Bard Baby Names

[Thanks to reader Angela for the link!]

When each of my children was born, people would ask me whether I was going to name them something from Shakespeare.  I did, in my own way.  Katherine, my oldest, knows well the story of her shrew-ish namesake (and her little sister loves the story about the beautiful younger daughter who all the boys want, who can’t get married until the mean older sister finds a boy who likes her).  She gets double points because her middle name, Delia, reminds me of Cordelia, the best of daughters.

My second child, Elizabeth, is not so much a Shakespeare name as a Shakespearean one – and I’ve even had conversations with her about that.  Her middle name, Anne, also happens to be the name of Shakespeare’s wife.  So there ya go.

The boy was tricky.  It was easy to pick “classic” girls’ names that have been around long enough that they meant something to Shakespeare.  But for boys we get a whole lot of Italian / Spanish sounding -o names (Banquo, Romeo, Petruchio etc…) while the more English sounding names (Richard, Henry, Edgar, Edmund…) just didn’t do anything for us.  So the boy didn’t get a Shakespeare name.  He’s Brendan.  One day Brendan Fraser will do some Shakespeare and then we’ll have a connection.

But!  I’m deep into the story and haven’t served up the link to Shakespeare Baby Names that Angela sent me.  It’s funny that the author clearly tries to suggest that only realistic names were included (so no Iago), but then Cymbeline is in the list.  Really?

Lots of minor characters listed, obviously because they had a modern connection already (like Celia, Audrey, Marina, etc…) but does that mean I could have called my son Christopher and argued that he was named after Christopher Sly from the induction of Shrew?

I still don’t see many names on the boys’ list that would have made it in my house.  Caliban? Horatio?  Interestingly the list includes Richard, but no Henry.  What’s wrong with Henry?  My son is in class with a Henry right now.

Theme Song Shakespeare : The Britainy Hillbillies

Somehow the other day, Bardfilm and I got onto the subject of the Golden Girls.  Remember that show?  It wasn’t long before we were singing the theme song (luckily over instant message so one one had to hear such a thing), and it wasn’t long after that that we started inserting the theme songs into random Shakespearean situations.  Thus was born our new game..

Theme Song Shakespeare!
Entry #1 : The Britainy Hillbilles, by Bardfilm

Come and listen to my story ’bout a king named Lear–
A crazy British monarch well-stricken up in years.
“Daughters, what can you say to show you love the king?”
Cordelia spoke up and said, “Daddy—nothing.” 

Nothing? Nothing will come of nothing. 

Well, the next thing you know, old Lear’s out on the heath.
Regan said, “Now, that’s a big relief!
But I think that our Lord Gloucester’s trying to help out that guy.”
So she and hubby Cornwall plucked out both his eyes. 

Oh, that vile, vile jelly. 

Well, now it’s time to say goodbye to Lear and all his kids.
They’re mostly lying dead on stage, done in by what they did.
You’re all invited back next week to this locality
To have another helping of Shakespeare’n tragedy. 

Swimming pools—with Ophelia drowned in them—movie stars—betrayed by their own ambition.

Obviously these are much longer than our usual games and not the sort of thing where we can put together 20 of them in one post.  Look for more coming soon!

The Very Best of Shakespeare Geek : Bardfilm Guest Posts

If there’s something I’ve learned over the years I’ve been doing this, it’s that there’s two sure fire ways for a post to pull crazy traffic.  The first is to hit the SEO (search engine optimization) just right so that you show up on the first page of Google results (see “How old was Romeo?” for an example) (( Oh, thank you Google for letting me know that Li’l Romeo is 29 years old.  Wow. ))

The second way?  The second way is to get Bardfilm to write you a guest post.  Every time he drops a new list on my virtual doorstep, I know it’s going to be a good day.

If you’ve not had a chance to read them all, you’re missing out.  Let’s fix that problem.  Gathered together here, right now, for the very first time on stage simultaneously, I present Bardfilm’s Lists:

If you’re not subscribed to Bardfilm’s own site, what are you thinking?  Go do it.  Right now.

Shakespeare in the Hunger Games?

Yes, I’m reading them.  Technically, listening on audio book.  I like to know what the latest pop culture things are all about.  Just don’t ask me about 50 Shades of Grey…

Anyway, I discovered (and I don’t think it’s a spoiler) that the bad guy’s first name is Coriolanus.  Really?  That caught my attention quickly.  I wondered why for awhile, but could not immediately make the connection.

Then I learned that a girl who has her tongue cut out is named Lavinia.  Aw come on!  That can’t be coincidence.

Of course, there’s an obvious connection to Roman history running through the games (not even counting the whole bread and circuses, gladiatorial thing).  Once I started looking I realized that other characters are named Cinna (“I am Cinna the Poet!  I am Cinna the Poet!!”), Octavia…heck there’s even a Caesar.

So does anybody know whether the author had any Shakespeare thoughts in mind with these stories?  I’m guessing that perhaps she had enough passing familiarity with Shakespeare that she was able to pull names at will, and just used them as she saw fit.  The Lavinia thing probably isn’t a coincidence, I suspect that when she was seeking a Roman name for her girl with no tongue, Lavinia was the obvious choice for anybody who knows who that is.

More Shakespeare TV Adaptations

I saw a brief mention yesterday of “America’s Son” being picked up by Fox:

This project focuses on a Kennedy-esque political family. When the family’s favorite son and presidential hopeful is killed in a car crash, his son (described as being a JFK, Jr. type) returns to D.C. to find out the crash that killed his father wasn’t really an accident.

But I was unaware of ABC’s venture into a similar (potential?) space with Westside:

ABC also has a Shakespeare-based project on tap called Westside, which is generally referred to as being based on West Side Story.

