Saturday, November 23, 2013

Nexus 7 Shakespeare Commercial

Thanks to my wife for pointing this commercial out when I missed it!  Google tells us that the Nexus 7 is as good at reading the classics as it is at reading the best sellers, and uses Romeo and Juliet to prove it:

What's unusual is that a father appears to be reading Romeo & Juliet to his daughter as a bedtime story.  I'm not sure if I love that or find that bizarre.  Maybe he's going to skip all the dead people.

Is it wrong that I totally want one now, just because of this commercial? I have no need for it, there's Kindle Fires all over my house and I develop software for the iPad at work.  But still.  Seems like the kind of advertising I'd want to support :).

UPDATE : Found the whole 30second spot! Apologies, I'd grabbed the first one I saw and didn't realize that one I posted wasn't the whole thing.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Blank Verse : A Shakespeare Web Series?!


BlankVerse is a web series that recasts William Shakespeare and all of his contemporaries as modern college students.    Apparently it's been running since August 25 and will continue to the end of the year.

I'd write more but I have to go watch every single episode right now.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When Does Hamlet Cast His Nighted Color Off

Here's another one of those teeny details that I enjoy exploring.  When we first see Hamlet he's traditionally dressed in black, in support of this exchange with his mother:


Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
Ay, madam, it is common.
If it be,
Why seems it so particular with thee?
Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not 'seems.'
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly: these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

Maybe I'm painting this with too broad a stroke but I've always taken this to mean that everybody else is done with the mourning period, that only Hamlet is still wearing black, and his mother would like him to be happy again.

My question is this -- does he simply wear black throughout the rest of the play and nothing is said of it again?  A reasonable period of time passes, does it not?  When he gets back from England, he's still mourning?  Or maybe after he's seen the ghost and has now gone into his antic disposition, he changes his clothes?  Signifying, at least to his parents, that he's no longer obsessed with his father?

Assuming for the moment that that's not true, and that he spends the whole play in black. How would it change his character if, at some point in the play, you put him in some other color?  Where would you do it?

Idea - right after the play within a play, where Claudius guilt is shown, and Hamlet is whooping it up with Horatio that his plan worked, maybe there's an opportunity for him to grab a random scarf or other bit of cloth discarded by one of the players, and wrap it around himself.  Just a glimpse, while he's talking to Horatio.  Then, when R&G and Polonius show up, he drops it again.  There's me being a director for you. :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Curious Case of Five Hamlets

So Saturday was the big day! I'd been training my girls on Hamlet, so that they could actually understand what was going on before seeing the play produced by the local high school (where they'll be going in a few years, and hopefully performing).

My son has religious education practice, so he couldn't join us. Which gave my wife this opportunity to a quick cheap shot:

Son: How come the girls don't have to go?

Wife: The girls are going to see Hamlet.

Son: How come they get to have fun!

Wife: They're not. They're going to see Hamlet.

Ouch.  I'll get you for that.

Anyway, the girls put on their Shakespeare is Universal shirts and we head to the show.

And, as always, I end up disappointed. In my brain I tell myself that I'm about to walk into a whole bunch of people of all ages who want to talk about Shakespeare, and education, and educating people about Shakespeare. I imagine people engaging my kids in conversation when they see their shirts.  I imagine seeing parents whose kids got to read Hamlet last week because of me.

None of this happens. One volunteer says, "I like your shirt" to one of my girls, and that is the entirety of discussion.  This is not a mingly crowd. This is a crowd made up entirely of parents whose kids are on stage.  I don't know what I expected (well, that's not true, see above) but I should have known better.

While waiting for the show to start, my girls read the program and begin asking me who "Juggler" and "Lady Nora" are.  I have no frickin idea who those people are, until we decide that they've given proper names to all of the Players.  Fine.

My older then notices that the character of Hamlet shows up twice in the list.  I figure that is understudy or something, but it's not marked that way. We then realize that there are *5* Hamlets listed.  All girls.  Interesting. I assume that this is a case of the director needing to cast everybody who auditioned, or something.

The play begins, and out come ... all the Hamlets?  This should be interesting.

