Paper Shakespeare : To Date Or Not To Date

Whenever I see a reference to a Shakespeare inspired video game it immediately catches my attention.  Shakespeare’s works are one of the great places to start for public domain stories, after all.

So when I spotted Paper Shakespeare: To Date Or Not To Date  I had to check it out. In fact, I literally sought out the developers to have a conversation on the topic.  It turns out that they’re planning video games based on thirty-seven of the plays?!  I love that idea.  As a cynical old man I don’t expect to ever see it, but hey, as they crank them out I’ll be sure to post about them here.

How is Paper Shakespeare? I wish I could say I liked it, I really do. It’s apparently supposed to be some kind of dating simulator, whatever that means.  From my angle (that of a fifty-year-old married father of three) it resembles a choose your own adventure book, offering me a few sentences of text at a time, leaving me to just press the space bar over and over again. I meet the characters, all sporting Shakespearean names and high school personalities – Tybalt the bully, Othello the football star, and so on.  Every now and then I get a choice to make – which class should I take? Who should I pass a note to, and what should it be about?

I just don’t know what to do with it at all. There’s a counter in the corner that’s keeping tracking of some sort of interaction I have with the characters, and I get the feeling there’s a goal, I just can’t get into it.  Sorry, developers. Maybe I’ll enjoy the next one more.

 

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What’s On Your Shakespeare Bucket List?

See you this summer, Richard III.

I don’t think we’ve ever done this before.  What are your life’s goals with respect to Shakespeare? Which ones have you accomplished, and what’s your progress toward the next one?

  • Publish something. Done – Hear My Soul Speak is available for download on Amazon!
  • Teach something. Done – I volunteered in my children’s classes throughout elementary school where I taught Macbeth, Hamlet, Midsummer and others.  Always excerpt type stuff, never a full production, but we definitely got the kids up on their feet.
  • Be invited to speak on a Shakespearean subject.  Done – Bardfilm invited me to speak to one of his college classes.
  • Make some money at this. Not “make a living at it,” since given my day job that’s highly unlikely.  But I’ve had this hobby now for well over ten years, if I don’t at least try to make it pay for itself I’m missing an opportunity.  I’m pretty pleased so far with how the line of Shakespeare Geek Merchandise has been selling.   (Check it out, new designs going up regularly!)

Still On The List

  • Visit Stratford on Avon.  This is one of the most common questions I’m asked (behind “What’s your favorite play?”) As the years go by I see people all around me going, and wondering why I haven’t been.  It’s hard to explain.  At this point I’ve built it up in my head like a religious pilgrimage.  I could never see myself going without my family, because I wouldn’t deprive them of sharing that experience with me. But if I’m going to take an international trip with a family of five, well then the world is a big place and there’s lots of options, I’m not going to call dibs on the place *I* want to go at everybody else’s expense.
  • See all the plays. This one’s probably on most people’s lists.  It’s particularly tricky to find a performance of some of the more obscure plays, I know, but I’ve still got a lot of the basics yet to see.  To date I’ve seen, let’s see if I can do this off the top of my head:  Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Coriolanus, Tempest, Midsummer, Shrew, Comedy of Errors, Two Gentlemen of Verona, All’s Well That Ends Well, Much Ado, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Winter’s Tale.  So really I’m only about halfway there. This summer they’re doing Richard III in Boston so I’ll be able to check that one off as well.
  • Publish something real. Not to discount my efforts on the ebook, but that project started out much bigger in my head, intending to write the definitive guide to Shakespeare and weddings.  As time went by it got smaller and smaller and eventually turned into a “Just finish this” project.  The next time I try it I want to do something that’s physically published, something that can sit on my bookshelf. And preferably sell for more than ebook prices 😉
  • Perform. I don’t expect to ever be cast in a show, nor would I want to be.  But on the flip side I’ve literally dreamed about spontaneously standing on a desk and delivering a monologue to a rapt audience.  At some point before I die I’d like to achieve something in between the two.

Your turn!

 

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Thanks, Mr. D!

We did it all for the Shakespeare cookie.

My daughter has one particular teacher, we’ll call him Mr. D.

We love Mr. D.  She had him freshman year of high school for British literature (where she brought him Shakespeare cookies) and again sophomore year for American literature, where alas there was little Shakespeare in the curriculum but not only did he tell me (during parent teacher night) that he’d be sure to point it out in Huckleberry Finn (true!), he also managed to work in some Julius Caesar (although I’m still not sure how).

