Tuesday, December 30, 2008

He’s Probably Right, You Know

Had to share this email I just got from regular contributor Carl Atkins (with his permission):

I have been noodling around with some research on Twelfth Night and came across this remark by H. H. Furness (in the preface to his New Variorum edition from 1901), which I just loved. I thought you might get a kick out of it: "If the use of the adverb 'probably,' in connection with all statements regarding Shakespeare, were legally forbidden on pain of death without the benefit of clergy, I think the world would be the happier, certainly the wiser."

I like that little bit about "without the benefit of clergy." From the days when a fate worse than death was dying without the benefit of clergy!

He then throws in this kicker at the end, which made me laugh out loud:  Note that the passage of this law would have reduced Stephen Greenblatt's "Will in the World" to about 2 pages.

:)  Thanks Carl!

Monday, December 22, 2008

What, Nobody Wants Free Books?

Where is everybody?  The response for my Christmas Carol Contest has been less than overwhelming.

To recap : In celebration of Charles Dickens’ timely ghost story A Christmas Carol, I’m giving away two of Shakespeare’s own ghost stories – Manga Macbeth and Manga Julius Caesar.  To get in on the action, just email me and tell me the Shakespeare reference in Dickens’ original that from what I can tell most of the movie/tv/audio versions seem to snip out for some reason.

Contest ends at end of day on Christmas Eve.  For hopefully obvious reasons y’all will understand if I don’t get around to announcing the winners until after the holiday, however.

Shakespeare (and Lisa Simpson) Saves The Day


I had not seen this one.  Who knew that the ability to quote Shakespeare might save your family from a bomb-wielding maniac? :)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dr. Who HELP

Ok, need some help.  A geeky friend is looking to pick up some Dr. Who box sets for Christmas, and in my infinite wisdom I thought it would appropriate to score her the set that has all the Shakespeare in it, that people were raving about recently.

So the question is, which season was that and is it on DVD?

FREE Books : A Christmas Carol CONTEST

So last night my kids were introduced to A Christmas Carol ala the Mickey Mouse version.  At first I thought it would be too much for them (remembering my own introduction via Mr. Magoo), but it turns out to be a half hour thing that must be cut so drastically I can’t imagine it being all that meaningful.

They seem to enjoy it, although the prospect of ghosts is a bit frightening to them.  Afterward they don’t understand who the ghosts were, because all they saw were Goofy, Jiminy Cricket and an unnamed giant.

Folks that know me by now know I didn’t miss the opportunity to explain that this is just the Mickey Mouse version of an older, grown up story by Charles Dickens.  I liken Dickens to Shakespeare for them in the sense that it’s a “classic” that was written long ago, that they will study in school when they grow up, but for now at their age we show them the story in a way that they can understand it.

It just so happens that I’ve got the audio CD of Patrick Stewart’s famous rendition of the story.  Ever heard it?  It’s quite tremendous, I try to break it out every year.  I play that for the kids.  Well, partially, as it is very long that way and they’ve only got attention spans so long.  They do, however, start asking questions – who was Marley, oh was he the ghost?  How come his face was on the door knob?  What’s with the chains?  I’m pleased.  I do not bother explaining the Patrick Stewart / Shakespeare connection, I figure that’s a bit much for them :).

HOWEVER, by some strange quirk of the universe I happen to have sitting on the shelf two of Shakespeare’s very own well known ghost stories, Manga Macbeth and Manga Julius Caesar .  Seems only fitting that I come up with some sort of contest to give them away.

So, here it is:

Although most actual productions (including Stewart’s and Mickey’s) seem to snip it out, there’s a really good Shakespeare reference right smack dab in the middle of A Christmas Carol.  Find it and email me the answer by, oh, Christmas Eve – December 24.    I’ll randomly pick two winners from the correct answers received.

(Regular readers can vouch for the fact that this is not spam, nor an email-harvesting opportunity.  I don’t have a newsletter to send out, even.  I’m just doing it this way so that more than one person can play – if I had you post the answer in the comments it’d become pretty obvious what the correct answer is!)


I do always love comment traffic, though, so here’s a discussion topic – which is the better ghost story, Macbeth or Julius Caesar?  Why?  (No fair bringing Hamlet into it, I don’t have his book to give away…)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Silly Translators

So after the “Shakespeare Gifts” chat I’m on Amazon looking for books for the kids.  It’s important to me, as you may have guessed, to not just grab anything that says Shakespeare-for-kids on it.  Being public domain, Shakespeare’s easy fodder for anybody to just slap a title on it and ship it out there.  Besides, I’d like to think that my kids have got a jump on the competition just a little bit by having the geeky dad that they do.

I’m looking at one book, the title not important (it’s a version of Romeo and Juliet), and using Amazon’s “Look inside” feature.    I see some of the words in the text are footnoted.  Cool.  Then I see what’s actually written:

2. Mutiny: discord.

3. Star-crossed: illfated.

Does that not seem silly to anybody?  Can you imagine the conversation?

“Daddy, what does mutiny mean?”

“Well, sweetie, there’s a note of explanation, so let’s just look…it means discord.”

“Oh.  Daddy?”

“Yes, pumpkin?”

“What’s discord mean?”

“No idea, sugar.  There’s no footnote.”

That’s one big reason right there why I don’t even attempt to get my kids into the original text.  You have these cases where someone’s decided that “mutiny” needs explanation, so why not “ancient grudge” as well?  Is “civil blood” self-explanatory enough?  You could really go crazy trying to keep the text and yet still managing to explain it in a way that a first time reader will get it. 

I see it as two audiences.  People who’ve never heard of the stories before have no obligation to see them first in the original text.  Once they know the story, then they can learn to appreciate the quality of the original, and it will make infinitely more sense.


And if you don’t happen to agree with me on that one, you need to go home and throw out all your Disney merchandise, and read your children Grimm’s tales instead. :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cleopatra’s Face


Want to see a 3D rendered model of what Anthony’s beloved most likely looked like?  Not bad.

Nintendo Shakespeare


I wasn’t going to report on this story, but I suppose I should.  Harper Collins has signed a deal to bring classic e-books to the Nintendo DS, and naturally that includes our pal Shakespeare, the king of public domain.

I just can’t imagine anybody caring.  Does having the text on a Nintendo make a kid more likely to read it?  I don’t think so. 

Ok, I Would Not Have Expected That Crossover


Often as a conversation starter I’ve told people, “I can speak equally well on Shakespeare, computers, and pro wrestling.  Pick one.”  Usually merits some strange looks.  But it’s true.

So I get a kick out of the fact that “Triple H”, one of today’s most popular professional wrestlers (who also happens to be married to the daughter of Vince McMahon, the guy who owns most of pro wrestling) is in talks to star in the Thor movie, which is to be directed by Shakespeare demigod Kenneth Brannagh.

That oughtta make for some fun posts. :)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shakespeare Gifts

It’s that time of year again (actually, it’s very late for that time of year).  Anybody giving good Shakespeare gifts for the holidays?

Personally I’m a little overwhelmed.  I’ve got a One Page Book sitting in the tube, waiting to be put up.  And I’m in the middle of both Will and Nothing Like The with no end in sight, and that’s not even counting the random couple I picked up on vacation a few months ago.

I was hoping that Ian McKellens’s King Lear would be out on DVD for the holidays, but I haven’t seen it.

I should find something Shakespearean for the kids.  But last year Santa gave them a Shakespeare book and it’s a little old for them, I don’t want to push it.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Bring Me The Head Of William Shakespeare


Or in this case, a Batman-style bust of Shakespeare with fliptop head and secret switch.  I actually blogged about this product years ago, like 2005, but the store I linked to at the time seems to no longer have the product.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sign The Petition : Tennant’s Hamlet on DVD


Personally I’m not really into this one, as not being a big Dr. Who fan translates to me not really caring much about this Tennant fellow.  But others seem to be falling all over themselves, so  I thought I’d send this petition some link love.

Keeping in mind, of course, that in the history of things online, no online petition has ever made a difference to anything anywhere…ever.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Video : Ian McKellen’s King Lear!


I don’t know exactly where this footage comes from, but wow is it cool!  Anybody know when the DVD is out?  I was looking for Christmas presents :).

Marjorie Garber Has A New Book?


I was unaware that Marjorie Garber, she of “Shakespeare After All,” had a new book out.  “Shakespeare And Modern Culture” seems to cover quite a bit : makeup, movies, songs, motivational speakers, and so on.  It’s one of those “Shakespeare everywhere” things.

I might like this one.  I found Shakespeare After All to be a hard read, the kind of thing that only the hardcore Shakespeare fans would truly appreciate. I’ve mentioned before, I’m always on the lookout that I could recommend to others to make them fans, you know?