They immediately launch into the "too too solid flesh" speech, entirely out of context.  They yell it, in sync with each other.  I guess this is supposed to give us our backstory, because it touches on the death of Hamlet's father and the o'erhasty marriage of his mother to his uncle.  But honestly, what are you doing? If somebody came to this play actually trying to understand it for the very first time, why would you do that?  Both my girls asked me what was going on, and I just shrugged and said I'd explain later.  My expectations were all messed up now.

After the five Hamlets, then the play begins with the famous "Who's there?" and the changing of the guard.  At least from that point on, I'm pretty sure they stuck to the script.

The five Hamlets come out at the same time.  Four hang back while one delivers lines.  They often switch. During the big speeches they interchange their lines, speak in sync, and other gimmicky things.  I'm still not sure what this is supposed to be.  I thought maybe it could be some sort of "facets of Hamlet's personality" thing, but I don't think that's what the director was going for - they are all dressed identically, even during costume changes.  There is a certain progression of Hamlet's insanity as his (her?) wardrobe unravels throughout the play, but that's the only real development of this device I saw.

Followers on Twitter may have seen my rant about this, but THEY CUT YORICK.  We have a gravedigger's scene, including all the gravedigger jokes, and at one point the gravedigger starts pulling skulls out of the grave in front of Hamlet and Horatio.  But, no Yorick speech.

I should mention that this performance is part of a "90 minute Shakespeare" festival.  So there's to be cuts. Sometimes, big ones. I do not envy the director who has to decide what to cut. But I am curious whether any of you cut the Yorick speech.

Other bits that were cut include Hamlet coming across Claudius at prayer and deciding not to kill him. Also, Ophelia only got a single crazy scene (before Laertes returns home).  I think they just folded everything for her into the single scene, but I couldn't tell you exactly what might have been cut.

What they didn't cut? Fortinbras. All the Fortinbras scenes (including all the Cornelius and Voltimand scenes) remain.  I thought that an odd choice, if they were aggressively cutting for running time.  Take the ending, for example. Did we end on "The rest is silence"?  Nope.  Hamlet dies.  Then Fortinbras (who the audience has only seen once) enters, and Horatio actually shouts his final lines, stomping up and down the stage, and I'm like, "WTF is he doing?" Fortinbras then gets the final lines, although I should go back and check my text because I did not hear "Bid the soldiers shoot."

Observations from my kids:

* I pointed out when "To be or not to be" was coming. My oldest held out her hand and said, "No skull?"  So she clearly was still getting the two speeches confused.  I've seen lots of people do that.  It doesn't help that I have a t-shirt that shows the To Be speech drawn out in the shape of Yorick's skull.

* My younger was mostly lost.  It didn't help that they could barely hear what was going on, so if they didn't have a very clear understanding of the characters and plot to follow along, I could see where it would be confusing.

* They both spotted the doubling. The actor playing the ghost showed up in some other role, which they spotted...and I'm pretty sure that dead Polonius played the priest at Ophelia's funeral, which was really confusing.

* During Ophelia's singing, my oldest leaned over to me and said, "I am so doing this."  I asked, "You want to play Ophelia?"  She said, "Well, any role, but Shakespeare definitely."

* My oldest told me that she saw at least one fellow student from her class, and wondered whether he'd been convinced to come see the play after reading my book.  I expect that the odds were more in favor of his sister being a Hamlet.

I only went to one performance of three, so I have no idea what the crowd was like at the other two. I've not yet received any actual feedback from the teachers who were using my text in their classes.  I'd like to think that I helped, but honestly between the way they cut this production and the fact that it was impossible to follow the text when you couldn't hear it, I don't know how much I helped.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

NaNoWriMo #6 : My ... Debut?

Yesterday, Friday, I woke up mopey.  I complained to my wife that although I'd circulated my work to about a half a dozen people, nobody had given me a word of feedback.  I do not count the generic "Wow this is amazing this is so great!"  I can take criticism (at least, some.  I do still like to hear the parts you liked :)).  The show is today (or tomorrow, in the context of yesterday, got that?) so I was afraid that my whole "Get kids interested in Hamlet so they'll be more interested in going to see it" thing was going out the window.

