A Shakespeare Dream, Denied

Sometimes I dream in Shakespeare. I think this is fascinating, and I blog about it every time. Happened again last night.

I’m at this party. It’s a surprise party, I think for my brother in law, which makes sense because we actually did have his 50th birthday party this weekend. So we’re in a strange house and I’m surrounded by lots of people, some I know, some I do not. There’s some sort of weird occurrence that I only half remember, where one of the small children wanders by singing a song that very definitely contains a very adult swear word. Again this actually makes sense in context because lately I’ve been engaged in several “why do people have issues with Dr. Seuss when the WAP song is ok to play on the radio?” arguments.

Anyway, here’s where it gets Shakespeare-ish and a bit weird. I find myself talking to this older couple with a heavy English accent. The wife is aghast that language like that could come out of such a small child. The husband then proceeds to declare that you don’t need to be using words like that when there are perfectly good euphemisms where everybody’s going to know what you mean. The euphemism he has in mind? Bubbleton. I told you it was weird. What bothers me most about that is that it’s clearly a noun and very difficult to use as a verb :). However, it also appears to be my brain messing with “Bridgerton,” a Netflix series known for the amount of sex it had, recently in the news because the start of season one isn’t coming back for season two.

At this point I decide to drop some Shakespeare into the conversation, because apparently I had recently made a blog post about exactly this topic and how Shakespeare used very common words with exactly such double entendre. I wish I knew in real life what I was referring to, because I’ve made no such post. Upon waking I’m guessing that maybe the Beatrice / Benedick “didn’t I dance with you?” exchange is close to what I was thinking of.

But here’s the thing, the older gentleman cuts me off and says, “I’m sorry, but could we leave Shakespeare out of it?” He then goes on to explain how the only example anybody ever wants to use in any argument is “Here’s what Shakespeare said,” and he’s not interested in having that discussion, and wanders off.

Left speechless, I wander back into the party where I complain to some other random stranger, “How was he supposed to know that Shakespeare’s my thing? It’s not like anybody ever wants to talk about computers.”

The stranger then tells me that he recently won the Turing Award, basically the highest honor in computer science. I ask him what for, he starts explaining it, and I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

I like that in my dreams I’m still basically myself. See opportunity to talk Shakespeare? Go for it. Of course that also shows my insecurities plain as day – people who don’t care to listen to me ramble about Shakespeare, or not being able to keep up my end of the conversation. I’ve come a long way over the years, realizing that neither of these things is the end of the world, and can in fact make for an amusing story :). At least, I hope.

Ok, Well, That’s Weird.

If somebody made “deep fake technology” available to you quickly and easily, what’s the first thing you’d do? Swap out the celebrity you thought should have been cast in a particular movie? Get a politician to say something they shouldn’t? Porn?

Who we kidding, we all know what I did.

This technology comes from a tool called “Deep Nostalgia” by MyHeritage. It’s being marketed as a way to animate old vintage photos, and I admit that I did flip through a few family photos first for fun, but newer pictures of people who I could just as easily already have on video wasn’t very fun, and older pictures of people no longer with us was just too creepy to consider. So technically Shakespeare was my third choice ๐Ÿ˜‰

I wonder how long before they do something where you can upload an audio clip and they’ll animate the mouth to match? That’d be pretty cool, I can already picture an animated Chandos reciting sonnet 18.

Letters to Juliet (2010)

Ok, I realize this movie is ten years old, but I’d never seen it. I have the book around here someplace, but never really sat down to read it. I’ve known about the movie, it just never filtered up in my priorities high enough for me to sit and pay attention.

So I’m thankful that my wife has lately been in a “what movie can we watch with our teenagers” mood. Since they’ve grown out of generic animated things, we end up in situations where we immediately see anything Marvel or Pixar anyway, but then the boy only wants slasher gore (or anything generally R rated that he knows we won’t let him watch), while the girls want teen drama stuff that’s got a little too much “content you don’t watch with your parents,” if you know what I mean. So movies that look fun and safe and interesting to everybody, that nobody’s seen yet, have been a new quest. This week they found Letters to Juliet, entirely on their own!

The book and the movie are two different things. The book tells the story of the “Secretaries of Juliet”, a bunch of volunteers who take down the love notes left at Juliet’s balcony in Verona and answer them. The fictional story of the movie has our heroine (Amanda Seyfried, who specializes in playing characters named Sophie it seems) going to Verona on a “pre-honeymoon” with her husband who is so busy opening up his new restaurant that they haven’t had time to plan a wedding. He’s so busy, in fact, even in Verona, that she spends all of her time alone, site-seeing. She runs into the secretaries, they let her answer a letter of her own that turns out to be fifty years old, which results in the woman (and her grandson) coming back to Verona to hunt down her lost love, taking Sophie with them.