Shakespeare’s work, in her opinion, is so constantly mutable that it always exists in the present, whatever that present might be. The ways in which Shakespeare is interpreted in different eras say as much about those time periods as they do about the writing itself.

I mean, that’s great.  I can totally get behind that.

Oh Happy Dagger, This Is Thy Sh….SON OF A B$%^&*()!


Always check your props before going on stage.  You know, so you don’t accidentally use a real knife and damned near kill yourself.

Did anybody watch the HBO series “Oz”?  There’s a similar Shakespeare moment when the prisoners are performing Macbeth, and one prisoner takes out the other by switching a real blade for the fake.

By the way, the story linked above is not a Shakespeare play…but it is about Mary Queen of Scots, so I guess there’s a bit of a stretch connection :).

Bonus points for astute readers who remember this story about Brutus stabbing himself when a similar mixup occurred.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Klingon Hamlet, Coming Soon on DVD


When I first saw the headline I thought “Ok, just a documentary about those people that get dressed up for Klingon camp every year.'”  I think it’s in Minnesota.

Well I’m half right.  Looks like on the new DVD of Star Trek VI : The Undiscovered Country (one of the top three Star Treks, IMHO), will have some special extras that include actual Klingon Shakespeare performances.  This, you may remember, is directly in response to the quote from the movie where one of the bad guys says, “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have heard it in the original Klingon.”

Personally my two favorite moments from that film are:

* When the bad guy delivers the “Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war” line.  Sends chills.

* Bad guys are winning, and taunting Kirk and crew over the comm system with quotes from Shakespeare.  You hear it come over with, “I am constant as the Northern Star…” and Dr. McCoy says, “I’d give real money if he’d shut up.”

Shakespeare Tweets


For those not in the know, a “tweet” is shorthand for “a message sent via Twitter”, that service that I should use more.  This one is cute, and gets bonus points for having real Shakespeare references (as well as Ben Jonson and Marlowe).

Monday, December 08, 2008

How Much Do I Love The Child?

We sing my 2yr old son to sleep each night.  He treats Mommy and Daddy like his own personal playlist, of course, and it’s common to hear things like “No!  No do Santa Come To Town Yet.  Sing Frosty first, then Rudolph.”

The girls, 4 and 6, aren’t into the singing anymore.  They have their dolls that they sleep with, but basically it’s a “Good night sweetie, love you, sleep tight,” that sort of thing.

Tonight, the 4yr old:

“Daddy, can you sing me a song tonight?”

  “Sure, sweetie.  Which one?”

“Your favorite favorite favorite one of all time.”

  “…which one is that?”

“Shall I Compare Thee.”


I haven’t sung that to them in months.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard her actually ask for it.  I sang, she smiled and closed her eyes and went off to sleep.  Can’t really ask for anything more for a Shakespeare geek.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Secret Love Story In Shakespeare's Sonnets

Attached is a press release from the book's author, Helen Gordon.  I'm intrigued by several things in her note -- that the 17 "procreation sonnets" were actually written to Shakespeare's own (unacknowledged) son, and that she reveals the identity of the Dark Lady.  Surely not the first book to take a crack at either of those two mysteries, but it's always fun to add fuel to the fire.

Personally I think I take what I called the "Kenneth Burke" position, after reading Scott Newstok's book:  "So far as I am concerned, even the Sonnets seem to me so thoroughly literary an invention, I cannot find in them the slightest guarantee that the poet, in his role as citizen and tax-payer, was involved in that inventive triangle with a dark lady and a fair-haired boy.  Or at least, if there were two such people in his personal life, one can feel sure that, in the sonnets, they were transformed, or pointed up, for specifically literary purposes."

But that's just my position, others are certainly welcome to form their own.


Press Release and Book Review

Helen Heightsman Gordon’s book, The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, 2nd edition, has won a finalist award in the category of “Best New Nonfiction Books of 2008” in a national contest sponsored by USA Book News, a monthly electronic magazine covering books from mainstream and independent publishers to the world online community. Complete list of category winners can be found at www.USABookNews.com .

Book: The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, second edition (Xlibris, 2008).   ISBN 978-1-4134-9375-7 (hardback), ISBN 978-1-4134-9474-0 (paperback)

Author: Helen Heightsman Gordon, M. A., Ed. D.


        William Shakespeare unlocked his heart in his sonnets.  His poems tell a beautiful love story that could not have been told in his lifetime.  But he left a message for future generations to decode in the Dedication to the Sonnets.  He had openly dedicated two published narrative poems to Henry Wriothesley, the Third Earl of Southampton, in 1593-94.   But why did he dedicate the Sonnets to him in the form of a riddle in 1609? Now, 400 years later, the story can be told. 

         Helen Heightsman Gordon’s new book,  The Secret Love Story in Shakespeare’s Sonnets,  second edition [Xlibris, 2008], proposes a solution to that riddle and offers fresh interpretations of the sonnets.  Once we realize that “William Shakespeare” is a pen name (like “Mark Twain”), most of the mysteries can be solved.  In the last 90 years, scholars have identified the author who used that pen name -- Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, the favorite playwright in Queen Elizabeth’s court.  Oxford had two sons out of wedlock, one of whom was Henry Wriothesley, also known as the “Fair Youth” of the sonnets.

To bypass the spies and censors, Oxford used secret codes and symbols of the ethical societies known as Rosicrucians and Freemasons.  In the Dedication he has encrypted his true name (De Vere) , the name of his natural son (Henry Wriothesley), the name of Henry’s mother, and the mottos of all three.  The pen name “William Shakespeare” was a literary device needed to protect the author’s identity, the mother’s reputation, and the son’s life.

We can now solve other mysteries of the Sonnets that have not been satisfactorily explained until now. Professor Gordon names the Fair Youth, the Dark Lady, (Ladies) and the Rival Poet(s) who give the sonnet collection its narrative qualities.  Gordon has researched her subject for 20 years and has also published numerous books, articles, poetry, and humor.

Shakespeare Mind Maps

Adam from IQMatrix sent me this link to his web site where you can purchase some rather interesting Shakespeare study guides featuring colorful, cartoony "mind maps" that attempt to show the important aspects of each play visually on a single page.

The idea of mindmapping Shakespeare is certainly not new, and it is indeed quite a challenge to not end up with a spaghetti-monster mush of lines more confusing than the original text.  I like IQMatrix's use of cartoony clip art to draw your eye to some easy concepts (like "love" or "spies on"), instead of feeling like you have to start in the middle and work your way out (which defeats the whole purpose of mind maps by making you think you have to work linearly through a very non-linear diagram).

It's certainly an educational resource, and I don't expect that the analysis is all that advanced.  But for folks who like their information visual, it might be just the thing.

Stop That Or You'll Go Blind


Playwright Rick Thomas suggests in his new play, For All Time, that Shakespeare may have left London and retired from playwrighting because he was going blind.

How does he come to this conclusion?  Personal experience, apparently - his own vision is failing, and he's got much better writing conditions than Shakespeare did.


Or maybe he just spent too much time shaking his spear? :)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Enhancing The Sonnets

Really bring Shakespeare's sonnets to life.

(It's a comic, btw :))

The Tempest, Act I Scene 1, by Geeklet

TheTempest, Act I Scene 1, by Katherine Remember a few weeks ago when I told the story of being at a hotel breakfast buffet and my 6yr old daughter presenting me with the picture she drew - of the opening scene from The Tempest?  I promised to get it scanned in, and here it is (the best I can do). 

It's too big to fit in my scanner so the edges are cropped a bit.  In the lower right corner you'll see Miranda telling the sailors on the boat to "Come" to the island, where they will be safe. In the middle is their ship being tossed by the waves, and the faces sticking out the portal windows saying "Ok!"  I'm not sure if the red dots are more faces or if those are flames, but it'd be pretty cool if they were the latter, I'm not sure I ever told her that the ship was on fire.

Also on the island with Miranda is her father Prospero.  It's mostly cropped, but right up against the edge there you'll see one of Prospero's Books, which is hidden in a tree. Off to the left, unfortunately also cropped, is red Caliban, and up in the sky is Ariel.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

What Would You Teach?

ShakespeareTeacher asks the question that is near and dear to my heart: What play would you choose to teach? Does it matter the age group? What are the pros and cons of Dream versus Romeo and Juliet? How about The Tempest, my own personal favorite?

Discussion on his blog, no sense in stealing his thunder :).

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tempest Pictures!

Remember Julie Taymor's Tempest, starring Helen Mirren?

Want some pictures? I think they look cool! I like the idea of a fairly monstrous (in the sense of big and strong) Caliban, rather than a slimy sort of Gollum-like creature.

Alas, Poor Y or....ok, that's a little gross.

So David Tennant is holding a real human skull?

Wasn't that a major plot point in that BBC series about a Shakespeare theatre, the name of which escapes me at the moment?

