Sunday, November 30, 2008

Star Trek Deconstructs the Romantic Use of the Sonnets

“Ménage à Troi.” By Fred Bronson and Susan Sackett. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, and Michael Dorn. Dir. Robert Legato. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 3, episode 24. Syndicated television. 10 June 1990. DVD. Paramount, 2002.
And sometimes, Shakespeare and Star Trek just get silly.

I've written about this episode before, mentioning the slight inaccuracies in the quotations and the unamused look on Worf's face, but I didn't include a clip of all the silliness that surrounds them.

We're treated to sections of Sonnets 147 and 141, after which we jump to Sonnet 18. A smattering of Othello rounds out the jealousy Picard is attempting to portray. Then Picard adds a sliver of Alfred, Lord Tennyson—just to round things off.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Shakespeare's Enduring Legacy, Imaginatively Extended to A.D. 2363

“Hide & Q.” By C. J. Holland and Gene Roddenberry. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Denise Crosby, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, and John de Lancie. Dir. Cliff Bole. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 1, episode 10. Syndicated television. 23 November 1987. DVD. Paramount, 2002.
The second Shakespeare reference in The Next Generation takes place in the second episode (for which, q.v.). The third reference comes along with the second appearance of the entity known as Q.

Q is an omniscient, omnipotent entity who shows up periodically to tease or to test the human beings on the Enterprise. In this scene, he's thumbing through Picard's Globe Illustrated Shakespeare . He give us a bit of Hamlet, followed by a modernized-to-the-year-2363 version of Jaques' "All the world's a stage" speech from As You LIke It. A sampling of Macbeth follows, to which Picard responds with some more Hamlet, specifically, this:
What a piece of work is a man. How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty. In form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel—in apprehension how like a god!
Picard says he's saying this sincerely—without Hamlet's irony and without (though he doesn't say this outright) Hamlet's "Yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust" that tends to take the edge off the lines. When Picard compares man to a god, Q (who is an omniscient, omnipotent entity, remember—something of a god himself) is appalled. And rightly so!

What we tend to forget about that speech, especially when it's taken out of context, is that Hamlet is talking to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who have already admitted that they are working for the King. Although Hamlet's purposes in uttering this in particular to people he knows will report what he says to his nemesis are unclear, it is clear that we can't take it at face value. At face value, it's quite an appalling claim!

I prefer the passage that may lie at the back of it: Psalm 8:3-5.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?

You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
But back to the scene in question. Here it is!

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Shakespeare in the Next Generation

“Encounter at Farpoint.” By D. C. Fontana and Gene Roddenberry. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Denise Crosby, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, and DeForest Kelley. Dir. Corey Allen. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 1, episode 1. Syndicated television. 28 September 1987. DVD. Paramount, 2002.
It doesn't take long for The Next Generation to pick up the habit of incorporating Shakespeare into its dialogue. In the very first episode, Picard pulls out that delightful line from Henry VI, Part II as a critique of the strange courtroom experience the crew is having:

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

"Thanks, Dear Isabel": Inadequate Words on Thanksgiving Day

Shakespeare, William. Measure for Measure. Ed. Jonathan Crewe. Pelican Shakespeare. Gen. ed. Stephen Orgel. New York: Penguin Classic, 2000.
It seems like one of the most inadequate responses in all of Shakespeare. Isabella has just told her brother that the only way to get him out of prison is for her—her, a novitiate!—to sleep with the unjust judge. She adds this line to her explanation of her refusal to do so (and to his agreement to her refusal to do so):
O, were it but my life,
I'ld throw it down for your deliverance
As frankly as a pin.
Claudio responds with these words: "Thanks, dear Isabel."

Those lines seem, somehow, not to measure up (ha!) to the offer.

But that's how we feel every Thanksgiving. We have so very, very much to be thankful for—on both a material and a spiritual plane—that a simple "Thanks" seems inadequate.

However, it is heartfelt. And it seems that all the eloquence in the world wouldn't weigh evenly against all that we have been given.

Therefore, we just say, in the words of Sebastian of Twelfth Night,
I can no other answer make but thanks,
And thanks; and ever thanks. (III.iii.15-16)
Happy Thanksgiving from Bardfilm, everyone!

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"I am Shylock! Know Ye Not That?"

