Category Archives: Shakespeare

Quote me on that… we shall ne’er be younger #Shakespeare

we shall never be younger shakespeare

Adapted from an original image by Brett Davies under creative commons

The Taming of The Shrew has never been a play I’m particularly fond of, for obvious reasons but even so, Shakespeare had some great lines especially about grabbing hold of life in the face of your own mortality. I like to think of this as the more romantic equivalent of gathering rosebuds while you still can…

Hamlet… in an eggshell

Happy Easter! I might have had a little too much time on my hands today, so how better to spend it than making the cast of Hamlet from eggs… yeah, don’t answer that.

Hamlet eggs

Omlet, Prince of Denmark

It’s only when you make the cast out of eggs that you realise how many Easter puns you can stick into misquotes. Alas, poor Yoregg, I knew him well… Don’t worry. I’m back in work tomorrow.

The croaking raven doth bellow for revenge… or how to really annoy someone who ripped you off

I came across an article about Ed Joseph who decided to get his own by on a Gumtree scammer by copying and pasting the complete works of Shakespeare and sending them to the guy by text. Because he’s got unlimited texts, he won’t pay a penny, while the scammer’s phone will go into meltdown with all the texts coming through.

I like this, it’s a classy form of revenge. But surely the guy can just black list his number? Maybe not before it hits some kind of limit for texts on a server. I’m pretty sure that unlimited text packages have a fair usage clause. I wonder if O2’s policy considers a man sending 17,424 texts fair usage? If not, it could bite you on the ass with a massive surprise phone bill.

Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

benedick and beatriceThis week I’ve been spending a lot of time lying on my sofa recovering from my operation and have been too tired to do anything, including read. After dozing through way too much daytime TV my soul was beginning to feel rotten so I decided to see if there were any films I wanted to see via the Virgin Box, and lo and behold, there was Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing (my absolute favourite Shakespeare play, seriously, I can recite almost all of it with a bit of prompting) which I’ve been wanting to watch for ages.

I’m a bit of a Whedon geek, though I didn’t realise exactly how much until I watched this film (hello Wesley, hello Fred, hello Agent Coulson) and I was initially concerned that I was too familiar with the actors’ other work with Whedon to really believe in their portrayals of the characters I know and love but my fears proved unfounded and I thought it was amazing.

The first thing that really impressed me was that from the very beginning of the film Whedon did something that most director’s don’t and made the hints that Beatrice gives about her previous romantic relationship with Benedick explicit for the modern audience. For example, the film starts with Benedick sneaking out of bed as Beatrice sleeps, clearly some time in the past, and foreshadows Beatrice’s line “You always end with a jade’s trick. I know you of old” beautifully. Having said that, portraying it as an overtly sexual relationship makes it harder for the viewer to accept Claudio’s reaction to the “reveal” of Hero’s “disloyalty” later in the film, so this divergent approach is a little problematic but, regardless of that, kudos for highlighting this- it’s something a lot of directors seem to disregard and I think it’s crucial to the audience’s understanding of the root of their “merry war”, which is obviously anything but.

I hate the moment in which Hero is disgraced in Much Ado so much it feels like I’m going to break out in hives, but I admired the way Whedon had Leonarto, played by Agent Coulson Clark Gregg, portray this moments with shades of grey- obvious tenderness for his daughter among the shock and horrific lines that his character speaks. This is a really problematic moment in any modern adaptation of Shakespeare, but I think they handled it as well as they possibly could have done given that it’s a feminist’s nightmare and I like to think that Whedon would have given this due consideration. He is, after all the guy who gave Buffy this kick ass line

In every generation, one Slayer is born, because a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago made up that rule. They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power, should be *our* power. Tomorrow, Willow will use the essence of this scythe to change our destiny. From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

I digress. The thing that really gets me through Hero’s first wedding is the character of Dogberry, played to absolute perfection by that creepy priest Caleb Nathan Fillion who absolutely stole the show with his acting. I was really impressed by how convincingly the Watch could be played as a modern American cop drama scenario without it seeming jarring or incredibly anachronistic. In fact, for me, this was the most impressive moment in the film. See a snippet of Dogberry and co. here:

I was surprised when reading the trivia section on IMDB that apart from the abridgments (which sadly saw Beatrice’s line about being “overmaster’d with a piece of valiant dust?” being cut) Joss Whedon had changed only one line in the play which was from “if I do not love her, I am a Jew” to “if I do not love her, I am a fool.” On the one hand, I can completely understand why he did this, but I did think it was strange that he let this line lie but retained Claudio’s “I’ll hold my mind, were she an Ethiope.” Shakespeare is full of huge amounts of language and Elizabethan attitudes which are totally appalling to a modern-day audience, but by changing a line to avoid antisemitism, and letting an explicitly racist line lie I think that you create a problematic environment in which you either need to be totally true to the text or clean up the play completely.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes Shakespeare and any Whedon fans who have yet to whole heartedly embrace the bard. The official trailer is below.

Literature Spotting in Central Park

If you ever drop in on my Twitter account, you’ll know that I was in New York for work last week. Working with jet lag was… interesting, fun but very hard work concentrating. The upshot was that my hotel was very close to Central Park so I went wandering there in the afternoons after work and spent most of Saturday marching around from landmark to landmark, from The Mall to The Conservatory Water (via the zoo…). I loved Central Park and could wax lyrical about how amazing I thought it was for hours (pops up in so many books as well) but I won’t instead I will share with you some of the literary statues I managed to track down using a Central Park Map I printed before I went.

