Friday, June 14, 2024

Shakespeare in FoxTrot's My Hot Dog Went Out, Can I Have Another?

Amend, Bill. My Hot Dog Went Out, Can I Have Another?. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2005.

I'm afraid there's only one comic from My Hot Dog Went Out, Can I Have Another? that's related to Shakespeare for FoxTrot Friday this week.

And that comic is only very subtly Shakespearean.

The plot runs like this: Andi asks Peter if he's finished studying for his English final.

Peter hasn't.

But he still has time.

Here's how that plays out:


The Shakespeare comes in one of two directions. Either Peter laughably thinks he can study Tolstoy and Shakespeare in forty-five minutes—and, given the characterization of Peter and of jokes about his studying is not unreasonable—or he assumes that the author of King Lear is Tolstoy—again, not outside the realms of possibility.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Shakespeare in the Finale of Endeavour

“Exeunt.” By Russell Lewis. Perf. Shaun Evans and Roger Allam. Dir. Kate Saxon. Endeavour. Season 9, episode 3. ITV. 2 July 2023. DVD. PBS (Direct), 2023.

Caution: Major Spoilers.

Not unexpectedly, the show Endeavour, which predates the long-running show Morse in chronology but antedates it in production, has Shakespeare in it from time to time. In one episode, a group of students put on a production of Julius Caesar, for example; other episodes have the occasional Shakespeare allusion or quotation from time to time.

Still, the twofold use of Shakespeare in Endeavour's final episode is at first shocking and then salutary. 

In one of the final scenes, Detective Sargent Morse reveals his knowledge of the wrongdoings of his superior, Detective Chief Inspector Fred Thursday. Thursday has often been presented as belonging to an earlier, less restricted, more brutal age of policing, and Morse has nearly always called him up on it. Here, in their last meeting, Morse's anger at Thursday explodes into a Shakespeare quotation.

Not long after, the Shakespeare rings a more peaceful tone as the series comes to its end.

Here are both those scenes together in one extract:


Morse's bitter exclamation is a portion of a speech delivered by King Henry IV to Falstaff near the end of 2 Henry IV. In Shakespeare and in Endeavour, it is calculated to break the heart of its recipient: "I know thee not, old man" (V.v.47). For Falstaff and Hal, there's an end. But Morse, though angry at the injustice he perceives in Thursday's actions and his own covering them up, promises to work to keep Thursday's family safe.

The closing speech, delivered by Chief Superintendent Reginald Bright, is from The Tempest:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
(As I foretold you) were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air,
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep. (IV.i.148–58)

[Note: I let the clip continue so you could have the end of the Fauré Requiem and see the "changing of the guards" sequence.]

I appreciated both Shakespeare quotations, but that's because I'm a Shakespeare scholar. I can also see that they are both a little too neat—a little too much like "We need a little Shakespeare here—what do you guys think will work?"

All the same, it's a great end to a great series. And now that you know the end, head back to the beginning and make your way back her to the end again.

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Monday, June 10, 2024

Book Note: How Green Was My Valley

Llewellyn, Richard. How Green Was My Valley. New York: Macmillan, 1940.

Whenever it's possible, I read the book before I watch the film based on it. When I learned the interesting fact that the film How Green Was My Valley won the Academy Award in 1941 (beating out both The Maltese Falcon and Citizen Cane), I decided to give what must surely be one of the greatest films ever made a try.

But first, I wanted to read the book (see the opening of this post).

The book is genuinely amazing. It's bildungsroman about the transition from the Victorian era into the modern age (and from boyhood to manhood) in a small Welsh coal-mining town. The characters and setting are vividly drawn, and the lyrical quality of the writing reminds me very strongly of Cry, the Beloved Country.

And there's Shakespeare in it! In the scene below, Huw Morgan, our protagonist, takes his sweetie Ceinwen to the Town Hall to see the acting.






As Ceinwen says, "There is elegant." 

Of course, the father of the family has a different viewpoint. When Huw says, "But, Dada . . . only Shakespeare they did. No pollution," he says, "Pollution of Satan" (387).