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1991. DVD. Paramount, 2004.
All right, after this post, we'll move from The Undiscovered Country to other matters.

The previous post mentioned a broadcast of Merchant of Venice on the day before Kristellnacht. The intent seems to have been to incite the general populace to anti-Semitism.

It vaguely reminded me of an incident in the lives of Queen Elizabeth and Shakespeare.  In 1601, Shakespeare's company was paid to put on a production of Richard II the day before a failed insurrection.  The play addresses the successful deposition of an unpopular monarch, and the theory is that the leaders of the insurrection (the Earl of Essex and his crowd) thought that the play would rally the people to their cause—or, at least, give them courage to go through with a dangerous and deadly—and, for Essex and many others, fatal—operation.

Afterwards, in extreme pique, Her Majesty purportedly said, "I am Richard—know ye not that?"

Fortunately, the players—and the author—escaped severe punishment.

The idea was similar in Germany in 1938.  The problem was that it was successful, rallying the people to attack the supposed Shylocks among them.

Why couldn't they have broadcast As You Like It, in which the terrible ruler becomes miraculous converted in the forest and turns his throne over to the good guys?

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Discoveries in The Undiscovered Country

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1991. DVD. Paramount, 2004.
After this post, we'll move from The Undiscovered Country to other matters, but an examination of the use of Shakespeare in that film has led my mind into tangential territory that I find interesting.

All the Shakespeare in that film is given to the villain.  The good guys just watch as their author is misused, abused, appropriated, and twisted—all without even so much as a "base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave" directed at him.

I've repeatedly said that Shylock's "Hath not a Jew" speech is almost impossible to play unsympathetically. In my research for posts on this film (especially on the Nazi use of Shakespeare in the Second World War), I discovered that a version of Merchant of Venice was broadcast on German radio—as incitement to anti-Semitism—on the day before Kristellnacht.

Shylock must have been portrayed with all the worst presumed characteristics of Jews. But I wonder. Could no one hear those lines sympathetically? In the aftermath, did no one think of those words and reconsider?

In the clip I posted in the previous entry, General Chang says the lines, and we fail to sympathize. But, of course, he hasn't been tickled, he hasn't been pricked, and he hasn't even been wronged. Therefore, his claims are ludicrous—we don't have to accept the conclusion of "Hath not a Klingon" because we don't have to accept the premise. But it was surely different in Germany in 1938.

Wasn't it?

Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia. Official Site of The Klingon Hamlet.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pulling Out All the Stops: Allusions to Six Plays (and Two Sherlock Holmes References [one a Shakespeare quote] as a Bonus) in Star Trek VI

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1991. DVD. Paramount, 2004.

In the grand conclusion to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, General Chang gets a little carried away, piling reference upon reference, allusion upon allusion, and quotation upon quotation from Shakespeare into his militaristic taunting. Including the trial scene, we are treated to excerpts or paraphrases (or translations into Klingon) of no less than six plays: Richard II, Henry V, Hamlet (in Klingon), The Merchant of Venice, Henry V (again), The Tempest, Julius Caesar, Julius Caesar (again), and—finally and conclusively—Hamlet (in English).

I've collated them into the clip below, and I've provided the quotes (as uttered in the film, not as printed in authoritative sources) below the clip below. For the Klingon, I used (unabashedly, in this case) the internet. Most sources capitalize and accent the line in this way. Until I get my copy of The Klingon Hamlet (for a link, see below), requested today through Inter-Library Loan, that will pass as authoritative.

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Let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings.
Richard II, III.ii.155-56
Once more unto the breach, dear friends!
Henry V, III.i.1
taH pagh taHbe'.
Hamlet, Klingon Translation, III.i.55
Tickle us, do we not laugh? Prick us, do we not bleed? Wrong us, shall we not revenge?
The Merchant of Venice, III.i.64-66
The game's afoot!
Henry V, III.i.32
Our revels now are ended.
The Tempest, IV.i.148
Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war!
Julius Caesar, III.i.273
I am constant as the northern star.
Julius Caesar, III.i.60
To be or not to be.
Hamlet, III.i.55
[Dr. McCoy's comment ("I'd give real money if he'd shut up") is not from Shakespeare, though it may move us as much.]

