Monday, January 28, 2013

Ghost Guy Hamlet

Here's a different spin on the Hamlet story - Hamlet (and his female pal Veronica Horatio) as modern-day ghost hunters.

It's brand new so I'm not sure where it's going to go, but I wanted to give a boost to some obvious Shakespeare geeks who are trying to do something a bit out of the ordinary.  Check it out, and subscribe so you can see how future episodes turn out!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare—in Haiku (Guest Post)

The Shakespeare Geek blog has been around since 2005, making it the oldest continually active Shakespeare blog in existence. Shakespeare is Universal represents our biggest fund-raising effort to date. For almost eight years and almost three thousand posts I've tried my best to make a place where everyone can talk about everything related to the subject of Shakespeare. If you've found my sites and products useful and interesting, I would greatly appreciate your support so that I can continue to do even more. Thank you.

Several years ago, kj (of Bardfilm fame) happened upon a haiku competition. The competition required joining Twitter, and Bardfilm’s first tweet (which won second prize) was a haiku containing the entirety of Hamlet. Since then, kj has periodically added to his collection of Shakespearean haiku—until he created this astonishing set of poems. Let the world take note: The Complete Works of Shakespeare. (Haiku by Bardfilm).

The Complete Works

The first folio.
Thirty-seven Shakespeare plays.
Not one Pericles.


A wandering ghost.
My dead father cries “Uncle!”
I must have revenge.

The Winter’s Tale

Much like Othello,
I drink—and see the spider.
Perdita is lost.

The Tempest

Thunder, tempest, calm.
Old enemies reconciled.
Caliban remains.


The three weird sisters:
“When shall we three meet again?”
Macbeth: “Don’t ask me!”

Richard III

I want to be King.
So many stand in my way.
King Richard the Third.

As You Like It

All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women
Are merely players.

King Lear

Which one loves me most?
Nothing shall come of nothing.
Foolish, fond old man.

Romeo and Juliet

Running late, of course.
Not that it’s really my fault . . .
What? Juliet’s dead?

The Comedy of Errors

Double, double twins.
Ephesus or Syracuse?
Confusion . . . Resolved.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Four men distain love.
Four lovely ladies arrive.
And now—the sequel.

Love’s Labour’s Found

Where did I put that?
I swear, it was over here.
It will turn up soon.

Titus Andronicus

Endless violence.
Hamlet:  The rest is silence.
Lavinia knows.

Julius Caesar

On the Ides of March.
Which one is honorable?
Brutus was a man.


Honest Iago.
A magical handkerchief.
I loved not wisely.

Timon of Athens

Hating flatterers,
The greatest of misanthropes—
He can’t not find gold.

Antony and Cleopatra

Rome in Tiber melts.
Infinite variety.
At least the asp lives.


For Rome; against Rome; for Rome.
A circle of blood.

Merry Wives of Windsor

Queen Liz liked Falstaff.
“Write one with Sir John in Love.”
It wasn’t his best.

Richard II

Royal throne of kings,
This sceptred isle, this England,
Deposes bad kings.

Henry V

Take one muse of fire,
Add an Agincourt rally:
Make bands of brothers.


Shakespeare plays lined up.
Pericles, the Prince of Tyre,
Nearly forgotten.

1 Henry VI

Triumph on the stage
With ten thousand spectators.
It joyed brave Talbot.

2 Henry VI

Jack Cade steals the show.
Henry Six Ain’t Henry Five.
Kill all the Lawyers.

3 Henry VI

“O tiger’s heart wrapped”
(Runs the play’s most famous line)
“In a woman’s hide.”

1 Henry IV

Young Hal in Eastcheap.
Banish not sweet Jack Falstaff.
Kill Hotspur instead.

2 Henry IV

I know England’s King!
But I know thee not, old man.
Falstaff deflated.

Two Gentlemen of Verona

Who is Sylvia?
Valentine’s no gentleman.
Nor is Proteus.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The course of true love.
Forests, donkeys, love potions.
Puck restores amends.

