If Music Be Whose Food Of Love?

If music be the food of love, play on.

Cleopatra doesn't look very hungry for the food of love.Everybody knows that quote, right?  Duke Orsino, opening line of Twelfth Night.

But check this out.  I was searching the text for music references tonight and a line popped up I’d never noticed before:

Give me some music; music, moody food
Of us that trade in love.

Recognize it?  That’s Cleopatra, from Antony and Cleopatra (duh), Act 2 Scene 5. Sounds almost identical, doesn’t it?  I love finding these obvious examples where Shakespeare had good luck with a particular turn of phrase and went back to it later.

It would be great if A&C was written first and we could say the most famous use of that line actually lifts it from the other, but that’s not the case – Twelfth Night is pretty safely several years prior to A&C.


Wherefore Did I Fail

I’m a horrible father.

My oldest, as I may have mentioned, is studying Romeo and Juliet in school. Today while driving her to school we were discussing Shakespeare and I’d joked about the possibility of creating a “Name That Shakespeare” game along the lines of “Name That Tune.”  You know, “I can name that Shakespeare play in 3 words!” sort of thing.  (More on that in a future post!)

To which she responds, “That would be impossible.” Thinks about it and adds, “Well, I suppose some would be easy. Where art thou.”

Not taking my eyes off the road I ask, “What’s that one from?”

“Romeo and Juliet,” she replies.

I immediately begin hitting the child.  “That’s not even funny!” I yell in mock horror. Maybe it wasn’t so mock.

Defending herself she retorts, “Why? What’s wrong with that? Is that not the line?”

“It’s wherefore art thou,” I correct.

“Right,” she says, “It means where are you.”

I immediately begin hitting the child again.  “Where did I go wrong? When did I fail you? Of all the things I’ve taught you, how did you miss this?  This is like the line in the sand between people who understand Shakespeare and who don’t.  It’s the go-to inside joke among Shakespeare geeks.  If you google “Shakespeare knock knock jokes“, you get this joke. I literally have a t-shirt with this joke written on it.  Knock knock.”

“Who’s there?”


“Wherefore who?”


“I don’t get it.”

I didn’t actually push her out of the car, or disown her.  I may have thought about one or the other. She goes on to tell me how she honestly thought (up to this point I’d hoped she was kidding) that Juliet was looking for Romeo in the bushes.  *sigh*  I had to explain how, from her point of view, she’s never going to see the guy again, it was just two ships passing in the night. It’s not like they said “Come out on your balcony, I’ll meet you outside.”

I just honestly don’t understand how that went past her.  If you’d asked me I would have thought it was one of my most overdone jokes.  Surely they’d heard it a hundred times.  Shows what I know.  What else do I assume they know that they have no clue about?



Weather As Plot Device

Lear and his Fool on the heathI’m trying to think of plays where the weather plays an important role.  Sure there’s The Tempest, but we get the storm at the beginning and then…nothing.

Macbeth seems to be all about the weather.  So fair and foul a day I have not seen!

King Lear is probably the ultimate example.  If you haven’t seen Act 3 Scene 1 live yet, your Shakespeare life is not complete.  The wind is blowing, the rain is pouring down. Kent staggers in at one level, battling against the wind, hanging on to the scaffolding so he doesn’t blow away.  Enter a gentleman below, also buffeted by the wind.  “Where’s the king?”  first thing Kent asks, only to learn that he’s out in this storm.  “But who is with him?”  “None but the fool.”  Shivers.  Goosebumps. That’s one of my favorite moments in the play.

Hey, here’s a question — the stage direction I read for this scene says “Storm still.”  Does that mean the storm is still continuing, or that there is a lull in the storm, an actual still moment?

What else?  Any of the comedies do something similar to work weather into the plot?


Which Shakespeare Needs a Young Adult Adaptation?

It seems like there are young adult adaptations of Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet coming out of the woodwork lately. Shonda Rimes got her Midas mitts on Still Star-Crossed and is making it a tv series.  Lisa Klein’s Ophelia is going to the big screen, starring Daisy Ridley.  And that’s just two easy ones that are getting all the press – I’ve seen lists lately of half a dozen YA versions at a time.

But it’s always those two, isn’t it? Note that I’m talking about books here, not movies, so I’m not really counting 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s The Man, O, or any of a bunch of high school comedies that as far as I know only live on the big screen.

Bardfilm pays closer attention to this area than I, so he might be able to tell me I’m completely wrong.

Which of Shakespeare’s plays would you like to read in a YA format?  I expect that The Tempest is an obvious choice. But about something harder. Could you do King Lear? Actually I’d be surprised if nobody’s tackled that one yet, I figure you tell it from Cordelia’s point of view you’re half way there.


For Then We Should Be Cockroaches

Mind blowing moment at breakfast with the geeklets this morning, one of whom decided to treat a plastic kitchen ladle like a doll and name him Sampson, and the other who is reading Romeo and Juliet and says, “Gregory” every time her sister says “Sampson.”

