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.

 

 

~ 1 Comment

Shakespeare and Friends

I admit it, this post is a complete advertisement for my latest merchandise. I think I honestly do a pretty reasonable job of not spamming you folks every time I put up a new t-shirt design, don’t I?  So surely you won’t begrudge me a Friday afternoon commercial.

When I’m working at night, chances are Netflix is on in the background. I’m one of those folks that just likes the noise. I would love to churn through all the new original shows they’re making, but then I have to pay attention to what’s on, rather than letting it just drone in the background. So instead I turn to old series that I  know I like, that have a lot of episodes (that will auto play, you see).  You see where I’m going with this.

The entire ten season run of Friends has graced my television so often I think I’ve memorized all the episodes.  But it wasn’t until recently that the idea hit me … that opening font of theirs is absolutely iconic.  If you do “Skip Intro” you may never even notice it, but when you see it that classic scribble font with the little colored dots you’re definitely thinking, “I recognize that!”

Shakespeare and Friends

I wasn’t even sure Amazon would let these up, so I didn’t go crazy with the “Look! It’s Friends!” keywords.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t tell the real story here.  To get started I made a bunch of versions of Shakespeare’s most iconic characters – Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo, Juliet, Mercutio. All are available in both t-shirt and hoodie. The t-shirts are available in men’s, women’s and youth sizes (the hoodies are unisex). All the images below are clickable, where you can see the colors available for each.

What do you think? Did I miss your favorite character?  What do you think looks better, character names or play names? For those first couple it doesn’t matter 🙂 but I soon ran out of 5-7 character single words. 🙂 Should I make Prospero and Malvolio and Viola and some other more lesser known characters?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

 

~ Leave a comment

Most Dysfunctional Marriages in Shakespeare

I love it when Shakespeare comes up at lunch.  We were talking about with a coworker who’d been in Midsummer, and I asked whether his production had been on the light and glitzy side, or touched on some of the darker bits.   This might be the play that kindergarten kids get to dress up as fairies, but it’s also the play where a husband drugs his wife and sends her off to be with an animal until he gets everything he wants.

Which led to this question. I’ve seen “Best Marriage in Shakespeare” done before (and we’ve done it here), and the Macbeths often win that one. They’re made for each other.

So how about the most dysfunctional? Define that however you like.

I am going to go ahead and disqualify Othello right off the bat. If you actually kill your wife during the course of the play then it’s just too easy.  And that goes for both Othello and Iago in that one. Claudius gets a pass because that was an accident.

Kate and Petruchio?  Whether or not you intrepret the play’s ending as happy doesn’t necessarily mean that their relationship is a healthy one. What about the Twelfth Night couples?  When you realize that the person you married isn’t the person you thought you were marrying, can you just roll with it and end up happy?

 

 

 

~ Leave a comment

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.”

 

~ Leave a comment

Venn Shakespeare

 

Venn vs Euler Diagram
Venn <-> Euler

The most popular post I’ve ever made is the one depicting Shakespeare’s works as a Venn Diagram (although technically that shape is an Euler Diagram).  That post on Facebook has garnered over 2 million views at this point, and hundreds of comments. People have asked me if it is available as a poster (as far as I know it is not – I did not create the original image).

The problem is, I don’t like it.  Most of the comments are of the form “Why do you have play X in this category but not that one?” and “You forgot to put Y in the Z category” and so on.  The categories (Suicide, War, Romance, Supernatural) are, I think, too broad.  Does Romeo and Juliet count as war between the two families?  I would say no, but some people disagree.  How about Much Ado About Nothing? It starts with the men coming home from war.

So here’s what I propose.  Can we make a better one, or a set of better ones?  Something that more people can agree on? If we can make something that’s generally agreeable to a large audience I’ll be happy to make it available as a poster / stickers / t-shirt / etc…

I’ve been working with Bardfilm on some new categories.  The goal would be to find a set such that:

  • All plays are represented by at least one category.
  • Minimize the number of categories that have no entries.
  • No single category has too many entries.

What categories would you like to see?  “Supernatural” made our list as well.  I was thinking “Insanity” might be a good one. Bardfilm proposed “Fake Deaths” and “Cross-Dressing”.  If we can’t agree across all the categories we can look at doing one for Comedy, one for Tragedy, one for History, but I think those would end up looking a little sparse, and I’d feel bad about leaving out Romance.

