Book Review : Macdeath by Cindy Brown

I’m always torn when people offer to send me books for possible review.  If it’s not an audiobook or ebook, it goes on the bottom of the “get to when neither of those is available” list. That’s just the way my schedule works. As such, it takes me forever. Such is the case with Cindy Brown’s Macdeath, which I’ve had so long I can’t remember when I got my copy.  But I’m happy to say I finished it!

Book one of a series, Macdeath introduces us to Ivy Meadows, a struggling actress / part-time detective (thanks to her Uncle Bob, a full-time detective). Ivy’s been cast as one of the witches in Macbeth, and we all know that the Scottish play is cursed.  Sure enough, somebody winds up dead. Now Ivy can’t seem to stop investigating whodunnit, despite the pleas and flat-out demands of her coworkers, the police, and her detective uncle.

Maybe if I was a backstage theatre geek I would have liked this one more, since that’s where most of the action takes place. I just couldn’t get into any of the characters. None of them are around long enough or described deeply enough to care about. Which, granted, is part of the point of a murder mystery because you need to keep guessing about who the murderer is.  But without that, I was stuck in the head of our narrator, and as a 50yr old husband and father with stuff on my to-do list, I felt exactly as comfortable with that as I would have hanging out in real life with a 20something struggling actress :).  Oh, your costume is too tight in the crotch?  You’re not sure if you have enough money to get your car out of the parking lot?  The struggle is real, people.

There’s plenty of twists to the story, a couple of dead ends, and a reasonably satisfying ending (as these things go).  A cast of characters has been introduced, and there’s obvious room for a series.

Know what it reminded me of?  Once upon a time, there was a golden age of television where it seems like everything was a detective show.  Magnum P.I., Murder She Wrote, Matlock, Remington Steele, Hart to Hart, Miami Vice, Charlie’s Angels, Simon and Simon …  This book reminded me a great deal of those.  Imagine a Charlie’s Angels episode where one of the girls has to go undercover in a production of Macbeth.  You get a very brief glimpse at the cast of characters, she runs around trying to uncover clues even though everybody tells her not to (because she can’t blow her cover), and all the while she still has to remember her lines and go perform when her cue comes.  Then when their allotted hour of tv time is up the bad guy is revealed, the day is saved, and everything wraps up nicely until next week.

That’s not a bad thing. There’s a reason why they made so many of those shows, and some of them did very well (Murder She Wrote went for 12 seasons!)  But the strength of each of those shows was in the main character, and finding an audience that connected with that character.   Just because I’m not the audience for Ivy Meadows doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

P.S. Just one more thing before I go?  We all know that Shakespeare was a master of the dirty double entendre, whether Hamlet’s putting his head in Ophelia’s lap or Mercutio’s got his hands upon the very prick of noon.  I’ve got people regularly telling me that Shakespeare itself is a euphemism for something (as is “will”, come to think of it).  The author chose to have one of her characters named … are you ready for this?  Detective Pinkstaff.  Yikes.  Every time that character was in the scene I couldn’t take him seriously, not because he was a bad character, but because he was a walking phallic joke.  At least she didn’t make him the love interest.

 

 

 

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Commonwealth Shakespeare 2018 : Richard III on Boston Common

My streak continues!  I’ve not missed a Commonwealth Shakespeare in the Park performance since 2005.  This year I finally met Steven Maler, the artistic director since the beginning.  Immediately told him about missing Hamlet, and that I’d toughed out the rain and then stood there, hours late, watching them strike the stage and screaming, “I’M HERE!  BRING EVERYBODY BACK!”

Anyway, this year it was Richard III, and I was both excited – because I’ve never seen or really ever studied that one – but also a bit ambivalent, because I had no real stake in this one, you know?  I have no special love or hatred of the play, so if I missed it, would I care?  But I knew I’d care in the long run, especially about breaking my streak, so I’m happy to report we did not miss.

