When I saw the article title, The Brutal Ladies Behind Some of History’s Biggest Bullies, I knew that Lady Macbeth had to show up in there someplace. I’m pleased to say that she does indeed, and you get a little history lesson in the process (hint, she was a real person and not what Shakespeare made her out to be).
Ok, I finally got around to seeing “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged]” this weekend (sometimes known as The Cmplt Wrks of Wlm Shkspr and other silly titles). The premise, if you haven’t heard of it, is that 3 guys do the entire works of Shakespeare (that’s 37, possibly 38 plays, and maybe sonnets?) in 90 minutes. As you can imagine, it’s a comedy. Did I like it? It’s interesting that one of the advertising lines for the play is: “If you like Shakespeare, you’ll like this play. If you hate Shakespeare, you’ll love this play.” Well, since I love Shakespeare, I didn’t really love this play. It’s funny, sure, in a pretty standard stand-up comic sort of way. Somebody had the idea to start with Shakespeare and then reduce it down to jokes that everyone would get. Example: Romeo: Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized… Juliet: What did you just say? Romeo: I said, call me but love, and I’ll… Juliet: Call you Butt Love? Romeo: Can we get on with the scene? Juliet: Whatever you say, Butt Love. Get the idea? It’s always interesting when somebody writes standup comedy and people perform it for years to come, because you get to see if you can spot the jokes versus the ones the new actors have thrown in. For instance, this weekend’s performance contained a reference to bald Britney Spears….as well as a reference to Janet Reno. Janet Frickin Reno? When’s the last time she was in the news, Clinton era? The treatment of the plays, for the most part, is actually well done. They open with a silly intepretation of Romeo and Juliet to get the audience warmed up. Good choice, since it’s the most popular play. Want to know how much of a Shakespeare geek I am? I actually found myself looking forward to the ending of their version of R&J, just because it’s Romeo and Juliet, for god’s sake, it has to be good, until I realized that it was two guys doing it as a comedy, so I was probably not going to do it the justice I’m hoping for. And the entire second act is devoted to Hamlet, because it is the most complex one (debatable, but that’s a concept the audience can get behind). For Hamlet they do take it a bit more seriously, including one of the actors having a nervous breakdown because he just can’t take the pressure. Macbeth and Othello get a fair amount of stage time, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra less so. The histories are done like a football game, and the comedies are all smooshed down into one comedy that makes heavy use of Shakespeare’s 4 major comedic devices. I was a little disappointed in that, particularly since The Tempest got no real love. I don’t think of the Tempest as being one of the formulaic long-lost cross-dressing identical-twins comedies, although it does have the shipwrecked aspect that he used a few times. Oh, and Titus Andronicus is done like a cooking show. The only play that doesn’t get any love at all is Coriolanus, the best they can come up with for that one is an actor who refuses to do it because he doesn’t like that the name has “anus” in it. Haha? Perhaps the biggest disappointment for any Shakespeare geek is King Lear. King Lear gets *one* joke, during the Histories football game, where the ball ends up with King Lear. They throw a flag for “fictional character on the field” and then go back to the game. That’s it. That’s disappointing. If there’s any debate that Hamlet is not the best thing Shakespeare ever wrote, the contender in that battle would be King Lear. So, overall, it was ok. Cute. Not what I was hoping for. I brought my wife, figuring “It’ll be enough Shakespeare for me and enough funny for her.” But honestly it wasn’t enough Shakespeare for me and wasn’t funny enough for my wife. See it if it comes around, but don’t drive an hour out of your way to find it like I did.
There’s always been trivia contests about which movie didn’t get the Oscar, but should have. How about the reverse? How about those that won the awards and didn’t really deserve it? Welcome to the Oscar Turkeys. And guess who is the big winner? Most Undeserving of All Time for Best Film? Shakespeare in Love. Oh, well. I liked it. I agree it maybe wasn’t Oscar worthy, but I liked it.
