Mutiny! A Geeklet Story

It’s been a while since I got to tell a geeklet story! My son kind of got ripped off for his last year of middle school, where they’d normally have done some Shakespeare in the second half of the year. The start of the pandemic basically threw everything into chaos and that never happened.

But here we are a year later and he let me know this week that they’re studying Shakespeare in his class. The teacher, who had his two older sisters before him, knows our family and already mentioned our special context :). I said, “You realize you’re going to be expected to knock it out of the park, right?” and he kind of sighed and said, “Yeah, I suppose.” He’s not one for showing off how smart he is. He did also say, “I know we’ve got those pictures of when we went to England and saw Shakespeare’s marriage bond, but I didn’t know if I’m allowed to show those.”

What the..? I told him, “Of course you can show those! If you remember, I actually told you guys that while we were taking the pictures, that any kid can come back from vacation with pictures of Aruba or Disney World, but you’re guaranteed to be the only kid coming back with pictures of Shakespeare’s marriage bond.” Of course, the moment has already passed now, they’re done with the “Shakespeare’s bio” stuff and he’ll never get the chance to share that picture, dang it. I would have killed to hear that he told the Anne Whateley story.

Cut to the next day when I ask him about school and he said they’re into reciting stuff out loud. I said, “Which one are you reciting?” and he told me, “Something about a mutiny.” That took me longer than I should admit. Mutiny? I went to ships immediately – Twelfth Night? Tempest? Hamlet? But I knew there was no mutiny in any of those. Then it hit me, duh, the obvious answer. “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. That’s the prologue to Romeo and Juliet.”

“I figured you’d know,” he said. “Anyway, we were all taking turns reciting, and we got to a section where the teacher said that nobody ever gets this part right on the first try. And it was that mutiny part. It was my turn, so I read it fine, first try, and then her head pops up because she was reading something at her desk and only half-listening to us, and she saw it was me and she said, ‘I should have known you’d get it on the first try.”

“What did you say to that?” I asked.

“I told her, ‘We read this stuff as bedtime stories when I was little.'” That’s my boy!

I look forward to a whole new set of geeklet stories coming soon!

Letters to Juliet (2010)

Ok, I realize this movie is ten years old, but I’d never seen it. I have the book around here someplace, but never really sat down to read it. I’ve known about the movie, it just never filtered up in my priorities high enough for me to sit and pay attention.

So I’m thankful that my wife has lately been in a “what movie can we watch with our teenagers” mood. Since they’ve grown out of generic animated things, we end up in situations where we immediately see anything Marvel or Pixar anyway, but then the boy only wants slasher gore (or anything generally R rated that he knows we won’t let him watch), while the girls want teen drama stuff that’s got a little too much “content you don’t watch with your parents,” if you know what I mean. So movies that look fun and safe and interesting to everybody, that nobody’s seen yet, have been a new quest. This week they found Letters to Juliet, entirely on their own!

The book and the movie are two different things. The book tells the story of the “Secretaries of Juliet”, a bunch of volunteers who take down the love notes left at Juliet’s balcony in Verona and answer them. The fictional story of the movie has our heroine (Amanda Seyfried, who specializes in playing characters named Sophie it seems) going to Verona on a “pre-honeymoon” with her husband who is so busy opening up his new restaurant that they haven’t had time to plan a wedding. He’s so busy, in fact, even in Verona, that she spends all of her time alone, site-seeing. She runs into the secretaries, they let her answer a letter of her own that turns out to be fifty years old, which results in the woman (and her grandson) coming back to Verona to hunt down her lost love, taking Sophie with them.

As far as romantic comedies go it’s as predictable as you’ve ever seen. As the movie was still in the opening credits I said to my family, “Is it just a rom com rule that whatever guy the girl is with in the beginning is not the guy she ends up with?” I’m still wondering if that is 100% true. It’s hardly a spoiler. A new guy enters the picture, they do the “we hate each other, we tolerate each other, we’re friends, we’re more than friends, will we end up together?” thing just fine. It’s all by the numbers.

How’s the Shakespeare content? Other than being set in and around Juliet’s balcony, there’s not much. There’s several tourist scenes of the crowd, including a line of people taking pictures while feeling up the statue. In the trivia I learned that they actually had to mock up the entire alley where this all takes place because the real one was far too small for the camera equipment. Fun.

The only Shakespeare content I spotted, oddly enough, came from Hamlet — “Doubt that the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move…” Strangely out place, but I guess I’ll take it.

All in all happy to check this one off my list. Nothing especially bad about it. In fact it was exactly the kind of movie we were looking for at the time. Sometimes that’s all you need.

Sex Education : Romeo & Juliet

I’ve never seen the Netflix show Sex Education. Have no desire to. The most I know about it is that the trailer used to uncomfortably autoplay whenever the kids were around, and eventually my son got so intrigued by it that he got grounded for binge watching it when he wasn’t allowed to.

But then I heard that Season 2 ends with some sort of Romeo and Juliet thing (and, honestly, doesn’t every high school drama eventually involve some sort of Romeo and Juliet thing?) and I thought, I’ll probably have to end up watching that.

Luckily I don’t! The whole Romeo and Juliet thing is available on YouTube. Ready?

