My company is having a Team Trivia night next week, but it falls on my son’s birthday so I can’t attend. Frustrating, to be sure, because while I may not be jumping up and down to join the company softball team, trivia is kind of my chance to shine. Only game where I’m picked first 🙂
I’ve already told them to text me any Shakespeare questions.
“Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear*bzzzt*…hang on….Henry….the…Sixth….part……two. Sorry. Where were we?”
I’m joking about that, but I’m also completely serious. I already told our team captain that I will play remotely. He said he’d see if it’s allowed, but somehow I doubt it. I also assume that my wife will kill me if I even attempt it.
Normally for my lunch break I go for a walk around the block. Today it’s raining so I cut it short, and returning to the company kitchen I see our CEO is hanging out, talking to some coworkers of mine. As I’m getting my lunch out of the refrigerator I clearly hear him say, “…the works of Shakespeare…” but I don’t have the context for any other part of the story.
I quickly step up behind him and stand there, waiting for a break. Everybody sees me but him.
“You rang?” I ask. “I heard my word.”
He jumps, spins, and says, “Geez you’re like an elf! Say the magic word and *poof* you appear.”
I’m totally ok with writing that into my job description.
I just finished Start with Why by Simon Sinek, a book I’ve seen recommended many times over the years but I finally got around to reading (well, listening to). The premise is so basic that I’m honestly surprised he got an entire book out of it.
It goes something like this – to succeed in business (and, by extension, in life) do not focus on what you are doing, and how you are doing it, but why you are doing it.
I guess some folks need that spelled out? I thought that was kind of obvious, it’s called being authentic and having personal integrity, isn’t it? If I tell you that I’m promoting a product because it will make your life better, I should actually believe that, I shouldn’t just be saying that because my marketing tests have shown that the phrasing “make your life better” converts higher than the comparable “improves your life”.
I don’t read books like this and think about my day job. I’m out of most of the decision-making in that area. No, I read books like this and think about Shakespeare. What do I do? I run a Shakespeare blog, trying to generate some degree of reputation on the subject, and occasionally attempt to turn it into a side hustle. How? By creating merchandise based on the original content we generate here, and by writing in a way that I feel presents the material in an approachable way to an audience not necessarily already being served.
What do I do? I run a Shakespeare blog, trying to generate some degree of reputation on the subject, and occasionally attempt to turn it into a side hustle. How? By creating merchandise based on the original content we generate here, and by writing in a way that I feel presents the material in an approachable way to an audience not necessarily already being served.
How? By creating merchandise based on the original content we generate here, and by writing in a way that I feel presents the material in an approachable way to an audience not necessarily already being served.
Why? See, I think there’s two answers here. One answer is, “Because I want more Shakespeare in the world. I want to walk down the street and see people with Shakespeare quotes on their t-shirts, or tattoos, or reading a Shakespeare-related book at the beach.” Why? Because I immediately feel a bond with that fellow human being, and that makes me happy. I immediately think of those people as smarter and more philosophically in touch with the universe, and that raises my standard toward the whole human race just a little bit. The more I get to experience that, the more optimistic I am about the people I haven’t met yet.
Or, “Because everybody wants to make more money.” Why? It’s not necessarily the amount of dollars, though that does help. It’s the direct connection to the process that does it for me. The feeling that I made the decisions (see above!), that whether or not the money comes in is based on things that I find important. Why? Because money means there’s something tangible at stake. You put money into these things, and hope to get more money back in return. That signifies success. Why? Because for people to spend money because of the value they find in something that I created, it means that what is important to me is also important to them. That makes me happy, because that means that I am adding value to the world.
We recently discovered that a family friend has cancer. Luckily (happily? thankfully? not sure what the word is to use there) it is a reasonably treatable one with a life expectancy measured in decades. But, you know. Still.
That got me thinking. If her husband asked me over a beer, “So, what’s Shakespeare got to say about this?” I don’t know how I’d answer. For years I have spoken about finding the answers in the works of Shakespeare, how the entirety of human experience and emotion can be found within the pages. “If you’ve ever felt it,” I bet you could find me saying, “Shakespeare wrote about it.”
