cricketmuse

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Archive for the category “Shakespeare”

Shakespeare Celeb:The Wit of Sonnet 130


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I admit most of this month’s tribute to Shakespeare has been focused on his plays, or at least I have admittedly grievously ignored his sonnets. This post shall attempt to make amends.

It’s impressive he wrote 154 sonnets, compared to writing 37 plays. It’s thought he wrote sonnets when the Puritans or the Health Department shut down the theatres, either for indecency complaints or plague control. There must have been some serious down time.

From fact finding, I discovered Shakespeare considered himself more poet than playwright, having first got his fame thing going with the publication of a couple of poems: “Venus and Adonis” (1593) and “The Rape of Lucrece” (1594). These got the attention of the Earl of Southampton who became Shakespeare’s patron. Scholars say other things about the Earl, but we shall not pursue the matter here.

Today I focus on one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. If you are interested in his full sonnet selection, go here:

Yes, I do have a favorite. Actually more than one. Sonnet 130, to me, captures the absolute wit of Shakespeare, especially this version. I’ll tell you why after you watch it.

At first, it seems as if the speaker is downgrading his lover. Instead of promoting her virtues he speaks of her unruly hair, less-than-fashionable hue of skin, and the fact that she treads instead of glides. Reeks means breathes, not stinks–a denotation clarification. In fact, what Shakespeare does is set it down that the speaker’s mistress is a human, not a goddess, which is something many of the sonnet writers espoused, that the women of their poetry were so perfect, so amazing, and as Shakespeare points out, so unreal. The woman of Sonnet 130 is not perfect, and doesn’t have to be to attain the speaker’s devotion.

The first half of the sonnet grinds away at her apparent imperfections, and the reader must think the speaker cruel and heartless. When the turn arrives, the shift in attitude (technically called the volta), clear down in the couplet, we discover the speaker said all that to say this:

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
     As any she belied with false compare.

This is Shakespeare’s point: the sonnet had become this competition of writing with a practiced extemporaneous style, as if the subject were so inspiring, words just flowed from pen to paper. Basically, it came off as phoney baloney. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 speaker lays it down truthfully: “hey, my girl may not fit the Elizabethan Renaissance standards of beauty, but she’s my girl–talking about my girl.” She’s real. She’s not perfect. She makes me happy. Thank you, Bill. The purple prose of yesteryear , the false compare, does not speaketh the truth. Women, and men, are not perfect. There is beauty in imperfection, and Shakespeare tells us so.

 

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Shakespeare Celeb: Birthday Condolences


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One of those learned Shakespeare facts to pull out to impress students is that he died on his birthday. They think that fact is weird and cool. I used to think Mark Twain died on his birthday as well. Turns out I was wrong. He came into the world with Halley’s Comet and left when it reappeared. Now, that is a weird and cool fact that gets my attention.

According to Mental Floss, there is a phenomena known as The Birthday Effect.  Apparently a person has a 14 percent higher chance of dying on his or her birthday. The Swiss did a study in 2012, so it must be true. This probably isn’t a planned event, at least it’s hoped not. That would be a terrible closure to a birthday party. It’s conjectured that Shakespeare partied a bit too “merrily” with his chums and succumbed to a fever. Watch out for combining ale and pickled herring. Or at least check the expiration date on the herring.

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April 23, 1616. This is both Shakespeare’s birthday and day of passing, making him 403 years old. There isn’t much of a to-do at 403, but his 400th birthday was a world wide event. Stopping to think about it, if you celebrate his birthday you are also celebrating his death. I don’t think Hallmark makes a birthday condolence card. Yet. On a lighter consideration, Shakespeare does share this Birthday Effect with some other notables. Maybe this is a condolence of sorts, that he shares his birthday/deathday with a few other famous folk:

Raphael–painter

corrie ten boom

Corrie Ten Boom-Holocaust survivor

Grant Wood-painter of the American Gothic

Ingrid Bergman–actress

Shakespeare Celeb: Beyond the usual Bill of Fare


Adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays can be easily found from traditional:

To interpretative:

 

There are far fewer films that delve into the life of Shakespeare himself. A couple that come to mind:

Liberties abound, although it was entertaining.

A rolicking funny version of Shakespeare’s purposed life:

And Branagh, as only he can do Shakespeare–a bit over the top, yet commendable:

Shakespeare Celeb: By Any Other Name


I’m known as The Shakespeare Lady at school. Well, I do prod along that image by introducing myself as such at Shakesperience and other opps. I also get VERY excited when I teach Shakespeare. I wear a range of t-shirts sporting the likeness of Shakespeare and attach my “To Be or Not To Be” button on my lapel when we delve in to Hamlet.