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

If you never read it in high school, that is the famous opening line (albeit translated) from Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”, where the lead character wakes up to discover he has been transformed into a cockroach.

The lead character’s name is Gregor Samsa.

Gregory.  Sampson.

There’s absolutely no connection, of course, but being geeks we research these things.  I consulted the BORED  (that’s Bardfilm’s Oxford Remote English Dictionary), just to rule it out (because how cool would it be!). Bardfilm, of course, can pull out a book called Kafka’s Names at the drop of a hat.  There we learned that Samsa, while no doubt intending to mirror Kafka’s own name, is also likely a reference to the Buddhist samsara, the repeating cycle of reincarnation before achieving Nirvana.  There’s other possibilities, but I like that one. There’s also no reference to any Romeo and Juliet connections, but did you really expect one?

This is how we spent breakfast in my house.


The Shakespeare Secret Society Game

And tho she be but little she is fierceI’m always mulling over different ways to explain “the mission”.  Why am I here, doing this? Part of it is because I think that Shakespeare makes life better, so when I can help somebody get some more Shakespeare in their life, I consider it a win because I added value to the universe. This goes exponentially so for my kids.

But it took a little while to get there. When I go back to why I actually started the blog? It’s because I wanted to connect with other Shakespeare geeks. I have (had!) no real world connection to Shakespeare, I’m not a theater geek or even an English major.  I simply don’t hang around in such circles.  So Shakespeare would never come up as a topic of conversation. I’d never find anybody wearing a t-shirt that says “Ophelia was pushed.”  So I claimed my space and said in my best Horton Hears A Who voice, “I am here! I am here! I am here!” And, if you’re reading this, you heard me. 🙂

It’s kind of like we have a secret society. Next time you walk somewhere in public, stop and ponder how many of the people you see might be secret Shakespeare geeks. Maybe somebody’s got “Though she be but little she is fierce” tattooed on her shoulder. Or maybe he’s got Harold Bloom’s Invention of the Human tucked into that stack of books he’s carrying. The person you’re sitting across from on the train could be reading the same blog post you are.

So my question to you is this.  Put the shoe on the other foot.  How does that person coming the other way know that you’re a Shakespeare geek? What signs are you giving off? How can someone, a friend, coworker, or even a stranger figure out that you’re both part of the same club?

For example, Shakespeare stickers adorn both of my computers. So if I take up a spot in the local coffee shop, everybody knows what’s up in my world. If you catch me at the pool or the beach where I’m less likely to have the computer, you’re probably going to find me reading something like “Miranda and Caliban” or something else that screams Shakespeare.  You may even find me wearing it on my sleeve :).  I make it easy.

How about you? We bump into each other at a cocktail party, what’s the secret handshake?






Shakespeare Geek Tee Shirts : Joke’s On Them

A funny thing happened to me last week when I started selling my Shakespeare Geek tee shirts on Amazon.  Assuming this isn’t your first visit to my humble little corner of the web you’ve probably heard me bust out my “Mercutio Drew First” joke, a crossover with the Star Wars “Han Shot First” meme that I actually thought of probably close to ten years ago at this point.

Although I’ve always had t-shirts with that slogan for sale via Zazzle, Cafepress, and other random “print your own” shops, over the last couple of weeks is when I got approved for Amazon Merchandise and saw an opportunity to scale up for real. Bigger audience, lower prices, better quality.

The shirt did well. I hang out on some forums dedicated to Amazon Merch and when I shared sales number people were saying, “Wow, how’d you do it?!”  I felt good about that.

Then I logged in one day and saw half a dozen other vendors selling a Mercutio Drew First shirt, with various vendor names ripping me off like Shakespeare Geek Vintage Tees or Shakespeare Geek Store.

My first reaction was incredulity. I knew this was a problem with Amazon Merch, I just never thought I’d be big enough to worry.

My second reaction was to fight back, jumping onto the forums and asking what my recourse was, writing to Amazon to protect my idea, and so on. Yeah, good luck with that.

My third reaction was to think, “Ok, well, it’s over.  It was nice for a couple of weeks, I might as well pack up shop now. Everything I do will be stolen.”

Then I got over myself.

This site started because I would see the occasional Shakespeare reference in the wild – a tattoo, a tv commercial, a random sitcom plot – and wanted a Shakespeare Geek Tee Shirtsplace to talk about them with other people who also recognized them and thought that it was cool.  By creating merchandise here with our own original content that was my way of contributing. How cool would it be to walk down the street one day and bump into somebody wearing merchandise with a slogan that you wrote in the first place?

These rip-off artists are just helping to spread the word.  Would I like all of the sales to come through my store?  Sure, of course.  But all I’m doing really is taking most of that money and folding it back into supporting the cause anyway.  So if half a dozen people selling a shirt means 6x as many people might see it?  I can live with that.  Honestly, they’re not going to sell as many as I am, the audience for this kind of thing is pretty loyal to me. But we’ll pretend that it scales evenly.  If anybody sees one of these shirts and goes googling for it, who are they going to find? They’re going to find us.  And that, I’m totally ok with.