Got a text from my daughter yesterday afternoon to let me know that her teacher had her classes reading my work!  *snoopy dance*

"What did they think?" I text back.

"They said they understood it. Some were a little upset that everybody died. Some thought the dying part was great (the boys)."

Nice.  I found that particularly amusing because, after my daughter was confused over Laertes' death, I'd gone back in and rewritten my summary so that they truly fell like dominoes, leaving nothing to confusion.

This morning I got more details.  The teacher had three of her classes read my work directly, which I figure has to be approaching 75-100 kids.  Some did not have the time, so according to my daughter she, "wrote it out on the board."  I figured out that at this point she was telling them Hamlet herself, and not specifically using my work.  But, as my daughter pointed out, since by then she'd been through multiple readings and discussions, she no doubt was borrowing some of my ideas.

I asked again whether kids liked it.

"People were coming up to me and asking whether it has a happy ending," she said, "while they were still in the middle of it."

No, no it does not.  Except for Fortinbras and Horatio, of course.

And me.  Today, I am happy. I like that this may have gone to the next level.  For the past few years, me as Shakespeare guy has seemed a very local sort of thing, like only the people that I've personally met know me and what I do.  But there's only one middle school in the whole town (there are three elementary schools), so my audience is suddenly 3x the size and now there's going to be kids going home to their parents, parents who have no idea who I am, and saying "We read Hamlet today, because this girl's father is writing a book about it."

Today is the show.  I'm terribly curious whether my little effort has succeeded in putting any butts in the seats, or whether I'd know if it had.  My girls are coming with me, wearing their Shakespeare is Universal shirts of course, and I've got a pocket full of business cards, so I'm prepared!

Show is at 2pm.  I'll report back.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

NaNoWriMo #5(?) : Milestone Achieved!

Ok, I set a goal for myself of having something to distribute to strangers by Wednesday. Today I asked my daughter to approach her teacher and ask whether she'd be interested in seeing the early version of my work. She said absolutely she would, and with permission she would share it with her class.  I also took the opportunity to email my other daughter's fourth grade teacher, who also said that she'd happily read it.

So my first draft, sitting at just over 3800 words, is now sitting in both those inboxes. How will two actual teachers of this stuff take it? I honestly have no idea, and I'm quite curious. They could hate it. But I've since learned that this would not be the end of the world, and the feedback is crucial to the project. I know the audience I'm aiming at, and they know that audience better than I, so I can't be afraid of what they've got to tell me.

The only thing I fear would be anything coming back on my kids. I asked my oldest daughter whether it would be embarrassing for her to have my book in progress read by all her friends. She said, and I'm quoting, "No it wouldn't be embarrassing at all why would you even think that it would be. I think it would be awesome."

What other encouragement does a father need?

Before the night's out I'm going to send copies to a couple of other teachers from the past who showed an interest in our Shakespeare work. The younger the class the more unlikely that they'll be able to share the material, but I can still get the teacher's input.

My Missed Yorick

Bardfilm just learned this story, and insisted that I post it. To this day the significance had not clicked with me.  Since the story was relayed via instant message, I'll copy it here to give it the same flavor:

Although, true story, we did find a skull once.

I now regret not being into Shakespeare yet at the time.  True once in a lifetime opportunity missed.

What kinda skull? Human.

Some random Saturday morning, back in the days when the kids could just say "Going out!" and be gone on an adventure all day.

We were wandering around "the marsh" area of town, going on various adventures, when one of the kids in the lead (my cousin Joey) spotted a brown paper bag on the trail.  He kicked it, in case some sort of treasure lie within.

And by treasure, I mean Playboy magazines, beer, etc....

Out rolls a skull.

I can't honestly remember how much of a skull it was, but it was clearly a human skull.

My cousin had gloves, so he picked it up and we began marching home with it.

Vivid memory of walking down the street in a procession, as a car came the other way and slowed as we walked.

My cousin actually had the presence of mind to say "What'samatter, lady? You're looking at me like I got two heads."

We get it home (his home), parents call the police.

That's when one of the kids in the group (Richie), loses it.  He announces that the bad guys who killed the guy in the first place are gonna find us and kill us, and runs all the way home to his own house.

