Not Cool, Gloucester

Gloucester and Lear
Gloucester and King Lear. Image courtesy Alexander Barnett

We don’t often pay attention to the very opening of King Lear. The “good stuff” starts with Lear dividing up his kingdom between his daughters, and that hasn’t happened yet.  All we really get is Gloucester introducing Edmund to Kent.

But I was in that part of the text again today and man, Gloucester, not really cool!

Is not this your son, my lord?

His breeding, sir, hath been at my charge: I have
so often blushed to acknowledge him, that now I am
brazed to it.

So right off the bat, “I’m embarrassed to admit this is my son.”  Lovely.  It gets worse.

I cannot conceive you.

Sir, this young fellow’s mother could: whereupon
she grew round-wombed, and had, indeed, sir, a son
for her cradle ere she had a husband for her bed.
Do you smell a fault?

“Son, just sit there quietly while I explain to the nice man that your mother was a whore.”

I cannot wish the fault undone, the issue of it
being so proper.

Kent, for his part, is trying to make the best of the awkward situation. “Regardless of how he came into the world, that’s a fine looking boy you’ve got there!”

But I have, sir, a son by order of law, some year
elder than this, who yet is no dearer in my account:
though this knave came something saucily into the
world before he was sent for, yet was his mother
fair; there was good sport at his making, and the
whoreson must be acknowledged. Do you know this
noble gentleman, Edmund?

Emphasis mine of course, but what son doesn’t love to hear “Well, at least his mom was hot, and great in bed.”  Sure Edmund’s the villain of this story but you pay close attention to a scene like this and think, can you blame him?

I never really noticed the line above about how he holds his other, lawful son (Edgar) “no dearer in my account”.  Does Gloucester have a problem with Edgar right from the start, that is then what Edmund feeds on to set his plan in motion?  Man, Shakespeare thought of everything!


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Say Hello To My Little Friend

Before I went to Stratford Upon Avon earlier this year I was daydreaming on Facebook about what sort of new merchandise I might find in the gift shops and what I might want to bring home.  A follower suggested a “Pot Belly” Shakespeare which I’d never seen before!  I held off until I got back from my trip, but was recently looking through comments and reminded myself of that post.

Of course, my wife was sitting next to me at the time, saw my intent and said, “You don’t need any more Shakespeare toys.  He is cute, though.”  That’s as close to permission as I’m ever gonna get.

Check out what came today!

I love him!  He’s much more finely detailed than I expected.  Check out his face:

The weird thing is that his head comes off (on purpose).  Apparently he’s supposed to be some sort of “keepsake” holder, but I have no idea what of value would be small enough to put it there.

I was planning to bring him to work where the rest of my collection resides.  But my wife said, “Oh, I was assuming he’d stay here!”  He’s now sitting atop the microwave, and there he shall stay.  I’ve often talked of “decorating my life” with Shakespeare, so if I can have random Shakespeares around the house with my wife’s blessing?  Oh you know I’m not going to miss that opportunity!



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My World Turned Upside Down

For years, whenever I brag about my kids’ connection to Shakespeare, I’ve said that my son saw his first production of The Tempest while he was still in his stroller.

This weekend my daughter was going through a box of pictures and held one up, asking, “Who is this?”  I recognized the picture immediately as she had it tucked into her dressing table mirror for years.

Sorry for the quality, it’s literally a picture of a picture.  The guy in the nylon mask in the background isn’t about to rob us all, he was one of the spirits roaming the set and making noises.  This outdoor production was literally in the middle of a strip mall and people occasionally just walked right through the set.  Who cares, I loved it.  Practically guerilla Shakespeare.


“…Caliban,” I hear my wife’s voice behind me.

I was momentarily speechless.  “…Caliban.  Yes.  Really?  You remember that?”

My wife seems to think it’s no big deal.  “The Tempest.  We went down the Cape.”  For my part, whenever a beautiful woman gets one of my Shakespeare references my first reaction is almost always, “Oh, I’ve got to marry you.”  Lucky for me this time! 🙂

“Sorry,” I say to my daughter, regaining my composure.  “Just falling in love with your mother all over again.  That was the first production that we were invited to.  One of my social media followers invited me to come and we hung out with the cast afterward.  Your brother kept freaking out about Caliban, pointing and yelling, “Monster!””  I flip the picture over.  It is dated 2004 — two years before my son was born  “Whoa.  Your brother wasn’t even born when we went?  I’ve been telling that story wrong all these years?  I guess it was you in the stroller.”

My daughter considers the picture.  She notes the month.  “My birthday’s in August.  I wasn’t born yet for this picture either.”

I was completely flabbergasted.  All these years my memory was of taking three children to this production, and I only had one child at the time?  Unbelievable.

I had to share that story with everybody.  Ben Berry, now the artistic director of Peregrine Theatre Ensemble in Provincetown, MA originally extended the invitation (but that is not him in the picture).  I wonder if he’s still reading and if he remembers us?  Hi Ben!


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Could A Slings & Arrows Prequel Be Coming?

I noticed some stories lately talking about Slings & Arrows, the undisputed “greatest show about Shakespeare” ever.  But this was the first one to drop the word “prequel” and now you have my attention.

I’d do some “If you’ve never seen Slings & Arrows” banter here, but seriously, if you’ve never seen Slings & Arrows, stop reading and go watch it. It’s just that good. To recap, each of the three seasons maps to one of Shakespeare’s plays – Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear (with some side plots thrown in, too). We’re introduced to the series via Geoffrey, our director, who once had a nervous breakdown after he played Hamlet (and yes, now he’s directing it). He’s haunted by the ghost of his own former director.  Meanwhile we get to see what makes a Shakespeare festival work, from how they rehearse to how they make money.

And now they’re pitching a prequel about the origins of the festival itself, back in post war America in the 1950s?  I’m not sure what play that’s going to map to, or how much of the original cast would still be relevant, but the original just has so much credibility that I’d get in line to see what the creators come up with next.  I hope somebody picks it up.



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Kickstarter : Shakespeare Figurine!

Show of hands, does it annoy anybody else that you can walk into half a dozen stores in the mall these days and see a wall of “Funko Pop” characters from practically every television show that’s had even a hint of an audience, and yet, as far as I’ve been able to tell, not a single character from classic literature? I want my Shakespeare!  I have a growing army of Shakespeare figurines slowly taking over my desk, and I always want more.

So I was very excited when the folks at Jackiz Studio reached out to let me know about their Shakespeare Figurine Kickstarter!

Ain’t he precious? The artistic interpretation is a little unique, I’m not going to lie. But I’m looking at him like I’d look at a newborn baby.  Do you look at the baby and say, “Whoa, yikes, what’s up with that hair?”  Nope.  You love it.  It didn’t exist, and now it does, and the world is a little bit better because of it, and who cares about the hair.

This Kickstarter just started (they contacted me to help kick it off) so there’s plenty of time to get in on it while all the backer rewards are still available.  They’re hoping to reach their stretch goals and even make an accompanying card game and mobile app, but what I think is the best one is a golden figurine which I think looks even cooler than the original.  (I’ve got to get back in touch with them and ask for clarification on what exactly “golden” means, just so we’re clear that people don’t think they’re getting a solid gold Shakespeare!)

Let’s make this one happen, people.  Tell your family, tell your friends.  Every Shakespeare Geek needs more stuff like this on their desk.  One success brings about more.  I’ve already planted the idea with them of doing actual Shakespeare characters, so soon we might have our own (virtual) wall where we can pick from Romeo or Hamlet or Orsino or Rosalind…  just like I’ve always wanted 🙂




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