Love to faults is always blind, always is to joy inclined. Lawless, winged, and unconfined, and breaks all chains from every mind.

Something new!  I’d not seen this one before, and had to go look it up.  Sounds a little bit like Shakespeare, but I don’t know, something about the meter (DUH da DUH da DUH da DUH) was too bouncy to be Shakespeare’s style, even in the long poems where sometimes quotes hide that don’t have the same feeling as those that come from the plays.

Anyway, this one is from William Blake if Google Books is any indicator:

 

[Source]

I think that my favorite source of misinformation comes from the two-fer on this Yahoo! Answers page.

First we have the answer that, “William Blake borrowed it from Shakespeare, who wrote it in one of his sonnets.”  No mention of which sonnet, of course, and it’s not iambic pentameter.  It’s very easy to check and cite references.  But under “source” the person wrote, “I am a Shakespeare teacher.” Just not a good one I guess.

The second bit of genius comes from the well-meaning person who writes, “I searched and couldn’t find it as anything but a quote so maybe it’s something he never wrote down, only said.”  That’s not the first time I’ve heard that, and it conjures up this hysterical image in my brain of the town drunk passing down his story over the centuries.  “So there I am, sitting next to the Bard of Avon himself William Shakespeare, telling him my problems with women. And you know what he does? He turns to me and says, he says, ‘Love to faults is always blind, always is to joy inclined.’ And I says to him I says, ‘Pal, you need to write that down.’  Well I guess he plum forgot because it doesn’t show up in any of his recorded works, but I swear to you, he said it. I was there.”  Imagine Bill Murray telling his Dalai Lama story in Caddyshack. 🙂

 

Nexus 7 Shakespeare Commercial

Thanks to my wife for pointing this commercial out when I missed it!  Google tells us that the Nexus 7
is as good at reading the classics as it is at reading the best sellers, and uses Romeo and Juliet to prove it:

What’s unusual is that a father appears to be reading Romeo & Juliet to his daughter as a bedtime story.  I’m not sure if I love that or find that bizarre.  Maybe he’s going to skip all the dead people.

Is it wrong that I totally want one now, just because of this commercial? I have no need for it, there’s Kindle Fires all over my house and I develop software for the iPad at work.  But still.  Seems like the kind of advertising I’d want to support :).

UPDATE : Found the whole 30second spot! Apologies, I’d grabbed the first one I saw and didn’t realize that one I posted wasn’t the whole thing.

When Does Hamlet Cast His Nighted Color Off

Here’s another one of those teeny details that I enjoy exploring.  When we first see Hamlet he’s traditionally dressed in black, in support of this exchange with his mother:

QUEEN GERTRUDE

Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.

HAMLET

Ay, madam, it is common.

QUEEN GERTRUDE

If it be,
Why seems it so particular with thee?

HAMLET

Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not ‘seems.’
‘Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected ‘havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly: these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

Maybe I’m painting this with too broad a stroke but I’ve always taken this to mean that everybody else is done with the mourning period, that only Hamlet is still wearing black, and his mother would like him to be happy again.

My question is this — does he simply wear black throughout the rest of the play and nothing is said of it again?  A reasonable period of time passes, does it not?  When he gets back from England, he’s still mourning?  Or maybe after he’s seen the ghost and has now gone into his antic disposition, he changes his clothes?  Signifying, at least to his parents, that he’s no longer obsessed with his father?

Assuming for the moment that that’s not true, and that he spends the whole play in black. How would it change his character if, at some point in the play, you put him in some other color?  Where would you do it?

Idea – right after the play within a play, where Claudius guilt is shown, and Hamlet is whooping it up with Horatio that his plan worked, maybe there’s an opportunity for him to grab a random scarf or other bit of cloth discarded by one of the players, and wrap it around himself.  Just a glimpse, while he’s talking to Horatio.  Then, when R&G and Polonius show up, he drops it again.  There’s me being a director for you. 🙂

The Curious Case of Five Hamlets

So Saturday was the big day! I’d been training my girls on Hamlet, so that they could actually understand what was going on before seeing the play produced by the local high school (where they’ll be going in a few years, and hopefully performing).