I tried to explain the general plot of Richard III to my ever patient wife who tolerates my addiction.  Coming from someone who’s not read the play my summary is not the greatest, but it went something like this:  “Think of it in terms of today’s royal family. Say that Prince Harry has decided he wants to be king.  But he’s way too far down the line to ever see the crown, unless he does something about it. So he kills his brother William.  Then he decides that he’d rather be married to Kate, but problem, he’s already married. So he kills his own wife, then convinces Kate to marry him, despite the fact that everybody knows he killed her husband. This is too much for Prince Charles’ heart, so he dies.  William’s son is in the way too, though, so he’s also got to die.  You get the idea.  It’s a blood bath.”  That’s not a 1-1 match but it gave her some context to work with.

Having never seen a different production I can’t really tell you if I saw a good one. I did not love their Richard.  Maybe it was early in the run (it opened on Wednesday, we went on Friday), but I felt like he was having trouble with his lines. His timing was off, and too often you could feel him take an extra pause like he was trying to remember the next word.  Once he spoke over another actor’s lines (which I’m pretty sure was not supposed to happen), and I may have imagined it but I thought I heard Clarence feed him a line right at the very beginning.

What I did like, and found quite surprising, was the strength of the female characters. Not surprising in the sense that I didn’t expect strong female characters from Shakespeare, but rather that in all the times we’ve had discussions about Shakespeare best female roles, I never hear this play mentioned.

I loved Queen Margaret, thought she was great.  Just this kind of crazy old lady who’s all, “Yup, I know I’m not supposed to be here, but I’m old and I don’t care, I’m going to say whatever I want to say to whoever I want.”  I did particularly like when Buckingham recalls her curse just before his death as if to say “Well, I guess the crazy old broad was right.  Ok boys, let’s go.”

Special appreciation, though, for Queen Elizabeth.  I lost track of how many of her family members were killed during the course of the play. But when Richard stands in front of her and says he wants her daughter, the Queen took the insanity of the situation to a whole other level.  The best way I can describe it is if you found yourself in one of those Friday the Thirteenth serial killer movies where almost everyone you know and love has been brutally murdered, only now the guy that’s been doing it isn’t a silent unstoppable monster, he’s here trying to have a conversation with you. And he wants one of your remaining daughters.

This was probably my favorite scene, because on the one side you’ve got Richard who is just so calm in what he’s asking, completely in control of the situation. He doesn’t just want to take the daughter, he wants her mother to thank him for the favor that he’s doing for them.  She on the other hand is on the edge of insane at the whole situation.

I think that if I watch more productions (and I plan to), I’ll better understand all the players and how they move about the game.  I was trying to stay ahead, including having the script loaded up in my app and following along at some parts.  It just wasn’t what I expected. Scenes I thought might have played more humorous did not get laughs.  The few laughs that it did get seemed more slapstick, with Buckingham cavorting about the stage and yelling “Boo!” to the children, or Richard doubling over slapping his knee laughing at just how evil he is.

This year they did a thrust(?) stage? Am I using that term right?  Basically it came straight out into the audience so most of us were wrapped around the edges. We spoke with one photographer right at the edge of the stage, he was getting some great shots.

The “there’s only one man at this table who isn’t loyal” scene has been done many different times and I knew it was coming but I still loved it.
I have to admit I did like his look. He doesn’t look very deformed here.
I like the conspiratorial “over the shoulder” look I caught here.
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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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Pre-Review : Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

When I first heard about the Hogarth Series that would product “modern novelizations” of Shakespeare’s work I thought, “Eh.  So what.  If you rewrite Shakespeare it’s not Shakespeare, it’s yours, and it’s just like any other novel.”  As such I’ve avoided them all to date.

I decided to change that because we’ve got a book club at work and I wanted an excuse to read something of at least passing interest to me. When multiple people told me that Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood’s retelling of The Tempest, was the best one to come out so far,  was hooked.  If I’m going to give the series I try I might as well start with my favorite play.

