Review : Ophelia

Ophelia by Lisa Klein
Maybe the book was better?

I first referenced Daisy Ridley’s Ophelia back in May 2017. I never expected it to be great, but I always hold out hope. I think it’s important for Shakespeare Geeks to support projects like this and let the studios know that the Shakespeare Universe has plenty of opportunity for story telling of many sorts. How else will we ever get another Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead?

Unfortunately it wasn’t worth the wait. Ophelia joins a very small list for me – namely, the list of Shakespeare movies I literally can not finish.

One of them is Anonymous, the piece of garbage that came out some years back arguing for the Earl of Oxford as the rightful author.  I love the part where he wrote Midsummer Night’s Dream at 6 years old  Moving on.

Another is the 2013 Romeo and Juliet starring Hailee Steinfeld. This one had me tying myself to the chair just to finish the trailer.  Let’s just say that I was done when I realized that it opens with Mercutio winning a joust.  Huh? Exactly.  I didn’t even get to the awkwardness of 14yr old Juliet crawling around the bed trying to look sexy.

And now we have Ophelia.  It’s based on a young adult novel so I suppose we can give it some leeway for being one step removed from the original material.  But…still.  Gertrude in this one is obsessed with remaining young and beautiful. We know this because she confides in Ophelia, who is her preferred confidante, because Ophelia knows how to read.  Gertrude appears to be using some sort of magic potion to retain her beauty.  Yeah.  This potion, I think, is made by Gertrude’s twin sister.  Still with me? As I write that I’m still assuming that I misunderstood what I was watching, because that can’t be right.

That’s not what got me, though. What got me reaching for the STOP button was the random interrupted rape scene.  This one should be on TV Tropes. Random girl finds herself surrounded by random guys, who harass her. Then, as these things go, suddenly she’s on the ground, held down by several of them while one starts to climb on top.  Does anybody remember what act and scene this was?  Enter Ophelia, carrying a huge jug of water making her look like something out of Ode to a Grecian Urn.  Because she’s a strong independent woman she, of course, confronts our primary rapist, who immediately loses interest in girl #1 and starts bantering with Ophelia.  She says that he stinks and needs a bath and you think, “Ok, here’s where she dumps the water on his head.”  No, the dialogue isn’t that intelligent.  Here’s where Hamlet enters.  Then you think, “Ok, here’s where we see Hamlet’s irrational temper, he’s gonna kill the guy.  Or at least we get a sword fight.”  Nope, neither of those things.  We just get Ophelia dragging Hamlet offstage by the arm, exactly like Hermione and Harry Potter.  COMPLETELY IGNORING THE GIRL BEING HELD ON THE GROUND BY SIX GUYS.

I had to go back and rewatch that scene because it couldn’t possibly be that bad.  We see the girl get up.  That’s it.  We don’t see her leave.  Ophelia and Hamlet don’t cast her a second glance. It’s truly as if that scene should have been followed by the guys saying, “Now, before we were so rudely interrupted…”

It’s not Shakespeare. It’s not well written or acted, it does not move the plot along or say anything useful about either of the main characters.  So for those reasons, as they say on Shark Tank …. I’m out.


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Happy Birthday Juliet? Maybe Not

Today is July 31, so if we go by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it’s Juliet’s birthday!

Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen.

Lammas is August 1, so Lammas Eve is July 31.  Happy Birthday!  Let’s all to Verona for one big …. wait a second.

In Verona they celebrate Juliet’s birthday on September 16.  What’s up with that?

Don’t forget, Shakespeare didn’t invent the story.  In fact, “Newly Found Story of Two Noble Lovers”) by Luigi Da Porto is likely one of the original sources. And, according to academics, Juliet’s birthday is actually Saint Euphemia’s Day, which is in September.  Who knew?


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Spot The Wild Shakespeare Geek

So my trip to Stratford Upon Avon is fast approaching!  I will be in Shakespeare’s birthplace Monday, Aug 19 through Wednesday, Aug 21. This is a big deal for me, and for my family. I don’t want to be just another tourist. Surely, after running the original Shakespeare blog for fourteen years now and looking at social media audience north of twenty thousand users, surely  I can figure out some ways to make it something that only I could do.

Here’s my first idea. I have mentioned once or twice that I’ve got Shakespeare Geek Merchandise for sale. 🙂  My family all have some, as you can no doubt imagine. I hope you have some, too.  It’s not about the money, I do it to put more Shakespeare out in the world. I’ve often said that the dream is to randomly spot one of my own t-shirts in the wild. Then I could say, “Hey, I like your shirt! Shakespeare Geek, right?  Me too!”