I go beyond appreciating Shakespeare. I am past being a fan. How do I put it?

Image result for 10 things I hate about you

People who adore Shakespeare, who are involved, are those who go beyond the occasional dabbling, watching, and appreciating. News feed alerts sport Bard bits of interest, outrage at hints of him not being the true author of his works, random drops of trivia pop out–these are all symptoms of going beyond simply being a fan. I have a term for such a person:

Bardinator /n./ a person who goes beyond face value knowledge of Shakespearean works and dives in to study, appreciate, and revel in the works of William Shakespeare to the point of total commitment. Simply put–a dedication to the Bard’s works beyond what is considered sufficiently normal. 

I am a Bardinator. Sounds like the Terminator, I know. Maybe there is some similarity. Committed purpose (focus on his works), time traveler (going back 400 years to understand his word and then jumping to present time to insert relevance), and perhaps being intimidating (I would like to think so, at least).

There are probably an assortment of fan tags out there for Bard aficionados. For now, I will continue my quest to learn more about his works. I have yet to fully understand all his plays and sonnets. I’m in no real rush. I need something to look forward to in retirement.

Shakespeare Celeb: Shakesperience


What can you say about a work of literature that carries over into several centuries and still has meaning? For one thing, you can say “Shakespeare.” His writing certainly fascinates, attracts, and illuminates the times. Fashion may change, but human emotions definitely haven’t evolved much in 400 years. Even my sophomores are totally getting the value of studying Julius Caesar this year.

Recently our school hosted Shakesperience, which is a NEA sponsored acting troupe that travels throughout schools in our fair state, presenting, yes, you guessed it, Shakespeare. They shake down a three-four hour play into one hour based on a theme. This year they showed As You Like It set in the eighties. Gotta love eighties fashion (or lack of it). The actors have lots of energy and speak Bard. I always wonder if students “get it”–they must, because they laugh in the right places.

My favorite part of arranging Shakesperience is the afterwards. Students trundle out of the auditorium with smiles, sharing happy moments from the play. One of the best shares so far was on the fly.

Grabbing a quick snack at the cafeteria wagon after the performance I felt a tap on the shoulder. I turned and one of the students who had pleaded with me to allow him to attend the performance (even though arrangements should have been made previously and not a half hour before the show starts) stared at me for a couple of seconds. I prompted him, “So, you liked the play?” He widened his eyes and placed his fingertips to his forehead and “exploded” them off his face, complete with appropriate sounds. I understood that he meant the performance blew his mind.

Old play, new way, same words, and they get it. Yup, can’t wait for next year.

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Shakespeare Celeb: Here’s Looking At You, Bill


So much is focused on what Shakespeare wrote. Lots of kerfuffle if he actually wrote what he wrote. Mmm, not going there. Instead–

Isn’t anyone curious what he looked like?

Here are the traditional portraits:

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And the not so traditional portraits:

 

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I honestly think old Ben Jonson had it spot on when he said Shakespeare was for all time. Shakespeare would fit in well today with his styling soul patch, facial trim, and flowing curls with dome. The pumpkin pants are a no go though. Same for the neck ruff. Only cats recovering from nasty bouts with other cats should wear those.

For the more academic aspect of Shakespeare portraiture, tune in here.

 

 

Shakespeare Celeb: William’s Words


Words Shakespeare Invented
(under the guise of April’s Word Nerd Confessions)

Getty Images/Edward Gooch

image: Mental Floss

While Shakespeare was a creative wordsmith–no doubt there, it should be noted that he tended to borrow from other sources and polish them so well that they became associated more with him than the original. I cite the sonnet form, Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar as starter examples.

Another aspect of polishing came to words. It’s thought Shakespeare contributed at least 1,500 words to the common language, some sources say it’s closer to 1,700. He achieved this by changing nouns into verbs or verbs into adjectives or splicing together words. Shakespeare Online.com, a marvelous source of all matter Shakespeare, has compiled a short list of some of his contributions. For further elaboration on his wordly inventions please click here.

