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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Monday, April 29, 2024

On the Other End of the Continuum, We Have The Comedy of Terrors

The Comedy of Terrors
. Dir. Jacques Tourneur. Perf. Peter Lorre, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Joyce Jameson, Joe E. Brown, and Basil Rathbone. 1963. Blu-Ray. Kl Studio Classics, 2021.

We just saw how Barry uses Shakespeare to great effect, finding parallels between Barry's development and Macbeth's and employing those to provide a deeper understanding of both (for which, q.v.). Barry's use of Macbeth was moving, it was meaningful, and it wasn't just tacked on in a "Well, they're actors, so let's throw some Shakespeare in here" way.

By way of contrast, let's look at the 1963 film The Comedy of Terrors. The title falls into Kenneth Rothwell's "Parasitical" category (here's more on Rothwell's system of classification), making a pun on a Shakespeare play about which is has nothing to do.

But, interestingly enough, it bypasses Comedy of Errors only to steer straight into Macbeth.

In the film, the great Vincent Price plays Trumbull, a drunken, down-on-his-luck funeral home director who is aided Felix Gillie, played by the great Peter Lorre, whom he keeps by his side by blackmailing him. Trumbull is brutally insulting to his wife, Amaryllis, with whom Gillie has fallen in love.

Trumbull owes Mr. Black (played by the great Basil Rathbone) a year's rent, and he can't come up with the cash—even through his usual means of raising money when times are bad: Killing people and then offering their bereaved relatives his services as a funeral director.

This leads us to the center of the plot. If Trumbull and Gillie manage to kill Mr. Black, they'll not only be able to charge Mr. Black's relatives for burying him, they will also no longer have to worry about the loan.

With that plot in mind, here are the relevant Shakespeare scenes. In the first part of the clip below, Gillie breaks into Mr. Black's house only to find him wide awake and reading Macbeth. Gillie narrowly avoids a Poloniusesque end and then learns that Mr. Black has died from the shock of finding Gillie in his room.

But it's not as simple as that. It turns out that Mr. Black suffers from catalepsy, making him seem to be dead when that's far from the case.

In the second part of the clip below, Mr. Black has been safely interred—only to recover and to be released by a gravedigger who could take up the role in Hamlet with no questions asked.


The next clip is the culmination of the film. A Macbeth-spouting Mr. Black seeks vengeance on the men who dared to bury him when he wasn't even dead. And you really have to see it for yourself: 


Barry gave us a very meaningful "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech. The Comedy of Terrors gives us a farcical version. They're at two ends of a very long continuum.

Note: For teachers and others who want only that speech, there's a bonus clip at the end of this post with just that.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Bonus!  Just the "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" part of the film:



Friday, April 26, 2024

Shakespeare in FoxTrot's Your Momma Thinks Square Roots Are Vegetables

Amend, Bill. Your Momma Thinks Square Roots Are Vegetables. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2003.

Welcome back for another FoxTrot Friday!

Today's episode features two comics—one you've seen before on Bardfilm (for which, q.v.) and one that's never appeared here before.

Let's start with the second one first.

In this strip, Paige, suffering from writer's block when faced with a Shakespeare assignment, tries a unique method of inspiration: 


Peter, the eldest of the Fox siblings, has been through this before—but he finds that a sixty-watt bulb might be enough for other assignments, but not for Shakespeare.

And then we have a FoxTrot classic: The Eyes of March:


See you next Friday!

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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Macbeth? Meet Barry. Barry—Macbeth. . . . How the Dark Comedy Barry uses Shakespeare Successfully

“Chapter Five: Do Your Job.” By Ben Smith. Perf. Bill Hader, Sarah Goldberg, D'Arcy Carden, and Henry Winkler. Dir. Hiro Murai. 
Barry. Season 1, episode 5. HBO. 22 April 2018. DVD. Studio Distribution Services, 2018.

Barry is a dark comedy about a hit man who decides that he'd rather pursue a career in acting. Unfortunately, he's caught up in such a complicated web of alliances and promises that he is unable to break away from his former profession.

It's not a show I can recommend wholeheartedly. It starts dark—darker than Harold and Maude or Better off Dead, but not as dark as Fargo. Perhaps it's on the level of What We Do in the Shadows at first. But as the episodes progress—and even more so as the seasons advance—it gets darker and darker and, for some viewers (yours truly among them), the humor suffers from diminishing returns until it's all but absent.

The language also seems to grow more frequent and coarser as the show develops. Oh, and it also gets more and more bloody and more and more violent.

