Arden Is Released! Wow, cool!  After hearing that Arden, the Shakespeare virtual world, was “taking a break”, I didn’t expect to hear from them.  I certainly didn’t expect this release, where they’ve opened it to the public.  I would have blogged this sooner, but I had to get my order for Neverwinter Nights (the game engine required) first :). Castronova’s comments on the failure of the project are interesting.  Basically, the game wasn’t fun.  No monsters.  Too much text, too linear.  He seems pretty down on the project, the blog entry has several comments that sound like a sarcastic “Ha!  Good luck!’ to the next guy to try it. Rest assured I *will* be playing this. 🙂

Shakespeare in Esperanto

“Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet” has an article up about the Folger getting Esperanto editions of the works that caught my eye.  Why?  Because I know Esperanto (well, I did, long ago) and it so happens that I own a copy of Hamlet, translated into Esperanto by L.L Zamenhoff himself. Unfamiliar with Esperanto?  It was (is?) a very interesting experiment in breaking down cultural barriers by attempting to create a universal second language.  Simple enough idea – keep your own language and culture, but also have this second language so that no matter where you go in the world, you can communicate with the people there.  When I was studying the language I used to read fairy tales from China, for example.  I had a penpal in the Netherlands, with whom I played chess by email.  Once, in a playwrighting course, I had written a scene that involved a troubled genius, one of these “Good Will Hunting” kids, who had been committed involuntarily to a mental ward.  He was refusing to cooperate with doctors by speaking in his own language.  Which, of course, was actually a recitation of Hamlet in Esperanto (the character unveils this in the play, to his favorite doctor).   After the class one of the readers caught up to me and said, “What was that, that the kid was saying?” “Hamlet in Esperanto, just like he said.”  I said.  “Really.” 🙂 Esti aux ne esti!

Shakespeare Story Night

Ok, now the longer story, as promised.  At the dinner table my 3yr old mixed Regan in with a story about her imaginary friends, and then Goneril.  “And who is the good daughter?” I ask.  “The one who came back to save the Daddy?” “Cordelia,” she says. My 5yr old, however, has not heard the story of King Lear as my 3yr old has.  So naturally she wants to hear it, and I deliver the same fairy tale version that I did a few weeks ago.  What’s the difference between a 3yr old and a 5yr old?  When I’m done with the story this time my 5yr old asks, “What happened to Regan and Goneril after the story ends?” “Oh, they were very sad,” I told her, “Because they’d been so mean to their sister and their Daddy that they left and didn’t want to be around them anymore.” “Oh,” she said, “Well, do you think that maybe they went to the King’s house, and said that they were sorry?” I told her that the story does not go into this part, but in our version, sure, it’s quite possible that this did indeed happen. “Do the other Shakespeare story,” says my 3yr old, “The one that you hear me playing.”  So I retell them The Tempest as well. “Are there any more stories?” 5yr old asks. “Oh, absolutely,” I say.  “Shakespeare wrote lots and lots of stories.  I suppose I could tell you the most famous one of all, the one about Romeo and Juliet.” Well, this just fascinates her.  The most famous one of all? And now I’ve gone and committed myself, because while I wanted to get Romeo and Juliet into the mix (since it is the one they are most likely to experience outside my house), I did not have a proper plan for how to spin it with a happy ending.  The Tempest has no death.  And King Lear, with a simple “Cordelia comes back and saves her Daddy” gets a happy ending and we leave out the rest.  But Romeo and Juliet, without anybody dying, was not something I had all ready to go. It was easy to explain that Romeo was Juliet’s “one true love” – this is a concept well understood via the Shrek movies.  Romeo getting in trouble became “Romeo got into a fight because of a big misunderstanding,” which made for some interesting discussion about human nature as my 5yr old kept asking, “Well, when the police came, did Tybalt explain to them that the fight was not Romeo’s fault and that it was all a misunderstanding?” and I told her, “No, Tybalt wasn’t really a good guy like that.  He knew that Romeo had run away, and it looked bad, so when the police came he just said ‘Well, Romeo ran away so he must have been the one that started it, and so Romeo was the one that got into trouble.'” Come sleeping potion time, I opted to explain that Juliet would go to sleep like Snow White. “But a kiss would wake her up!” guesses my 5yr old, who is one step ahead of me.  I had not made that connection.  I decide to go with it. “Yes,” I say, “But only from Romeo, her one true love.” So in our version, Paris tries to kiss Juliet to wake her up, but it doesn’t work.  Her family then realizes that Paris is not her one true love, and kicks him to the curb.  Romeo comes back on the scene, kisses Juliet, she wakes up, and they run away together. I am not as happy with that version as I am with my Lear and Tempest.  Although the concept of R & J has been introduced, and I’m pleased with that.  I told them that we have a picture on the wall that shows Juliet’s actual balcony (a gift from relatives who went to Italy).  They found this very impressive.  They already knew what a balcony was (there dollhouse has one), so I see opportunities to teach them the actual balcony scene.  I told them that when they get to high school they’ll have to memorize it.  “Oh, then, I would have to hear it many many times,” said my daughter. “Oh, you will,” I said. 🙂 Maybe next time I’ll go with Midsummer.

How To Melt A Shakespeare Geek

Just a quickie for now.  Longer post after the kids go to sleep. Tonight, at the dinner table, my 3yr old daughter comes out of the clear blue with, “Daddy?  I wish there was a Cordelia doll, so I could snuggle her and love her.” Daddy offers a wordless “My universe just clicked into place” smile to Mommy. “And I want a Regan doll!” chimes in my 5yr old. “Regan?” I ask.  “She’s a bad guy.” “No, not Regan,” she corrects, “What’s the name of the girl on the island?” “Miranda?” “Yeah, Miranda.  I wish there was a Miranda doll!”   Take that, Disney!