Note: clicking on the word will take you to the play where it was used.

academe accused addiction advertising amazement
arouse assassination backing bandit bedroom
beached besmirch birthplace blanket bloodstained
barefaced blushing bet bump buzzer
caked cater champion circumstantial cold-blooded
compromise courtship countless critic dauntless
dawn deafening discontent dishearten drugged
dwindle epileptic equivocal elbow excitement
exposure eyeball fashionable fixture flawed
frugal generous gloomy gossip green-eyed
gust hint hobnob hurried impede
impartial invulnerable jaded label lackluster
laughable lonely lower luggage lustrous
madcap majestic marketable metamorphize mimic
monumental moonbeam mountaineer negotiate noiseless
obscene obsequiously ode olympian outbreak
panders pedant premeditated puking radiance
rant remorseless savagery scuffle secure
skim milk submerge summit swagger torture
tranquil undress unreal varied vaulting
worthless zany gnarled grovel

Ready for a challenge? Create a sensible sentence with as many of the above words as possible. Here’s a starter…

So–next time you reach for the skim milk, hoping you won’t be disheartened  to discover it’s worthless and sour, initiating a rant of discontent, consider a generous thanks to the Bard for providing a varied list to select from so as not to impede  your outbreak towards those accused of leaving milk past its prime in the refrigerator, because a  tranquil   kitchen produces radiance. I know, this sentence is laughableif not zany.

Celebrating Shakespeare


There are many aspects to April to celebrate: daffodils, warmer weather, rain instead of snow (finding the positive), poetry, and Shakespeare. No matter your feelings about Shakespeare, it is pretty cool that he died on the same day he was born: April 23.

As a way to celebrate Shakespeare’s coolness, the month of April will be dedicated to all things Shakespeare. Get ready for a range of celebratory stuff. Here’s a starter:

 

 

Yup, “To Be or Not To Be” in Klingon. Now, that’s what I call awesome.

Movie Musings: Bill


The mystery of William Shakespeare’s “lost years” are revealed in the 2015 film Bill.

Be forewarned though, this is merely a presented supposition. A hilarious one at that. Why couldn’t William of Stratford be an aspiring lute player hoping to make it big on London stages? Seems to fit right in there with the other theories of him being a teacher, lawyer, sailor, butcher, baker, candlestick maker. Well, maybe not actually a candlestick maker, more of a candlestick consumer (burning those late night candles writing, writing, writing).

But in Bill, William is not penning plays, he’s tuning up songs. And many of his plays do feature songs, so perhaps he was a frustrated musician. The lute being the forerunner to the guitar suits him as it can be soulful, playful, and even rock n roll in approach. I think he would prefer the Beatles over the Rolling Stones. However, in the movie, Bill is terrible at playing the lute. Horrible, in fact. Good thing he’s got this play he’s been working on, especially since Good Queen Bess is demanding a new one for her courtside entertainment.

This is where the story get going. Bill does have a play. Well, most of one. Other people want it as well for their own nefarious purposes. Intrigue, slapstick, punnery and foolery ensue. Think Monty Python meets Studio C on the skewed History Channel.

Family entertainment at its best and a must for Bardinators. A bonus is the various Star Wars lines that are woven into the dialogue.

[Nicely done, Cricket–you managed to squeeze in your Monthly Movie Musings and your Shakespeare-for-the-23rd post]

Julius Caesar: Shaken Up


The Ides of March:

a) preview of March Madness

b) a week of spring sales

c) the middle of March

d) a George Clooney movie

e) when a certain Roman emperor got the point he wasn’t as loved as he thought he was

Answers: c)true; d)true; e)true; a) and b) contenders, because one never knows

And bonus points for knowing e) is Julius Caesar and that the 15th are the Ides of March, the middle of March.

This is useful information for Trivia Night at the local pub. Truly.

Recently our school hosted this year’s Shakesperience play: Julius Caesar. Shakesperienceis a troupe of enthusiastic actors who travel to various schools and present 50 minute versions of a selected Shakespeare play. They are always innovative in approach. This is done out of necessity . For one, they have only six actors, which means playing multiple parts. They also have minimal staging, their main piece being a tiered rolling scaffold.

This year’s production was especially innovative in that Caesar was a woman and Calpurnia became husband Calpurnius. It worked well.

It was tricky presenting a assassination in a school culture where performing violence is challenging at best. Again, innovation took the lead. When the big moment arrived, each conspirator took a sheet of paper and created a weapon: fashioned brass knuckles, tightly rolled paper points equating knives. No blood, torn paper, a shower of confetti symbolized death.

During question and answer it was revealed the torn paper bits represented the tearing of a person’s life, how a person’s life is symbolized through paper: obituaries, text, etc. Ripping up the paper is shredding their life. Brilliant and school appropriate.

I always look forward to these yearly performances. Yet, every year it’s tough to gather an interest due to working around students who either can’t or don’t want to miss their class. District testing scheduled on that day doesn’t help either. Unfortunately providing opportunities for culture suffers the injuries incurred by the tyranny of the urgent set by educational must-do, like yet another test.

Hoping Shakespeare performed live is coming to a theatre near you, or better yet, to a school in your neighborhood.

And do be aware of the Ides of March.

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