Where’s Waldo?

So let’s do that.  When I’m in Stratford I’m going to be wearing my own merchandise.  If you’re in Stratford, and you have any SG merchandise, do the same. Make it Shakespeare Geek Day.  Because if I spot you I am going to come up and say, “Hey, I like your shirt!” and you’re going to be all, “Dude, wait, are you Shakespeare Geek? That’s awesome.”  And then we can take a picture and I’ll post it on social media, and my kids will be all, “Wait, people actually *know* you?” and I’ll be all, “Yeah, happens all the time.”

I might even be armed with Shakespeare Geek stickers or something to give out. That’s something else I’ve always wanted, to have swag to hand out to fans.

I have no idea the cross-section of “people who own Shakespeare Geek merchandise” and “people who will be in SUA on those days” with “people who are reading this post and want to play”, but hey, that’s part of the fun.  I don’t plan on running up to everybody with a Shakespeare t-shirt because I expect that there’ll be more than a few.  But I can recognize my own merchandise, I’ll know immediately which ones are mine.

And just in case you never realized that we have merchandise, click here now! 🙂



Look How Big Our Girl Has Grown!

Loyal readers may remember a little over three years ago when we got to help with a very cool request.  A reader from Canada wrote in to let us know that his new purebred Doberman puppy needed a full show name to be part of the Shakespeare theme of his litter.  It seems that these dogs get an “everyday” name, such as Toby, but also a full name from the breeder (in this case, Braebrook), so Toby’s full name was actually “Braebrook’s To Be Or Not To Be.”

After some back and forth and digging through texts, with the opening restriction that her everyday name would be River, we ended up on what turned out to be obvious, yet perfect, “Braebrook’s Sweet Swan of Avon”:

Well I got to thinking the other day (when Twitter analytics told me that “dogs” is the most popular interest of my followers), what’s River look like now?  I reached out to Keir, River’s owner who made the original request, and he was happy to provide us with a new picture. Take a look at River now!  Keir told me that River’s on the left, but I’m relatively certain that’s Keir.  So we’ll assume that River is the one in the middle 🙂

That’s her brother, Rancher, on the other side. Keir’s update:

River has become her papa’s little girl. She and I are nearly inseparable, only breaks away from me long enough to boss her older, and bigger, brother ‘Rancher’ around. Seriously, she’s the boss! At the same time, they too have a relationship bonded by love and devotion.

It only just occurred to me while writing this post that I want to know Rancher’s full name.  If he’s part of the same litter (being her brother, and all), he should have a Shakespeare name as well!  I’ll update the post if/when I find out.

Thanks for the update, Keir!  That’s a very, very good girl you’ve got there. Please feel free to keep in touch and send more pictures!


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Review : How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

I’m sure that How To Stop Time by Matt Haig showed up on my lengthy book list because there was something in it about meeting Shakespeare.  I will almost always check those leads out at some point or another, even though I’ve been burned before. I’m looking at you, Neal Stephenson

So I’m happy to report that this is a good one. Not just because of the Shakespeare content, of which there is more than a little, but because it’s also a good book by itself.

The premise feels like it’s been done before, but I can’t quite put my finger on a specific example. Our narrator ages….very…..slowly.  He’s not immortal. He’s not a vampire. He just ages about 1/15th the pace of everybody else. He’s part of a society of such people known as “albatrosses” who live almost a thousand years.

What do you do with your time when you live for a thousand years? Mostly you go looking for other people like you. You try not to let yourself “anchor” by falling in love with a “mayfly” – a regular human whose lifespan will be trivial compared to yours.  Much like Forrest Gump, you find yourself witnessing historical events firsthand. Much like Groundhog Day, you occupy your free time learning how to do, well, basically anything you want.

But there are downsides, too. The human brain is not made to hold a thousand years of memories, so the older you get, the greater the odds of losing your mind (first come the headaches, then comes the blurting out of things you’re supposed to keep secret, then the trip the asylum…)  Worse, you live in constant fear of anyone – including those you love – of finding out your secret. Whether it’s seventeenth-century witchfinders or nineteenth-century “scientists”, your existence is something they wish to see come to an end.

I suppose I should mention Shakespeare after all that. Our narrator does spend some time not just in Elizabethan England, but literally in Shakespeare’s company. Shakespeare is a character (as are Kemp and Burbage), and not just at the edge – he plays a role in the plot (granted, not a large one). A significant part of the early takes place in and around the Globe where we’re treating to the sights, sounds, and smells of our favorite era.

I’m also happy to learn that a movie is in the works – starring Benedict Cumberbatch!

Glad I got around to this one. Definitely recommended.


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