My son has religious education practice, so he couldn’t join us. Which gave my wife this opportunity to a quick cheap shot:

Son: How come the girls don’t have to go?

Wife: The girls are going to see Hamlet.

Son: How come they get to have fun!

Wife: They’re not. They’re going to see Hamlet.

Ouch.  I’ll get you for that.

Anyway, the girls put on their Shakespeare is Universal shirts and we head to the show.

And, as always, I end up disappointed. In my brain I tell myself that I’m about to walk into a whole bunch of people of all ages who want to talk about Shakespeare, and education, and educating people about Shakespeare. I imagine people engaging my kids in conversation when they see their shirts.  I imagine seeing parents whose kids got to read Hamlet last week because of me.

None of this happens. One volunteer says, “I like your shirt” to one of my girls, and that is the entirety of discussion.  This is not a mingly crowd. This is a crowd made up entirely of parents whose kids are on stage.  I don’t know what I expected (well, that’s not true, see above) but I should have known better.

While waiting for the show to start, my girls read the program and begin asking me who “Juggler” and “Lady Nora” are.  I have no frickin idea who those people are, until we decide that they’ve given proper names to all of the Players.  Fine.

My older then notices that the character of Hamlet shows up twice in the list.  I figure that is understudy or something, but it’s not marked that way. We then realize that there are *5* Hamlets listed.  All girls.  Interesting. I assume that this is a case of the director needing to cast everybody who auditioned, or something.

The play begins, and out come … all the Hamlets?  This should be interesting.

They immediately launch into the “too too solid flesh” speech, entirely out of context.  They yell it, in sync with each other.  I guess this is supposed to give us our backstory, because it touches on the death of Hamlet’s father and the o’erhasty marriage of his mother to his uncle.  But honestly, what are you doing? If somebody came to this play actually trying to understand it for the very first time, why would you do that?  Both my girls asked me what was going on, and I just shrugged and said I’d explain later.  My expectations were all messed up now.

After the five Hamlets, then the play begins with the famous “Who’s there?” and the changing of the guard.  At least from that point on, I’m pretty sure they stuck to the script.

The five Hamlets come out at the same time.  Four hang back while one delivers lines.  They often switch. During the big speeches they interchange their lines, speak in sync, and other gimmicky things.  I’m still not sure what this is supposed to be.  I thought maybe it could be some sort of “facets of Hamlet’s personality” thing, but I don’t think that’s what the director was going for – they are all dressed identically, even during costume changes.  There is a certain progression of Hamlet’s insanity as his (her?) wardrobe unravels throughout the play, but that’s the only real development of this device I saw.

Followers on Twitter may have seen my rant about this, but THEY CUT YORICK.  We have a gravedigger’s scene, including all the gravedigger jokes, and at one point the gravedigger starts pulling skulls out of the grave in front of Hamlet and Horatio.  But, no Yorick speech.

I should mention that this performance is part of a “90 minute Shakespeare” festival.  So there’s to be cuts. Sometimes, big ones. I do not envy the director who has to decide what to cut. But I am curious whether any of you cut the Yorick speech.

Other bits that were cut include Hamlet coming across Claudius at prayer and deciding not to kill him. Also, Ophelia only got a single crazy scene (before Laertes returns home).  I think they just folded everything for her into the single scene, but I couldn’t tell you exactly what might have been cut.

What they didn’t cut? Fortinbras. All the Fortinbras scenes (including all the Cornelius and Voltimand scenes) remain.  I thought that an odd choice, if they were aggressively cutting for running time.  Take the ending, for example. Did we end on “The rest is silence”?  Nope.  Hamlet dies.  Then Fortinbras (who the audience has only seen once) enters, and Horatio actually shouts his final lines, stomping up and down the stage, and I’m like, “WTF is he doing?” Fortinbras then gets the final lines, although I should go back and check my text because I did not hear “Bid the soldiers shoot.”