Speaking of Anniversaries...

Is he right?

This author, who finds that he shares his wedding anniversary (November 28) with Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway (is that the confirmation I was looking for?), decides to recite a sonnet for his wife. The one he chooses is 130, the famous "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun..."

Is that appropriate? Is his interepretation accurate? I've always been curious about that one.


Catherine Eaton's Corsetless seems like a familiar idea -- a character who speaks only in lines from Shakespeare. I always take a passing interest in such projects, although they tend to suffer from a problem that the author of the review notes -- it's hard to make your mind stop saying "Ok, that was from Hamlet...that was from Romeo and Juliet...."

Hamlet, Psychoanalyzed

How about an up to date psychiatric reading of our favorite Dane?

Sure there's been Freudian analysis of Hamlet since...well, Freud. It's not new. He makes a good subject. I liked this one because it reads like Psych homework: "here's a brief summary of the patient, here's the emotions he's experiencing, here's how I characterize him and why, here's how I would treat him..." I think it's a bit more approachable than some of the traditional papers done on the subject.

Happy Anniversary?

Really? Is this true?

Should I really mark down November 28 as Shakespeare's wedding anniversary? Or is that just one of those "best guesses" that academics come up with, like that time I read that Romeo and Juliet's wedding would have been in...March, I think they said. Seems like we should be able to know Shakespeare's anniversary date (we have his baptism, after all), but it occurs to me that I just don't know it.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Word Of The Day : Forwhy

Wordsmith's word of the day today is "forwhy".

My friend Rob sends these to me when they have a Shakespeare slant. Today's word comes from Titus Andronicus, of all places! Thanks Rob!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Macbeth Re-Arisen

I always love a good sequel.

This horror movie homage to the Scottish play has Macbeth rising from the dead to wreak havoc on his former kingdom. The linked article really goes into more detail than I could here, I'd just be summarizing the original, so go read that instead.

Contest WINNER!

Ok, I said I'd get my act together, and I didn't lie.  The winner of the Manga Shakespeare edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream is...

Bill, from Shakespeare Teacher!

Congratulations, Bill!  Get in touch with a mailing address and I'll send the book right along.

Thanks for playing everybody (and to those who didn't even realize they were playing :)).  I've got a good game in mind for the next giveaway, I just have to get back in touch with the publisher and get some giveaways :).

Contest Update : Not Forgotten

Hi Everybody,

I haven't forgotten about the Manga Shakespeare contest, just finding myself very busy now that my old schedule has gone completely out the window with the loss of my job. You have no idea what it does to a geek like myself (and in this case I mean geek in the computer sense) when you take away the machine that he'd carried around with him daily for the last 2 years. I can't yet comfortably sit in my office and do things the way I used to sit on the couch and churn stuff out.

But fear not, I should have something up by the end of today. Stay tuned! Thanks for everybody that played, I hope everybody that's left a comment knows they just got entered into the contest :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

10 Things : The Series

Ok, I know there are folks out of there who are mad crazy fans of the move 10 Things I Hate About You, either for the Shakespeare or the Heath Ledger, I'm not sure which.

You folks will be happy to learn that ABC Family is going to attempt a series out of it. Of course, it won't have Shakespeare (if he didn't write a sequel to Shrew, what can ya do?) and it won't have Heath Ledger.

Filthy (and by that I mean Stupid and Ridiculous) Shakespeare

So I was thinking the other day what Shakespeare might have to say on the subject of unemployment. Then I thought it would be funny to break out my copy of Filthy Shakespeare, since when you are unemployed you do tend to swear. A lot. :)

Wow, what a horrible book this is. I mean, it's offensively bad. I have "Bawdy Shakespeare", the classic reference on Shakespeare's more colorful language. The problem with that one is that, having been written over half a century ago, it goes to great lengths to cover up its own subject matter. Students today looking up the dirty Shakespeare words would probably also have to start by looking up words like "pudenda."

No such problem with Filthy Shakespeare, where even the chapter titles are so profane I wouldn't let my mother anywhere near them. Forget about f-words, there's a couple of good variations of c-words in there as well. I'm not kidding, there is a chapter entitled "Pertaining To .... " well, country matters. You know?

My problem is not so much with the language, but with the childish way it ends up presented. For instance, did you know that the word "all" could also be a reference to male or female genitals? Now, take that knowledge and go to any passage in Shakespeare that uses the word, and replace it with the swear word of your choice (I'm trying very hard not to just go for broke and use the same language this book uses). Because, as everybody knows, if a word could mean something else in one context, then OF COURSE Shakespeare meant it that way EVERY TIME HE USED IT.

As I write this review I keep flipping randomly through the book, hoping to find something good to say and only coming up with more examples of why I hate it. Want a good one? Try this out at a cocktail party (gasp! I said cocktail!! I must have meant buggery party!!!): "Hey everybody, did you know that Shakespeare's name really is slang for wanker? Get it? Shake your spear? Hahaha, isn't that a riot? No? Anyway...")

The format of each chapter is simple : Eye-catching obscene title ("One Prick Too Many" is about the tamest one I can find), chapter summary where the author tells us what sorts of words we can hope to find, and in what scene of what play, and then some normal text that attempts to actually be grown up talk. Then the scene, and then a word-for-word translation of the scene with all the dirty words swapped in, which ends up for the most part making no sense at all. Oh, and then a glossary that breaks down every word, just in case you missed it the first 10 times. Each chapter is like it's own little Freudian lesson - if it's longer than it is wide, it's a phallic reference, and if it's round (or soft or indented or apparently fruity or birdlike) it's a female reference.

Methinks somebody needs to tell the author that sometimes a rapier is just a rapier. I'm left thinking that this book is some sort of joke to be passed among Shakespeareans so we can all chuckle and say "Oh Pauline, you tramp! Oh no you didn't!" and then move on.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

CONTEST : FREE Book Giveaway

Ok, everybody, let's do this. I've had a copy of Manga Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream sitting on my shelf for weeks, waiting to give it away. I keep saying I'll review it first, but honestly I just don't have the time these days, so you'll have to take my word for it or do you own research. I expect that if you're at all into "manga" then you know exactly what to expect.

Here's the rules:

* Between now and let's say end of day Saturday, November 22, leave a comment on a Shakespeare Geek blog post.

* It cannot be this one. It has to be something with actual "talking about Shakespeare stuff" content.

* Say something more valuable than "Please include me in the contest!" Trust me, I'll see you. I have alerts on all the site comments.

* Early next week I will randomly select from all the comments received, and post the winner. I'll need to get in touch with you if you win so I can get your mailing address, so please stay in touch if you're not a regular visitor! Come back and look for the results post.

Ok. Any questions? Get to commenting.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shakespeare Teacher Is Trying What Now?


Shakespeare Teacher owns the "Shakespeare anagram" marketplace (what there is of it :)). Well maybe he's looking for more of a challenge, because now it's going to write plot summaries for five of the plays each using a different target vowel. In other words and entire review only using A as the vowel, then E, and so on.

The idea comes from the book Euonia, a five chapter book where each chapter uses only a single vowel.

Good luck! There's a famous novel or two written using just the vowel E, if I recall. I'm sure similar experiments have been done with other vowels. But putting the Shakespeare twist on it should be fun, especially watching what he does with the character names.

Playing Shakespeare

To my 4yr old, Daddy being unemployed means Daddy is home to play with her more, especially when her older sister goes off to school in the morning. "You want to play the Shakespeare game?" she asks me.

"How do you play?" I ask.

"You find a doll to be the Prince, and then I find a doll to be Miranda, and we are on the island. Wait, I'll get the book." I'm not kidding. She runs into the family room and comes back holding my copy of Manga Shakespeare's Tempest, which I did not even realize she knew I had.

So we begin acting out the story. I am using my Shakespeare action figure, although he is actually playing Ferdinand. Miranda is played by a blue Tinkerbell fairy. Ariel is a stuffed unicorn, and Caliban is the dog from the Simpsons that she got in a Burger King Happy Meal.

But soon I'm shaken from my private little world when the reality of playing with a 4yr old comes down around me.

"So Ferdinand is chained up by Prospero's magic and forced to carry the firewood to prove his love for Miranda," I read. I turn up little Shakespeare's arms and make him carry a Lincoln Log.

"But then her mommy comes and breaks his chains and sets him free!" my daughter says, waving a stuffed ballerina doll.

"Wait, whose mommy?"

"Miranda's mommy."

"Miranda's mommy is not in the story, sweetie."

"She's been in the garden out front. She breaks the chains and Ferdinand is free!"

Oh, of course that's where she's been. :)

Review: Will, By Christopher Rush

A few weeks back the good people at Overlook Press sent me a copy of Will, which imagines Shakespeare on his deathbed dictating his last will and testament to his lawyer.

