Oh, Keanu…No….

I don’t know how I missed this back in May, but Keanu Reeves – Man of the Internet Hour – John Wick, “Neo”, “Ted Theodore Logan”, player with puppies, rider of subways, anonymous donator to children’s hospitals – is an admitted Oxfordian.

The man played Mercutio at 15, Don John at 29 and Hamlet at 31. My Own Private Idaho is an acknowledged retelling of Henry IV. But in his own words, he’s “always been an Edward de Vere” guy:

I always wanted to know — ever since I was growing up — who really wrote the plays of Shakespeare. So I wanna be there at that moment with “Shakespeare” — cause I don’t really think it was “Shakespeare.” I’m an Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford [guy]. So I’d like to be there in the 1600s “Shakespeare” writing Hamlet.

I guess he’s staying away from Macbeth, The Tempest and other later plays lest someone ask him how Oxford wrote those when he was dead.

Now I’m sad. Just goes to show that you can be a great guy – successful, even – and still not have any common sense.  As far as I’m concerned he’s flat Earth and anti-vaxx, too. What a shame.

 

 

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Romeo Left A Note? I Am Having Such A Bad Week

Does Moon even make an appearance? My confidence is shot.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I like it when I learn new things about Shakespeare. Sometimes that’s the best part. But when it’s basic knowledge that I had *wrong*, well, then I feel stupid and I don’t like it.

Such as this week, when my daughter was going over the answers on her Romeo and Juliet final, and she said something about, “That’s the Prince reading Romeo’s suicide note.”

“Romeo didn’t leave a suicide note!”  I replied.

“Yes…he did?” she responded, confused.

“Show me,” I told her.

Well would you look at that:

ROMEO
Give me that mattock and the wrenching iron.
Hold, take this letter; early in the morning
See thou deliver it to my lord and father.

BALTHASAR
I brought my master news of Juliet’s death;
And then in post he came from Mantua
To this same place, to this same monument.
This letter he early bid me give his father,
And threatened me with death, going in the vault,
I departed not and left him there.

PRINCE
Give me the letter; I will look on it.

I don’t know why my brain has left that part out. Do movies tend to snip that part? In all the times I’ve described the ending of this play I’ve said that Friar Laurence is left to tell the story.  Which is true. But leaves out the actual documentation from one of the title characters! That’s like looking for the wedding scene because you saw it in the Baz Luhrman version.

I have to go hang my head in shame, I have lost geek cred today.

 

 

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That’s Just, Like, Your Point of View, Man

Here’s a simple game. Pick a play.  Now pretend you’re doing a production where the gimmick is that it’s told from a different character’s point of view than normal. Which play do you pick, which character and how does the play change?

In most cases, this is going to create a much shorter play, because the character you pick will often have less stage time than the stars.

Maybe we do The Tempest told from the perspective of King Alonso?  Coming home from a wedding he’s caught in a storm, shipwrecked on an island, his son drowned. Suddenly he’s standing face to face with Prospero, who he’s thought dead for the past fifteen years.

Or how about King Lear from Fool’s point of view? That could be interesting.  Lot of different ways to interpret just how much Fool knows.

Twelfth Night from Malvolio’s POV?

Romeo and Juliet as seen by Lord Capulet? That could be interesting. There’s an almost fight scene, there’s him getting fined by the Prince, there’s a wedding to plan, a big dance party, an argument with his daughter, the death of Tybalt, the death of Juliet…

Winter’s Tale from Hermione’s point of view would make a funny comic short. Gets accused of adultery by her husband, goes to live with her friend who promises to fix everything. Cut to twelve years later when she says, “ok, he’s coming. Pretend you’re a statue.”

Who else?

 

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Stupid Questions : From Forth The Fatal Loins Edition

I hate when people think I know everything about Shakespeare.  I don’t, not even close. In fact, some of the best posts I’ve made have been when I just put it out there and say, “I just noticed this, let’s talk about it.”  But there are also times when I feel like there’s stuff I should know, and don’t, and it bugs me.  Normally I bother Bardfilm with these questions. So I thought for a change I’d start posting them here, and see if we can’t get some interesting conversation going.

Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life;

The Prologue to Romeo and Juliet. We all know it. One of the most famous openings in literature. We all know what it means, right? There’s these two families, each family has a kid, the kids kill themselves.

*record scratch* Let’s just stop right there.

For years I’ve said, “Romeo and Juliet kill themselves. Shakespeare literally says it right in the prologue. It’s the great spoiler alert of all time. You know they’re going to die, and yet you keep watching because you have to see how it comes to that, and in a good production you’ll still be on the edge of your seat, still hoping Juliet wakes up in time, even though you know she won’t.”

And then somebody told me, “That’s not how to parse that sentence.  Take their life goes with from forth the fatal loins.  It means that a pair of star-crossed lovers are both.  They take their life forth from the fatal loins of the families.” So yeah we still get foreshadowing on “star-crossed” and “fatal”, but the actual “take their life” line does not mean that the lovers kill themselves.

IS THAT TRUE?!

I will adjust my understanding and subsequent teaching of this passage immediately if some folks smarter than I can confirm that reading. But I’m not taking just one person’s word for it.

 

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Just Say You’re Remaking West Side Story

A hip-hop Romeo and Juliet? Produced by Queen Latifah and Will Smith?  Coming soon to Netflix? Tell me more!

Variety reports:

The movie will set Shakespeare’s tragedy in contemporary New York and follows a Brooklyn waitress and a musician from wealthy family.

Oh, so, West Side Story. I think it’s crazy difficult to do an “adaptation” of Romeo and Juliet because the expectation scale is so out of whack.  Beyond “two people in love who can’t be together,” what exactly are the required elements before we care about this one, and it’s not just another Camp Rock 2 or Gnomeo and  Juliet? Does there have to be a Mercutio? A Tybalt? A sleeping potion, a Friar Laurence?

Something that’s often forgotten in modern Romeo and Juliet adaptations is where Shakespeare says, right there in the first line, “Two households, both alike in dignity…”  Shakespeare never said “worlds apart” or “from different sides of the tracks” or made them two different religions or races or socio-economic classes (although I’ve heard it argued that the Capulets were much better off than the Montagues).  I don’t think modern audiences want to do the extra brain work of keeping track of who is on Romeo’s side and who is on Juliet’s.  “Can’t you dress them all a certain way so I can tell by looking at them?”

 

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