So glad I did! I’m just about halfway finished with it but I’m very excited to get out a review (and, who we kidding, it gives me another post for Shakspeare Day).

Felix, our director, is in the middle of what’s to be his masterpiece, a production of The Tempest.  He likes this play so much he even named his daughter Miranda.  Unlike Shakespeare’s story, however, both Felix’s wife and daughter have passed away before the story takes off. But the next part plays out like you’d expect — control of the group is usurped by Tony and Sal, and Felix is “banished” from the theatre scene until he gets a job teaching Shakespeare to prisoners. He even uses the pseudonym “Mr. Duke”, an amusing callback to Prospero as Duke of Milan.

The plot is following along close enough to the original that you have some idea what’s going to happen. Tony and Sal are going to end up in the prison where Mr. Duke will make his triumphant return. I just have no idea what’s going to happen other than that.  Our Prospero has no Miranda. This one seems to be all about revenge.  What would Prospero have been like if everything else had gone the same, except Miranda had not survived? I think we might have seen the full scope and scale of his power.

While retelling The Tempest this book is also a lesson in The Tempest as Felix walks his prisoners through the finer points of the play.  He makes them re-envision Ariel as something other than just “a fairy”.  He asks them to find all the “prisons” in the play (apparently there are nine?) and they discuss what form each prison takes, who is imprisoned, and who has captured them.  I’m learning lots of new things.  I hope she gets back to the question of “is the island by itself magic” because I’ve often wondered about that myself.

I don’t want to spoil much more of the book so I’ll stop here.  Suffice to say I’m loving it, and when I’m done with this one I’m going to dig into Jo Nesbo’s new Macbeth next. Definitely recommended.

 

 

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Nutshell In A Nutshell (A Review)

Nutshell by Ian McEwan
Alas, poor Hamlet…

I tried to read Nutshell by Ian McEwan about a year ago and couldn’t get into it. I thought I’d reviewed my attempt to do so about a year ago around Shakespeare’s birthday but I can’t find the post.

Bardfilm recommended that I read through the whole thing, as the ending was worth discussing, so I forced myself through it.

Nutshell is a version of Hamlet told with a unique twist – Hamlet is Gertrude’s unborn child.  That’s right, our narrator is a fetus.

In general I’m not a fan of first person narrative,  I think it forces way too many unnatural hoops to jump through to get information to the audience in a way that the narrator would have known. Here that is magnified fifty fold, as our narrator can’t see anything that’s going on, nor can he go anywhere that Gertrude (or, as she’s named here, Trudy) can go. But that doesn’t stop him from knowing about the plot between his mom and her boyfriend (“Claude”) to kill his father (“John” because I guess there’s no easy way to modernize “Hamlet”). He knows when Claude loans his dad money. He knows what his mom is wearing. He knows where his mom and Claude go on dates, what she eats for dinner, and most importantly, what wine she likes.

Seriously, the wine is a recurring theme. It’s one thing to just say that Trudy is a drunk who doesn’t think that being really pregnant is maybe a reason to cut back. She drinks so much and so often that the fetus himself is a budding oenophile, hoping at different times that his mother partakes of a particular vintage. I hated this part in audio, he really sounds like Stewie from Family Guy.

Also to hate is the amount of sex that Trudy and Claude are having.  It’s a lot. And, since he’s got a front row seat, it’s described play by play and blow by blow by our narrator (who hates it, if that wasn’t obvious). Have you ever wondered what a sex scene reads like when it’s narrated from the inside?  Yeah, don’t.

The most fun part about this book is the way the author tosses in references to the original text, like a treasure hunt. There are so many I can barely remember them, but one easy example was when the narrator said of Claudius, “As a man, he was a real piece of work.”  See what he did there? 🙂  References like that are just all over the book, and if you’re a fan of Hamlet you’ll have a great time trying to spot them all.

There’s not much Hamlet story here.  No Ophelia, Laertes, Polonius, Horatio. Just Gertrude and Claudius, already together and plotting against Hamlet’s father.  At best it’s something of a character study of how the author sees Hamlet.  Sometimes it was as if he was going through a checklist — they like to drink in the original? Check.  Hamlet’s obsessed with how often his mother is sleeping with his uncle? Check.

But at some point you get to interpret for yourself.  Do we like this Gertrude? Is she a good person? How different is she from the original, and how?  What do her actions say about her feelings for the men in her life?

If you like plumbing the depths of the framework Shakespeare gave us for these characters, and get a special little thrill of excitement every time you see a Hamlet reference in a completely different context, then you’ll probably like this one.  I am part of a book club at work, and none of them are really Shakespeare geeks, so I couldn’t see any of them getting anything out of this at all.  One even went so far as to suggest that the author wrote it on a dare, because she’s a fan of his other work.

 

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Lear’s Shadow

SCENE

A rehearsal room, dark. Enter JACK through the curtains, directly from outside as we see cars driving past.  He rolls a single, lit incandescent lamp to center, and opens the curtains. We see folding tables on which sit copies of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.  JACK picks one up and starts swearing.

Enter a younger man, STEPHEN, on the phone and holding a neck brace. He’s clearly been looking for JACK and is relieved to find him.

Thus opens Lear’s Shadow, written and directed by Brian Elerding, which I had the pleasure of watching yesterday at Mr. Elerding’s invitation.

We quickly learn that something bad has happened, though what we do not yet know. Jack is bruised, Stephen is trying to get him back into the neck brace, so those are some obvious clues. More telling, however, is that Jack – our director – seems to have no real idea where or when he is. He doesn’t know what play they’re rehearsing (hence his anger at seeing Romeo and Juliet scripts) or why no one else has shown up for rehearsal.

Stephen’s job is to keep Jack talking until Rachel (who Stephen was speaking with on the phone) can bring the car around. They reminisce about other plays they’ve done together, before landing on King Lear.  Jack keeps re-realizing that the scripts are wrong, and doesn’t know the date. Stephen takes it upon himself to walk through the play with Jack.

For the next hour the two debate the finer details of Lear – what scenes and lines can be cut, how to deliver certain lines, where to “start” so you have “somewhere to go”.  If you love being a fly on the wall during conversations like this (as I do) you’re going to greatly enjoy this. I do not fancy myself an actor, never have, so I like to watch them work at their craft without trying to put myself in their place.

Of course none of this is random, we’ve got a man who has lost his memory and has clearly had some tragedy befall him doing what amounts to a one man show about a man who has lost his memory upon which many tragedies fall. It’s a reminder that while King Lear may have been written five hundred years ago it could also have happened yesterday.

Though I’m watching this as a movie it reminds me of going to theatre back when I was a younger man. It’s a bare stage two man show, just dialogue, no real plot to speak of other than toward the ultimate answer to the “What happened?” question (which we may or may not receive).

If you believe that Shakespeare makes life better, even when it brings tears rather than laughter, then of course you’re going to like this. It’s very reminiscent of when Slings & Arrows did Lear, a connection the director and I already spoke of.  “There’s no way I wasn’t influenced by Slings & Arrows,” he wrote.  That’s intended as high praise.  I’m not saying “This is trying to be Slings & Arrows,” I’m saying, “I’d watch an entire season of this like I’d watch a season of Slings & Arrows.”

 

 

 

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Not So Great Shakespearean Deaths (The Game)

When I put the Great Shakespearean Deaths Card Game on my Shakespeare Gift Guide this year, I jokingly put it in the “Stuff I Want” category.  Well god bless my mom who saw that post and thought, “Hurray, my son published his Christmas list!” and immediately bought it for me.

Apparently it’s quite a popular choice this year, as a quick Twitter poll showed at least half a dozen people who could now include it in their stash as well.

The problem is, it’s not a good game.  You have no idea how disappointed I am to say that, but it’s only reasonable, as I’m disappointed in the game.

