Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Go Fishing with Shakespeare

Shakespeare's birthday is worth a blog, although new blog posts ordinarily come up monthly on Shakespeare in Fiction and Fact. (This will in fact be the third April post, since the extraordinary discovery of a new scene from Romeo and Juliet on the oddly meaningful date of April 1st demanded its own story.) Shakespeare is 449 today, and celebrations of his birth among Shakespeare maniacs are in full force on both sides of the Atlantic. If you want to wander down or teleport to the Bankside, London, you can hear world-class theater historians discussing such topics as why the Globe playhouse was round and how Elizabethan London looked when it was plastered with playbills. Washington, D.C., that intellectual town, has declared it open house at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where are stored most of the original First Folios. (These are huge first editions of Shakespeare's complete plays put out by his fellow actors in 1623, and We Capitalize Them.) (Pun unintentional.) In Chicago, they're doing their annual "Chicagoans Talk Like Shakespeare Day," so stay away from there. It's best, I think, to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday in Kalamazoo, where spring has finally arrived and where, though students at Western Michigan University are now taking their Shakespeare finals, many will later be gathered at Shakespeare's Pub downtown on Kalamazoo Avenue. What is that, you say? It's a beautiful old squarish stone building with "Shakespeare" engraved on the front wall, and inside it's a sports bar! But it wasn't always a bar. For seventy years it was the national headquarters of the still enormously successful Shakespeare Fishing Tackle company, begun in 1897 by William Shakespeare, Jr.,

Monday, April 1, 2013

Simply Shakespeare, on Film: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, directed by Joss Whedon

Last Friday, in a prologue to a sneak preview of his new movie, Much Ado about Nothing, Joss Whedon betrayed some anxiety about exposing the film to scholarly scrutiny. The occasion was the Shakespeare Society of America’s annual meeting in Toronto, the audience was several hundred British and North American Shakespeare academics gathered in a vast hotel ballroom, and the mode by which Whedon expressed his nervousness was a fake British accent. Not that he mocked the crowd. That would have been unShakespearean. In his filmed introduction, he alternated between the stuffy drone of an Oxford academic and his regular voice, in which he expressed gratitude to those who’d committed their professional lives to helping students understand and like Shakespeare. When the film began, it became clear pretty quickly that Joss Whedon knew how to do both.

Whedon’s stripped-down, low-budget, black and white version of Shakespeare’s great mid-career comedy is simply Shakespeare, without modernizing gimmicks or tricks.  Except insofar as every transplanting of a play from live theater to film is an adaptation, it isn’t one.  It’s the play. The setting is a Los Angeles-ish mansion in the twenty-first century, to which characters arrive by limo, toting cell phones, but Whedon has made no attempt to update the ceremonial language of the

Lost ROMEO AND JULIET Scene Radically Changes Play

Dateline: April 1, 2013. Printed below is the full text of the newly discovered lost scene from act one of Romeo and Juliet. The scene exists in a quarto version of the play found in February in a British bookseller’s collection. The quarto’s provenance was debated at the Shakespeare Association of America’s just-concluded annual meeting in Toronto, where the consensus of textual scholars was that the work was Shakespeare’s. The finding marks the first “new” (newly discovered) Shakespearean work since that of “Hand D” in the anonymous collaborative 1590s play Sir Thomas More in 1871. The Romeo and Juliet quarto with the additional short sixth scene dates from 1598, and is an interim text between the “bad”quarto version of 1597 and the “Newly corrected, augmented, and amended” version issued by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in 1599; the process of its authentication is described at length in