of everybody.

What's that say about his relationship to his parents?  He is the good son.  He does the right thing, as far as the revenge thing goes.  He's just motivated to do it for his mom, but not his dad. 

I"m just saying.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ophelia Learns To Swim [Film Trailer]

Naturally the title caught my eye.  The film in question is a comedy from director Jurgen Vsych (The Woman Director) and starring Julia Lee (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), now available on DVD.  From IMDB: 

A wimpy girl turns Superheroine when she joins bankrupt Mother Nature, The Librarian & the Chocolatier to battle wealthy villains Virginia Svelte, Cosmetic Chick & The Doucher.

It apparently has little to do with Shakespeare other than the title.  I do see a character named Hamlet, and "Ophelia's Dad" is not listed as Polonius.  There's no Shakespeare in the trailer.  But who knows, maybe it sounds interesting to somebody out there.  Or maybe it's going to catch your eye like it did mine and you're wondering if there's a Shakespeare connection. 

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Shakespeare Kid Nation

Ok, I'm a little behind on this one, I was on vacation.  We've mentioned the television show Kid Nation in the past, most notably because of Jared, the Shakespeare nut who spent his hard earned money on a copy of Henry V.

So this week was the talent show and we're treated to two Shakespeare performances.  Jared comes through with something from Henry V, which is surprisingly NOT St. Crispin's Day.  Instead we get a little something from Act IV, Scene 2, the Constable speaking:

To horse, you gallant princes! straight to horse!
Do but behold yon poor and starved band,
And your fair show shall suck away their souls,
Leaving them but the shales and husks of men.
There is not work enough for all our hands;
Scarce blood enough in all their sickly veins
To give each naked curtle-axe a stain,
That our French gallants shall to-day draw out,
And sheathe for lack of sport: let us but blow on them,
The vapour of our valour will o'erturn them.
'Tis positive 'gainst all exceptions, lords,
That our superfluous lackeys and our peasants,
Who in unnecessary action swarm
About our squares of battle, were enow
To purge this field of such a hilding foe,
Though we upon this mountain's basis by
Took stand for idle speculation:
But that our honours must not. What's to say?
A very little little let us do.
And all is done. Then let the trumpets sound
The tucket sonance and the note to mount;
For our approach shall so much dare the field
That England shall couch down in fear and yield.

It was hard to tell how much of the speech he got out, as the editing was obvious and all the lines were out of order.  I wonder if they figured that nobody would recognize that?  Except us Shakespeare geeks :).  No idea why he would have picked that speech, I'm going to assume a producer showed it to him specifically because it would sound like gibberish.  The kid himself even complained about it the whole show ("Why did I pick this?  Argh I already committed myself, I can't back out now!") so it's not like he went straight to his favorite passage he already had memorized, or anything.

The two older boys in the town decided to do a comedy version of Romeo and Juliet, which was unmemorable except for the boy who kept saying his line as "Romeo Romeo, where are thou Romeo." 

I could kill him.

My Evil Plan Is Working

This evening while playing with her dolls I distinctly heard my 3yr old say that Princess Jasmine was playing with Regan and Goneril.  I beamed at my wife, "Those are King Lear's daughters, you know."  Turning to my daughter I said, "Where's their sister?  The one with the red hair?"

"Cordelia?" she replied.  "She's lost in the forest."

I love it.  Love it love it love it.

Sorry, this blog is becoming too much about me teaching Shakespeare to my kids :).  But if I can't brag here, where can I?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sonnets to Music, Part II

Well, I found this one called  Shakespeare in Songon Amazon and it looks to be exactly what I was looking for!  One person, "folk style", singing 14 tunes, 8 of which are sonnets.  The reviews at Amazon are almost all excellent.    Almost everything else I found even close was orchestral music, which is not what I want.

I've got it on my Christmas list :).  It's going to be very hard not to just buy the silly thing, but I just bought When Love Speaks, and it's a rule in my house not to go crazy buying yourself presents when Christmas is right around the corner.