Each card represents a character death, explaining that death briefly, offering last words where the character had some. It also rates the death on a number of scales – gore, piteousness, fairness, speed of death, and a few others.  So far so good, a chance for people unfamiliar with any deaths other than Romeo, Juliet and Hamlet to learn about the lesser known characters like Enobarbus or “the fly” from Titus Andronicus (seriously? seriously).

If I understood the directions correctly – they’re written in a weird, pidgin-Shakespearean – everybody gets a face-down hand of cards, and can only play their top card at any time. When it’s your turn, you look at your top card, then pick a scale, presumably based on which one is best for that card. Whoever has the high score for that scale (normally you, since you’d pick your best scoring chance), you get the other players cards. If there’s a tie, those stay in the middle and you play again.  It’s basically “War”, the card game.  There’s no real strategy involved. Got a ten? Pick that one.

Has anybody else played it? Did I misunderstand anything?

My kids were bored almost immediately and clearly played only so I wouldn’t be sad that my Christmas gift was boring.  I meanwhile started thinking of ways to make it more interesting.  Here’s a few that we came up with:

  • Pick the category before you look at your top card.  That makes it entirely random, but at least you don’t just keep giving your cards to whoever had a ten for Gore and Brutality.
  • Play two-factor.  Choose two attributes (by dice roll if that’s easier), and you have to maximize your score across both.  So your ten coupled with a two isn’t going to beat somebody else’s six and seven.
  • Everybody gets to look at their cards, but at each turn roll a die to randomly determine which attribute will be played. That way you at least have to decide which card to play.
  • Everybody gets a hand of six cards. Your goal is to maximize your score by playing one card per attribute. For your turn you play it like Go Fish in reverse, offering up a card to see if anybody wants to trade.  For example say you’ve already got Richard III as a 10 in Last Words.  But you’re also carrying Hamlet, and you really need somebody with a better Speed of Death score.  So you’d say, “Does anybody need Hamlet?” without specifying his numbers – people have to learn who the good cards are.  If more than one person wants him, they can make their case – “I’ll trade you a Young Macduff” – and you decide who to trade with.  When everybody’s happy with their hand and either doesn’t want to trade or can’t find someone to trade with, total up your scores.
  • Play by poker rules.  Deal out five cards, try to match up the plays – “I’ve got a full house, three of Hamlet and a pair of Richard III.”

Those are just some ideas, some literally off the top of my head as I write this post.  There aren’t enough cards to play some of the games I thought of.  You’ll quickly be surprised with who is – and isn’t – in the deck, as well as how they’re graded.  This is covered in the rules, and there’s even a blank card to add your own.  A nice idea, but I would have preferred that they just make all the deaths.  It’s been popularized in posters and infographics, it’s not really a hard data point to get.  If there’s too many you could start lumping them together (like “Macduff’s Family”).

 

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Review : Deadpool Meets Shakespeare

I first spotted the Deadpool / Shakespeare crossover in July 2016 and wrote that I was “cautiously optimistic”.  I wrote that I’m not a fan of the current trend of just writing things in iambic pentameter and calling it “Shakespearean”, nor do I appreciate the Kill Shakespeare technique of just having the characters kill each other. I suggested in my original post that while I was afraid of both of those things, I was still the picture of “wishful thinking”, because what if I’m wrong?

I’m not wrong.

Took me forever to find this.  I would periodically visit the local comic shops, flipping through the stacks and sometimes asking where I might find it. My mom even got me a gift card to the local Newbury Comics at my suggestion because I knew I’d have something to buy.

Never found it. That card just burned a hole in my pocket for the better part of a year until relatively recently (month or two ago?) when I finally asked a clerk whether anybody had it, and where I might find it. Turns out another store in Boston supposedly had it.  I file that knowledge. But then, a week or two later, we find ourselves in Boston.  Next thing you know I’m walking out of the store with Deadpool #7 : Deadpool Does Shakespeare. This is actually a reprint of the original, but hey, I’ll take it. This is the one with Deadpool dressed as Cupid on the cover, in case you’ve ever spotted it in the wild.