The scenes with the Shakespeare performers in Huckleberry Finn (for which, q.v.) come to mind—both in the performances and in the chaos that follows

Even without the Shakespeare, How Green Was My Valley is a terrific novel. We'll see whether any Shakespeare makes its way into the 1941 film (or other film adaptations that have been made through the years), is it?

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Thursday, June 6, 2024

Le Duel d’Hamlet: The Earliest Filmed Hamlet

Le Duel d’Hamlet
. Dir. Clément Maurice. Perf. Sarah Bernhardt, Pierre Magnier, and Suzanne Seylor. 1900. Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre.

The earliest extant filmed Shakespeare is an extract from King John. And Bardfilm could hardly call itself a Shakespeare and Film Blog if it hadn’t addressed it (for which, q.v.).

But Bardfilm has never mentioned Le Duel d’Hamlet, the earliest extant footage of Hamlet. But we can rectify that oversight fairly easily.

Here is famed actress Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet in the duel scene from Hamlet.


Yes, I know it looks like they're both fighting the ghost of a giant chicken, but if you can get beyond that, you can see how the possibilities of cinematic Hamlets unspooled from this humble (but not too humble) beginning. 

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Monday, June 3, 2024

Book Note: Macbeth (My Own Personal Shakespeare Edition)

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. My Own Personal Shakespeare Edition. Ed. Duane Morin. N.p.: N.p., 2024

It may seem odd for Bardfilm to have Macbeth as a Book Note post, but this isn't just any Macbeth.

For me, the Arden Shakespeare series offers the best single editions of the plays. I want to have conjectural composition dates, textual history, performance history, critical apparatuses (apparatii?), and notes upon notes upon notes.

But I have a Doctor of Philosophy in Shakespeare. 

Other readers don't want or need all of that information. In fact, it might get in the way of actually getting to the play. And none of us wants that!

Enter our good friend ShakespeareGeek (a.k.a Duane Morin) and his daughter. She wanted an edition with a lot of space to make her own notes and to provide her own critical apparatus and to fill with her own thoughts. That's when ShakespeareGeek decided it was time for just such an edition: The My Own Personal Shakespeare Edition of Macbeth. You can read more about how it came to be here.

I'm greatly enjoying my own personal copy of The My Own Personal Shakespeare Edition of Macbeth. The text is solid, and ShakespeareGeek has provided enough guidance so that readers don't get lost but not so much that they're in danger of being overwhelmed. And, indeed, there's plenty of space for notes. Here's a sample from the opening scene:


Blank pages have also been provided between acts:


It's a great edition for both the first-time reader and the reader (me) who is in danger of paying more attention to the notes than to the text.

We can only hope that editions of more plays will follow. Go get yours today—you'll have an entirely fresh encounter with Macbeth.

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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Book Note: The Great White Bard: How to Love Shakespeare While Talking about Race

Karim-Cooper, Farah. The Great White Bard: How to Love Shakespeare While Talking about Race. New York: Viking, 2023.

Farah Karim-Cooper has just been appointed the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D. C. 

Congratulations, Dr. Karim-Cooper!

I read The Great White Bard last semester, but this seems an apt time to mention it on Bardfilm and to provide some commentary on it.

The best way to introduce the book is to let Karim-Cooper do it. Her prologue is short, but it’s to-the-point, and it does a much better job of talking about the books concerns than I could do.







The book is important. Every Shakespeare scholar, teacher, director, and actor ought to encounter it. Karim-Cooper articulates, with a wealth of scholarship and anecdote, ways to think about Shakespeare and race—both contemporaneously to him and to us.

But it should be read with a critical eye. Late in the book, Karim-Cooper starts to consider language relating to whiteness, and she points out a number of places where that language could and should be worrisome. But at that point, she pushes her argument too far—to the extent of it becoming tedious. 

Although greatly appreciative of the book and having been swayed by a lot of its argument and having my eyes opened by even more of it, I’m not convinced that “fair” always means racially white. We ought to have our attention drawn to the word, and we ought to consider what meanings are possible, likely, or helpful in each circumstance, but we ought also to be able to reach the conclusion that “fair” is not racially-charged in certain circumstances, and I sense in Karim-Cooper a reluctance to entertain that conclusion.

