Virtual Shakespeare Tours

Ok, how did I not know about this?  Google Arts and Culture has virtual tours (or, rather, panoramic images) of a number of Shakespeare locations including his birthplace, the Globe, Juliet’s balcony, New Place, and others.

 

I’d literally never seen Shakespeare’s birthplace in context before. The ability to simply turn my head and see what’s across the street (in this case, it appears to be some sort of cafe?) makes the whole thing real to me.  Can’t wait to get there one day.

Which one is your favorite? How many have you been to in real life?

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The Desert Island Game

It would be cliche for me to say, “You’re stranded on a desert island with just one book, what book do you want?” but I’ve always wanted to ask the question anyway.  I was almost interviewed for a podcast once (never happened) where the guy had a set of questions he asked everybody, and that was one of the questions, and I already knew that my was going to be, “The Complete Works, of course. Everybody says that.  But!  Which edition??”

However, that’s not my question today.  I’m stranding you with a First Folio. So it’s got no footnotes or glossary, you know exactly which plays are and are not in it, and no editors over the centuries have had a crack at changing around the spelling and punctuation as they saw fit.  You’ve got in your hands as close as you’re going to get to what Shakespeare (via Heminges and Condell) intended.

I’ll also allow you a writing implement of some sort, so you can take notes. You take with you to the island all knowledge of Shakespeare that you currently possess. You’ll be rescued at some point, it’s not like you’re going to spend the rest of your life here, but you have no idea when that will be.  Consider this just a forced vacation from life with nothing but Shakespeare to keep you company.

What do you do?  Do you read cover to cover? Do you go straight for your favorite play and read it over and over?  Or do you go to the ones you’re less familiar with?

For my part, I start with the ones that I’m somewhat familiar with, that I wish I was more so.  Richard III tops that list. Maybe Henry V. From there I work my way back to the other Henry and Richard plays, maybe eventually finding my way to King John.  I don’t know when I’ll ever get to Merry Wives of Windsor or Measure for Measure, but probably at some point if I’ve become bored with the others. I save my favorites like Tempest and Hamlet and King Lear as a treat, rewarding myself for progress through the other plays.

Who wants to go next?

 

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Shakespeare Makes Life Over

Happy Birthday Shakespeare! You’ve killed us all!

So, what are you doing for Shakespeare’s Birthday (aka Shakespeare Day) this year, April 23, 2018?

Not so fast.

If you enjoy a good wild and crazy conspiracist theory (who doesn’t?), it looks like the world might end before we make it half way through our folios:

The world is going to end on April 23, according to terrifying new conspiracy theories.

It is the date when the sun, moon and Jupiter align in the constellation of Virgo, sparking the Biblical Rapture, it has been claimed.

On the same night, the rumoured death plant Nibiru will appear in the sky sparking a spread of madness, World War III and the rise of the Antichrist.

[Link: https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/6031753/nibiru-planet-x-end-of-days-armageddon-rapture/ ]

My birthday missed Shakespeare’s by just five days, so I might as well die the same day he died.  Then again I’ll have to share that honor with 8 billion other people.Well, what can ya do?

Parting is such sweet sorrow!

*grabs popcorn*

 

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Guest Post : Still Dreaming by Hank Rogerson

Still Dreaming,’ a documentary that in many ways is a sequel to another film I (Hank, not Duane) directed called ‘Shakespeare Behind Bars,’ will premiere on PBS starting this Saturday, April 14.

STILL DREAMING is a multi-award winning film about the powers of creativity, and how engaging in art-making can deeply enrich our lives at any age. 

Filmed at The Lillian Booth Actors Home just outside New York City, where a group of long-retired Broadway entertainers dive into a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and find that nothing is what it seems to be. With a play that is usually about young love and sex farce, this ensemble finds that for them, the themes of perception, reality and dreaming deeply resonate. 

This wistful, honest, and frequently hilarious documentary follows the rehearsals as opening night approaches. Tempers flare, health concerns abound, and disaster seems imminent. But as these former entertainers forge ahead, they realize that creativity is a magical force of renewal.

This whole film journey started back in 2009, when I went to the Lillian Booth Actors Home to meet with the Shakespeare group there to discuss the possibility of their doing a play and my filming that process. The residents and staff were all very supportive of the idea right away, so the discussion quickly turned to which play they would do. The residents in particular were very enthusiastic about the possibility of re-connecting with their craft, for it was as one put it, “This is my whole life inside, and this is a way of getting all of that back.”

My co-director, Jilann Spitzmiller and I went in with the idea of Romeo & Juliet, but that was met with very little enthusiasm, and so a discussion ensued mostly around comedies, since as one resident jokingly put it, ‘There was enough tragedy in their day to day lives already.’ They did discuss Macbeth, King Lear of course, with its theme of old age, and one point someone suggested The Tempest, but I quickly rejected it since it was the play done in ‘Shakespeare Behind Bars.’ The residents kept coming back to comedies such as Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was Midsummer that seemed to gain the most backing since it was a comedy, and had an ensemble cast with no real leads. This was good they felt since it wouldn’t fall on one or two actors to carry the whole production, which seemed like too much pressure at their age.

Still, there was quite a bit of resistance from the residents. How the heck would it ever work? A fantastical moonlit forest in a sterile nursing home environment with fairies and sprites leaping around all played by 80-year-olds, and 80-year-olds playing young lovers. How in the world would that work, they wondered. (Jilann and I wondered too!)

At one point in the discussion, a long time pro from film, tv, and theater, who was by far the most experienced actor in the room, spoke up and added, “We have no sets, no costumes, no lights or tech crew. How would we ever do this? And to do it half-ass-ugh, no thanks.” This was met by a prolonged and sinking silence, and it felt like the entire idea of the production was going down right before us. I could sense many of the seniors in the room thinking, “Well if she doesn’t want to do it, then how could we ever go on without her…”

Then another resident broke the quiet and said, “We don’t need a set, we have the outside. Just stand beneath a tree, in a field, and we have spaces indoors in which to work.”

To this, another added, “Yes, all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

A tangible, visible energy moved through the room, a collected sigh of relief that the group could go on, and that this opportunity ‘to get it all back’ might still happen.

And it did.

You can tune into your PBS stations starting this Saturday to watch, or you can stream the film at www.stilldreamingmovie.com.

 

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Comics by Geeklet

If it works, why change it?

So my son’s 12th birthday is coming up, and like many almost 12yr olds he dreams of being Internet famous.  His latest foray is into the world of three panels comics, and he’s trying to develop a following on Instagram.

He keeps asking me, “Share this to your followers!”

I keep replying, “Write something with Shakespeare in it!”  Because I love my boy to death but I’m loyal to the sanctity of the brand, too 🙂

So we compromised. With a little help from yours truly he knocked out a Shakespeare comic specifically for you kind folks.  If those of you on Instagram are so inclined I’d greatly appreciate it if you could do the kid a favor and like/follow/share/favorite or whatever it is you do on Instagram to show your support.  (Note that it is a three-panel joke so you have to do click through to see the other panels, we didn’t even know you could do that until his older sister showed us.)

I’m not kidding it really is his birthday in a couple of weeks so seeing that number of followers go up to a level he didn’t expect would certainly be a nice treat for him.

Share and Enjoy!

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Review : Sherlock Gnomes

Been there, explained that, bought the t-shirt.

When you heard that the sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet was Sherlock Gnomes and that it would still be the original cast of characters, you probably had the same thought I did. Is there going to be any Shakespeare in this?

The short answer is, “Yes, actually.”  But it’s in a way that most people will find funny, and Shakespeare geeks will groan and eye roll at.

Gnomeo has gone missing.  Dr. Watson has gone looking for him.  “Gnomeo! Gnomeo!” he cries.  “Oh, don’t make me say it.”  Heavy sigh.  “Wherefore art thou Gnomeo?”

It’s at this point that my entire table (we have a local movie theatre where you sit at a table and have dinner) turns to look at my reaction.  I throw my hands up in the air, roll my eyes and say, “Well, at least now I can justify getting a blog post out of it.”

 

 

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How The Night Came : Solo Shakespeare Guitar

Here’s a pleasant little treat for you all, courtesy Martin (by way of Japan):

I recently recorded ten ambient guitar interludes inspired by my favourite phrases from Shakespeare’s history plays. These pieces are slowly evolving soundscapes designed to give the listener time to reflect on Shakespeare’s words.

How The Night Came is a collection of 10 original instrumental tracks, freely streamable, available in a “name your price / pay to support the artist” format.  This first set is based on the histories but who knows, if he gets some backing maybe he’ll release more?

Thanks Martin!

 

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Guest Post : The Cat That Wasn’t

A copying error changes the meaning of Hamlet.

“What damned error, but some sober brow
Will bless it and approve it with a text…?”

The Merchant of Venice

Copying errors are pernicious. Once introduced, an error can be used as a template for a new copy, and that bad copy can be copied again, and yet again, until soon the error is everywhere.

I’ve identified many copying errors in different versions of Shakespeare’s plays. In one variant of The Taming of the Shrew, for example, L becomes T, and Bianca declares that she will “took” on her books and instruments rather than “look” on them.

Other equally nonsensical changes bring “jading” to a bay, rather than “lading,” and describe a girl as “cold and steM” rather than “cold and steRN.”

Once in while, though, an error will be introduced that actually makes sense. And these kinds of errors are really the most interesting ones. And the most dangerous.

The best example I’ve found comes from Hamlet.

Here’s the original, Act 4, Scene 3:

“A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and EAT of the fish that hath fed of that worm.”

At some point, though, the original E was swapped out for a C:

“A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and CAT of the fish that hath fed of that worm.”

Both versions describe a food chain, one creature eating another:

In the first version, worm eats king, fish eats worm, and man eats fish. But, in the mutant version, the final recipient of the feast is a cat.

This second food chain, like the first, is 100% plausible. Cats DO like fish, after all. In fact, they are famous for eating them.

So: what could be more reasonable?

Reflecting this plausibility, this new version is now INCREDIBLY widespread. Reasonable people fixate on this section, and they quote it again and again and again and again.

There’s another weird twist to the problem. Because, to a certain kind of person–the cat lover–the mutant version may be even more attractive than the original.

For example, guess which version is featured in the book Planet Cat: A Cat-Alog under the heading “Shakespeare on Cats?”

It’s not the original.

It gets worse, though. Because the mutant version has spawned offspring of its own. In The Classics of Literature In Plain and Simple English (2012), the error is translated like this: “The same worm that eats a king may become food for a fish which serves as the dinner for a cat.”

Where did this cat come from? Perhaps Google Books is to blame. Certainly: it is now on the wrong side of the problem.

In a typical example, as here, the original text is from 1695, and is perfectly good, but Google Books suggests a transcription of “cat.”

This cat is an interloper. It should not exist. And so we are, of course, obligated to resist the error, wherever we find it.

And yet….There is a weird charm to this new version. And something very cat-like.

Shakespeare never intended this cat. But it crept it in anyway, unwanted.

And now that it is there, in everyone’s lap, rubbing its head persistently against our hands, sometimes, just sometimes–in spite of ourselves–we find ourselves petting it anyway.

Damn cat.

Rachel Rodman is a writer and a former scientist. She writes Shakespeare-inspired fiction and once designed an entire biology course framed using the complete plays of Shakespeare. She is currently working to promote creative ways to interweave evolution and popular culture. Her favorite evolutionary truism comes from The Tempest: “what’s past is prologue.”

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The Great Shakespeare Egg Hunt

With Easter approaching, what do you say we go hunting for eggs in Shakespeare’s work?  I’m not going to list them all here (since it’s easy to hunt them down with a search engine where’s the fun in that?) but I’ll hit the most famous ones.  Add more in the comments!

“Give me an egg, nuncle, and I’ll give thee two crowns.”

Why, after I have cut the egg i’ th’ middle and eat up the
meat, the two crowns of the egg.

When I first tried to read King Lear I couldn’t understand Fool at all.  After many readings and watchings, I think the scenes with Lear, Fool and Kent are my favorite (even if I don’t always understand what he’s saying). He’s one of the few people (perhaps the only one?) who can say to the king, “Hey genius, how smart was it to split your kingdom down the middle and then give away both parts?”

Falstaff 

Take away these chalices. Go brew me a pottle of
sack finely.

Bardolph 

With eggs, sir?

Falstaff 

Simple of itself; I’ll no pullet-sperm in my brewage.

Ok Falstaff, eww.  How am I supposed to look at my kids’ Easter eggs the same way ever again?  (Courtesy Merry Wives of Windsor, for those that don’t remember this charming lesson in animal husbandry showing up in the Henry plays.)  I actually googled this to see if I was missing something and saw it turn up in a list entitled “Why Aren’t These Shakespeare Quotes Famous Too?”

 

 

What, you egg!
[Stabbing him]
Young fry of treachery!

Students love this quote, I regularly see it posted when people reading Macbeth for the first time stumble across it. There are web pages and apps and even books dedicated to Shakespearean Insults, but calling somebody an egg just has a special sort of “What did he just call me?” flare to it.

My favorite part is the second line, where he calls him a young fry of treachery.  You know why, don’t you?

Because now he’s a fried egg.

 

On that note, I’m out of here before anybody gets the pitchforks.  What other egg references have you found?

 

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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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