I don’t typically post every review or press release about every new interpretation I see, just the ones that catch my eye.  Like this one, which sums up much of what we talk about here:

You need to do it old school enough to serve the language and story, but not so old school that it flashes back to mandatory high school reading lists. It’s about splitting time between classic and cool, between poise and unpredictability.

That gets my attention right off the bat, infinitely more than people who talk about having to bring the language up to date.  Lose that, you lose the Shakespeare.  Keep that, and everything else I think is up to your own interpretation. Then again…

Some characters have been cut, or merged with others; Juliet is now raised by a single mother, for example.

Hmmm.  That’s quite the statement to make with your production.  The helplessness of Juliet’s situation is pretty crucial to her “I have no choice but to kill myself” logic.  How exactly do you get across “Marry the guy I tell you to marry or GTFO” from a single mom??? http://www.24sevencities.com/features/arts/theater/how-juliet-met-romeo.html

Happy Anniversary To My Wife, Kerry!

Today (September 30) is my ninth wedding anniversary. My ever patient wife Kerry, bless her heart, knew I was a Shakespeare geek when she married me.  I even said, during my proposal, that there’ll be time enough for Shakespeare. Since then I’ve generally showered her with Shakespeare every time the opportunity presents itself .  I whispered Sonnet 17 in her ear during our wedding dance.  I made her a Shakespearean infinity bracelet.  I write stuff on Valentine’s Day cards. And much to her credit, bless her heart, she’s driven 100 miles to sit through King Lear with me, buys me Shakespeare toys, and kept me from making a translated Bottom of myself when one of our friends said that Taming of the Shrew is better than Hamlet.  Every now and then she surprises me, too. And let’s not forget that I’ve turned our beautiful children into raging geeklets as well.  She takes it all in stride. So for our anniversary this year I thought I’d introduce her to the site.  Or, rather, the site to her.  She knows I’ve got a blog.  I tell everybody that will listen.  She sees the steady stream of books, DVDs and the occasional t-shirt with a rubber chicken on it show up at the door.  But she goes to bed hours before I do, and the last thing she’ll often hear from me before drifting off to sleep is “Going to work on the blog.”  It only seems right to give her a peek at what that part of my life means. So.  Kerry, this is everybody.  Happy Anniversary, Sweetie.  O that thou didst know how many fathom deep I am in love! O know, sweet love, I always write of you, And you and love are still my argument; So all my best is dressing old words new, Spending again what is already spent: For as the sun is daily new and old, So is my love still telling what is told. We are in the very wrath of love, clubs shall not part us.  Haply I think on thee!  For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings that I would scorn to change my state with kings.   Everybody, this is Kerry.  Say hi, Geeks.   If you’ve got any good quotes to drop on us, let us hear it.

Shakespeare Truthers

I love when my local paper talks about Shakespeare!  In this case it’s a spin on the authorship question, but I’m pretty sure that if somebody calls you a “truther” (lumping you in with the idiots who still argue that Obama can’t be president because he’s supposedly not born in this country), they don’t have a high level of respect for your argument. http://www.boston.com/lifestyle/articles/2009/09/25/the_shakespeare_truthers/ This article is a bit different in that it’s mostly about Marlowe.  Although we all know that he’s a contender (blah blah, faked his death because of secret agent stuff….) I don’t hear him spoken of in that way very often.  Usually it’s all Oxford Oxford Oxford. UPDATE: I mixed up my idiots, they tell me in the comments.  The ones that think Obama’s birth certificate is fake are “birthers”.  “Truthers” are the ones who think 9/11 was deliberately set up … by Bush.  Ok then.


Those folks looking for some good cryptographic puzzles, with maybe a hint of conspiracy thrown in, are encouraged to check out Jim’s new blog Wordplay Shakespeare where he’s already “decoded” secrets including the identity of Mr. W.H. as well as Hamlet’s true age. Disclaimer: I did spot Jim’s blog in my referrer logs, and he sent me a nice note introducing himself. Particularly since English is not his first language, he’s asking for tips to make his blog better.  So be nice. 🙂 I have to admit that I don’t fully “get it”.  I don’t see the patterns that he’s seeing, and I’m not sure I always understand the rules he’s applying.  But then, I’ve never had much of an eye for that sort of thing.  Maybe there are some folks out in my audience who’d like to get some conversation going over there where we can help Jim make his case?

Show Caliban Some Love

Who’s the real villain in The Tempest?  Is it Caliban, the monster?  Or Prospero, the all powerful wizard who physically tortures him on stage? I enjoyed this article on Deeds and Words called Is Caliban a Bad Guy? that attempts to answer this question, taking the position that maybe Caliban’s not quite so bad as we think. Caliban’s supposed evil acts are all enumerated – and defended.  Did he really try to rape Miranda, or was it more a case of hormonal adolescents who didn’t have any moral structure to know any better?  Sure, he tries to overthrow Prospero, but come on, the guy tortures him and keeps him as a slave, isn’t Caliban allowed some level of anger at the man? It’s not a small article, and as you read you’re left with a well balanced but perhaps misunderstood Caliban.  That is until a certain line that comes out of his mouth, which would have likely been a throwaway line to Shakespeare and his peeps, sets the article’s author on edge and casts Caliban back down among the beasts. What’s the line, and is that a legit interpretation?  I’ll leave that as a surprise, we have to show some trafficky love to the original article after all…. 🙂 http://deedsandwords.com/?p=277

Hamlet Was 30. Debate?

