Friday, March 16, 2018

Shakespearean Rhapsody

"Shakespearean Rhapsody." Parody of "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. Perf. kj et al.

I find myself taking a Shakespearean turn on most things, and one way that manifests itself is in rewriting songs so that they have a Shakespearean turn.

These songs often had their origins on Twitter. An exchange or two would lead to a parody of a line or two from a song.

Later, those might turn into full versions of songs. But they're usually for private consumption, unlike the songs I write for the students in my Shakespeare classes.

Past hits in the latter category include Bob Dylan singing the plot of Measure for Measure (for which, q.v.), "Bottom Dreamed a Dream" from the hit off-Broadway musical Pyramus! (for which, q.v.), and a Musical version of King Lear's madness (for which, q.v.).

Several years ago, I started toying around with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," and I even got so far as to put together a recording. But I lacked the time and the talent to make it truly professional.

Don't get your hopes up—I still don't have time or talent, but I don't imagine I ever will have. I thought the best thing to do would be to put a quick lyric video together and throw it out there, warts and all.

Here, then, is "Shakespearean Rhapsody." Enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Book Note: The Merry Conceited Humors of Bottom the Weaver

The Merry Conceited Humors of Bottom the Weaver as it hath been often publikely Acted by some of his Majesties Comedians, and lately, privately, presented, by several APPRENTICES for their harmless recreation, with Great Applause. London: F. Kirkman and H. Marsh, 1661. Facsimile. London: Cornmarket Press, 1970.

You say you really like the rude mechanicals scenes in Midsummer Night's Dream but all that stuff about the four lovers and the Duke and his Duchess-to-be bores you stiff?

Have I got the play for you.

In 1661, an edited version of Midsummer Night's Dream was published. Essentially, it has all the Bottom the Weaver scenes (including, of course, the ending play-within-the-play) and a little of the necessary surrounding plot (Oberon sending Pugg—he's called Pugg in this version—out for some love potion).

Stanley Wells wrote the introduction; in it, he says, "As an abbreviation for amateur performance this is a competent piece of work."

I've edited a lot of Shakespeare for amateur performance, and I find the decisions this text makes to be fascinating. Whoever did it had a limited cast and didn't want to be bothered with things that would distract from Bottom's plot. For example, we don't need all that backstory for Oberon and Titania, but we do need a little something to explain why he's putting love potion on the eyes of the Queen of the Fairies. A little tinkering and a few Shakespearean-sounding lines will fix it. Here's Oberon's first speech in this version of the play:
I am resolved and I will be revenged
Of my proud Queen Titania's injury,
And make her yield me up her beloved page.
My gentle Pugg come hither[. T]hou Rememberest
Since that I sat upon a Promontory,
And heard a Mermaid on a Dolphin[']s Back . . .
And we're off and running with Shakespeare's words from the fourth line above.

I'll give you a few sample pages. Here's the cast list and the opening of the play:

And here's when Pugg enters to see the rehearsal and Bottom is translated:

In The Merry Conceited Humors of Bottom the Weaver, the cry is "Bless thee, Bottom, thou art edited!"

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Book Note: Speak of me as I am

Belasco, Sonia. Speak of me as I am. New York: Philomel Books, 2017.

This mirror novel involves a black male high school student and a white female high school student who are involved in the school's production of Othello.

They both are grappling with deep grief. Melanie's mother has died of cancer; Damon's best friend Carlos has committed suicide.

The two become romantically involved during the production, and you might expect that the novel would explore racial themes that Othello and their relationship bring up, but that's a pretty minor part of the novel.

Instead, the novel explores issues of sexual orientation more than issues of race.

I can't say much more than that without giving you spoilers, but I will give you a sample from about a third of the way through the book:

The novel is well-written, and its exploration of grief is deep. Its title is drawn from Othello's last speech: "When you shall these unlucky deeds relate, / Speak of me as I am; nothing extenuate, / Nor set down aught in malice" (V.ii.342-44), and the call of the novel is to remember our departed in that way.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Book Note: The Shakespeare Wars

Rosenbaum, Ron. The Shakespeare Wars: Clashing Scholars, Public Fiascoes, Palace Coups. New York: Random House, 2008.

I've been enjoying reading Ron Rosenbaum's enormous (601-page) popular book on the arguments Shakespeare scholars have with each other.

Do you want to know why many collected editions of Shakespeare print two or three different versions of King Lear? you'll find the answer(s) in The Shakespeare Wars.

Interested in reading about how a very dull poem entitled "A Funeral Elegy" was (wrongly) attributed to Shakespeare and then (probably rightly) attributed to someone else entirely?  You'll find out about it here. And you can read the whole dull poem here.

Would you like to hear a first-hand account of what it was like to see Peter Brook's world- and life-altering 1970 production of Midsummer Night's Dream? Rosenbaum was there, and he'll tell you about it. You can also see a few rare clips of it here.

There are so many passages I'd like to pass on to you, but I'll just give you the end of his preface. In it, he tells us what he wants to do--and why. And I find it very compelling.

The book is quite long, so it's not for reading at one go. And there's one stylistic choice Rosenbaum makes that gets very old very quickly. He seems addicted to the sentence fragment. Which becomes awfully distracting.  And ineffective.

But the stories are worth it. Grab a copy, put it on your nightstand, and dip into it from time to time until it has to go back to the library. 

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Monday, March 12, 2018

Musical Version of King Lear's Madness

"King Lear in the Rain." Lear! Unproduced Off-Broadway Musical.

As Bardfilm loyalists know (and I know you want to count yourself among their number), I often write songs to help students remember the key terms of the plays we've covered in my Shakespeare course.

Past hits include Bob Dylan singing the plot of Measure for Measure (for which, q.v.) and "Bottom Dreamed a Dream" from the hit off-Broadway musical Pyramus! (for which, q.v.).

This past semester, I decided that King Lear needed some attention. And our university had just produced a delightful version of Singin' in the Rain, so it seemed only natural to think of some way to articulate King Lear's thoughts while he heads out into the rain to rage against the machine . . . or, really, against fate, his daughters, his losses, his madness—what have you.

Here, then, is "King Lear in the Rain." Enjoy!

Note: In case the video above fails to embed properly, I'm attaching a blog-native version here.

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