Anybody have this, or heard of it?  Is it as good as I'm getting myself worked up for?

Know what I'm questing after?  I realized something this morning that sums it up for me nicely.  When I see Shakespeare's words in print, I want to hear music in my head.  That's really it.  Sonnet 18 for me will now forever come with a tune.  I realized this when I came into the office and saw the text of Sonnet 29 pinned to my wall, and as I read, I could hear Rufus Wainright singing it in my head.  I pinned it there myself, in my eye line, because that song is in my playlist at work and when it comes around I want to map the sound to the words and fully understand what I'm hearing.  I never fully appreciate the "misheard lyric syndrome" until trying to decipher a Shakespearean sonnet without first seeing it in print :).

And for the curious, I won't rule out the possibility that I can sing this one to my kids as well.  Although it's a much harder tune to pull off.

Twelfth Night Of The Living Dead

I'm a bit late on this one but it is still playing if anybody's in the neighborhood.  How would you like your Shakespeare with some zombie action on the side?  A play where, to quote the article, "Orsino offers his hand in marriage...literally." 

The review does not make it sound like a particularly good play, but it's certainly different.  Linked for the references to "zombie culture" as portrayed in Shaun of the Dead and SNL's "Andy Punches" sketch.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

100+ Best Books On Shakespeare

I had not seen this list, but if you don't see me in the near future you can I assume that I am tearing through the list :).  Is it cool for me to tell the family that there's 100 books on my Christmas list, all about Shakespeare? :)

Facebook, Now With More Shakespeare Geek

As part of my day job I have to write applications for Facebook.  They just released this whole new "products" section, where businesses and other offerings can have a page of their own.  So, of course, I created a Shakespeare Geek facebook page

If you've got a Facebook account, come stop by and sign up!  I have no idea what we can make it do, but hey, it's always nice to have friends and fans.


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Sonnets to Music (Or, Who Is Rufus Wainright And Why Is He Awesome?)

So I got my hands on When Love Speaks this week.  For those that haven't heard, this CD is a collection of 5o+ readings and interpretations of Shakespeare, mostly the sonnets with some other passages thrown in, primarily from The Tempest.  You've probably heard a recording of Alan Rickman (now most famous as Professor Snape) doing "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun."

I was finally motivated to buy this when I found an MP3 of Sonnet 29 ("When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes...") by somebody named Rufus Wainright.  As I'm sure I've mentioned a few million times I have Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee") by David Gilmour, guitar god legend of Pink Floyd.  It is my ring tone, it is the song I sing my children to sleep with,

I don't know anything about Sonnet 29, or who this Rufus Wainright guy is, but dang, I like it.  It made me run out and get the CD in the hopes that there's more like this on there.  Unfortunately, there's not. In 53 tracks, only 8 are put to music (the rest being dramatic readings, ala Rickman). Of those, only 4 are sonnets.   One is Rufus, one interestingly is Bryan Ferry doing Sonnet 18 to the exact same piano music as David Gilmour. I wonder what the story is with that?

The other two sonnets are Sonnet 8 by Ladysmith Black Mambaso, and a funky Sonnet 35 by Keb' Mo'.  I care for neither.  I'm sure that is at least in part because they are too over produced.  I can't imagine singing them to myself or my children.

Anybody else got some good sources for me to check out?  I'm specifically looking for sonnets, to music.  Ideally stuff that is not highly stylized (i.e. don't screw with the words), just put it to music and sing it straight.  I've had good results so far with Gilmour and 18, and I would love to live in a world where I can come home to the sounds of Shakespeare like others listen to classical music. 


King Lear, Fairy Tale Style

(It's time once again for a story of Shakespeare and my kids.  If that bores you, now's the time to bail out.)

This morning it was my son's turn to get into my Shakespeare stuff.  He's 18months old, running around with my King Lear comic.  My 3yr old promptly wrestles it from him and says, "Daddy, I think we should see this movie."