Turns out it had been stolen by somebody working in the nearby museum or something, and was part of some old indian exhibit.

I wish I could remember when this had happened, but I figure I had to be younger than 13 years old. My love for all things Shakespeare had not yet kicked in, so poor Yorick never crossed my mind until this very day. After posting this I will contact my mom, see if she remembers when this story took place. I'm also going to cc my brother, who was there at the time.

That was our oh so brief "Stand By Me" moment.  We got written up in the town newspaper, but only cousin Joey got his name in the paper.

UPDATED August 18, 2014 : My cousin Joey died this morning after a long illness.  RIP, Gizz.

Monday, November 11, 2013

NaNoWriMo #4 Update

Hovering at just over 3000 words.  Have let several people read the rough draft and gotten feedback, which I've incorporated. Turns out that when you're writing for this age level, if you don't clearly say "and then he dies," your reader won't realize that the character has died. When I heard, "Wait, Laertes dies?!" discussed between my daughters I had to go back and look at what I'd written was this:

Laertes, now near death himself, tells Hamlet everything: how the wine was poisoned, how the sword was poisoned, how Hamlet himself is as good as dead and just hasn’t fallen down yet. He tells Hamlet that it was all Claudius, and begs Hamlet’s forgiveness.
I guess they're right, it's not exactly clear :).

I've also got some rudimentary structure in my head that hopefully I can flesh out enough to give to non-family members and have it not look half finished. I've started and restarted Hamlet guides many times over the years, and I've always found the hardest part is in having a lot to say and not knowing the best way to organize it.  This hard deadline and fixed audience is at least putting me on the right track to complete something, even if it doesn't give Harold Bloom a run for his money.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Like Polonius, Like Laertes

Act I, Scene 3 
And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord,
With almost all the holy vows of heaven.
Ay, springes to catch woodcocks.


Act V, Scene 2 
How is't, Laertes? 
Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe, Osric;
I am justly kill'd with mine own treachery.
Never noticed that before.

Friday, November 08, 2013

NaNoWriMo #3 - Formatting Time

Wordcount : 2844

I was more interested in editing today. You look at what I've got written and it's seven pages of nothing but lengthy paragraphs.  I don't expect middle schoolers to dive right into that.

Here's the conversation I had with my 11yr old test subject this morning (my daughter):

Me: Did you read the latest version?

Her: I did.

Me: What did you think, did you like it?

Her: I did like it. It's good.

Me: What should I change?

Her: Nothing.

Me: Seriously, it won't hurt my feelings, there's got to be things that I can change to make it better.

Her: No, really, nothing. It's good. Don't change it.

Me: Really?  Nothing?

Her:  ....wellllll......who is Gertrude?

Me: ...  ummm.....err......QUEEN Gertrude?  Hamlet's MOTHER?

Her:  Ohhhhhhh!

Me:  That's in the second sentence!

Her: Well I didn't get it!

Me:  You just said it was good it was good don't change a thing!

<later, in front of the computer>

Me: I used the word Gertrude 11 times.  I used the word mother 11 times. I'm not sure where it got confusing.

Her: Yeah but you never said mother Gertrude together!

Me: You mean other than here in the second sentence where I wrote Hamlet's mother Gertrude?

Her:  There should be a comma there.

Me: What?

Her: After mother.  Hamlet's mother, comma, Gertrude.

Me: That's not the point!

Tonight we're visiting friends, who have a daughter my own daughter's age who is also into theatre.  The whole family is extraordinarily well-read but admittedly weak in Shakespeare. They also know I'm doing this project. I will almost certainly bring them a copy.

The Artist Formerly Known as Prince Hamlet

Oh, it's on now.

While working on my Hamlet guide for the kids I wanted to make sure I had my capitalization rules correct, so I asked on Twitter.  When speaking of Hamlet, do you capitalize the word "prince"?  I figure there's multiple ways to say it:

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Hamlet, who happens to be Prince of Denmark
Prince Hamlet of Denmark

and so on.

What I got back for the most part said, "If he is the only prince, i.e. he has no siblings, then it is his title and titles are capitalized. So, always Prince."

