The Bookcast : The Shakespeare Wars

Ok, download this interview with Ron Rosenbaum right now.  I haven’t read “The Shakespeare Wars”, but even listening to the man speak makes my face hurt because I’m smiling from ear to ear and nodding my head up and down furiously at my computer speakers.  From his personal explanation that seeing Peter Brooks(?) production of Midsummer’s “changed his life….made him into a Shakespearian, like a secret society…people who are forever forlorned, forever seeking an experience to equal it,” to his simply exquisite description of the two endings of King Lear, and how a simple reference to a feather is what makes the play truly Shakespearean.  Even without seeing the entire play, somehow he manages to convey something that in just one line could still bring tears to your eyes. I am deeply and truly fascinated.  Go now.  Listen.  

Romeo and Juliet … as a Disney(*) Cartoon!

(*) sort ofI’ve said before, many times, that I think The Tempest is ripe for Disney picking.  Little girl living with her Dad (note no mother figure?) on an island with her playmates, a sprite name Ariel (have to change that to avoid Mermaid confusion) and the mischievous sea monster Caliban.  Enter Prince Ferdinand, with whom she falls madly in love.  Throw in a couple of bad guys Stephano and Trinculo, in league with Caliban, who are easily dispatched, a few other bumbling cast of characters to round it out.  Little girl learns that she’s actually a princess (or close enough, she’s whatever she is when she’s the daughter of the Duke of Milan) and everybody sails home for a wedding and a happy ending.  Perfect.Until I get that, be sure to check out Sealed with a Kiss, a new animation by former Disney guy Phil Nibbelink (Fox and the Hound, Black Cauldron…).  He’s done his own thing here, a 2D Flash animation with hand drawn art that depicts Romeo and Juliet as…seals.  Get it?  The big downside is that it’s a highly limited release, strictly in a few California theatres.  If you’re in the neighborhood, though, go see it and tell us how it is!  This is the sort of thing that the second it appears on video, I’m getting it for my kids.  Disney should do more Shakespeare.  Yes, yes, I know it’s not Disney doing it, but I’m sure he’ll keep the flavor and style that we all know and love.More Animated Shakespeare…

Shakespeare Prequels!

Dinosaur Comics has got a great idea for a new series of books — Shakespeare Prequels!  I love it.   “It’ll be Hamlet, only he’s happy and well-adjusted, walking around saying ‘I certainly hope my father doesn’t get murdered!’ and then Ophelia says ‘Thats right, baby!  I, incidentally, plan to remain sane.” and then there’s IRONY!  Shakespeare fans love irony!   Don’t we just, though? 🙂

Elizabethan Food

Elizabethan.org has several pages up on what “we” eat.  I’m going to assume that “we” means “people of Elizabethan society” given the context. The information is quite extensive, including information on how things were measured, when and what meals were eaten, and so on. Over at a site called Seat of Mars you can actually buy Elizabethan food for yourself.  I may have to try that.  “Mixed sweet spiced nuts” sounds good.

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Pericles, or, Hey! The King is having sex with his daughter!

For those of you that have wondered what “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” is all about, check out Heaneyland’s hysterical recap:   PERICLES: Hello, king. I’d like to marry your daughter. ANTIOCHUS: Well, first you have to answer this riddle. Answer incorrectly, and you die:
My first is in Paris, my second in France,
The rest is…whatever, I’m having sex with my daughter. PERICLES: Uh…how about if I answer that tomorrow? ANTIOCHUS: Oh, sure, think about it as long as you like. PERICLES: (aside) I suspect he’s having sex with his daughter. I probably shouldn’t say anything about it. Maybe I’ll just go back home to Tyre. (he exits)   I also love the fact that he belongs to a Shakespeare reading group that is going through every single play, reading them aloud.  Nice.  Which I could find the time to do such a thing!  

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Hamlet "Tag Cloud"

http://triptronix.net/ishbadiddle/archives/2006/10/24/10.56.11/ A “tag cloud” is an attempt at visual representation of word frequency. The bigger the word, the more often it appears.  So, what words are the most common in Hamlet? Most of them are obvious – the names of characters, and stuff like “Enter” or “Have” (Haue).  It’s interesting after you get past them, though, to look at the next ones:  father.  heaven.  soule.  Pretty neat.  I’d like to see this done for all the plays.  I remember hearing something in high school about the number of times “dark” and its synonyms are used in Macbeth.