Measure for Measure

Such hypocrisy.
His urine is congealed ice—
Yet he loves a nun.

Merchant of Venice

Gold, silver, and lead.
The will of a dead father.
And one pound of flesh.

Henry VIII

The Maiden Phoenix.
Her ashes create an heir.
The play burned The Globe.

The Taming of the Shrew

Old Petruchio,
At the end of his life, thinks,
“Wait. Was I the shrew?”

Two Noble Kinsmen

Two master writers.
Whose narrative is better?
Frankly, Chaucer’s is.

King John

Eighteen ninety-nine.
The first Shakespeare play on film.
Beerbohm-Tree’s King John.

Much Ado About Nothing

Merry war of wits.
Much ado about nothing.
Sigh no more, ladies.

Troilus and Cressida

Prium, King of Troy--
Troilus and Cressida.
Wiley Ulysses.

Twelfth Night

Wear yellow stockings.
Have greatness thrust upon you.
Malvolio’s mad.

All’s Well That Ends Well            

Problem comedy:
The bed trick marries Bertram.
Love ever endures.


Imogene is dead.
Golden lads and maids all must—
Hang on—she’s alive!

Our thanks for this guest post to kj, the author of Bardfilm. Bardfilm is a blog that comments on films, plays, and other matters related to Shakespeare.

The Shakespeare Geek blog has been around since 2005, making it the oldest continually active Shakespeare blog in existence. Shakespeare is Universal represents our biggest fund-raising effort to date. For almost eight years and almost three thousand posts I've tried my best to make a place where everyone can talk about everything related to the subject of Shakespeare. If you've found my sites and products useful and interesting, I would greatly appreciate your support so that I can continue to do even more. Thank you.

Poetry By Heart

I love this story about the difference between memorizing things "by rote" versus "by heart".  Although I don't see much reference to Shakespeare in the text, it's not hard to extrapolate.  How often do we use the tired old example of your high school English teacher who forced you to memorize, just for the sake of memorization, the balcony scene?  And the generation of students that can recite it but still hate it, or worse, hate it all the more because of that?

So there's a thought that if you learn by heart it means you take the poem right into yourself, it becomes part of you. And it remains with you, probably for the rest of your life. I think a lot of us can remember bits of poetry that we learned when we were very young. So it's something that lives with you forever.

What bits of Shakespeare have you memorized "by heart"?  I can do some rote bits of Dream or Macbeth or even the dreaded balcony scene, but other than as a "go to" bit of text when I need it, there's no love for those passages.  I know Sonnet 18 by heart because for years I sang it to my children at bedtime.  I know Sonnet 17 by heart because I recited it to my wife during our first wedding dance.  I'll admit that I don't know "by heart" many longer passages, just some turns of phrase here and there that truly resonate just right where you need them.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Can There Be Too Much Shakespeare?

Honestly I never thought I'd ask this question.  Part of the life of this blog has been spotting every random tv commercial and sitcom that decides to mix in a Shakespeare storyline (hello, Cosby show...) and, in general, we come away with a "Hey, any exposure to Shakespeare is a good thing" feeling.

But lately I wonder.  I've been reading the Giver series with my daughter lately. There's a scene in one of the later books where two children, both poor children in impoverished communities who were never given the chance to read, grow up in different villages.  Both learn to read independently.  When they meet up again after several years, the boy shouts, "I can read Shakespeare!" and the girl shouts back, "Me too!'

Come on, the author's not even trying there.  I think I'd like to see Shakespeare's name invoked for a reason beyond just some generic "I'm smart now" measuring stick.

"Hey, see that 6 year old over there, he's really smart."
  "Really, how smart?"
"Oh, he reads Shakespeare."
  "Wow, that is smart!"

It's not really all that different from an episode of Cosby where Theo and his buddy don't want to do their homework, so they try to skip out on Julius Caesar by getting the Cliff Notes.  The difference comes in the fact that the episode in question was full of the text, as well as Christopher freakin Plummer doing a guest spot pretty much solely so he could do some Shakespeare.