Given the prominent role the mystery of the will plays in the authorship question, what with talk of second-best beds and no mention of books and theatre things, such a task is quite daunting to begin with. When you open to the first page and realize that Rushmore intends to tell Shakespeare's story in first person, well, to borrow a phrase from the vernacular let's say the man has some serious grapefruits on him. Know what I mean?

And what does the voice of Will say? Well, he quotes and references himself quite often. Not in a bad way, not like Rushmore can't think of anything better to have him say. Instead we get a man who spent his life crafting a phrase and now mocks his own talent at doing so, borrowing his character's words to express his points, those words having come from his own brain in the first place. Very believable for a playwright recounting his life. He even puns on his own work, such as referring to a particular term as a "brave new word." I particularly got a kick out of him working the word "groatsworth" into the narrative, I can only imagine how small a portion of the audience gets that reference.

What else does grumpy old Will tell his lawyer? Well he swears a lot. Talks about bodily functions in graphic detail, obsesses about death. That second bit is pretty interesting. Lots of undiscovered country talk. A fascinating digression on Lazarus and why nobody bothered to ask him any questions about the Great Beyond. In Rushmore's version, Will spent his childhood haunted by ghost stories and visits to haunted cemeteries. He does
Not paint a pleasant picture of life for young Will.

I won't lie, the narrative is hard to follow. Shakespeare is the narrator, speaking to his lawyer. So 80% of every page is supposed to be conversational, but never with a quotation mark or a "Shakespeare said..." Between every few paragraphs the lawyer interjects with typically a single sentence, and it's almost like the author does that just to make sure we don't forget Will isn't just talking into a tape recorder.

And then periodically it switches to third person, which leaves me wondering if that is an editor's mistake. You'll get a line like (paraphrased), "Then Frances took a bite of his meal." Ummm... The narrator Shakespeare is speaking to Frances the lawyer, so who is talking there? It happens infrequently enough to be jarring when it does.

What of the big questions? The second best bed and all that? I'm not done with the book yet so I can't spoil it for you. I can tell you that I'm anxious to find out for myself!

Posted with LifeCast

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On The Road

(trying new posting software...)

Driving home after a party on a dark and stormy night, trying to take a left onto a main road:

Geek: "See anything coming on that side?"

Mrs Geek: "Just trees. "

Geek: "Yeah but has Birnam Wood come to Dunsinane?"

Mrs Geek: "huh?"

Geek: "Never mind. "

Posted with LifeCast

Friday, November 14, 2008

Off-Topic : Out Of Work

Hi gang,

those of you paying attention to that Twitter stream over on the left already know this, but as of earlier this week I've officially joined the ranks of the unemployed.  Hopefully it won't be for long, but it was certainly a disruptive experience. Most notably it took away from me the computer I've been using for the last several years.

So in theory I'm not going to have more time on my hands to catch up on those book reviews and giveaways I've been promising.  But to do that I need to breathe a little life into these old clunkers I've had lying around my office collecting dust.

Oh, and if anybody's hiring software architects in Massachusetts, particularly North Shore region, drop me a line :).  Rails, Java and other backend web stuff a specialty.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Surrounded By Geeklets!

Not to be outdone by her artistic 6yr old older sister, my 4yr old is now in on the act.  While working at the craft table she shoves paper and crayons in my hand, saying "Daddy, can you draw us the As You Like It picture?"

I asked her which picture she meant.  She repeated, "The As You Like It picture."

I still don't know what that means.   I think I read them AYLI once, and they have not seen it.  They've heard about it, briefly, over the summer - Kerry and I went to see it in Boston.  I may have mentioned taking them.  But she surely has no idea of the plot.

Today during game time we got out "Don't Break The Ice", where you have to make a grid of like 64 white ice cubes and then take turns smashing it.  "We don't have to play the original game," she tells me.  "We can just build stuff with the ice.  We can make a castle, or a dinosaur..or Shakespeare!"  She always wants to make "Shakespeare things".

Later that evening, during story time, the 6yr old is reading an Angelina Ballerina book.  That's the one where the mice are all ballet dancers.  She brings the book over to me, pointing to a certain page.  "Does that say Macbeth?" she asks.  Odd, because she is not pointing to any words, she's pointing to the picture itself.

I look closer.

Sure enough, the scene takes place back stage in a theatre or dressing room of some sort.  On the wall is indeed a poster for Macbeth, which she has spotted (even though the artist has only sketched the letters in partially).

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Couple Of Micro-References

A long time ago when I started this blog I used to note random Shakespeare references I heard during the day, like tv commercials and such.  Given that I heard 2 in the last 12 hours or so, it reminded me to post more of them:

On this week's "Lipstick Jungle" episode (watching on Tivo, normally airs Friday night), Brooke Shields' movie producer character is getting pitched an indie film.  "Set in Belfast in the 1960's," the writer says, "Romeo and Juliet stuff.  Catholics and Protestants going at each other."

That was last night at maybe 9:30 or so.

This morning on the drive to work (7:30) I heard a radio commercial for Bengal Traders coffee, which I guess they're serving at ExxonMobil gas stations now.  I missed the lead up, but the man is trying to explain some sort of deal to the woman - I think it has to do with getting a bottle of water with your cup of coffee or something.  "They go great together, like Romeo and Juliet!" he says.

"Look how well they turned out," says the woman.

That's it.  Hey, I called them "micro" for a reason. :)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Breakfast, continued

Next day, same hotel, same breakfast buffet.  Geeklet has already begun coloring a picture of some sort when I say, "Hey, why not try Romeo and Juliet?"

"I don't really remember enough about that one," she tells me.  "The other story I'd heard so many times, it was easy."

Still, she ponders how she can turn her already created drawing into something Shakespearean.  She colors for awhile, and then says, "How's this?"

On the paper is a banquet table, with a girl - labelled Juliet - at one end, and a boy - Romeo - at the other.  In the center is a goblet.  Above the goblet is the word, "Yum."

She informs me that Romeo and Juliet are having a nice dinner together.  But of course given the whole "sleeping potion" plot device, the drawing really ends up with a whole different meaning.  I love it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Wolfson Collection To Be Donated To The Globe


John Wolfson, a playwright and collector of antiquarian books, has pledged to donate more than 450 works by William Shakespeare and other playwrights of his era to the Globe Theater in London, The Guardian reported. Among Mr. Wolfson’s collection is a rare first folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623. The donation, to be made after his death, also includes second, third and fourth editions of the Shakespeare folio, as well as works by Christopher Marlowe, Ben Johnson, Thomas Middleton and John Ford. The original Globe Theater was built by Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s men, and later destroyed in a fire; the modern reconstruction of the Globe opened in 1997.

Breakfast With Geeklet

The story you about to hear is 100% true.

We're on vacation, up in a hotel in the mountains.  We're having the breakfast buffet, and as is typical, the kids have placemats and crayons to occupy them.  Katherine, my oldest at 6, shows her picture and says, "What do you think, Daddy?"

"Looks like a shoe with windows," I say.  "Is it the old woman who lives in the shoe?"

"No," she says, with the head tilt and eye roll that all 6yr olds master on their 6th birthday.  "It's Miranda on the island.  See, that's her Daddy next to her, and this is the boat that's going to crash on the rocks.  She's calling to them, saying that they'll be safe on the island.  See the people?"


She flips the paper back over, colors some more, and flips it back so I can see it. "What's the name of the monster, again?"


"Right, Caliban.  That's him, there."  Caliban has been drawn in red, and looks rather devilish.

Again the flip, the coloring, the flip again.  Now Ariel is up in the sky, like an angel of some sort.  "What else can I draw?" she asked.

"Books," I told her.  "You need the magic books."

"Right!" she says, and returns to drawing.  "Finished!"

I look at the final picture (which I have, and plan to scan when I get home).  The books are in a tree.  "Prospero keeps his books in a tree?" I ask.

"That is the entrance to his secret hiding place," she says, again with the head tilt and eye roll.


It may never actually happen, but I'd love to be a fly on the wall for that art class:

"What did you draw, Hailey?"
    "I drew a flower!"
"And how about you, Aidan?"
    "I drew a dinosaur!"
"Katherine?  What did you draw?"
    "I drew the opening of Shakespeare's The Tempest.  Act I, Scene 2."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Hi, Romeo? It's Juliet. Listen...



"If Movies Had Cell Phones".  Dugg for inclusion of Romeo and Juliet:  "Listen, Romeo, I'm gonna fake my death tonight, I wanted to let you know so you don't freak out or anything."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ann Francis Stars In.....

Forbidden Planet, wuh-uh-oh oh ohhhh.....

(Rocky Horror?  Anybody?)

