Friday, May 24, 2013

Minor but Persistent Shakespeare Use in Warm Bodies: A Novel

Marion, Isaac. Warm Bodies: A Novel. New York: Atria Books, 2011.

Zombie stories are anathema to me. I do not understand the recent acceleration in the production of Zombie-related books, games, and films. Sure, I watched the trailer for Zombie Hamlet (for which, q.v.), and I even watched Romeo and Juliet vs. The Living Dead in its entirety (for which, q.v.), but I just am not on the same zombie page as the Zombophiles seem to be.

Yet the recent release of the film Warm Bodies led to huge number of Zombinorata—largely college students—urging me to see it and to think about its connections to Romeo and Juliet.  "The Zombie protagonist's name is 'R,'" they would cry, "and his beloved—who is not a zombie—is named Julie."  Then, as if to clinch the argument, they would add, "There's even a balcony scene."

I haven't yet seen the film (I will have to, of course, once the DVD is released), but I've been shambling, zombie-like, through the novel on which the film is based, and I've finally finished it.

I don't like it. I don't like the rules of the zombie universe or the details of brain eating. I don't like the creepy horror elements.

But this is a great book. If you are into zombie narratives, this book will knock you sideways. The prose is strong and interesting and the characters are intriguing.

And, yes, the novel has its balcony scene. I've scanned in an image of the relevant pages (click on the image below to enlarge it), and there's very clearly a direct connection to Romeo and Juliet's balcony scene.  Note: The selection below contains some obscenities.

Pages 126-27.

The equivalent of Juliet's speech has its own kind of charm:
I miss R! I know that's crazy, but is it really that crazy? Just because he's . . . whatever he is? I mean, isn't "zombie" just a silly name we came up with for a state of being we don't understand? What's in a name, right? (127)
If you're liking the zombie trend—if you are, as @JohnDranski might say, a "Zombudsman"—try the book. If, like me, you're over-saturated with zombies, thank me for reading it so you didn't have to!

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bottom the Weaver's Guest Appearance in Royal Pains

“Bottom’s Up.” By Carol Flint & Simran Baidwan. Perf. Jake Weber, Mark Feuerstein, Paulo Costanzo, Jill Flint, Reshma Shetty, Brooke D'Orsay, and Campbell Scott. Dir. Tricia Brock. Royal Pains. Season 3, episode 14. USA Network.  8 February 2012.  DVD.  Paramount, 2008.

Certainly, the Pyramus and Thisbe scene in A Midsummer Night's Dream is meant to be terrible. But is it meant to be this terrible?

To be fair, the actor playing the actor playing Bottom (the repetition is necessary and intentional there) plays Bottom's role with great gusto. But everything else that frames that performance is just Soap Opera Awful (SOA). Take a gander and you'll understand:


Links: The Show's Episode List at IMDB.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

Hamlet in Monty Python’s Flying Circus

“Hamlet.” By Monty Python et al. Perf. Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, Connie Booth, and Eric Idle. Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Season 4, episode 4. BBC. 21 November 1974. DVD. New Video, 1999.

I've commented before on the notion that the British Comedy Troupe Monty Python has a relative scarcity of Shakespeare-related material. Of course, there is the Underwater Measure for Measure sketch—and the sketch that includes something of Shakespeare's biography—and, naturally, the optional Shakespearean subtitles to Monty Python and the Holy Grail (more can be found here)—and the one about the Overactors Hospital—and, finally, Julius Caesar on an Aldis Lamp. But there's not much beyond that.

When I wrote on those points of convergence between the comedy troupe and Shakespeare, I knew about the episode entitled “Hamlet”—but I didn't like it very much. It descends into crudity and obscenity far too often and far too quickly.

Still, I felt Bardfilm was letting its public down by not noting the episode. In the clip below, I've expurgated the naughty bits, leaving in three key points: Hamlet on the psychiatrist's couch, two ladies suddenly and inexplicably quoting from Hamlet, and the end of the episode, with its Shakespeare-related credits. Enjoy, Bardfilm's public!


Links: The Episode at IMDB.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Shakespearean Advertisements

The Bard on Madison Avenue. A Few Selected Advertisements. Various Years. Various Sources. Various Products.

Bardfilm has addressed Shakespeare in advertising just a few times: Contrasting powerful and weak ads, pondering how the power of the St. Crispin's Day speech was harnessed to sell a computer gaming console, and imagining a Pepsodent ad connected to the Guthrie Theatre's production of Two Gentlemen of Verona.

But there's more!  Much more!

A student in my Modern Shakespearean Fiction class presented us with a few cell phone ads that use Romeo and Juliet to sell their products. One of those is listed below; I happened to track down a commercial for diapers and a commercial for a dating service that do the same.




What do you think of these uses of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet? Please add your voice to the comments below!

