cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “Hamlet”

“Dead for a Ducat!”


Valentine’s Day and a Shakespeare sonnet–right?  How about Shakespeare and the play I love to teach? 

You’re  probably wondering why I chose such an unlovely line for my Valentine’s Day post. Not the most romantic, I know, or even the most notable line of Hamlet–yet it does have a purpose. When Hamlet exults at his stabbing of the “rat” behind the curtain, the play changes. Hamlet changes. There is no turning back. 

By the time you read this post I will be well immersed in teaching Hamlet to my APsters and they will either be all in happily sailing with understanding and enthusiasm or they will have abandoned ship and rowed to shore. I have found either my students love, love, love the Danish doings of the undecided prince or are ready to move on and far away from Shakespeare. I have to remember my enthusiasm for Shakespeare isn’t always as contagious as I hope it to be.

I think I over prepare in hopes of dazzling my students with background facts, nuances, allusions, critical thinker questions, clips, trivia–oh my, I probably absolutely overwhelm them. I got lost on YouTube finding a clip for my class. It was a fun little side trip. Shakespeare hits the late night talk shows easily. It’s true what Ben J. said–Shakespeare is for all time. Especially late at night time. Take a look:

So happy Valentine’s Day and I hope that lovely sonnet pops up on someone else’s post.

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Review Round Up: January


I began a new Goodreads Reading Challenge for 2017 in January. I made my goal of 101 books (with a couple to spare) for 2016, so I thought “why not?” let’s see if I can achieve it again–maybe I’m pushing it. After all, to hit my goal I need to read at least eight books a month. So far so good. Of the eight books read in January here are my top picks:

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

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The main problem with patterning a storyline after Hamlet is the knowledge there will be no happy ending. This is especially true when the main idea is about a boy and his dog–Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows–case in point.
However, I plunged ahead because I am always open to a Shakespeare retelling, especially if it’s Hamlet.
As a debut novel, it’s ambitious, to say the least. First of all, it takes on Hamlet. Secondly, it weaves the story around the complicated business of dog breeding. Then there is the unique physical attribute that Edgar (the story’s Hamlet) was born without a voice. What he saw he could not easily tell. Pun or a deep metaphor? I haven’t decided.
The story also provides unusual omniscient point of view chapters. We even hear what the dogs are thinking.
It works. (four stars)

 

Rory's Promise

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A fascinating insight into another historical aspect of the Orphan Train. The Foundling Society of New York administered by Catholic sisters provided a clean, safe environment for orphans, a much different perspective than the more widely known Children’s Aid Society who ran the Orphan Trains that went out West.

The protagonist, Rory, refuses to be separated from her sister and risks her life to keep her promise that she would watch over her.

Based on historical fact, and the meticulous research is evident in the story. (four star)

 

 

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A throwback to the days of Greyhound travels and 1950s culture and values, Last Bus to Wisdom is a coming of age novel busting with wry mirth. Seemingly a combination of Little Britches and Mark Twain adventuring, Ivan Doig’s last novel truly is a wise choice of reading. (four star)

 

These three novels got me through the bleak days of January’s wintry blah days of icy cold and snow. A good book (three–score!), a cup of cocoa, and a crackling fire. Hmm, that’s what I call Book Booster happiness.

Fore Warned in My Musings…


Or this could be named: “Cricket Takes a Holiday”

(this is actually my second attempt at posting since the resort wifi is a bit tricky)

I will admit May is tough on teachers. Sure we get our free lunches, cards, and goody sacks on Teacher Appreciation day, but the rest of the year could use some boost and cheer as well. We are all a bit weary and the finish line is closer, yet not quite close enough.

If you are traisping over from my last post you understand I May *grin* be suffering from burnout. This is why I am on holiday. I took two of my hoarded personal holidays (we get three during the school year) and signed myself out for a four day weekend. Never mind it takes about three days to set up two days worth of lesson plans and I hope a sub can be found. I needed to get awaaaay. Yes, that is the sound of a teacher jubilating a happy sound as she pulls out from the parking lot Friday afternoon. And yes, there is a knapsack of ungraded papers I must deal with before I return to work on Wednesday.

The first two days of my retreat–wait, I need to digress…

Why call it a retreat, indicating I am running away from something when I am actually running toward what I embrace willingly without shame? There is honor is working in the trenches classroom. And maybe I am suffering from PTFSD (positively tired from student disconduct). 