Anyway, not sure if I've mentioned this before.  I think every time I see that "The Day The Earth Stood Still" is being remade, I confuse it with Forbidden Planet, which is "loosely" based on The Tempest.  Perhaps now they are really remaking it? 

I confess, I've never seen it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Shatner. Hamlet. Video. Any Questions?


I had not seen this. Now that I have, I'm not really sure what to say about it.  William Shatner on the Mike Douglas show, circa 1969, pimping for his (Shatner's) now infamous album The Transformed Man that brought us such cult gems as his Tambourine Man, and Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.

I had no idea, having never heard the complete original album, that each bad song was intermixed with a bad rendition of famous poetry.  Thus we have "It Was A Very Good Year" mashed up with To be or not to be.  (I see from wikipedia that there are selections from Romeo and Juliet, and Henry V on the album as well.)

Unfortunately the quality of the sound is horrendous - the music is too loud, and the sync is off by a mile.

[It dawns on me as I title this post that it takes a certain kind of actor to be represented solely by last name.  Olivier.  Welles.  McKellan. ... Shatner. ]

Filthy Shakespeare, Now In Paperback


My post from a year ago ("Oh Great, The Filthy Shakespeare Movement Is Back") continues to be one of my most popularly searched, mostly for people googling for the phrase "hey nonny, nonny."

Anyway, the book in question, by Pauline Kiernan, is now in paperback.  NYTimes has the review, and looks like they like it. Maybe some nice publicity agent will send me a review copy and I'll get to see for myself :).  After all, the original article never does say what "hey nonny, nonny" means :).

Throne Wars


Hamlet meets Star Wars.  It's just a school project, so don't expect much by way of production values (it's hand-drawn animation), but points for the creativity.

Were The World Mine : Musical Midsummer Movie?


Start with a movie centered around a production of Midsummer.  Not new (Dead Poet's Society, among others, springs to mind).

Now imagine that the character playing Puck whips up a *real* love potion that works on his fellow actors, and then runs around spraying it on everyone in town.  All heck breaks loose, as you could well imagine.

Oh, and did I mention that the actor in question is gay?

Friday, October 24, 2008

More Coriolanus Than Othello?


Comparing the presidential candidates to Shakespeare is hardly new.  But Coriolanus doesn't come up all that often, so I thought this one worth a link.   [* You know, I never did watch the Colbert report on this subject since I was in Disney at the time, I'll have to go check it out.]

The other candidate (I'll let you guess which is which if you don't want to peek :)) is compared to Hamlet and Macbeth, though I think that's the weaker of the two arguments.  After all, the author says (albeit jokingly) that the candidate is not a good match for Macbeth because "he is not a man given to seeing ghosts in his dining room."  ... apparently seeing ghosts up on the parapets is not a problem?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Best Macbeth Ever(*)


BoingBoing points to the story of a librarian who got a $500 fine for "ethics violation" after promoting his daughter's book in the newsletter, and by distributing free copies.  (He called it "Best Book Ever", hence the title :))

Just so happens that the book in question is a Manga version of Macbeth.  Hey, I'll take popularity for the bard anyway I can get it.  If people buy copies of the book just for protest, that's still exposure!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Demetrius, You Dog!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, I notice something different every time I flip through one of the plays.  This time it is Midsummer, right at the beginning.  I know that Lysander is pleading his case for Hermia, and argues that Demetrius could have Helena instead.  What I don't think I ever noticed, though, is what he says:

Demetrius, I'll avouch it to his head,
Made love to Nedar's daughter, Helena,
And won her soul;

Maybe I'm not fully up on my terminology, but are we supposed to believe that Demetrius actually slept with Helena, and now has completely lost interest in her? We're not talking about modern times where a girl will go on a daytime talk show with 15 guys who might be the baby daddy.  You'd think that one guy just blurting out "Yeah, he slept with her and they're not married" would be a big deal, wouldn't it?  On top of that, Theseus basically says, "Yeah, I'd heard that too."  How does Helena not come off looking like a big slut?

But maybe I'm overinterpreting, and maybe "made love" really is supposed to mean something more along the lines of "showered with attention and gifts and tokens of affection, and generally made her believe that he loved her."  That's always how I'd interpreted it, without close scrutiny of the exact words.  That seems a bit more forgivable.

So which is it?  Is Demetrius just a typical young man who only wants what he can't have?  Or is he a scoundrel who takes advantage of women and casts them aside?

[I suppose there is also the third option that he's talking about a different Helena here - let some random girl we don't get to meet play the role of town slut - but that would be strangely and unnecessarily confusing.]

Monday, October 20, 2008


So we've got friends over Friday night, and they have a daughter who I believe is just over 1 (she's been walking a few months).  The father, a dedicated sports fan, tells her "Do Touchdown!" and she squeals and throws her arms up in the air.  It's very cute.

This makes me think of high school and the two cultures that arose between the sports kids and the nerdy kids, I of course being one of the nerdy kids.  "It's funny how different our kids will end up," I said.  "Brendan, who's on Daddy's watch?"

"Shakespeare," my 2yr old son replies.

I swear, I totally meant to demonstrate that the sports guys raised their kids with more of a sports mentality, while the nerdy kids raised their kids to be nerds.  It was harmless, but apparently not well thought out.

"Are you calling my kid stupid?" asked the mother.

"Ummm......" said I.

"I think you are, I think you just called my kid stupid."

Awkward!  She was at least partially joking - it's not like they stormed off or anything - but the conversation rapidly turned to other subjects.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Shakespearean Halloween Costume?

It's one thing to say "do a Shakespeare theme" for Halloween (for grownups), but if you think about it, it's quite the commitment.  Most people can bust out some form of athlete / construction worker / medical personnel based entirely on stuff already in their closet or easily borrowed.  But try doing Beatrice and Benedick without having some friends who are either directly involved in the theatre (and hence may have some stuff), or else are crazy into the Renaissance Festival scene.  Either way you're going to spend the night explaining to people who you are, anyway :).

UPDATED:  More Shakespeare Halloween Ideas!

I Love Homework Questions


I don't like doing people's homework for them, mind you, but sometimes it's fun to look at the questions.

Cite three allusions to Greek and Roman mythology used in Act 1 of Romeo and Juliet


The "Phoebus' lodging" one would be obvious, if not for the fact that it's not in Act 1.  How many can you think of WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCRIPT?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Any Budding Playwrights Listening?


[Found via http://www.collegebound.net/blog/2008/10/16/do-you-have-the-write-stuff-for-college/]


Back in college I wrote some plays.  I remember what it was like to try and format a script.  I never learned the "official" template (much to the annoyance of my directors).  For those that take it seriously, however, there's word processors dedicated to the task.  Celtx gets a link because the blogger who pointed it out not only speaks of it in Shakespearean terms ("Shakespeare says Celtx rocks") but actually shows a picture of a dude dressed up like Shakespeare :).

Performed Not Read, Revisited


I link to this one for the second book's description:

The traditional view of Shakespeare is that he was a man of the theatre who showed no interest in the printing of his plays, producing works that are only fully realised in performance. This view has recently been challenged by critics arguing that Shakespeare was a literary ‘poet-playwright’, concerned with his readers as well as his audiences.

Hurray!  Finally a retort to all those "You do know the works are meant to be performed, not read" people!

Do People Still Do The Newsletter Thing?

As a fulltime computer geek, I get all my news via "RSS" feeds.  They actually show up on my portable device (iTouch), and many's the time at 6am on a workday my wife will be watching the news on television while I'm scanning 100x as many stories on my own gadget.  Comes in handy when they say "We'll tell you what Madonna called her husband, right after this commercial break..." and I can tell her because I just read it 5 minutes ago :).

As such, I never bothered with the email newsletter thing.  I figure, if people want to know when I've updated the blog, they can get the feed.  But not everybody's a computer geek, now are they?

So, that's my question.  Were I to open up a good old fashioned email newsletter, would you subscribe?  I couldn't promise regular intervals (certainly not more than once a week), and for the most part it'd be a summary of stuff that had gone on in the blog anyway, but I could definitely put in original content just for the newsletter, as well as expanded details on previously posted stories.

Yes, no?  Help me out here people, it's too quiet for my liking.  You tell me how we can make this the cool place to hang out and talk Shakespeare.



The folks making "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Undead" are working the viral angle.  They've got some videos up, if you're into the whole vampire thing.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Anyone Want More Contests And Free Stuff?

Twice over the past few weeks, publishers have asked if I run contests and if I want free stuff to giveaway.  My first response is "Of course I want free stuff to give away," but I don't want to keep doing the "Link to me someplace" thing, either . That gets boring.

