Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Martha Speaketh Shakespeare!

"Thou Callest Me a Dog." By Peter K. Hirsch. Perf. J. T. Turner, Christina Crivici, and Tabitha St. Germain. Dir. Todd Demong.   Martha Speaks. Season 6, episode 7. PBS. 16 June 2014.

I've enjoyed the "Martha Speaks" books by Susan Meddaugh ever since LeVar Burton told me about the first one—Martha Speaks—on Reading Rainbow.

But it's relatively new news to me that PBS has a Martha Speaks show for children.

And for Shakespeare aficionados! In a recent show, Martha accidentally eats a copy of Hamlet (the actor had left a sandwich on it), and she starts speaking in Convenstional Shakespeare-Style Olde Englyssishe (CSSOE)—viz., a great prevalence of thee, thou, thy, doth, and -est endings of both nouns and verbs.

But she also quotes from the plays (notably Hamlet), and ends up being cast as Hamlet in a production. And the production is clever enough to use a title from Merchant of Venice and a few other interesting inside jokes (e.g., the solipsistic actor's name is "Armin Burbage").

I offer a few samples below, but you can watch the entire episode on-line.  Just click here, and then click on the "Thou Callest Me a Dog" episode.

In this first clip, Martha's language malady in diagnosed:


The second clip shows her being offered the lead role in Hamlet.


The most famous six words in Shakespeare make up the entirety of the third clip:


Links: The Show at IMDB. The Episode on-line.

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Monday, August 31, 2015

Shakespeare in Good Will Hunting

Good Will Hunting. Dir. Gus Van Sant. Perf. Robin Williams, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck. 1997. DVD. Lionsgate, 2011.

We all know that there's lots of Shakespeare in Boston.

[Insert obligatory reference / link to Shakespeare Geek here.]

And one of the best movies featuring Boston accents in Good Will Hunting.

But did you notice the Shakespeare-with-a-Boston-accent in Good Will Hunting?

About a third of the way though the film, the Robin Williams character talks to the Matt Damon character and argues that all the book learning in the world won't make up for experience:
I ask you about war, you'd probably throw Shakespeare at me, right? "Once more into the breach, dear friends." But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap, and watched him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I ask you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable—known someone that could level you with her eyes.
It's a fabulous scene, and I include it below. N.B.: The language in the clip is, like the film, rated R.


There's something quite marvelous about that. And I think I'm ready to acknowledge that Shakespeare doesn't equate to experience. But I do think Shakespeare helps us to understand the experiences that we have had and imaginatively to experience those we haven't. Yes, the Chorus of Henry V asks us to piece out the plays imperfections with our thoughts and to "Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them / Printing their proud hoofs i' th' receiving earth" (Pro.26-27), but Shakespeare's genius lies it making it very easy for us to see the horses that aren't there—to know something of the experience of war—to find an articulation of the love we know we have.

Just like Good Will Hunting enables us to know something of the experience of losing a spouse to cancer or what it's like to be an orphan growing up in Boston.

Any Dickens fans out there ready to defend Oliver Twist on similar grounds? 

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Book Note: The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents: Romeo and Juliet

Lendler, Ian. The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents: Romeo and Juliet. Illus. Zack Giallongo. Colors Alisa Harris. New York: First Second, 2015.

This is the second time we journey to the zoo in Stratford-on-Avon after closing time to see what the animals are up to (for the first visit, q.v.).

Previously, the animals put on Macbeth; this time, they turn their paws to Romeo and Juliet.

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as I enjoyed Macbeth. In the Macbeth, the violence was present but diffused by the notion the king (the lion) was eating his enemies, which is generally-accepted behavior for lions. The violence is also circumvented by another means, but I don't want to provide a spoiler on that score!

In the zoo's production of Romeo and Juliet, both the violence and the romance are diffused—and the means for doing so aren't quite as interesting or as effective. The petting zoo animals are the Montagues and the wild animals of the surrounding wood are the Capulets. The plot follows more-or-less accordingly, though Romeo and Juliet aren't romantically in love and [Small Spoiler Alert] they don't die at the end.

Still, the book is a good one, at which a gander is well worth taking. Here's a sample to whet your appetite:

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Book Note: Much Ado About Murder

Hawke, Simon. Much Ado About Murder. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 2002.

I would not normally post a review of a book that I haven't finished, but classes start tomorrow, and I know that I won't have time to give this book the attention it deserves until Christmas break at the earliest.

And I wouldn't review it if I wasn't certain of the claims I'll be making about it. Having read the other three books in the "Shakespeare and Smythe" series and having read fifty pages or so of this book, I can confidently say that it's at least as enjoyable and worthwhile as the others were—and those others were very enjoyable and quite worthwhile.

Though all the books follow the same characters and have many of the same locations, they have considerable variety within those constraints. This is the only one that's felt a bit contrived in its set-up, but I can suspend that element of critique and just sit back and enjoy the narrative.

The novel, like the others, puts Shakespeare's words into others' mouths, leaving the words there for him to pick up and turn into solid dramatic gold later. I'm providing a good example of that in the images below (click on them to enlarge them). You'll see how the author plays with the opening exchange between Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing in this scene:

Hawke has done some good work in integrating Shakespeare's lines with his own sense of plot and character, even going so far as to give some of Beatrice's lines to the Benedick analogue.

All in all, it's a good summer read . . . even if I may have to wait until next summer to complete it!

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Note: Macdeath

Brown, Cindy. Macdeath. Dallas: Henery Press, 2015.

Speaking of Mysteries avec Shakespeare, we arrive at Macdeath. It's another in a mystery series—there are other Ivy Meadows Mysteries on the way (The Sound of Murder and Oliver Twisted, if you're keeping score).

I'm afraid I feel that I'm not the target audience for this book, and that will, of necessity, color my review. I enjoyed our heroine, Ivy "Olive" Meadows, most of the time, but she is too inclined to go on about the dreaminess of the male actors—and then is too quick about jumping into bed with them.

Other than that, the story is a reasonable murder mystery. Because it's the first of the series, I think there's more building of character and background than you might expect (or desire). And our heroine is just starting to think about the role of the investigator (she has an uncle who, as a private eye, is able to give her advice).

The general plot is that an actor is killed during a production of Macbeth—our heroine plays one of the witches, so she has a fair amount of time to nose around and find out which other actors / directors have motives and opportunity.

My main critique—as you might expect—is that there's not enough Shakespeare. I'd like to have more of the details of the theatre life and of this particular production of Macbeth. That's where a rote mystery takes on a greater depth and interest to me. I'm reminded of Ngaio Marsh's Light Thickens, for example (for which, q.v.), which does that brilliantly.

I'll leave you with a sample from early in the book—that will give you a flavor of the novel and let you know whether you're in its target audience or not.

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Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2016 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest