Right Idea, Wrong King (A Geeklet Story)

I love that my kids are in high school now and I still get to tell Shakespeare geeklet stories.

For some reason the story has come up of when my middle daughter, who is starting her freshman year at private school, went through the interview / application process.  In particular her older sister likes to remind her that when asked what grade she would give the school, she gave a realistic 8 out of 10.

“Obviously,” says my oldest, who is a junior at this school, “You tell them 10 out of 10. That’s what they want to hear.”

“Who are you, King Richard III?” my son asks.

That one gives me pause.  “Love the reference,” I tell him, “But do you want to explain what that has to do with Richard III?”

“Because you just tell them what they want to hear, so you get what you want.  Like the evil daughters.”

“That’s King Lear!” both his sisters reply.

That never gets old.


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The One Where Shakespeare Geek Is Left Speechless

So we’re out driving with the kids this long weekend. I tell them over my shoulder, “So guys, Amazon made a new original version of King Lear that’s going to be on this month, does anybody think they’d want to watch that with me?”

“Yeah.”   “Sure.”   “Are we allowed to?”

“You’re always allowed to watch Shakespeare with me,” I tell them. “I just didn’t want to force anybody.  King Lear’s a tough one.”

“Is that the one where the king dies, and his daughter hates him?” asks my oldest from the far back seat.

And then this happened.  My son, my youngest, who can’t take his head up and away from his phone and his YouTube videos, says, “No, his daughter loves him the most. But she doesn’t want to just say oh blah blah we love you so much we love you more than anything like the two sisters do because all they want is the land. So the father sends her away but then when he figures out that the other two don’t really love him the other daughter comes back with her army to save him.”

I swear I got teary-eyed.  As soon as he started talking I looked my wife, unable to speak, with what I hope was a, “All my life has built to this moment” look.

When he stopped, and when I could speak, I said, “Nice job, son.  That made daddy very happy.  Well done.”

“But I only know it because you told me.”

“Yes but I think the last time I told you the story of King Lear was like six years ago. I didn’t think you were listening.”


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Bet I Can Predict The Future

Which character was he supposed to be?

Finally, finally, my oldest gets to participate in a dedicated Shakespeare course this fall. I don’t have the title in front of me but it’s basically Shakespeare and Modern Film.  Given that my bestest online Shakespeare pal is a dude whose actual name is “Bard Film” I can’t wait until she gets homework.  (“Daddy, can I please do my own homework for once?”  “It’s ok sweetie, Bardfilm and I have got this.”)

Anyway, we had to order textbooks and I see they’ll be studying Othello, Taming of the Shrew and Twelfth Night. Folger editions, for the curious.

Hmmm.  Anybody else seeing a pattern there?

I’m calling it right now – I’m going to have my daughter watch O, 10 Things I Hate About You and She’s The Man before school starts because I’ll bet you anything that’s what they’ll be doing in class. I never thought I’d say this but I’m glad Hamlet’s not among her required texts. If they had her watching Lion King I don’t think I could stand it.



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That’s What Friends Are For

One of my favorite things is when people come up to me and say, “I saw something the other day and thought of you,” and it turns out to be a Shakespeare reference of some sort. I especially love it when it’s friends I rarely hear from or coworkers with whom I wouldn’t otherwise interact during the day.  I always relay the story here and I always say “My plan is working.” Because every time that happens, that means that there’s a little more Shakespeare awareness in the world.  Whatever it is that I’m doing, that the people around me are picking up and taking with them in the back of their brains, made them recognize a Shakespeare thing they saw, and pay enough attention to it and think, “I have to tell Duane about that.”  (Seriously, just this week a coworker told me that at an antique store he spotted a coffee mug in the shape of Shakespeare’s head. “I thought you’d like that. But it’s not like I was going to buy an antique for you.”)

I am extra happy to report that the next generation has taken over.  As summer vacations wrap up and the kids get ready to get back into the school schedule, sports practices begin and so on, my daughter texted me a picture and said, “Look what I got!”

