Still The Champion

Shakespeare as the champion

Well, folks, that’s another Shakespeare Day in the books. Did you have fun?

Maybe I’m watching too much pro wrestling lately (did anybody even recognize the shout-out at the beginning of the day?), but I love this image. I had it painted in classic LeRoy Neiman style, if anybody remembers his class Sports Illustrated images. Shakespeare as the Champ.

Twenty years ago, I started teaching my kids Shakespeare before one of them could even talk. It’s been a long trip, to be sure, and I had no idea how it would turn out. Now here we are with a book and everything! I wonder what’s next?

Number #1 With A Bullet

So, there’s this funny thing about publishing a physical book on Amazon – the reports don’t actually update until the book ships Which means the next day. So I have no idea how many copies of My Own Personal Shakespeare: Macbeth Edition we were lucky enough to sell today. I’m not sure I’ll sleep tonight, I’ll just keep refreshing the page into midnight and hope the time zones are my friend.

But what I can say is this…

#1 NEW RELEASE IN SHAKESPEARE PLAYS!

Check It Out!

New Releases in Shakespeare Dramas & Plays

Look! It’s me! Thank you so much to everyone who ordered. I may have no idea what that actual number is yet, but I know it’s enough to do *that*. And that is pretty cool.

Seeing The Plays In Succession

Cartoon Shakespeare as three siblings fighting

Of course, by that I literally mean, let’s talk about the different Shakespeare plays we all saw in the HBO Max series Succession.

Did I fool anybody?

I know, I’m late to the party. I tried watching Succession back when it was new, but my attention drifted to Ted Lasso. I knew that Succession was supposed to be this King Lear meets Fox News type of thing, but I really have to get myself in the mood to sit through that kind of doom and gloom,

Well, we finally saw down and watched all four seasons. So let’s talk about it. It’s been long enough, so I’m not going to bother warning about spoilers. But I’m also not going to tell you who ultimately gets the kingdom, either.

Is It King Lear?

The comparison here is the most obvious one. Three children all vie to control their father’s kingdom. The thing is, that’s where the comparison ends. There’s no Cordelia here. All the children are equally horrible, both to each other and to their father. For his part, Brian Cox (who can hold his own against real Shakespeare material any day) treats them equally horribly as well. There’s no Kent, no Fool, no descent into madness. Could you stretch it a little bit and go looking for those things? Sure, I guess. Has Roman got some Cordelia in him? Are Frank and Carl supposed to be some sort of Fools? I think that’s stretching it.

So What Is It?

Just like how the Lion King is as much Henry IV as it is Hamlet, we can say the same about Succession. Let’s look at a few:

  • Julius Caesar – A fairly obvious one, to start. You don’t get to amass that kind of power without making plenty of enemies, no matter how much you may think you’re the good guy doing the right thing, The biggest question is how many of them ultimately are there, and which of your friends will be the one that tips the scales in their favor?
  • Coriolanus – Listen, if you put in the work and rise up the ranks to become the hero of Company A, and then you’re unceremoniously outcast from that Company that you helped build, what’s the logical thing to do? Why, go and join their sworn enemy and try to take them down, of course.
  • Hamlet – I read this one somewhere. I didn’t pick up on it myself, but there’s an argument to be made that later in the series, there’s a Fortinbras character making his steady march on Denmark, ready to waltz in and pick over the pieces after they destroy themselves. I was too busy being impressed by how much he resembled Elon Musk.

Mostly, though, it’s Macbeth. I wouldn’t have said that until the final episode, but really, for those who have seen it and know what I’m talking about? The show ended and I said, “So, it’s Macbeth. That was totally Macbeth.”

What other influences did you see? People want to say Richard III for all the “I’ll take out anybody that gets in my way, including family members,” which I suppose is true. Are there any plays that aren’t about ruthless leaders who will do anything to win?

New Old Authorship Ideas

Much like modern American politics, the authorship question isn’t worth discussing. People will believe what they want to believe, ignoring any evidence to the contrary and stretching the limits of imagination to invent “evidence” that supports their point.

This week, some new research adds to the mix, suggesting that authors during Shakespeare’s lifetime also thought it was the other guy writing the works.

Let me see if I can sum up. There’s this book that we know about by a guy named Meres. It days from 1590. It’s a book of lists. More to the point, “symmetrical” lists — 8 Greek writers, 8 Latin writers, and 8 English writers. Well, brace yourselves – some of the lists aren’t symmetrical. 6 ancient “epigrammatists” are compared to 5 modern ones. IT MUST MEAN SOMETHING, PEOPLE!

WAIT! It gets better! One of the modern names is Davies, which could be two people. So it’s technically symmetrical; see how the game is played?

So guess what — there’s a list with 17 English writers and 16 modern ones. You guessed it (or did you?) both Oxford and Shakespeare appear on the list. Therefore we make the leap — those *two* must represent *one* person, to keep it symmetrical. Boom, mic drop.

<shrug> Sure? It’s not so much “evidence” as “a curious observation.” There will forever be a difference between “this could mean something” and “this means something.” The problem, then, is that there is an infinite amount of “this could mean something.” They are all equally trivial.

“When the lists aren’t symmetrical, there’s a reason for it.” The whole thing reminds me of a great Dad joke. Have you ever seen geese flying in that V-formation like they do? Do you notice how sometimes one side of the V is longer? Do you ever wonder why that is?

There are more geese on that side.

Shakespeare goose.

Ralph Fienne’s Macbeth in Cinema

Cartoon Shakespeare, waiting for the movie to start

When I heard that Sir Ian McKellen was doing Hamlet, I was cautiously optimistic. Sometimes they film these things, after all.

Then I heard it was filmed! I was elated.

But then they did this weird “one night only” thing, and only in the UK. I never heard another word about it.

Now, however, the universe might be paying me back for that head fake. Ralph Fiennes’ spent much of last year performing Macbeth with Indira Varma. Again, this show started in London. But they took it on tour! They’re currently playing Washington D.C., in case anyone is in the neighborhood.

But they filmed this one, too! AND IT’S COMING TO A THEATRE NEAR YOU! Unlike previous Shakespeare films that have come around and played in one indie theatre in Boston, this one is coming to my local theatre and playing for a week, May 2 – May 9. My daughter will be home from college that weekend so we’re planning to go on the 9th. Should we bring our books?

I don’t know anybody about Fiennes’ performance, though I did like parts of his Coriolanus. Can’t wait!

Can’t Get Enough Macbeth?

Check out my book, My Own Personal Shakespeare: Macbeth, now available on Amazon! Explore Macbeth at your own pace and on your own terms, and document your personal experience with the Scottish Play.