My wife and I were both looking forward to our second child, who’ll start at this school in the fall, having the same experience. And then our son after that.  The man’s been at the school over forty years, he’s one of those fixtures you just think will be there forever.

Only he won’t be, because he’s retiring this year.

We went to his retirement party, we said our thank yous and our congratulations, and my daughter promised that he’s invited to her book signing when she’s published.

I wanted to put an extra little something out there into the universe, just because. I don’t expect he’ll ever see it, but you never know. My daughter would have been mortified if I’d told it to him in person, but I think it was a wonderful thing to say.

On the way to the party, my daughter said of her teacher, “I like Mr. D as a person. I have conversations with him. He’s my friend.”

To all the teachers out there, know that you’re appreciated.

Thanks, Mr. D.  We’ll bring you Shakespeare cookies one last time.

 

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The Lost Plays Database

I can’t remember ever stumbling across this before, but sometimes it’s hard to remember after all these years.

Today while following some random Google rabbit hole to Love’s Labour’s Won, I found The Lost Plays Database.

I’m a little disappointed that Shakespeare’s only got two entries – Cardenio and the aforementioned LLW. But!  That’s because the folks running this site are sticklers for detail, and they’ve also got a category for “Attributed to W. Shakespeare”, which is not the same thing.  In the attributed category we have several entries, none of which I think I’ve ever seen before, including a Henry I and Henry II.

I’m not much of a fan of the lost plays, I figure if I can’t read or see them, they can’t do much for me. But I thought maybe some of you might like to cruise around.  Check out the dramatists’ page — Shakespeare gets just two categories out of somewhere north of a hundred and fifty!

Have fun going down this newly discovered rabbit hole!

 

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It is 1636. A Young William Shakespeare …. Wait What?

I have a keyword alert on Reddit for references to Shakespeare across all subreddits because you never know where he’s going to turn up.  (I don’t want to tell you how many personal ads I see 🙁 ).  This time /r/WritingPrompts is the winner:

It is the year 1636. A young William Shakespeare finds a secret compartment in his house. He opens it up, and finds a massive collection of written plays and poems.

Anybody else troubled by something in that premise?  It’s probably an honest mistake, or the person who came up with it doesn’t think it’s relevant, but let’s just play it through because it’s bugging me. And because I haven’t put up much new content recently.

Shakespeare died in 1616.  So we’ve got a young William Shakespeare 20 years after he died.

What did you expect from a Shakespeare Geek?

The most logical interpretation here, albeit the most conservative, is that William is, in fact, one of Judith and Thomas Quiney’s boys.  They had three children – Shakespeare Quiney, who died young, but Richard and Thomas both lived until 1639.  So maybe we pretend that one of them finds Shakespeare’s documents and does something underhanded with them because their dad and their granddad had a falling out shortly before ol’ Will died. This story totally makes sense to me – one of the grandsons basically seeks vengeance on his famous family’s name by burying all the original evidence connecting William as the true author of the stories.  Of course, the First Folio would have come out in 1623 and I don’t think the conspiracy theories about authorship had really had time to cook yet, but who knows.  Maybe they just decided to hide them in case they were worth money some day, and then forgot where they hid them.  I could make it work.

But let’s say that’s not true and we’re talking about a “real” Shakespeare who lived a literal lifetime after his actual self.  That means that somebody else wrote the plays, thirty years previously?  During the reign of Elizabeth and/or James, both of whom are no longer around?  Will audiences still care? The Puritans are about to close the theatres in less than a decade, so if he’s going to get started putting on thirty eight plays he’s got to crank them out at a rate of more than four per year.  Better hurry!

Maybe our question poser mistyped and meant 1536, which would be closer to Shakespeare’s actual lifespan.  But now we’re in a world where there’s no Queen Elizabeth or James I at all, so do we still get the plays that are directly tied to their reigns? Where are Marlowe, Middleton and the others during all of this to help the mysterious author collaborate, are they also unstuck in time?

I’m so confused.  I think I’ll mark that post and come back to it to see what kind of stories people come up with.

EDIT : I couldn’t help myself, I wrote to the original poster and asked if he did that on purpose.  He “messed up 1616 as his birthdate.”

 

 

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Decorate Your Life

Behowl The MoonToday a coworker asked me casually, “Don’t you get sick of Shakespeare knick-knacks?”  He’d noticed my desk has, let’s see if I can get them all:

“No,” I reply.

“Just wondering,” he said.  “I’m a Bruins fan, and everybody knows I’m a Bruins fan, but there eventually came a time when I had to tell people, stop buying me Bruins stuff, I’ve already got just about everything.  My wife’s the same way, she likes sharks, people know she likes sharks, but it’s like, enough already, stop buying me shark things.”