What other ideas have you got for us? Tell us the category you think should be on our diagram, and which plays would be in it.

~ 5 Comments

And I Loved Her That She Did Not Pity Them

Bear with me for a moment.

I have a very vivid memory of studying Othello in high school, some thirty plus years ago, and getting to this pretty famous passage, where Othello explains how he won Desdemona’s heart:

My story being done,
She gave me for my pains a world of sighs:
She swore, in faith, twas strange, ’twas passing strange,
‘Twas pitiful, ’twas wondrous pitiful:
She wish’d she had not heard it, yet she wish’d
That heaven had made her such a man: she thank’d me,
And bade me, if I had a friend that loved her,
I should but teach him how to tell my story.
And that would woo her. Upon this hint I spake:
She loved me for the dangers I had pass’d,
And I loved her that she did pity them.
This only is the witchcraft I have used:
Here comes the lady; let her witness it.

The problem is that I remember reading, “that she did not pity them.”  I couldn’t tell you how or why, it would have been one of those things where teachers photocopy an excerpt out of a book into a few pages and staple them together to pass out to the class.  Additionally it would have been my first exposure to Othello, and I was maybe fifteen years old? So I wasn’t exactly looking to document the citation at the time.

Later during that same class (not literally within that hour – days or weeks later while still taking that same class with that same teacher) I remember seeing the passage again, seeing it as “did pity them”, and immediately seeing the discrepancy. But when I went back to locate the documentation for “did not pity them”, I never found it.

I never really gave it much thought over the years.  But now I’ve got access to a certain amount of resources I didn’t have then. I’ve got professional Shakespeare researchers who can do things like check to see if Shakespeare ever wrote it down that way, or if any editors chose to make that alteration.

So far we haven’t come up with any.  And yet — Googling for the phrase “and I loved her that she did not pity them” turns up some results.  Where’d those come from?  I can’t decide if I find it amusing or upsetting that most of the hits come from quizlets and essay sites.

One of the hits is from a 2015 novel called Vienna by William S. Kirby.  I’ve even gone so far as to write to the man, to see if he remembers why he thinks that’s the line.  I’ll have to update this post if I ever get a response.

I’m mostly documenting this here in case there’s other people out there that have a vague memory of this, as I do. Bardfilm suggested that “an ill-prepared edition” could have made it into use by the schools at some point.  If that’s the case, which certainly seems reasonable if we assume that my memory is not faulty. Maybe some day we’ll know for sure!

 

~ 1 Comment

Is Disney Doing Othello?

Kind of.

For years I’ve said that Disney should tackle The Tempest or A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Instead we got Romeo and Juliet with gnomes.  I’ll take what I can get.

So what if I told you that man of the moment David Oyelowo (“Selma”) is working on a live-action stage musical combining Othello and Cyrano de Bergerac?

Oyelowo just came out of an off-Broadway production of Othello with Daniel Craig (also known as James Bond) so it’s a natural project for him. People are confused about Disney attaching its name, though.  Which I can totally see, if you assume that the story is going to be 90% Shakespearean tragedy, which it almost certainly will not be.

How would you combine Othello and Cyrano?  I’ve argued previously that As You Like It makes for a reasonable Cyrano story.  But Othello? Who is wooing whom? Who is whispering in which ear?

 

~ 1 Comment

What Are Some Of Your Favorite Moments in Shakespeare?

I’m not a big fan of “favorites” when it comes to Shakespeare – I like to play the “that’s like picking a favorite child” card.  But part of the reason for that is because every play has got some good and some bad, something to recommend and something to avoid, none of them are perfect.

So instead let’s play Moments.  Doesn’t have to be a scene, or a line.  I’m not interested so much in the “what” as I am in the “why”?  Explain for me when, during the course of a particular play, you feel like everything hinges on this one moment?  Maybe it’s just one character’s chance to do something right. Maybe it gives ultimate insight into your favorite interpretation of the character. Maybe it’s one of those lines that rockets through 400 years and hits you square in the heart like it happened 5 minutes ago.

