Riveting fiction and Shakespeare chat for lovers of the English Renaissance
Saturday, December 1, 2018
Thursday, November 1, 2018
"Expose Thyself To Feel What Wretches Feel": Mark Twain's Shakespearean Fiction
The Prince and the Pauper is a work of social criticism set in mid-sixteenth-century England. Superficially, the plot is that of a fairytale. A prince (in this case young Edward, son of Henry VIII) and a London pauper, of inexplicably identical appearance, meet by chance, spend a morning together, and at one point exchange clothes, after which circumstances drive them apart. Since no one will then believe their claims that they are not who they're dressed as, the pauper spends some months living as a prince -- and, soon, a king -- while the prince endures the hardships of poverty. Eventually the true young king's public revelation of a secret only he would know, and the pauper's weariness of royal life, ensure that order is restored. In relying on comic accidents and feigned and mistaken identities, Twain was imitating the tricks of Shakespearean comedy. But the book isn't comic. Twain
Monday, October 1, 2018
Words and Phrases I Hate That Shakespeare Would Have Too
1. Saying a person is a synonym. Here's an example: "Sacha Baron Cohen is synonymous with irreverent humor." No, he isn't. What if I said to you, "A lot of my students are very good at . . ." and then I shoved Sacha Baron Cohen at you? Would you accept a 6 foot 3-inch, bizarrely disguised person as an acceptable alternative phrase for "irreverent humor"? No. You'd run away, terrified and confused, and for good reason. There is no way a living,
Saturday, September 1, 2018
Aretha: A More Successful Emilia
That's not to say there weren't plenty of men there. There were just so many more women! This made sense to me, listening to the songs cranked out by a local radio station broadcasting from the site, enlivening the crowd, who were mostly singing
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Shakespeare's Second Daughter's Second Book
Let me say that again. She was born in the sixteenth century and she died during the Restoration.
I know, you want dates. Here they are. Judith Shakespeare's life spanned the years from 1585 through 1662. At the age of 77, when she took her last breath, she'd lived through the second half of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the entire reign of James I, the full tragic reign of his son Charles I, the Interregnum, and the first two years of the reign of Charles II. She was born two
Sunday, July 1, 2018
Just a Conventionally Magical Scottish Play
Hmm. That's funny. My keyboard just jammed and a storm is whipping up from nowhere and -- ha ha, kidding.
Anyway. The purpose of this post is to provide a short review of the recent production of Macbeth by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, which performed the play in their smaller space, known as the Yard. CST's productions are generally excellent, but this production had the added draw of being co-directed by Teller, one-half of the magician duo Penn and Teller. (The other co-director was Aaron Posner.) Having
Friday, June 1, 2018
If Shakespeare Was a Proud Boy, He Had a Reason
Ever since I was a child I have been puzzled by people saying they are proud of things they had nothing to do with. I grew up hearing people say someone should be proud of this or that, or that they themselves were proud to be Americans, black, women, New Yorkers, or what have you. At the same time, I was hearing in Sunday
Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Modern Terms Shakespeare Would Have Mocked
I'm not Shakespeare, alas, but here are my versions of "O, lord, sir" and Osric-speech for 2018. As my title suggests, most of these examples come from radio, TV, and internet, but I've heard people use some of them in regular conversation, too. To quote Shakespeare, "Stop" (Hamlet, 3.3).
Monday, April 23, 2018
Happy Birthday, WS!
Shakespeare is with us every day. It's no wonder that last month a French foreign minister, asked whether France planned to "punish" Britain for implementing BREXIT,
Monday, April 2, 2018
Shakespeare's Gardening Tips
We don't know what kind of gardener Shakespeare was, but we know he could talk like one. Judging from his plays and poems, he knew the names of 5,364 species of plants and herbs. (I made that number up.) The scholar Carolyn Spurgeon wrote that for Shakespeare, "One occupation, one point of view, above all others, is natural . . . that of a gardener; watching, preserving, tending and caring for growing things, especially flowers and fruit" (Shakespeare's Imagery, pub. 1935). She was right. So, in this growing-season, it might be worthwhile to read what the Master Gardener had to say on the subject.
First of all, I should say that Shakespeare believed the Master Gardener to be God. And as a good monarchist, he thought the king of a domain should imitate God and act like a gardener to his subjects. But we can read past the political allegory of his famous "King as Gardener" comments in Richard II and derive some helpful tips about actual gardening. In the relevant scene, a wizened old gardener tells his
Sunday, April 1, 2018
Sonnets Show Shakespeare Was a Practicing Catholic
Catholics during the Protestant reigns of Elizabeth I and James I were subject to severe oppression which could include imprisonment, and which, at a minimum, involved prohibitions against harboring Catholic priests or attending Catholic mass. Devoted Catholics who refused to attend English church services were also subjected to steep fines. It is likely, then, that a Catholic, including possibly Shakespeare, would have hidden his religion from the general view.
Now, this hearty evidence of Shakespeare's Catholic leanings has been bolstered by
Monday, March 12, 2018
"A Wrinkle in Time" Minus Shakespeare
However, by the end of the film, a true Wrinkle-lover must conclude that DuVernay didn't understand the book. And since all roads lead to Shakespeare (at least, on this blog), I will say that this director's failure coherently to express L'Engle's central theme is tied to her erasure of Shakespeare. Specifically, she cuts the allusions to Shakespeare's Tempest with which, in the last third of her book, L'Engle clarified her heroes' dilemma.
But let's start with the praise. (Warning: spoilers ahead.) Although the film has received some criticism for clunky special effects, it is in fact lovely to watch, full of color not only in its alien-planet scenes -- which feature, among other things, a green
Thursday, March 1, 2018
A Shakespeare Quiz
The answers are at the bottom. Don't peek.
Thursday, February 1, 2018
Where are the Shakespearean amphibians? And what are they? Well, this post would be much longer than I intend to make it if I discussed all the animals Shakespeare and his fellow Elizabethans thought were amphibians but weren't (otters, for example, and dolphins), and the symbolic uses they made of them. For
Monday, January 1, 2018
Sexual Coercion, Category Clarification, and Isabella
Sex occurs between people who both want to have sex, as well as between pairs of whom one wants to have sex and the other doesn't feel like it but does it anyway, or is ambivalent but has decided to do it anyway, or is enthusiastic about it at the time although s/he will be disgusted by it later. (Shakespeare wrote a sonnet about that. Such sex is "past reason hunted," and then "past reason hated.") Consensual sex also happens (a lot) when one person is agreeing to it only because s/he is
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