Ever wonder what Petruchio and Kate would like like as wasps, what with that whole “where a wasp doth keep his tongue” banter? Sketchy Thoughts wondered exactly that. The results are pretty neat, actually. It’s just sketches, nothing complete, but I appreciate the fact that he “just sketched them out over dinner.” That’s exactly the kind of random Shakespeare reference I like to link to. Man could have drawn anything he wanted, and he drew Petruchio and Kate. Gotta love that.
I go back and forth over whether “Shakespeare geek” means “I’m a geek about Shakespeare stuff” or it means “I’m a geek who’s into Shakespeare.” In support of the latter argument we have this link about calculating how many of Shakespeare’s atoms we inhale. Sure, the science is silly, but it’s geeky and it’s Shakespeare. “Breathe in, hold it there, enjoy the Shakespeare, breathe out. Aaaah. Repeat!” BONUS: “So there’s also a little Buddha in all of us.”
So I had this weird Shakespeare dream this weekend. This will probably make no sense :). Apparently I had published some claim about particular plot device of Shakespeare’s, claiming that Julius Caesar was the first time that he had used it. However, an old college friend and I had just discovered that it was actually used in Hamlet as well, and we were trying to figure out how to reconcile the new discovery with our published conclusions. What’s interesting, though, is that the plot device as best I could remember it had to do with one character seeking out another character’s killer (a whodunnit story, in other words), only to have it unveiled that he was the killer all along. In the case of Hamlet, we were looking for the killer of Polonius. But everybody knows that Hamlet killed Polonius, so it’s not really a mystery. I have no idea how Julius Caesar played into it, since the dream seemed mostly to be about analyzing Hamlet. Like I said, it basically makes no sense from the start because Shakespeare didn’t write detective stories. Once I woke up and this all dawned on me, I started wondering what Hamlet would have been like if it really was a mystery. Perhaps Hamlet sees Polonius emerging from Gertrude’s bedroom. Hamlet’s already pretty messed up in the head about what’s been going on in his mom’s bed, so he redirects some of his rage at Polonius (instead of Claudius) and ends up killing the old man in secret. Now the play can go on quite differently. Hamlet never has to be sent to England. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Aren’t Dead. Ophelia doesn’t necessarily go crazy and kill herself. Sure, her dad’s dead, but it’s not like her boyfriend is the one who did it (as far as she knows, at least). Meanwhile Laertes probably returns to avenge his father, but with no one to challenge he’s at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. Perhaps Hamlet is smart enough to twist events so that everybody believes Laertes killed Polonius? Then poor Ophelia probably would kill herself after all. The girl’s a bit fragile. Anyway, now I’m just babbling, and I’ve got work to do. I wanted to document that dream, since it’s not often I dream about Shakespeare.
Somebody by the name of “Old Cheeser” (who is apparently younger than me :-/) gets credit for finding this link of the kids from FAME doing Othello. Yes, you heard that right . The kids from Fame. Remember that show? They’re gonna live forever, even if their tv show doesn’t? Doing Othello. Thank you television gods for not making it Romeo and Juliet or Midsummer yet again.
Looks like this is the month for archaeological finds. First it was a skeletal Romeo and Juliet, and now we have a coin depicting Anthony and Cleopatra. The only problem is that they don’t look like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. They look pretty…rough.
Hi Everybody, I’ve had the domain ShakespeareGeek.com reserved for awhile now, but haven’t done anything with it. I keep telling myself that the blog is just a blog, and the domain is where I’ll build some cool new wiki/blog/rss/podcast thingie the likes of which the world has never seen, but it’s been a year and that’s never come close to happening. So, now that Google lets us point domains at blogspot addresses, it seems logical to do just that. Apologies in advance if you happen to hit the new domain while things are moving over. I hope everybody likes the new name. And hey, who knows, maybe I really will start coding up something original and putting a bit more emphasis on the “geek” part :). -Duane