One last brief allusion is found in the mouth of another bad guy ("gal," I suppose, really). Hamlet says that "the devil hath power / T'assume a pleasing shape" (II.ii.599-600). This baddie admits to having the same power:


Update (6 August 2012): The phrase "undiscovered country" is repeated at least twice more (once in plural form) in the course of the film—toward the film's end. Here are two still frames showing those quotations:


Links: A Gateway to Star Trek Information at Wikipedia. Official Site of The Klingon Hamlet.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Mix One Part Hamlet, One Part Tempest, One Part Romeo and Juliet, and One Part Henry IV, Part 2. Mix Well.

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1991. DVD. Paramount, 2004.
We're still in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country today, mining it for more Shakespearean fragments.  I didn't offer a lot of commentary on the previous clip (the one that ends with Chekov looking skeptical at Shakespeare "in the original Klingon").  The reason that is so funny (and the reason I left the reference to "Earth—Hitler—1938" in the clip below) is the Nazi appropriation of Shakespeare in World War II.  The common story is that the Nazis claimed that Shakespeare had really been written in German, but the English translated him into English and stole him away from his rightful heritage.  I haven't found that claim in a scholarly source, though I have found statements noting that Shakespeare was to be treated as a German author when non-German playwrights were banned.  

In the clip below, you get not one—not two—not three—but four, fourFFFFFOUUURRRR Shakespeare references for the price of one!

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Klingon Appropriation of Hamlet

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Dir. Nicholas Meyer. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1991. DVD. Paramount, 2004.
Some of my favorite connections between Shakespeare and Star Trek come in this film. In this scene, we are reminded that Shakespeare, as we know him, is only an English translation of the far-superior original:

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Spock Displays his Well-Rounded, Liberal Arts Education

Star Trek: The Voyage Home. Dir. Leonard Nimoy. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, and George Takei. 1986. DVD. Paramount, 2003.
And so, we move to the motion pictures (though I will get to the episodes that are just title references and to ST:  TNG—don't you worry).  

The Original Series offered considerable scope.  In the movies, Hamlet takes the upper hand.  Is it because the studios can't afford to be as obscure in a feature film?

In any case, The Voyage Home offers only a small quotation from Hamlet.  But, for those of you who know its plot, they could have shoved in a quick "Very like a whale" every now and then!

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Review of Shakespeare in Words and Music

Shakespeare in Words and Music. Dir. Albert Girard and Jean-Jacques Sheitoyan. Perf. Attila Ciemann, Pascale Beaudin, Daniela Candillari, et al. 2008. DVD. Kultur, 2008.
Although the music of Jean Sibelius has its affinities with the soundtracks of Star Trek, that would be stretching things quite a bit. We'll have to consider this a brief interruption to "Shakespeare and Star Trek Week" here at Bardfilm.

With the remnants of my Shakespeare and Film budget, I recently purchased the just-released Shakespeare in Words and Music, hoping that I would be pleasantly surprised. I have a vague notion that "Shakespeare and Opera Week" will be in Bardfilm's future, and I thought this DVD might help me think about that.

The DVD is a humdrum collection of poorly-written introductions, rote performances of set pieces from Shakespeare, and static (though generally good) musical performances. I was going to try to be kind about the quality of the introductions, but I had the film running in the background while writing this post, and this quote just happened by:
"Ha, ha! Music was so important to Will."
[Shudder.]

I'm afraid the acting and scripting are reminiscent of the DVD entitled Shakespeare's Soliloquies (for which, q.v.). I really don't want to be too harsh; I have great sympathy for out-of-work actors, and these actors seem very eager to have these roles after having been out of work for some time. But it's not good acting. I'm sorry.  Even when the script is Shakespeare's own words.

The singing (and the instrumental works, though they are minimal—the DVD focuses on the marriage of music and text) is quite good, and it is interesting to have two hours' traffic of Shakespeare-based music in one convenient location. But it is, on the whole, a disappointing purchase.

The "Broadway Bound" section is particularly disappointing. Except for one song from Boys of Syracuse, every song in that section is from West Side Story. I would have a appreciated a lot more variety there—including some Kiss me, Kate, for example! Otherwise, I would have spent the money on the film version of West Side Story, which has imminently better performances than these.