In The Giver books I see no use of Shakespeare other than the aforementioned "Look how smart I am" checkbox.  Yes there's a quote about Macbeth, but it's thrown in so randomly that I can barely tell you which quote (something from Lady M, I believe) or even where it came up.

The Shakespeare Matrix

In a thread today on Reddit someone asked about your "Forever Project."  That idea you have that on the one hand seems impossible, like the kind of thing that you wish existed but know never will...but, at the same time, it's the idea that won't go away, and you're always (at least, as an engineer/programmer/hacker) thinking, "Hmm....could I build that?"

It was only then that I thought of how to describe mine.  I call it The Shakespeare Matrix.

We've all seen the movie The Matrix, right?  All of humanity have been enslaved by aliens, hooked up to a giant virtual reality world so perfect that most of them spend their entire lives never realizing that they're inside a computer simulation.  That is, except for Keanu Reeves and his band of ... pirates?  Rebels?  Who have discovered how to hack the system and program it to do the things they want it to do.  Need to know martial arts?  No need to spend years training - just alter the program so that your character simulation knows kung fu.  I bring up this example as an excuse to link one of the best movie fight scenes ever filmed.   (Everybody knows that this is the best movie fight scene ever filmed.  WHO'S DA MASTER?)  Once Keanu masters his talent he begins to see the world around him *as actual source code*.

Anyway, I get off topic.  What I want is a Shakespeare Matrix.  I want a virtual reality world where you can walk around and watch the plays in any number of ways - maybe as the audience, maybe as a character, maybe you interact directly with the characters.  At any time you can summon Shakespeare himself and have a conversation with him as well.  You can also pull up the  original text, much like pulling up the source code to the matrix.  And when I say original text I mean all of it - easy access to Folio and Quarto versions alike, along with all the glossary and reference materials that you might need.

There's been a whole bunch of people talking about this over the years.  I notice that "Hamlet on the Holodeck" was published back in the late 90's.  I'm not a big believer in the holodeck idea, I don't think that will ever meaningfully happen.  But I do know that the Second Life universe had a Shakespeare group.  And then there was the abandoned massive multiplayer universe "Arden" that I had high hopes for, but gives you an idea about the realities of a project of this scope.

Anyway, not really a question in this one, I just wanted to brain dump a little about the Matrix idea, because I just thought of it and I really like the comparison.  As I think of the different kinds of software that could be used for browsing Shakespeare I always teeter back and forth between "Make something light and easy for the everyday user, like students doing their homework...make a game!" and "Make the ultimate reference guide so that the experts who need access to boatloads of very specific Shakespeare information have a single place where they can get it."  Technically the latter is easier because manipulating pure information like that is easier than the visual work that needs to be done to make even the most basic game.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Duck Walks Into A Bard

What came first, Shakespeare or duck jokes?  Our favorite playwright may have invented the "knock knock" joke as well as the "yo mama" joke, but we're having trouble coming finding any duck jokes in the First Folio (although we do learn that Trinculo can swim like one).

So, Bardfilm and I decided to help out.  We've done chicken crossing the road jokes, light bulb jokes, knock knock jokes ... it was only a matter of time, wasn't it?  It's time for

Shakespeare Duck Jokes

  • What do you get when you cross a duck with the innkeeper from the Henry plays?  Mistress Quackly
  • Duck walks into an apothecary shoppe and orders a dram of poison.  Apothecary says, "Let me guess, you want me to put that on your bill."

    Duck says, "No I need to get to Juliet's tomb first, I'll do it there."OR

    Duck looks aghast and says, "What're ya trying to do, kill me?!"
  • "Blow, winds, and quack your cheeks!"   - Duckling Lear
  • Why was the duck nervous about seeing Hamlet?  He heard someone threaten to "Murder Most Fowl."
  • Ophelia is out picking flowers when she sees a branch of particularly nice ones dangling out over the river.  She sees a duck swimming by and calls out, "Hey duck!  How deep is the water?"

