It’s Going To Be A Good Year

Longtime readers of the blog will know that we’ve been waiting literally for years for my kids to start learning Shakespeare in school. Middle school was a big bust, with one teacher in the eighth grade who dragged his feet during Romeo and Juliet to the point where my oldest never even finished it, and when her younger sister later had the same teacher, he didn’t even try, he just showed the movie.

My oldest is in high school now and taking a class called Monsters in British Literature, where they’ll be reading The Tempest.  My favorite. The one I used to tell them as a bedtime story.  Plus, bonus? The same teacher does the second semester Shakespeare in Modern Film class, also known as the one where I get Bardfilm to do my kid’s homework.

Well tonight was open house where we got to meet the teachers.  Look what greeted me in Monsters and British Lit?

Oh, yeah.  We’re gonna have a good time with this class.

The class will cover Beowulf and Frankenstein as well as Caliban. The teacher made it a point to mention that she’d recently seen The Tempest at the Globe, and how she just loves being “the Shakespeare teacher.”

I introduced myself briefly – “My daughter’s been raised on Shakespeare. I read The Tempest to them as a bed time story. I think we’re gonna love this class.” I knew I could have talked her ear off.  I had pictures of my kids in the Folger vault loaded up and ready to go on my phone. I showed great discipline, I want everybody to know!

I hope to have very many exciting stories in the upcoming year.  It’s been a long time coming! A fine fine day indeed.



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Shakespeare Beer Continued : The Tempest

Yesterday I told you about the joys of the Shakespeare beer known as ShakesBeer and how I came to discover it. I’ve already discussed their New England IPA known as “Act One”.

Today let’s talk about their “Imperial IPA”, The Tempest. It would have been awesome if they’d kept the “Act” thing going but there’s an obvious hard limit there so I can see why they couldn’t do that.

I love the branding on this one.  It’s no secret that The Tempest is my favorite play, and I’m happy to see its image on the shelf.  If I could get my hands on the cans themselves (without the contents) I’d add them to my collection of Shakespeare stuff.  I suppose I could just wash out an empty but I’d feel like I’m back in college building a tower of empties if I did that.

This one is noticeably darker than the Act One, but I suppose maybe not so noticeably because my wife claimed she could not see the difference until I put the two side by side.

A juicy New England Style IPA featuring six different hop varieties and a more robust 7.7% ABV.

I could definitely see and taste a big difference. The flavor is much stronger and richer here, and that 7.7% ABV is nothing to slouch at.  Let’s put it this way, I had the Act One at a leisurely pace on a Sunday afternoon while I watched football. I had The Tempest after dinner on a weekday when I had to go pick up my kid from dance in an hour.  Totally felt it, could not have had two.

I think both of these are going to make nice fall selections. As I’ve gotten older I still enjoy a beer, but I’m not the type to just keep pounding them back. So flavor is a big deal, but so is not getting buzzed – I’m getting too old for that nonsense, the kids need homework help.  For both of these I’m happy to have one, maybe two, depending, and that’s just right for me.

It looks like they have a third option, A Midsummer Night’s Ale, but since it’s listed as a summer brew I’m going to assume that I missed the seasonal window and will have to wait until next year.

Hey ShakesBeer people, are you out there?  I think we’d all like to see “A Winter’s Ale” as your next offering!




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So, Anybody Want To Pre-Read My Book?

A funny thing happened the other day while discussing with my daughter.   I discovered a book I’d written on the subject and completely forgotten about.

For years I’ve daydreamed about writing my own “intro to Shakespeare,” a fantasy that has evolved over time.  My hard drives are littered with half-hearted starts that never went anywhere because I always talked myself out of it. Either I didn’t have the audience, the audience I wanted was already saturated, or I just plain wasn’t qualified.  Finding excuses not to do something is easy.

But at some point, I sat at the keyboard long enough and wrote a complete-ish guide to The Tempest. It only goes about 17 PDF pages and is maybe 5000 words. But it has an introduction, a conclusion, and some actual structure in the middle.  It’s even got pictures 🙂

Now I’m trying to decide what to do with it.  I don’t expect that, by itself, I can just say “Here world, enjoy!” But I also know that I don’t need 50,000 words to throw something out on Amazon that people might find worth reading.

That’s where you come in. I’d like to send it to a few people who’d be willing to give some constructive criticism about what I might do with it – content to add, mistakes to correct, fine-tuning to …tune.  I do not need an academic redlining, believe me. I’ve already got 99 reasons to forget the whole idea.  I’m looking for supportive folks who’ll help me actually do something with this instead of giving me more reasons to forget the whole idea.