Turns out one of her friends went to Italy for vacation and, while in Verona looking at “Juliet’s balcony”, decided that she had to bring my daughter home a present.

On the one hand it’s a just little tchotchke brought back from vacation, like a souvenir spoon or refrigerator magnet. But I see it quite differently. I see it a whole new generation of Shakespeare geeks.  My daughter’s friends know that she’s “into Shakespeare.”  So now they’re the ones seeing Shakespeare things in the world and thinking, “Hey, I should tell her about that.”  Now my daughter’s actually starting her own collection of memories along those lines.  Hopefully one day (NOT soon!) one of her kids sees this hanging out on a knick knack shelf, takes it down to admire, and starts hearing stories about Romeo and Juliet?  

My plan is working better than I could have dreamed.


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Let’s Hear It For The Folger

While I was in Washington D.C. recently I told the story of my daughter’s disappointment at not being able to get the book that, unbeknownst to me, she’d been waiting six years for.

Being a dad I knew I had to get that book, so I put the word out to you good folks and the leads immediately started coming in.  My daughter knew exactly which one it was. For that, if you’re one of the folks who went searching, thank you.

Before going to bed that night I checked my email and much to my surprise found a note from Matthew, manager of the Folger Gift Shop, who wrote, “Saw your post.  Is it one of these?” along with several links (including the one we wanted), as well as links to the publisher of some titles that they did not currently stock, but could get.   (I see that he also came back and commented on the blog post as well.)

On top of that he said they’d even include free shipping!  Which was awesome, because if we’d manage to get the book right there while we were in town, we wouldn’t have had to worry about that additional expense (which can sometimes be almost as expensive as the book!)

The book is on the way.  Thanks Matthew and the Folger gang!  Outstanding customer service.  If you’re ever in town be sure to visit, and pick up a souvenir 🙂



The Great Shakespeare Book Scavenger Hunt

So a funny thing happened on the way to the Folger Library this week.

As you may have seen on other social media channels, my family and I are in Washington D.C. for a couple of days and were lucky enough to visit the Folger Library again, having been there six years ago.  I knew that even if we did not manage to arrange a tour, I could at least take the kids back to get some pictures outside.  They were pretty young at the time and I’m not sure what they remember.

So I was quite surprised when we were cruising through the various museums of the Smithsonian and in one of the gift shops my middle daughter said, “Nope, I’m saving my souvenir for Folger, I know exactly what I want.”  I assumed that she just wanted a Shakespeare something, and hinted strongly to her that we have a lot of Shakespeare somethings already.

Turns out she actually remembers seeing a book in the gift shop the first time we were there.  Apparently, and I do slightly remember this, I told her that the book was too old for her. Well, it’s six years later and she’s making a beeline for that book.

Only problem?  Folger Library gift shop is closed on Monday.

So now the dad thing kicks in, and I’ve gotta get her that book.  I checked the online version of Folger’s shop and saw nothing obvious.  It’s quite possible that they no longer carry it, or even that it is no longer in print.  I asked my daughter for more details, and here’s what she told me:

“All his romance sonnets. Very nice cover no pictures sorta paintings. Maybe roses.”

Let the hunt begin.  Anybody able to find a volume of the sonnets (may or may not be all the sonnets or just a selection, may include other works) with a cover that, to a six year old memory, is “sorta paintings, maybe roses, very nice.”



Shakespeare Calling (A Geeklet Story)

This weekend my son and I went to the Boston Calling music festival because he’s a big Eminem fan.  His sisters will be going to see Taylor Swift this summer, and we already dragged him to that once, it didn’t seem fair to doom him to a life of shows like that just because he’s outnumbered.

Anyway, here’s where the Shakespeare comes in.  We’re walking from the hotel to the festival…

Geeklet:  “I told my friend at school that I’m going to see Eminem and he said, ‘Are you going to eat M&Ms?'”

Me:  “I once played Othello *at* Othello.”

Geeklet:  “What?”