    "About waist deep," the duck answers back.

    Ophelia confidently strides into the water, immediately goes in over her head and is swept away by the current.  Gertrude, who saw this whole thing happen, shouts at the duck, "You told her the water was only waist deep!"

    Duck says, "It is to me!"
  • Falstaff walks into a bar with a duck under one arm.  He sits at the bar, puts the duck down on a stool next to him.  Mistress Quickly comes over and says, "Get that filthy animal away from my bar!"  Falstaff lifts the duck off the stool, places him on the floor.  Mistress Quickly says, "I was talking to the duck, Jack."
  • Gloucester's at the top of the Cliffs of Dover.  He screams, "How do I get down?"  Edgar screams back, "OFF A DUCK!"
  • Will Shakespeare is walking toward the tavern one day when he sees Ben Jonson coming from the other direction.  Suddenly the Earl of Oxford sneaks up behind Shakespeare an hurls a tremendous piece of ox manure at him.  "Duck!" yells Jonson to Shakespeare.  "Swan!" Shakespeare calls back, "We decided you'd call me" and thats when he got smacked with the manure.
  • Duck says to Hamlet, "I forget all my lines in the next scene!"  Hamlet says, "Can't you just wing it?"

Thanks as always to Bardfilm, the Hardy to my Laurel, the Curly to my Larry, the Lewis to my Martin, the Kermit to my Fozzie Bear.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's The New Shrew Review, Coming Right At You

(* Ok, please tell me somebody gets that reference.)

I just read today that former Disney princess and modern day movie darling Anne Hathaway is signed on to a new Taming of the Shrew movie?  How cool would that be?  The article suggests that she'll of course play Katharina, which I suppose make sense given her star power -- I think the only other role would be Bianca, and that's very much just a supporting role.

But two questions spring immediately to mind.  First, who should be her Petruchio?  Obviously this movie's going to skew to a younger audience so I don't think we'll see any Russell Crowes or Ralph Fiennes' stepping up.  How about Chris Hemsworth, the dude that played Thor?  There's already a bit of ol' Shakespeare about much of his dialogue anyway.  He's got the rough sound and look about him that he might be able to play Petruchio.

Second question - do we think that anybody's ever going to match Liz Taylor and Richard Burton?  That wasn't just a haphazard hookup of who happened to be hot in Hollywood (see what I did there? Ha!).  They were on a completely different level than that, and it showed.  The fact that it was Shakespeare was really just a bonus -- wasn't that the first (and only?) Shakespeare that she ever did?  Burton was a different story, of course.

When Kenneth Branagh or David Tenant (feel free to borrow some N's from each other, boys, I can never remember how to spell either of your names) makes with the modern Shakespeare, I think we see it differently.  They are Shakespeareans, and decades from now students will discuss their interpretations alongside Olivier.  But ... is Anne Hathaway the next Dame Judi Dench or Helen Mirren? Do young actors today have the Royal Shakespeare Company to fall back on, to produce the next Patrick Stewart or Ian McKellen?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Set Your DVR - Prince of Players is Coming!

I love it when I trip over stuff.  While searching my TV Guide for Shakespeare stuff today I spotted that on January 19, on the FOX Movie Channel, Prince of Players will be on. Richard Burton plays Edwin Booth during his stellar Shakespearean career, while his brother John Wilkes plots to .... well, we all know that story.  This is, in many people's opinions, one of Burton's best performances (see JM's comments on the original review!) and one of the best interpretations of "A movie with Shakespeare in it" (as opposed to "A Shakespeare movie") that I've yet seen.