Shakespeare Gifts : What Shakespeare Stuff Do You Want For Christmas?

Ok, ok, fine, not everybody celebrates Christmas, yadda yadda yadda. I do, and it’s my blog. As the holidays approach, everybody’s got their gift guide. Gifts for Mom, Gifts for Dad, Gifts for Geeks, Gifts for CoWorkers. How about gifts for the Shakespeare lover? It’s easy to point at Shakespeare’s Den, and say “Go nuts.” But let’s talk details. You hoping for books, or movies? Or toys?

I don’t really have time to collect Shakespeare movies. A friend gave me Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead last year, and I’ve actually never even watched it. I know, bad me. I’ve read the actual script, just never seen the performance. What about you?

Studio360 on Hamlet

I just received an email that Studio 360, a public radio show hosted by Kurt Andersen, will be doing a bit on Hamlet this weekend (Nov 23).    The subject of the piece is actor Scott Shepherd and his experimental “duet” with Richard Burton’s Hamlet in the 1964 film. The show is also available as podcast, which is why it hit my radar to begin with.  In general I’m unfamiliar with the show.  Any fans out there?  Should I be subscribed?  Do they normally do Shakespeare sorts of things?

Review : Interred With Their Bones

When I heard about “The DaVinci Code, only with Shakespeare” I was intrigued and told myself I’d hunt down this Interred With Their Bones novel and see for myself if it was any good.  So I was pleased when the folks at Dutton sent me a copy for review.  There’s a couple of things that worry me about a description like “The DaVinci Code, only with Shakespeare.”  The DaVinci Code, in my opinion, was only popular because of its attack on the Catholic Church.  It wasn’t necessarily a good thriller on its own.  If you’re a publisher, you’re cool with that kind of buzz.  Whatever gets your audience reading, right?  But if you’re a writer, you might be aiming a little higher than that. I didn’t love DaVinci Code, honestly.  Maybe I’m not that big a fan of the thriller genre.  They all seem to have a certain pattern to them, namely the race between the narrator and the killer to uncover the secret first.  Along the way the narrator runs into puzzles, solves them through some seeming act of brilliance, and then walks straight into some new character who says “It’s about time, I’ve been waiting for you for days.” Secondly is the problem of Shakespeare, which really applies to any book that tries to have a central theme like that.  Namely, are you writing for existing fans of that subject, or trying to entice new ones?  The answer dictates how your book goes.  I fancy myself a Shakespeare geek, although who are we kidding, I am no academic.  Anybody who is in the business of studying Shakespeare (such as the author, or the main character) should know more about the subject than me, I’m thinking.  But a casual reader who is looking for the next DaVinci Code and knows nothing about Shakespeare?  Would naturally need some clues. On this point, I’m torn, because I don’t really know what the answer is.  I’ll offer some examples, and let you decide.  It’s a thriller, so we know there’s a killer on the loose.  There’s always a killer on the loose.  And you know what?  If your killer has a thing for Shakespeare, and you’re female, and he calls you Lavinia?  If you’ve read Titus, then you’ll be quaking in your boots because you know exactly what that implies.  But if you haven’t read Titus, you have no idea.  So the author (via the killer) lays it out for you, leaving a piece of the Titus script at the scene, with the important stage direction underlined (I won’t spoil it).  I’m cool with that.  Titus isn’t the most well known play, and it’s not like she spends pages explaining who Hamlet is. But later the narrator needs some knowledge of Cardenio, the holy grail of Shakespeare’s lost plays.  And it’s disappointing how little she has.  She does not make the connection when she spots Cervantes among her clues.  She knows of the existence of The Double Falsehood, but then makes herself a note to look it up on the net because she’s unfamiliar with it.  I mean, come on, I’ve read the silly thing.  And she’s completely surprised at a reference to Theobald’s three copies of the original, even though it’s the sort of thing that makes it to the first paragraph of any story on the subject.  So here’s an instance where the casual reader certainly needs a bit of a boost in the facts department, but I found it a little unbelievable that the narrator did not have that sort of knowledge about such an important subject. <shrug>  Having said that, I’m still enough of a Shakespeare geek that I’ll take all the references I can get.  When one character turns to the narrator and says “Sleep now,” or something like that, my brain immediately jumped to both “Sleep no more, Macbeth hath murdered sleep!” and “To sleep, perchance to dream, aye there’s the rub” and I was wondering which quote the narrator would come back with.  And I get these cool shivers down my spine early in the book when they are actually acting out a bit of the play.  I just love it when somebody delivers that first quote, it’s like the start of something beautiful every time. So, to sum up, I’m tolerating the thriller bits to get to the Shakespeare bits, and hoping that she doesn’t dumb down those parts so much that I can’t take it anymore.   This is where DaVinci Code had the advantage, because I did not have the same knowledge of the background material that I do here, and I could spend more time saying “Oh, that’s interesting, didn’t know that.”  With this book I’m sure to spend much more time saying things like “Yes yes, we knew that, get on with it!” Sorry if that was a lame review, but I’m not one to shove my opinions on other people.  I say what I like and why I like it.  Right now I”m not reading it to figure out the mystery, I’m reading it for the Shakespeare bits.  And enjoying it very much.

Hamlet, and Revenge

Many a high school essay has been written on the subject of revenge in Hamlet.   The boy spends the entire play waffling on the subject, and even at the end of the play it’s questionable whether he avenged his dad at all. Has much been written on Hamlet’s revenge of his mother’s death?  She’s poisoned, and he springs into action instantly, going so far as to kill the king right in front of everybody. What’s that say about his relationship to his parents?  He is the good son.  He does the right thing, as far as the revenge thing goes.  He’s just motivated to do it for his mom, but not his dad.  I”m just saying.