No Pun Intended

One of my favorite puns in all of Shakespeare can be found in this exchange between Hamlet and Polonius:

HAMLET
‘Tis well: I’ll have thee speak out the rest soon.
Good my lord, will you see the players well
bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used; for
they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the
time: after your death you were better have a bad
epitaph than their ill report while you live.

LORD POLONIUS
My lord, I will use them according to their desert.

HAMLET
God’s bodykins, man, much better: use every man
after his desert, and who should ‘scape whipping?

I love it.  Hamlet tells Polonius to treat the players well. Polonius responds that he will treat them as well as they deserve.  Hamlet says that if he were to do that, no man would escape the whip.  But the last line can also be read as a play on “dessert”, making “whipping” a play on whipped cream or some other confectionary treat.

Except that it’s not a pun at all. I have been informed by numerous sources that the term “dessert” did not exist for Shakespeare (first published in 1633 according to the OED).  Likewise, “whipping” in reference to confectionary, as in a whipped topping or whipped cream, not until the 1800s.

I really wanted this pun to work.  I even did my own research, coming across this recipe for a “dishful of snow”, which is basically whipped egg whites and sugar:

Alas, I have to admit that this is in no way called a dessert, nor does it say to whip anything.  Oh well.  I was actually informed that if Shakespeare was thinking about what we know as dessert, he was probably thinking of something more in line with, “eel baked in Marchpane or lamprey roasted in a sweetened sauce made of its own blood.”  Go ahead and think about putting whipped cream on that!

Anyway, what’s your favorite pun of Shakespeare’s?  I’ll leave you with another favorite that nobody has yet spoiled for me. This one from Two Gentlemen of Verona:

LAUNCE

Nay, I’ll show you the manner of it. This
shoe is my father: no, this left shoe is my father:
no, no, this left shoe is my mother: nay, that
cannot be so neither: yes, it is so, it is so, it
hath the worser sole.

 

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Badly Translated Shakespeare is Awesome

So I spotted a post on Reddit that was clearly in a language I did not know, but also obviously said Hamlet, so I had to check it out. Wasn’t sure if maybe it was a link to a video production I had not yet seen.

Found a wall of text. Thought maybe it was an academic article. So I grabbed the first paragraph and ran it through Google Translate, only to discover that it appears to be your typical summary of Hamlet. Only…wait a second…

The story takes place at the Elsinor Castle in Denmark. Prince Hamlet reveals his father’s spirit and learns the truth that his father has murdered his uncle Claudius, who soon married Hamlet’s mother after his father’s death. Hamlet, who longs for revenge on his father, pretends to be mad.

Ok, this new version of Hamlet sounds awesome. Hamlet reveals his father’s spirit, apparently he was keeping it hidden somewhere. Then we learn that it was indeed Hamlet’s father who killed Claudius! Awesome. Claudius, soon after he was murdered apparently, marries Hamlet’s mother. For pointing all of this out to him, Hamlet wants revenge on his father.

I have to get more of this. I start cutting and pasting more paragraphs:

Because he had no evidence, he organized a theater performance to find out the truth, of course, it was a show of murdering his brother.


Hamlet working out his issues, organizing a performance of him murdering his brother.

Hamlet went to his mother to explain to her how things were and unwittingly kills Poland, the Supreme Chamberlain.


Farewell, Poland. We shall not see your like again.

Claudius was called upon to fight against Lear,

A new player has entered the game! That’s hardly going to be a fair fight, one would think.

Unfortunately the rest of the translation isn’t as good, dissolving into the usual auto translation gibberish. But that was a fun little diversion!

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Let The Sunshine In

Galt McDermott, composer of HAIR and Two Gentlemen of Verona, has passed away. As we like to do here on the blog, let’s take a moment to appreciate and celebrate the man’s contribution to Shakespeare.

Forget about the obvious for a minute. I mean, come on, the man wrote a musical Two Gentlemen of Verona that won the Tony for Best Musical in 1971 (beating out Grease).

If you’ve only ever known HAIR as a “tribal love rock musical,” then you haven’t been listening closely enough.  One song is entirely Hamlet’s “What a piece of work is man” speech:


(The song isn’t in the movie, you either need to know the soundtrack, or see the live show.)

