A Plethora of Prosperas : Tempest DVD Giveaway!

So here we are at the beginning of a new year, and here I am sitting on a big pile of movies that I have to give away.  Specifically I’ve got *9* copies of Julie Taymor’s 2010 The Tempest, starring Helen Mirren.  Remember this one?  We certainly talked a lot about it.

It doesn’t happen often enough for my taste, but I do like it when a Shakespeare movie comes along in the theatre and then you get to sit down with the DVD and get a second view.  Who knows how my opinion might change? Maybe I’ll have the kids watch it (or, parts of it) after all.

In all my giveaways and contests I’ve never had this many copies of a single item, and I’m not quite sure how I want to proceed.  It seems boring to simply give them out randomly to 9 people who leave comments on this post.  I mean, good for you all, given that the average post here nets less than 20 comments so you’d probably have a better than 50% chance of winning one.  But where’s the fun in that? 🙂

So here’s my idea.  I’ll start by giving away *3* of them.  To enter, all you’ve got to do is leave a comment on this post with an idea about what I should do with the rest of them. If somebody else beats you to an idea you can still add a comment saying “Yeah, do that” and be entered for this first round. For this first round I’ll pick from all the commenters regardless of content, so don’t be afraid your idea won’t win versus somebody else’s.  Everybody who comments can be entered.

Let’s say that everything needs to be in by end of day Friday (January 6).  I’ll randomly pick 3 winners over the weekend.  Since we’re doing this in the comments I will have to publicly announce winners (I won’t have your email addresses), so remember to check back in early next week!

After we’ve given away the first 3 I’ll see what sort of ideas got cooked up and look toward giving away the rest.

Got the idea?  As usual, I have to limit the contest to continental US residents.  I am shipping these on my own nickel.  Sorry international folks.  Then again I’m not sure whether these DVDs would work across regions anyway.

As far as I can tell I’m not required to do an online giveaway, either, so if you think that donating some copies to the local school or library would be the best option, let me hear it.

TL;DR – Got 9 copies of Tempest DVD, giving away 3 this weekend to US resident folks who suggest ideas, not necessarily online, about what to do with the rest.

Thanks very much to Lauren from BH Impact for hooking us up with the most generous giveaway yet!

(*) P.S. – Extra geek points for you if you recognize the Three Amigos quote from the title 😉

David Tennant On The Enterprise?

How do you put a label on David Tennant? It seems unfair to categorize him solely in Dr. Who or Shakespeare terms.  So instead of introducing somebody who needs no introduction I’ll just point out that he’s on the Nerdist podcast with Chris Hardwick this week.

I’ll let you know up front, not a lot of Shakespeare. Much Ado gets some time, but mostly as it pertains to his schedule of doing other things.  There’s also a nod to Hamlet, and some very nice praise for Sir Patrick. Absolutely nothing at all on his methods for acting Shakespeare, favorite Shakespeare plays, anything like that at all. Almost the entire interview is divided up between Dr. Who and Fright Night, which is understandable when you realize where the Nerdist is coming from.  They’re firmly in that sci-fi / comic / movie culture.

The title of this post comes from an idea that Tennant drops that, were it to happen, would surely cause the internet to explode. Given that Hardwick had just had JJ Abrams (director of the new Star Trek movies) on his show and was planning to have Simon Pegg (a friend of Tennant’s, and cast member of the new Star Trek movies), it seems as if the idea at least had some potential.  It’s only a brief mention, but it’s certainly an attention grabber, innit? 🙂

The Great Aunt Catherine Debates #3 : The Rest is Words, Words, Words

Last one in a series.

When I was at my aunt’s funeral service and the priest mentioned William Shakespeare, I had no idea what he was going to say next.  There’s so much to choose from!

And with that, here’s my question. You’re attending the service of a family member. Let’s say that you weren’t terribly close to this person, not something where you’re going to be overwhelmingly distraught.  More one of those “obligations we all have to do” sorts of things.  As a niece or a nephew or what have you, you’re asked to say a few words.  You want to bring some Shakespeare into it.

What do you bring?

The grief speech from King John is pretty powerful (“Grief fills the room up of my absent child, Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,…”) but it’s also not terribly general purpose.  It’s pretty clearly a parent-child thing.

