Wrong Play (But I Can Understand The Confusion)

Fun bit of Shakespeare Geekery on Reddit today when I spotted too late this “Tip of My Tongue” post:

In it there’s a specific scene in which all the characters repeat how they feel about each other a bunch of times with all of them stating how they feel affection for one of the people in the group who does not feel for them.

One of the characters may have an injured arm and I think one of them kept on ending the repeating cycle of lines with something like “and I for no man”

I think I remember one of the characters MIGHT have been a girl dressing up as a guy but I’m not completely sure

By the time I spotted this post somebody had replied, “Twelfth Night?” to which the original poster said, “Solved! That’s the one.”  He even shot down suggestions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing as not being the correct answer.

Astute geeks will no doubt see the problem. He is describing, to a T, that other cross-dressing romantic comedy, As You Like It.  Orlando has entered with a broken arm, Rosalind is dressed as a boy, everybody declares their love for the wrong person, and Rosalind is the one who keeps “ending the repeating cycle of lines” with, “and I for no woman”:

It is to be all made of sighs and tears;
And so am I for Phebe.

And I for Ganymede.

And I for Rosalind.

And I for no woman.

It is to be all made of faith and service;
And so am I for Phebe.

And I for Ganymede.

And I for Rosalind.

And I for no woman.

It’s getting so you can’t tell one girl dressed as boy comedy from the next! 🙂


Bearded Like The Pard

For No Shave November I immediately went into the text and searched for beard references to talk about.  There’s a good one in the Seven Ages of Man speech in As You Like It:

And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth.

Something I never really thought about … what’s a pard?

Just about everybody says, “Oh, that means leopard.”  Which I’d accept, except for the fact that, well, a pard is actually a thing. Sure, it’s really just the mythical parent creature of a leopard (which is supposed to be the offspring of a lion and a pard – get it? leo+pard?). But I still found it interesting that everybody was glossing over something potentially so obvious.

The mythical creature known as a pard.
This pard has no beard.

The Wikipedia page linked above cites the Aberdeen Bestiary, which dates back to the 12th century.

Here’s where the journey gets interesting. Remember in the first Harry Potter book, where the kids hear the name Nicolas Flamel, and Hermione realizes that she saw a reference to him in a book in the restricted section?

I remember my first visit to the Folger Library, where I was introduced to a book called “The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes“. So naturally I thought, “Is pard in that book? I must find out!” (Unlike in the Hogwarts restricted section, the librarian actually encouraged my perusal of this particular book. But I would never have thought at the time to look for a pard.)

I love that I have resources now.  It didn’t take long for our own resident wizard Bardfilm to produce the relevant pages:

The Story of the Pard

“Leopardus the Leopard or Libbard, is a word devised by the later writes, compounded of Leo and Pardus, upon opinion that this Beast is generated betwixt a Pardal and  Lion, and differs from Panthera in nothing but sex, and other say, that betwixt the Lions and the Pardals there is such a confused mixed generation as is betwixt Asses and Mares, or Stallions and Asses : as for example, when the Lion covereth the Paral, then is the Whelp called Leopardus, a Leopard or Libbard, but when the Parda covereth the Lioness, then it is called Panthera a Panther.”

What this does not tell us, at least as far as I’ve been able to read, is what kind of creature a pard or “pardal” was in the first place!

I haven’t given up the quest quite yet.  I’ll let you know if there are any new discoveries!

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.

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.

As You Can Take It Or Leave It

Whenever we discuss Shakespeare’s best or greatest play, some folks will make the case for As You Like It.  Just yesterday on Facebook, in response to yesterday’s “The One Play” thread, one reader suggested that it is “at least as good as Hamlet.”

I don’t get it.

I don’t think it’s a bad play, necessarily.  But that’s not saying much, I’m not sure I’d say that any of them are bad.  But there are some that, if I never saw again, I think I’d probably be ok.  I’m not a Love’s Labour’s Lost fan, or All’s Well That Ends Well or Two Gentlemen of Verona.  There are other potential candidates, like Merry Wives of Windsor, that I’ve simply never seen live.

But other than general agreement that Rosalind is one of Shakespeare’s strongest female leads?  As You Like It is right in that “It’s fine, I guess” category for me.  There’s no real conflict or drama, the plot is ridiculously convoluted, the ending entirely unbelievable.  The only real laugh out loud moments for me come during the exchanges between Jaques and Orlando.

Give me Twelfth Night any day if you want a strong female lead dressed up like a boy.  That one’s not afraid to play with some dark edges, like what they do to poor Malvolio.  His ending certainly isn’t happy.  Does anybody know WTF we’re supposed to take from a character whose last line is, “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you”? That’s the kind of thing somebody says before coming back with an automatic weapon.

So let’s have the alternate argument?  We’ll call it the Battle for Cross-Dressing Shakespeare.  I suppose we can go ahead and throw in Portia from if you really want to go down that path, but I don’t really think of her as the “female lead” in the same way as a Rosalind or Viola.  But, your call.


Naught Without Mustard

Sometimes you find yourself in those situations that make you feel like more of a geek than usual.

A reddit user had asked about Touchstone in As You Like It and I was going through some quotes when I found this:

Of a certain knight that swore by his honour they
were good pancakes and swore by his honour the
mustard was naught: now I’ll stand to it, the
pancakes were naught and the mustard was good, and
yet was not the knight forsworn.

Hmmm, that rang  a bell. I immediately thought of, “Not without mustard,” and had to go do some research.

For those that don’t get it, “Not without mustard” is a line from Ben Jonson’s Every Man out of His Humor, and is thought by some to be a joke reference to the coat of arms that Shakespeare had recently acquired for himself bearing the motto Non Sans Droit, or, “Not Without Right.”


So, then, is Touchstone’s line a response to Jonson’s? It’s unlikely we’d ever truly know for sure, but it can be fun to pursue the line of reasoning.

Dating the plays is already notoriously tricky, not to mention answering the question of who knew what when.  Would Shakespeare have had to see a performance of Jonson’s play to know the line, or would they have been sharing scripts while it was being written?

Jonson’s play was acted by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in 1599, and it is technically a sequel to the 1598 Every Man in His Humour, so we have a pretty small window to work with there.

But what about As You Like It?  The Wikipedia entry reads, “believed to have been written in 1599 and first published in the First Folio, 1623.” Even if we don’t always trust Wikipedia, the Royal Shakespeare Company page says, “Typically dated late 1599.”

Not Without Right
Not without mustard.

Looks like it’s certainly possible.  After some cursory research I called in Bardfilm, who is much better at this sort of thing than I, and has access to all the best resources. He tells me that the Arden edition offers no notes on the connection, but then goes on to find this amusingly “relevant” article from an author named Mustard.

So who knows.  Either we’ve uncovered a joke between playwrights that nobody else has thought to mention, or it’s just a coincidence.  This is why we’re geeks about this stuff!