Now, the vision of a 3yr old sitting to watch King Lear is enough to make me laugh out loud, but the two of them are the only ones in the room with me so no one will appreciate the joke.  "Oh that's not really a movie story, sweetie," I tell her, "That's more a story for telling."

"Ok," she tells me.

So, while making the bed, I began to tell my daughter the story of King Lear in a way that would make sense to her:

Once upon a time there was a king who had three daughters, whose names were Cordelia, Regan, and Goneril.  Cordelia was the nicest of them all, and she loved her father very very much.  Regan and Goneril said that they loved him, too, but they didn't really love him as much as Cordelia did.  But the king became very angry with Cordelia, and he sent her to live far away. 

The king wanted to go live with his daughter Goneril, who would take care of him as he grew old and tired.  But Goneril was very mean to her father.  She told him that he could not bring any of his toys with him, and that he had to be very quiet and to do everything that she said.  Well, the king her father did not think that this was how he should be treated at all, so he said "Fine, I will go and live with my other daughter, Regan."

Before he could get to Regan's house, however, Goneril had sent a message to her sister telling her side of the story.  So when their father arrived at Regan's house, she too said, "I think that Goneril had a good idea, and if you want to live at my house then you will have to be very quiet and not have so many toys and you will have to do everything that I say."

The king was very sad.  He realized that his daughters did not love him as much as they'd told him.  With no place to live he told them both that he would go and live in the dark and scary forest.  His friends, who were named Kent and Edgar, went with him and took care of him.

And that's when Cordelia came back, because she loved her father so much that she could not bear to be away from him.  She brought an army with her to defeat her evil sisters, and rescue her father from the forest.   

And they all lived happily ever after.

Pretty condensed, huh? :)  I don't mind paraphrasing, I'd rather have them familiar with the guts of the story than not at all.  I've tried very hard, though, not to just flat out change the story.  That's why I like The Tempest so much, it's safe for kids.  But with Lear I had a choice, either tweak the ending or else not show it to them until they're much much older.  I went with the fairy tale.  I hope I didn't screw up any of the names, it was from memory and I've not studied Lear as much as I could.

I'll be very curious in the coming days if I hear her working elements of that story into her playing.  Sometimes she does that. 

Monday, November 05, 2007

Megan Fox Tattoo

I'm not sure I've seen any of Megan Fox's movies, but I can appreciate a hot girl with a King Lear tattoo!    Apparently she's most recently seen in The Transformers, which I haven't seen yet.

Her tattoo (the link above is totally SFW, by the way) says "We will all laugh at gilded butterflies," and comes from King Lear, Act V, scene 3.



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Sunday, November 04, 2007

What Can Shakespeare Teach Me About IT?

If there's a pet peeve I have about Shakespeare, it's that connection between "Shakespeare is hard and useless, therefore why learn it?"  This morning out on a coffee run for the wife I heard a radio commercial for some sort of vocational school that used that exact line, presumably in reference to not wanting to get a real education at a real school:  "What can Shakespeare teach me about IT?"  (IT, for those not familiar, is information technology.  In other words, computer stuff.)

Well.  As a lifelong computer geek (been coding for 28 out of 38 years, thankyouverymuch) with a love a Shakespeare, I think I'd like to comment on that.  Let's talk about what Shakespeare can teach you about IT.

