Weird Flexeth, But Ok (A Geeklet Story)

Cleopatra was definitely not baked into a pie.

Be me, on a typical school day, bustling around getting the kids breakfast as they get ready for school.  My middle announces, “Did I tell you my Shakespeare story?”

Everything stops, of course.  Well, more to the point everything I’m doing stops, while my wife kind of gives me the, “Seriously?” look since stuff’s still got to get done.

“Do tell,” I reply. “The very fact that you brought it up means this is going to be a blog post.”

“Ok,” she says, putting down her spoon. “Well, my friends and I the other day are talking, and somehow Shakespeare comes up, you know.”

“Sure, sure. I know the feeling.”

“And then my friend is all,” cue dripping fawning voice, “Oh, I *love* Shakespeare, I just *love* Romeo and Juliet and Midsummer’s Night’s Dream!” At this point she switches to brainy smirk, rolls up her sleeves, and begins.  “Well, I said to her, do you know Othello? Hmm?  How about Winter’s Tale? Or Titus Androkinus?”

My oldest and I exchange a glance and a laugh at that one.  Middle continues, “Have *you* ever read the one where the husband bakes his wife into a pie? Hmmm???”

“Wait, what?” I ask.

“That’s Cleopatra,” says my oldest.

“Wait, WHAT?”  I ask.

“Isn’t there one about Cleopatra and her husband?”

Antony and Cleopatra, yes?”

“Isn’t that the one she’s talking about?”

“…???…NO?!”

It’s funny how sometimes the facts get garbled.  I explain that Titus baked the sons of his enemy into a pie.  I still have no idea where they got baking his wife – nor the connection with Antony and Cleopatra.

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I Said Introduction, Not Induction! ( A Geeklet Story )

My daughter’s in an honest to goodness 100% full-time Shakespeare class now.  It’s been a long time coming.  They’re starting right out with Taming of the Shrew, and already she’s lost.

“I have to annotate the Induction,” she tells me.

I’d completely forgotten about the Induction.  In all the times I’ve told them the story, I don’t think I’d ever mentioned it.

“Oh yeah,” I reply.  “So there’s this dude, Christopher Sly, who is the drunk at the local bar.  It starts out with him arguing with the hostess about breaking some glasses, then he promptly passes out. A lord comes back from the hunt, sees him sleeping in the street, and says, ‘Hey, you know what would be fun? Let’s take him home and dress him in my clothes and tell him he’s actually the lord of the house.’ Have you ever heard the term gaslighting?  They totally gaslight him.  Anyway, he’s not really buying it, until they tell him he’s married, so his first reaction is to say Great! Wife? Let’s go to bed!”

“Oh, charming.”

“Exactly.  They talk him out of it, though. Meanwhile, there are these roving players who run into the original lord and ask if he wants to see a show, so he sends them over to his house to put a show on for Christopher Sly.  That show is Taming of the Shrew.  And, then, basically, Christopher Sly is never heard from again.  Well, he comes back briefly after the first scene or something, but that’s about it. You’re probably going to get tested on why he wrote it, and that’s a good question. There’s a variety of theories.  He didn’t write like that for any other play.”

“Yeah, well,” she says, flipping through her copy, “I didn’t get any of that from this.” Reading, “I’ll feeze you in faith? A pair of stocks you rogue?” She pronounces it “rouge,” like makeup. “How am I supposed to get from that that he’s arguing with the lady at the bar?”

Slowly but surely she works her way through the induction, which she first thinks goes 20 pages until I insist that she read it again and she realizes that every other page is vocabulary, so it’s only 10 pages of content.

So today at dinner she fills me in on how well she fared on that assignment.

“So it turns out,” she says, “that while I was out of class one day last week, she gave out this packet that was an introduction to the play. We were supposed to annotate THAT!”

 

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That’s No Moon! (A Geeklet Story)

SCENETypical 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.

 

 

 

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Iago, Not Really Such A Bad Guy?

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.

 

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Now That’s Dedication (A Geeklet Story)

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.

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