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 ūüôā

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.

I Give Up. Can Somebody Explain the Saucy Boy / Egg Fascination?

I have several different filters that collect Shakespeare references¬† across various sites – Google, Reddit, etc…¬† The signal/noise ratio is about what you’d expect, but I do find some good stuff often enough to keep doing it.¬† Most of it lately is memes.¬† Typically bad ones (hint – if you think your meme is funny, take two seconds to check your spelling rather than rushing to post it for karma? it’ll be that much funnier when you can include in your audience all the people that don’t think you’re an idiot.)

But lately it seems like the world has been taken over by two quotes in particular:

“You are a saucy boy” – Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet

and

“What, you egg!” – Murderer in Macbeth (stabbing optional)

No, seriously.¬†¬† Just looking at the front page of my Pocket queue today, here’s the links I found:

https://www.reddit.com/r/SequelMemes/comments/eglb1p/shakespear_was_truly_ahead_of_his_time

https://www.reddit.com/r/memes/comments/egkilc/shakespeare_knows_how_to_meme

https://www.reddit.com/r/memes/comments/egieb8/et_tu_shakespeare

https://www.reddit.com/r/dankmemes/comments/eghzr7/the_pillar_men_love_shakespeare

https://www.reddit.com/r/reddeadredemption/comments/eggsvy/i_love_shakespeare_spoiler

https://www.reddit.com/r/dankmemes/comments/egfqcr/the_dankest_of_shakespeare_memes_oc

https://www.reddit.com/r/Memes_Of_The_Dank/comments/egf6el/breakfast_with_shakespeare

https://www.reddit.com/r/dankmemes/comments/egf7u2/shakespeare_likes_sauce

Using “egg” as an¬† insult¬† has always been¬† one of those amusing things about Shakespeare that was¬† a little off.¬† But these days it’s become clear that saucy boy and egg have teamed up (usually with some stabbing at the end)¬† and I’m just¬† wondering where this came from? Was it a reference to a show I’m not watching?¬† It’s getting pretty tiresome.

Review : The King on Netflix

FalstaffI haven’t been around much lately, and for that I apologize.¬† I’ve missed a few big stories that I hope to come back around to as part of the year end.

One of those is finally getting to watch The King, an adaptation (?) of Henry V now playing on Netflix and starring Timothée Chalamet as Henry and Robert Pattinson as a psychotic Dauphin, among others.

My ability to watch and appreciate these movies for review is limited.¬† The only time I’ll get to watch is when the family is safely stowed away for the night, because they don’t want to watch, and I can’t concentrate when I’m getting pulled in various homework directions.¬† But then during those limited hours I’m typically trying to do several other important things, so the best that I’m going to be able to spare for a movie I don’t really care to watch is “put¬† it on in the¬† background while I sit at the laptop.”¬† For¬† bonus points I’ll¬† use closed captions so I don’t have to keep saying “What did he say?”¬† (Compare to Branagh’s All Is True, which the whole family sat and watched through, uninterrupted.)

So, on to our story.¬† I’ll admit to not knowing the Henriad story as much as some of Shakespeare’s other plays, so I really have no idea where this one just invents stuff out of whole cloth (for the most part — you’ll see).¬† We open with Hotspur doing his rebellion thing, leading to the king chosing Hal’s brother Thomas to be the next king and do something about it. Cut to the battlefield where Hal challenges Hotspur to one-on-one battle instead, beating him, and causing a hissy fit from Thomas who screams that his brother stole this victory from him.¬† This doesn’t last long, as Thomas goes off and gets killed and Hal ends up king anyway.

What of Falstaff? Of course there’s a Falstaff.¬† But here’s the thing right away – Falstaff looks like he’s maybe ten years older than Hal?¬† He doesn’t look remotely like a father figure, he looks like one of those guys that graduated college right as you got there and then just kind of hangs around with the young people because he’s got no ambition to do otherwise.¬† Falstaff roams around doing his Falstaff thing, not paying his bar bill and whatnot, until he hears that Hal has been appointed king.

And then we get my favorite scene, the wonderfully sad “I know thee not,¬† old man…” scene…..only no wait, we don’t.¬† At all. Falstaff is appointed to join Hal’s council as one of his trusted war tacticians. Huh?

Cut to France. It’s complicated, but we all know the story ends up in France. That’s where we meet Robert Pattinson’s psychotic Dauphin, who has literally come to meet Hal and tell him that he’s basically going to torture him until he goes home.¬† There’s even a scene right out of a horror movie where Dauphin and his men, skulking about in the woods around Hal’s camp, send one of the children (why did he bring children??) back to camp with a sign for Hal — the head of one of the other children.¬† Charming.

Everything builds to Agincourt.¬† We knew it would. The most entertaining part to me was a nod to the expectation of a big speech moment where Hal basically screams at the men,¬† “You’re probably expecting a big speech right now!”¬† And then goes on to give a reasonably modern version of “We’re all going to die someday.”

There’s more to it, but I don’t want to spoil the whole movie in case people want to watch. I found it reasonably violent, but not in a Fassbender’s Macbeth way.¬† There’s a beheading (in a god awful special effects scene), and one poor dude gets stabbed in the *top* of the head in a scene that made me cringe.¬† Aim for the soft bits, man!¬† Ouch!

As with most of these movies the bits of dialogue where people are trying to sound like Shakespeare are painful to the ear. The battles are brutal,¬† muddy and bloody. I don’t know that I can say it was bad.¬† It’s more like, ok, somebody made a movie that used Henry as a structure and then kind of did their own thing with it. That’s not a sin.¬† If you swapped it for Romeo and Juliet that’s basically the plot of many, many movies. I think Falstaff probably had the best character arc. There’s one particular scene, and one particular expression on his face, that makes me wish I was paying closer attention (see opening notes) and maybe want to go back and follow his arc closer.¬† Just because they gave him a new story doesn’t mean we can’t imagine he’s the same character.

 

Shakespeare On The Moon

So I was thinking today about a future where we have people on the moon.¬† You know, typically Friday afternoon stuff.¬† Like you might read in a Robert Heinlein novel.¬† I was talking about the next generation being the ones who might live on the moon, who might be the first to perform Romeo and Juliet on the …. wait a second.

How you gonna swear by yonder blessed moon when you’re standing on the fool thing?

For that matter, how is Hamlet going to ask Polonius, “You see that cloud?”

Here’s the game.¬† Which of Shakespeare’s plays are going to need to do some editing once they’re performed on the moon?¬† For bonus points, put on your director hat and tell us how you’re going to creatively get around those lines.¬† Is Romeo going to swear by yonder blessed Saturn?