My wife had her nails done today and told me that the color was, “Romeo and Juliet.” Neither of us has any clue what about that color makes it in any way related to Romeo and Juliet, but hey. We work with what we can. And, we get stories like this out of it.
We’re at the dinner table with my daughter, my son having gone off to do homework. My wife flashes her nails and says, “Like my color? Guess what it’s called.”
“How would I have any idea?” my daughter replies.
“Think Shakespeare,” I hint.
You get the idea 🙂 On it went. “Much Ado About Nothing! Taming of the Shrew! King Lear! Wait, would there be one called King Lear? Ophelia! Desdemona!”
“You’re forgetting an obvious one,” I tell her when there’s a pause. She considers. She has no idea. “Romeo and Juliet,” I whisper.
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that one!” Pause. “How does that color have anything to do with Romeo and Juliet?”
Ok, this is a fun one. Is it a geeklet story if the geeklets aren’t actually in it?
Ever since I’ve had Shakespeare Geek merchandise, I’ve jokingly said that “the goal” is to bump into a stranger wearing my merchandise. That’s when I’ll know I’ve made it. You see where this story is going.
My daughter’s off to college. Perusing Facebook one night I see a group for parents of students at that college, and send a request to join. It gets approved, followed by a message. Which I assume is just an automatic “Your request has been accepted” type of thing. Nope!
“I am!” I reply, “Though I’m sure by now there are a number of knockoffs, but yes, that is definitely one of my designs.” The nature of Amazon is that brain dead “sellers” with no ideas of their own will just steal the originality of others. We deal with it, and we move on. It’s definitely not winning the game if you bump into somebody wearing a knock off of one of your shirts. That’s negative points.
“Yup it’s you!” she replied, posting an image of the shirt. Turns out her daughter’s in the college’s Shakespeare group. I concede that while I’d love that, I know my daughter’s a math/space geek and wouldn’t want her to feel forced to follow in my footsteps.
But, still! Maybe this doesn’t count as me randomly bumping into somebody with my merch. But my daughter might! Now I’ve got this whole vision in my head where this woman’s daughter has one of my shirts, and all the other people in her club are all, “Oh, whoa, where’d you get that? I must have it!” so there’s really dozens of people wandering around my daughter’s college wearing Shakespeare Geek merchandise, and one day she’s going to stroll out onto the quad and be surrounded :). I can’t wait for that phone call!
When my kids were younger I could just shower them in Shakespeare references and hope they said something amusing in return. As they turned into teenagers I was afraid they’d leave such things behind. It always warms my heart when they remind me this is not the case.
Such as at dinner last night, when for some reason (I forget the context) the question came up of what my daughter would name her children.
Daughter #2: “Desdemona!”
Daughter #1: “No…”
Daughter #2: “Oh, wait, Ophelia! Desdemona or Ophelia!”
Daughter #1: “You can’t name her Desdemona, Desdemona dies.”
I hear my oldest coming down the steps. “I wonder if she needs help with calculus or physics?” I ask my wife.
She rounds the corner. “Ok, so, we’re playing trivia in virtual classroom and the category was Shakespeare.” Oh fun. “Which character has been in three plays?”
“I’m going to assume Falstaff.”
“Right. Yes, well, we got it wrong. We guessed Antony.”
“That’d be Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra, only two.”
“Exactly, I knew that wasn’t it. But anyway, he’s, like, a big character, isn’t he?”
“He was never the title character, but it’s been argued by more than one person that he’s Shakespeare’s greatest creation. Books have been written on just him. I literally have a book upstairs right now that’s nothing but an actor’s diary of when he played Falstaff.”
“I thought so. Our teacher told us that he’s a huge Shakespeare fan, and how he’s read all of the Henry’s because, you know, he prefers the lesser known plays, and that he didn’t remember this character, he must not have been that important.”
I fire up my computer. “Hold on a second.” I google “Harold Bloom Falstaff”:
Then there’s Harold Bloom, who, in the opening pages of his short, charming new book Falstaff: Give Me Life, writes that he has “come to believe that if we are to represent Shakespeare by only one play, it ought to be the complete Henry IV, to which I would add Mistress Quickly’s description of the death of Falstaff in act 2, scene 3 of Henry V.”
For Bloom, what puts Henry IV on top is not the starring role, Prince Hal, but the supporting character Sir John Falstaff. “I think of this as the Falstaffiad,” writes Bloom, “rather than the Henriad, as scholars tend to call it.” For Bloom, who has been teaching at Yale since 1955 and who is considered by many to be the most distinguished living literary critic (he’s 87), Falstaff is not just “the glory of the Henry IV plays” but (his italics) “the grandest personality in all of Shakespeare.”
You can’t bluff your Shakespeare knowledge in front of my kids.
Last week my son surprised us all by dropping an out of the ordinary Hamlet quote into dinner conversation. Apparently he liked the reaction it got.
During quarantine he has, like I’m sure most boys his age, been avoiding his homework at all costs. Every day is a battle over when to get his homework done and how much effort to put into it. Today at lunch he comes up to me say, “Ok, Daddy, I’ve got a new strategy for doing my homework. Ready? Better three hours too soon, than a minute too late.”
I smile and acknowledge, “You’re studying your Shakespeare quotes now. I approve. I bet nobody else in the family would have recognized that, but yes, I got it.”
“Good,” he tells me, “Because that is so not my strategy.”