One Of These Men Played Hamlet Four Times On Broadway Another gem from  This time it’s “The 6 Most Depressing IMDB (Internet Movie Database) Pages” and you just knew there’d be some Shakespeare up there, didn’t you? The man in the picture is Maurice Evans, who was an acclaimed Shakespearean stage actor before he moved on to bigger (?) and better (??) roles like Batman villain, and of course Dr. Zaius.  I still contend that Dr. Zaius is not a bad role.  That original movie is outstanding. [NSFW warning, the article opens with some pictures of a young lady who spent the better part of her career playing unnamed roles like “shower girl” or “cute naked girl” with accompanying pictures. ]

Passionate Pilgrim XXI Many people on Twitter today are throwing around this quote, calling it Shakespeare:

He that is thy friend indeed,
He will help thee in thy need:

That does not feel right to me, and it took me awhile to find it.  It is actually, as you may have guessed, from The Passionate Pilgrim:


As it fell upon a day
In the merry month of May,
Sitting in a pleasant shade
Which a grove of myrtles made,
Beasts did leap, and birds did sing,
Trees did grow, and plants did spring;
Every thing did banish moan,
Save the nightingale alone:
She, poor bird, as all forlorn,
Lean'd her breast up-till a thorn
And there sung the dolefull'st ditty,
That to hear it was great pity:
'Fie, fie, fie,' now would she cry;
'Tereu, tereu!' by and by;
That to hear her so complain,
Scarce I could from tears refrain;
For her griefs, so lively shown,
Made me think upon mine own.
Ah, thought I, thou mourn'st in vain!
None takes pity on thy pain:
Senseless trees they cannot hear thee;
Ruthless beasts they will not cheer thee:
King Pandion he is dead;
All thy friends are lapp'd in lead;
All thy fellow birds do sing,
Careless of thy sorrowing.
Even so, poor bird, like thee,
None alive will pity me.
Whilst as fickle Fortune smiled,
Thou and I were both beguiled.
Every one that flatters thee
Is no friend in misery.
Words are easy, like the wind;
Faithful friends are hard to find:
Every man will be thy friend
Whilst thou hast wherewith to spend;
But if store of crowns be scant,
No man will supply thy want.
If that one be prodigal,
Bountiful they will him call,
And with such-like flattering,
'Pity but he were a king;'
If he be addict to vice,
Quickly him they will entice;
If to women he be bent,
They have at commandement:
But if Fortune once do frown,
Then farewell his great renown
They that fawn'd on him before
Use his company no more.
He that is thy friend indeed,
He will help thee in thy need:
If thou sorrow, he will weep;
If thou wake, he cannot sleep;
Thus of every grief in heart
He with thee doth bear a part.
These are certain signs to know
Faithful friend from flattering foe.

It still doesn’t feel right to me.  Notice the comment in the link, that Shakespeare is only identified as the author of several of the poems – and 21 is not one of them.  What do you think?  Does this one sound right to you?

I’m intrigued by what Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet has to say on the topic (a blog that takes itself and it’s research very seriously):

The Passionate Pilgrim was first published in 1599, on the sly, as it were, by the disreputable (though later, thanks to his role in producing the First Folio famous) William JaggardThe Passionate Pilgrim is a collection of 20 poems, represented on its title page to be the work of W. Shakespeare.  In fact, only five of the poems are the work of Shakespeare, the first, an early version of sonnet 138 ("When my love swears that she is made of truth"), the second, sonnet 144 ("Two loves I have of comfort and despair"), and the next three lifted from Love’s Labour’s Lost, written and placed in that play to be intentionally bad sonnets, as Shapiro points out.  The rest of the poems in Pilgrim are by minor Elizabethan authors, except for poem 19 which is a corrupt version of Marlowe’s The Passionate Shepherd to His Love followed by an answering stanza by Sir Walter Raleigh.

Emphasis mine.  So, most likely not Shakespeare at all?

Your Mission : Shakespeare Attitude Adjustment

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to start bringing a little Shakespeare appreciation into the world.  Right now, from your computer. Are you on Twitter?  Here’s what I want you to do.  Figure out how to add search/watches to your main feed, and then add “Shakespeare.” What you’ll get is a pretty steady stream of students complaining about their Shakespeare homework, or at the very least pleading confusion and begging for help. Set them straight. If they are asking for help, give it. If they’re frustrated over something, help them over it. [A popular complaint is “Why didn’t Shakespeare write in modern effing English?!”  I always gently point out that, technically, he did.] If they’re bored, show them the entertaining bits.  [There’s always a dirty joke lurking somewhere nearby.] If they’re mistaken in their understanding of something, correct them.  [Just last night somebody wrote about completing his paper on Jacques, from As You Like It.  I wrote back “I hope you spelled it Jaques in your paper, his name’s not Jacques” :)]   That’s part of the beauty of Twitter, you never know when you’ll spot new opportunities to communicate with people.  You may not always get a response, and when you do it might not always be polite – but who cares.  Give it a shot.  For every kid out there that moans “I hate Shakespeare!” there’s even more who want to like it, if only they understood it better.  Here’s your chance.

DVD : Shakespeare’s An Age Of Kings

Shakespeare’s An Age of Kings   Has anybody seen this BBC collection?  I saw it referenced in the Boston Globe this weekend and had to go hunting for it.   From the production description:

In this fifteen-part inventive series based on William Shakespeare’s history plays, the turmoil, power, mystery and frailty of the English crown in the medieval ages is laid bare in epic style. This series originally aired as live broadcasts and was recorded on film. Starring Sean Connery, Julian Glover, Eileen Atkins, Robert Hardy, Angela Baddeley, Judi Dench and John Warner.