“I see it differently,” I replied.  “I call it decorating my life.  I don’t even necessarily use this stuff or read these books. But wherever I go, people who don’t know me can see, Shakespeare. And they ask me about it. And there’s a connection there that might not otherwise have been made.  I’m putting more Shakespeare out into the world, through that person.  Everybody wins.”

If you want more of something that you love in the universe, decorate your life with it.

 

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Guest Post : The Wild Waves Whist by Erin Nelsen Parekh

Back in September 2016, Shakespeare Geek readers helped make life better by backing Behowl the Moon, a baby board book based on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, into existence. I’m very happy to welcome back Erin Nelsen Parekh to tell us about her follow on project “The Wild Waves Whist”, using material from The Tempest.

Maybe you remember reading here about Behowl the Moon, the board book that turns two quotes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream into a story for babies and toddlers. There’s a second book up on Kickstarter now that would make it a series: The Wild Waves Whist, which steals two bits of The Tempest.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/172320179/shakespeare-for-babies-real-literature-to-read-on

The Wild Waves Whist will have more Shakespeare-certified animal noises, more rhymes, more funny old language, an island setting brimming with mystery and possibility. It will be a delight and a dare.

Many of you helped bring Behowl the Moon into being by supporting it on
Kickstarter. And once it was made, the pairing of Shakespeare’s words and narrative art caught a good bit of attention (link to http://drivelanddrool.com/press/). Behowl the Moon is just about sold out of its first printing and going back to press!

It’s not probably ever going to be a blockbuster—not every adult wants this kind of wordplay during storytime with a kid. Even if they did, lots of people grow up with no feelings about Shakespeare aside from vague, homework-induced distaste. But among those who love and respect the complex play of image and sound and meaning in Shakespeare’s work, Behowl the Moon finds the perfect audience.

The Wild Waves Whist
Back The Wild Waves Whist on Kickstarter now!

What actually happens when you mix small children and early modern English? My oldest, at two, told me we needed breakfast, “else the Puck a liar call.” A three-year-old remixes songs and quotes: “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, and the wolf behowls the moon.” When I read for a group of kids, usually aged from about one to three or sometimes all the way to six and seven, they hiss for “’scape the serpent’s tongue,” clap on “give me your hands,” lay their heads down at “good night unto you all,” and happily roar, tweet, bray, hoot, and squeak whenever they get a chance. And everybody, everybody, howls.

Toddlers interact with a snippet of unadulterated Shakespeare just as they would any other kids’ book, remembering the bits they like the sound of, puzzling out what’s going on in the pictures, asking questions about the characters. They are hilarious and brave and unexpected. I have to make another one—just to see what they’ll do next.

If you can help me make this, by supporting the project, sharing the link, or telling a friend, you’ll get my endless gratitude—and we’ll get to find out what happens together.

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What, Is There More Merch?

Look at that, I had a picture of Boatswain after all.

It dawns on me, as I sit here in my Tempest mood, that I’ve got almost 100 Shakespeare Geek designs in Amazon and RedBubble, but none of them have anything to do with The Tempest.

How’d that happen?

I immediately set about to remedy that problem when … I got stuck. I have no idea how to proceed! It’s easy to grab a quote and throw it on a shirt, but I think that’s just playing the “quantity over quality” rule and I don’t love that.  Maybe that’s why I’m not raking in the cash, either, but that’s never been my goal 😉  If I’m going to put up a design and ask people to spend real money to own it, I’d like to feel like I put some effort into it.

So, who wants to brainstorm with me? Amazon offers t-shirts and hooded sweatshirts, but RedBubble offers a larger selection of other merch – iPhone cases, pillows, blankets, journals, stickers, etc… so I can really do either.  If you’re a fan of The Tempest, what do you think would look good on merchandise?  A favorite quote?  One of our old jokes or hashtags games from over the years?

I suppose we could look into original artwork if somebody had a cool idea.  I’m already thinking about maybe digging into the public domain stuff and seeing if I can’t get creative with one of the old woodcut images depicting Prospero and Ariel.  Hmmm…

Who’s feeling creative? I promise I won’t nag people to buy it if we end up making it.  I just want to see some new designs flowing into the store, and
The Tempest is the biggest gap I see right now.  (Not a lot of call for Pericles merchandise.)

