Butchering Merchant (For A Good Cause)

Recently I picked up a book of Shakespearean paper dolls, which I have to get around to reviewing when I have a moment.  The kids seem to love it.  They pick up characters and say “Who’s this?  What story is he in?  Is he a good guy or a bad guy?” Sometimes, they want the story told.  And wouldn’t you know one of them picks Shylock?’ So here, in a nutshell, is the quick and dirty Merchant that my kids got.  It is fairly brutal, so those with delicate sensibilities about effing with the text are fairly warned…. Once upon a time there was a businessman named Antonio.  Normally Antonio had lots of money, but he’d made some bad business decisions and lost a lot of it, and needed more.  So he went to his friend Shylock, who had lots of money. Shylock had so much money, in fact, that that was his business – all he did was lend money to people. Antonio asked his friend to borrow some money.  Shylock said, “How will I know that you can pay me back?  You make bad business decisions, you lose money.”  Antonio promised that he would be able to pay it back.  Shylock said, “I need some assurances.  So let us say, in the contract, that if you are unable to pay me back my money, I … get to cut off your fingers.” [ NOTE : I figured explaining “pound of flesh” was a little too much. ] Antonion did not like this deal one bit.  “How could I ever do business without my fingers?” he asked.  “Then I would never be able to make money.” “But you are so very confident that you will be able to pay me back, that I will never need to use the contract, now will I?” Antonio needed the money, so he agreed, even though he was not too happy about the deal.  He then set about trying to make some better business decisions so that he would be able to pay back the money and not lose his fingers. Unfortunately he did not have good luck, and as the day approached where he was supposed to repay Shylock, he still didn’t have the money.  He went to his friend and said, “You weren’t serious about the finger thing, were you?” and Shylock said, “Oh yes, I certainly was, a contract is a contract.” Right about this time, Portia, Antonio’s daughter who had been away at law school [NOTE – I know, I know, sue me…. ] came back to visit her father and heard the whole story.  “That is crazy!” she shouted.  “He can’t possibly think that he can take your fingers!"  We have to take this before the judge.” So they all went in front of the judge.  Shylock got up and said simply, “Your honor – a contract is a contract.  I explained the terms up front, Antonio agreed.  He is unable to pay me my money, therefore I get his fingers.” Portia then stood up for her turn, and pled for mercy from the judge.  “If he has no fingers he will never be able to work, and then he will never be able to make money again!” she said. The judge considered both arguments.  He said, “While I agree that these are horrible terms, I have to acknowledge that the contract is binding – your father knew the rules, he signed the paper, I can’t see how I can change that.”  Shylock thought that this was wonderful, and started coming toward Antonio.  “BUT!” said the judge, “I see nowhere in this contract about you getting to take any of his blood.  So it is my ruling that you are entitled to take Antonio’s fingers, but not any of his blood.  You may begin.” Shylock thought about this for a moment.  He considered his options, trying to figure out how to do that.  “That’s crazy!” he shouted at the judge, “You know perfectly well that if I take his fingers, there’s going to be blood!” “That,” said the judge, “Is not our problem.  A contract is a contract, and you didn’t write in anything about blood.” Everyone laughed at Shylock then, no longer scared of him.  Humiliated, he ran away and was never seen again.