Here's a representative sample of the acting and the singing from the section entitled "Foreign Masters."  As a bonus (or punishment?), you get a brief introduction to the next song on the DVD.

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P.S. Hamlet (as I'm watching along) just said this:
Her mind has lost sway [or “its way”? Annunciate, man!], but Will Shakespeare captures its every descent into a personal solitude of hopelessness. If you should have the mind for it—you’ll pray excuse my choice of words—prepare yourselves to twist and turn with the distraught Ophelia.
And then the film segues to "Shake it up, Baby," performed by a Beatles Tribute Group.

Actually, they don't. But that would be far funnier than what they do do.
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Shakespeare, Sonnet XVIII, and Star Trek

“Whom Gods Destroy.” By Lee Erwin. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, and George Takei. Dir. Herb Wallerstein. Star Trek. Season 3, episode 14. NBC. 3 January 1969. DVD. Paramount, 2008.
The sonnets are not as often the subject of Shakespeare and Film related material as we might expect. The BBC's A Waste of Shame (for which, q.v.) is the only full-length film treatment of the subject matter of the sonnets that I can think of. More often, sonnets are simply a way to call a certain flavor—usually a romantic flavor—into a film.

As is its wont, Star Trek does something weirder than that. In this case, some insane aliens have taken over the psychiatric ward. One of them recites a poem she wrote this morning (and then goes on with an old, old joke—you'll see):

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Here's the sonnet in its entirety—I typed it up this morning!
Sonnet XVIII
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
     So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
     So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trekking of a Shrew: Star Trek's version of The Taming of the Shrew

“Elaan of Troyius.” By John Meredyth Lucas. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, George Takei, Walter Koenig, and France Nguyen Van-Nga. Dir. John Meredyth Lucas. Star Trek. Season 3, episode 13. NBC. 20 December 1968. DVD. Paramount, 2008.
The old saying goes, "First Season, Hamlet, Second Season, Romeo and Juliet, Third Season, Taming."  

Actually, I don't know of an old saying that says that, but perhaps we can start that here (although my attempt to make the phrase "It wouldn't be a cliché if it weren't true" into a cliché never caught on). The old / new saying is at least true of ST: TOS.

In this episode, the Enterprise must transport a shrew who needs, at the very least, civilizing, if not actual taming. Or that's what the opening sequence suggests.

The "Elaan of Troius" episode is frequently cited as a Taming spin-off. But, honestly? It seems to have throwing dishes and not wanting to be married in common with the Elizabeth Taylor film version, but not too much else. On the other hand, that's enough! Enjoy!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Star Trek, Having Taken a Stab at Macbeth (Ha!), Turns to Romeo and Juliet

“By Any Other Name.” By D.C. Fontana and Jerome Bixby. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, James Doohan, and Walter Koenig. Dir. Marc Daniels. Star Trek. Season 2, episode 22. NBC. 23 February 1968. DVD. Paramount, 2008.
I have seen this episode listed with the annotation "Kirk misquotes a line from Romeo and Juliet"—but he doesn't. One may object to his delivery, but not to his accuracy.

[Update: Yes, he does misquote the line. I can't think how I missed it before, but Kirk says "any other name"; the line actually reads "any other word." Thank you. —Bardfilm]

[Update to the update: No, he doesn't misquote the line. Apparently, he's quoting from Q1, which has "name." Q2 through Q4 have "word," as does the First Folio, but Kirk has clearly spent his time at the Folger Shakespeare Library studying their copy of Q1. Thanks again! —Bardfilm]

In this episode, some crazy aliens have taken on human form and intend to take the crew of the Enterprise back with them to their home world. Wistfully, Captain Kirk quotes from "a great human poet, Shakespeare."

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Although it's never been publicly recognized (to my knowledge), the episode goes on to borrow themes from Othello: Spock, an Iago analogue, helps defeat the aliens by increasing their emotions—notably, jealousy. If I had the resources (among with I include time), I would dub over some of Spock's speeches to the chief male alien with Iago's lines, creating something truly rich and strange. Though perhaps more strange than rich. Some day, perhaps.
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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The First Major Integration of Shakespeare and Star Trek

“Conscience of the King.” By Barry Trivers. Perf. William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols, Arnold Moss, and Barbara Anderson. Dir. Gerd Oswald. Star Trek. Season 1, episode 13. NBC. 8 December 1966. DVD. Paramount, 2008.
Besides a title reference (and some arguably Shakespearean-sounding language in the famous opening monologue, including the iambic pentameter* line "To boldly go where no [one's] gone before"), this is the first episode to grapple with Shakespeare in a major way.