Pretty sure Shakespeare never mentioned cancer.
So let’s talk about it. I’m trying to think of places where a character is ill and not going to get better. Or perhaps a more reasonable comparison might be, “Knows that he is going to die before his time and there’s nothing left to do about it but contemplate what that means.” What about the characters around them? The woman I’m thinking of is a wife and mother. The journey they’ve been put on isn’t just for her and her husband, her kids are part of it as well.
Technically there’s the king in All’s Well That Ends Well, but that doesn’t really count – he gets better.
Hamlet is really one long contemplation on what life is all about, but it’s not really what this post is about. Hamlet’s father’s murder is not the same thing – being taken suddenly is not the same as having a long time to prepare for it coming. I suppose if we had Polonius or Ophelia say a single word about what happened to Ophelia’s mother, there could have been something there.
The Winter’s Tale? I don’t have time to go through the text right now but if Leontes believes his wife to be dead, taken from him before her time, doesn’t he have some thoughts on the subject? True she ends up coming back to him, but at the time he thinks she’s gone forever.
Are there no examples of a sick character? Surely the idea of, “You are sick, and you are only going to get worse until you finally die” was a thing in Shakespeare’s time, regardless of the name they attached to it. Did Shakespeare give us any characters in that situation? I suppose in a time of plague that was a pretty depressing topic, but he mentions it in places like Romeo and Juliet so it’s not like the subject was totally off limits.
Getting back to the original premise, I’m open to discussion on the idea. If a friend of yours was suddenly confronted with their own impending mortality (or that of a loved one), what comfort can Shakespeare offer?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. My daughters (the middle one in particular) are girly girls and whenever the evil Starbuckian Empire came out with a hipster drink that was a pink sparkly unicorn, they had their mother and I running around town trying to find one. Nobody drinks the thing, of course – I hear it’s gross – they just need to take pictures with it for Snapchat.
We struck out, it was sold out everywhere we went.
Since I was looking for new t-shirt designs anyway, we designed our own “pink unicorn” (although it is available in different colors). Everybody here knows The Tempest is a special play in my house, not to mention a special bond between my daughters and I. I’ve often used “Now I will believe that there are unicorns” as an example of my favorite Shakespeare quote, dating to long ago when I was in college and we (well, the drama group) did The Tempest. For three days, I was enchanted. While I translate it to people as more of a Shakespearean, “Well! Now I’ve seen everything,” I personally think of it more as an acknowledgment that you never know what wonders the universe will drop at your doorstep, so always keep your mind open to the possibility that a unicorn could walk around the corner.
I hope everybody likes it. I was getting so tired of dark on light and light on dark, I wanted to try something bright and colorful that my girls would like.
I love when people make lists for me of what Shakespeare stuff is available for streaming. IBTimes has 8 options to enjoy, with or without some company. Although in fairness, 5 of them are actually on Amazon Prime and only 3 on Netflix. Come on Netflix, step yo game up!
Shakespeare in Love is probably the most obvious choice (if you haven’t already seen it a dozen times). There’s that newish Romeo and Juliet with Hailee Steinfeld from a few years back. I tried that one once, but couldn’t get past the joust at the beginning. You remember that part in the original text, right?
If you like the older stuff, Amazon’s got the Helen Mirren / Judi Dench A Midsummer Night’s Dream from 1968, and a WWII Hamlet that I’d never even heard of.
There’s also some documentary stuff, including Shakespeare High that I remember for years ago but have never sat down to watch. Might have to check that out. Something for everybody!
A couple years ago the Oregon Shakespeare Festival made a bold move by commissioning 36 playwrights to translate the works of Shakespeare into modern English. I honestly can’t tell you how it went, as I didn’t follow the project. I’m not interested in your project if your premise is that Shakespeare has to be rewritten.