Observations from my kids:

* I pointed out when “To be or not to be” was coming. My oldest held out her hand and said, “No skull?”  So she clearly was still getting the two speeches confused.  I’ve seen lots of people do that.  It doesn’t help that I have a t-shirt that shows the To Be speech drawn out in the shape of Yorick’s skull.

* My younger was mostly lost.  It didn’t help that they could barely hear what was going on, so if they didn’t have a very clear understanding of the characters and plot to follow along, I could see where it would be confusing.

* They both spotted the doubling. The actor playing the ghost showed up in some other role, which they spotted…and I’m pretty sure that dead Polonius played the priest at Ophelia’s funeral, which was really confusing.

* During Ophelia’s singing, my oldest leaned over to me and said, “I am so doing this.”  I asked, “You want to play Ophelia?”  She said, “Well, any role, but Shakespeare definitely.”

* My oldest told me that she saw at least one fellow student from her class, and wondered whether he’d been convinced to come see the play after reading my book.  I expect that the odds were more in favor of his sister being a Hamlet.

I only went to one performance of three, so I have no idea what the crowd was like at the other two. I’ve not yet received any actual feedback from the teachers who were using my text in their classes.  I’d like to think that I helped, but honestly between the way they cut this production and the fact that it was impossible to follow the text when you couldn’t hear it, I don’t know how much I helped.

NaNoWriMo #6 : My … Debut?

Yesterday, Friday, I woke up mopey.  I complained to my wife that although I’d circulated my work to about a half a dozen people, nobody had given me a word of feedback.  I do not count the generic “Wow this is amazing this is so great!”  I can take criticism (at least, some.  I do still like to hear the parts you liked :)).  The show is today (or tomorrow, in the context of yesterday, got that?) so I was afraid that my whole “Get kids interested in Hamlet so they’ll be more interested in going to see it” thing was going out the window.

Got a text from my daughter yesterday afternoon to let me know that her teacher had her classes reading my work!  *snoopy dance*

“What did they think?” I text back.

“They said they understood it. Some were a little upset that everybody died. Some thought the dying part was great (the boys).”

Nice.  I found that particularly amusing because, after my daughter was confused over Laertes’ death, I’d gone back in and rewritten my summary so that they truly fell like dominoes, leaving nothing to confusion.

This morning I got more details.  The teacher had three of her classes read my work directly, which I figure has to be approaching 75-100 kids.  Some did not have the time, so according to my daughter she, “wrote it out on the board.”  I figured out that at this point she was telling them Hamlet herself, and not specifically using my work.  But, as my daughter pointed out, since by then she’d been through multiple readings and discussions, she no doubt was borrowing some of my ideas.

I asked again whether kids liked it.

“People were coming up to me and asking whether it has a happy ending,” she said, “while they were still in the middle of it.”

No, no it does not.  Except for Fortinbras and Horatio, of course.

And me.  Today, I am happy. I like that this may have gone to the next level.  For the past few years, me as Shakespeare guy has seemed a very local sort of thing, like only the people that I’ve personally met know me and what I do.  But there’s only one middle school in the whole town (there are three elementary schools), so my audience is suddenly 3x the size and now there’s going to be kids going home to their parents, parents who have no idea who I am, and saying “We read Hamlet today, because this girl’s father is writing a book about it.”

Today is the show.  I’m terribly curious whether my little effort has succeeded in putting any butts in the seats, or whether I’d know if it had.  My girls are coming with me, wearing their Shakespeare is Universal shirts of course, and I’ve got a pocket full of business cards, so I’m prepared!

Show is at 2pm.  I’ll report back.

NaNoWriMo #5(?) : Milestone Achieved!

Ok, I set a goal for myself of having something to distribute to strangers by Wednesday. Today I asked my daughter to approach her teacher and ask whether she’d be interested in seeing the early version of my work. She said absolutely she would, and with permission she would share it with her class.  I also took the opportunity to email my other daughter’s fourth grade teacher, who also said that she’d happily read it.

So my first draft, sitting at just over 3800 words, is now sitting in both those inboxes. How will two actual teachers of this stuff take it? I honestly have no idea, and I’m quite curious. They could hate it. But I’ve since learned that this would not be the end of the world, and the feedback is crucial to the project. I know the audience I’m aiming at, and they know that audience better than I, so I can’t be afraid of what they’ve got to tell me.