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Let’s Hear It For The Boatswain

Miranda and Ferdinand play chessI ran across a bunch of Tempest references last week, and was reminded each time how much I enjoy the opening scene. I was even trying to think of a gimmick post that would allow me to talk about my enjoyment of the boatswain character. I called it “One Scene Wonders”, but then remembered he technically appears at the end of the play as well.

Then I figure what the heck it’s my blog I can write whatever I want.

How much do you love Boatswain? From his opening “Cheerly my hearts! Yare, yare!” it’s like he’s got his own language and personality, even though he doesn’t even merit a proper name.

Boatswain

I pray now, keep below.

He’s also got patience.  First he tells his passengers, “Keep below.”  Then he politely tells them, “Stay out of the way, you’re doing more harm than good up here.”

Boatswain

You mar our labour: keep your cabins: you do assist the storm.

Then when Gonzalo goes and name drops the King, our hero does exactly what any worker would do when told the suits were coming.  He says, “If you can do it better than go right ahead, otherwise get out of the way.”

GONZALO
Good, yet remember whom thou hast aboard.

Boatswain
None that I more love than myself. You are a
counsellor; if you can command these elements to
silence, and work the peace of the present, we will
not hand a rope more; use your authority: if you
cannot, give thanks you have lived so long, and make
yourself ready in your cabin for the mischance of
the hour, if it so hap. Cheerly, good hearts! Out
of our way, I say.

He’s not even done.  After complaining that his passengers complaints are louder than the storm, he sees them returning and asks, “Are you trying to get us killed?”  When Sebastian swears at him he says, “If you’re going to stay out here pick up a rope!”

Boatswain
Down with the topmast! yare! lower, lower! Bring
her to try with main-course.
A cry within
A plague upon this howling! they are louder than
the weather or our office.

Re-enter SEBASTIAN, ANTONIO, and GONZALO

Yet again! what do you here? Shall we give o’er
and drown? Have you a mind to sink?

SEBASTIAN
A pox o’ your throat, you bawling, blasphemous,
incharitable dog!

Boatswain
Work you then.

This poor chap’s just trying to do his job and not get them all killed, and these sorry fools are all getting in his way.  Even Gonzalo has to acknowledge, “I like this fellow.”  Granted, I’m not sure it’s a compliment to say “I see him more fated to hanging than to drowning,” but we’ll take what little appreciation we get.

GONZALO
I have great comfort from this fellow: methinks he
hath no drowning mark upon him; his complexion is
perfect gallows. Stand fast, good Fate, to his
hanging: make the rope of his destiny our cable,
for our own doth little advantage. If he be not
born to be hanged, our case is miserable.

All of Shakespeare’s openings are great, in their own way. I like this one because as far as setting the tone of the rest of the play goes (see Macbeth, Hamlet)  it’s really more about what Gonzalo says after Boatswain’s big moment, all that stuff about “give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground” because in the next scene we see the island.  So really the interaction with Boatswain is kind of extra, isn’t it?  Sure it introduces the bad guys and gives a taste of their personalities but there’s plenty of ways he could have done that. I’m glad he picked this one.

Anybody else love seeing this guy make his brief appearance?

Yare, yare!

 

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The First Thing You Think Of

I saw a post on Reddit today that asked, “What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word Shakespeare?”

“Ooooo,” I thought, “This one’s right up my alley.”  I start mentally forming my response. I click.  I am disappointed to see everybody’s answer says nothing but “Romeo and Juliet” or “Hamlet” or something “Othello” or “Dream”.  I’m also disappointed to see that the post was put up 13 hours ago, so there’s no point in responding, as nobody will ever see it.  I only see it because I’ve got a search filter on Shakespeare posts.  I decide not to post.

Good thing, too, because before archiving the post out of my news reader I realize that the question was actually, “What is the first PLAY you think of when you hear the word Shakespeare?”  So they were all right, and I would have looked like an idiot. 🙂

So then I’ll ask and answer my own question here, because I can do that. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word Shakespeare?

I’m grasping for the word I want but I can’t find it.  Hopefully somebody will grok what I’m saying and deliver me my word.  But for now I’m going to say it like this :  Eleven.  As in, “These go up to eleven.”  I’m not just talking about what Shakespeare the man accomplished, although that alone makes a worthy life goal (Shakespeare wrote Richard III and Romeo and Juliet by the time he was thirty, what have you done, and are children studying it four hundred years later?) I’m talking about the depth and intensity of what he put up on stage.  We’ll all feel at one time or another love, and hate, and ambition and grief and the whole host of human emotions.  And when we do there’s always some Shakespeare we can point to and say, “Yes.  That.  That is what this feels like.”

That’s what I think of.  What about you?

 

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