Until this morning when a professional copy editor checked in and said, "Nope, titles in general are not capitalized.  Prince Hamlet yes, but Hamlet prince of Denmark is just a description so no."

Let the bloodshed begin.  Which is it?  Cite your references.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

NaNoWriMo Challenge, Day #2

See Day 1 here, if you're curious about why we're 7 days in to November and I just started counting.

Today's word count : 2545

My "brain dump" portion is relatively complete. As I explained to my daughter, this is the raw version where I just make sure that I get the information on the page.  It's not even what I'd call a rough draft because there's no formatting at all (short of paragraph breaks).

Now I want to go through and flesh it out, add what I missed, clarify thoughts, stuff like that. I found myself explaining what was up with Fortinbras, why the story has to end with him, rather than on "The rest is silence," although some productions might well cut it there.

My daughter is reading it each day with the following guideline: "Could you give this to a friend to read? Would your friend understand it? Would your friend want to see Hamlet after reading it?"

All three questions are important. I don't want to make something that you would tell a student she must read.  Then it's just another form of homework. I'm aiming for "This was an enjoyable read all by itself, and now I want to go see this story performed on stage" rather than "I read this because you told me to and I'll go see Hamlet if I have to."

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

My Own Little NaNoWriMo Challenge, Day 1

I've always wanted to tackle the NaNoWriMo challenge ("National Novel Writer's Month"), where authors commit to writing a thousand words a day for a month. For various reasons, I have not.

That doesn't mean I can't create my own, however.  As I mentioned yesterday, my daughter's high school is performing Hamlet November 16-17. That's a week and a half away. My goal is to produce a summary/guide/cheatsheet to the play that could be circulated among the 11yr olds (my daughter's friends) that would meet two goals:  first, that they could actually understand what's going on, and second, that it might prove interesting enough that they want to go see the play.

Last night I knocked out 1382 words on the subject.

I'll report back daily until my task is complete.  Unlike NaNoWriMo where the goal of the entire month is word count (with editing presumably to follow), I have a hard deadline of next Thursday (allowing them time to read it before show time!) for something that's at least acceptably edited and formatted.

Wish me broken legs!  Because if I broke a leg then I could stay home from work and write more about Shakespeare. :)

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Still Dreaming Is Almost Here!

Back in April 2011 I told you about Still Dreaming, the next project from Hank Rogerson (who brought us the award winning Shakespeare Behind Bars). At the time they were looking for funds to start filming, and they easily hit their goal and went off to do just that.

Fast forward two years and filming is complete! But it does take a great deal of effort (and, ahem, resources) to see a movie through to completion, and they're looking for funds to complete the work on "hiring a composer, doing a sound mix, titles, and final polish."

To describe the project I can do no better than return to what I wrote originally:

What I think is amazing about the potential for this story is that they're not just walking into their local nursing home and sticking a script in front of a bunch of people who've never acted a day in their long lives (although that would be a story in itself, albeit a different one). These are people who have been entertainers for decades, and who aren't letting age get in the way of their ability to continue being entertainers. 
"What is it like to lead a creative life, even at the end of your life?" Spitzmiller asks in voiceover. It works on a whole bunch of levels. We talk an awful lot about the universality of Shakespeare, and I think we're about to witness another demonstration of it.

The mission statement for Shakespeare Geek has become, "Shakespeare makes life better." I think that if Hank has his way we're going to see a demonstration of exactly that.  If you'd like to see Still Dreaming become a reality, please consider donating to their fundraising campaign.

Summarizing Shakespeare

For years, loyal readers know, I've been telling Shakespeare stories to my children. Sometimes as a bedtime story, sometimes by request, and sometimes to entire classrooms of elementary school children.  Thus far it's been fairly straightforward, and I've been able to tell most of them off the top of my head.

This month is got complicated.  My daughter, at 11yrs old, is in middle school (sixth grade) and starting down the theatre road (she's playing an orphan in their production of Annie next month).  What's interesting is that in the high school, just three short years away, they do Shakespeare.  This year it's Hamlet.

