Welcome Back!

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year, everybody!

Hope everybody had a wonderful and relaxing time celebrating whatever combination of holidays that you do, in whatever ways that you do.  I know some Russian friends here at work are celebrating today, as a matter of fact.

Anybody get or give any good Shakespeare swag? My kids never fail to disappoint…

I got Shakespeare socks! They are, as you might expect with such novelty things, quite thin and I’m sure I will rapidly wear holes in them, but who cares! Shakespeare socks!

I also got a copy of Munchkin Shakespeare. Unfortunately, my kids did not realize that we already have that one in the house.  Heck, I was a Kickstarter backer for it!  We just never really play it, I got it more to add to my collection.

I am looking to sell this second copy, which is still in the shrink wrap, so that I can purchase “Bards Dispense Profanity” instead, because I don’t have that one. If you might be interested in taking it off my hands send me a message and maybe we can work something out. I have no interest in dealing with eBay or Craigslist.  I don’t consider my long time followers to be strangers in the same way that those services would be.

How’d everybody else do?




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No Icicles Yet! Also, Not a Dutchman

For No Shave November this year I did promise some update pictures, so here you go!

It’s Thanksgiving morning (though you’re no doubt seeing this on Friday), I’m in New England, and I’m waiting in the car before the big football game. It’s going to be record breaking cold out there.

None of my kids play football, mind you. One of my girls is a cheerleader.  So I will be sitting in the stands, watching her stand on the sidelines.  Our team’s not even really very good – I think I saw two wins this year.

All of this reminds me of a Shakespeare beard reference:

…you are now sailed into the north of my
lady’s opinion; where you will hang like an icicle
on a Dutchman’s beard, unless you do redeem it by
some laudable attempt either of valour or policy.

This one’s from Twelfth Night. One of Shakespeare’s better similes (…pause to recall high school English….tries to remember whether it is a simile or metaphor that uses like or as …. going with simile).

<time passes>

Ok, I spent about 15 minutes in the stands watching my daughter cheer and now I’m back in the car with a newfound appreciation for Dutchmen. Still not sure I’ve got icicles on my beard but man, those metal bleachers are cold. At least our team scored first.

So where were we?  Ah yes icicles in Dutchmen’s beards. I’m not completely sure what the quote means – is an icicle in a Dutchmen’s beard something that he’s just so used to that he ignores it? Or is it an annoying thing that he wishes to get rid of?  I take “sailed north” to mean “You’re gone, you’re out of her thoughts now until you go something to get back into them.”

Since Bardfilm sent me an article on the topic, I learned that it’s actually a reference to something specific, not just one of those hyperbolic hypotheticals, like “colder than various parts of a witch’s anatomy.”

For, the expedition of Bardendsz and Heemskerck which spent the winter of 1596/97 in the Arctic Circle appears to have appealed so strongly to the English imagination that references occur over a period of many years.

(Bardfilm, can you help me give proper credit for that quote?  Even if I copy down random words that look like the right names I’m sure to get the format wrong.)

I still don’t fully understand the context (the article goes into a discussion of scientific discovery dating back to Galileo and the cuts over to Hamlet, but I didn’t make the connection back to Twelfth Night). I’m guessing that it means, “When these dudes decided to sail north, everybody thought that’s it, they’re done, they’re never coming back.”  Then they actually did something important or learned something important, so when they returned those same people were all, “Dude, that was awesome.”

To my ear it sounds like, with a little shuffling of words, that “icicle in a Dutchman’s beard” could be looked at like a trophy.  I imagine these guys, who everybody thought as good as dead from their own stupidity, suddenly bursting into the local tavern, beards all full of icicles, making it more like a trophy of an important journey well taken.

Maybe not my finest analysis but did I not mention I’m sitting in my car in the parking lot? I’m lucky I’ve got wifi.

Speaking of beards, I’m trying to be part of No Shave November this year to raise some money for cancer prevention awareness.  This year I’m celebrating the holidays with three relatives in various stages of their own personal cancer battles. I hope none of you have to experience that.  Please consider a donation if you haven’t already.  Thanks as always for your continued support!


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Thankful for Little Candles

How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
Last year one of my daughter’s favorite teachers retired. This week he returned to the school to help mentor some of the freshman class, and my daughter sought the chance to catch up with him.
“Tell your dad,” he told her, “That I think of him whenever the Shakespeare category comes up on Jeopardy.”
That makes me very happy.  Not because there’s another person in the world more aware of Shakespeare than they would have been — he’s an English teacher for heaven’s sake, he would have already been killing it in the Shakespeare category.
No, that makes me happy for a number of other reasons.  For him to think of me that means he first has to think of my daughter.  Maybe over the years to come, he’ll tell people about that one year he had a young lady for a student that brought him Shakespeare cookies, and he will smile at the memory.
And for him to have told my daughter that means that it works in reverse, too.  Whenever my daughter sees the Shakespeare category she’s going to think about her favorite teacher. Other teachers have heard the Shakespeare cookie story and asked if they get cookies too.  Maybe they will – but they won’t be Shakespeare cookies. Those took on a surprising new meaning.
I’m not sure how long that memory will last, for either of them.  But I hope it makes them both happy for many years to come.
Those memories, that bond, and that happiness would not exist if not for what we do here.  Little candles indeed. Who knows what other stories are out there?
Happy Thanksgiving everybody.  Keep making life better.
And if you want to make a lot of lives better in a very real way, please consider a donation to my No Shave November page. This month we’re trying to raise money toward cancer prevention awareness.  This holiday weekend I’ll be seeing three relatives who are battling cancer. I hope none of you have to experience that, but statistically I’m afraid that won’t be the case.  Thank you so very much for your support!
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Found The Shakespeare Ninja

I love it when I get more Shakespeare than I expected.