From what I can gather this was a 15 part series originally broadcast back in the 1960’s(?) that has been pieced together to show the progression of kings from Richard II, through the Henries, concluding with Richard III. I’m just now noticing that it is not even out yet, still a pre-order.  That would explain why the Globe was talking about it all of a sudden.  But there are customer reviews, and they are glowing.  Has anybody seen the contents, perhaps in their original form?

Tennant’s Hamlet Coming To DVD It’s official!  Polonius actor Oliver Ford Davies told the Telegraph:

"We are intending to film it over two or three weeks in June. It won’t be a full feature film as there isn’t time but it will certainly be more than just the filming of the stage. It will be fantastic to work together again."

As I’ve mentioned, I don’t really know anything about David Tennant, but his Hamlet got rave reviews.  If it is only half as good as Lear was, it’ll still be jaw-dropping.

Review : The Sourcebooks Shakespeare

The Sourcebooks Shakespeare I stumbled backwards into this fine resource when I saw a Twitter reference that mentioned both iPhone and Shakespeare.  So I wrote to Marie asking if she was doing some sort of software development related to Shakespeare. Long story short, I’ve got books to review :).  Marie was nice enough to send me review copies of King Lear and Macbeth (which I will be giving away next week in some sort of contest). I am very pleasantly surprised by how cool these are.  Let me see if I can break down the layout for you.  First and foremost, each book has a traditional script of the play – on the right hand pages.  Nicely laid out, lots of whitespace, which I like.  It looks visually like the kind of thing that might be read by an actor, rather than something out of an academic textbook with microscopic print. The left-hand pages are where you find all the good stuff.  Not only is there the traditional glossary of odd words, but actual trivia, anecdotes, images, and links to the accompanying audio CD where that particular part of the scene is being read aloud, so you can follow. Think about how cool that is.  We read about Lear and the Fool stumbling across Poor Tom’s hovel, while we flip through images of other people’s interpretations of that scene.  Where we don’t get images we get descriptions, like the story about a Cordelia who plays guitar through the opening scene, showing either that she was completely not paying attention to what was going on around her and thus completely taken off guard, or else that she knew exactly and was deliberately being rude.  I couldn’t get enough of that sort of thing, and only wish there was a way that they could imbed video right in there with everything else. Also strewn throughout are editorial comments that aren’t afraid to say things as they should be, like “Lear might be referring to _____ here, or possibly ______.”  I worry for textbooks that make factual statements to impressionable students, when another book might say something different with equal confidence that their answer is the only one.  Some of the editorial choices are interesting as well, and those too are called out in the comments.  I saw several times “Some editors place a scene break here, but Kent stays on stage the whole time so we chose not to.”  Cool – explanation of editor’s decisions, and not buried someplace in an appendix that I’ll never read. The book opens with a lengthy description of Shakespeare in performance, including stories about some of the more popular interpretations (like Kurosawa’s Ran, obviously).  It ends with a lesson on how to perform Shakespeare, and the importance of the spoken presentation.  This makes sense, of course because the books each come with an audio CD containing selections of well known Shakespearean actors performing key scenes from the play.  (I am deliberately not tearing into the book to listen to those, as I want to reward some of my readers with pristine copies.) I think this is a great idea.  From the web site we see that these are clearly intended for classroom use, and I’m glad to see it.  Personally as someone long out of school I think I’d boil down all the stories and images into a single volume, leaving only key passages from the play, and do it like “King Lear in Performance” or something.  After all, I already have many copies of the play and don’t need the book to be twice as long just so I know what scene they’re talking about when they talk about Gloucester’s eyes.  But maybe that’s just me? Excellent resource, fun to read.  It’s not often I get to say this about a Shakespeare book, but this is one that you can pick up just to look at the pictures!

Was The Cobbe Portrait Ruined By Restorers? Whether you believe the Cobbe portrait is Shakespeare or not, this should be an interesting story.  A theory will be argued next week that the portrait was in fact changed deliberately to show Shakespeare as he aged – changes that were removed by the restorers. One of the big questions that people immediately asked when the Cobbe became so famous a few weeks ago was, “What’s up with the hair?  In the Droeshout portrait – done only 6 years later – Shakespeare is quite bald.”  The argument of the article seems to revolve around whether some hair was added, or removed, at different periods in the painting’s lifetime.

“She had Brutus call in to request Eye Of The Tiger” I always like hearing about projects like these, mostly because I never got to do any when I was in high school.  This teacher was doing Julius Caesar, and chose to make a radio station project out of it.  “Odd,” I thought, wondering where the Julius Caesar comes in.  But she explains in depth how she broke the lesson down, including things like the advertising copy written for each side’s propaganda (and spoken by the DJs).  They also had to involve the characters in some way.  I was thinking of a “special in-studio guest”, but the idea of Brutus calling in to get request some motivational music is pretty funny.

Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits,0,1031508.story “Ages Of Man” sounds like the sort of show I would love. Think of Ages as a collection of Shakespeare’s greatest hits. The show is a one-actor tour de force initially performed by Sir John Gielgud in the late 1950s in Europe and the U.S.The concoction includes the monologue from As You Like It that provides the title of the current show; King Lear mourning the death of his daughter, Cordelia; Hamlet’s soliloquy on suicide and Prospero’s retirement speech at the end of The Tempest. Ages also showcases several much-loved sonnets: the 18th (Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?), the 116th (Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment) and the 29th (When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes).