Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents: Macbeth

Lendler, Ian. The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents: Macbeth. Illus. Zack Giallongo. Colors Alisa Harris. New York: First Second, 2014.

First Second Books, who often have really interesting and unusual books in the general realm of the graphic novel, has just published an odd and brilliant book related to Macbeth.

The book, appropriate for grade school kids, high school students, and Shakespeare professors, tells the story of the animals in the zoo at Stratford-Upon-Avon and the antics they get up to at night—namely, putting on a production of Macbeth.

We get an intriguing version of the play (together with comical interaction with the audience). Macbeth, as a lion, is tempted to eat the king; Macduff, a stork and a detective, works to solve the crime. The book tells the general plot, but it addresses it with careful and thoughtful fluidly.

I'm providing two spreads to give an idea of how it does so (and to whet your appetite enough to give it a try). In the first, Macbeth gives in to temptation:

The second gives this book's version of Macbeth's conflicted conscience—and the dagger speech:

I'm fond of the book. It's quirky in ways that break the norms of the graphic novel genre, which I appreciate greatly. Give it a try!

Click below to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Shakespeare in Pearls Before Swine

Pastis, Stephen. Because Sometimes You Just Gotta Draw A Cover With Your Left Hand: A Pearls Before Swine Collection. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2012.

I am always thrilled to find a bit of Shakespeare in the comic pages.

Stephen Pastis occasionally has a Shakespeare gag. His magnum opus on Mark Antony's big speech in Julius Caesar (for which, q.v.) is one of my favorites.

I've chanced upon two more, so I'm passing them along to you.  They're both of the "Huge and Suspicious Setup for Horrible but Brilliant Pun on a Sunday Morning" variety. The first (click to enlarge) deals with Shakespeare more directly:

The Shakespeare in the second comes in at the end—not as the pun itself, but as a Shakespeare-related afterthought. Enjoy!

Click below to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Touch of Julius Caesar in Aladdin

Aladdin. Dir. Ron Clements and John Musker. Perf. Scott Weinger, Robin Williams, and Linda Larkin. 1992. DVD. Walt Disney Video, 2004.

I've just finished directing a production of Julius Caesar for a group of fourth to eighth graders, and it was a marvelous experience. One of the things I love most is the use the students put to Shakespeare:

"Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look—pass him the mashed potatoes!"

"Let slip the dogs of war—but remember to bring a bag to clean up after them!"

Recently, two of the students pointed out that there's a tiny bit of Julius Caesar in the Disney film Aladdin. As a particular bonus, the clip has a guest appearance by another Disney character: one with not one but two Shakespearean names. I'm talking about Sebastian the Crab, whose familiar name comes from The Tempest (as does the name of The Little Mermaid's Little Mermaid—Ariel) but whose full name—Horatio Thelonius Ignatius Crustaceus Sebastian— has a little bit of Hamlet thrown in.

Here's a brief clip of the Genie pondering how to make Aladdin a prince and quoting from Shakespeare as he does so:


Note: Aladdin also has a character with a name from Shakespeare. Any guesses? It would be a good question for your next trivia quiz . . .

The parrot—the evil henchparrot for the evil Jafar— is named Iago.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
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Friday, June 13, 2014

Shakespeare Festival St. Louis Presents 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV, and Henry V

1 Henry IV and 2 Henry IV. Dir. Tim Ocel. Henry V. Dir. Bruce Longworth. Perf. Jim Butz, Anderson Matthews, Gary Glasgow, Joneal Joplin, Tony DeBruno, Michael James Reed, Jerry Vogel, Alex Miller, Reginald Pierre, Andrew Michael Neiman, Charles Pasternak, Chauncy Thomas, Antonio Rodriguez, Drew Battles, James Hesse, Dakota Mackey-McGee, Kari Ely, Kelley Weber, Eric Dean White, Mason Conrad, Michael Williams, and Dan Haller. Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. St. Louis, Missouri. 2014.

I've wanted to see a Shakespeare Festival St. Louis production for many years, but I'm not usually in St. Louis when they're putting on shows—which is a genuine shame, as I've heard marvelous things about their take on the plays.

I tried to go last night, and I managed to be able to take in a lot of the surrounding and supporting material of the play—but the rain became increasingly torrential, and I, drenched and cold, left at 7:00. The show eventually went on, but it started around 8:40, and I couldn't (alas) have made it that long.

But I urge anyone in the St. Louis area to try it out. It's free, it's outside (which is normally quite pleasant), and you can bring your own chairs or blankets and have a picnic while you watch the show. Additionally, there are lots of fun things to occupy you as you await the beginning of the show. At 6:30, for example, a group of high school students did a twenty-minute version of the play. I was impressed by its use of the text of the play (rather than paraphrase) for most of the story; the actors also did an impressive job. There's also a jester wandering around the crowd (last night, he was having fun imagining that various people in the audience were weasels and exploring the implications of their weaselhood) and "The Wheel of Will," which allows audience members to spin a wheel. Whatever it lands on (sonnet, tragic speech, et cetera), the actors have to do.

You can also take a look at the plot summary of Henry V in the image below (click to enlarge it).

I've also heard that Jim Butz is a really astonishing actor. Some have said that his Hamlet was the best they've ever seen, and the reviews point to his doing a marvelous Henry V as well. In short, go and see it if you possibly can!

Links: The Official Web Site for Shakespeare Festival St. Louis.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Does Percy Jackson Like Shakespeare?

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Dir. Chris Columbus. Perf. Logan Lerman, Kevin McKidd, Steve Coogan . 2010. DVD. Twentieth-Century Fox, 2010.

The short answer is "No," but I think a longer answer is a bit more interesting.

The Percy Jackson books and films tell the story of a son of Poseidon in the modern age who eventually discovers his parentage and, thereby, his semi-divine powers.

Early in the film, he appears to be an ordinary high school student (if there is such a thing as an ordinary high school student), struggling through life and a substitute English teacher's class (she later turns out to be an evil, horrible monster—a more literal evil, horrible monster than the stereotypical substitute teacher). At this point, she's not being evil or horrible.  She's presenting some Shakespeare to the class:
I understand a fury in your words,
But not [your] words. (IV.ii.35-36)
Note: I'm away from the office and all its marvelous books, but I have been able to do enough scholarly research on the internet to determine that Q1 of the play (1622) has "But not the words" rather than "your words" as the closing line. The First Folio (1623) omits the line entirely. It looks like the substitute teacher made an intentional or unintentional mistake in transcribing the lines to the board.

She asks the class if anyone can explain the quote and deliberately calls on Percy (even though other students have raised their hands). A point-of-view shot establishes that the letters don't stand still long enough for Percy to read them. At first, I thought that it was an intriguing way to portray dyslexia—and, after a fashion, it is. We later learn that Percy's brain is hard-wired to read ancient Greek—he can read the writing on the Greek sculptures in the museum without any trouble.

Beyond that, it's intriguing that the quote fits the plot. Percy can understand the general tenor of what he reads, but he's not able to make out the words themselves. Further, the word "fury," with its connections to the myths of ancient Greece, has an appropriate flavor.

Here's the scene in question:


In short, Percy Jackson doesn't seem to like Shakespeare—but it's because he's hard-wired for ancient Greek. Perhaps they should try Timon of Athens or even Midsummer Night's Dream for him instead!

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

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 2008-2012 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