Princess Diana, Shakespeare Scholar?

Here’s an interesting story – an old Shakespeare text from 1977 has been found with scribbled notes in the margins that have been authenticated as those of Princess Diana The play? The Tempest. There’s also apparently some math notes, and she weren’t so good at da math.
I’m not sure what’s more sad, though – her handwriting, her grasp of math, or the article’s sad emphasis on pocket change: ‘Being a Yorkshireman, my father always checked what people had thrown out in case it was worth a few bob.” And then later, “‘I’m shocked and delighted it’s worth so much. I’m going to sell it at the right auction and at the right time.’” Absolutely – you’ve found a piece of history. Sell it as fast as you can.
Also interesting is that it’s only worth about 1500 British pounds, which is somewhere around $2000US. At that price I think I’d keep it. What am I going to do when I sell it, buy a television? That’d make fun dinner conversation. “Oh, like the new high def? Yeah, I sold a piece of British history for it.”


Regular readers know that I’ll often sing “Shakespeare songs” to my kids as lullabies. I know two — Sonnet 18, which I originally heard put to music by David Gilmour of Pink Floyd (and used to use as my cellphone ringtone), and “What A Piece of Work Is Man” from the HAIR soundtrack.
So last night I crawl into bed with the 4yr old. “Daddy sing you a song?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied.
“What song should I sing?”
“Shakespeare,” he said
“Which one?” I asked
“William,” he answered.

You know that thing that fish do when you take them out of the water, how the little mouth just sort of opens and closes and nothing really comes out? I had one of those moments. It took me a good number of seconds to shake it off and regain myself. “Which Shakespeare song,” I asked more clearly.
“The one about the guy? With the skeleton? And he talks to it?”
“Yeah, Hamlet.”
Ah, back to reality. 🙂

Who's Who In Shakespeare Blogs?

Thanks to Bardfilm for pointing out this list of the 30 Best Shakespeare Blogs. Best, of course, is in the eye of the beholder — look at instead as a survey across the wonderful world of Shakespeare Blogging. How much it’s grown in 5 years!
Many of our friends made the list. Congratulations to Mad Shakespeare, Shakespeare Place (JM’s site), Shakespeare Teacher, American Shakespeare Center, Bardfilm, Folger, Shakespeare Standard … great work, everybody!

I'm … Stumped.

Would you believe I actually found a good, unique question on Yahoo Answers? Maybe it’s been asked before, but in all my time I don’t think I’ve ever seen it.

What play, or type of play, do you think Shakespeare *enjoyed* writing most?

People these days find reason to debate the very identify of Shakespeare, so the idea that there’s hard and fast evidence about whether he enjoyed his work sees a bit ridiculous. But is it unanswerable? I’m not so sure.
Wasn’t it Midsummer that’s basically his only original story? Maybe we could argue that was a favorite. (Wasn’t Shrew an original story as well, though?)
I think that today we point to Hamlet and Lear as his masterpieces, but I wonder if that has simply come with time, and if he didn’t think of them as just another tragedy. Didn’t I read somewhere that Titus Andronicus would have been one of his more popular shows at the time? Shakespeare was a business man, that must have appealed. Then again, that would happened after he wrote it, so we can’t really use that as evidence that he enjoyed writing it.
Who knows, maybe it’s too hypothetical. But I thought it was a neat question.

Lear's Math Skills

In the lunch room today two of the managers were joking about how they were late getting in their budgets. “The last guy to turn in his budget just gets what’s left,” I said. “That would be the greatest motivational tool ever.”
This brought to mind the opening scenes of King Lear, where Lear says that he will divide up his kingdom among his three daughters, and give the best piece to the one that loves him best.
And here, as I’m sure many of you have noticed, he then starts divvying up his land as each daughter speaks, fundamentally breaking his own game. By the time Cordelia speaks, the most she can hope to get, regardless of what she says, is “whatever’s left.” Mathematically, the correct way to play the game would be to let them all speak first, and then to decide who won, and divide up the kingdom accordingly.
So, since Lear clearly does not do that, here’s my question. Is this just a Shakespearean “mistake” (though perhaps “oversight” might be a better word)? Or, and here’s where I think it’s more interesting, did Lear already save the best portion for Cordelia, assuming that she would be the one to win his little game?
I like that idea. I like the idea that he knew Regan and Goneril were backstabbing little ingrates, and he gave them a bare minimum portion. He knew Cordelia loved him best, and the whole game was just an opportunity (albeit it a selfish one) to stick it to the annoying two and prove how much he loved his youngest – after she proved that she loves him, of course. If this was his plan, then her unexpected speech about exactly how much she does love him must have been absolutely heartwrenching to him. Which, in turn, caused his temper to go off the charts. And, well, we all know what happens next.
What think you all?