Back…

The first two days were spent soaking up time with the hubs, who forbade any talk about school (good man), and soaking up the view, reading, sunning, and watching the swallows.

Our condo faces the fairway (have I got a story about nearly getting hit by a golfball–and I did have a forewarning, but not the yelled out kind) and is the flight path of the resident swallows. In fact, we share the roofline and they often sit near the rail, twittering and preening like tuxeodoed Woolworth parakeets. I love ’em. I left the robins home in the backyard. This is swallow country.

 

The third day finds me all by my lonesome. The hubs has returned home and I am told to “WRITE.” I have not been writing at home, being too (am)bushed from grading essays and creating lesson plans. This long weekend is meant to rejuvenate me enough to finish out the year and to get Something accomplished.

I have pulled up my Hamlet Choose Your Own Adventure manuscript. Not too much dust resting on it. I diligently worked on it all morning. I now have hit the wall. When that clock reads “1 PM” I have hit my creative capacity. I am not much good after sitting down four or five hours. I’m hungering for a walk. Either that or some chocolate. I better put on my shoes.

*update: I did both by stopping at the front desk to buy M&Ms to eat while I walked. Multitasking at its best.

 

 

Getting a Handle on Hamlet


Now that there is a little distance between my journey to DC for Hamlet Academy, I am in a very good place to reflect upon just how I will present the play to my students.

I have discovered exploring scenes through various reading techniques, paired with a cinematic clip, helps with clarity. But which film version to use? There is such a range.

For instance, when we study Hamlet’s quintessential  “To Be” speech, I can show the minimal setting of the stage with either Richard Burton or Kevin Kline. Then again, I might show it as the singular contemporary soliloquy of Ethan Hawke as he internalizes his inaction while walking through the action movie aisles of Blockbuster. There is also Branagh’s stylized mirrored reflection which contrasts with David Tennant’s sedate approach. I primarily feature Mel Gibson’s version because of its Renaissance setting. I am patiently waiting for Jude Law’s Broadway version to come out as a DVD. And then there is Benedict C’s London stage version, which I anticipate to be more than marvelous and hope it makes it onto DVD in the future. Because taking my students to London to see it, well–that would be an involved field trip request. For fun, I show Ahnold delivering the lines with swagger and CGI.

Yet with all these versions to select from, each has its own set of considerations when it comes which one to showcase in its entirety. Sir Larry’s is BW and my students aren’t keen on arcane classic. Tennant is clever, yet the juxtaposition of modern setting and classic Bard doesn’t always find favor. Ethan Hawk’s has a couple of awkward-in-the-classroom scenes. Branagh’s is way too long, and that leaves Mel, the popular choice, but with that problematic mother and son chat in her closet.

Every year I wrestle with the “which one” question. This year there is one more option. I recently discovered an amazing version I had no idea existed. A big thanks to LoMo, super Hamlet Academy mentor teacher, for the heads up on this new-to-me Hamlet.

Campbell Scott, son of George C. Scott, of Patton fame, might not be on everyone’s radar of well-known actors, but he definitely should be. I am looking into his other films, as I was quite impressed with his performance. In his version of Hamlet, which he co-directed, he sets the play in an Edwardian era that could either be east coast upper crust or Reconstruction South. This Hamlet family is one of tradition, power, wealth, and of course, one that has definite family issues.

There are many pluses to this version. For one, Scott’s Hamlet is of the appropriate age, many Hamlets are often pushing the 40 mark, which about 10 years older than the play age. The setting also lends credibility with the historical grandeur complementing the eloquence of the Bard’s language. Scott plays his Hamlet with intelligence without having to be eccentric, although there are moments that oddities pop up, such as wearing his mourning band as head band. His introspective interpretation helps the audience to feel the pain of indecision, as he flirts with madness, as he works out the conundrum of his avenge task: how crazy should crazy go?

Here’s a clip. What are your thoughts on Scott’s version? And while we are at it, which Hamlet version is your favorite?

‘Tis No Place Like Home


I learned through my Washington DC trip that seven days of Hamlet makes one weak. *ka-boom* Seriously, between the humidity, challenging schedule, walking briskly everywhere, and trying to eat healthily on a restaurant diet, I was glad to return home. I am ever so glad to have experienced Summer Academy, yet Dorothy got it right when she told Auntie Em, “Oh, there’s no place like home.” I freely admit to being a creature of known comforts such as my closet, refrigerator, and favorite health food store. 

