Friday, June 3, 2011

When Mr. Shakespeare Comes to Town

Greet, Ben. "Benedick's Idea of a Wife." [Much Ado About Nothing, II.iii.7-35.] Victor 17115. Matrix/Take: B-11989 / 1. 3 May 1912.
Some kind soul recently told me about The National Jukebox at the Library of Congress. The collection is fabulous and fascinating, and the first thing I did was search for "Shakespeare" in it. The results were surprising.

There were a number of recordings of "Greatest Speeches from Shakespeare," including a performance by Ben Greet, the great Shakespearean actor / producer / director who advocated a return to simpler productions of Shakespeare. Here's a recording of Ben Greet giving Benedick's speech about his ideal wife in Much Ado About Nothing:

But the National Jukebox contains more than speeches from Shakespeare. If you'd like to hear the great hit "Sigh No More, Ladies" as it was performed in 1914, look (or listen) no further:

Finally, there's always room for a novelty song. Here's "When Mr. Shakespeare Comes to Town," a song about a man who asks a woman to a minstrel show. Perhaps because she recognizes the inherent racism in such performances (a racism that is sadly reflected in the sheet music for the song if not in its lyrics), she rejects his offer, telling him that she'll reconsider going out with him when Mr. Shakespeare comes to town.

My favorite verse:
I like that play they call Macbeth.
My brother Seth
Got scared to death.
It almost took away his breath,
And he fainted right on the floor.
And when that Shakespeare man comes 'round
You have got to chain me right to the ground.
Right up in front I'm always found;
He's the man I do adore.
I like a play that's good—
Very fond of N. S. Wood—
So Mr. Johnson, save your dough
For a Shakespeare show,
And then I'll go . . .
And there's more—so go try your own searches. Perhaps "Hamlet" might be a good search term . . .
Links: The National Jukebox.

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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