Comments and Contacting Me

Hi everybody,

Quick administrative note.  Lately I’ve had to take a stronger stance in removing comments that do not add to a given thread.  This frequently happens when somebody discovers the blog for the first time and wants to use the opportunity to say “Hey, have you seen this yet?” and provide me with a link.  This is not typically what I’d think of as spam, I think it’s just overenthusiasm.

Still, though, the rule continues to apply – add something to the discussion.  If you want to provide a link, make it a relevant one.

For those that want to share links and have no way to contact me, I’ve added a link directly in the sidebar over there.  It’s also fairly easy to get me via the Contact page.  I do see links when people send them to me that way, I have a number of regulars who constantly send me stuff.  So don’t be afraid.

Fair enough?  I feel bad deleting comments that come from legit Shakespeare fans, but it’s also not right for me to judge one worthy of deletion and one worthy of keeping.  So typically they all go.

– SG

Teaching With Shakespeare : A Game

Ok, for this game you are stranded on a desert island with a young child, and it is now your job to provide an education for this child.  For maximum points you must meaningfully introduce as many subjects as you can to your student.

Here’s the catch – the only book you have to teach with is a First Folio.  You are allowed to supplement with visual aids, but only to the extent that you could create them with whatever rudimentary means might be at your disposal, such as scratching in the sand with a stick.  Nothing too complicated.

Easy example : You can teach poetry, by showing multiple examples of meter and rhyme scheme.

Harder example : Geography.   You could do a pretty good job of plotting where Prospero’s island is, simply by looking at the description of the ship’s return from Claribel’s wedding in Tunisia.  (This is where I see no way around having to draw out a globe and start pointing to various places.)  There’s actually an island that claims to have been Shakespeare’s inspiration, based entirely on this method (given that there’s no way Shakespeare could have ever been there).

What else can you come up with?  How about math?  Other than the dividing up of King Lear’s soldiers I’m trying to think of how many math problems Shakespeare may have written out for us.

Science?  Given how much science has changed in 400 years this would be a tricky one, and it’s not Shakespeare’s fault.

History?  The case of Julius Caesar is probably the most well known.  How many kids graduate from high school never truly knowing what facts about Caesar’s assassination are true, and which were created by Shakespeare?

How about spelling, or for that matter reading in the first place?  That would be interesting.  I bet with some study you could make a good list of words that are spelled in multiple different ways, and then use that to work on a basic phonetics lesson.

You are also welcome to make the case for more advanced classes such as “debating”, “politics”, “psychology” and so on.

How To Categorize Shakespeare

Here’s a question that comes up in my life a lot.  We talk about Shakespeare here. That’s easy.  But when I go and add the site to various boards and services, inevitably I’m asked to place it into a category.

So, what’s our category?
Art?  Education?  Books and Literature?  Theatre?  Entertainment?  History?
None of those is a perfect answer.  I often end up putting us into Education, because when I look at the big mission of the site it is about discussing Shakespeare and hence learning about Shakespeare.  But education is not always a very big category and doesn’t get much traffic, so I feel like to just relegate us over there is not giving the site enough credit.
Curious to people’s thoughts.  Of course, some sites do offer the opportunity to place multiple tags of your own creation, which is fine – then I can add the actual word Shakespeare and the rest becomes secondary.
But for those cases where you need to pick a single category, what are we?  Think of it from the perspective of the incoming potential audience – they’re in category X, and they see Shakespeare Geek, what would their expectations be about the site?  And would we meet those expectations?
Thanks as always for helping to make the site better!

Shakespeare Geek on Pinterest

After the flood of pictures I took in Washington last week, I finally broke down and decided to join  This site’s never been heavy into pictures, but if that’s what people want to follow these days, I’ll do what I can to start adding more visual content.

Unfortunately somebody already beat me to “ShakespeareGeek” as a username, so you can find me as ShakesGeek.  Right now I’ve got two ‘boards’ set up — one that will pin stuff directly from the blog (so if you’re already following the blog in some fashion, you’ll have seen it), and another for ‘found Shakespeare’ for all those random Shakespeare related images that I find floating around than don’t always merit their own post.

[EDIT]   Oh, and you may also see a “Pin it!” button in the upper right corner of those posts with picture content.  If you are someone who uses pinterest and you like the content I’m putting up, sharing it in this way would be a great way to support the site.  Thanks!