I thought, "I know! I'll write up a Hamlet intro/guide/summary/cheat sheet that's not just an off-the-top-of-my-head summary, but an actual short ebook that would be advanced enough for middle school kids to understand. My goal : a middle school student reads my book, then goes to see Hamlet, and actually gets a better experience because of it." I even told my daughter that I'd have something for her, and that if we thought it was good enough, maybe she could forward it around to some of her friends. My true goal would be to go straight to her teachers, of course, and distribute it that way.

And here I sit, word processor at the ready, half a dozen attempts started and restarted.  How do you summarize Shakespeare?  At one end you just collapse it down to the essential plot line, leave out most of the interesting bits, and end up with something that could as easily be the Lion King. But at the far end of the spectrum you get something in the "modern English translation" category where you're so afraid to leave out even a single bit that you go through the play word by word, "updating" it in the hopes of making it easier to understand? Does that ever work?

I'm looking for advice.  I don't want to do some sort of novelization where I'm reinventing setting and dialogue.  I want to tell enough of the play, presumably to an audience that's not yet seen it, that when they *do* see it they'll recognize what's going on and be able to pay attention to details that I've told them ahead of time to watch for.

Right now I'm going scene by scene, almost as if they were on flash cards.  That at least gives me a baseline to treat the entire play on equal footing (rather than front loading it with all the introductory stuff and the whipping through other scenes too quickly).  I'm not sure how that will format in the final version.  I'd also like to something more character driven.  I definitely believe in the "short attention span" approach, and would like to serve up Hamlet in a number of bite-sized, more easily processed bits.  If my reader wants to absorb them in random order, that's fine with me.

How would you summarize Shakespeare?  Would you swing more toward the "less is more" side, cutting out everything that gets in the way? Or is every detail important, and it's all a matter of how succinctly you explain them?

Monday, November 04, 2013

What Francisco Saw

While trying to explain all of Hamlet's characters to my daughter I found another interesting spin I'd never considered.

Poor Francisco is in the play entirely to hand over the watch to Bernardo and Marcellus (and Horatio, but he's not technically one of the guards). 

How come one guy is being relieved by two?

Second question - do you think Francisco saw the ghost? 

Think about it. He has no witnesses to back his story. Who is he going to tell?  At least Marcellus and Bernardo have someone else with them so they can do that whole "Did you see what I just saw?" dance.  But Francisco's just out there by his lonesome with no one to talk to but himself.

I got a laugh out of the image of the ghost appearing before Francisco, and Francisco just staring blankly back at him.  The ghost, who is here to get a message to Hamlet, gets more and more frustrated at Francisco's refusal to tell anybody that he eventually throws up his hands and tries Marcellus and Bernardo.  Meanwhile Francisco's all, "Yeah, I'm not saying a word about this."

You could even work it in here:

BERNARDO Have you had ... quiet guard?

FRANCISCO (wait for it.....wait for it.....) Not a mouse stirring.
"If you're asking whether I saw the ghost of dead king Hamlet then no I most certainly did not thank you very much, I'm going to bed."

GIVEAWAY - Star Wars Shakespeare!

Ok, so. I've had this review copy of Ian Doescher's "William Shakespeare's Star Wars" for months, given to me by the publisher, with the intent that I post a review.  And then I never did it.  The more time goes past the more I tell myself I should, and then I feel guilty that I'd be forcing myself to review it out of guilt and thus not give it a fair review, and then I put it off even longer.

So it's only fair that I give it to someone who is going to review it.

How To Enter

1) You must be a Shakespeare blogger.  You can prove this by posting something on your Shakespeare blog, linking back to (the homepage if you please, not this specific post).

2) You must not have previously reviewed the book. I don't know why you'd want another copy if you already have one, but I need to put this in.  I'd like the book to go to someone who has not yet read it, and would like to.

3) In your post, make a Shakespeare/Star Wars reference of some sort. Be creative.  Here's a whole bunch of ideas to get you started.

4) Contact me and let me know you've done this and where I can check.

5) Do all of this before end of day Saturday, November 9, 2013.  That's this Saturday. End of day for the detail-oriented folks means midnight in the Eastern Standard time zone, counting for daylight savings time. I've never had anybody run it down to the minute before but my lawyers insist I say that.

6) Continental US residents only, please.