Challenge Extended : Starlings

Ok, who’s up for some research?
On Twitter someone questioned the story of Eugene Schieffelin, who in 1890 released several dozen (I’ve seen reportd of 40-80) starlings into Central Park in New York city. Why did he do this? Legend has it that he wanted to bring all the birds of Shakespeare’s work to the United States.
The problem is that there appears to be no evidence to back up this story. Plenty of people tell it, but none of us can find any corroborating evidence. I’ve done what research I can on Google Books from that era, and there are plenty of 1890 publications citing Mr. S’s starling release (and apparently some sparrows as well), but at the time there are no references linking Schieffelin and Shakespeare. At all.
The closest I found was this book, Tinkering With Eden, that makes multiple references to Eugene’s obsession with “birds of the poets.” However this is a 2002 book and it’s unclear to me where she gets all this information.
Somebody got better supporting evidence? Ideal would be some reference to Schieffelin’s Shakespeare quest that is either authored by him, or at the very least dated back during his lifetime.Worth mentioning – I’ve emailed the author of that book. Why not? I’ll report back if I get any good answers.

Eight Reasons Why Personalized Shakespeare Is A Bad Idea

There’s a link going around Twitter (no need to keep supporting it) about a project that creates personalized versions of classic novels – including Shakespeare – where you presumably get to swap out your name (and probably some key descriptive attributes) with some of the major characters, thus making the story about yourself.
Somebody didn’t think this through. (Warning, PG adult language and content ahead!)

Julius Caesar … because stabbing innocent people and bathing in their blood isn’t like it was in the good old days.

Twelfth Night … because you’re a boy who’s always wondered what it would be like to be a girl in love with a man who thinks you’re a boy.

Taming of the Shrew … because bitch knew her place!

Othello … because you want to strangle your wife.

The Merchant of Venice … because Jews are evil.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream … because you should be allowed to drug your wife when she won’t give you what you want.

Romeo and Juliet … because you want to sleep with a 13yr old girl.

Hamlet … because your girlfriend is crazy, you’d like to kill her dad, and your mom has been looking hot lately.

And Then There's The Adorable Middle Geeklet

I mentioned yesterday how my 8yr old daughter just finished The Tempest on her own (a children’s translation). Over the dinner table this produced an interesting bit of oneupsmanship(?) with her 6yr old sister:
Elizabeth: “Daddy, I just finished Much Ado about Nothing in Katherine’s book.”
Katherine: “Much Ado About Nothing isn’t even in that book!”
Elizabeth: “Well I finished something, I forget the name of it.”
Daddy: “What was it about?”
Elizabeth: “I forget.”
Daddy: “What was the name of the main character?”
Elizabeth: “I forget.”
Daddy: “Did you read the one about a girl named Rosario?”
Elizabeth: “I think I remember now. It was the story about Rosario.”
Daddy: “There’s no story Shakespeare story with a girl named Rosario. Busted.”
Katherine: “Ha!”
Elizabeth: “D’oh!”
🙂 All in good fun, of course. I realize that may sound like we were ganging up on the child, but that’s not the case.

Twenty Bits of Shakespeare Trivia You Probably Haven’t Heard Before

Bardfilm has compiled a list of unknown Shakespeare trivia. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Twenty Bits of Shakespeare Trivia You Probably Haven’t Heard Before:

  1. All the plays and poems attributed to Shakespeare were really written by a little girl named Prosperina Del Factotum.
  2. The character of Hamlet was modeled on a large fish given to the Queen on 3 February 1578.
  3. When you read Hamlet’s Soliloquy backward, the words “Paul is Dead” are clearly audible.
  4. In addition to writing the plays, Shakespeare was also an actor. He played the ghost in Hamlet, Adam in As You Like It, and Vikki the Space Vampire in Macbeth.
  5. Only six of Shakespeare’s signatures survive. They range in spelling from “S-h-a-x-p-e-r” to “B-e-n-n-y.”
  6. None of the portraits of Shakespeare are of Shakespeare. They’re all of another man of the same name who dressed as Shakespeare to elude tax collectors.
  7. King Lear was originally marketed as a comedy. Audiences loved the slapstick of the storm scene, and they fell all over themselves when a senile old man couldn’t tell if his daughter was dead or alive!
  8. The Sonnets have always been misinterpreted. They’re really the sixteenth-century equivalent of Marley and Me.
  9. In his youth, he drank too much. This led to the expression “He’s as tight as Andronicus.”
  10. His sexual orientation is pretty clear. He was either homosexual, bisexual, or straight.
  11. He coined many words and phrases, including “bombshell,” “rockin’,” “Hoosier Daddy,” and “Ow!”
  12. Many of the words Shakespeare used had a double entendre as a secondary meaning. If you knew what “be,” “question,” “mind,” “slings,” and “arrows” meant in Shakespeare’s day, you’d never stop blushing.
  13. If you read every 39th word in the First Folio, you get a good recipe for Tater Tot Casserole.
  14. Every word in En Vogue’s “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” is taken directly from Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
  15. Shakespeare, Gertrude Stein, and Mark McGuire once traveled in the same car on the Orient Express.
  16. Contrary to expectation, Shakespeare never did. Shake a spear, that is. But he wrote many bit parts for spear shakers, which is how he got his name.
  17. His second trip to Hollywood culminated in two pilot episodes of The Love Boat (one that is lost).
  18. Shakespeare did not wear a ruff. He was half human and half Australian Frilled Lizard.
  19. Not long after his death, he was called “The Cygnet of the Cenotaph.” “Swan of Avon” came later.
  20. The original ending of Richard III had Richmond shout “Who da winter of your discontent NOW, Dickie?”

Our thanks for this guest post to kj, the author of Bardfilm. Bardfilm is a blog that comments on films, plays, and other matters related to Shakespeare.