With all those caveats, I'm sure you're wondering why I'm bringing Barry to Bardfilm at all. But you know the answer already, don't you? It's the Shakespeare.

More specifically, it's the Macbeth. I'd like to trace how Macbeth is used over three episodes of Barry's first season.

In "Chapter Five: Do Your Job," we explore a developing relationship between Barry and an ambitious actor named Sally. They're both part of an acting class taught by Gene Cousineau (played brilliantly by Henry Winkler). Mr. Cousineau is something of a charlatan, but he has some charisma, and he's able to get results from some of his student. Barry (played brilliantly by Bill Hader) and Sally (played brilliantly by Sarah Goldberg) have been put into a group performing a scene from Macbeth—and Sally is immediately disappointed that Natalie (played brilliantly by D'Arcy Carden) has been cast in a bigger role. Oh, and hanging over the entire enterprise is the sudden and unexplained murder of a fellow student. It turns out that the reason Barry became interested in acting in the first place was that he followed a man he was hired to kill to the class, saw what the class was about, and wanted in. He does make the hit he's been hired to make, but the police investigations are becoming worrisome.

In the clip below, I'm taking you into the world of the show in general and then to the students working on Act V, scene i—the sleepwalking scene. As they work, they start to talk about the significance of the scene, and that eventually touches a nerve with Barry. Let's take a look. Note: I've censored the profanity, but use caution: You may still be able to lip read some of the words.


I'm very fond of Natalie's reading of Lady Macbeth. Here's my phonetic spelling of her speech:

Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One—two—why then ’tis time to doot . . . . What, will these hands ne’er be clean? No more of that, [o] lord, no more oh that. (V.i.35–36, 43–44)

I also like just how obviously (and obliviously) ambitious Sally is. Readers who are actors doubtless have someone they know who is just like that (and it may even be themselves).

I also like the discussion afterwords. The students' argument is that the sleepwalking scene demonstrates Lady Macbeth's (and, by extension, Macbeth's) guilt. "Once you start killing, you can never go back," one student says. 

Barry takes the stance that Macbeth was just doing what Lady Macbeth told him to do, and therefore there's a possibility for redemption for Macbeth. Barry, after all, has been killing people because he's been ordered to, and he's trying to quit that job and move forward. The students protest, pushing Barry into the outburst you saw above. Forgive me for not telling you that when Barry says that he's killed people when he was ordered to, he means it on one level—his job as a hit man—but also on another—his military service. I didn't tell you so that you could have the same reactions as many of the students. Mr. Cousineau knows about Barry's military service, but most of the students only learn about it after Barry's outburst.

At the end of the scene, Barry is left considering whether Mr. Cousineau is right that he, like Macbeth, is irredeemable.

This, in my opinion, is the ideal use of Shakespeare in a modern medium. It is not tacked on and ultimately irrelevant. They're not doing a scene from Shakespeare just because they're actors and that's what actors do. They're doing a scene because they're actors and that's what actors do—but the scene is deeply revelatory of other concerns the show is addressing.

It's also deeply funny. Mr. Cousineau's inadequate thanks to Barry for his service (and Natalie's muttered "Thank you, Barry") are disturbingly hilarious.

And it's also ideal because it doesn't stop there. The next episode provides us with a bit more.

“Chapter Six: Listen With Your Ears, React With Your Face.” By Emily Heller. Perf. Bill Hader, Sarah Goldberg, D'Arcy Carden, and Henry Winkler. Dir. Hiro Murai. Barry. Season 1, episode 6. HBO. 29 April 2018. DVD. Studio Distribution Services, 2018.

In "Chapter Six: Listen With Your Ears, React With Your Face," work on Macbeth continues. Barry is desperate to be an actor, but he's distracted by the complicated life he's living. He's also not quite getting it.

In the clip below, we have two scenes. In the first, the ambitious Sally has achieved her goal of taking the role of Lady Macbeth from Natalie. But working with Barry is proving difficult. In the second scene, Sally presents an idea to Mr. Cousineau that will change everything.


In the first scene, I love Sally's "I'm acting my heart out, but my acting partner is a disaster, but what are you going to do?" look. I love Mr. Cousineau's condescending questions that are designed to get Barry to think about his scene. And I love his "Stay out of this" delivered to Sally. And I love Barry's "I—I feel like I am listening ’cause that's why I know when to say my lines." 

In the second scene, I'm very fond of Sally's ambitious plan and Mr. Cousineau's skepticism about it. We also have a wonderful seed planted: Barry will play Seyton, who has one line in the middle of Macbeth's (and Macbeth's) most famous speech.

