M Night Shakespeare

Yesterday I wrote about how it’s ok – nay, expected – that you know the ending of a Shakespeare play, but you still go see it again and again, because it’s about how they tell the story to get there.  The only caveat to this rule would be those movies where it’s all about “the twist” (an M Night Shyamalan production).  I noted that Shakespeare doesn’t really do twists.

But what if he did?  I started wondering, which plays could be presented such that you don’t see it coming until the big reveal at the end.

Twelfth Night is an obvious example. What if we leave out Viola at the beginning, and pick it up with Cesario?  Then you’ve got a classic romantic comedy where Cesario’s lusting after Orsino, Olivia is lusting after Cesario, Orsino’s lusting after Olivia but kind of really confused about his feelings for Cesario, and so on.  Enter this guy Sebastian, who mentions a shipwreck and searching for his lost “sibling” and we think, “Aha! Twins! This will be good!”  But then we get to the big finale where we find out Cesario is actually Viola.  Cue happy endings and wedding music.

But I think it’s cheating to just do the easy comedy. Could we do it with a tragedy?  I was wondering – if we took out all Iago’s soliloquies and behind the scenes machinations, could we make a twist out of it?  Basically tell the whole story from Othello’s perspective, rather than Iago’s.  He has to deal with his new father in law’s fury. He has to deal with his right-hand man Cassio getting into drunken bar fights. All the while he puts growing faith in loyal Iago, who hates to say this, but who thinks that maybe Cassio might be fooling around with Othello’s wife.

I think this one would be much harder to splice together, but imagine the payoff at the end?  Suddenly Emilia comes out of nowhere to unveil that it was her husband all along?  Then the husband f%^&*(ng STABS HER?! And then, when they catch him, he’s all, “Yup, not going to explain myself. At all. You get nothing.”  That would be legendary.

Now I’m sad that knowing the real ending, I could never get to see how that would actually pay off, even if they made a movie exactly like that tomorrow.

This has more potential than I thought. What other plays could we twist?  The only rule is that you can’t add more original content.  If Shakespeare didn’t answer the question, we can’t answer it.  We can’t, for instance, learn that it was actually Gertrude that killed her husband (or Ophelia).  You have to stay as close the original material as possible, just mess with how the audience gets to see it.


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We Will All Laugh At Endgame Spoilers

I was actually a little surprised today to see somebody send me an Endgame spoiler over on Reddit.  It was a randomly generated account so I’m guessing it was just blasted to everybody.  Reddit doesn’t really have an advanced inbox system so it’s not like I could have ignored it — I click the “new messages” button and bam, there it is.  Oh well.

Here’s the thing, though.  Why in the world would anybody who’s read Shakespeare care about spoiler?  Newsflash, jackasses – we already know the ending. It’s not about that.  If your entire investment in the story hangs on keeping something secret?  Then you didn’t do a very good job telling your story.

How many times have we all read and seen King Lear? Or Hamlet?  There are no twists in Shakespeare.  We always know that Cesario is a girl (although, that gives me an idea for a different blog post…. 😉 )  It’s about how they tell the story to get there.  Honestly, I think plenty of people knew the ending of Infinity War before they saw it – but they still saw it.  Same with Endgame. We already have our tickets. Nothing’s going to change.

So, my fellow Shakespeare Geeks, laugh off any cowardly spoilers you happen to stumble across.  If you’ve got any investment in the story at all – and after 10 years and 20 movies, who are we kidding, of course we do – then no little trolls should be able to spoil that for you.  Enjoy the show.


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How Now, Kindred Spirit! ( A Semi-Geeklet Story)

In marketing my merchandise I’ve often noted that “the dream” is to randomly bump into somebody wearing one of my t-shirts, because I’ll know I’ve found a kindred spirit. This week I learned to always have my eyes open because kindred spirits are all around.

My oldest geeklet was inducted into her school’s chapter of the National Honor Society last night.  It was held in the school chapel. It just so happens that their chapter coordinator is also her Shakespeare teacher.  Here, to the best of my ability to recap it, is her welcome speech:

“This being Boston, I did hear on the radio that there’s some kind of important game on television tonight.” <pause for cheers from the audience> “The Bruins are in the playoffs, and game seven sounds exciting.”  <more cheers> “I don’t follow sports, but I do have my own personal reasons for celebrating, because today is also Shakespeare’s Birthday.”

And that, if you can believe it, marks the very first time on a Shakespeare Day I’ve been in the room with a third party who, entirely independent of me, brings it up.

So I did what I always told myself I hoped I’d do.  I threw both hands up in the air and yelled, “WOOO!”  She pointed at me from her lectern and smiled.  I believe there were some cheers for Shakespeare but honestly I can’t remember, I was having too much an “Ok, I can’t believe I just did that” moment 🙂

After the ceremony at the reception, she did come up to me and say, “Thanks for having my back on the Shakespeare thing.”  I told her that was the only celebration of Shakespeare Day I had this year. We then started talking about the ending of Othello – or, rather, I started talking about the ending of Othello while my wife pulled me away and let her sit down and talk to her fiancé.

