SCENE: Typical school day breakfast. I am kneeling down and reaching into a lower cabinet, where we keep the appliance type things, so breakfast smoothies can be made. Older Geeklet: I remember what I wanted to tell you. Did you know that all the moons of Uranus are named after Shakespeare characters? Me: No, they’re not. Older Geeklet: … Me: …a couple are named for a different play. (* Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock, though I mistakenly thought they were from an Edmund Spencer work at the time). Geeklet: Well, yeah, true, I knew that. Me: Anyway. Geeklet: Anyway. So they came up in astronomy class, and I was so excited, because I had this great piece of trivia, and I was waiting for it to come up so I could answer! … and it didn’t. He just said Uranus has a lot of moons and there’s nothing special about them. Me: Well, that stinks. It’s also not true. Did he mention that two of the moons are going to collide? Go back and tell him you learned that on your dad’s Shakespeare blog! Researching this post got me looking at the evolution of my knowledge on this subject. After all, “Uranus” isn’t a word that comes up often in other contexts, so it’s easy to search. April 2006 – I learn about Uranus’ moons. Amusingly I avoid mentioning “Umbriel” at all here. I expect that at the time I was very new and thinking, “I don’t recognize that character, so I just won’t draw attention to that one.” Meanwhile “Belinda” is buried in the middle, there, and I always miss that one. “Umbriel” is close enough to “Ariel” that you want to think they go together because they do. The Ariel referenced here is from Pope’s work, along with Umbriel. This is not Shakespeare’s Ariel. March 2008 – I learn more about why the moons are named like they are, chronologically. I also learn about the Umbriel/Ariel connection, and take note of Belinda there in the middle (the newest discovery, so technically she’s at the very end of the list). September 2017 – Soon (astronomically speaking) there will be fewer moons. In about a million years, astronomers think that Cressida and Desdemona are going to crash into each other. I wish it had been two characters from the same play, then we could have worked that backwards into the storyline. But Cressida, of all possibilities? Boring. January 2019 – My daughter comes home disappointed that she is not given the opportunity to share this information with her astronomy class.~
As regular readers may know my daughter is in her first real Shakespeare class, so we get to have regular discussions about my favorite subject and it almost always results in a blog post. Technically the class is only half Shakespeare, as it is really “Monsters in British Literature” and The Tempest was one of the topics, which makes this that much more interesting, because Othello isn’t normally part of the class. So she’s got a writing assignment where she’s to pick a real person (can’t be fictional) that society sees as a monster, and then take a position whether to defend or rebut that argument, using what they’ve learned in class about the “definition” of what it means to be a monster. We’ve been going back on forth on what (or who) she might pick, when she says to me, “One student did do Iago, though.” I think that may have been for a slightly different definition of the assignment as he’s clearly fictional. She continued, “But he argued that Iago’s not a monster.” “Tough argument,” I say. Normally I’m driving while we have these conversations so I have to keep my eyes on the road. “Not really sure there’s any evidence on behalf of Iago being a nice guy.” “That’s the thing!” my daughter responded, “Apparently the teacher read it and said, hmmm, makes you think. Like he actually had a convincing argument, at least to get her to say that much!” “Yeah, I’ma need you to get me that paper,” I said. Upon which my daughter freaked out. “DO NOT EMAIL MY TEACHER, DADDY!” she commanded. “I know that’s totally something you would do.” “Yeah, you’re right, there.” “Please don’t. You can’t just go asking for a random student’s paper.” “Ok, then you do it.” “I CAN’T DO IT EITHER!” “Then I guess we’re gonna have to go Mission Impossible on this one, because I need to see what that argument was. I’m thinking we lower you into the room on cables, thread you through the laser security, and bam! You get to the file cabinet, you take some quick pictures of his homework, then we yank you out of there. No one’s the wiser.” “Seriously, Daddy. You’re not going to email her, are you?” “No, I wouldn’t do that,” I replied. “Besides, I’m going to get a blog post out of it either way.” And here we are! If we start with the premise that somebody put forth a reasonably convincing “Iago’s not such a bad guy” argument…what could it possibly have been? Bardfilm sent me a piece from Arden edition which basically takes the position that we should assume everything Iago says is true — being a soldier is all that he knows how to