  1. Shakespeare appreciation is self-directed.  If all you know about Shakespeare is what the teacher makes you memorize for the test, you will fall very very short of what you can accomplish.  At best, school provides that glimmer of something that makes you say "Wow, I love this" and then do whatever you can to seek out more information. 
    Computer science is the same way.  If you love it, then you will go over and above what school teaches you.  If all you're doing is walking through classes in order to get the grade and the diploma, then you're not getting much out of life.
  2. Shakespeare wrote in a different language, with its own tokens and syntax.  Computer software is very much a game of speaking new languages (Java, Ruby, Erlang, take your pick).  You have to understand the context.  You have to know when you've seen an old word in a new context, and be able to make the leap of understanding about what that means.  Reading Shakespeare offers similar challenges. Most of the words he used as still in use today (as a matter of fact he invented many of them).  But he often used them in different ways than we do.  There's a certain amount of deciphering that has to go on.
  3. "Reverse engineering", for the non-IT crowd, refers to taking an existing piece of technology and taking it apart in an effort to figure out what the creator meant when he did certain things.  There's almost so much parallel to Shakespeare there that it's not worth mentioning.  Was he Catholic or Protestant?  Did he even write the plays?  Reverse engineering Shakespeare's works has kept scholars busy for hundreds of years.
  4. Shakespeare is a memorization game.  I'm convinced that Google kills memory cells.  Most programmers I interview these days will say that they don't need books anymore, they just google for the answer.  I think the better response is that they have the memory capacity to remember the answer in the first place!  No, of course not everything, but surely there are things you run into so frequently that you shouldn't be running for your search engine every day.  Same goes for Shakespeare.  When I'm speaking to someone on the subject and trying to make a point, if I have to stop and go "Oh, hell, what's that thing that Antony said in Julius Caesar about when people die?  Damnit, oh hang on a second let me google it...."  I'd look pretty weak and foolish.
  5. Shakespeare is Open Source.  Like the source material?  Take it.  Use it.  Put your own twist on it.  He did the same thing, after all.  What is "Romeo and Juliet" but a specific implementation of the "unrequited love" idea that already existed before Shakespeare got hold of it?

I'm tempted to do more, but I've got some code to write.

Friday, November 02, 2007

HR Shakespeare

Had an interesting conversation with the HR lady at work today, who was surprised to discover that I am a self-professed Shakespeare Geek.  That's a fun conversation:  "Me?  A Shakespeare geek?  I'm a huge Shakespeare Geek.  I run a site called"

She then, and this is where it gets interesting, starts firing Shakespeare questions at me, one after another, in such a methodical way it made me wonder if it was some sort of exercise HR people do.

"What's your favorite play?" she asked.

"Don't have one," I said, "They're all good and offer something different."

"You've been asked all these questions before, haven't you?"

"I don't know yet.  That one, yes."

"You're on a desert island with only one Shakespeare play to read for the rest of your life, which do you take?"

"King Lear, because it's so much more complex than any of the others that I could read it for the longest time and continually discover new things."

"If you could act one Shakespeare role, which would it be?"

"Iago.  Who wouldn't want to play Iago?"

"Which villain causes you the most despise?"

This one got me to pause, and I'm not sure I'm stating the question the way she did.  I think she was asking me which villain gives me the most visceral reaction, someone who I really personally hate.  "Tough call," I answer, "Most of the best villains are so well crafted that I'm too busy being fascinated with them on that level to actually hate them."  We then have some conversation about "which villain would kick which other villain's butt", and how for instance Iago versus Tybalt would be no contest.  Tybalt talks a good game but is a coward at heart.

"What about Grendel?"

*pause*  "Ummm....what?  Which play is he in?"

"Isn't he the monster on the island?"

"Oh, you mean Caliban?"

"Yeah, that was his name, Caliban."

"In my house, Caliban is comic relief. "  (I then recount the story of my 5yr old being worried that Caliban had no friends to play with.)

That was at the end of the day and I had to catch a train, but I've been thinking about the question.  As I've said a million times before, once somebody opens up the door to talk about Shakespeare they're gonna have to shut me up because I won't ever stop myself :).  I'm thinking my answer will be Claudius, because he's such a damned weasel.  Kills his brother, marries his brother's wife.  He's a drunk.  Enlists Hamlet's friends to spy on him, supports Polonius's manipulation of his daughter as bait.  Tries to get England to do the dirty job of killing Hamlet, and when that doesn't work, manipulates Laertes into trying to same thing.  Lets his wife drink poison.  And then, when mortally wounded, still cries out "Defend me, friends" as if there's anybody left that cares if he lives or dies.