Contest WINNER!

Ok, I said I’d get my act together, and I didn’t lie.  The winner of the Manga Shakespeare edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is… Bill, from Shakespeare Teacher! Congratulations, Bill!  Get in touch with a mailing address and I’ll send the book right along. Thanks for playing everybody (and to those who didn’t even realize they were playing :)).  I’ve got a good game in mind for the next giveaway, I just have to get back in touch with the publisher and get some giveaways :).

Contest Update : Not Forgotten

Hi Everybody,

I haven’t forgotten about the Manga Shakespeare contest, just finding myself very busy now that my old schedule has gone completely out the window with the loss of my job. You have no idea what it does to a geek like myself (and in this case I mean geek in the computer sense) when you take away the machine that he’d carried around with him daily for the last 2 years. I can’t yet comfortably sit in my office and do things the way I used to sit on the couch and churn stuff out.

But fear not, I should have something up by the end of today. Stay tuned! Thanks for everybody that played, I hope everybody that’s left a comment knows they just got entered into the contest 🙂

Filthy (and by that I mean Stupid and Ridiculous) Shakespeare

So I was thinking the other day what Shakespeare might have to say on the subject of unemployment. Then I thought it would be funny to break out my copy of Filthy Shakespeare, since when you are unemployed you do tend to swear. A lot. 🙂

Wow, what a horrible book this is. I mean, it’s offensively bad. I have "Bawdy Shakespeare", the classic reference on Shakespeare’s more colorful language. The problem with that one is that, having been written over half a century ago, it goes to great lengths to cover up its own subject matter. Students today looking up the dirty Shakespeare words would probably also have to start by looking up words like "pudenda."

No such problem with Filthy Shakespeare, where even the chapter titles are so profane I wouldn’t let my mother anywhere near them. Forget about f-words, there’s a couple of good variations of c-words in there as well. I’m not kidding, there is a chapter entitled "Pertaining To …. " well, country matters. You know?

My problem is not so much with the language, but with the childish way it ends up presented. For instance, did you know that the word "all" could also be a reference to male or female genitals? Now, take that knowledge and go to any passage in Shakespeare that uses the word, and replace it with the swear word of your choice (I’m trying very hard not to just go for broke and use the same language this book uses). Because, as everybody knows, if a word could mean something else in one context, then OF COURSE Shakespeare meant it that way EVERY TIME HE USED IT.

As I write this review I keep flipping randomly through the book, hoping to find something good to say and only coming up with more examples of why I hate it. Want a good one? Try this out at a cocktail party (gasp! I said cocktail!! I must have meant buggery party!!!): “Hey everybody, did you know that Shakespeare’s name really is slang for wanker? Get it? Shake your spear? Hahaha, isn’t that a riot? No? Anyway…”)

The format of each chapter is simple : Eye-catching obscene title (“One Prick Too Many” is about the tamest one I can find), chapter summary where the author tells us what sorts of words we can hope to find, and in what scene of what play, and then some normal text that attempts to actually be grown up talk. Then the scene, and then a word-for-word translation of the scene with all the dirty words swapped in, which ends up for the most part making no sense at all. Oh, and then a glossary that breaks down every word, just in case you missed it the first 10 times. Each chapter is like it’s own little Freudian lesson – if it’s longer than it is wide, it’s a phallic reference, and if it’s round (or soft or indented or apparently fruity or birdlike) it’s a female reference.

Methinks somebody needs to tell the author that sometimes a rapier is just a rapier. I’m left thinking that this book is some sort of joke to be passed among Shakespeareans so we can all chuckle and say “Oh Pauline, you tramp! Oh no you didn’t!” and then move on.

CONTEST : FREE Book Giveaway

Ok, everybody, let’s do this. I’ve had a copy of Manga Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream sitting on my shelf for weeks, waiting to give it away. I keep saying I’ll review it first, but honestly I just don’t have the time these days, so you’ll have to take my word for it or do you own research. I expect that if you’re at all into “manga” then you know exactly what to expect.

Here’s the rules:

* Between now and let’s say end of day Saturday, November 22, leave a comment on a Shakespeare Geek blog post.

* It cannot be this one. It has to be something with actual “talking about Shakespeare stuff” content.

* Say something more valuable than “Please include me in the contest!” Trust me, I’ll see you. I have alerts on all the site comments.

* Early next week I will randomly select from all the comments received, and post the winner. I’ll need to get in touch with you if you win so I can get your mailing address, so please stay in touch if you’re not a regular visitor! Come back and look for the results post.

