Thursday, February 28, 2008

In Our Time : King Lear

Thanks to Alayne for this link to Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time where they're apparently discussing King Lear:

Melvyn Bragg explores the dramatic themes and history behind one of
Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, "King Lear". He is joined by Jonathan
Bate, Professor of English Literature at the University of Warwick;
Katherine Duncan-Jones, Tutorial Fellow in English at Somerville College,
Oxford; and Catherine Belsey, Research Professor in English at the
University of Wales, Swansea.

The date on the file suggests that this is the newest episode of the show.  I often subscribe to In Our Time's podcast feed, but then I fall behind because they hit on some topics I'm just not interested in and eventually I give up.  I'm glad when readers send me good stuff like this that I might otherwise have missed!

Downloading now....

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cracked's 5 Books That Make You Stupider

Believe it or not, not only is Shakespeare on the list, he's #1.

Sort of.

You'll see what I mean.


I missed Slings & Arrows the first time around, and I'm very sorry for that.  I'd actually tried to check it out, but I must have watched a bad episode because from where I sat it was all about the politics of running a theatre and I didn't see much actual Shakespeare content.  So I didn't make much of an effort to follow up.

 Boy, was that a mistake.  A coworker just let me borrow Season 1 on DVD (well, the first three episodes) and I LOVE IT. 

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, the show revolves around the New Burbage Theatre festival as they go through their productions of Dream, Hamlet, and I'm presuming some others along the way.  There's some sort of bad history at the place, particularly the director (Oliver) and the former star, Geoffrey.  Well, stuff happens, Geoffrey's thrown back into the mix to re-open old wounds, and let the fun begin.

I think the thing I love the most about the show in what little I've seen is that it reinforces what I've always said (and thought and hoped) about myself.  When the action on the screen is not about Shakespeare - like the politics between the corporate sponsor and the manager producer guy - I really deeply and truly don't care.  BUT!  When the talk turns to Shakespeare, when somebody drops a line or a reference or describes a scene or just goes ahead and does a scene?  Lightning bolts shoot up my spine.  Every time.   There's a scene where they haven't even begun their table reading of Hamlet, and there's name cards on all the seats - Bernardo, Horatio, Osric - and even that does it for me.

One of the major themes of the show is about stripping away the commoditization of the theatre and getting back to how the words can so deeply impact your life. 

Absofrigginlutely, if I do say so myself :). 

I can't wait to get the next set of episodes.  I'm probably going to just go ahead and buy my own copy anyway.

R&J, The Game. On Your Cellphone.

Courtesy of Kotaku (and thanks to Thomas from Games Magazine for the link) we have this new and...strange...idea for a game.  It's Romeo and Juliet, on your cell phone.

"Cool!" you say. 

Maybe, maybe not.  It's actually a platform game - think "jumping over stuff and shooting things that get in your way."  The plot involves Romeo having to rescue Juliet from a castle tower. 

In other words, it has nothing to do with the actual R&J story other than the names and probably some scenery.

Maybe it'll be good, maybe not so much.  Who knows.  If Romeo throws out the occasional quote while jumping up and down on killer mushrooms, I'm there.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saturday Morning Shakespeare? No

This weekend I brought up a children's cartoon, Strawberry Shortcake, on Tivo for the kids.  It did not escape my attention that the name of the episode was "The Play's The Thing."  Would there actually be a Shakespeare reference worth blogging? 

Well, no.  It's raining out, the friends can't go outside, so they get some dressup clothes and put on a play.  The play is actually Cinderella.  So as far as I can tell, not a single Shakespeare reference.

But I couldn't let the reference go by.  Somebody stuck it in there, so it's worth acknowledging.  That's how we get more.

Was Richard Burton Really That Good?

So I'm watching Slings and Arrows  this week, finally, after a coworker let me borrow the DVD.  In Episode 1, a character speaks of Richard Burton's Hamlet as the best one. 

To me, growing up, Richard Burton was the guy in boring movies on Sunday afternoons after church.  The sort of movies that a 12yr old boy like myself would find crazy boring and not watch.  I know Burton's Taming of the Shrew because I saw it in school, but that's about it.  Never saw his Antony.  I see that he played Caliban, which intrigues me.  His Hamlet was in 1964.

So, tell me.  Is it that good?  Should I seek it out?  Is it available on film?  IMDB tells me that there is a DVD release, although that doesn't mean I'd be able to find it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Shakespeare on Boston Common 2008

Via Bard in Boston I see that the Common show this year will be As You Like It. Hooray! A play I haven't seen yet! Schedule runs July 18-August 3.

They are back to a nice 3week schedule. I hope that's directly related to all the bad press they got last year for squeezing us into 1 week and then complaining about how they couldn't afford it after giving such big bonuses to all their executives.

There's nothing useful in the press release, just a bunch of patting each other on the back about how awesome Citi is for not taking away our Shakespeare. For more info you can visit if you can find your way through all the Citibank advertising.

If you've got younger kids you might want to check out Rebel Shakespeare up on the North Shore, who are also doing As You Like It, as well as Henry V and Romeo & Juliet.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

Ok, the link above is nothing but pictures of Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, the stars of the movie (oddly, as I write this, a commercial for the movie just came on tv...)   But I found the link because they'd tagged it Shakespeare.

Other than a straightforward Henry VIII connection, does anybody know a particular reason to think that this movie will have anything Shakespeare related?  I notice (via Wikipedia) that Sandy Powell, the costume designer, also did Shakespeare In Love.  Not that that'll mean anything  :).

