How About A Young Adult Lady Macbeth Musical?

That’s a stream of words I never thought I’d type. But sure enough, word is that Channing “Magic Mike” Tatum and Scooter “Taylor Swift Hates Me” Braun are teaming up with Amazon for just such a project.

 “the story is said to center on a teenage girl who grapples with her own morality as she contends with the dreadful consequences of her ambition.”

Of course, if nobody had specifically written the Macbeth connection that could just as easily be Mean Girls.

I have no idea if it’ll be any good, or even ever see the light of day. I’d expect about as much of such a project as I do for any other teenage retelling of Shakespeare inspired stories. 10 Things really set the bar too high.

Ye, No.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to have celebrity impressionist Jim Ross Meskimen do some Shakespeare of my choosing. I knew exactly the voice and passage I wanted – Robin Williams as Prospero doing “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.” It is quite breathtaking.

Unfortunately it was breathtaking for all the wrong reasons for long-time reader JM who, aghast, returned to comment, “It’s yea, not ye. Ye is a pronoun, (you) Yea is affirmation, or ‘yes’. I have no idea why he didn’t know that.” Such a small thing, and yet I can only imagine to someone more versed (ha!) in the verse than I, it would be like hearing someone say “all intensive purposes” or worse, “could of.”

Thing is, Jim didn’t make the mistake, I did. I copied the text for him. I rushed to the source I used – MIT’s version (people smarter than I see where this is going). I checked Open Source Shakespeare. Same problem. I checked the actual First Folio (with JM’s link), and there it is, the right way:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air -- into thin air --
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

The problem is that both MIT and Open Source Shakespeare are based on the Moby Shakespeare, a public domain version of the complete works that is (a) darned near ubiquitous (see “public domain”) but also (b) known to have substantial errors.

I know this. I guess I just always assumed that the errors were like very small needles in a very big haystack, and that they would simply never be an issue for me. That is not good thinking. I won’t say it wrecked my tribute to Robin Williams, but it sure tainted it. I wonder if Mr. Meskimen would make us another one? I’ll have to ask.

What other errors have you found propagated all over the internet because of Moby? Any really glaring ones? I know that Open Source Shakespeare actively updates their text to fix errors as they are reported, but I don’t believe MIT does (which would also no doubt be true of 99% of the other texts out there).

With Caliban Still Enslaved

A couple weeks ago on Twitter I had an interesting conversation about The Tempest and I’ve been meaning to post about it. A reader directed me to the poem Fuck / Shakespeare and I was left head scratching a bit at the ending:

Play ends / Cali still enslaved / Bruh / that shit fucked

My first thought was, “Is that really how it ends? That’s not how I remember it. Caliban gets the island. Prospero leaves. Sounds like freedom to me.”

Then I went back and looked at the text.

He is as disproportion'd in his manners
As in his shape. Go, sirrah, to my cell;
Take with you your companions; as you look
To have my pardon, trim it handsomely.

Ay, that I will; and I'll be wise hereafter
And seek for grace. What a thrice-double ass
Was I, to take this drunkard for a god
And worship this dull fool!

Go to; away!

There is no moment of understanding between them. No “sorry for enslaving you, here, I’ll make it up to you by leaving and letting you have the island like you always wanted” exchange. Prospero’s last words to Caliban are, in fact, still those of master to slave.

I think my misunderstanding of the ending comes from two places. First, I’m visually thinking of Helen Mirren’s portrayal in Julie Taymor’s film version. If I recall that correctly, there is a clear moment (albeit in silence, since Shakespeare gave no words) that fills the need for what I wrote above.

The other is that I’ve just never really thought of The Tempest, my answer to “Which one is your favorite play?” in terms of slavery and racism and colonization. I love it as a story of fathers and children and forgiveness. That just goes to show just how good it is, that it can be both. You can read it as a happy ending fairy tale to your children about wizards and monsters and long lost princesses returning to their kingdoms. Or you can read it as a four hundred year old depiction of the darkest aspects of human behavior still on display to this day.

It’s given me a lot to think about. I’ve always known about those themes in the play, I’ve just never really focused on them, preferring instead to think of it as a positive book end to Shakespeare’s writing. Which is a bit ironic because in my modern reading I often chide books that wrap things up too nicely, and prefer those that give me something to think about and work on. If Caliban is forever enslaved because of what Prospero did, then how can we ever break the cycle?

Which ending do you prefer? Is Caliban free now to be king of the island? Or is he forever enslaved by what Prospero did to him, long after Prospero is gone?

Only Shakespeare’s Birthplace to Reopen

This past summer I saw a near lifelong dream fulfilled when I went to Stratford and visited Shakespeare’s birthplace. I saw the church, I saw the tomb, I saw all the houses. I stood where Shakespeare stood.

Here we are a year later and most of those properties are closed because of the pandemic. When you’re a charity that generates 98% of its own income thanks to 850,000 visitors a year and the universe tells you “Guess what! No more visitors!” hard times are ahead for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT). People I met last year may no longer be employed soon.

The SBT has stated that they plan to reopen the Birthplace itself this summer, but the other properties – New Place, Anne’s Cottage, Hall’s Croft and Mary Arden’s Farm – will remain closed until “spring 2021” at least. There’s no mention of the church in this article (the SBT does not run the church, so that makes sense). Does anybody know its status? The whole question of church services here in the US has been a hotly debated question, so I really have no idea what’s going on in Stratford.

I don’t know what we can do to help. If we can’t show up and buy our tickets and browse the gift shops it’s going to be an uphill battle. For a second there I got excited thinking that we can storm the online gift shop! But no – the web page says they’re completely closed, unable to accept new orders. Now I’m really sad.

Throw Those Beams, Little Candle!

This past week we managed to get away for a little vacation down Cape Cod. Luckily for me the weather a little cold on our second day (I am *not* a ‘sit on the beach all day’ person!) we got to wander around and shop.

Look what I found! Well, look what my kids found. They’re well trained. I wasn’t even paying attention but one of them came out of a random store and said, “They have Shakespeare in there.” Show me, show me now.

In my many years of doing this I’ve seen and collected all kinds of Shakespeare stuff (the original name of this blog, long-time readers may remember, was called “Such Shakespeare Stuff”). Often as gifts, sometimes from random sources (my boss once bought me Shakespeare band aids because he saw them and thought I’d get a kick out of them), but rarely do I buy stuff for myself. Rarely do I justify spending money on myself, especially for stuff I clearly don’t need.

Unless it’s a tchotchke I hadn’t seen before. I suppose I must have known that this existed, somebody surely told me about it at one point or another. But it’s first time I saw one up close and personal and I had to have it. My wife asked, “What are you going to do with that?”

“Take pictures of it and put a post up on the blog,” I told her. “And then it goes in the candle drawer with all the other candles.” This one actually has some practical use 🙂

I took him to the register and the woman behind the counter said, “Did you see our other Shakespeare items?” It dawned on me that I was wearing my “Shakespeare’s England” hoodie and my “A plague on neither of your houses” mask standing here buying a Shakespeare candle, so I may have been wearing it on my sleeve a bit. Unfortunately, all she really had were things I’d already seen – finger puppets, refrigerator magnets, and so on. But I didn’t have the candle yet. Now I do! (Turns out he’s available on Amazon if you won’t be in Cape Cod anytime soon and, like me, simply must have him!)