It is … about what I expected. It’s Deadpool after all, the “merc with the mouth”.  If you’re not familiar with the comic (or the movie), he’s famous for breaking the fourth wall and basically behaving as if he knows he’s in a comic book.  So he opens with something straight out of a PG-13 Twelfth Night: “What country, friends, is this? And what the f%&*???”

And so it goes. He meets Shakespeare, and kills him. When Hamlet’s father’s ghost appears, first Deadpool assumes that it’s Christmas, and then ponders whether they are in a galaxy far, far away (Ian Doescher, who wrote this one, also wrote the Star Wars crossover books).

It then turns into Kill Shakespeare, as our hero meets a steady stream of Shakespeare’s characters, all of whom claim to want to kill someone else, and who try to convince him that they’re the good guy and he should help them kill the bad guy.  All in some syllable-counting iambic pentameter.

I’m glad to add it to my collection, but there’s not much else I can say about it. It’s exactly what I thought it was going to be.

 

 

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Review : Will #10 (Series Finale)

I have to admit, now that we know it’s cancelled, I’m disappointed.  I thought there was a lot wrong with it, but seeing Shakespeare and his fellows on tv every week was kind of exciting.  I know more people are sitting down to watch Game of Thrones every week but I enjoyed having a show of my own to anticipate.

This will be something of a live blog as I watch.  I DVR’d it last night but it’s live to me 🙂  Total spoilers will abound, so beware.

Weird that last week’s episode ends with Will running through town, but now he’s walking. Step it up, man! You’re girlfriend’s getting choked out.

I don’t love how Walsingham became an important character with just two episodes left. You can’t just drop a name like that and expect it to mean anything without a chance to learn about the character.

Suddenly Topcliffe’s enforcer (Justice Young?) is a real human, with a conscience? Again, would have been nice to learn more about this character. Holy…?! Just as I write that he kills the jailer as a cover story for letting Will escape with Alice.  Yikes.

It’s weird to watch this and have context for the real story.  The real Topcliffe did eventually get Southwell, and does live until old age.  So I am not expecting him to get any sort of comeuppance in this episode.  But I still want to see how it plays out.

Bizarre that Will can carry a nearly dead Alice around the streets and literally nobody turns their head to look at him.

Will ends up at Amelia Bassano’s house (makes sense) so her personal physician can take care of Alice (with leeches, of course).  This makes everything all better, and soon Will takes her home.

So, to be clear — in the time Topcliffe had her, he never bothered to get her name? He doesn’t immediately head to her house?  Not a great interrogator, it seems.

Now the whole Burbage family knows about Alice and Will, and worse, that he’s a Catholic. So this is what the whole series has been about, even calling back the “Topcliffe was looking for a man with a cut on his hand” from the first episode.  I just don’t feel like it’s built properly to these kinds of reveals. Nobody’s really explained how Richard III is going to be so screamingly obvious to everyone in the theatre (the groundlings are not known for their post graduate degrees, you know) that it’s a scathing satire of Topcliffe.

Watching Will explain to Richard that he’s in love with Alice is oddly reminiscent of Chandler trying to explain to Ross that he loves Monica.  They go from best friends to “that’s my sister!” *punch* But then five minutes later they’re besties again.

Wait, Marlowe’s still in this?  We don’t have time for Marlowe.  Now there’s going to be no resolution to his story at all, I’m afraid.

Hunsdon? They have to convince Hunsdon? Who is Hunsdon?  Is he the one that they did Midsummer for?  I feel like I’ve lost a lot of these characters’ significance.  (Yes, Lord Hunsdon is Henry Carey, who was with Amelia Bassano, and a real character from history.)

I also just realized that the “Tommy” that Marlowe keeps hanging around with is Thomas Walsingham, son of Sir Francis.  The real Marlowe definitely did have a relationship with the real Thomas Walsingham. Now that makes sense, how Marlowe was able to call upon him so quickly last week.