By the time this post is up you should see a new link at the top of the page, where I will track all of the authentic Shakespeare Geek tee shirts and merchandise.

Because of the way Amazon works I can’t just put it all under a single brand, unfortunately. This means  “Shakespeare Geek” is me, “Shakespeare Geek Hamlet Tee Shirts” too, but “Shakespeare Geek Store” is not.  There’s no way you, loyal readers, could tell the difference.

But by always coming through the new merchandise page you can trust that you’re buying from the original creator. You’re also supporting the mission of spreading Shakespeare in the world, not just adding a few buckShakespeare Geek Tee Shirtss to the pockets of the many rip-off artists hovering around other people’s success because they don’t have the imagination to do something of their own.  (Hey, just because I accept it, doesn’t mean I have to like it!)

Thank you so much to the geeks out there who’ve purchased shirts and shown them off to family and friends. I greatly appreciate the support!  I will keep cranking out new and interesting original ideas that you can only get one place.

Shakespeare Geek Tee Shirts Available Here (And Only Here)

This is the only place to find real Shakespeare Geek tee shirts. Thank you as always for supporting the site!

Have The Tragedies Ruined Me?

A funny thing happened to me today, and I’ve experienced it twice now so I sense a pattern developing.

Romeo and Juliet
“Romeo and Juliet” over “As You Like It” any day.

Twice now I’ve read books where the narrator is … flawed, in some way.  In a way that says, “Wow, society could chew this person up and spit him out.”  On the inside?  The narrator in both cases is a sweetheart, perfectly innocent, seeing the best in everyone, and ready to help whoever might need him. In other words, the perfect victim.

Here’s the thing, though.  I read both these books with an overwhelming sense of trepidation, always waiting for the tragedy to fall.  One is a young adult story (it was very popular, you may even know which one I’m talking about by now) and whenever a bigger kid entered the scene I would turn each page thinking, “He’s going to get beat up he’s going to get beat up he’s going to get beat up…” preparing myself for the inevitable.  But it never came.  In both cases, I reached the end and the tragedy never came. Both had happy endings.

Here’s the thing, though. I’m disappointed by that.  It’s not that I was looking forward to something horrible happening. On the contrary, it practically made me nauseous waiting for it to happen.  But when both books ended with a happily ever after I did not find myself thinking, “Yay! The world is a happy place sometimes!”  Instead, I end up thinking something more along the lines of, “I’m disappointed that the author chose to ignore that sometimes reality is unpleasant.”

I have to attribute that kind of thinking to years of studying Shakespeare’s tragedies. I’ve had debates with people about whether the comedies or tragedies are more entertaining/enjoyable.  Plenty of folks would rather go home on a song and dance number, not on the death of the hero and everyone he loved.  Not me. I think that’s just too contrived.  It’s kind of like a chicken and egg problem, the audience wants the happy ending, so you give them the happy ending.  Which came first? I like it when the audience wants the happy ending and you deliver despair, and then it gets interesting because then they have to face things they wouldn’t normally choose to face. That, to me, is where the value is. That is how you continue to grow as a person by constantly examining the places you don’t want to go, instead of staying in the light.

Is that depressing?

(Having said all that I’m well aware that if you asked me my favorite play I would say The Tempest, and part of my argument for that is precisely for the happily ever after ending.  But I know why that is. That is for my kids.  For me, personally, I’m ok with facing unpleasant reality and pondering how I deal with it. For my kids? I’m ok with them getting happy endings for as long as I can help it happen.)

Always On Call

My company is having a Team Trivia night next week, but it falls on my son’s birthday so I can’t attend. Frustrating, to be sure, because while I may not be jumping up and down to join the company softball team, trivia is kind of my chance to shine. Only game where I’m picked first 🙂

I’ve already told them to text me any Shakespeare questions.

“Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear*bzzzt*…hang on….Henry….the…Sixth….part……two.  Sorry.  Where were we?”

I’m joking about that, but I’m also completely serious.  I already told our team captain that I will play remotely. He said he’d see if it’s allowed, but somehow I doubt it. I also assume that my wife will kill me if I even attempt it.


That’s Me, The Shakespeare Elf

Normally for my lunch break I go for a walk around the block.  Today it’s raining so I cut it short, and returning to the company kitchen I see our CEO is hanging out, talking to some coworkers of mine.  As I’m getting my lunch out of the refrigerator I clearly hear him say, “…the works of Shakespeare…” but I don’t have the context for any other part of the story.

I quickly step up behind him and stand there, waiting for a break.  Everybody sees me but him.

“You rang?” I ask.  “I heard my word.”

He jumps, spins, and says, “Geez you’re like an elf!  Say the magic word and *poof* you appear.”


I’m totally ok with writing that into my job description.