Before I move on to my next big event of this summer–an AP Conference (no planes or time zones involved), I want to close out my Hamlet KWL chart: my What I Know, What I Want to Know, What I Learned.

What I Know

  • I already knew Hamlet was my favorite Shakespeare play, hence the  incentive to apply to the Folger Summer Academy.
  • Once I accepted, I knew there was going to be some personal discomfort ranging from dipping into the savings account to flying all by my lonesome and finding my way around megatropolis east coast city.
  • I knew I would would be pushed out of my social comfort zone. Gregarious hermits tend to exhibit coping problems at intensive social events.

What I Still Need To a Know

  • I still need to figure out how to assimilate all the wealth of information into my curriculum.
  • I need to know how I can return to the Folger Institute without having to fly there.
  • I would like to know how I can express my enthusiasm and wonder of Shakespeare to not only my students, but also to my friends and family, without appearing as a crazy English teacher. I am terming myself as a Bardinator, someone who appreciates Shakespeare to the point of edginess.

What I Learned–that’s a blog entry unto itself

  • I learned I get crazy before a big trip, worrying and anticipating about details that become trivial and insignificant in the grand plan.
  • I painfully learned when it comes to packing–go for the wheeled suitcase. The weight of a strapped bag increases significantly with each change of planes.
  • I can learn to adapt to most situations.
  • I also learned hotel pillows are never as comfortable as the ones at home.
  • I continually learn about selecting common sense over fashion sense, especially when walking in the rain.
  • I also continually learn that meeting new people and exchanging ideas is an integral component of a fulfilling life.

 For your viewing enjoyment–a wee bit of our Hamlet week: 
NOTE: thanks to the absolutely incredible staff at both the Folger Education Center and at the Folger Library for their hospitality, expertise, generosity, and impartation of how thrilling it is to live and breathe Shakespeare.

Cricket’s Hamlet Aventure: Day Six–Reading Room Remiss


Today was our last day in the reading room. The Folger Reading Room is the heartbeat of the Folger Shakespeare Library. This is where one goes to seek information, conduct research, and revel in past history. Yes, the majority of the collection is centered around Shakespeare, yet the library contains other information that relates to Shakespeare such as politics or manners for the time period.

I couldn’t help but notice the regulars that spend ALL day researching. I imagine we disrupted their mojo a bit this week as we whispered and bustled about in our scant time among the stacks. I asked one gentleman what his project concerned, expecting some dry thesis point about act three of Richard III. Nope. He was working on an Irish murder mystery that took place in medieval times and has been gathering background on law, setting, etc. His notebooks were overflowing. I wasn’t clear if he was gathering the material with the intent of writing a novel. I kind of hoped I was witnessing a renowned writer at work. We were unable to continue our conversation as I had to hustle back to Hamlet School. Here are a few memories of the Reading Room:

 

so much to learn in such little time

  

on the left is a “snake” which holds the page down –it’s a lead string

  

as Hamlet said so well:”Words,words,words”

  

plus drawings that bring it into better focus

  

the interior is richly Tudored and the stained glass at the end is Shakespeare’s Seven Ages of Man

 
I will definitely miss the Reading Room. Tea Time was served promptly at 3 o’clock every day. Cheerio!

Cricket’s Hamlet Adventure: 3rd Day–of Words and Rarities


Hamlet School began today.

Up at 6:30 am I quickly rustled up a yogurt cup over at Union Station and trotted over to Folger’s with several members of our Hamlet crew. We hoped we would remember together how to find our way there. If all walked in late we couldn’t get mass detention, right?

A very full day. I will say this–reflecting upon my years of teaching Hamlet, I know I could have taught it better. That’s one reason I applied to Folger’s Hamlet Summer Academy, to learn how to engage my students. Plus, Hamlet is THE favorite of all Shakespeare’s plays. After today, I could go home today fulfilled. I picked up so many tips and ideas I might have to teach Hamlet in the fall instead of spring I’m looking so forward to revamping my unit.

After a morning of focusing on the words and ways to enliven the interest of our students, we traipsed off the  Folger Library. This is no ordinary library. In order to access the reference material we had to apply to become readers (ahem–scholars) and then receive photo IDs. No books leave the room. It’s all about Shakespeare–and then some.  