Typically I start my work morning from the company kitchen doing various “sit at the computer” chores, like following up on emails or paying some bills.  Today I was finding video of the 2012 London Olympics because they used Caliban’s “Be not afeard” speech in both the opening and closing and I’d told my daughter’s teacher I would send links.

While I am doing this, a couple of coworkers sit down and we start to discuss Shakespeare – led by them asking me questions, not me boring them.  The conversation goes something like this:

“I read my share of Shakespeare, but never The Tempest.”

“Yeah, it’s a later play, probably most famous because people think of it as the last thing Shakespeare wrote. But it’s also the one that fits the fairy tale model the best, so it’s what I used to introduce my kids to Shakespeare.”


“Sure.  It basically goes once upon a time there was a little girl who lived on an island with her father, a powerful wizard.  She learns that she is a long lost princess.  One day pirates crash land on the island, and she meets a prince who promises to take her away to live happily ever after.”

“Seriously? That’s the plot of The Tempest?”

“Well, there’s a lot more to it than that.  But for a five year old?  Sure, that’s about it.  That works better than there’s this guy, see? And his uncle killed his dad and slept with his mom.  That only works with Lions.  And his best friends are a meerkat and a warthog!”

“Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?”

“Exactly.  If you hadn’t guessed I’m one of the ones who thinks there’s more *not* Hamlet in Lion King than is Hamlet, but I understand why people think that.  Uncle kills the king, son has to reclaim the throne? Fine, done, Hamlet. But that doesn’t mean everything else is automatically a parallel.  R & G were spies sent by Claudius to take Hamlet to his execution, they weren’t his best buddies going off on adventures and learning about life.  If you want to play that angle, Shakespeareans suggest it has more to do with Henry IV.”

“That’s the one with Falstaff, right?”

“Exactly. One of Shakespeare’s greatest unknown creations. If you haven’t studied Shakespeare, you probably don’t know Falstaff.  People know the title characters, your Richard III, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, and so on.  But there’s a case to be made that Falstaff is one of Shakespeare’s best.”

<fast forward as I bring up the big finish to Chimes at Midnight, the “I know thee not, old man” scene>

The two I’ve been speaking with agree that this is a very fine bit of acting, and we start wrapping it up to get back to work.  Another coworker, who I do not normally have much contact with, has come in for coffee on the tail end of that and makes a curious face, wondering what he missed.

“Oh, just some morning Shakespeare,” I tell him.

“Sorry I missed it,” he replies.  He then makes his coffee while rambling about imitating contagious clouds or something.  I assume that he is trying to sound Shakespearey.  People do that to me sometimes.  “Mine coffee thus needeth more sugar!” and what not.

“Cool,” I say when he looks at me for a response.  He leaves.

I fire up Open Source Shakespeare and check something. Son of a gun!

Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wonder’d at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.

He was quoting Henry IV Part 1!  I messaged him to confirm that I had to look up his reference, that I had totally missed it.  He apologized for getting the quote wrong.

I’ve worked here three years, that’s the first time he’s made a Shakespeare reference.  I wonder how many others I’m surrounded by on a daily basis?  It’s kind of exciting never knowing when random Shakespeare’s going to come at you unexpectedly.

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.

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RIP Stan Lee

In tribute to Stan Lee I was really hoping the word Excelsior appeared somewhere in Shakespeare’s work, but I could not find it.

However, about a month ago I did ask which Shakespeare stories would have made good superhero stories, and got many responses.  So I thought I’d gather them all together in one place, so that it will come back up as a “Best Of” over the years and we can appreciate the man all over again.

Superhero ShakespeareLink to the original tweet.

Hamlet is mentioned twice, as the “brooding” “superhero of doubt”.

Troilus and Cressida is also mentioned twice since most of the characters are mythical heroes in the first place.

Coriolanus is mentioned three times, but since I said it the first time maybe I skewed the results.  “He’s Captain America for Rome.”

Surprisingly (to me), Titus Andronicus showed up three times as well, for being a “hyper-violent edgy 80s comic gorefest.”

Alongside Coriolanus in the “Wait, I didn’t read that one in high school!” category, Cymbeline and Pericles also received a vote 😉 Pericles actually got two.

In total twelve different plays were suggested, which goes to show that the potential for a superhero story is all in the mind of the reader.   Imagination is everything.

If anybody needs me I’ll be waiting patiently for the next Avengers movie, hoping for a Stan Lee cameo, so I can cheer my head off. Excelsior!


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.

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