My real motivation for doing this is because both my girls want to be writers, and both of them suffer from terrible anxiety about letting the world see their work. I’m using this as an opportunity to throw something out there and show them that not only does the world not come to an end when other people read your stuff, but they might actually get some value out of it.

If you’re interested, please drop me a line at and I’ll send you the PDF. I’d like to get into an email correspondence with anybody that’s got feedback to offer, I’m not looking for just comments here on the blog post.

Thanks so much to everybody in advance!



The Tempest Is A Bad Play

Got your attention?  Because it certainly got mine when I read it.

I didn’t write it — this guy did.

A friend cc’d me on a shared post, knowing that a clickbait headline like that was guaranteed to make me a little nuts.  It did.

His argument appears to be that Prospero is too powerful, and his enemies don’t stand a chance against him, therefore it’s boring to watch what we know will be his ultimate triumph over them.  I think this guy maybe thought he was going to see Infinity War or something. He’s describing Shakespeare like a superhero movie and he’s disappointed that there weren’t enough explosions.

He also seems bewildered at this idea that we know how the play is going to end, therefore it stinks:

We must root for him, and we know at every moment that he — yawn — will triumph.

…but you know in an instant how that’s going to end up; there’s no more suspense in it than in the Harlem Globetrotters taking on the Washington Generals.

I wonder how he feels about Romeo and Juliet?

At the end, though, he seems to actually get it:

There is a scene toward the end of the play in which Ariel expresses sympathy for Prospero’s enemies, laid low as they are from Prospero’s magic. Prospero marvels at the fact that the inhuman Ariel can experience empathy, where he, though human, cannot. And at that moment Prospero has his singular insight, which turns his life around: although he himself is at present incapable of empathy, he must act as though he has empathy for others, and, over time, learn to acquire it. And to do so, he must give up his god-like powers, and take his share in the human heart.

Like the kids say, and excuse my language, No Shit, Sherlock. That’s the story that’s in front of you the whole time.  Did you think that the director and actors put it there? I don’t follow how you get off calling the play terrible for half your word count, and then saying “But, this production was amazing.”  Were you scarred by a bad high school production when you were a child?

This guy’s bio suggests he’s actually seen Shakespeare more than once, so the only possible explanation I can find for this nonsense is that he’s trolling us.  He also takes a random slap at Coriolanus, which is apparently also terrible.  I’m surprised he didn’t say Hamlet is overrated and Falstaff’s not that difficult a role to play.



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Guest Post : The Wild Waves Whist by Erin Nelsen Parekh

Back in September 2016, Shakespeare Geek readers helped make life better by backing Behowl the Moon, a baby board book based on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, into existence. I’m very happy to welcome back Erin Nelsen Parekh to tell us about her follow on project “The Wild Waves Whist”, using material from The Tempest.

Maybe you remember reading here about Behowl the Moon, the board book that turns two quotes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream into a story for babies and toddlers. There’s a second book up on Kickstarter now that would make it a series: The Wild Waves Whist, which steals two bits of The Tempest.

The Wild Waves Whist will have more Shakespeare-certified animal noises, more rhymes, more funny old language, an island setting brimming with mystery and possibility. It will be a delight and a dare.

Many of you helped bring Behowl the Moon into being by supporting it on
Kickstarter. And once it was made, the pairing of Shakespeare’s words and narrative art caught a good bit of attention (link to Behowl the Moon is just about sold out of its first printing and going back to press!

It’s not probably ever going to be a blockbuster—not every adult wants this kind of wordplay during storytime with a kid. Even if they did, lots of people grow up with no feelings about Shakespeare aside from vague, homework-induced distaste. But among those who love and respect the complex play of image and sound and meaning in Shakespeare’s work, Behowl the Moon finds the perfect audience.

The Wild Waves Whist
Back The Wild Waves Whist on Kickstarter now!

What actually happens when you mix small children and early modern English? My oldest, at two, told me we needed breakfast, “else the Puck a liar call.” A three-year-old remixes songs and quotes: “Twinkle, twinkle, little star, and the wolf behowls the moon.” When I read for a group of kids, usually aged from about one to three or sometimes all the way to six and seven, they hiss for “’scape the serpent’s tongue,” clap on “give me your hands,” lay their heads down at “good night unto you all,” and happily roar, tweet, bray, hoot, and squeak whenever they get a chance. And everybody, everybody, howls.

Toddlers interact with a snippet of unadulterated Shakespeare just as they would any other kids’ book, remembering the bits they like the sound of, puzzling out what’s going on in the pictures, asking questions about the characters. They are hilarious and brave and unexpected. I have to make another one—just to see what they’ll do next.

If you can help me make this, by supporting the project, sharing the link, or telling a friend, you’ll get my endless gratitude—and we’ll get to find out what happens together.

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