In terms of doing something with Shakespeare and not just tacking it on, this episode's Shakespeare scenes, though limited, are significant. Sally, an ambitious actor who wants to make her name in Hollywood, has just been dropped by an agent, and she's willing to do nearly anything to achieve her ambitions. Sally has been playing the role of a likewise ambitious woman—but now her ambition leads her into the role of an (arguably) more ambitious man. The use of the material is smart and subtle.

We get even more smart, subtle Shakespeare in the next episode.

“Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going.” By Liz Sarnoff. Perf. Bill Hader, Sarah Goldberg, D'Arcy Carden, and Henry Winkler. Dir. Alec Berg. 
Barry. Season 1, episode 7. HBO. 6 May 2018. DVD. Studio Distribution Services, 2018.

The culmination of all this sophisticated, significant, layered Shakespeare comes in "Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going." And this clip is the one most in need of a content advisory.

Barry's non-acting life is getting increasingly complicated. Chris, an old buddy of Barry's from his days in the Marines, joined him in a hit (I'm oversimplifying, I know, but most of you will appreciate it, I promise you), but he's feeling a need to turn himself in. Barry is worried that Chris' doing so will implicate him—just as he finally thinks he's free of the murder profession and on his way to becoming an actor.

His other life is also making its way into the theatre. The actor he killed at the beginning of the season is now suspected of being part of the mob, and an actual member of a drug cartel was chased away from the theatre and shot by the officer investigating the actor's murder. But Barry seems even more upset at the other news Sally gives him: That she's now playing Macbeth, and Barry has a new line.

The first half of the clip below shows the difficulty Barry is having with that new line. Let me give you some context for it. It's Act V, scene v. Macbeth is in Dunsinane castle, but he's surrounded. He hears "A cry within of women" (V.v.7.s.d) and asks Seyton, "What is that noise?" (V.v.7). Seyton, having read the stage direction, says, "It is the cry of women, my good lord" (V.v.8) and exits. Macbeth speaks:

I have almost forgot the taste of fears.
The time has been, my senses would have cool'd
To hear a night-shriek, and my fell of hair
Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir
As life were in't. I have supped full with horrors;
Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts,
Cannot once start me. (V.i.9–15) 

At that point, Seyton re-enters, and Macbeth asks, "Wherefore was that cry?" (V.v.15)—note that all the Barry versions of this scene cut that line. Seyton's reply is at the core of Barry's use of Macbeth:

The Queen, my lord, is dead. (V.v.16)

Macbeth delivers this speech at that point:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (V.17–28)

I told you that (as my Grandmother Jones used to say) to tell you this. All that background information I've provided will prepare you well for the first part of the clip below. In working through those speeches (especially Barry's "The Queen, my lord, is dead), we have a lot of humor mixed with the tension of Barry's non-acting life getting closer and closer to his theatrical life. When Sally delivers Barry's clue, Barry's on the phone with his Marine buddy. When, after Sally loudly repeats his clue, he finally says, "I gotta go" and enters, he muffs his line: "My Queen, the lord . . . my lord, the Queen is dead," explaining "I just got the line" when an exasperated Sally exits. We then get a cautionary tale about how Mr. Cousineau, unfortunately on drugs at the time, was able to bring in a thirty-seven-minute Long Day's Journey into Night.

The second part of the clip takes the plot in a very dark direction indeed. 

After rehearsal, Barry meets up with his friend from their military days and, once again, tries to persuade him not to turn himself in. But Chris is adamant, though he's also reluctant to put Barry in danger. Barry sees no other way out than to kill him and make it look like a suicide. I'm not including that scene in the clip below (apart from one brief flashback that does not show a gunshot or a corpse), but a content warning is still not out of place. 

We'll see the various actors getting ready for the performance of "Gene Cousineau Presents . . . A Festival of Shakespeare." We'll see the audience gathering, and we'll learn that an important agent is in attendance. We'll find out that Barry hasn't shown up and that Sally is desperately anxious that she won't get a chance to get the agent's attention.

Then we'll see Barry on his way to the theatre after having murdered his friend and staged it as a suicide. When he finally arrives at the theatre, he's completely out of it ("I'm supposed to wear a costume?"), but he almost listens when Sally begs him to "just give me something to work with" when he delivers his one line.

Backstage, waiting for his cue, Barry is muttering his line to himself. As usual, it's incorrect, but it's not as incorrect as it could be: He's saying "My lord, the Queen is dead" instead of "The Queen, my lord, is dead" (V.v.16). But as he's doing that, his brain is full of images of his Marine friend and his Marine friend's happy family and his Marine friend's wife happily answering an ordinary phone call and getting the news that her husband has committed suicide. And his imagination shows him some images of the funeral to come. And then it's back to the phone call. And the wife collapsing in grief. And repeat.