If anybody's got some contest ideas they've seen on other blogs, that they'd participate in (and think others would, too!), I'm all ears.  Who knows, maybe that'll be my first contest -- best contest idea gets a book :).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Computer Generated Alternate Hamlet


You probably have to be pretty heavy on the computer-geek side of geeky to appreciate this, but luckily, I am :).  "Markov chains" are a way to statistically look at a data set and then try to reproduce likely combinations of the elements that could have matched the similar pattern.  It's also useful for doing things like name generation.

Here, the programmer starts with the text to Hamlet and then rearranges it jigsaw puzzle style to see what comes out.  Most of it is nonsense, but if you know how to spot the seemingly random bits from the "wow he almost got it" bits, it's fun stuff.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Shakespeare Pie Club


The headline is horrible - but the post is actually an aggregate of brief local news stories, including the "Shakespeare And Pie Club" at Hampshire College.  Hey, whatever gets 'em in the door!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Nice Work, If You Can Get It


I'd never considered that "line reader" was a job unto itself, but it seems pretty darned important when you think about it.  I wonder if the line reader is charged with monitoring proper pronunciation and timing as well, or just missing words?

Switchblade Sisters


So I marked the above link, thinking it to be some reference or discussion of "O", the high school version of Othello.  What I found was a new reference - to the Quentin Tarantino favorite Switchblade Sisters, a cheesy 1970s exploitation flick that also happens to be a retelling of Othello.


I'm still trying to make the connection, but apparently it's not without merit.  From one of the Amazon reviews;

Believe it or not, Switchblade Sisters is a neo-futuristic retelling of Shakespeare's "Othello." And it is so much cooler than the Josh Hartnett vehicle, "O." The movie opens with a girl gang called The Dagger Debs, the counterparts to the male gang, The Silver Daggers. The Debs' leader, Lace, (the "Othello" character, for those of you paying attention) is brilliantly played with much gusto by Robbie Lee. Her boyfriend is the leader of the Silver Daggers, Dominic.

The Daggers and their Debs are chillin' in a fast food joint when they notice a blond babe who won't leave "their" table. They hassle her, but to their surprise, she impressively defends herself. Her name is Maggie, and after they do a little jail time together, she and Lace forge a fast friendship.

Lace isn't the only one Maggie has impressed, however. Lace's boyfriend Dom is after her. Maggie admits that she has feelings for Dom, but would never betray Lace. This is just enough for Patch (aka Yago) to use to manipulate Lace into believing that Maggie is her enemy.

I particularly like the spelling of "Iago" as "Yago."  Sounds very Clockwork Orange. 

"Come and get one in the yagos, if you have any yagos, you eunuch jelly thou!"

Saturday, October 11, 2008



There's nothing really special in this brief interview - I don't know who this person is, or what she's famous for.  But it caught my attention for mention of her thesis:

"I studied the character of Portia very minutely. It was also one of the characters that had qualities which one could easily relate to. Those who have read Othello will admit that they see themselves in Portia."

This of course says nothing about her thesis.  Personally I've never really thought much about Portia at all.

Any Othello fans in the audience want to elaborate on what sorts of things she may have discussed in her thesis?

[Work with me, people.  It's Saturday afternoon and I'm trying to look for a wider variety of material. :)]

Friday, October 10, 2008

Manga Shakespeare : Coming Soon

The good folks over at Harry N. Abrams, Inc were nice enough to send me some review copies of their Manga Shakespeare series that I blogged about recently.  As I told Laura (who sent them), once I pry them out of my kids' hands I'll get reviews up and then probably give them away to you folks.

But until then I thought you'd get a kick out of this story.

One of the books was The Tempest, of course (I ask for that one special :)).  Forgetting I had it last night, I leave it on the kitchen table at my daughter's chair, so she'll see it in the morning.  This morning it is the 4yr old (Elizabeth) down first, and I tell her, "There's a surprise waiting for you at the table.  You have to share it with your sister."

"Do I have to close my eyes?" she asks.

"No, not really," I say.

A few minutes go by as I pack up my bag to head in to work, and I don't hear anything.  I go into the kitchen where my 4yr old is standing there, expectantly, with her eyes closed.  So I take the book, hold it in front of her face and tell her to open her eyes.  "What is it?" she asks.

"This is the story about the girl on the island," I tell her (and her sister, who has come up rapidly behind when she realizes there are surprises).  "One of Daddy's friends on the internet sent it."

"Oh, The Tempest?" asks the 4 yr old.  It always amazes me when Shakespearean stuff flows so naturally out of their mouths.

As the 6yr old gets ready for school, the 4yr old goes off to read.  Well, to look at the pictures.  In a minute I hear, "Is this Miranda?"  I go in the room and she's pointing to one of the characters who, as far as I know, is Miranda. I tell her so.

The morning ritual continues, I'm trying to make myself a lunch, get breakfasts, all that sort of thing.  Then I hear, "I found Shakespeare, Daddy!"  Odd, I think, since he's not actually in the story.  "He's on the back page."  Oh.

I can only imagine what will be waiting to tackle me when I get home from work. :)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Macbeth 2006 [Geoffrey Wright]

So I finally got around to watching this ultra-violent Australian adaptation of Macbeth.  I actually won it in a contest, but then the DVD that arrived was not compatible with my player and I forgot all about it...until I learned a few geeky tricks and magically figured out a way how to play it :).

It's easy to compare this modern interpretation to Luhrman's R+J.  In fact I think it's part of the press to say exactly that - this one will do for Macbeth what Luhrman did for the other one.

Meh.  There are times when it's better compared to something like a Pulp Fiction.  Plenty of blood to go around, and whenever one character approaches another you're never quite sure if somebody's about to draw a gun or knife, and use it promptly.

The story opens with the witches, portrayed as triplet girls in Catholic schoolgirl uniforms (I think that's what they were), defacing a graveyard.  So it's gonna be like that, is it?  (Whenever we see the witches again they're mostly naked, and it's more or less an orgy sequence.)

We then cut to the Macbeths, mourning at the grave of their son.  Well there you go, there's a question not often answered. 

The plot seems to be one of gangland warfare.  There are meetings in alleys, briefcases of money, and lots and lots of shooting each other.  Everybody's got rich fancy toys, and there are plenty of opportunities to work in security cameras and other interesting shots.  For a play that contains a great deal of paranoia, this works well.  You always feel like somebody is watching somebody else.  Some directorial choices I liked - like actually watching Macbeth kill not just Duncan, but the guards as well.  Often that is done off screen. 

The acting in particular is quite flat, for both Macbeths as well as most of the supporting cast.  The Banquo's ghost at the table scene in particular was surprisingly flat.  There's a great bit of shock thrown in, but that was almost something out of a horror movie, not what I'd call intepretation of the text.  There's no chemistry between anybody at all, and when Macbeth delivers lines like "She should have died hereafter" at his wife's death (including gratuitous nude scene), he says it like he's delivering the weather report.

As always with Macbeth, I like to pay particular attention to the ending.  I figure there's enough material in Macbeth's descent to make or break the whole movie.  Does Macbeth come off like he's full-on insane?  Like some crazy immortal god walking among his enemies without fear?  Yes and no.  During the "storming of the castle", he's freaked out just like everybody else.  Lots of ducking and running.  This sequence in general is done well for the big picture - it's basically a slow motion massacre with a soundtrack and lots of lasers (maybe a little too much on the lasers).  But when the actual sound kicks back in and it's focused on Macbeth again, he shows himself to be just a wee bit insane (including a quick dance number, believe it or not).  He does hit it right, briefly, while fighting with Macduff.  That sort of crazy confidence of being in a knife fight with somebody and knowing you can't be killed.  That is, until you go and get yourself killed.  It's that time in between - that realization that you're not immortal - where different Macbeths really either succeed or fail.

But then they have to go and ruin it by changing the ending.

Yeah, you read that right.

I don't want to put in spoilers, but let's just say that our hero does not get in as many last words as he normally does.  At all.  Like, none.  No "Lay on Macduff", no throwing the warlike shield upon the ground, no baited with the rabble's curse.  All out.  There's definitely some creative interpretation that takes place at the end, and I can see what the director was going for.  But man, how do you cut out what is basically the best part?

