In Our Time : King Lear

Thanks to Alayne for this link to Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time where they’re apparently discussing King Lear: Melvyn Bragg explores the dramatic themes and history behind one of
Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies, “King Lear”. He is joined by Jonathan
Bate, Professor of English Literature at the University of Warwick;
Katherine Duncan-Jones, Tutorial Fellow in English at Somerville College,
Oxford; and Catherine Belsey, Research Professor in English at the
University of Wales, Swansea.
The date on the file suggests that this is the newest episode of the show.  I often subscribe to In Our Time’s podcast feed, but then I fall behind because they hit on some topics I’m just not interested in and eventually I give up.  I’m glad when readers send me good stuff like this that I might otherwise have missed! Downloading now….


I missed Slings & Arrows the first time around, and I’m very sorry for that.  I’d actually tried to check it out, but I must have watched a bad episode because from where I sat it was all about the politics of running a theatre and I didn’t see much actual Shakespeare content.  So I didn’t make much of an effort to follow up.  Boy, was that a mistake.  A coworker just let me borrow Season 1 on DVD (well, the first three episodes) and I LOVE IT.  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, the show revolves around the New Burbage Theatre festival as they go through their productions of Dream, Hamlet, and I’m presuming some others along the way.  There’s some sort of bad history at the place, particularly the director (Oliver) and the former star, Geoffrey.  Well, stuff happens, Geoffrey’s thrown back into the mix to re-open old wounds, and let the fun begin. I think the thing I love the most about the show in what little I’ve seen is that it reinforces what I’ve always said (and thought and hoped) about myself.  When the action on the screen is not about Shakespeare – like the politics between the corporate sponsor and the manager producer guy – I really deeply and truly don’t care.  BUT!  When the talk turns to Shakespeare, when somebody drops a line or a reference or describes a scene or just goes ahead and does a scene?  Lightning bolts shoot up my spine.  Every time.   There’s a scene where they haven’t even begun their table reading of Hamlet, and there’s name cards on all the seats – Bernardo, Horatio, Osric – and even that does it for me. One of the major themes of the show is about stripping away the commoditization of the theatre and getting back to how the words can so deeply impact your life.  Absofrigginlutely, if I do say so myself :).  I can’t wait to get the next set of episodes.  I’m probably going to just go ahead and buy my own copy anyway.

R&J, The Game. On Your Cellphone. Courtesy of Kotaku (and thanks to Thomas from Games Magazine for the link) we have this new and…strange…idea for a game.  It’s Romeo and Juliet, on your cell phone. “Cool!” you say.  Maybe, maybe not.  It’s actually a platform game – think “jumping over stuff and shooting things that get in your way.”  The plot involves Romeo having to rescue Juliet from a castle tower.  In other words, it has nothing to do with the actual R&J story other than the names and probably some scenery. Maybe it’ll be good, maybe not so much.  Who knows.  If Romeo throws out the occasional quote while jumping up and down on killer mushrooms, I’m there.

Saturday Morning Shakespeare? No

This weekend I brought up a children’s cartoon, Strawberry Shortcake, on Tivo for the kids.  It did not escape my attention that the name of the episode was “The Play’s The Thing.”  Would there actually be a Shakespeare reference worth blogging?  Well, no.  It’s raining out, the friends can’t go outside, so they get some dressup clothes and put on a play.  The play is actually Cinderella.  So as far as I can tell, not a single Shakespeare reference. But I couldn’t let the reference go by.  Somebody stuck it in there, so it’s worth acknowledging.  That’s how we get more.

Was Richard Burton Really That Good?

So I’m watching Slings and Arrows  this week, finally, after a coworker let me borrow the DVD.  In Episode 1, a character speaks of Richard Burton’s Hamlet as the best one.  To me, growing up, Richard Burton was the guy in boring movies on Sunday afternoons after church.  The sort of movies that a 12yr old boy like myself would find crazy boring and not watch.  I know Burton’s Taming of the Shrew because I saw it in school, but that’s about it.  Never saw his Antony.  I see that he played Caliban, which intrigues me.  His Hamlet was in 1964. So, tell me.  Is it that good?  Should I seek it out?  Is it available on film?  IMDB tells me that there is a DVD release, although that doesn’t mean I’d be able to find it.

Shakespeare on Boston Common 2008

Via Bard in Boston I see that the Common show this year will be As You Like It. Hooray! A play I haven’t seen yet! Schedule runs July 18-August 3. They are back to a nice 3week schedule. I hope that’s directly related to all the bad press they got last year for squeezing us into 1 week and then complaining about how they couldn’t afford it after giving such big bonuses to all their executives. There’s nothing useful in the press release, just a bunch of patting each other on the back about how awesome Citi is for not taking away our Shakespeare. For more info you can visit if you can find your way through all the Citibank advertising.If you’ve got younger kids you might want to check out Rebel Shakespeare up on the North Shore, who are also doing As You Like It, as well as Henry V and Romeo & Juliet.

The Other Boleyn Girl Ok, the link above is nothing but pictures of Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, the stars of the movie (oddly, as I write this, a commercial for the movie just came on tv…)   But I found the link because they’d tagged it Shakespeare. Other than a straightforward Henry VIII connection, does anybody know a particular reason to think that this movie will have anything Shakespeare related?  I notice (via Wikipedia) that Sandy Powell, the costume designer, also did Shakespeare In Love.  Not that that’ll mean anything  :). Oh, and here’s an Amazon review of the book that takes the author to task for being less than subtle about the fate of Anne Boleyn, claiming that anybody who’s read their Shakespeare knows exactly what happens to her.

The Actor Who Wrote Hamlet Great article on the Arden Third Edition of the works, which has taken the bold step of publishing *three* different Hamlets (bad quarto, second quarto, and first folio) as separate texts, rather than trying to blend them.  The author of the post goes on to discuss how the separate scripts demonstrate that Shakespeare was first and foremost an actor who wrote scripts, and not some poetic genius locked up in a room by himself cranking out lines he never blotted.  On the contrary, there’s lots and lots and lots of rewrites. I think the major problem with this theory is that each change between the scripts does not necessarily represent Shakespeare himself saying “Ok, I didn’t like that, I’m changing it.”  There are many other hands at work, including his fellow actors, the typesetters, and so on.  For any given change between scripts you can’t say which one was what Shakespeare intended.

Raul Midon : All The Answers

This is just barely a Shakespeare reference, but I liked it.  Raul Midon performed his song “All The Answers” at the TED conference in March, 2007.  The song is about how these days whenever we want to know something, we just Google for it.  He then goes on to intermix trivial questions where you couldn’t care about the answer with philosophical questions where all the googling in the world won’t get you the answer. One of the questions in the latter category is about Shakespeare, and I like the way it fits into the song.