I’m a fan of sonnet 104 (“To me, fair Friend, you never can be old, For as you were when first your eye I eyed
Such seems your beauty still.”
) At least that opening passage. I think it’s a pretty wonderful picture to paint, especially if you’re talking about someone who’s lived a long life and left many memories.

What else you got?  I’d stay away from most of the Hamlet stuff, it’s just gotten so cliched.  Well, except one that I’ve come to cherish as my own personal meditation over those we’ve lost.

Rest in Peace, Aunt Catherine.  Flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest.

The Great Aunt Catherine Debates #2 : Sanctity of Context

Continuing our series, here’s question #2.  To recap, the priest took the liberty of pulling Antony’s “The evil that men do lives after them…” quote to offer up a sermon on the truth that the good you do really does matter, and that you should strive to have a good life because it really will live after you.  I got his point, I think people appreciated the sermon, I’m not one to be trivial (not matter how much it grates on me when somebody says “Shakespeare was wrong.”  Even if you are a priest I will take you down.)

So the question is this – how do you feel about that?  The “grab a quote and then make it mean what you want it to mean” thing, even if it turns out that you are drastically misinterpreting its original intent?  I’ve seen people rant and rave about overuse of Polonius’ “To thine own self be true” advice

On the one hand I appreciate the exposure to Shakespeare. There’s no doubt that people in that audience had never heard that quote, and got a quick lesson.  The problem of course is that the lesson may have left them with a misunderstanding of Shakespeare that who knows what it will take to correct.

Where do you draw the line?  How much of a purist are you about that sort of thing?

I’m torn.  Obviously I’m documenting my experience pretty heavily here, but it’s not like I felt obligated to gather everybody up and give them a lesson in Julius Caesar. Honestly I just don’t think anybody left the service thinking about Shakespeare.  They were thinking about what the priest said about living a good life. And I’m ok with that. If I’d heard anybody muttering about “Wow, Shakespeare was stupid” or “I can’t believe Shakespeare wrote something ridiculous like that,” then I might well have stepped in.

The Great Aunt Catherine Debates #1 : What Did Antony Mean?

As I mentioned here, the funeral service for my great aunt Catherine brought up a number of Shakespeare questions.  The priest read Antony’s line about “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones,” and then went on to explain how Shakespeare was wrong, how you should strive to do good in your life because your good deeds will outlive you.

My question to you is, how would you “correct” this interpretation of the line?  Why did Shakespeare have Antony say it?  Imagine you’ve just bumped into somebody who was at that service (my aunt’s, not Caesar’s), who’d never heard this line before and now thinks that “Shakespeare was wrong.”  What would you say to correct this person’s understanding of the passage, in context?

For example I tried to explain to my wife about the complexity of Antony’s situation at that particular moment. He’s been given permission to speak at Caesar’s funeral by the guys that killed Caesar in the first place. It’s not like he can get up there and say that Caesar was an awesome guy and it’s a shame he died.  He has to at least pretend that he agrees with them that Caesar was a bad dude.

So Let It Be With Great Aunt Catherine?

So over the holidays a family member passed away, and my wife and I drove down to attend the funeral.  She was elderly and in failing health, so this was not a surprise.

I wasn’t prepared for the Shakespeare sermon.  When the priest said, “A long time ago, a man named William Shakespeare wrote….” and more than a few heads turned and looked at me :).  I perked up, curious.  Which Shakespeare would he be going with?

He continued, “Marc Antony spoke these words over the body of Julius Caesar…”  Really?  “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.  So let it be with Caesar.” That’s different.  Great Aunt Catherine was not an assassinated potential dictator, after all.  At least, that I know of.

He then went on to focus his sermon on how Shakespeare was wrong, and how the good that you do in your life does live after you, and it’s the bad stuff that should be put to rest.

I get his point. He spotted a line that gave him a launching point for what he wanted to say, and he snipped it out of context. No matter how much the words “Shakespeare was wrong” grate on me, I’m not going to debate with the priest on what Antony’s true feelings were toward Caesar.

That’s what this forum is for. 🙂

I have at least three different questions coming out of that service, and I think it’s only fair to post them separately so that conversations don’t all stomp all over each other.  Look for posts to follow shortly.

Juggling Sonnets

Tough day yesterday all around.