If you've got a DVR and you've got that channel, don't miss the opportunity.  This one is rarely shown, not available on DVD that we know of, and you really should see it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bluffing Shakespeare

So for Christmas this year I got "The Shakespeare Handbook : The Bard in Brief" because the catch phrase "The essential bluffer's guide" caught my attention.  People are always looking to get me Shakespeare things, so I told my wife to show this to the kids and then wrap it and give it to me. :)

The book takes an in depth look at individual scenes from the plays.  Specifically 50 scenes from less than 40 plays, which means some get doubles.
(First thought -- 37, actually. Noble Kinsmen left out, as is Double Falsehood / Cardenio).

It's a very nice book, well made.  Hardcover, big (8.5"x11" sort of big).  Each play is accompanied by pictures, such as Elizabeth Taylor's Kate, or Al Pacino's Merchant.  Each play comes with a summary of what it's about, why Shakespeare wrote it (context, if nothing else), and then sidebars and insets describing little trivia tidbits like what "gleek" might have meant.

I've only just started flipping through it, but I thought it would be fun to look at what scenes the author felt were crucial to the 'essential bluffer'.   Does Midsummer, for example, have the final play-within-a-play?  Puck's "If we shadows have offended?"  Oberon's "I know a bank where the wild thyme grows?"  Decisions, decisions.  Let's see, shall we?

Two! Two scenes.  Act II Scene i right off the bat, with Oberon's "I know a bank..." quote highlighted on the section cover.  And......(flip flip flip).....Act III, Scene i, the translation of Bottom into an ass.

I like it.  There's lots of content to read through, and I don't have time at the moment to truly dig into every individual decision the author made, but I hope to periodically pick and choose a section for us to discuss.

Until then ... name a play, try to guess what scene or scenes he included, and I'll let you know in the comments!  Hamlet's an easy one.  Who wants to guess what scene is included from M4M, or maybe Pericles?

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Bard Cake!

I would kill to see Cake Boss do an episode like this - a cake full of Shakespeare's most famous characters.

Of course, much like Cake Boss, making something out of cake technically means making it out of chocolate, sugar, rice krispy treats and then sitting the sculptures on top of said cake.  But, still!

Here's your challenge, Shakespeare geeks!  The opening picture in the article shows the entire cake.  Then, each character is explained.  So before you scroll down to read the whole article, see how many characters you recognize.

I just love that somebody's pursued by a bear.  I want to meet whoever made this cake.

UPDATE : It appears that Romeo is being pursued by a bear?  Although in fairness it could be a kangaroo. Also, who is the snowman looking royal dude on the lower level supposed to be, Hamlet's father's ghost?  The rest seem pretty recognizable. Note the arras with the blade sticking out of it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

List, List, O List! Happy 2013, We're Back!

Happy New Year, everyone!  Hope you've all had wonderful holidays.  Over the next few days I'll try to catch us all up on what's been going on the last few weeks while we were on hiatus.

Until then, our resident listmaster Bardfilm gave us all a New Year's present in the form of a new list!  I happily and proudly present ...

William Shakespeare's New Year's Resolutions

Lose some weight. Too many Falstaff jokes. 
Try another comedy like King Lear--not sure everyone got how funny that ending is. 
Move to new lodgings to avoid taxes. 
Finally finish that biography. I owe it to my public to clear up some misconceptions. 
Try to get that manuscript of Cardenio back from the Earl of Oxford. Note: Don't let him borrow anything else. He's always stealing other people's plays. 
Three words: More cuckold jokes. 
Write back to Marlowe.  It's been hard keeping in touch since the whole faking his death thing.
Get an extra-large codpiece and try to be a bigger hit with the ladies this year! 
Branch out a bit. Perhaps write something in that new form called "The Novel."
See if I can write another fairy play. Maybe this time on an island.  Score more weed from Henslowe, being stoned really helped with that first one.
Seriously, lose some weight. People are starting to say, "How many pledges to Shylock have you got under that doublet, Will?" 
Write dedication for the sonnets book I'm doing with Thorpe.  Or just let him do it. 
Give up the combover. It's time to face being bald. See if they can change that in the portrait with the earring. Note: Oh, that earring! What was I THINKING?