The only thing I fear would be anything coming back on my kids. I asked my oldest daughter whether it would be embarrassing for her to have my book in progress read by all her friends. She said, and I’m quoting, “No it wouldn’t be embarrassing at all why would you even think that it would be. I think it would be awesome.”

What other encouragement does a father need?

Before the night’s out I’m going to send copies to a couple of other teachers from the past who showed an interest in our Shakespeare work. The younger the class the more unlikely that they’ll be able to share the material, but I can still get the teacher’s input.

My Missed Yorick

Bardfilm just learned this story, and insisted that I post it. To this day the significance had not clicked with me.  Since the story was relayed via instant message, I’ll copy it here to give it the same flavor:

10:02
Although, true story, we did find a skull once.

10:02
I now regret not being into Shakespeare yet at the time.  True once in a lifetime opportunity missed.
10:02
What kinda skull? Human.
10:03
Some random Saturday morning, back in the days when the kids could just say “Going out!” and be gone on an adventure all day.
10:04
We were wandering around “the marsh” area of town, going on various adventures, when one of the kids in the lead (my cousin Joey) spotted a brown paper bag on the trail.  He kicked it, in case some sort of treasure lie within.

10:04
And by treasure, I mean Playboy magazines, beer, etc….

10:04
Out rolls a skull.

10:05
I can’t honestly remember how much of a skull it was, but it was clearly a human skull.

10:05
My cousin had gloves, so he picked it up and we began marching home with it.
10:05
Vivid memory of walking down the street in a procession, as a car came the other way and slowed as we walked.
10:06
My cousin actually had the presence of mind to say “What’samatter, lady? You’re looking at me like I got two heads.”

10:07
We get it home (his home), parents call the police.

10:07
That’s when one of the kids in the group (Richie), loses it.  He announces that the bad guys who killed the guy in the first place are gonna find us and kill us, and runs all the way home to his own house.

10:08
Turns out it had been stolen by somebody working in the nearby museum or something, and was part of some old indian exhibit.
I wish I could remember when this had happened, but I figure I had to be younger than 13 years old. My love for all things Shakespeare had not yet kicked in, so poor Yorick never crossed my mind until this very day. After posting this I will contact my mom, see if she remembers when this story took place. I’m also going to cc my brother, who was there at the time.
That was our oh so brief “Stand By Me” moment.  We got written up in the town newspaper, but only cousin Joey got his name in the paper.

UPDATED August 18, 2014 : My cousin Joey died this morning after a long illness.  RIP, Gizz.

NaNoWriMo #4 Update

Hovering at just over 3000 words.  Have let several people read the rough draft and gotten feedback, which I’ve incorporated. Turns out that when you’re writing for this age level, if you don’t clearly say “and then he dies,” your reader won’t realize that the character has died. When I heard, “Wait, Laertes dies?!” discussed between my daughters I had to go back and look at what I’d written was this:

Laertes, now near death himself, tells Hamlet everything: how the wine was poisoned, how the sword was poisoned, how Hamlet himself is as good as dead and just hasn’t fallen down yet. He tells Hamlet that it was all Claudius, and begs Hamlet’s forgiveness.

I guess they’re right, it’s not exactly clear :).

I’ve also got some rudimentary structure in my head that hopefully I can flesh out enough to give to non-family members and have it not look half finished. I’ve started and restarted Hamlet guides many times over the years, and I’ve always found the hardest part is in having a lot to say and not knowing the best way to organize it.  This hard deadline and fixed audience is at least putting me on the right track to complete something, even if it doesn’t give Harold Bloom a run for his money.

Like Polonius, Like Laertes

Act I, Scene 3 

OPHELIA

And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord,
With almost all the holy vows of heaven.

LORD POLONIUS

Ay, springes to catch woodcocks.


Act V, Scene 2 

OSRIC

How is’t, Laertes? 

LAERTES

Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe, Osric;
I am justly kill’d with mine own treachery.

Never noticed that before.