I Would Challenge You To A Battle Of Wits But I See You Are Unarmed

When I spotted this “battle of wits” quote as attributed to Shakespeare I immediately thought of the closest thing I could remember, Beatrice’s zinger in Benedick’s general direction:

  1. Alas! he gets nothing by that. In our last
  2. conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and
  3. now is the whole man governed with one: so that if
  4. he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him
  5. bear it for a difference between himself and his
  6. horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left,
  7. to be known a reasonable creature. Who is his
  8. companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother.

[Citation :  Much Ado about Nothing – Act 1, Scene 1. Lines: 56-63.]

Beatrice in Much Ado About NothingThis ends up pretty close.  Roughly translated, “In our last battle of wits he lost most of his, and now he’s only left with one, so I’m going to let him keep it so people can tell the difference between him and his horse.”

Is it even possible to give proper attribution to the quote in question, though?  It seems like the generic sort of thing that many people have thought of over the years.

The best answer , I think, came from the ChaCha board.  Every now and then for one of these quotes I’ll see someone who has asked, “What play is that from?”  Because, as a general rule, if the quote always says “Shakespeare” but never says the play?  That means he never said it.  Anyway, somebody asks what play this wits quote is from.  And the answer that came back was, and I’m not making this up, “It’s not in a play.  William Shakespeare the person said it.”

Oh.  Dear ChaCha answerer, if you have access to documents written by Mr. Shakespeare that the rest of us don’t know about, please share!  You could be a very very rich person.



Why We Do This : Your Turn

During my Shakespeare Day Marathon I posted 25 different items for people to talk about, ranging from links I’d queued up over the weekend, to information about Shakespeare and the Presidents, the Booth family … leading up to actual images from my invited trip through Folger Shakespeare Library vault and culminating in pictures of Folio #1, The Most Beautiful Book In The World.

And yet the post that got the most clicks that day was my … rant? diatribe? plea? … entitled “Why I Do This : The Big Picture” (I’ll give you a hint, it’s not about my kids).  I don’t know why that happened, exactly (I would have thought the pictures would generate more interest), but I’m glad it did.  That post, albeit a little over the top, was my reaction to the yearly Shakespeare’s Birthday flood of attention where people come out of the woodwork to say how much Shakespeare means to them, in one or two nice little 140character tweets.

Prove it.

I don’t want to hear what Shakespeare means to you.  I want you to show us what it means to you, and show us what you do about it.  Do you perform him, research him, teach him?  What about all those out there who, like me, can’t claim to be doing this as any more than a hobby?

If Shakespeare means something to you, then you should consider yourself obligated to return the favor and do something for him.  For every post about “I love his poetry, his words sing to me!” I’ll show you dozens upon hundreds of posts claiming he’s not relevant anymore, shouldn’t be taught, speaks a different language, banned from schools, too hard, too boring…  What are you doing about it?

Here’s your call to action.  If you’ve got a place to post something, then post it there and link it here.   If you don’t, then tell us in the comments what you’re doing to bring your love of Shakespeare to the rest of the world.

Maori Haka, and Parallel Universes

If you’ve not seen it yet, you first need to check out this video.  It’s from the The Globe’s season opener, Troilus and Cressida performed entirely in New Zealand’s Maori language and opening with a “haka”, something that I can best describe as a “war dance,” popularized by the New Zealand men’s rugby team:

This is already awesome on a number of levels when you go into it thinking “Ok, the Shakespeare people are doing a Shakespeare play in a language other than English.” The idea that there’s going to be 37 (38?) of these, each entirely unique, makes me giddy in anticipation.

Now imagine, if you can, coming at it entirely from the other angle.  Imagine you stumbled across this video with no context at all.  You start watching, you think, “Ok, this looks interesting….”  Then you realize that a story is being told.  You try to figure out characters, and plot (* this is only the trailer, of course – pretend for the sake of argument that you could get video of the entire production).  How long would it take you to realize “Hey….this story looks familiar!  I think this in the Trojan War story!  No, wait, is this Shakespeare?  Is this Troilus and Cressida???”

That’s where my “parallel universe” comment in the subject comes from.  You see something like this and it’s as if the essence of what drove Shakespeare’s stories exists independently somewhere, capable of driving what is fundamentally the same story, in an infinite number of ways.  It is the same, and yet it is entirely different.  You know what I’m trying to say?  None of Shakespeare’s words are going to be found, yet it’s still Shakespeare.  It is the very definition of universal.