Obviously I am hoping that the winner will succeed where I failed, and post a review of the book. I can't force that ahead of time, I can only ask nicely.  So whoever does win, please post a review of the book?  Thanks :)

Hamlet's Crazy Timeline

I'm working my way through a Hamlet summary for my daughter (their high school is performing Hamlet next week!) and I want to make sure I understand something.  Here's the timeline of how Hamlet's "antic disposition" goes down:

* Hamlet sees ghost.  Hatches plan to "put an antic disposition on."

* Scene with Polonius where Ophelia runs in to tell her father that "she has been so affrighted" that Hamlet wandered into her room looking all crazy and what not. Polonius decides that he's mad from love and runs to tell the king and queen.

* Scene with Claudius and Gertrude, who have already summoned Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to snap Hamlet out o this mood he's been in.

* Polonius enters, announcing that he has discovered the cause of Hamlet's madness. The queen says well duh it's obviously his father's death and our o'erhasty marriage.

* Polonius then reads the love letters that Hamlet has sent Ophelia.

So I'm trying to figure out how much time is going by here.  If we take Ophelia out of the picture we're led to believe that significant time has passed, for Claudius and Gertrude to decide that something's wrong with Hamlet and to send for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, right?  Everybody seems to agree that something's wrong with Hamlet, and has been for awhile.

If that's true ... then how does the Ophelia story work into it? Why now all of a sudden is she so suddenly affrighted? Doesn't she know that Hamlet is crazy? And, doesn't Polonius also know that Hamlet is crazy?

Maybe Polonius has an epiphany here, maybe in whatever months have gone by Hamlet's had nothing to do with Ophelia (as Polonius desired), but now he suddenly bursts in on her and Polonius says "Aha!  He's clearly mad because he hasn't been close to my daughter! I've cracked the case!"

But if *that* is true...then where did the love poems come from?  He doesn't apparently give her anything when he barges into her room.  And if the letters were part of what Ophelia gave over to her father back at the beginning when she was initially asked, those would have been written at a time before Hamlet was supposedly nuts.  So that means that Hamlet's been writing letters to Ophelia during these intervening months?

Is that it?  Ophelia is no longer speaking to Hamlet. Hamlet is writing letters to Ophelia, which she is not answering, and he's getting more and more desperate.  Nobody notices the connection. But now he's so desperate he's getting physical, and Polonius finally connects the dots.

Do I have that right?

Gertrude's Levirate Marriage

This morning I learned what a "levirate marriage" is.  From the wiki page:

a type of marriage in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother's widow.
Interesting.  Now, who do we know who married the brother of her deceased husband?  Gertrude is even referenced in the Wikipedia page as a popular culture reference.

Any connection, or purely a coincidence?  I expect the latter.  The technical definition of the term suggests that only *childless* widows count, and Queen Gertrude is not childless ... is she? :)  While some folks like to argue that perhaps Claudius is Hamlet's real father, I don't think anybody argues that Gertrude is not his real mother.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Unanswered Shakespeare Questions

About two and a half years ago I launched a companion site to Shakespeare Geek called  This site was intended to be a Q&A site in the flavor of Yahoo Answers or Quora, where all the content was strictly in an Ask a Question, Get Some Answers, Pick Your Favorite Answer format.

Quite honestly I stopped paying attention to it after that, until recently.

Turns out that it pulls in about as much traffic as this site does!  So I'm dusting it off and poking around a bit, seeing how I can improve the user experience now that I know there's thousands of people pouring through the site.

I've pulled out the list of most popular questions that have no answers. These are the questions that people are typing into a search engine, and then coming to Shakespeare Answers in the hope of finding an answer, only to find ... nothing.  I'll bet that there's nothing in the database that my loyal readers can't handle.

THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE A HOMEWORK CHEATING SITE.  You are welcome and encouraged to "preach" Shakespeare as much as you feel is necessary to explain your answer.  If somebody came looking only for a quick yes no answer and an answer/scene citation, and they don't want to actually learn anything? Well, that's their problem.  It's my vision to have *good* answers to these questions, not just answers that will get a passing grade on the homework.

With that in mind, let's get to the questions!