The Shakespeare Olympics

Is anybody else getting excited at the thought of Shakespeare playing a role in the upcoming Olympics?

My kids are old enough to understand the idea of the Olympics, and they’ve been preparing – watching the qualifying events for swimming and gymnastics, etc..  Tonight my daughter asks me, “When is the opening ceremony?”

“Friday night,” I tell her.  We’re going to be away in a hotel, but I plan to be riveted to a television. “And at some point during the ceremony, Kenneth Branagh is going to read some Shakespeare, and Daddy is going to lose his mind.”

“Why?” she asked.

…How do you explain it?  For starters it might not even be true, the replacement of Mark Rylance with Kenneth Branagh was just a rumor, and I have no idea what part he will play.  But I can dream.  So how do I explain to my 10yr old geeklet that what I’m excited about is that, for a brief period of time, one of *our* representatives is going to have the attention of the *entire world*.  How often do Shakespeareans get that?  It’s not as if President Obama dropped a Henry V quote into a speech and then all the talking heads on CNN rushed to discuss the context of how he used it and what it could mean.  Pretty soon the whole world is going to look at London and say, “What have you got for us, London?  What makes you so special?”  And at least to some extent, what they’re going to do is trot out Shakespeare.  I couldn’t be more excited.  How many of us dream for such a captive audience?

In honor of the Olympics I’d like to point people to a post I made four years ago on the subject of sports in Shakespeare.  This particular post holds a very special place in the history of this site, and you’ll see it play out in the comments.  Dr. Carl Atkins literally wrote the book (ok, well, *a* book) on the sonnets.  I have it.  Yet during the conversation, former contributor(*) Alan Farrar drops in a comment that the “master mistress” in Sonnet 20 is actually a reference to the sport of bowls (is that the same as bowling?) Dr. Atkins has never heard such a thing, so he researches it … and *confirms* it, noting reference to the fact in a 1971 article and pointing out that at least eight editors missed it.  Only through a chance meeting on this blog is the record set straight.

(*) I say former because I have not heard from Mr. Farrar in years.  It is my belief that he has passed away. I know from watching his other blogs that he had significant health difficulties.  I never did find any sort of confirmation of his passing, I just know that he disappeared from the yet a good number of years ago.  RIP, Alan.  I can only hope that those flights of angels have long since sung thee to thy rest.

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4 thoughts on “The Shakespeare Olympics

  1. Hi Duane,

    I hope you enjoyed the little
    bit of Shakespeare from Branagh
    as Isambard Kingdom Brunel
    ushering-in the industrial
    revolution.

    I think they pulled-off a
    spectacularly eccentric opening
    ceremony.

  2. Just when you thought they
    couldn't put Shakespeare in
    any less than in the opening
    ceremony…there were several
    Shakespeare quotes posing as
    the headlines of the newsprint
    which covered the Union Jack
    set of the closing ceremony…
    but only us geeks would have
    seen 'em.

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