And it does so quite well—and quite optimistically. Hurtling through space in the twenty-whatevereth century, Macbeth and Hamlet are still part of a theatre company's repertoire. And even then, innovative things are being done with the script—we see Macbeth stab Duncan, though the text leaves that offstage. At least, that's the case with the Folio printing—perhaps they've discovered a Quarto of the play in the twenty-whatevereth century.

In any case, we get part of Macbeth here at the beginning of the episode. Toward the end, we get a bit of Hamlet, too (with a little Julius Caesar thrown in for good measure). And that part spills over into the plot of the show, in which a crewman seeks revenge for the murder of his father (and mother): Hamlet's own (partial) predicament.

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* All right, I admit it—I conflated "man has" into "one's" to make the line fit the requirements of iambic pentameter. So sue me. Actually, if anyone from Paramount is listening, please don't sue me. Consider it, rather, a tribute.  And forgive any liberties.
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Shakespeare and Star Trek Week is Here!

“Naked Now.” By J. Michael Bingham and John D.F. Black. Perf. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, and Michael Dorn. Dir. Paul Lynch. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Season 1, episode 2. Syndicated television. 5 October 1987. DVD. Paramount, 2002.
You have been remarkably patient, waiting through many tangential topics and Shakespearean haiku—not to mention other hurly-burly, helter-skelter, pell-mell miscellanea. But it's here at last. Shakespeare and Star Trek week has arrived.

I thought about beginning with the first ever Shakespeare reference in a Star Trek episode / film / spin-off, but I thought it would be better to segue there through a Merchant of Venice-related moment.

I've said that the "Hath not a Jew" speech is almost impossible to play unsympathetically. I wouldn't say that this version is unsympathetic, exactly—it's more humorous than anything—but it could be construed at mocking. However, I think we should take it in the spirit in which it's delivered: funny.

To set the scene, I'll tell you that Data is an android who has aspirations to be truly human. In this episode, a virus is sweeping the ship, making those who are infected with it behave as if they were intoxicated. As an android, Data should be immune, but he starts behaving in the following odd manner:

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Animated As You LIke It

As You Like It. Dir. Alexei Karaev. Perf. Sylvestra Le Touzel. Shakespeare: The Animated Tales. 1994. DVD. Ambrose Video, 2004.

As a break between an exam and a deeper consideration of the play, I showed my students the twenty-five minute animated version of As You Like It, and they were thrilled. They were thrilled not only at the break from discussion; they also got a kick out of the humor of the animated version. It is a lovely piece, and it does cover the basic plot (which can be confusing), freeing up class time for other, deeper (I hope) matters.

The best part of it is the way it deals with the "All the world's a stage" speech. It's marvelously inventive, taking images like the famous sketch of the Swan Theatre and the feel of Renaissance Woodcuts to show the seven ages of man. And, when Jaques finishes (after some marvelous memento mori iconography), we come back to the Forest of Arden—and no one's listening to him at all. Whatever he's said, they are still going to enjoy themselves completely!

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

More Shakespearean Haiku

Jones, Keith. "Ophelia Complains to the Author."
It wouldn't be fair to have a Hamlet haiku without an Ophelia Haiku. After all, if you can't have Hamlet without Hamlet, you also can't have either Hamlet or Hamlet without Ophelia.

In this poem, she's complaining because, when Hamlet goes mad, he still gets all the best lines. And when it comes to his big exit if you know what I mean), he's got it all sewn up. 

"But what do I get?" she thinks. "A bunch of pansies, a few scraps of folks songs that nobody's heard of since the New Christy's Minstrel Singers went defunct, and an exit line that even T. S. Eliot couldn't use in a free verse poem, let alone blank verse!" 

But, because this is a haiku, she only uses seventeen syllables to express all that frustration.
Ophelia Complains to the Author

"The rest is silence."
That's his last line. And for me?
"Goodnight, sweet ladies."