Reading this book will change a number of your preconceptions about Shakespeare. Reading it will contribute to deeper readings and performances of his plays. And I’m eager to see the direction Karim-Cooper takes the Folger Shakespeare Library during her tenure as its director!

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Friday, May 17, 2024

Shakespeare in FoxTrot's Orlando Bloom Has Ruined Everything

Amend, Bill. Orlando Bloom Has Ruined Everything. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2005.

Only a little bit of Shakespeare made its way into Orlando Bloom Has Ruined Everything, and you have to squint just a bit to be able to see it.

First, Jason alludes to the "Infinity Monkeys" theory of the Complete Works of Shakespeare. It's a thought experiment that has much humorous potential (for one typical example, q.v.). 

Here's the direction Bill Amend takes with it:


In the next Shakespeare-related comic, Paige is complaining about her homework. It's true that she doesn't mention Shakespeare explicitly, but I think we can just assume that the seventy pages she has to read are one of Shakespeare's shorter plays—Macbeth, perhaps, or A Comedy of Errors.


Stay tuned—our next FoxTrot Friday may have even more (and more direct) Shakespeare.

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Thursday, May 16, 2024

Book Note: The Catcher in the Rye

Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Back Bay Books, 2001.

Like all of you, I'm interested in Holden Caulfield's opinions on Shakespeare. Re-reading the novel recently, I discovered that he actually had some (I had missed it before).

There are two sequences in Catcher in the Rye where Mr. Caulfield talks about Shakespeare.

In the first, he finds himself in the company of a couple of nuns, and he strikes up a conversation with them that eventually leads to a discussion of Romeo and Juliet.

Content Advisory: Holden Caulfield's language isn't always devoid of unsavory language.


In the next Shakespeare-related sequence, Mr. Caulfield offers us some film criticism. Specifically, he's critical of Laurence Olivier's Hamlet (the only film of a Shakespeare play to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, no less).


I wonder what Holden Caulfield would think about Branagh's version . . . .

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Friday, May 10, 2024

Shakespeare in FoxTrot's Am I a Mutant or What!

Amend, Bill. Am I a Mutant or What!. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2004.

Welcome back to FoxTrot Friday!

Last time, we had a more or less tangential Shakespeare comic (for which, q.v.). I suppose Who's Up For Some Bonding? had other concerns.

But Am I a Mutant or What! gives us more direct Shakespeare content.

In our first comic, Peter is faced with a particularly dreaded (and, I would argue, dreadful) essay prompt. I've had exam questions like this: "Hamlet and Macbeth: Discuss," and they always made me forget everything I ever knew and then faint dead away. Here's Peter's attempt at an answer:


With a prompt like that, I think the teacher will get a lot of Peteresque answers. If I were to ask the question, I would give my students a lot more to hang their hat on. For example, I might recall two specific female characters in the two plays, provide a specific quote or action from each, mention something we'd discussed in class, and then ask them to compare and contrast those elements. I'd also give (as I always do) a second option.

The frame at the head of this post comes from another Peter-related, Shakespeare-related comic. Now Peter's reading Julius Caesar


Kudos to Peter's teacher and his school's curriculum decisions! Students in Peter's grade are getting to study three Shakespeare plays instead of the usual one . . . or part of one . . . or part of a film of one. Note: It's possible that Peter is reading Julius Caesar on his own—but his characterization over the years makes that highly unlikely.

Finally, Jason and Marcus provide an allusion to Julius Caesar. Perhaps they picked it up from Peter. In any case, Paige assumes that their (to her) misquotation indicates their ignorance of Shakespeare:


As it turns out, they knew exactly what they were doing—and Jason even throws in a Hamlet-related pun.

I'm eager to see where Bill Amend takes us next, Shakespeare-wise.

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Monday, May 6, 2024

Book Note: Speak the Speech!: Shakespeare's Monologues Illuminated

Silverbush, Rhona, and Sami Plotkin. Speak the Speech!: Shakespeare's Monologues Illuminated. New York: Faber and Fabler, 2002.

