Palimpsest for Life

I know the search engine optimization (SEO) game is an ongoing battle for Google to stay one step ahead of everybody, but this is getting ridiculous.  This story only has a little Shakespeare but I couldn’t pass it up.

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a book channel of sorts at my day job.  We have a book club that does the traditional “one book a month that we vote on” type of thing, but because of the amount I read, I have my own channel where I just brain dump book review after book review.  Last year I think I read 70 books? Something like that.

Anyway, just this morning I’d finished writing up Perdido Street Station by Chia Miéville, and made a comment about the author’s vocabulary:

I read a review that said “the author writes like he swallowed a thesaurus” and had a laugh because that’s quite true. Some words are just so out of the ordinary that they leap out of the page and yell “Remember when this word was on a vocabulary quiz back in high school!” I haven’t heard “palimpsest” in years, but over the last couple of weeks of reading this one he used it probably 4 or 5 times.

Later that day I was talking to Bardfilm about interpretations of Ophelia (doesn’t everybody do that?) and I learned something, so I had reason to google “olivier’s ophelia” – as in Sir Laurence Olivier’s interpretation of a particular scene with Ophelia.  Here’s what google gave back:

Note the third result returned, if you’re not getting it.

TELL ME THAT’S NOT WEIRD.

If it turns out that Google is actually ordering search results based on the fact that I searched “palimpsest” earlier that day (once, to confirm the dictionary definition), then I just give up trying to win the SEO game.  That’s crazy.

Somebody else search “olivier’s ophelia” for me and tell me if palimpsest shows up, or it was just for me?

 

This month’s posts are sponsored by No Shave November. To help raise cancer prevention awareness, and some money along the way, all proceeds from this month’s advertising, merchandise and book sales are being donated.  If you’d like to support the site by supporting the cause, please consider visiting my personal fundraising page linked above, where you can make a direct donation.

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Bearded Like The Pard

For No Shave November I immediately went into the text and searched for beard references to talk about.  There’s a good one in the Seven Ages of Man speech in As You Like It:

And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth.

Something I never really thought about … what’s a pard?

Just about everybody says, “Oh, that means leopard.”  Which I’d accept, except for the fact that, well, a pard is actually a thing. Sure, it’s really just the mythical parent creature of a leopard (which is supposed to be the offspring of a lion and a pard – get it? leo+pard?). But I still found it interesting that everybody was glossing over something potentially so obvious.

The mythical creature known as a pard.
This pard has no beard.

The Wikipedia page linked above cites the Aberdeen Bestiary, which dates back to the 12th century.

Here’s where the journey gets interesting. Remember in the first Harry Potter book, where the kids hear the name Nicolas Flamel, and Hermione realizes that she saw a reference to him in a book in the restricted section?

I remember my first visit to the Folger Library, where I was introduced to a book called “The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes“. So naturally I thought, “Is pard in that book? I must find out!” (Unlike in the Hogwarts restricted section, the librarian actually encouraged my perusal of this particular book. But I would never have thought at the time to look for a pard.)

I love that I have resources now.  It didn’t take long for our own resident wizard Bardfilm to produce the relevant pages:

The Story of the Pard

“Leopardus the Leopard or Libbard, is a word devised by the later writes, compounded of Leo and Pardus, upon opinion that this Beast is generated betwixt a Pardal and  Lion, and differs from Panthera in nothing but sex, and other say, that betwixt the Lions and the Pardals there is such a confused mixed generation as is betwixt Asses and Mares, or Stallions and Asses : as for example, when the Lion covereth the Paral, then is the Whelp called Leopardus, a Leopard or Libbard, but when the Parda covereth the Lioness, then it is called Panthera a Panther.”

What this does not tell us, at least as far as I’ve been able to read, is what kind of creature a pard or “pardal” was in the first place!

I haven’t given up the quest quite yet.  I’ll let you know if there are any new discoveries!

This month’s posts are sponsored by No Shave November. To help raise cancer prevention awareness, and some money along the way, all proceeds from this month’s advertising, merchandise and book sales are being donated.  If you’d like to support the site by supporting the cause, please consider visiting my personal fundraising page linked above, where you can make a direct donation.

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Review : Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Retold

Translating Shakespeare’s plays into modern text is big business.  Personally I’m not a fan, it reads like one of those documents where somebody went through and hit “thesaurus” on every other word.  You get the gist of the moving the plot forward, but you lose the poetry.

So what about the sonnets? The rules are much more strict.  Keep the number of lines, keep the rhyme pattern, keep the number of syllables, keep it iambic. And keep the same meaning.  Could you do it? Could you do it 154 times?

James Anthony can, and I admit I’m pleasantly surprised and impressed. In Shakespeare’s Sonnets Retold he’s admirably taken up the challenge, and the finished product has the potential to be quite useful, and entertaining along the way.

Modern readers don’t just need help figuring out what Hamlet, Romeo, and Juliet are saying.  The sonnets aren’t exactly the most readable, either.  From fairest creatures we desire increase? What?

How about, “We strive to procreate with gorgeous folk?”