I have a habit at my day job of wandering around and juggling when I need to get up from the desk.  So I did so, wandering over to a coworker’s desk as I often do. 

“I’ve seen that trick,” she says. “I feel like you should sing or something while you do that, step up the difficulty.”

“Why would you want to hear me sing? You’ve not wronged me in any way, I wouldn’t want to subject you to that,” I reply.

“Then quote Shakespeare or something.”

I’d like to think that I missed no beats before replying, “When it disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state.  And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries and look upon myself and curse my fate…,” all while still juggling.

“What does bootless mean?” she asks.


“I can’t believe I picked up on the one word you don’t know the definition for.  I’m disappointed.”

And with that, my Shakespeare cred took quite the hit and I looked stupid.

But, damnit, isn’t it missing the point to pick out an individual word and say “Quick! define this out of context!” I’m not even sure what the right answer is to that.  Bootless cries means what, exactly – “my cries that have nothing behind them”?  “My cries that go unheard”?  She wasn’t asking for a translation of the text I’d just spoken, she zeroes in on one word. Besides, isn’t that what the “deaf heaven” part is for?  (The best translation that I’ve found says that I could have said “useless.”  Bootless cries are useless cries, because heaven’s not listening.)

Between losing that cred with my coworkers, and learning that I won’t get to teach the kids, it wasn’t a great day I tell ya.


Just got the phone call that the school principal (who is most definitely NOT my pal) got wind of our Shakespeare project, decided that he too was uncomfortable with the potential content, and that since it is not part of the state curriculum, in short, we can’t do it. Period.

Since my kids have to actually spend a few years in this school system I will limit my opinions on the subject, but I’m sure you all can gather what they may be.

I want to thank everybody who came flocking to my rescue, flooding me with no end of resources on how we might be able to make it work.  We all know that the subject can be taught at this level, many of you have experience doing exactly that.  And we all know that it is a *good* and *positive* thing.  I just happen to have hit a dead end this time.

I’m temporarily down, but I’m very much not out.  Watch this space for future efforts to climb back up that hill.

Going Down In Flames! Help!

My teaching debut gets more bowdlerized by the minute! I tried pitching a simplified version of the Mechanicals, and even still I was told “words like ‘lover’ and ‘killed’ are not acceptable, unless we had permission slips from all the parents.” If you can’t have Bottom kill himself, what’s the point?

At this rate, there’s pretty much no performance that we can do from Midsummer.  I’m losing faith in this project rapidly.
With just a week to go before showtime, I don’t even want to attempt getting a different play cleared, I just have to pitch the whole idea of doing any acting out of the text.

I really and truly don’t want to just lecture on the subject, that will be so boring.  I have some puzzles that I can give the kids as takeaways to do on their own, but I desperately need some interactive material or games that we can play. Help!

Of Shakespeare and Giant Intelligent Squid

On a recent episode of Science Friday that had the story of the scientist who claims to have found evidence of the mythical Kraken.  His evidence is patterns found in a “midden”, an undersea pile of bones.  He argues that a creature of some intelligence organized the bones into patterns on purpose.

Debunkers of his evidence point to that bit of our brains that likes to find patterns in things.  When you see a cloud that looks like a kitty, it’s not because some magical being in charge of clouds shaped it like a kitty on purpose, it’s simply because that particular random combination of particles made your brain think, “Kitty!”  It is exactly the same as playing the lottery, watching “1 2 3 4 5 6” come out, and thinking, “Wow! What are the odds?!”  Exactly the same as the numbers coming out 35 17 3 4 22 30, actually.  We just don’t attach any significance to that sequence like we do to the other one.

What’s this got to do with Shakespeare?  Well, what if everything that we’ve read into Shakespeare’s work over the centuries is just that – stuff that we’ve read into it, rather than stuff that he deliberately put there?  What if he was just a guy who was just cranking out whatever got him paid, and he really and truly had no insight into human nature at all?

I often wonder about that. It’s a pretty safe bet that Shakespeare never sat at his quill and thought, “If I write this, people will still be talking about it four hundred years from now.”  But it’s also unlikely that if he was just churning out the first thing that came to his mind that we *would* be talking about him 400 years later.  So the answer is somewhere in the middle.  But at which end?