Marlowe finally tells the story of who the old guy was in the bed a few weeks ago – Barrett Emerson.  Unfortunately this appears to be a fictional character.  There’s some theory that perhaps he’s modeled on Lord Strange, but that’s all I can find.

Marlowe gets lots of screen time in this episode but now it just feels wasted, knowing that we’ll never get to really explore anything with it.

…ok, wait, are you kidding?  Next up is a scene of Southwell and his followers self-flagellating (i.e. whipping themselves) while chanting in Latin.  That looks like something straight out of a Dan Brown DaVinci Code novel, and is a ridiculous plot twist.  Was their intent to make Southwell look like a nut? He’s been turned into the villain the last few episodes, but now he looks crazy.

Here we go, time for the play. I’m actually surprised that it took me this long to see this whole plot device as a Hamlet thing, the whole “catch the conscience of the king” and what not.  I’ve been looking too closely at the source material and not the bigger picture.  Shame on me.

The play is good. I like how Richard steps up to play the lead, I wish we could have seen him in some more of the good stuff.  The ending, I won’t spoil. I’ll just say that I approve of how it all goes down. A bit anti-climactic, just kind of “Will the plan work?  Ok, yup it worked with no complications at all.”

 

Well I guess that’s it.  Alice and Will get something of a Shakespeare in Love ending, which is really kind of a cop-out.  Maybe if there’d been a season 2 they would have done something with it, but now we’ll never know.  Marlowe never comes of anything, other than to offer an Elizabethan “Swive you, Shakespeare”.  Nothing ever comes of Moll and Richard.  Topcliffe is last seen playing with his torture instruments as if he’s going to do something to himself, with no payoff.  Marlow asks Shakespeare what he’s going to do next, and I’m dying for him to drop a hint about a big play – remember earlier in the season when he mentioned Falstaff? And how he was going to write the greatest plays man has ever known?  Instead he just shakes his head and says nothing.  That might be the most painful part of the whole thing. If he’d described his idea for Hamlet or something it would have been perfect.

I hope it’s generally looked upon as “Shakespeare on prime time can work.”  Probably not, but we can always hope.

 

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Review : The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O

As a geek in the traditional (i.e. nerdy) sense of the word I have long been a huge fan of Neal Stephenson’s work.  Snow Crash, Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, REAMDE, Anathem, Seveneves – all highly recommended.

So when I heard that he was doing a time travel story about Elizabethan England?  I did something I don’t usually do, I went ahead and got the hardcover.

Should have waited. I think this is the first Stephenson book that I can’t say I recommend. Most of the time, like with Seveneves or Anathem, I’ll ask, “Are you up for the challenge?”  Not here, not by a long shot.

Let’s get something out of the way. Shakespeare’s not in this. They do have a visit to Elizabethan England and do meet Richard Burbage and have what I’ll admit is an amusing scene there.  But that’s it.  There’s some discussion by others about Shakespeare’s work, but that’s it.  There’s a bit about the Irish that’s worth another blog post, coming soon. So if, like me, you’re interested in this book for the Shakespeare content? Save your money. There isn’t enough.

The rest of the book isn’t up to Stephenson’s standard.  He spends most of his time amusing himself with sophomoric pokes at bureaucracy and government, with various side trip opportunities to describe sexual stuff (like what happens when you put an 1800s prostitute and a Viking warrior in the same room together) that has nothing to do with the plot.  He seems so entertained by his own words that he forgot to write a compelling story.

Who knows, maybe I’m just so thrown off by the lack of Shakespeare that I’m being unnecessarily hard on this one. When I described it to coworkers they said, “Sounds entertaining despite itself.”  And it was, I’ll give it that. But I don’t go through these books (especially in hardcover!) just to be entertained. I want to get something out of it.  I don’t know what I got out of this other than temporary amusement.

 

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