My favorite, though, is the big finale number, typically known as “The Rest Is Silence / Let The Sunshine In”.  The Hamlet reference is right there for everybody to see … but if you listening very closely, the background singers are on a whole different play:

Eyes look your last
Arms take your last embrace
And lips oh you the doors
Of breath… seal with
A righteous kiss
Seal with a righteous kiss
The rest is silence

That’d be Romeo and Juliet.  The hippies are layering one Shakespeare tragedy on top of another.  Which then segues seamlessly into the big celebration that is Let The Sunshine In.

Ready for the best part of this story?  My middle daughter is really into her vinyl (album) collection right now.  She’s a huge fan of musicals, but she’s also into the classic rock that I’ve introduced her to.  I’d forgotten, until today, that for my birthday a number of years ago a friend had presented me with a framed HAIR album.  It’s been sitting in my office ever since.

So I called my daughter from work and said, “You want to go on an adventure? There’s treasure to be found.” She was up for the challenge. I texted her the bright orange and green picture of the cover and said, “Go find this picture.”  She found it.  I said, “Open it.”

“It’s a record!” she squealed.  “It’s HAIR.  Can I play it?”

“Of course,” I told her. “That’s the treasure.  It’s my favorite.”

“I know,” she replied.

“And it’s very special today, because Galt McDermott, the man who wrote it?  He died.”

“Oh.”

“So I want you to have that.  I want you to play it, loud, and when I get home tonight I want to listen to it with you.”

“I’ll do that right now. I’ll wake people up.”

“Perfect.”

Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, Mr. McDermott.  For others I might say “The rest is silence” here, but you brought too much music into the world, so we’re going to play you out with much volume and celebration.

Let the sunshine in!

 

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Bringing Back The Jubilee

An argument can be made that were it not for David Garrick‘s Shakespeare Jubilee in 1769, none of us would be here today singing Mr. Shakespeare’s praises. Speaking of singing, much of the music from the celebration found its way into Garrick’s The Jubilee, staged later that year and running for 90 performances.

Have you ever heard it? Neither have I.  Retrospect Opera, a small UK charity that makes professional recordings of important musical theatre works from Britain’s past, would like to change that.

Although the Jubilee is a seminal moment in Shakespeare’s reception history, and marked the consecration of Stratford-upon-Avon as a centre for literary pilgrimages, most of the music – which is consistently fresh and delightful – has never been recorded before. We want to create something that is at once scholarly, with appropriate supporting documentation, and musically and theatrically done to the highest level, capturing how much fun it all was.
They are currently fundraising and looking for backers to help see them over the finish line. Stephen Greenblatt and Jonathan Bate have already endorsed the project.
If you would like to donate to this project, you can use this link.
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Palimpsest for Life

I know the search engine optimization (SEO) game is an ongoing battle for Google to stay one step ahead of everybody, but this is getting ridiculous.  This story only has a little Shakespeare but I couldn’t pass it up.

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I have a book channel of sorts at my day job.  We have a book club that does the traditional “one book a month that we vote on” type of thing, but because of the amount I read, I have my own channel where I just brain dump book review after book review.  Last year I think I read 70 books? Something like that.

Anyway, just this morning I’d finished writing up Perdido Street Station by Chia Miéville, and made a comment about the author’s vocabulary:

I read a review that said “the author writes like he swallowed a thesaurus” and had a laugh because that’s quite true. Some words are just so out of the ordinary that they leap out of the page and yell “Remember when this word was on a vocabulary quiz back in high school!” I haven’t heard “palimpsest” in years, but over the last couple of weeks of reading this one he used it probably 4 or 5 times.

Later that day I was talking to Bardfilm about interpretations of Ophelia (doesn’t everybody do that?) and I learned something, so I had reason to google “olivier’s ophelia” – as in Sir Laurence Olivier’s interpretation of a particular scene with Ophelia.  Here’s what google gave back:

Note the third result returned, if you’re not getting it.

TELL ME THAT’S NOT WEIRD.

If it turns out that Google is actually ordering search results based on the fact that I searched “palimpsest” earlier that day (once, to confirm the dictionary definition), then I just give up trying to win the SEO game.  That’s crazy.

Somebody else search “olivier’s ophelia” for me and tell me if palimpsest shows up, or it was just for me?

 

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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