Advanced Shakespeare, For First Graders

Another continuing installment of Life with Geeklets… Mommy:  “I have to go meet Liv and Tommy to pick out wedding invitations!” Geeklet:  “What kind of meet, Mommy?  How do you spell it?” Mommy:  “M-E-E-T.” Daddy:  “What other kinds of meet do you know, Geeklet?” Geeklet:  “Ham?” Daddy: “Very good, and how do you spell that one?” Geeklet: “Ham?” Daddy: “No, how do you spell the meat that is.” Geeklet:  “I don’t know, I was guessing.” Daddy:  “Fair enough.  There’s lots of different ways to spell it, and different meanings.  Shakespeare uses it too.  Hamlet uses that one when he says, “I shall think meet to put an antic disposition on.” Geeklet:  “Which story is he in?” Daddy: “Hamlet?  He has his own story.  That’s a grown up one, lots of people die in that one.” Geeklet:  “They do?” Daddy:  “You see, Hamlet’s father had died, and he was very sad about it.  But he was visited by a ghost who told Hamlet that his father had been murdered!” Geeklet:  “What’s murdered?” Daddy: (thinking that if Mommy finds out we just went down this path I am in a world of trouble)  “That’s when a bad guy sends somebody to Heaven on purpose.  Back in the old days, a long time ago – nobody does this anymore – if you wanted to be king, there was only one way to do it…get rid of the old king.  But only bad guys would do that, that’s why they’re bad guys.” Geeklet:  “Did Hamlet know the ghost?” Daddy: “He sure did – it was the ghost of his father coming back from Heaven to tell Hamlet what had happened!’ Geeklet:  “It was?  It was really his dad?” Daddy:  (loving it when the 6yr old stumbles onto the heavy duty questions) “You know, it’s actually a good question.  Nobody was really sure about ghosts, whether they were good ghosts or bad ghosts.  So it might have been Hamlet’s father, coming back from Heaven…but it might have been a bad ghost just pretending to be Hamlet’s father, to mess up his brains.  We don’t really know, and neither did Hamlet.”   At this point the children are summoned to kiss Mommy goodbye before she leaves, and then it’s off to watch Blues Clues.

Hamlet 2 : Should There Have Been Only One?

Last night on the redeye flight back from California I finally got to watch Hamlet 2.  For a week I’d been seeing a steady Twitter-stream of comments from people that either loved or hated it. I can’t say I loved it, but man it wasn’t good.  I wrote on Twitter that it had 4 minutes of good in it, a comment I’ll explain in a moment. Hopefully everybody saw the trailers when they came out, and our discussion.  The plot : A really bad drama teacher attempts to save his drama department by putting on a play so bad that it’ll get everybody’s attention and turn into one of those “so bad it comes back around to good” things.  The bigger plot : It’s also insanely offensive and stupid (you did see Jesus and Hamlet together on the time machine, right?  They did not, however, show the president French-kissing Satan in the commercials), so it turns into a big free speech thing, blah blah “We heard it’s offensive so we want it banned even though we never saw it for ourselves”, all that sort of stuff.  Throw in some self-satire about “inspirational teacher” movies – the bad drama teacher is obsessed with writing stage versions of movies, and wants to model his life story on something like Mr. Holland’s Opus or perhaps Dangerous Minds – and you’ve got everything you need to know. The movie itself is just pieced together scenes from other movies, perhaps on purpose.  You’ve got the gangbanger kid who doesn’t want to be in a play, but turns out to be the best actor in the group…who then has to quit the show because his parents are making him.  You’ve got a teacher’s pet who learns to let her hair down, and a theatre major figuring out that he’s gay.  There’s a whole subplot about his wife leaving him that’s so bad I don’t understand why it was there to begin with, you could have shot one scene at the beginning with him coming home to an empty house, and saved yourself about 25 minutes of film. There are a handful of funny moments, almost all of the outrageous/shock variety – somebody comes out with a stream of curse words, or shows up naked when you didn’t expect it, or falls down. The plot of the story, which I don’t think I’ve mentioned yet, shows Jesus bringing Hamlet back in a time machine.  Hamlet is going to go back and correct everything so that no one dies.   I don’t think it’s “taking the tragedy out of the tragedy” as one character puts it – I think it’s exploring what it means to want to go back and make amends, and using the world’s greatest tragedy as the canvas to depict how that might go. It comes at 1:19 into the movie (yes, unfortunately for me, I waited 79 minutes for this).   You know what I’m going to say.  It’s when we actually start seeing Shakespearean content.  The entire movie up this point has been stupid, and quite frankly could just as easily have been a movie about Ghandi and Martin Luther King, for all the Shakespeare it had in it.  But then there’s Gertrude, poisoned cup in hand ready to drink, and a time-travelling Hamlet comes lunging in (in slow-motion, no less) to bat the cup from her hand.  There’s those damned lightning bolts up my spine.  It happens every time, and I love it.  I won’t spoil things, but we then get about 4 minutes of the play-within-the-movie and you do get to see Hamlet’s quest to put everything right.  I was intrigued, I have to admit.  It’s not dumb, it has no Jesus in it, no sex and violence. It is exactly what I described – Hamlet trying to undo the tide of tragedy around him.  And then it’s over, and we’re back to the regular movie.  At first I thought, “That could have been a 4 minute YouTube clip and I would have enjoyed it more”, but that’s not really fair.  By the time the play does go on, you know more about the characters, at least one or two of them.  So maybe instead of a 4minute clip it could have been a 15minute short film.   If you’re like me and the only reason you’d consider looking at this movie is for the Shakespeare references, you know all you need to know.  There are maybe one or two other references sprinkled throughout the play (meeting the student’s parents was a particularly good one), but they’re clearly not important to the movie.