As my university’s resident Shakespeare expert, I naturally teach all the Shakespeare courses that English majors need to take, but I’m also often approached by faculty and students in other fields to answer questions or to offer advice. I’ve enjoyed talking to the music department about Mendelssohn, the history department about Shakespeare’s take on the Wars of the Roses, and the math department about campanology.

Okay, that last one was because I teach a course on Dorothy L. Sayers, but still.

Most frequently, I’m asked about Shakespeare by our theatre majors. They want to know what Shakespeare monologues they should prepare for various auditions. 

When I started out, I was relatively unprepared for the question. The ones I knew best I knew for scholarly or interpretative reasons, not performative ones. I realized that I needed to know quite a bit more and have quite a large number of options for theatre majors.

Fortunately, I found Speak the Speech!: Shakespeare's Monologues Illuminated. The book provides dozens and dozens of options, all annotated with information about length, genre, gender, and popularity (so the performer will know if they’re likely to be the only one giving this speech in an audition or the fifteenth “Is this a dagger?” that the casting directors will hear that day).

More than that, the book offers helpful notes so that performers will know what they’re saying, a substantial amount of context so that performers can place themselves in character, and (for verse options) good notes on prosody.

Here’s a representative example: Constance’s “Grief fills the room up of my absent child” speech from King John







The book has been an invaluable, oft-used resource on my shelves. I highly recommend it, especially to the actors among us.

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Friday, May 3, 2024

Shakespeare in FoxTrot's Who's Up For Some Bonding?

Amend, Bill. Who's Up For Some Bonding?. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2003.

Today's FoxTrot Friday is pretty sparse. I was only able to find one Shakespeare-related comic in the entire Who's Up For Some Bonding? volume. 

It's also a bit of a stretch to make it fit.

It's a bit like the way these introductory paragraphs need to stretch a bit so that the layout of the post isn't as awkward as it otherwise might be.

Our comic today centers on Paige. Evidently, she's still working on the Macbeth paper she was worried about in Your Momma Thinks Square Roots Are Vegetables (for which, q.v.).


Yes, all right. "big English Paper" doesn't necessarily mean "Macbeth paper," but it's not impossible—or even highly improbable—that it is a Macbeth paper.

In a coincidence that seems very Shakespearean, Peter's "Big history paper" is actually about Richard III.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Book Note: let me tell you

Griffiths, Paul. let me tell you. London: Henningham Family Press, 2023.

Paul Griffith's let me tell you is an experimental novel. The back cover of my edition puts it best: "Ophelia uses the words Shakespeare gave her to tell her own story. Her account flows solely from the 481 words she speaks in Hamlet. This constraint hints at Ophelia's struggle against the limits placed upon her by her father, brother, Hamlet, and Shakespeare."

As a concept, it's intriguing and telling. Writing a novel using only the words Hamlet uses in Hamlet would not be nearly as limiting.

As a novel, it's interesting . . . but also tedious. And perhaps that's part of the point. We're just not given enough Ophelia to have a full and complete sense of her full and complete identity.

The voice of the novel is undeveloped in a dreamy, wistful sense. I can't quite tell if this Ophelia is on the verge of madness, already mad, or childishly innocent.

I found three things in particular curious. First, I knew the concept before picking up the novel. I expected to find Ophelia from page one. But even here, in a novel that tells something of Ophelia using only the words she's given in Hamlet, someone else has the first word. We have this page of introduction from "The King":


The second curious thing was the developing understanding of Ophelia's view of her mother. She doesn't speak the word "mother" in the play, so in the novel, her mother is called she or the other. They don't seem to have much of a relationship at all, and what there is is negative. She's much closer to her brother and to the maid they had. A section of the first chapter will illustrate this.







The last thing to strike me is Ophelia's connections to Hamlet. As hard as it is to pin Ophelia's character down in this novel, it seems even harder for Ophelia to arrive at any substantial and lasting conclusions about Hamlet.




I'm glad I read let me tell you. It's haunting, and it's quite an achievement to tell so much of a story (or so many stories) with such a limited vocabulary. But, perhaps inescapably given the limitations, it's less robust than I had hoped it would be. And I don't think I'll be reading let me go on, its sequel.

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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 2008-2039 (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