Friday, November 14, 2008

Shakespearean Haiku

Jones, Keith. "Prince Hamlet's Haiku."
I recently entered a Haiku Competition.

I see you trying to scan that sentence. It doesn't amount to a haiku.

Sorry. I exhausted all my poetic efforts on the actual haiku I wrote for the competition.

Anyway, here's the haiku in question.

It sums up the majesty, the beauty, the complexity of Hamlet in seventeen syllables.
Prince Hamlet's Haiku

A wandering ghost—
My dead father cries “Uncle!”
I must have revenge.
If I become inspired, more of these may follow. If not, just know that the Japanese characters inset into the image above are (according to Babel Fish, at least) "Shake Speare" in Japanese.

P.S. I've translated the poem into Japanese—and then back into English—with Babel Fish. Here's the result (in irregular measure):
The illusion which you wander about
as for the father where I die
the uncle
as for me who shout
you must have vengeance.

P.P.S. The haiku won second place in the competition!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Brooks' Version of Benny's Version of Shylock's Speech from Merchant of Venice

To Be or Not To Be. Dir. Alan Johnson. Perf. Mel Brooks, Tim Matheson, Charles Durning, and Christopher Lloyd. 1983. Twentieth Century Fox, 2006.
A while ago, I posted a version of Shylock's "Hath not" speech from Jack Benny's To Be or Not To Be.  In that version, the speaker's religious and ethnic background isn't absolutely plain.  We know that he's Jewish because of some remarks he makes early in the film ("What you are I wouldn't eat," he says to a ham actor:  "You're a ham; I'm Jewish; I keep kosher; what you are I wouldn't eat" is the unstated progression), but the main purport of the speech is that Poles (did I mention that the setting is Nazi-invaded Poland in the early years of World War II?) and Germans are, at heart, the same.

Mel Brooks' version of the scene makes the speaker's Judiasm much plainer and brings the issue of anti-Semitism to the forefront to a far greater degree.

Shakespeare's words, given to the villain of the piece, are used to make a sympathetic plea for Jews in an extremely anti-Semitic setting:

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shakespeare, Sight Unseen

Will Shakespeare. By John Mortimer. Perf. Tim Curry and Ian McShane. Dir. Mark Cullingham and Robert Knights. 1978. DVD. A & E Home Video, 2008.
It wasn't the product description, which reads, "As he struggles to survive as a playwright, Shakespeare faces multiple obstacles, including the black plague and various personal tragedies, but defeats all obstacles to achieve unprecedented success in London." It wasn't Tim Curry, even though he's had a long and immensely varied career. It wasn't the enormous number of credits I've earned by placing links to amazon.com merchandise on the site. [In fact, I've just noticed that, since this blog went commercial in—oh, roughly July—I've earned a grand total of $0.25 from it. Twenty-five cents! But that's another story.] What was it, then (other than having some discretionary funds available for faculty development) that made me pre-order Will Shakespeare, a six-part miniseries that won't be released until December?

Even though I still haven't heard a thing about it, I ordered it because it was written by John Mortimer, of Rumpole of the Bailey fame.

If nothing else, it will at least prove to be interesting and funny—and, after all, it's Shakespeare! When it arrives, I'll give it a thorough going-over and a review. Perhaps I'll add a "biographical film" category to my Shakespeare and Film class this year . . . .

Buy a copy for yourself, using the link below! That will give me some credits to use at amazon.com to buy more Shakespeare-related materials to review for you! And the great circle of Shakespeare and film will continue!
Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Best Young Adult Shakespeare-Related Novel

Cooper, Susan. King of Shadows. New York: Aladdin, 2005.

We may be able to hold Andrew Gurr responsible for the best young adult novel based on Shakespeare. His theories and his work with the New Globe Theatre form part of the plot of Susan Cooper's King of Shadows.

I've adored Susan Cooper from my earliest days, when someone gave me a copy of Over Sea, Under Stone, the first book in the series that's known by the title of its second book, The Dark is Rising. I was entranced. The bits of the Welsh language, the Arthurian legend (not so legendary after all!), the adventure, the characters, the fear, the scenery, and all the rest gave the books so much depth and interest that I couldn't put them down. I read and re-read them and lent them to anyone who would borrow them.  [Until one friend kept them for so many years that I had to buy myself all new copies—but that's another story.]