Folger Goes Digital

Ok, shame on me – Amy from the Folger Shakespeare Library sends me a press release almost 2 weeks ago, and I go and completely forget to post the thing!  I’m horrible. I imagine a day when e-book technology comes together with such digitizing of classic works, and I can quite literally have the entire Folger library at my fingertips. ——————————
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE      PRESS CONTACTS 
January 16, 2009      Garland Scott, (202) 675-0342, gscott@folger.edu

Folger Shakespeare Library Expands Access to Digital Collection Washington, DC – The Folger Shakespeare Library, home to the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare materials, is expanding access to its digital collection by offering free online access to over 20,000 images from the library’s holdings. The digital image collection includes books, theater memorabilia, manuscripts, art, and 218 of the Folger’s pre-1640 quarto editions of the works of William Shakespeare. Users can now examine these collection items in detail while accessing the Folger’s rare materials from desktops anywhere in the world. “Digital initiatives are an important and ongoing part of our mission to provide access to the Folger collection,” said Gail Kern Paster, Director of the Folger Shakespeare Library. “Cherishing the past has never been in conflict with embracing the future. The promise of digitization is one more powerful case in point. We now have opportunities to bring the Folger’s extraordinary collection to more users than ever.” Julie Ainsworth, the Folger’s Head of Photography and Digital Imaging, said, “We began digitizing the collection in 1995. By making the collection available online, we are giving researchers and the public an important tool.” The Folger’s digital image collection provides resources for users to view multiple images side by side, save their search results, create permanent links to images, and perform other tasks through a free software program, Luna Insight. Stephen Enniss, Eric Weinmann Librarian at the Folger said that “These features will create more ways for researchers, students, and teachers to experience the collection. They can share images with each other, generate online galleries, and examine items from Queen Elizabeth’s letters to costume sketches. As a library we’re continually seeking ways to expand access for researchers and students across the country and around the world.” The Folger is also collaborating with the University of Oxford to digitize 75 quarto editions of Shakespeare’s plays and create the Shakespeare Quartos Archive, which will provide free online access to interactive, high-resolution images of the plays. The Shakespeare Quartos Archive is funded by a new Transatlantic Digitization Collaboration Grant awarded jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Joint Information Systems Committee. In addition, Picturing Shakespeare will make 100,000 images from the Folger collection – including prints, unique drawings, and photography relating to Shakespeare – available to teachers, scholars, and the general public in 2010 through an initiative from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Both projects join a fast-growing body of podcasts, videos, and other online content produced by the library. * * * * * Folger Shakespeare Library is a world-class center for scholarship, learning, culture, and the arts. It is home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection and a primary repository for rare materials from the early modern period (1500–1750). Folger Shakespeare Library is an internationally recognized research library offering advanced scholarly programs in the humanities; an innovator in the preservation of rare materials; a national leader in how Shakespeare is taught in grades K–12; and an award-winning producer of cultural and arts programs – theater, music, poetry, exhibits, lectures, and family programs. By promoting understanding of Shakespeare and his world, Folger Shakespeare Library reminds us of the enduring influence of his works, the formative effects of the Renaissance on our own time, and the power of the written and spoken word. A gift to the American people from industrialist Henry Clay Folger, the Folger Shakespeare Library – located one block east of the U.S. Capitol – opened in 1932. Learn more at www.folger.edu. # # #