 We were taken down to a special viewing of rare books, including a First Folio, and the lease for Shakespeare’s house, meaning I touched an artifact that the Bard handled. *tingles* For a Bardinator that’s cool stuff. If you’re aren’t a Bardinator, this might not be so impresssive. 

The afternoon involved reading lines, scenes, and eventually the play. Yes, it was a long day. I wonder how our students would fare if school consisted of 12 hour days?

I bid adieu to the remains of the day, exhausted, but still hoping to see more of the sights. My body tired, my mind is whirling from all the Hamletting done today. 

“O, there had been throwing about of brains.”

Cricket’s Hamlet Adventure: Day Two


After going to bed well after 11pm, drifting to dreamland to the continuing firecracker pops of Fourth of July celebrants and the  police sirens indicating aforementioned celebrants needed corralling, I realized my depth of tired from my very full first day. 

Second day

I slept in: 7:10 am. Jet lag, so far, proves no problem. 

Hmmm, whatever shall I do until 3 pm when I return to prepare for the welcome dinner? Since I’m walking, not being adventurous enough to attempt tour buses, taxis, or Metro buses, I fiddle with Google and determine the Smithsonian American History Museum is doable. I plug in Siri and her Google Maps expertise, and off I trot.

Forty minutes later I arrive with only five minutes until opening.

Highlights:

  • Third one in the door and I bee-line it to American Stories and gaze upon Dorothy’s Ruby Reds. 
  • I then promptly lose my school district’s iPad by leaving it on top of a display case. Great–fifteen minutes newly arrived as a tourist and visions of an angst filled day erupt. Prayer, and an angel of a docent, *shout out to Craig* my iPad and I am reunited via lost and found. The security man admonishs me to be “more careful” and I shall be.
  • Continuing on as a thankful and much more careful school teacher tourist, I return to discovering the Americana that reminds me how unique America is in its history. For instance, two favorite presidents as I’ve never seen them before:

The first statue of George Washington. They had gyms back then? Pretty impessive abs, GW.

  •    

Lincoln’s life mask. A bit macabre until realizing this was first cast when he was alive in 1860. Photographs are one thing, but this impression indelibly reveals a realism photographs can’t deliver. Moving through the Civil War exhibit I come across his last known photograph. I tear up. What a great man. What a great loss. I am emotional in each of the various military exhibits, reflecting upon family members who have served or plan to serve, and those, not just family, who have sacrificed for our country. Eyes and throat swelling with emotional realization of what sacrifice means, when I entered the Star-Spangled Banner exhibit, especially viewing the Ft. McHenry flag–yes, THE flag. 

Other highlights:

  • First Ladies inaugural gowns which both caught both the personality of the First Lady and a reflection of the time period.
  • A video of a nurse who had a reunion thirty-four years later with the Vietnamese baby girl rescued and was christened Kathleen. “They said we were killing babies during the war; here’s proof we saved them,” stated the nurse.
  •  DC is amazingly clean and everyone is so nice. From docents to other tourists, everyone is polite, friendly, and helpful. This teaches me to not believe in Bruce Willis’s Die Hard movies. DC does not stand for downright corrupt. It’s clean and nice, at least in my encounters so far.
  • I briefly stopped in the National Art Gallery. The beauty of exquisite masterpieces rendered me speechless at moments. Being inches from a Rembrandt reminds me how beautiful is the creativity of the human soul. 

    one of the many paintings that I beheld

     

After a much needed nap, I readied to meet my Hamlet Homies. We pizza-ed, we chatted, and we were briefed on our itinerary. We shall be Hamletting from 8am to 9pm Monday through Friday. This is the reason I’m here. “This isn’t the beach,” the director gently admonished us. “There are sixty other people who would love to be where you are.” Gulp. The pins she handed out carry a new meaning: 


To be or not to be committed to giving up my personal agenda of wanting to be a DC tourist (at least more than one day) and instead immerse myself in my Shakesperean scholar potential. 

We will see what Will holds in store for me. Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…

 

    All My Bag(s) Are Packed…


    I am ready to go. If you recall I earlier announced I am headed to Washington DC as one of the selected thirty teachers who will be part of the first ever Folger Shakespeare Summer Workshop. Though I won a spot, I still pay for the privilege. That was a different post.

    This post brings more details. For one: packing.

