I have a database of Shakespeare character deaths that I use for various projects (doesn’t everybody?) I need to make a comparable one for characters who survive. But not everybody, just enough to balance the list. Hey, I thought, I’ll ask ChatGPT to help me with it. Or, wait, better – I’ll ask Google Bard.
It’s all in the wording, apparently
This screenshot is the result of my whittling down a number of surprisingly poor answers. I asked, “can you name 10 well known characters from Shakespeare plays who don’t die at the end” and it could not. Told me it’s only a language model. To put it differently, I asked, “who are some popular Shakespeare characters that die at the end,” same answer.
So I thought maybe it was having an issue with “popular.” Then I asked, “can you name any Shakespeare characters” and it happily gave me a list of the “most famous” ones. Lastly I tried, “name a Shakespeare character that dies at the end,” and, again, an error message (“I am not programmed to assist with that”).
Eventually we ended up at the screenshot above. Can you tell me whether someone is alive at the end? Yes. Can you tell me whether someone dies? No.
What about the other guy?
For the record, ChatGPT did just fine:
Stick to the comedies, Google. They have a lovely dance at the end, maybe a nice wedding.
Let me see if I’ve got this straight. There’s a page in the playbook of Jonson’s Sejanus: His Fall containing two poems dedicated to Jonson. One, we apparently know, is by Hugh Holland. The other, the sonnet in question, is signed with the pseudonym Cygnus.
You know what cygnus means in Latin, right? It means swan.
You know what Ben Jonson called Shakespeare in the First Folio, too, I bet. You got it. Some feel that both must have been written by Holland. But is it possible that Cygnus is Shakespeare?
The sonnet is provided in the accompanying article. Thoughts? It feels a little stilted at times, which makes me lean toward “not Shakespeare,” but I’m hardly an academic at these things.
Still, it’s always exciting to think “maybe new Shakespaere content?” I’m always open to the possibility.
Soon I’m going to have the chance to do something I haven’t done in years. I’m going in to my son’s classroom to talk about Shakespeare. I used to do this all the time when my kids were in elementary school. But now I’ve got two off in college and he’s soon to follow them. I have no idea what I’ll do or say.
What I do know is that the class knows this, and my spies tell me that some of them immediately wanted to know about my site so they could cyberstalk me. I wish I’d anticipated that – the blog’s been a bit messy lately, for a number of reasons that I will not turn into excuses. I should do better.
That was a number of days ago at this point, so I expect that most of them got bored and forgot all about me.
But! Maybe I picked up some new followers. Maybe there are some other students in the class that are interested in the subject matter, maybe even as excited for the novelty of somebody like me coming in as speaker as I am about being said speaker. I remember high school. I remember being a nerd. I remember the joy of knowing things and the fear of showing it, lest ye be bullied. In fact, it’s part of my mission to do what I can to break that pattern. If something brings you joy, you shouldn’t be afraid to demonstrate it. I was almost twenty years out of high school before I figured that out.
So! For the secret nerds that are still reading, let’s have an easter egg:
When I come to class, tell me that word and what its significance is to Shakespeare. I’ll have a prize for the first person to do so. (For the record, my son doesn’t know the answer, nor does he know I’m making this post. So there’ll be no cheating there.)
No comments on this post! No hints from regular readers!
I have been writing about Shakespeare on this site for literally my children’s entire lives. If you go back far enough you’ll find the sonnet I wrote for my daughter when she was born. Over the years whenever my love for my children crossed over with my love for Shakespeare, “geeklet stories” were born. The kids are off to college now so the precocious nature of the stories has waned quite a bit, but my desire to share them with the world never will.
Last week I’m driving my daughter home from college when she says, “Next week they’re showing Falstaff at school.”
“See it,” I say, barely letting her finish the sentence. “That’s the other name for Orson Welles’ Chimes At Midnight, arguably one of the best Shakespeare adaptations ever put to film. Just last week I was talking about it with a coworker who asked for recommendations about Shakespeare movies and I told him that one. The fun thing is that he’s not a Shakespeare fan, he’s a movie fan, so it’s a good test because when you like a Shakespeare movie because it’s a movie, without even knowing the Shakespeare, you’ve got something special. Absolutely make sure you get the opportunity to see it if they’re showing it.”
“Did he like it?”
“He loved it. Came back into the office raving about it. You kids have seen parts of it, it’s the one with that famous I know thee not, old man speech I’ve shown you. One of my favorite Shakespeare scenes of all time.”
While I was babbling she was looking at her phone, as teenagers tend to do when their parents talk. “It says here it’s by a guy named Verdi.”
Sad face. “Oh. That’s the opera. Entirely different thing, ignore everything I just said.”
I know it’s not “entirely” a different thing, it’s still about the same Shakespeare character, and I did explain that.
You never know where you’ll find some Shakespeare. I saw the trailer for the new Air movie about Nike, which prominently features people talking *about* Michael Jordan but no actual Michael Jordan. So off I went to IMDB, curious to see who would be playing him. I found it interesting that the actor in that role is listed seventh, behind the actor playing his father, Julius Tennon, who doesn’t even have a headshot. So I clicked to learn more about Julius Tennon and found …
Operation Othello is “a futuristic adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello set in the world of an elite naval special forces unit.”
Oh? Tell me more!
Tennon has multiple acting credits dating back to the 1980s, not sure why he doesn’t have a headshot on file (there are plenty of photos). In fact, he’s got a production coming with Viola Davis, JuVee Productions, and this is their project. Debuting at Cannes in 2019 as a “VR series,” and I’m even more curious now about what that means:
“We believe Immersive Media is an integral part of the future of storytelling and presents a unique opportunity to bring a voice to the voiceless. As an ‘empathy machine,’ we’re excited to see how VR can allow viewers to be intimately present with powerful characters across the broad spectrum of humanity.”
“As an avid Shakespeare lover who has been lucky enough to witness and perform his profound words on stage,” Chieffo says, “I was inspired to present the original text in a way that is accessible and exhilarating to a modern audience.”
IMDB calls it a TV Movie. I’m wondering if they adapted it into something more traditional for wider release because the press release seems to imply it’s something more like a game. I don’t think we have a good name yet for immersive movies where you put on the headset and “experience” the story, but really the story is still the same no matter what you do.