Shakespeare Was Tinkerbell’s Dad

http://sparknotes.com/home/shakespeare/article/william_shakespeare_was_tinkerbells_dad.html Or so begins the article, followed up in the first line by a “No, not really.”  (Bait and switch, much?) It then goes on to give a history of fairies (“faeries”) at the time of Shakespeare, and how he didn’t even invent them, he just gave us some of our modern ideas about how they behave. Hmmm….sounds familiar somehow….. http://blog.shakespearegeek.com/2008/07/scary-fairies.html

Oh. Well, All Right Then.

http://www.clicknotes.com/hamlet/questions.html Remember AC Bradley?  I remember back in high school hearing that name associated with the definition of tragic hero.  So when his name showed up in my links today in the title “A.C. Bradley Answers Your Hamlet Questions”, I was intrigued. The linked page is….well, interesting.  It’s a bullet list, maybe a dozen questions about Hamlet, all of which are given straight up yes or no answers, with a link to Bradley.  Did Gertrude sleep with Claudius before Hamlet’s father died?  Yes, see page 166.   Did Hamlet delay because of moral conscience or scruple?  No, he delayed because of profound melancholy, pages 97+108. While I’m sure this has value (the linked pages do in fact give detail on how each answer is chosen), I hate it.  A quick skim makes the reader think there are definite answers to these questions just because some expert says so.  But then if you try to read the justifications, you yourself have to be an expert in the subject just to understand what the heck Bradley is talking about.

Contest Reminder : Free Book Giveaway!

Hey everybody, don’t forget about the current book giveaway : Harper Collins is offering free copies of Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare autobiography to 3 readers *and their friends*!  That’s the gimmick – just comment on that post telling us who you’d give the extra copy to, and why. For bonus points, introduce a friend to ShakespeareGeek.com and get them to comment, too – you’ll get extra entries in the contest! Contest ends January 31.  Let’s make this the biggest giveaway yet!  Don’t forget, publishers like exposure for their titles, so the more entries I get, the better the odds they’ll come back and give me more free stuff next time.  Help a geek out!

The Dream Fulfilled

No, I’m not talking about Mr. Obama and Martin Luther King, I’m talking about hearing my 2.5yr old son quote Shakespeare :). As regular readers are bored of hearing, my 4 and 6 yr old girls are both familiar with “Shall I Compare Three” as a bedtime lullaby, and have been since they were 3 and 5. Now I can almost but not quite add the boy to my growing army of geeklets:  check it out .  He still needs a little coaxing, but give him time, the boy isn’t out of diapers yet. 🙂

[Off-topic?] Where Were You?

Today, as you may have noticed, is a pretty big day here in the United States.  It’s a day that many people thought would never come, at least not in their lifetimes.  It’s a day that I remember hearing about in school as a sort of “Maybe one day…” thing, something in the future, not the present.  I’m speaking, of course, about the swearing in of our first Hawaiian president. As I tried to explain to my 6yr old this morning, “There are times in your life when people will ask ‘Where were you?’  Where were you when we landed on the moon, where were you when 9/11 happened?” “I wasn’t alive for either of those things, Daddy.” “I know, sweetie.  But you know what?  Years from now, when you’re Daddy’s age and you have kids your age, people are going to ask you Where were you when they swore in the first Hawaiian president.” So, I’m asking all my readers, on all my blogs:  Where were you? Me, personally, I’m at work.  My kids are at their grandmother’s house, because the power went out at about 6:30am.  Which stinks, because there’s pretty much no way I will be able to DVR the ceremonies on television if I have no television :).  But I will be watching on line as best I can. Where are you? Anybody got a good Shakespeare quote?  Did our boy write any actual good leaders, positive about the future, that people liked?  It doesn’t seem like the time for Henry V quotes.  Surely somebody’s gotta have one.