It’s pretty awful and I’m glad I didn’t put up with two seasons of a show I wasn’t interested in just to get to this.

It’s like a weird a Darren Nichols (Slings & Arrows) production staged by middle school students who learned what sex is from watching ABC Shondaland dramas. Everybody’s just kind of bumping and grinding on each other like that’s how babies are made.

People say text things, but there’s hardly any Shakespeare content. Benvolio talks to Romeo’s parents. Romeo and Juliet meet. I think Mercutio got some lines? He’s the one that talks about idle brains, right?

I like to be open minded, though. Somebody who has watched the whole show tell me, would it have been better if I had any sort of context for the characters? Romeo is reluctant to be there. The show does get interrupted and there is a “hold my hand” moment that must have been some sort of big deal. And then a dude comes in and shuts down the whole show. From my Shakespeare only seat those things were all negatives, but maybe for someone who saw this as “Sex Education with Shakespeare” rather than the other way around, those things were a highlight to some lengthy story arc?

Which Play Next? A Geeklet Story

My son is the last of my three still in middle school. As both of his sisters passed through his current grade they both read Romeo and Juliet, to mixed experience. I’ve been waiting to see if he’ll get to read it at all.

Son: “So I guess we’re not doing Romeo and Juliet this year.”

Me: “What? They decided for sure? How come?”

Son: “Nothing romantic anymore.”

Me: “Huh?”

Son: “I guess we’re not reading or studying any stories this year that have romance in them.”

I am assuming that he’s mostly misinterpreting some sort of ban on PG-13 material, perhaps.

Me: “Well that’s fine it doesn’t have to be Romeo and Juliet. That’s basically why schools do Julius Caesar in the first place, no romance. I can write to your teacher and suggest Julius Caesar, or maybe even Macbeth…”

Son: “I think we should do King Lear.”

Me: (impressed) “Bold move. You really think that in middle school kids will be able to understand King…”

Son: “I know thee not, old man.”

Me: …(not so impressed anymore)…”Oh, dude…”

Son: “No, I know that’s not from King Lear. That’s from Falstaff. I was just saying I want to see that play.”

Me: “Oh, ok, phew. For a minute there I was going to say you just made the blog, but you know what, you just made the blog anyway!”

Still have to write to his teacher and see if I can keep Shakespeare in the curriculum!

New Year’s Shakespeare

I know this is a little late for a New Year’s post but I’ve been kind of busy ๐Ÿ™‚

This year we decided to do family night for various reasons. We passed on several invitations and decided to just stay in, get some Chinese food, maybe binge watch some shows and play some board games.

Skip past the bingeing (on both Chinese food and High School The Musical The Series) and nobody really wants to dig into a cutthroat game of Monopoly, so I get an idea. I go get my Shakespeare Trivial Pursuit cards! We never get to play this, but I’ve got an idea. I’ve got all my family here. I know what I think they know. So I pick cards, and I read the questions I think they know the answers to, to see how much they’ve learned over the years. Keep in mind that recently we’ve been to Stratford, been to the Folger twice, seen several plays, and they’re all old enough at this point to have studied at least some Shakespeare in school.

They did surprisingly well! Questions on Romeo and Juliet were the most obvious and came out like homework questions. But the real fun was some of the non answers…

“What is the nickname of visitors to the Globe Theatre who stood for the whole performance?”
“Oh! Potatoes!”
“What?”
“It’s something about potatoes! Isn’t it? Something like that.”
“Groundlings?”
“Right, yes. Groundlings, potatoes. Same thing.”

“What are the names of Hamlet’s ‘friends’ who are summoned by Claudius?”
“Oh! Oooo! Umm… something…. hydro something…..”
“Guildenstern!”
“Yes! Hydrostan and Guildenstern!”
“??? Are we in chemistry class?”

And my favorite one…

“What play was being performed in 1613 when the Globe caught fired and burn down?”
“Macbeth!”
“No.”
“Hamlet.”
“No.”
“Tempest?”
“No. You’re just guessing.”

At which point my son, my youngest, who hasn’t taken his face out of his phone, says, “All is true.”

There’s a pause. My girls are waiting. I look at them. “Henry VIII, also known as All is True. He’s exactly right. I just have no idea how he knew that.”

He looks up, realizing he’s the center of attention now. “We saw that one.”

“No, we didn’t,” I tell him.

“Yes we did,” he says. “It opens with a fire.”

It’s at this point I realize he’s talking about the movie All is True, about Shakespeare’s life in retirement, which we saw earlier in the year, which indeed does start with the Globe burning down. Hey, whatever works for him!

I wish I could remember more of their answers, it was a good time indeed. Nobody knew that Prince Escalus has a name. But they remembered that “I know thee not, old man” is said to Falstaff, that the Folger is in Washington, D.C. and a whole bunch of other “that was definitely not on any homework you ever had” questions. I was pretty pleased with the results! Hope we get to do it again soon.

P.S. – My son really likes that scene, I overheard him playing Youtube clips of it before he went to bed last night. He also asked me if he should watch the entire movie or if he’d be bored. I thought he still might be a little bored, but agreed that there’s some good battle scenes.

UPDATE: Fixed typo, of course the Globe didn’t burn down 7 years after Shakespeare died, my brain must have been thinking I was talking about the Folio.