Me: “Never mind.”

Later in the evening when we’re trying literally not to get lost in a crowd. Somehow the conversation turns to how you never know, just bumping into somebody or stepping on their shoe might set them off.

A few hours after that, it’s dark, it’s a standing room only crush of people, and he steps on my toe.

Me:  “Yo homes, you just step on my toe?  I will murder you.”

Geeklet: “No you wouldn’t.”

Me: “I can do it, too. We’re in the same hotel room. Smother you in your sleep with a pillow.”

Geeklet:  “Othello.”

Me: “…wait, what? Seriously?”

Geeklet: “Wait what what?”

Me: “That’s the one that ends where the guy smothers his wife with a pillow.  Didn’t know you remembered that.”

Geeklet: “I didn’t, I just picked the one that rhymed with pillow.”


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Thanks, Mr. D!

We did it all for the Shakespeare cookie.

My daughter has one particular teacher, we’ll call him Mr. D.

We love Mr. D.  She had him freshman year of high school for British literature (where she brought him Shakespeare cookies) and again sophomore year for American literature, where alas there was little Shakespeare in the curriculum but not only did he tell me (during parent teacher night) that he’d be sure to point it out in Huckleberry Finn (true!), he also managed to work in some Julius Caesar (although I’m still not sure how).

My wife and I were both looking forward to our second child, who’ll start at this school in the fall, having the same experience. And then our son after that.  The man’s been at the school over forty years, he’s one of those fixtures you just think will be there forever.

Only he won’t be, because he’s retiring this year.

We went to his retirement party, we said our thank yous and our congratulations, and my daughter promised that he’s invited to her book signing when she’s published.

I wanted to put an extra little something out there into the universe, just because. I don’t expect he’ll ever see it, but you never know. My daughter would have been mortified if I’d told it to him in person, but I think it was a wonderful thing to say.

On the way to the party, my daughter said of her teacher, “I like Mr. D as a person. I have conversations with him. He’s my friend.”

To all the teachers out there, know that you’re appreciated.

Thanks, Mr. D.  We’ll bring you Shakespeare cookies one last time.


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Shakespeare Math Lessons [ A Geeklet Story ]

Who says there’s no room for liberal arts in STEM education?

My family of course knows that today is Shakespeare Day.  It actually causes some funny moments, like when my wife had to write out a check for some school function and said, “What’s today’s date?”

Children:  “Seriously, Mommy?  Daddy is standing *right there*.”

Or this impromptu math lesson with my middle child:

SG: “So, how old would Shakespeare have been today?”

E: “Well he died in 1616.  So, 400 years would be 2016, and it’s 2018. Four hundred and eighteen!”

SG: “You want to check that math?”

E: “…2016…plus 2….yeah, 418.” *beat* “WAIT! NO!  402!”

SG: “Right!”

E: *beam*

SG: “Also wrong!”

E: “???”

I then explained to her that she was calculating how long he’d been dead, but I asked how old he would be.  Eventually we figured it out.

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Comics by Geeklet

If it works, why change it?

So my son’s 12th birthday is coming up, and like many almost 12yr olds he dreams of being Internet famous.  His latest foray is into the world of three panels comics, and he’s trying to develop a following on Instagram.

He keeps asking me, “Share this to your followers!”

I keep replying, “Write something with Shakespeare in it!”  Because I love my boy to death but I’m loyal to the sanctity of the brand, too 🙂

So we compromised. With a little help from yours truly he knocked out a Shakespeare comic specifically for you kind folks.  If those of you on Instagram are so inclined I’d greatly appreciate it if you could do the kid a favor and like/follow/share/favorite or whatever it is you do on Instagram to show your support.  (Note that it is a three-panel joke so you have to do click through to see the other panels, we didn’t even know you could do that until his older sister showed us.)

I’m not kidding it really is his birthday in a couple of weeks so seeing that number of followers go up to a level he didn’t expect would certainly be a nice treat for him.

Share and Enjoy!

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