The Cinema Blend article  goes on to talk about how far removed the projects are from Shakespeare, so that they “don’t suffer too much.”  Fair enough.

But perhaps we should point them to Sons of Anarchy, which will be heading into its sixth season?  The show about a motorcycle gang has long been seen as drawing upon Hamlet for its inspiration. Though I’ve never seen it (not really the kind of thing we watch at my house), I did spot the connection back in 2009.

I’ve also just realized that in my article, the creator said that he planned a 5 year run of the series to mimic the 5 acts of Hamlet.  And that it’s now been renewed for a sixth season.  Hmmmm.

Where Do You Stand on the Richard III “Discovery”?

I didn’t post much last week about the possible discovery of Richard III’s bones, because so many other stories already beat it into the ground.  We did have some fun with the puns, though:

  • To repeat, archaeologists are not 100% sure that this is Richard III – they only have a hunch.
  • Somebody please tell me he was found on a Wednesday so we can call it Hump Day?
  • You might think Richard III would have been great at the new “Gangnam Style” invisible horse dance, but he was partial to the Humpty Hump.
  • Ironically, they found the bones of a horse right behind Richard.

You get the idea.  If you like them, they’re mine, if they’re awful they’re Bardfilm’s. 😉

Anyway, by not posting I realized that I was denying the Shakespeare Geek audience the opportunity to get together for discussion, so here be that post.  What are your thoughts?  Do you think it’s him?  Where do you stand on the whole “Richard III wasn’t really the bad guy he’s been painted by history” angle?

As I’ve mentioned, I’m just plain not that familiar with the story of Richard III, so I have little opinion on the matter other to say that I make no connection between what Shakespeare wrote, and what reality was.   He could have been a saint for all I know.  Though probably not.

My favorite quote from the linked story, by the way:

“If Richard was the kind of plotter Shakespeare makes him out to be there are a lot of questions to be answered, like if he was so power-hungry why didn’t he kill his brother King Edward IV?”

“Oh yeah?  Well what about all the people he *didn’t* kill, huh?  How come nobody ever talks about that?”  That sounds like a line out of a Saturday Night Live skit.

Well The Good News Is, There’s Ice Cream

Methinks that Stanley Wells was jonesing for some Cherry Garcia.

One of the thatched farm buildings in Shottery, Stratford, where Anne Hathaway grew up, has been converted into a snack kiosk by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, who is responsible for the buildings.

The problem is that they were supposed to get permission, and didn’t. They were unaware that the building was classified Grade I (“the building is of exceptional interest, sometimes even considered to be internationally important”). They are now on the hook to get “retrospective” permission and, if that falls through, could be required to put the building (actually just a “pea shed”) back to its original condition.

Modern Sonnets

Paul Edmondson from Blogging Shakespeare alerts us to mark the date for October 20th, when Roehampton University will be hosting a symposium entitled Shakespeare and the Contemporary Sonnet:

Which Shakespeare sonnets do modern poets refer to again and again? What still attracts them to the sonnet as a form, and to Shakespeare’s poems in particular? Are there sonnets that resist adaptation in terms of theme, sexual politics, structure? Is the original 1609 sequence still important or do a small number of sonnets now stand alone? What are the challenges and possibilities afforded by adapting Shakespeare’s sonnets into modern idiom and modern culture?

Sounds like a neat topic.  Naturally it’s more on the academic side, not the kind of thing that we casual hobbyists can just zip off to.  Maybe they’ll do some live tweeting or blogging of what content comes of it?

[ If you want to see just how much depth can be found in even a single sonnet I point you to Paul’s previous article “Miracles in Miniature” where he talks about working through Sonnet 29 with a group of people and how you could talk about it for hours, down to the last syllable and punctuation mark. ]

Prince of Cats! Hip Hop Shakespeare Comic

Though not a huge comic fan myself, I’m always curious when a new comic / Shakespeare adaptation pops up.  I’ve seen my share of graphic novels and “Manga Shakespeare,” and the Kill Shakespeare series has certainly had its share of the spotlight lately.  Then there’s the classic, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman books.

So here we have new entry Prince of Cats, a “hip hop” retelling of the obvious (Romeo and Juliet,  just in case it’s not obvious — Prince of Cats is something that Mercutio calls Tybalt).  I’m about as far from “street” as they come, so I’m not sure how much of an opinion I get on this sort of thing.  Mostly because I don’t know how much it takes itself seriously and how much is a play on the classic “blacksploitation” flicks of old.

As always I’m interested in the source material, and how much survives.  From the screenshots found in the article I see gems like these:

“Sheeeeit, where’s Tybalt?”


“Indeed, knave! Redeem thy kicks for thy skin.”

Interesting.  I’ll leave it up to other more “culturally sensitive” folks to tell me what I’m supposed to think of this project.  I didn’t want to ignore it just because I don’t know what to say about it.

One question, though — why is that one dude wearing his hat down over his face?  He looks like a character straight out of Fat Albert.

I Want To Be Buried in McLean, Virginia

While researching a new game (coming soon!) I noticed that the new center of the Shakespeare universe might well have turned up in McLean, Virginia?!  Check it out:

View Larger Map

You might need to zoom in to get the details.  See anything amazing?

Birnam Wood Drive.  MacBeth Street. Oberon Way. Titania Lane. “Agin Court”. Cawdor Court. Dunsinane Court. Hamlet Park. Falstaff Road. Ariel Way. Capulet Court. Elsinore Ave. Timon Drive. Lear Road.

Are you kidding me?!  Is anybody in the audience from this neck of the woods who can explain how exactly this little slice of heaven came to happen?   I wish I’d known about it during my trip down to Washington DC earlier this year, I might have made a special detour!