Mystery Men of Shakespeare

I discovered this weekend that the 1999 Ben Stiller movie Mystery Men was finally on Netflix. When my kids were younger I kept coming back around to it as something I wanted to show them, given the rise of superhero movies, but it was never available for streaming. This one’s weird, it’s more of a “super anti-hero” movie where a bunch of normal guys with arguably no powers at all wish they were heroes. You’ve got Paul Reubens as “the spleen”, who farts at people as a weapon, Hank Azaria as the fork flinging Blue Raja, William H Macy as the Shoveler (“God gave me a gift. I shovel well, I shovel very well”) … the list goes on, all easily recognizable character actors. Janeane Garofalo as “The Bowler”. Ben Stiller as “Mr. Furious”. You won’t necessarily like him when he’s angry, but you won’t have to worry too much about it.

Why are we talking about this? Because when we sat down to watch it I noticed something I hadn’t seen twenty years ago – William H Macy delivering his version of Henry V!

What’s Your Status?

Here’s something different. What exactly did class and status mean in Shakespeare’s time? Can we put it into a modern perspective?

Middling Culture has put together a status calculator to answer that question. You provide your answers for questions about your job, education, gender, and general position in the community (do you hold an office with the church?) Then it tells you how you would have fared back in Shakespeare’s day.

Elite Middling/New Gentry
You are of new gentry status! This means that you were born to a middling family, but you may have been granted a coat of arms in your lifetime, and that you became extraordinarily wealthy.

I think that’s good? Of course a number of the questions make no real modern sense (do you have a coat of arms? Were you gifted your accomodations by a wealthy noble?) so you’ll have to take some creative guesses. I actually ran through it twice and forgot what my first answers were.

They look very excited about the project, and there’s a number of requests for feedback as well as informative links about how the calculator works. I think it might be cool to see some of the answers side by side with your final result, you know? How much does gender play a role? What about the coat of arms, or your position in the church? Is there any individual answer that flips your status entirely?

I Don’t Know Who Zion Is, But I Approve

One of the earliest posts I ever made on Shakespeare Geek was about an ad for a videogame that featured the Henry V “Band of Brothers” speech. The idea of spotting Shakespeare references in the wild, and sharing them, has always been a central theme for the site.

Just because I’ve gotten too old to understand the references doesn’t mean I plan on stopping any time soon. I get that “Jordans” are a type of basketball sneaker, I’m not that old. I just have no idea who this Zion Williamson character is. But not only does he have his own line of Jordans, he’s introducing them with Shakespeare.

I guess this guy is on the Pelicans? Here’s how much I know about basketball, I didn’t know that was a team. I’m deep in Celtics country. Which reminds me, apparently our new star is named Romeo. That’s surely got to come up again!

A Shakespeare Dream, Denied

Sometimes I dream in Shakespeare. I think this is fascinating, and I blog about it every time. Happened again last night.

I’m at this party. It’s a surprise party, I think for my brother in law, which makes sense because we actually did have his 50th birthday party this weekend. So we’re in a strange house and I’m surrounded by lots of people, some I know, some I do not. There’s some sort of weird occurrence that I only half remember, where one of the small children wanders by singing a song that very definitely contains a very adult swear word. Again this actually makes sense in context because lately I’ve been engaged in several “why do people have issues with Dr. Seuss when the WAP song is ok to play on the radio?” arguments.

Anyway, here’s where it gets Shakespeare-ish and a bit weird. I find myself talking to this older couple with a heavy English accent. The wife is aghast that language like that could come out of such a small child. The husband then proceeds to declare that you don’t need to be using words like that when there are perfectly good euphemisms where everybody’s going to know what you mean. The euphemism he has in mind? Bubbleton. I told you it was weird. What bothers me most about that is that it’s clearly a noun and very difficult to use as a verb :). However, it also appears to be my brain messing with “Bridgerton,” a Netflix series known for the amount of sex it had, recently in the news because the start of season one isn’t coming back for season two.

At this point I decide to drop some Shakespeare into the conversation, because apparently I had recently made a blog post about exactly this topic and how Shakespeare used very common words with exactly such double entendre. I wish I knew in real life what I was referring to, because I’ve made no such post. Upon waking I’m guessing that maybe the Beatrice / Benedick “didn’t I dance with you?” exchange is close to what I was thinking of.

But here’s the thing, the older gentleman cuts me off and says, “I’m sorry, but could we leave Shakespeare out of it?” He then goes on to explain how the only example anybody ever wants to use in any argument is “Here’s what Shakespeare said,” and he’s not interested in having that discussion, and wanders off.

Left speechless, I wander back into the party where I complain to some other random stranger, “How was he supposed to know that Shakespeare’s my thing? It’s not like anybody ever wants to talk about computers.”

The stranger then tells me that he recently won the Turing Award, basically the highest honor in computer science. I ask him what for, he starts explaining it, and I have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about.

I like that in my dreams I’m still basically myself. See opportunity to talk Shakespeare? Go for it. Of course that also shows my insecurities plain as day – people who don’t care to listen to me ramble about Shakespeare, or not being able to keep up my end of the conversation. I’ve come a long way over the years, realizing that neither of these things is the end of the world, and can in fact make for an amusing story :). At least, I hope.