Folding Chair Theatre Presents : Cymbeline

[Normally I don't do straight up press releases for shows, since any given Internet audience is going to be 90% of the time somewhere else in the world.  But as I told Stephanie, who sent it to me, the first thought that came to me was the pro-wrestling version of "folding chair", namely something you hit your opponent with, and I thought conjured up some funny images of what stage combat might be like :)]


Folding Chair Classical Theatre proudly presents

William Shakespeare's


Performances October 9 – November 2, 2008

Folding Chair Classical Theatre will present CYMBELINE by William Shakespeare for a limited run, October 9 – November 2 at the 78th Street Theatre Lab. Folding Chair's Artistic Director, Marcus Geduld, will direct.
CYMBELINE is an epic tale with everything: comedy, tragedy, a princess, long-lost brothers, thwarted lovers, valiant warriors, noble servants, an evil queen, a girl disguised as a boy, a scheming Italian, a snooty Frenchman, some Dutch guy with nothing to say, a sleeping potion, a severed head, a bare bosom (covered for the student matinee), divine intervention, an attack by the Roman Army, and a king just trying to make sense of it all. It is a rollicking, wild adventure with a cast of thousands. Or, to be precise, a cast of six. That's right, a crack team of five Folding Chair vets (and one newbie) will take on the entire play, switching roles at lightning speed and bringing the play to life using only their wits, their skills, their long experience with Shakespeare, and maybe the occasional funny hat. Join us for all the humor, heartbreak and crazy plot twists of CYMBELINE.
Featured in the production are Lisa Blankenship, Gowan Campbell, Ian Gould*, Paul Edward Hope*, Karen Ogle*, and Josh Thelin*.
Five of the six actors appeared last March in Folding Chair's critically acclaimed revival of Timberlake Wertenbaker's OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD, also directed by Mr. Geduld. Back Stage called the production a "bracing revival…the entire cast delivers with passion and intelligence" and the New Theater Corps, the blog of PBS's Theater Talk, called it "superbly directed and acted…a cast that will wow you".
Two of the six appeared in June in Folding Chair's equally acclaimed, sold-out revival of Michael Frayn's BENEFACTORS, with Mr. Geduld again at the helm. Nytheatre.com raved "A wonderful production…I certainly will be going to see more of Folding Chair's shows".
About Folding Chair Classical Theatre
Now in its seventh year, Folding Chair Classical Theatre produces plays by Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov, Aeschylus & other writers from past eras. They also produce modern adaptations of classic stories, plays based on historical events, and modern plays on their way to becoming classics. Folding Chair Classical Theatre Company is dedicated to performing classic drama with an emphasis on storytelling.
For further information about Folding Chair and its programs:

Ticket Information

DATES: October 9 – November 2, 2008

TIMES: Thurs – Sat @ 8:00 pm & Sun Oct. 26 & Nov. 2 @ 2pm

THEATRE: 78th Street Theatre Lab

236 West 78th Street


RESERVATIONS: SmartTix (212) 868-4444 or


*Member, AEA     An Equity-Approved Showcase

Steampunk Twelfth Night


Oooo....pictures! :)  Looks like a neat production.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Macbeth II, Electric Boogaloo


Danger Will Robinson - highly offensive, badly drawn comic ahead.  I link it mostly for the large discussion that goes on after it.  Might as well just stay away if you don't find stupid things funny.

Remixing Shakespeare at MIT


This looks like it could be interesting.  I'm downloading the almost 2hr video (also available in audio only) now, from iTunes U.  I've been to this section before, makes me wonder if I haven't seen this already...

[Small universe -- one of the other lectures in this section of iTunes U is "The Craft of Writing Science Fiction", a lecture with Joe Haldeman.  It is via this lecture that I learned about his book Accidental Time Machine, which I just read lat week on vacation.]

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

O Brave New World!


Anybody up for a Brave New World movie?  How about directed by Ridley Scott, he of Bladerunner fame?   As folks should hopefully know, not only is "Brave New World" a direct Shakespeare quote (Miranda, The Tempest), but a major character spends the novel mostly quoting Shakespeare.  Should be pretty cool!

A Bard Day's Night


I'm always interested in putting Shakespeare to music, I think it makes things much easier to memorize (and I've got the geeklets to prove it).  Here's a story about a guy from a Beatles tribute band doing a show where he does exactly that, putting Shakespeare's words to the Beatles' music.

"The speeches are harder to do," says the singer who did not study Shakespeare in school.  "But the sonnets seem to be very easy.  They are perfect to put into music."

There is a multimedia widget on the page, but I cannot get it to play.  I'll update if I get it working.

UPDATE: Got the player working in Internet Explorer.  It is....well, let's just say you have to like the Beatles, shall we?  It's certainly Shakespeare's words, but it's more like "Hey that's the Beatles doing Shakespeare" rather than "Hey that's Shakespeare put to music", you know?  I don't think I'd love a whole show of it.  I'll take Rufus Wainwright any day.

Change One Letter


Something send from a friend, via Twitter.  Anybody got more?

Monday, October 06, 2008

What Is The Line?


Not what I expected - a guy starts quoting Twelfth Night, gets stuck, and his friend offers no help at all.  Funny, although it drags on too long.  I just like that it had so much Shakespeare content. :)

Bonus points to the geek in the comments who points out that he missed a line in his monologue :)

What Shakespeare Time Is It?

About 4:16pm.  I know this because my wife got me a Shakespeare watch. :)  Specifically this one, from Shakespeare's Den.  It's got Will's face, and a quote from Twelfth Night: "O time thou must untangle this, not I, it is too hard a knot for me t'untie."  I love it, I am now one more point Shakespeare geeky.

Did You Learn That From Your Mother?

You learn a great deal about how you communicate when it gets parroted back to you by your children, who absorb words and phrases with no sense of sarcasm and just the barest amount of context.

Over the vacation I was wearing my shirt that reads "My kids walk all over me", complete with footprints, that the kids made for me for Father's Day.  This was the Father's Day where I also got "Shakespeare things", including a mug and a refrigerator magnet.  Since I am not a coffee drinker, the mug has sat "decoration-style" on top of the microwave ever since.

My 4yr old always notices when I wear the shirt.  This time her comment was, "We made that shirt for you, Daddy.  Remember for Father's Day, when we got you that Shakespeare mug that you never drink anything out of?"

Sounds totally sarcastic, but that's just her way of explaining the mug she's talking about.  Who knows, maybe you had to be there.  I thought it was cute. :)

P.S. Hot chocolate weather draws near.  The mug will get much use.

Great Moments In Porn


Completely safe for work.  Funny where Shakespeare references show up.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Colbert Nation on Shakespeare


A friend pointed out this link while I'm at Disney.  Stephen Colbert apparently did a bit (with Stephen Greenblatt, no less) comparing the presidential candidates to Shakespearean characters.  I have not watched it yet.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Manga Do About Nothing?


"Manga Shakespeare" is not new, but I was pleased to spot a blog from someone who looks to be working on a new title.

Other Much Ado posts here, here and pretty much here in general.

UPDATE: A few days old, but found it in my "drafts" folder.  Did I never publish this? :(

Attack of My Shakespeare Geeklets

So we're in the middle of Disneyworld at about 9pm, waiting for the fireworks to start.  We have run into some friends who have a 2yr old of their own.  My girls find a way to entertain him by singing the ABC song.

"ABCDEFG, HIJKLMNOP,QRS,TUV,W,X,Y,Z,now I know my ABC, next time won't you sing with me!"

"How cute is that!" says the mother of the 2yr old.

They're not done.  "ZYXWVUT, SRQPONM..."  There's a pause as it dawns on this woman (and people around us) what the kids are singing.  "LKJIHGF, E, D, CBA..."

"Who taught them *that*?"

I shrug and look at my 6yr old.  "Do the Shakespeare, that'll really freak them out."

Katherine looks at me and says, "I don't remember it."

"Yes you do, you're just shy."

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day, thou art more lovely and...something."

The funny part?  Nobody even noticed that little trick.  I think it's because adults in the wild can still recognize the alphabet backwards (with a little time to think about it), but the Shakespeare goes right past them. :)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Kenneth Branagh To Direct Thor?


Ok, this is pretty cool.  We're at a place in time when comic book movies are huge.  Iron Man, Spiderman, Batman.  And they pick Kenneth Branagh, he of Hamlet and Henry V, to do Thor?  That should be downright fascinating.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Seven Ages Of Man, Cracked.com Style


Maybe a writer was pressed for ideas, but I like it.  The usual "Top N List" form of Cracked.com articles in this case breaks down Shakespeare's seven ages of man from As You Like it.  And, of course, makes witty comments.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Midsummer, The Not For Kids Version

So I'm sitting here watching pro-wrestling as I tend to do on Monday nights, and during some silly skit they're doing I'm reminded that Playboy magazine hosts a party every summer called A Midsummer Night's Dream.  Pictures are relatively safe (no nudity - Playboy don't be giving it away for free, after all), but not exactly for the whole family.

I can't figure out if it ever had any Shakespeare connection, ever, or if they just liked the name.  But who cares!

Hello, My Name Is Inigo Montoya


You a Mandy Patinkin fan?  Geeks have loved him ever since The Princess Bride, well before Criminal Minds and even Chicago Hope.  Bonus points if you remember him under the makeup in Alien Nation.  (I did NOT remember Dr. Jeffrey Geiger, his Chicago Hope character, doing a guest spot on Picket Fences???)