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Shakespeare versus Hemingway

At my previous employer, I had a great deal in common with the QA guy.  He was a Hemingway geek.  Ran sites about Hemingway.  Had that dream project of creating the next great text on Hemingway’s works.  Naturally we got along well and often has discussions about Shakespeare and Hemingway.  Most of the time, though, they were of the “Here’s what’s great about my favorite author…” variation, without much crossover.  (At least Shakespeare’s works are public domain, whereas Hemingway’s copyrights are still very much aggressively defended.) I’ve changed jobs recently . Much to my surprise I find myself in conversation with a coworker who claims Shakespeare and Hemingway to both be favorites of hers, both of whom she has studied in depth.  Fascinated, I point out my history with the Shakespeare/Hemingway connection. “Well, they did both have very similar styles,” she says. “Eh?” I say, maybe too loudly.  “Shakespeare is all about the interaction between characters.  Everything’s in the dialogue.  Maybe I read the wrong bits of Hemingway, but isn’t he the one that’s famous for writing for 50 pages about a guy going fishing?  Or sitting alone in a restaurant having dinner?” “That’s true,” she says, laughing.  “Very often there’s only one character at a time.  When you’re reading those, though, you need to look not just at the words Hemingway used, but the ones he didn’t.  Especially foreign language.  When does he choose to switch to a foreign language, and why?”  She goes on to tell me that this is what fascinates her about people in general – listening to how different people communicate the same circumstances, and what words people choose to use (or not). At that point we got back to work. So I’m still left with the question:  Hemingway and Shakespeare, similar styles or not?  I think I get what she was saying about word choice and communication.  But she’s referring to the author’s choice of words to communicate with the reader/audience.  Which is fine, and correct in both cases – after all, “Hamlet says” is really “Shakespeare wrote that the character of Hamlet would say…” Part of the problem for me is that I read the plays like reality.  I just assume that these characters exist.  I don’t play the “What did Shakespeare mean here?” game, I don’t look for political jobs or secret Catholic messages.  I just see humans interacting with each other.  So when I read Hemingway I tend to see the exact opposite – almost everything I’ve read of Hemingway’s is centered around one person who might be communicating with the world around him, or with his own innermost thoughts, but there certainly aren’t any other people on the page with him. (When I was in the second grade, which I guess would have made me about … 7 years old? I had to be in the hospital for a little while.  An aunt of mine who knew that I liked to read brought me some books.  One of them was “The Old Man and the Sea”.  Not knowing anything about Hemingway, I read it.  Can’t say I necessarily *got* it (it’s about a guy that catches a fish and then loses it before he gets home, right?), but I can say that I was reading Hemingway when I was in the second grade :)).

A Virtual Shakespeare World

I’ve never been a big fan of what’s known as “massively multiplayer online roleplaying games” (MMORPG).  They’re big virtual worlds where you pay a monthly subscription fee to don an avatar and cruise the world of your choice, often populated with the usual dragons and other bad guys, but not always. Well, what if somebody made one all about Shakespeare?  Edward Castronova has been granted $240,000 from the MacArthur Foundation to produce “Arden: The World of Shakespeare”, built entirely around the plays of the Bard. Ok, can I just say that I would *so* be there?  They used to call Everquest (one of the original MMORPGs) “Evercrack” because of it’s addictive nature.  They ain’t seen nothing yet! “Honey, you coming to dinner?” “Damnit, you distracted me, now Laertes ran away.  I’ll be down when I kill him.” Unfortunately it clearly says that this is an “academic” project, which might well mean that it never makes the store shelves.  The article is loaded with good stuff about how the game, which will be based on Richard III to start, will work.  For instance, you’ll have a “play book” and one of the treasures of the game will be various Shakespearean texts: “If you collect the ‘To be or not be’ speech and then take it to a lore master or to a skilled bard, he can then apply the magic to your broad sword or you (could) utilize the magic in a battle situation to give you this massive (advantage),” Castronova explained. “So there (will be) this intensive competition to get the best speeches of Shakespeare in your play book. What can I say?  Want it.  I’m actually going to write to the guy directly this evening and see if I can get some inside scoop, maybe get my name on the beta list. And don’t think I didn’t miss the coincidence that “Arden” shows up again this week (see earlier Arden of Faversham story).