Examples

King Lear‘s “Why is my man in the stocks?” scene.  I wrote about this at length when Commonwealth Shakespeare did the play a few years back, and having rediscovered that post this scene is what gave me the idea for the post.  It’s not the line that’s important. I can’t even tell you the act and scene in which it occurs.  But that image of the king, who previously had people falling to their knees whenever he looked at them crossly, now being unable to get his question answered? Just does something for me.  This is the unraveling.

Emilia’s confrontation of Othello.  How she discovers what has happened, and how she is implicated in Desdemona’s murder?  Her first thought isn’t, “How can I get out of this?” her first thought is to confront her husband.  Bold move, since she has the most insight into just how dangerous he is.

Who else has some good ones?

 

~ 5 Comments

But What’s It Mean, Mooch?

I try not to do politics here because I know it annoys people, but when Shakespeare comes up, it counts as news.  There’s a non-story going around about how somebody emailed the now fired Scaramucci, pretending to be Reince Priebus (that name’s harder to spell than Benderwhal Cucumber) and getting him to fall for it.

What’s interesting to us is where Mooch responds at one point:

Read Shakespeare. Particularly Othello.

I for the life of me can’t figure out who is who in that reference.  I get that this is a story about trust and betrayal and apparently somebody thinks somebody stabbed somebody in the back.  But saying that makes it an Othello story is like saying that the Lion King is actually Hamlet  (oh, wait…).  Who is Othello in this?  Who is Iago?  Is it just a weird way for Mooch to say the Priebus was jealous of him? Should the wives be worried? The wives don’t fare well in the original, if you recall.

I appreciate it whenever somebody drops Shakespeare into a Trump story, I do. It makes my news alerts light up like a Christmas tree :).  But I don’t get this one.  Anybody able to decipher it?

~ 1 Comment

Reddit’s Favorite Shakespeare

Hello /r/Shakespeare!Anybody that knows me knows that when I see a post titled 1000 Most Mentioned Books on Reddit (or, really, anywhere), the first thing I’m going to do is search it to see where Shakespeare shows up.  Any guesses?

I’d love to say more about who made the list and why and how, but there doesn’t seem much to go on. The post, on Medium, was made by BookAdvice.  Have to look more into that, see what other cool lists they have.  All we know about the methodology is, from the summary, “Sorted based on the number of upvotes and the number of different users linking to them in post and comments.”  I suppose that’s got a certain chronological bias — a book that came out last year couldn’t possibly compete with those that have been around since before Reddit.  But it does say “most mentioned” and not “best” or “most loved” or anything like that, so I suppose it’s accurate to say that a book that has existed for ten years will typically be mentioned more than a book that’s only existed for one.

Much of the list is highly predictable, if you know anything about Reddit.  Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Hitchhikers’ Guide To The Galaxy all rank in the top ten.  I’m pleasantly surprised to see To Kill A Mockingbird in there, and The Count of Monte Cristo (though not so pleasantly Catcher in the Rye.  Really, reddit?)  Thrilled to see J.K. Rowling’s name not appear until well after the 250 mark.  Not that her work is bad, just that I’m tired of seeing such brand new books always top the lists of “all time classics”.

Ok, you want the data?  Drum roll, please. Presented in reverse order, from least to most mentioned, we have …

905. The Taming of the Shrew

754. The Tempest

674. Merchant of Venice

625. King Lear

578. Much Ado About Nothing

568. Othello

371. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (*)

295. Macbeth

237. Romeo and Juliet

and the most mentioned work of William Shakespeare on Reddit is……

144. Hamlet

What do we think, any surprises?  Surely not the great tragedies, I think those became self-fulfilling long long ago.  Is Romeo and Juliet popular because it’s so good, or is it considered so good because it’s popular?  Little surprised about Othello, that one doesn’t usually get much love, and I’m kind of wondering if they took the time to rule out references to the board game.

When I first made this list, searching for the word “Shakespeare”, I was surprised to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream not make the list.  I had to go back and double check.  It’s because they’ve got it listed by, and I’m not kidding, SparkNotes.  I wondered if there were many on the list marked this way, but it turns out that’s the only one.  Glad I checked, I almost missed it!

Anything you think should be on the list that’s not there?  Hey, wait … where’s Twelfth Night?

 

 

 

~ 1 Comment