Anyway, if you're wondering what he's been up to, he's doing Prospero in New York.  The review of the production itself doesn't seem very good, but the reviewer's got love for Mr. Patinkin.  Apparently he sings, too.  I'm trying to remember when I first heard him sing.  I think that David Letterman used to get him to do something with the band whenever he was a guest on the late show.  He's got an excellent voice for Broadway.

Crazy Nonsense


Apparently Adam Buckman of the NY Post doesn't like the new season of Heroes. The heroes aren't doing anything heroic, he says.  "Instead, this show, which was once so thrilling and fun, has become full of itself, its characters spouting crazy nonsense."

He then goes on to cite some of the crazy nonsense, noting that Malcolm McDowell "should win an Emmy for keeping a straight face while reciting these lines."

Oh, the lines?

There's a divinity that shapes our ends - rough hew them how we will.

Yeah, that crazy nonsense is Hamlet.

Screw that.  I'm watching My Name Is Earl.

"Unusual" Facts about Mr. Shakespeare


I get a kick out of posting lists like this because it's fun to look at how many a) are common knowledge and b) are not facts at all. 

Like when it says "Few people realize...that Shakespeare acted in his own works."  Really?  I'd be willing to wager that actually most people know that :).

Was Henry VI Part 1 really Shakespeare's first play? I always thought that Comedy of Errors had that honor.

Is Oberon A Bad Guy?

So I've been going back and forth of A Midsummer Night's Dream lately, as I think it will be the next play I introduce the kids to.  There's something about the ending that bothers me.  Oberon's angry with Titania because he wants the changeling boy.  Titania clearly has a stronger claim on the child, what with the whole "his mother was one of my followers" thing.  Oberon's only claim seems to be "because I'm the king and I said so."

So he puts her under a magic spell, and then, while brainwashed, says "Give me the child", which she does.

Now that he's got what he wants, he releases her from the spell and they all go off on their happy way.

Umm....does that make him a nice guy?  Are we supposed to like him for that?  At what point does Titania say, "Wait a minute...I had a changeling boy around here somewhere....where did he ..... Oberon!!!!!"

As I ponder how to relate this story to the kids, I'm figuring on changing the ending so that Oberon feels bad for what he's doing to Titania and decides to her keep the boy.  (My 6yr old daughter, who apparently has too many friends of divorced parents already at her age, and who only knows that Oberon and Titania are fighting over a little human boy who came to live with the fairies, suggested "Maybe one week the boy can stay with the king, and then the next week he can stay with the queen, and then back to the king....")

I know that some people put Dream up there in the ranks with Hamlet as one of Shakespeare's best.  I don't have that level of experience with the play, and have always viewed it more as "The one the local school kids always put on because you can never have too many fairies."   So somebody enlighten me about the deep meaning that I'm missing. 

Coffee With Shakespeare

Coworker this morning tells me, "Hey, saw a Shakespeare book over the weekend, thought of you."

"Which one?" I ask.  "I probably know it."

"It was called Coffee with Shakespeare."

"I don't know that one."

"It was this tiny little thing, looked like the idea was that the author goes back in time and has coffee with Shakespeare.  It was part of a series, there was a whole bunch of them."

"Coffee with Descartes, Coffee with Mark Twain, and so on?"

"Yeah.  Seemed cheesy."


I go hunting around anyway.  Turns out this particular "cheesy" book is edited by Stanley Wells, one of the foremost Shakespeare authorities in the business today.  It's also got a forward by Joseph Fiennes, the guy who played Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love.

I relay this information to my coworker, who responds, "Yeah, that's the one. It was the forward by Fiennes that made me not pick it up."

Know Why? Because Shakespeare Was Awesome


From a blog called "Will In The World", some Shakespeare love where you may not have first expected it.

Shakespeare Geeklet

"Daddy, that's the Shakespeare book that Santa gave me.  He knows I can read it myself.  If music...be....the food of...love......."

    "Play on..."

"I know, Daddy.  I was thinking the words in my head, and trying to figure out if that makes any sense."


My daughter is 6.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Fault, Dear Kenneth, Apparently Lies In Your Stars


Ever found yourself with an interest in Kenneth Branagh's astrological chart? Here you go.

Zombie Shakespeare


No, really. :)  We won't pick on the fact that he's buried inside the church, not out in a yard someplace. :)

The Last Lear


The chances I'll ever see this Bollywood movie are about zero, but it looks pretty neat.  I love this line about Amitabh Bachchan, playing a reclusive stage actor who quotes Shakespeare with relish and is making his movie debut at an old age:

"...in one scene, Bachnan chases a reporter out of his house for misspelling the name of Oberon, the king of the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Sounds like my kinda guy.

Monday, September 15, 2008



This is kind of cute.  Folding paper toys, one a day for a year.  Shakespeare is #38.

[Found via http://superpunch.blogspot.com/2008/09/barack-obama-edward-scissorhands.html]

Shakespeare Cryptograms


That's right, *crypto*grams, not the anagrams.  By the time you get to this post all 10 may have been answered, but I'm linking because it's a new blog (to me) and I'm not sure how often they post Shakespeare stuff.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Brooks' (And Others) Dream, On Video

Hey now, this is neat.  A special on the staging of Dream, including video from the famous Brooks version.  Note that this is only one of three parts, so be sure to follow through all three of them.

I like how they talk about the little details - should the fairies have wings?  If they have wings, should they fly?  Great stuff!

Author of "Infinite Jest" Found Dead


I was unfamiliar with the work of David Foster Wallace, professor of English at Pomona College who was apparently best known for the 1000 page novel "Infinite Jest."  I suppose comparing someone to Thomas Pynchon is intended to be complimentary, but I know I was never able to finish Gravity's Rainbow.  However, one reviewer refers to the overall effect as "something like a sleek Vonnegut chassis wrapped in layers of post-millennial Zola."  I'd be excited about that prospect if I knew anything about Zola.

The death appears to have been a suicide.  Anybody know more about the author, want to say a few words?

How Shakespeare Won The West


I may have seen this play mentioned in the local papers, but never thought twice about it.  Apparently that was the right move, as the reviews are not good.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Top 10 Shakespeare Villains

This list gets originality points for Iago coming in at #3, Claudius at #5 and Edmund #8.  Guess who #1 and # 2 are?

Spanking Shakespeare


Don't know what to make of this. 

Based on the debut work of Jake Wizner, the feature will tell the story of Shakespeare Shapiro, who chronicles his quest to get into college and find a girlfriend in his memoir, a writing project that every high school senior must complete.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

...Therefore I Am?

Today I'm wearing my Geek "mechanics" shirt, with the normal name patch over the left chest pocket reading "Geek."  At work I've always gotten amused compliments, entirely from people who obviously know me and get it.

Today I'm at the gas station filling up, and the attendant says, "Why does your shirt say Geek on it like that?"

....how do you answer that, briefly?

I told him, "It's a computer thing."  I don't expect he cared for a longer philosophical debate.

UPDATE: Oops, I totally intended that post to go to my other, computer-specific blog.  I was going to delete this one for having no Shakespeare content, but then I figure it's got Geek content, so it half counts :)

Friday, September 05, 2008


Cover http://www.scovillefilm.com/

I don't know much about Alexander Abela's Macbeth adaptation, Makibefo.  If I understand correctly, the director chose to make a silent film, focusing instead on the "language of pictures", attempting to capture the essence of Shakespeare's words entirely within the film's imagery.

He's also working on (completed?) an Othello adaptation as well.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Wait, She Wanted To Ban Which Shakespeare?


I'm familiar with the story of Sarah Palin, Republican VP nominee, wanting to ban books from the library (go ahead and reread that a few times :)).  I had not yet seen anybody suggest a list of books that she wanted banned.  As mentioned in the post there's no official confirmation that the included list is accurate, but it's all we've got.

Two Shakespeares show up on the list -- Merchant of Venice (an odd choice, given that she belongs to a church that thinks Jews deserve terrorism), and Twelfth Night.   Why Twelfth Night, you think?  It can't be  because of the cross dressing, as there's several others that would fit that bill as well.  Identical twins?  Nope, others have that.  Shipwreck?  Hmmm... Maybe it's the homo-erotic implications between Orsino and "Cesario".

Blah blah, politics, no proof, yadda yadda yadda, nutty democrats and leftwing liberals...  Fine.  I'll make it a general Shakespeare question -- if you were forging a list of books to ban, why would you pick Twelfth Night as one of them?

[I'm thinking, by the way, that this election has to present the opportunity for at least a few Taming of the Shrew jokes.  I'll keep an eye out...]


UPDATE:  Angela correctly points out that the list of books being circulated is bogus.  It is, in fact, a direct copy of the list at http://www.adlerbooks.com/banned.html, which is not comprehensive by its own admission.  It's not to say that the "Palin tried to ban books" story has no truth, merely that the list in question is not accurate.