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070628192208AAx5yq4 Unlike with other Yahoo Answers crossovers, I don’t think Ray Eston Smith Jr is a current contributor here on Shakespeare Geek.  But this seemingly simple question, and his lengthy detailed answer, fascinate me. Mr. Smith (Eston Smith?) states as fact that Hamlet was 30, and then enumerates all the clear instances within the play where Shakespeare tells us.  Including: * The "30" is also mentioned in "The Mousetrap," where the Player-King said to his queen, "thirty dozen moons with borrow’d sheen about the world have times twelve thirties been" since their marriage. This is meant to signal 30 years, thus relating the Player-King to Hamlet’s father. * King James VI of Scotland, in his private correspondence, liked to use code-numbers in case his letters were intercepted. His code for himself was "30." There are many parallels between Hamlet and James VI. * Hamlet wanted to go "back to school in Wittenberg." That doesn’t mean he was a student. At age 30, he may have been a tenured professor. (Did they have tenure in those days? It doesn’t matter, they didn’t even have a university in Wittenberg in Hamlet’s days. …Hamlet just wanted to go back to Wittenberg where, at age 30, he was well-settled. I’d never heard some of those before, particularly the James VI thing.  There is debate in the comments, although people seem to agree that the gravedigger scene clearly says he’s 30. Discuss?

Is There a “Best” Monologue?

I love this article about finding the “best” monologues for audition, for three reasons. First, because it comes right out and says “there’s no such thing as a best monologue.”  Of course that’s true.  Men, women.  Comedy, tragedy.  Long, short.  Old, young.    But that won’t stop the psychology at work when somebody sees “10 best” – they almost always have to click. I know I did. 🙂 Second, it’s a lesson in monologues.  It is NOT,  for example, “dialogue where you’ve stitched out the other person.”  Amen, brother.  He also suggests that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you use a sonnet instead.  You clearly haven’t expanded your horizons to appreciate the variety available to you within the plays. Lastly, Shakespeare’s certainly included – but absolutely none of what you’d expect.  No Hamlet here.  Instead you get 3 out of 10 from the Bard – the Tempest (no, not Prospero or Caliban or Ariel, either!), Twelfth Night, and even Measure for Measure.  I think, having done away with the “best” idea, that he’s clearly trying to make a point that life is more than To be or not to be. Maybe it reinforces the obvious, but who cares.  Sometimes you need that.  Especially for anybody who really did think they were going to get a magical list of the 10 best monologues guaranteed to get them the callback? UPDATE:  Helps if I include the link!  Thanks Chris! http://www.backstage.com/bso/advice-the-craft/10-top-monologues-for-actors-1003999290.story

Funny What Turns Up

So I’m bored tonight and looking for content.  I don’t type “Shakespeare” into the search engines because I’ve got monitors on those to bring the news to me.  I type in character names. I type in “Caliban” and get this! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ferentz-lafargue/a-tempest_b_294571.html Posted just this morning, a blogger on the Huffington Post compares current New York politics (and the whole “Obama’s people tell governor Paterson not to run”) to the Tempest:

In a sense, Cuomo is Ariel to Paterson’s Caliban. This of course suggests that Gillibrand is Miranda, and Schumer is Prospero in this New York State Democratic adaptation of The Tempest.

I don’t fully get it, I just got a kick out of the fact that it was posted just today and I happened to trip over it entirely by accident ;).

A House Falls On Hamlet?

Using Shakespeare as the foundation for your game is not new.  Some work, some don’t. But it’s always a good idea, from where I sit.  And eventually somebody’s going to hit upon the formula that makes it work.  I think the trick, like “10 Things I Hate About You” and “Lion King”, is to make it map to Shakespeare without coming right out and saying it.  If you tell people “This is Shakespeare, you’ll like it” you won’t get as good a reaction as if you say “Did you like it?  Cool, because you know, it was based on Shakespeare.” With that in mind we have “Gamelet”:

Inspired by Hamlet, the new game is — in the words of its solo developer himself — a "twisted" adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic play. Players control a "man from the future", who arrives in Hamlet’s time just as the Danish hero is about to seek revenge for the death of his parents and rescue his beloved Ophelia from her captors. Unfortunately, you crash land right on top of Hamlet, and must now assume his place in order to prevent the "history" of the world from radically changing.

Sounds like a cross between Hamlet 2 and Wizard of Oz.  Back when I was in school, dreaming of writing games for a living, Hamlet was my holy grail.  Specifically, I wanted to build an engine so rich in AI that all of the NPC (non player characters) would roam around and behave *like* their Shakespearean counterparts, without ever actually being told to. We shall see how it goes.  By my “map it without telling them it’s Shakespeare” rule, it won’t work.  Fingers crossed that I’m wrong!   http://www.adventuregamers.com/newsitem.php?id=1970

Lenny Henry as Othello

Although the name sounds familiar, I don’t know much about this Lenny Henry fellow.  He’s a comedian?  He’s getting great reviews for his spin on Othello:

But appropriately to a tragedy that knows a thing or two about stealth, the director, Barrie Rutter, lets the text’s variable loyalties land where they will — led by an Othello who displays the “free” and life-enhancing nature spoken of by Iago, until suspicion sets in and Mr. Henry’s genial presence starts to cloud over.

I haven’t seen much of Othello, but my recollections do tend toward the … well, boring.  I’ve never really thought of him as a fun guy.  Perhaps I’ve been thinking about him wrong.  Maybe the more you show his good nature up front, the harder the fall as his paranoia takes over. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/23/arts/23iht-lon23.html