More Snogging than Shakespeare: A Midsummer Tights Dream

Rennison, Louise. A Midsummer Tights Dream. New York: HarperTeen, 2012.

In the name of awareness more than anything else, I'm mentioning this book for older young adults with a mere modicum of Shakespeare.

Louise Rennison has written a ton of books—and, once again, I'm not in the target audience for any of them.

This one has to do with an girl who is becoming a woman, Irish Dance, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the art of snogging.

But it's mostly about snogging: when, how, why, with whom, and how often.

As I made my way through the book, I kept hoping that those themes, which are present in Shakespeare's play, would be caught up by our narrator—but they are only sporadically present.

This book continues the story begun by the author's 2010 novel Withering Tights.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Avi's Take on Romeo and Juliet

Avi. Romeo and Juliet: Together (And Alive!) at Last. New York: Scholastic Paperbacks, 2012.

Avi has written children's books in just about every category that exists. This is his take on a Shakespeare play.

The plot of this very basic chapter book is a mirror plot. In order to get two shy students who like each other to talk to each other, a third student decides to stage a production of Romeo and Juliet.

Hijinks ensue.

I have mixed feelings about this book. The characters are fairly interesting and vivacious, and the book has something of a Shakespeare idea motivating it. But it's also flawed. It's set among eighth graders, but the reading level is nearer the second grade level; that involves a discrepancy between the characters' and their experiences and the lack of a mature language to express or describe it.

The use of Shakespeare is puzzling. Let me give you an example or two.

From page 93.

From page 113.

I get that—I understand where the humor of that comes from.  Saying "Parting is such sweet and sour that tomorrow I shall say good night till it be sorry" is pretty funny.  And so are "Lemon table day" and "I lack a day"—but I don't know that second-grade readers will find those terribly amusing unless they know where the words have gone wrong. And the book doesn't help along those lines. If it provided the correct versions of the Shakespeare quotes at some earlier point, it would work fairly well; as it is, it falls fairly flat.

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Lisa Klein's Shakespeare-Related Young Adult Novels

Klein, Lisa. Lady Macbeth's Daughter. New York: Bloomsbury, 2009.  

———. Ophelia. New York: Bloomsbury, 2007.

I feel that I am more in the target audience for these two novels than for Tempestuous or Exposure; these books aren't as clearly focused on the modern American high school crowd. That said, I also didn't feel any sort of connection to these two works.

Both books are generally romanticized retellings of a Shakespeare play's plot, but they are, I'm sorry to say, on the banal, blas√©, and boring side. They lack the fire, the passion, and the interest of Rebecca Reisert's Third Witch (for which, q.v.) or her Ophelia's Revenge (for which, q. this particular v.).

The main interest is in how they deviate from the plots of their respective plays. Without giving away too much, Lady Macbeth's Daughter invents a daughter for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth—only Macbeth (√† la Leontes) orders the child killed. The Ophelia of Ophelia survives the events at the end of Hamlet (that information is revealed in a letter to her from Horatio that opens the novel, so that's not too much of a spoiler).

In all that, though, the things I long for in a work of this sort—a deep and interesting interpretation of the characters that makes me eager to return to Shakespeare's plays to see what sort of difference the interpretation makes—is, alas missing.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Quick Note on Tempestuous and Exposure

Askew, Kim, and Amy Helmes. Exposure. Avon: Merit Press, 2013.

———. Tempestuous. Avon: Merit Press, 2012.

These are two books in a new series called "Twisted Lit." They could best be described as derivative versions of The Tempest (Tempestuous) and Macbeth (Exposure).

My overarching note about them is that I am not their target audience. I found them fairly insipid and immature—but I am not their target audience.

The target audience is the American high school student (and I hope it doesn't come as a shock to you that I'm not part of that audience). I don't know if the target audience is imagined to have familiarity with the Shakespeare plays—but (1) the books deviate from the plots substantially enough that they don't serve to familiarize readers with the Shakespeare plays and (2) it certainly helps to have a grasp of The Tempest and Macbeth to sort out the relationships and some of the plot elements of these books. Both books have their fair share of high school cliques, high school gossip, high school hijinks, and high school romance.

Tempestuous deals very loosely with points of The Tempest.  A number of high schoolers are trapped in a mall during a snowstorm; chaos and reconciliation ensue.

Exposure, by far the more interesting of the two, follows Macbeth more neatly. It's set in Alaska with a protagonist who is a photographer; the word "exposure" takes on the double sense of being exposed to the elements and developing a photograph—a double exposure, as it were.

I know some people in the target audience who think that Exposure is very good (though those same people find Tempestuous to be confusing and bland). I'd love to hear from others who have read these to see if I'm missing something important or if I'm just no longer in the target audience!

Parents should note that there's a fair amount of profanity, promiscuity, and pushing alcohol over the tonsils in these books.

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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 2008-2016 (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