    I am in a firm believer in stow and go. I stuff what I need in my trusty Wally World roller, find an overhead bin and stuff it in. This trip is different. The MEPA, my most excellent personal assistant, will not be traveling with me. Flying six hours with a knee newly escaped from his brace is not on his list of really want to do that. Besides, he grew up on the east coast and has done Washington DC. I’ve not, and I am admittedly nervous. To save money I’m flying into Baltimore and will take the shuttle. I don’t want to look too much like tourist so I opted not to have a wheeled suitcase thumping behind me on the sidewalk. I shall be a bag lady instead. One of the sons left behind a nifty black sports bag and behold, all my stuff rolls up nicely inside. So packing is pretty much a done deal. Squeezing my needed lotions etc in the TSA quart bag proved more challenging (mousse or toothpaste–if the hair looks good do people notice teeth?)

    Because I have such an early flight (six-oh-my am) and the airport is about a two hour drive, plus having to arrive for early check in, I splurged and we are booked in at a Red Lion near the airport. I buy the room, the MEPA can spring for dinner. It might equal out because we favor this nice little spot that overlooks the river.

    My final travel prep entails my tourist itinerary. Having recently received my schedule I discover we are Hamletting from early morn to late at night. I have one day of DCing: Monday July 5 from 8 am to 3pm. Having scouted internet sources and weighing in opinions I’ve come up with this list of possibilities:

    • The Mall–apparently all the major landmarks harken in this area
    • The Library of Congress–I’ve already applied for my reader’s card
    • The Smithsonian–only if I’m very, very particular, as an entire week could be spent in just one wing. I’m thinking I would like to gaze upon Dorothy’s ruby red Oz slippers or Mr Roger’s cardigan. 

    What else, dear readers,  should I go for in such limited time? The Capitol is practically right outside the hotel, the website states. So much to do, so little time….

    Of Hamlet, Conundrums, Cost Factors–oh my


    I have decided that now and then it’s important to dip into the retirement fund to fully appreciate opportunities I may not be up for when I do finally retire. When the opportunity came up to apply for the first ever Folger Shakespeare Library Summer Workshop, I swiftly wrote up my reasons why I should be among the coveted twenty-five teachers who will get to study Hamlet. I don’t know if Midsummer Nights Dream or even King Lear would have caused me to leap without much looking. I don’t even recall what I wrote, I was in such an unmitigated hurry to apply.

    Whatever I wrote worked for them.  Come July I’m heading out to Washington DC to learn how to teach Hamlet to my students. Even though it’s costing me about a month’s salary (tuition, airfare, hotel–ooh, I have to eat, forgot about that) my hubs and family and friends convinced me to commit by saying: “Just go already.” They’re right. I would be full of regrets at having turned down the opportunity just because I like to save money instead of spend it. ‘Tis better to be filled with memories than regrets. Shakespeare didn’t write that, but I’m sure he thought along those lines when he trekked off to London for the theater.

    I will keep you all informed as I get closer to the event.  I think I’m getting excited–reality emails are arriving about getting prepared for the big trip. 

    1. I must supply a recommendation letter in order to secure my Reading Room pass. My local library card will not be sufficient. This puts studying Shakespeare into a totally different realization of *special event*.

    One thing I’ve noticed as July gets closer and my departure date, I’m more enthused about seeing Washington DC in movies we watch–“Hey, don’t blow up the White House! It’s on my tourista list.” Or a poke to the hubs “I’m gonna get a photo with Abe. I’ll give my regards.” The MEPA is an excellent fellow allowing me to gloat like this.

    I’ve only dipped my toe back East briefly when I attended a Chautauqua workshop back in 2008. Is the east coast still muggy in summer? My part of the planet sports dry  and hot summer fun. Humidifiers and air conditioners are standard issue. 

    As for tripworthy goals and accomplishments: I’m hoping Jude Law will stop by. Makes sense doesn’t it? He just did Hamlet on Broadway. I would settle for Patrick Stewart peeking in. David Tennant? I’m also hoping to dig in and get some amazing research done on a Shakespeare project I’ve been toying with the past five years. That Reading Pass will definitely come in handy. Of course, I really hope to bring back such astounding Hamlet lesson plans that they will transform my seniors into iambic spouting Bardinators.

    We interrupt this post with an important update:
    “participants should pack loose, comfortable clothing for stage work, including a workshop on swordplay.” SWORDS! 

    Being a West Coaster, I am so open to suggestions of what I should REALLY see when finding time to be a tourist in Washington DC.

    a bit about cricketmuse

    I intend to pack a bit more…

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