As far as romantic comedies go it’s as predictable as you’ve ever seen. As the movie was still in the opening credits I said to my family, “Is it just a rom com rule that whatever guy the girl is with in the beginning is not the guy she ends up with?” I’m still wondering if that is 100% true. It’s hardly a spoiler. A new guy enters the picture, they do the “we hate each other, we tolerate each other, we’re friends, we’re more than friends, will we end up together?” thing just fine. It’s all by the numbers.

How’s the Shakespeare content? Other than being set in and around Juliet’s balcony, there’s not much. There’s several tourist scenes of the crowd, including a line of people taking pictures while feeling up the statue. In the trivia I learned that they actually had to mock up the entire alley where this all takes place because the real one was far too small for the camera equipment. Fun.

The only Shakespeare content I spotted, oddly enough, came from Hamlet — “Doubt that the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move…” Strangely out place, but I guess I’ll take it.

All in all happy to check this one off my list. Nothing especially bad about it. In fact it was exactly the kind of movie we were looking for at the time. Sometimes that’s all you need.

So, Closet Drama

I love when I learn new terms. This week, as part of that course I’m taking, I learned about closet drama. I’ve been doing this fifteen years and I don’t believe that’s ever come up, which is a pleasant reminder that you can always learn something new.

closet drama noun a play to be read rather than acted

I think that’s particularly amusing because “Shakespeare was meant to be acted, not read!” has got to be the most common argument we’ve had over the years. Yet I can’t remember anyone, until now, saying “He wasn’t writing closet drama!”

I’m trying to imagine the dynamics of how this would work. I know that there’s the idea of actors getting together and doing a script in hand read through of a play (does this have a special name?) but as far as I know you do that with any play, whether they’re intended to be staged or not. I’ve read plenty of plays that I’ve never seen – Waiting for Godot, lot of O’Neill, lot of Beckett… and I enjoy reading plays, but I don’t know that I’ve ever read a play that was intended from the start to be read rather than performed.

Though some recognizable name pop up – Fulke Greville, Mary Sidney – show up in Wikipedia’s list of Elizabeth authors who partook of this format, they were doing so after Shakespeare died.

How would a closet drama be different? Is it a practical thing, like more emphasis on dialogue and less on stage direction, like an Aaron Sorkin project? I could dig that. Whenever I try to sit down to write fiction I find myself thinking that I prefer plays (I wrote several in college), primarily because, and I quote myself, “I care about what this character says to that character, and how that character reacts, and I don’t care what color the mountains are.” I think I stole it from some other famous author.

When googling the term, “Is The Tempest a closet drama?” came up as one of the autocomplete questions. Interesting. I wonder why that one? I’m trying to think of which Shakespeare play has the most interactive dialogue (as compared to, say, being heavy on the soliloquizing or exposition). Othello? I think you want a small cast. Hard to double when you’ve got people reading, with no exits and entrances, or costume changes.

Any experts in closet drama out there want to weigh in? I’m curious to learn more.

Back To School?

Every year about this time I get into a Shakespeare slump. I look back at the last few months, how few posts I’ve made, and debate whether I’ve lost my interest in Shakespeare. (Then again, I had a dream just last night that the prize in a video game was a Shakespeare quote and I literally cried with joy, so there’s that.)

I decided to try something different this year. I signed up for an online edX course called Shakespeare’s Life and Work, taught by Stephen Greenblatt, whose name might be familiar to Shakespeare geeks. I expect that the course is going to be a little basic, covering all the “where and when was he born” stuff that I think we generally already know, but I’m not in it primarily to learn a bunch of new information. I’m in it for the structure and reinforcement. I want to force myself to talk about Shakespeare and Shakespeare-related content for a few weeks and get myself back into the zone. Hopefully I’ll learn some new things, I don’t claim at all to be an expert in Shakespeare’s life.

I’ve tried this before – last time was a similar but far more advanced course about Hamlet’s ghost. I didn’t make it far on that one, but to be honest it had more to do with class participation than information. My introvert self loves the online learning thing precisely because I can sit behind the computer and not be forced to interact with others. When you tell me “The required homework for part one is to talk to three fellow students”, I’m probably not going to make it to part two. (This new class asked the same thing, though, and I forced myself to make it happen. Unclear yet whether it’s going to require that of me every time or if that was just a gatekeeping mechanism.)

Anyway, into the class we go. It’s funny now to see a video of someone standing in London describing the sites because now I can say, “I was there! I know where he’s standing!” which is probably nothing to the folks that live in the area but it took me a lifetime to get there so I’m going to geek out over it every chance I get ๐Ÿ™‚

My plan is to blog here about how the course is going, especially if I find anything interesting outside general progress reports. The first bits so far are about the general universality (?) of Shakespeare and how “the world” owns him, what’s your personal attachment to Shakespeare and so on. I hope to hear more specifics about life at the time – economy, morals, the kind of stuff that contributed directly to why Shakespeare wrote, not just what he wrote.

Wish me luck!