Marginal Revolution offers a glimpse into Rosenbaum’s “Shakespeare Wars” with this post on how to appreciate Shakespeare. More specifically he examines Rosenbaum’s list of the best Shakespeare performances, including Orson Welles Chimes at Midnight which I’d never even heard of. And it does not go unnoticed that Kenneth Brannagh is not even on the list.
I don’t know about you all, but probably the most pitiful part in all of Hamlet comes when Ophelia enters to pass out the flowers to her family and we get to see what’s happened to the poor girl:
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts,” said Ophelia to her brother Laertes. “There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays. O, you must wear your rue with a difference. There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.”
Anyway, the San Francisco Chronicle has up a lengthy article detailing what each individual herb meant. It’s quite a detailed article, explaining what each one means, how Shakespeare referenced it, and a guess at why Ophelia speaks of it. But I’m not sure of all the leaps it makes. For instance rosemary is for remembrance, repelling witches, and chasing away bad dreams. But for Ophelia, “distraught and depressed over her father’s death and Hamlet’s odd behavior, the mention..indicates…her brittle self-image and lack of confidence.” What? Huh? I suppose maybe there’s some sort of “This is all a bad dream I’m having, and I want the rosemary to protect me from it”, but that’s a stretch.
More About Ophelia…
I’ve posted about computer animated Shakespeare videos before, but this is the first time I’ve seen a computer-generated creation try to actually act. Pendulum Studios put together this scene of Marc Anthony doing the “All is lost…” speech (“triple turn’d whore!”). Pretty intriguing stuff. There’s an actor doing the voice, that’s not computer generated. But it’s interesting to see how far the movements and facial expressions have come. The graphics purists are already picking on things like the rendering of the hands, but I’m more interested in the face.
Ed Friedlander, M.D. is a doctor who writes about Shakespeare. I’ve linked to his stuff before. Recently his page on Enjoying Macbeth came up (which I don’t think I’ve linked before) and it’s worth a look for it’s brutal description of the violence, if nothing else. He comes right out in the first page and warns people that it’s not family entertainment, and goes on to not only point out every scene of violence, but to put them in proper historical context. Yet he still keeps it very accessible, even pointing to oddities like why no one suspects Lady Macbeth, even when she comes out with her “What, in our house?” line. Methinks the lady doth protest too much! Wait, wrong play. Anyway, lots of great info on that page, far more than most I’ve scene. Worth checking out.
We don’t get much opportunity to post graphic-intensive stories, so I thought that this link to Dressing Shakespeare would be fun. Both male and female garments are broken down and described by their pieces. I learned something — I always pictured the high female collar as something worn strictly by royals (probably since I’ve only ever seen pictures of Elizabeth in it). Now I know different.
I’m falling behind. The other day a study came out that suggests reading Shakespeare is good for your brain. “The brain appears to become baffled by something unexpected in the text that jolts it into a higher level of thinking.” Ok, that makes sense. That’s the same sort of logic that suggests that people do puzzles, play games, and so on. in other words, exercise your brain. Can’t say I have a problem with that! There’s a book coming out called “Shakespeare Thinking” on the subject. How does someone get an entire book out of that? I guess I acknowledge the value of the finding but I’m not sure that it’s all that related to Shakespeare specifically. They’re basically saying that when you encounter word structures that are unfamiliar to you, your brain has to work harder to get them to make sense. When trying to explain this to people I always used the example: “I have of late but wherefore I know not lost all my mirth.” Had Shakespeare said “I have lost all my mirth as of late and wherefore I know not”, it would have been more in tune with the way someone today would say it (“I’m bummed out lately and I don’t know why”). But as written it’s got a much nicer cadence to it (something that we all recognize as iambic, ba BAH ba BAH ba BAH..) that the typical reader wouldn’t necessarily know, but would still be able to process. The obvious question to ask is what happens to those of us for whom reading Shakespeare is not “something unexpected”? Do we no longer get the cerebral kick that folks more in tune with more “pedestrian” reading get?
I know that I get a bunch of traffic from high school students researching their Shakespeare homework. Having been down this road before I know that if they think Shakespeare is hard, wait until the time comes to fill out those college applications. Given the choice between memorizing Cymbeline, and filling out financial aid paperwork, I’ll take Cymbeline. The Scholarship Blog is one of many sites that hopes to help kids get into college by offering scholarship information, tips for essay writing, templates and other useful advice for making the application process as easy as possible. Their blog is intriguing to me. It appears to follow news in the scholarship and college admissions area. For instance I see a story about academic dishonesty, affirmative action, and drop-out rates among Latino students. My question is, who is the audience for this information? High school students? Not sure that they’re interested in such things. The parents, maybe. Educators, certainly. But why would educators be following a blog that’s setup by a company offering scholarship tips? What I do like about this site is that it really appears to be all about the information, and not about the quick buck. Anybody who’s into web development and search engine optimization (SEO) these days can tell you that one of the big money items is in linking to college scholarship “deals”. A friend of mine even runs a company that offers a directory of such links and he’s making a fortune. But I had to go through this site and hunt around looking for affiliate links or other clues that they’re trying to drive you down paths that will make them money. There are some Google AdSense ads, but they’re not annoying about it. It’s actually a very nice site that’s heavily loaded with information. Honestly, to the point of being pretty dry. You really need to be interested in what you’re reading for this sort of stuff. The simple and sad fact is that college is insanely expensive and everybody knows it. I’ve got 3 kids now and eventually they’re all going to be heading for college, I can only imagine what that’s going to cost me. So when somebody comes along that looks like they’re offering legit, non-biased information and not simply trying to get me to click on the dancing monkey, I’ve got to put it in the “good stuff” folder. Once you’re done with that paper on Romeo and Juliet, go bookmark it for this spring when you really need it.
Wow, it’s December already. Got the shopping done? For whatever gift giving holiday you celebrate? A favorite pasttime around the net is to produce as many “year end” lists as possible. To the point of insanity, or at least nausea. I want to play too. What sort of year end list can we make up? Best Shakespeare movies? Best Shakespeare books? I love the idea of just doing “Best Plays”, since it shouldn’t be based on the year-end. Jasper Fforde does a wonderful series of books (his Thursday Next series) where one of the storylines involves the book awards, and how for example Heathcliffe would always have to campaign for “Best Troubled Romantic Lead, Male” every year, even though his book was written…well, a long time ago. Looking for ideas. Or, maybe I’m just bored.