Ok. Any questions? Get to commenting.

Shakespeare Teacher Is Trying What Now?

Shakespeare Teacher owns the “Shakespeare anagram” marketplace (what there is of it :)). Well maybe he’s looking for more of a challenge, because now it’s going to write plot summaries for five of the plays each using a different target vowel. In other words and entire review only using A as the vowel, then E, and so on.

The idea comes from the book Euonia, a five chapter book where each chapter uses only a single vowel.

Good luck! There’s a famous novel or two written using just the vowel E, if I recall. I’m sure similar experiments have been done with other vowels. But putting the Shakespeare twist on it should be fun, especially watching what he does with the character names.

Playing Shakespeare

To my 4yr old, Daddy being unemployed means Daddy is home to play with her more, especially when her older sister goes off to school in the morning. “You want to play the Shakespeare game?” she asks me.

“How do you play?” I ask.

“You find a doll to be the Prince, and then I find a doll to be Miranda, and we are on the island. Wait, I’ll get the book.” I’m not kidding. She runs into the family room and comes back holding my copy of Manga Shakespeare’s Tempest, which I did not even realize she knew I had.

So we begin acting out the story. I am using my Shakespeare action figure, although he is actually playing Ferdinand. Miranda is played by a blue Tinkerbell fairy. Ariel is a stuffed unicorn, and Caliban is the dog from the Simpsons that she got in a Burger King Happy Meal.

But soon I’m shaken from my private little world when the reality of playing with a 4yr old comes down around me.

“So Ferdinand is chained up by Prospero’s magic and forced to carry the firewood to prove his love for Miranda,” I read. I turn up little Shakespeare’s arms and make him carry a Lincoln Log.

“But then her mommy comes and breaks his chains and sets him free!” my daughter says, waving a stuffed ballerina doll.

“Wait, whose mommy?”

“Miranda’s mommy.”

“Miranda’s mommy is not in the story, sweetie.”

“She’s been in the garden out front. She breaks the chains and Ferdinand is free!”

Oh, of course that’s where she’s been. 🙂

Review: Will, By Christopher Rush

A few weeks back the good people at Overlook Press sent me a copy of Will, which imagines Shakespeare on his deathbed dictating his last will and testament to his lawyer.

Given the prominent role the mystery of the will plays in the authorship question, what with talk of second-best beds and no mention of books and theatre things, such a task is quite daunting to begin with. When you open to the first page and realize that Rushmore intends to tell Shakespeare’s story in first person, well, to borrow a phrase from the vernacular let’s say the man has some serious grapefruits on him. Know what I mean?

And what does the voice of Will say? Well, he quotes and references himself quite often. Not in a bad way, not like Rushmore can’t think of anything better to have him say. Instead we get a man who spent his life crafting a phrase and now mocks his own talent at doing so, borrowing his character’s words to express his points, those words having come from his own brain in the first place. Very believable for a playwright recounting his life. He even puns on his own work, such as referring to a particular term as a “brave new word.” I particularly got a kick out of him working the word “groatsworth” into the narrative, I can only imagine how small a portion of the audience gets that reference.

What else does grumpy old Will tell his lawyer? Well he swears a lot. Talks about bodily functions in graphic detail, obsesses about death. That second bit is pretty interesting. Lots of undiscovered country talk. A fascinating digression on Lazarus and why nobody bothered to ask him any questions about the Great Beyond. In Rushmore’s version, Will spent his childhood haunted by ghost stories and visits to haunted cemeteries. He does
Not paint a pleasant picture of life for young Will.

I won’t lie, the narrative is hard to follow. Shakespeare is the narrator, speaking to his lawyer. So 80% of every page is supposed to be conversational, but never with a quotation mark or a “Shakespeare said…” Between every few paragraphs the lawyer interjects with typically a single sentence, and it’s almost like the author does that just to make sure we don’t forget Will isn’t just talking into a tape recorder.

And then periodically it switches to third person, which leaves me wondering if that is an editor’s mistake. You’ll get a line like (paraphrased), “Then Frances took a bite of his meal.” Ummm… The narrator Shakespeare is speaking to Frances the lawyer, so who is talking there? It happens infrequently enough to be jarring when it does.

What of the big questions? The second best bed and all that? I’m not done with the book yet so I can’t spoil it for you. I can tell you that I’m anxious to find out for myself!

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