Sure, maybe some readers still have to run to the glossary for “procreate,” but the author’s got to keep it family friendly (and keep it three syllables). But the chances of the modern reader “getting it” just went up a hundredfold. Especially when you get a feel for the rest of sonnet number one:

We strive to procreate with gorgeous folk
So that our beauty won’t capitulate.
We reach a ripe old age; but then we croak.
Our memories live through offspring we create.
But you’re in love with you and you alone,
So self consumed your face is all you see
Depriving us of children of your own
And hence you are your own worst enemy.
Now you are young and walking in your prime
Well set to raise a daughter or a son
But you’re content to piss away your time
And — silly fool! — your days will soon be done.
Take pity on your world or go awry
Have children now for one day you will die.

Many times I (and I’m sure many others) have summarized the procreation sonnets (ha! I didn’t even get the connection in the first line!) as, “Hey dummy, blah blah blah you’re young and your beautiful, but you’re not going to live forever, so how about you get cracking and have some beautiful kids?” I get that message loud and clear in Anthony’s translation. The words jump out at you – children, daughter, son, offspring…ripe old age, croak, piss away your time, days are done, one day you’ll die.

I think that’s where this book has value.  Do you feel intimidated by the sonnets? I do. I have several copies of the sonnets lying around the house, it’s the kind of gift people send me. But I wouldn’t say that I’m confident in my understanding of them. There’s a handful that I have studied. For the rest it’s more like, “I think I know what that means, but I’m not sure I could teach it to someone else. Sure sounds nice, though.” Anthony’s book is the first side by side modern translation I have, so it’ll be nice to have that, “Ohhhhh, that’s what that means!” moment of revelation from time to time.

Definitely a cool addition to the collection.

This month’s posts are sponsored by No Shave November. To help raise cancer prevention awareness, and some money along the way, all proceeds from this month’s advertising, merchandise and book sales are being donated.  If you’d like to support the site by supporting the cause, please consider visiting my personal fundraising page linked above, where you can make a direct donation.

 

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RIP Stan Lee

In tribute to Stan Lee I was really hoping the word Excelsior appeared somewhere in Shakespeare’s work, but I could not find it.

However, about a month ago I did ask which Shakespeare stories would have made good superhero stories, and got many responses.  So I thought I’d gather them all together in one place, so that it will come back up as a “Best Of” over the years and we can appreciate the man all over again.


Superhero ShakespeareLink to the original tweet.

Hamlet is mentioned twice, as the “brooding” “superhero of doubt”.

Troilus and Cressida is also mentioned twice since most of the characters are mythical heroes in the first place.

Coriolanus is mentioned three times, but since I said it the first time maybe I skewed the results.  “He’s Captain America for Rome.”

Surprisingly (to me), Titus Andronicus showed up three times as well, for being a “hyper-violent edgy 80s comic gorefest.”

Alongside Coriolanus in the “Wait, I didn’t read that one in high school!” category, Cymbeline and Pericles also received a vote 😉 Pericles actually got two.

In total twelve different plays were suggested, which goes to show that the potential for a superhero story is all in the mind of the reader.   Imagination is everything.

If anybody needs me I’ll be waiting patiently for the next Avengers movie, hoping for a Stan Lee cameo, so I can cheer my head off. Excelsior!

 

This month’s posts are sponsored by No Shave November. To help raise cancer prevention awareness, and some money along the way, all proceeds from this month’s advertising, merchandise and book sales are being donated.  If you’d like to support the site by supporting the cause, please consider visiting my personal fundraising page linked above, where you can make a direct donation.

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Surpassing My Expectations [ A Geeklet Story ]

I’ve been waiting years for my kids to reach the point in school where we can actually talk about Shakespeare because it’s their homework. My oldest is now reading The Tempest.  So I get to have conversations like this:

Her:  “We did get to read in class today. So, that was fun.”

Me: “And did you get a chance to actually stand up and maybe put a little something into it? Or was everybody just heads down blah blah blah’ing their way through it with no changing their delivery at all?”

Her:  “I did my best.  But, I have a question.  There’s a word…abhor something? Abhorred?”

Me: “Abhorrent, maybe?”

Her: “No, I’m pretty sure it was abhorred.  How many syllables is that?”

Me: “Sounds like two, but I’d have to look.”

Her: “That’s what I thought, because if it was three, then the line doesn’t come out right.”

…and it was at that point that I realized that while I’m just happy that she gets to read the words out loud, she went ahead and jumped to seeking out the iambic pentameter and trying to “respect the verse”.  Can you stand it? So proud I could burst at times like that.

She then went on to tell me that she was annoyed by how some lines started with a capital letter, reminding me that we’ve still got so much to talk about 🙂

For the curious, here’s the speech:

PROSPERO
This blue-eyed hag was hither brought with child
And here was left by the sailors. Thou, my slave,
As thou report’st thyself, wast then her servant;
And, for thou wast a spirit too delicate
To act her earthy and abhorr’d commands,
Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee,
By help of her more potent ministers
And in her most unmitigable rage,
Into a cloven pine; within which rift
Imprison’d thou didst painfully remain
A dozen years; within which space she died
And left thee there; where thou didst vent thy groans
As fast as mill-wheels strike. Then was this island–
Save for the son that she did litter here,
A freckled whelp hag-born–not honour’d with
A human shape.

This month’s posts are sponsored by No Shave November. To help raise cancer prevention awareness, and some money along the way, all proceeds from this month’s advertising, merchandise and book sales are being donated.  If you’d like to support the site by supporting the cause, please consider visiting my personal fundraising page linked above, where you can make a direct donation.

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