Then Barry enters and delivers his one line.



I wanted to prepare you for most of that (especially the troubling images that run through Barry's mind backstage). But I wanted you to experience some of it for yourself. I didn't mention the "Alapse, Poor Yorick" bit or the "I'm the agent who will demonstrate that he's impressed by looking up from his cell phone" trope. That's also why I didn't mention the dream sequence where Barry imagines one version of his delivering the line. That version is pretty much devoid of subtext. Everything is delivered as straight as possible (including an American Actor Overdoing The British Accent layer). And Barry delivers it, for once, in the right order: "The Queen, my lord, is dead" (V.v.16). After he exits, Barry seems quite pleased with his performance.

That imagined version of the scene serves as a foil to the actual performance. When Barry delivers his line, his mind is full of how someone might react to the sudden news of the death of a dearly-beloved spouse. I've never seen the line delivered with much more than "Here's some bad news so that you can deliver the 'Tomorrow and' speech." But here, there's genuine anguish in the line. And that one line—"It's one line, Barry"—unlocks a deeper, more meaningful delivery of the "Tomorrow" speech. Even delivering it in the incorrect order ("My lord, the Queen is dead") shifts the emphasis in such a way as to stress the unhappiness—the injustice—the desolation revealed by the death.

Then there's that terrific moment of dark humor where Sally says, "Whatever you did tonight to get to that place, that's your new process, okay? All you have to do is do that every time." And we're left with a Barry who is thinking over the process that got him to deliver that line in that way.

Barry uses Macbeth to find extraordinary depth in both its characters and in Shakespeare. Since the show is about actors, it could all have been on the "Alapse, poor Yorick" side. Instead, Shakespeare is brilliantly layered over and under the concerns of the show, expanding what can be done with Shakespeare in surprising and significant ways. 


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Monday, April 22, 2024

Book Note: Mrs. Caliban

Ingalls, Rachel. Mrs. Caliban. 1983. New York: New Directions, 2017.

I can't recall precisely how this book came to my attention, but it's likely to have been in a list of Shakespeare-related fiction. But the title was irresistible—Mrs. Caliban promises much—and I gave it a try.

In terms of the Shakespearean content, I was disappointed. But the novel itself is intriguing. I teach a course called "Humor Lit." and this would fit right in. Simon Critchley, who wrote a very approachable book entitled On Humor, would have much to say about the disquieting, disorienting humor of Mrs. Caliban.

The novel tells the story of Mrs. Dorothy [No Last Name Given], a woman living a somewhat stereotypical suburban life in the 1960s or 1970s. In her grief over her son's recent death and her own even-more-recent miscarriage, in her bewilderment and pain at an affair she suspects her husband of carrying on, and in her boredom with her routine existance, she starts to go off the rails a bit. She seems to hear voices coming from the radio—voices that are directed at her personally but that no one else can hear.

Among these are some strange news alerts about the escape of the subject of a scientific study—a huge, amphibious monster called "Aquarius the Monsterman." But these reports seems to be accurate (as far as they go). It's left ambiguous whether we're moving further into our protagnoist's delusions or if the novel is presenting this as reality.

Either way, that's where we find the most direct connection to Shakespeare. Aquarius comes into Dorothy's kitchen while she's preparing a meal for her husband and his guests. We'll pick up there:





Dorothy protects Larry—in fact, they almost immediately start a romantic (in every sense of the word) relationship. I think this is where the title comes into play. Although many on-line sources assume that Dorothy's married name is Mrs. Dorothy Caliban, the word "Caliban" appears nowhere in the novel. She's never referred to as Mrs. [Anything]—just as Dorothy. But her allegiances are clearly wholly with Larry from the beginning of their romantic relationship. 

In The Tempest, Caliban makes a point of one thing he has learned from Prospero since Prospero usurped him (as Caliban thinks) as rule of the island: "You taught me language" (I.ii.363). But he also mentions the use he intends to put to that acquired skill: "And my profit on't / Is, I know how to curse" (I.iii.363–64).

Larry was also taught human speech, but with a pedagogy that is unlikely to receive PTA approval:


There's nothing more particularly Tempest-like in the rest of the novel. Dorothy is unhappy in her marriage to a man whom she suspects of having an affair and who is extremely inattentive, but she falls in love with Larry, a being somewhat like Caliban from Shakespeare's play. But even without more extensive ties to Shakespeare, the novel is well worth reading.

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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