Oh, and here's an Amazon review of the book that takes the author to task for being less than subtle about the fate of Anne Boleyn, claiming that anybody who's read their Shakespeare knows exactly what happens to her.

The Actor Who Wrote Hamlet

Great article on the Arden Third Edition of the works, which has taken the bold step of publishing *three* different Hamlets (bad quarto, second quarto, and first folio) as separate texts, rather than trying to blend them.  The author of the post goes on to discuss how the separate scripts demonstrate that Shakespeare was first and foremost an actor who wrote scripts, and not some poetic genius locked up in a room by himself cranking out lines he never blotted.  On the contrary, there's lots and lots and lots of rewrites.

I think the major problem with this theory is that each change between the scripts does not necessarily represent Shakespeare himself saying "Ok, I didn't like that, I'm changing it."  There are many other hands at work, including his fellow actors, the typesetters, and so on.  For any given change between scripts you can't say which one was what Shakespeare intended.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Raul Midon : All The Answers

This is just barely a Shakespeare reference, but I liked it.  Raul Midon performed his song "All The Answers" at the TED conference in March, 2007.  The song is about how these days whenever we want to know something, we just Google for it.  He then goes on to intermix trivial questions where you couldn't care about the answer with philosophical questions where all the googling in the world won't get you the answer.

One of the questions in the latter category is about Shakespeare, and I like the way it fits into the song.


I don't know what made me think of this in the shower this morning, but it was surprisingly easy to Google for.  Anybody remember Laverne and Shirley?  Remember the singing combo, Lenny and the Squigtones?  These days we would probably call it a jump the shark moment when the producers turn to somebody like Michael McKean (who played Lenny, and later starred in This Is Spinal Tap) and say, "Hey, you can sing in real life, let's write a show around your character being able to sing, too."
Anyway, the song is "Starcrossed."  Enjoy...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Thy Eternal Summer Shall Not Fade,22049,23188937-5001021,00.html

OK, I knew that Heath Ledger had died, and that Michelle Williams, mother of his children, was taking it very hard.  The linked story tells of his funeral, which turned into a giant beach party with everybody splashing in the ocean.  What caught my eye was that Williams read Sonnet 18 at the service.  An interesting choice, since folks have such a tendency to focus on the first part, the one all about "You're so beautiful there's really nothing for me to compare you to" that they often forget, or perhaps never knew, the ending and it's thoughts of immortality.

Normally I'm not one for overly quoted Shakespeare just to be deep (I cannot stand weddings where they bust out the old "Let not the marriage of true minds..." thing).  But given the setting for this particular case, it sounds like it must have been a nice sentiment.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Shakespeare on I Don't Believe It

It's true.  Take your typical "List of words Shakespeare invented" and add lots of's famous ... shall we say, "creative" language ... and you've got their latest story.  Here we'll learn the details on the etymology of eyeball, puking, skim milk, obscene, hot-blooded, afoot, epileptic, wormhole, alligator and others.

Somehow I can't help thinking that someday, someone is going to land on that page who Googled for exactly those words, all at once, and left the Cracked operations team with a giant "WTF?" to last them for the rest of their lives.

NSFW Warning, if it wasn't obvious from the first paragraph, the language is not even close to safe for work, and some of the pictures are a bit borderline as well.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Shakespeare and Jesus, Separated At Birth?

I'm not really sure what to do with this article about unleashing your creative genius which uses the rather unusual pairing of Shakespeare and Jesus as its sole example.  All praise that is heaped upon Shakespeare is coupled with "and Jesus too!"

  • William Shakespeare and Jesus Christ were two of the most creative people ever walk on this planet.
  • Both Shakespeare and Jesus, like all truly creative people in all times and all places, took ideas from the world around them, the culture in which they lived, and added their own twist.
  • Most of Shakespeare's plays were retellings of contemporary folk stories or of plays that Shakespeare had watched or acted in...The same is true for Jesus.

I guess if you're a strong believer in Jesus then you're saying "Well, yeah, of course."  It just sounds weird, and I guess it says something for our man Shakespeare, that the son of God  is the one apparently hanging on *his* coat tails. :)

Alas Poor Yorick!

Kenneth Davis has an interesting angle on the role of long dead Yorick in Hamlet.  Specifically he looks at the absence of a jester/fool character in Claudius' court, what that means, how it disrupts the flow of information, and how Hamlet steps in to fill the role.  I found it fascinating.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Decent But Not Great? So's Your Face

Got a huge burst of traffic this morning from this site which was nice enough to point to my post on memorizing Shakespeare with the comment "decent but not great."  Hey, given that I write these things off the top of my head and otherwise have no training in these arts whatsoever (I ain't no actor, any memorizing I do is strictly for fun), that's not bad.  I can only imagine the traffic I would have gotten if they'd written a more positive description!

What I did not notice at first was the lengthy discussion the students had over which links were helpful, and I was very pleased to see a number of students saying that they liked the information.  Except for one at the end who said that she liked them all except mine.  Oh, well.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Shakespeare Superbowl

Whenever something spreads around this rapidly I'm never sure whether to skip it because you all have already seen it, or blog it because that's what I'm supposed to be doing.

Anyway, NPR did this bit of a Shakespearean spin on the upcoming SuperBowl.  As a lifelong Boston native, there was no way I was going to let this one slip by :).