We’re not looking for a retelling of Shakespeare plays. We’re looking for partner plays that are inspired by Shakespeare, plays that might be sequels or prequels to Shakespeare’s stories, plays that might tell the stories of minor characters in Shakespeare’s stories, plays that might dramatize Shakespeare’s company creating the first production of a title, plays that might include modern characters interacting with Shakespeare’s characters, plays that will be even more remarkable when staged in rotating repertory with their Shakespeare counterpart and actors playing the same characters who might appear in both plays, plays that not only will appeal to other Shakespeare theatres, but also to all types of theatres and audiences around the world.
The ambitious project stretches for the next twenty years and will pay out a million dollars in prize money.
I remember back in college, probably after being inspired by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, I tried my hand at a similar piece I called Ophelia’s Song. The premise was that Ophelia was in on Hamlet’s feigned madness, only it wasn’t feigned, so as he went insane in his own peculiar way, so did she. They would speak in modern English during the original scenes, and then switch back to original Shakespeare dialogue for the “real” scenes. It was never produced, but it was fun to write.
Bardfilm and I were having an interesting conversation yesterday about the great divide (from where I sit) in the Shakespeare Universe. If you are not a professional Shakespearean (mostly thinking of academics and researchers, though I would have to say that full-time directors, actors, etc… would also count themselves among this group) … what do you call yourself? How do you explain your relationship to Shakespeare and his works?
From what I have seen, academia prefers to refer to us as “fans”. If you are not a professional, you are a fan.
I hate that. I am a fan of Pink Floyd. I have not spent the last twelve years of my life writing thousands of posts about how Pink Floyd makes life better. I did not tell my kids The Wall as a bedtime story growing up. I do not have an ever-growing shrine to Roger Waters on my desk at work, and I don’t celebrate David Gilmour’s birthday like it’s a near-religious holiday.
I have invested a great deal of my life, and the lives of my friends and family, in Shakespeare. People that know me know more about Shakespeare because of me. But for all of that, the way I am to describe myself (and those who feel the same way I do) as …. fans?
For fun I grabbed a random thesaurus entry for “fan” and here’s what it gave me to work with:
You know what dawns on me is missing from that list?
I didn’t originally pick that word because of my computer background. It’s not supposed to be “The geek who is also into Shakespeare.” It was more about a healthy obsession with learning everything I could about the subject. What Wikipedia has to say about the word isn’t bad, actually:
The word geek is a slang term originally used to describe eccentric or non-mainstream people; in current use, the word typically connotes an expert or enthusiast or a person obsessed with a hobby or intellectual pursuit, with a general pejorative meaning of a “peculiar person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual, unfashionable, or socially awkward”.
I think I agree with almost all of that. “Expert” is clearly tricky in this context because by definition we’re not trained professionals. Am I an expert? Are you? Who’s to say? But we can all probably agree on enthusiast. Obsessed? Check. I think Shakespeare qualifies as an intellectual pursuit. And I’m even ok with the pejorative stuff – peculiar and socially awkward? Well, yeah, I was that before I got into Shakespeare!
How about you? What do you call yourself when it comes up?
Over on Facebook, Dana asked a good question, and I didn’t have an answer. He asked:
Do you know of any books or articles that have attempted to identify the real people behind Shakespeare’s characters?
He cites the example of Jaques (As You Like It) possibly being modeled on Jacomo Francisci, a soldier of fortune under Sir William Stanley. I suppose the other more obvious example would be that Polonius (Hamlet) is supposed to be William Cecil, Lord Burghley. I also saw a theory that Falstaff (Henry IV) might have been at least partially based on Robert Greene, he whose wit is worth a groat.
I’m sure that each of these has some degree of evidence and plenty to dispute. Dana’s interested in the subject and wondering if anybody’s collected them into a single work? It seems like an interesting topic. Anybody know of something published?
Tis the summer of prime time Shakespeare! TNT has announced that July 10, 2017 will be the premiere of their new series Will, chronicling the (fictional) rockstar life of up and coming playwright Will Shakespeare:
They’ll be playing catch up, though, because over on ABC, Shonda Rhimes imagines a sequel to Romeo and Juliet called Still Star-Crossed, which premieres May 29:
Which are you more excited for? Which do you think has the better chance of surviving?