In 1998, this amazing author published another amazing novel: King of Shadows. The premise will sound tacky and the image on the cover looks tacky, but—trust me here!—the novel itself is stunning.

The plot involves a young American actor who is chosen for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream that will be put on at the New Globe Theatre ("King of Shadows" is one of the names of Oberon; that gives the book its title). He travels to England—and then he travels back in time to the original Globe, meeting Shakespeare and saving the universe as he does so! Well, at least he meets Shakespeare.

Yes, that sounds tacky and somewhat typical. But try it—it's really amazing! And it's perfect for a Christmas gift to each of the youngsters in your life.


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


Monday, November 10, 2008

"Finally: A Funny Gravedigger!"

L.A. Story. Dir. Mick Jackson. By Steve Martin. Perf. Steve Martin, Sarah Jessica Parker, Patrick Stewart, Rick Moranis, and Victoria Tennant. 1991. DVD. Artisan, 1999.

When Poor Yorick was still around, its catalogue mentioned this film. Mistakenly thinking that the sentient, talking traffic sign quoted Shakespeare (it doesn't), I skimmed through it, became disappointed when I found no quotes from Shakespeare on the traffic sign, and took it back to the library. But I finally remembered—it's not the sign; it's Rick Moranis as the gravedigger! That's where the Shakespeare is in the film!  Oh, and it's marvelous.

video

Links: The Film at IMDB.
Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Sunday, November 9, 2008

We Owe so Much to Andrew Gurr

Gurr, Andrew. Playgoing in Shakespeare’s London. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
For some reason, I've been tapped to do some guest lecturing in some colleagues' classes this semester. And I honestly don't think I could do a thing right if it weren't for Andrew Gurr. His work has helped me immeasurably in gathering the clearest possible sense of Shakespeare's audience.

But I need to use that immeasurable aid to put together some lecture notes for tomorrow. Right away!

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


Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Bloody Business

Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. New York: Dover, 1995. Title.
Another thing I should have noticed long ago is just how much blood there is in Merchant of Venice. The center of the central plot revolves around a document that fails to mention blood—but blood is mentioned copiously throughout the rest of the play. Here are the key lines:
Why should a man, whose blood is warm within,
Sit like his grandsire cut in alabaster?

The brain may devise laws for the blood, but a hot temper leaps o'er a cold decree

Bring me the fairest creature northward born,
Where Phoebus' fire scarce thaws the icicles,
And let us make incision for your love,
To prove whose blood is reddest, his or mine.

I'll be sworn, if thou be Launcelot, thou art mine own flesh and blood.

But though I am a daughter to his blood,
I am not to his manners.

My own flesh and blood to rebel!

I say, my daughter is my flesh and blood.

Madam, you have bereft me of all words,
Only my blood speaks to you in my veins.

Here is a letter, lady;
The paper as the body of my friend,
And every word in it a gaping wound,
Issuing life-blood.

The Jew shall have my flesh, blood, bones and all,
Ere thou shalt lose for me one drop of blood.

This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood.

But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
Unto the state of Venice.

Therefore prepare thee to cut off the flesh.
Shed thou no blood, nor cut thou less nor more
But just a pound of flesh

For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,
Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,
Which is the hot condition of their blood;
If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
Or any air of music touch their ears,
You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,
Their savage eyes turn'd to a modest gaze
By the sweet power of music.
All that is the beginning of a thesis—or of another essay question to let my students think about!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Silence is the . . .

Much Ado about Nothing. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton and Keanu Reeves. 1993. DVD. MGM, 2003.
This time through teaching Much Ado about Nothing, I noticed a connection I should have noticed before. Don John is a man of few words (at least in public). The clip below, in which Keanu Reeves demonstrates a wide range of emotion, demonstrates this:

video

When we got to Claudio's inability to say much upon his engagement to Hero, something clicked. His "Silence is the perfectest herald of joy" actually marks him as a character to receive less of our sympathy in this play filled with delightful fast-talkers who do receive our sympathy. I'll need to think more on the connection between silence and villainy in the play.  Or, perhaps, I'll just ask my students about it on the final exam and get them to do the thinking about it for me.
Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film from amazon.com
(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