do, it is his life, he seems himself as unfairly passed up for promotion by an unworthy candidate for all the wrong reasons, etc… It goes on to say that we should assume that, even if Othello isn’t sleeping with Iago’s wife, the important thing to take away is that Iago believes it. Iago isn’t just making some sort of alibi for his actions. Personally I don’t see it. And even if we did believe that, it’s kind of like arguing first-degree murder versus third-degree murder. From the start he does show himself to be more sociopathic than that, going right through Roderigo and Cassio like they’re not even people. <shrug> Anybody feel good taking Iago’s side? See a possible argument that we’re missing? My daughter has the same teacher for a pure Shakespeare class next semester as well, where they will be reading Othello, so if it so happens that this topic comes up again I will be sure to revisit.~
I may have mentioned in a previous post that my daughter had an in-class essay assignment for her Monsters in British Literature course (which we have been incorrectly calling her Shakespeare course, because although they studied The Tempest, they also studied Beowulf and Frankenstein). The assignment was to identify the monster in the story, and make your case. She chose Antonio. At the time I thought this was a one off, “Next time we have class we’re going to write an essay.” It was actually a research project. For several days her homework was to gather notes and make her case. And then, at the designated class, did they all write it up. So that day comes, and I pick her up, and she starts with, “Just so you know, my Antonio essay did not go as well as expected.” “Oh?” I ask, keeping my eyes on the road, while immediately thinking, “Was our premise wrong? What could we have missed?” “Yeah, well, we had an emergency drill today,” she began. I’m guessing every school in America has different variations of those. They were always fire drills in my day. My parents had “duck and cover” drills. Our kids have lock down drills, active shooter drills, etc… She continued, “And of course it happens in the middle of her class, so we all have to stop working and lock the doors and sit and not make any noise. That ends up taking like half the class. So she tells us, ‘I understand that you didnt get enough time to finish, but there’s nothing we can do, so just write what you have time to, and I wont count it against you if you cant finish your conclusion….'” I laughed. “Wait, so you’re angry that you didn’t have to write more, and that the standard has been lowered?” I asked. “Yes!” came the response. “I worked hard on that, I knew exactly what argument I wanted to present!” “Even in the time you got, you probably still wrote twice as much as any other kids.” “Well, yeah,” she admitted. Love my nerd. 🙂 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.~
How far that little candle throws his beams!So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
Last year one of my daughter’s favorite teachers retired. This week he returned to the school to help mentor some of the freshman class, and my daughter sought the chance to catch up with him.
“Tell your dad,” he told her, “That I think of him whenever the Shakespeare category comes up on Jeopardy.”
That makes me very happy. Not because there’s another person in the world more aware of Shakespeare than they would have been — he’s an English teacher for heaven’s sake, he would have already been killing it in the Shakespeare category.
No, that makes me happy for a number of other reasons. For him to think of me that means he first has to think of my daughter. Maybe over the years to come, he’ll tell people about that one year he had a young lady for a student that brought him Shakespeare cookies, and he will smile at the memory.
And for him to have told my daughter that means that it works in reverse, too. Whenever my daughter sees the Shakespeare category she’s going to think about her favorite teacher. Other teachers have heard the Shakespeare cookie story and asked if they get cookies too. Maybe they will – but they won’t be Shakespeare cookies. Those took on a surprising new meaning.
I’m not sure how long that memory will last, for either of them. But I hope it makes them both happy for many years to come.
Those memories, that bond, and that happiness would not exist if not for what we do here. Little candles indeed. Who knows what other stories are out there?
Happy Thanksgiving everybody. Keep making life better.
And if you want to make a lot of lives better in a very real way, please consider a donation to my No Shave November page. This month we’re trying to raise money toward cancer prevention awareness. This holiday weekend I’ll be seeing three relatives who are battling cancer. I hope none of you have to experience that, but statistically I’m afraid that won’t be the case. Thank you so very much for your support!
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.