That’s also something I’ve told people many times — if I start talking about Shakespeare, just go ahead and walk away at some point, because I’m not going to stop. 🙂



It Was The Year Without a Shakespeare Geek

So, how’d you spend your Shakespeare Day 2019?  In the past I have gone on marathon posting binges, posting upwards of two dozen stories. Last year I wrote a Twitter bot that spent the day revisiting the archives.  It’s a big day in my life, a huge day.  My own personal holiday, that I look forward to more than my own birthday.

This year I did … nothing. And I feel like that merits an explanation.

Just before St. Patrick’s Day this year I injured myself – tore my Achilles tendon. For the majority of folks who have not had that misfortune, allow me to sum it up — surgery, and then staying off your feet for over six weeks.  There’s more to it than that (time in a splint, time in a cast, time in a boot…) but the end result is a complete disruption of your life for almost two months. I couldn’t even drive to work – luckily I sit behind a computer all day and my day job has been very understanding about me becoming a remote employee.

My first reaction when they told me was, “Woohoo! All day long at home?  I’ll get *so much* done!”  Yeah … no.  You don’t realize how much you can’t do when you have to stand on one foot, and your hands are occupied by crutches. Even simple acts like going to the refrigerator (or the bathroom!) become a real chore. Sitting on the couch all day sounds like fun until you realize that you’re being forced to do that, even when you don’t want to.

And thus the chain reaction begins. Crutching around all day takes more energy out of you than just plain walking, so you’re more tired than normal.  It will take more energy to actually do the things you need to do, so you end up with more inertia about staying right where you are. Then you feel guilty about the work that’s piling up that you’re not doing. Then you start looking forward and thinking, “Everything will go back to normal when I get my feet back, but until then everything’s basically on pause.”

As I read that back it sounds very “woe is me” and I do realize that there are probably people reading who’ve had the same injury saying, “What? No. I was back in the gym two days later.”  I’m not saying I’ve had the greatest recovery.  I was 50 years old and not in the greatest shape before I got literally swept off my feet.  So maybe I took it harder than others might have. I’m just being honest here, because that’s part of why you’re all still reading after fourteen years of me doing this.

What’s it all got to do with Shakespeare? If I’m sitting on the couch anyway, already with the laptop ready to go, why am I not banging out the posts?  My last real post to the blog was March 14, basically right before everything happened. During those first couple of weeks of recovery there was actual downtime, actual pain, actual painkillers. That wasn’t fun. Every day I’d say, “I should write something on the blog,” but then I wouldn’t, and then I’d feel guilty. The longer I waited, the more I’d think, “When I start posting again it has to be something good, not just glorified retweeting.”

Before I knew it, Shakespeare Day was upon me. Actually I totally knew – my most recent doctor’s appointment to remove my cast and switch me over to a “walking boot” was scheduled for April 23. So that was the big event of my yesterday, a milestone in my return to normal.  I just was not in the right frame of mind to do something awesome for Shakespeare Day, and if I wasn’t going to do something awesome, I didn’t want to do anything.

So that’s my excuse.  I do have a story to tell, which is coming in the next post. My Shakespeare Day was not without Shakespeare, fear not.  I hope this post represents my return to regular posting. I’ve missed you all.


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Friends, Romans, Countrymen…I Need A Favor

Hello!  Terribly sorry for my absence of late, things are happening that are making life complicated. Your regularly scheduled Shakespeare should resume soon.

This post doesn’t contain much Shakespeare, let’s get that out of the way right now. I don’t like to misuse my audience.  But it does have a father (me) and a daughter (mine) so at the end if we want to discuss which of Shakespeare’s play our relationship most resembles, we can see where that goes.

My younger daughter wants to be a writer.  She recently entered a short story competition with a small piece that she literally crafted out of thin air when she said, “I need a noun” and my wife said, “Balloon.”  We entered the story and she rocketed up to the #4 spot (out of almost 300 entries) and became a finalist for the Community Vote!

For the finals, the votes are cleared and a new round begins. Right now she’s sitting in second place, which isn’t too shabby.  But I’ve learned that the person in first place is an existing contributor to that site with nearly 100 other submissions. His bio says he’s been writing poetry since 2004 – which would be the same year my daughter was born.  He’s got about 4000 followers on the site who are shooting him to the top of all the charts (in the first round he had 3x the votes of the next closest entry).

Well, I’ve got over 20,000 followers. No, none of this is Shakespeare. But I’m a father trying to make his daughter happy.  It doesn’t matter to me if she wins. It matters that when she refreshes her vote count and it doesn’t go up, she’s sad – but when it does, she’s happy.  So I want it to go up every time she looks, and I’m unapologetically going to use every means at my disposal to make that happen.

If you’ve read this far and would like to help contribute to the cause, thank you!  Here’s the link:

Read and Vote for “The Life of a Balloon” by Elizabeth!

If you saw my earlier posts on FB and Twitter and have already voted, please note that this is the finals, this is a new round!  So you can come back and vote again!

Thanks so much for your time.  Have we decided which play we most resemble?  I’ve been thinking about it while I write.  How about Prospero? I went through my vengeful phase, snooping around to see if there might be a way to get the first place guy disqualified ….. but ultimately it’s more about my daughter’s happiness, and the number of reads and votes can do that much more than a couple of bucks of prize money.   Now go vote!