Enough geekiness, on to some more practical questions.  Can somebody with a better knowledge of the play identify some of the characters for us?  Can someone (possibly with knowledge of the language) give  us an idea of what’s happening during this clip?

Or for an equal amount of fun, can someone with *no* knowledge of the play and *no* knowledge of the language take a shot?  That would sort of get back to my opening point. 🙂

Why I Do This : The Big Picture

Today’s supposed to be the day where we talk about what Shakespeare means to us.  Honestly I find that a bit overly simplified.  I talk about what Shakespeare means to be every day (feel free to flip through my 2000 posts over 6 years to convince yourself), and I’m in the midst of a marathon that demonstrates the lengths to which I’ll go.  I can’t simply write a single post on that subject, much less squeeze it down into a single tweet.

What I can do, though, is talk about my “mission”.  No, not my kids.  I’ve talked about them enough.  My kids are really and truly at the point where they make references to Shakespeare at will, and I love it.  All of them.  Somewhere amid the sea of posts you’ll see today you’ll find a reference to my 5yr old son recognizing portraits of Hamlet and Yorick in stained glass windows, and my two daughters, 7 and 9yr olds, both grabbing for books on Shakespeare’s sonnets when given the freedom to pick something from the gift shop.  Heck, just the other night for dinner I’d broken out some decorative kids’ plates in the shape of animals – a cow, a horse, a donkey.  My 9yr old got the donkey.  “Look,” she said, “It’s Bottom.”
With the primary plan well underway, let’s talk about the secondary plan.  Because there’s a whole bunch of the world out there that is not my kids.  All I’ve done with them is plant a seed that may take generations to truly change the world.  That’s only the beginning of what I hope to accomplish.
What happens to me now on a regular basis is that friends and coworkers come up to me and say, “I saw a Shakespeare thing the other day and thought of you.”  Sometimes it is Shakespeare’s name specifically that they heard.  Sometimes a movie reference, or a quote.  It’s not important what they saw, because it’s always something different.
What’s important is that they *recognized* it.  Before these people met me I’m quite positive that Shakespeare references were coming and going all around them, in one ear and out the other.  You can’t help it.  Chances are very good that the Saturday morning cartoons you grew up on were sneaking in the occasional Shakespeare reference on you.  They’re ubiquitous.
And now, everybody that knows me can see them.  Where they were previously blind, now they see.  Not only does something in their brain click and say, “Hey! Shakespeare!  I should tell Duane about that.”  Know what happens next?  They actually *listen*, because they want to know how to repeat it to me.  That’s the next step.  If you hear it, and you pay attention to it, maybe you actually remember it.  And then you’ve learned something.
But guess what?  It gets even better.  Because when these friends and coworkers (some of whom I barely exchange anything but casual greetings with) come up to me with their found Shakespeare references, sometimes they want to discuss it.  They want to discuss it.  They want to discuss it.  How many times can I say that to have the point sink in how cool that is?  None of the people that I’m talking about are theatre people, or academics.  They’re just regular folk who, because they happen to have stumbled into my social circle, have rejuvenated that long dormant high school knowledge of the Montagues and the Capulets, of To be or Not To Be.  And in me they’ve found someone who will talk with them, ever so patiently, for as long as they want.
That’s the big picture.  Every single time somebody comes up to me, in person or by mailing me a link, that starts with “Saw this Shakespeare thing and thought of you …”  the plan is working.

What’s your mission? Why do you do this?  Tell us.

This posting marathon, in celebration of Shakespeare Day, is brought to you by nothing but my time, my resources, and my love for the subject. While we’ll always be the original Shakespeare blog, it takes a significant amount of effort to make us the best in the digital universe.  If you’ve not yet seen how you can show your support, now’s a great opportunity.  If you’ve already done so, thanks very much!

Inside The Vault #6 (Conclusion): The Most Beautiful Book In The World

Before I’d ever left for my trip, I was speaking with Bardfilm about what I might hope to see in the vault.  He replied that I might ask to get a look at Folio #1, what Mr. Folger called, “The most beautiful book in the world.