Central Park Alice in Wonderland Statue with Children

Alice in Wonderland Statue- Memorial to Margarita Delacorte

Central Park Hans Christian Andersen Statue

Hans Christian Andersen Statue

Central Park The Mall Burns

Robert Burns Statue on The Mall

Central Park The Mall Halleck

Fitz-Greene Halleck Statue on The Mall

Central Park The Mall Shakespeare

William Shakespeare Statue on The Mall

Central Park The Mall Scott

Walter Scott Statue on The Mall

I tried getting to The Shakespeare Garden and hunting down the Romeo and Juliet statue on the Saturday but unfortunately that whole area was fenced off for an Alicia Keys/Stevie Wonder concert that I didn’t have a ticket for… did I miss anything else?

Visit to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

Ann Hathaway's Cottage

Ann Hathaway’s Cottage

My boyfriend and I took a detour past Anne Hathaway’s Cottage on the way home from a family event today. Run by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, it’s the childhood home of Shakespeare’s wife and young William would have gone there when he went a wooing.

If you haven’t been, it’s definitely worth a visit. Your ticket allows you entry to the house and gardens for the year, and if you lived locally then it would be worth going back frequently for the gardens alone, we arrived in the middle of the Sweet Pea Festival, which was beautiful but they have seasonal events throughout the year. There’s currently an exhibition of the language of flowers which talks about how Shakespeare used the hidden meaning of flowers in the play, though this seemed to be very much aimed at a school age audience (eg. when they talked about Ophelia handing out flowers to King Claudius’ court they didn’t mention that the rue Ophelia keeps for herself may be as an abortifacient as she is pregnant with Hamlet’s child).

I was especially excited to see the bed which may or may not be the second best bed that Shakespeare left to his wife in his will (as re-imagined in one of my favourite poems by Carol Ann Duffy) though apparently the teasel heads are used to discourage visitors from sitting on the bed rather than for any symbolic meaning, as related in this amusing video.

Shakespeare's Second Best Bed?

Shakespeare’s Second Best Bed?

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Penny ground with first half of sonnet 116...

Penny ground with first half of sonnet 116…

... and the second half of sonnet 116

… and the second half of sonnet 116

 

Shakespeare’s Birthday Playlist

Shakespeare's Birthday Playlist Happy 499th birthday, Mr Shakespeare! Following on from my post about my favourite Shakespeare Inspired Songs last year, I thought I would really liven the party up with a Shakespeare inspired playlist from my Spotify account. Let me know if there’s anything great that I’m missing and I’ll make sure I add it (Phantom Siren sent me some great suggestions last year).

 

 

 

 

So we have a mixture of songs about Shakespeare plays, songs inspired by Shakespeare lines and a few sonnets set to music… Now all we need is some Shakespeare style party food and we’ll have a good thing going.

Top 5 Shakespeare Inspired Pop Songs

April 23rd was an important date in the life of Mr William Shakespeare- he died 396 years ago today, and is estimated to have been born 448 years ago today as a record of his baptism was dated April 26th 1564 though the actual date of his birth is unknown.

To celebrate this date in a slightly different way, I thought I would share with you a playlist of my Top 5 Shakespeare Inspired Songs. And yes, it’s a little dominated by Romeo and Juliet but that’s because it’s cool, okay?

1. Dire Straits- Romeo and Juliet

This is my absolute favourite Shakespeare inspired song, and with lines like “You promised me everything, you promised me thick and thin. Now you just say, “Oh Romeo, yeah, y’know I used to have a scene with him,” how could I not? A bit of a bittersweet one for me because it reminds me of a good friend who is no longer in my life.

 MC Lars- Hey There Ophelia

If you haven’t experience MC Lars yet, you need to check him out of Spotify or Facebook then buy his albums. So many of his songs are funny, clever takes on classic literature, but this is one of my favourites. An emo retelling of Hamlet, this is brilliant example of textual transformation but with a damn catchy chorus. I just love the end:

“If you’re ever up in Denmark on a moonlit night
You’ll hear Ophelia’s sad song when the full moon’s bright
Baby I’m sorry I messed up, good night my sweet princess
May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest” –MC Lars

 Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More

Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, it depends whether I’m after a tragedy or comedy but I just can’t get enough of B+B’s love hate relationship. I also love Hey Nonny Nonny. I especially enjoy singing it to the tune I learned in the Kenneth Brannagh version. Quoting almost directly from the play in places, Mumford and Sons have created their own eerie take with this song which to me follows some of Claudio’s character progression.

 Taylor Swift- Love Story

Okay, so Taylor may have changed the story a little bit in this song? But who cares?! I studied this play through school and university, taught it to numerous classes when I was teaching and have seen it performed countless times. And I still hold out hope that fate will let the star-crossed lovers wriggle through her net.

 We The Kings – Check Yes Juliet

If Romeo had ever been in a power pop band… okay, it’s a little more tenuous than the others, but don’t let that bother you. Just turn it up, jump around the bedroom singing, “Forever we’ll beeeeeeeeeee, you and me.” Try it. You’ll like it.

What are your favourite Shakespeare inspired songs? I’ll add them to my playlist, cos I’m cool like that…