He’s Probably Right, You Know

Had to share this email I just got from regular contributor Carl Atkins (with his permission): I have been noodling around with some research on Twelfth Night and came across this remark by H. H. Furness (in the preface to his New Variorum edition from 1901), which I just loved. I thought you might get a kick out of it: "If the use of the adverb ‘probably,’ in connection with all statements regarding Shakespeare, were legally forbidden on pain of death without the benefit of clergy, I think the world would be the happier, certainly the wiser." I like that little bit about "without the benefit of clergy." From the days when a fate worse than death was dying without the benefit of clergy! He then throws in this kicker at the end, which made me laugh out loud:  Note that the passage of this law would have reduced Stephen Greenblatt’s "Will in the World" to about 2 pages. :)  Thanks Carl!

What, Nobody Wants Free Books?

Where is everybody?  The response for my Christmas Carol Contest has been less than overwhelming. To recap : In celebration of Charles Dickens’ timely ghost story A Christmas Carol, I’m giving away two of Shakespeare’s own ghost stories – Manga Macbeth and Manga Julius Caesar.  To get in on the action, just email me and tell me the Shakespeare reference in Dickens’ original that from what I can tell most of the movie/tv/audio versions seem to snip out for some reason. Contest ends at end of day on Christmas Eve.  For hopefully obvious reasons y’all will understand if I don’t get around to announcing the winners until after the holiday, however.

Dr. Who HELP

Ok, need some help.  A geeky friend is looking to pick up some Dr. Who box sets for Christmas, and in my infinite wisdom I thought it would appropriate to score her the set that has all the Shakespeare in it, that people were raving about recently. So the question is, which season was that and is it on DVD?

FREE Books : A Christmas Carol CONTEST

So last night my kids were introduced to A Christmas Carol ala the Mickey Mouse version.  At first I thought it would be too much for them (remembering my own introduction via Mr. Magoo), but it turns out to be a half hour thing that must be cut so drastically I can’t imagine it being all that meaningful. They seem to enjoy it, although the prospect of ghosts is a bit frightening to them.  Afterward they don’t understand who the ghosts were, because all they saw were Goofy, Jiminy Cricket and an unnamed giant. Folks that know me by now know I didn’t miss the opportunity to explain that this is just the Mickey Mouse version of an older, grown up story by Charles Dickens.  I liken Dickens to Shakespeare for them in the sense that it’s a “classic” that was written long ago, that they will study in school when they grow up, but for now at their age we show them the story in a way that they can understand it. It just so happens that I’ve got the audio CD of Patrick Stewart’s famous rendition of the story.  Ever heard it?  It’s quite tremendous, I try to break it out every year.  I play that for the kids.  Well, partially, as it is very long that way and they’ve only got attention spans so long.  They do, however, start asking questions – who was Marley, oh was he the ghost?  How come his face was on the door knob?  What’s with the chains?  I’m pleased.  I do not bother explaining the Patrick Stewart / Shakespeare connection, I figure that’s a bit much for them :). HOWEVER, by some strange quirk of the universe I happen to have sitting on the shelf two of Shakespeare’s very own well known ghost stories, Manga Macbeth and Manga Julius Caesar .  Seems only fitting that I come up with some sort of contest to give them away. So, here it is: Although most actual productions (including Stewart’s and Mickey’s) seem to snip it out, there’s a really good Shakespeare reference right smack dab in the middle of A Christmas Carol.  Find it and email me the answer by, oh, Christmas Eve – December 24.    I’ll randomly pick two winners from the correct answers received. (Regular readers can vouch for the fact that this is not spam, nor an email-harvesting opportunity.  I don’t have a newsletter to send out, even.  I’m just doing it this way so that more than one person can play – if I had you post the answer in the comments it’d become pretty obvious what the correct answer is!)   I do always love comment traffic, though, so here’s a discussion topic – which is the better ghost story, Macbeth or Julius Caesar?  Why?  (No fair bringing Hamlet into it, I don’t have his book to give away…)

Silly Translators

So after the “Shakespeare Gifts” chat I’m on Amazon looking for books for the kids.  It’s important to me, as you may have guessed, to not just grab anything that says Shakespeare-for-kids on it.  Being public domain, Shakespeare’s easy fodder for anybody to just slap a title on it and ship it out there.  Besides, I’d like to think that my kids have got a jump on the competition just a little bit by having the geeky dad that they do. I’m looking at one book, the title not important (it’s a version of Romeo and Juliet), and using Amazon’s “Look inside” feature.    I see some of the words in the text are footnoted.  Cool.  Then I see what’s actually written: 2. Mutiny: discord. 3. Star-crossed: illfated. Does that not seem silly to anybody?  Can you imagine the conversation? “Daddy, what does mutiny mean?”

“Well, sweetie, there’s a note of explanation, so let’s just look…it means discord.”

“Oh.  Daddy?”

“Yes, pumpkin?”

“What’s discord mean?”

“No idea, sugar.  There’s no footnote.”

That’s one big reason right there why I don’t even attempt to get my kids into the original text.  You have these cases where someone’s decided that “mutiny” needs explanation, so why not “ancient grudge” as well?  Is “civil blood” self-explanatory enough?  You could really go crazy trying to keep the text and yet still managing to explain it in a way that a first time reader will get it.  I see it as two audiences.  People who’ve never heard of the stories before have no obligation to see them first in the original text.  Once they know the story, then they can learn to appreciate the quality of the original, and it will make infinitely more sense.   And if you don’t happen to agree with me on that one, you need to go home and throw out all your Disney merchandise, and read your children Grimm’s tales instead. 🙂

Nintendo Shakespeare

http://www.gamestate.org/2008/12/gamespot-shakespeare-booked-on-ds/ I wasn’t going to report on this story, but I suppose I should.  Harper Collins has signed a deal to bring classic e-books to the Nintendo DS, and naturally that includes our pal Shakespeare, the king of public domain. I just can’t imagine anybody caring.  Does having the text on a Nintendo make a kid more likely to read it?  I don’t think so. 

Ok, I Would Not Have Expected That Crossover

http://www.twnpnews.com/messages2/21088.shtml Often as a conversation starter I’ve told people, “I can speak equally well on Shakespeare, computers, and pro wrestling.  Pick one.”  Usually merits some strange looks.  But it’s true. So I get a kick out of the fact that “Triple H”, one of today’s most popular professional wrestlers (who also happens to be married to the daughter of Vince McMahon, the guy who owns most of pro wrestling) is in talks to star in the Thor movie, which is to be directed by Shakespeare demigod Kenneth Brannagh. That oughtta make for some fun posts. 🙂

Shakespeare Gifts

It’s that time of year again (actually, it’s very late for that time of year).  Anybody giving good Shakespeare gifts for the holidays? Personally I’m a little overwhelmed.  I’ve got a One Page Book sitting in the tube, waiting to be put up.  And I’m in the middle of both Will and Nothing Like The with no end in sight, and that’s not even counting the random couple I picked up on vacation a few months ago. I was hoping that Ian McKellens’s King Lear would be out on DVD for the holidays, but I haven’t seen it. I should find something Shakespearean for the kids.  But last year Santa gave them a Shakespeare book and it’s a little old for them, I don’t want to push it.