And there I was, standing in front of a wall of Folios (a post unto itself!) and I went for it.  Garland Scott had told me that I might be able to see it, “if it’s not out.”  I assume that these sorts of items are often lent out to other institutions for study.   “Is Folio #1 in?” I asked.

“I think so,” Georgianna replied, digging for something she wanted us to look at.  “It would be up there if it was.”

That’s how they refer to their Folios, apparently.  I want to curl myself up in the pages and go to sleep.  The folks that see them every day say, “Oh, that one is over there somewhere.”

Why is #1 so special?  It’s got a note (well, mostly a signature) from the original owner, stating that he’d received it as a gift from the printer, William Jaggard.  Though it would be a mistake to assume that this makes it the actual *first* First Folio, it’s certainly evidence for being one of the very earliest.  After all, William Jaggard died in November 1623, shortly before the first actual purchase of a Folio took place. So if this book truly was a gift, it was most definitely a very, very early copy.

I asked again, once we’d seen a few things and I get the feeling our time in this particular room is coming to an end.  “Any chance I can see #1?”

And, just like that, I can.  Georgianna pulls it down from its shelf, opens the gigantic box that contains the book, and lays it out on the table for me.  I am staring at a one of a kind, almost 400-year-old book.

And there it is.  The picture is not the greatest, but you can see the mark in the upper right corner that identifies this as a gift from Jaggard (posthumously, I’ve learned).  Amazing.  No, I did not flip through it.  I consider myself lucky to have gotten to see it.
Oh, and to do this.
Best estimates have that book as one of the top 3 most valuable in the world, possibly approaching $10 million.  For the record, I’m not touching it, nor tasting it.  I was quite careful. But I know that my guardians were ok with this particular boldness because not only did Georgianna not have heart failure, she took my camera from Garland and took the picture herself because she didn’t like the way Garland was doing it! 🙂
Today I showed this picture to a coworker.  “You look so happy!” she said.  “Look how happy you look!  It must be amazing to be that passionate about something that it can make you that happy.”
Yes.  Yes it is.
Though this was not the last stop on my tour, this is the last post in my “In The Vault” series.  Once again, a tremendous and sincere Thank You to Garland Scott and Georgianna Ziegler for allowing my family and I this once(?) in a lifetime opportunity!

Happy Birthday To … Me!

A week before we left for D.C., my wife asked what I wanted for my birthday (which is coming up a few days after Mr. Shakespeare’s).  I smiled and said, “We’re about to visit the Folger Shakespeare Library.  I’m pretty sure I’ll find something.”

Fast forward to actually standing in the middle of the Folger Gift Shop.  What should I get, what should I get?  Posters? Jewelry?  Music?  Something about the man, about a specific play, about the sonnets? One of everything, please.

Who are we kidding, I made a beeline straight to what I knew I had to have.

 The First Folio of Shakespeare: The Norton Facsimile

Looking at that Amazon price I see that I just paid more than perhaps I should have, but what can ya do.   I will forever be able to say that I got this one from the Folger itself.  Should have gotten somebody to sign it. 😉

My girls both grabbed for books on the Sonnets, if you can believe that, and I had to talk them out of it.  Not because I don’t think that’s good study material, but because neither of them was any sort of “Sonnets for Kids” translation.  Both were heavy academic books, and I knew that they wouldn’t understand a bit of it.  Instead we settled on some books from one of the Shakespeare for Kids series – one got a book on Shakespeare himself, the other got a translation of Midsummer.  They’ve already read them, and switched. Multiple times.

The boy, on the other hand, went with a cool jester hat (see “Foolish Games” post).  With bells.  Wore it for the rest of our trip, and was a big hit wherever he went.  Bonus, everybody kept saying “Where’d you get that hat?” and I kept saying, “The Folger Shakespeare Library!”  When he was feeling particularly bold he’d then proclaim, “To be or not to be, that is the question!”

I would open up my prize and flip pages, but my wife promptly stole the book back and announced that I cannot have it until my actual birthday.  Bummer!  But, that gives me a whole other reason to post in a few days 🙂

This posting marathon, in celebration of Shakespeare Day, is brought to you by nothing but my time, my resources, and my love for the subject. While we’ll always be the original Shakespeare blog, it takes a significant amount of effort to make us the best in the digital universe.  If you’ve not yet seen how you can show your support, now’s a great opportunity.  If you’ve already done so, thanks very much!