Thursday, February 28, 2013

Shakespeare in Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?—Part Two

“Cupid Sandiego.” By Diane M. Fresco. Perf. Rita Moreno, Rodger Bumpass, Jennifer Hale, and Scott Menville Dir. Stan Phillips. Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? Season 4, episode 7. FOX. 12 December 1996 (?). DVD. Mill Creek Entertainment, 2012.

Toward the end of its run, the Saturday morning cartoon show Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego returned to a Shakespearean theme with this episode. In it, the detectives learn that Carmen is about to steal a balcony—but they have to deduce which of three famous balconies she's after.

Guess which one it turns out to be!

video

Links: The Episode at IMDB.


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(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Shakespeare in Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego?—Part One

“The Play's the Thing.” By Richard Merwin and Sean Roche. Perf. Rita Moreno, Rodger Bumpass, Jennifer Hale, and Scott Menville. Dir. Joe Barruso. Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? Season 1, episode 10. FOX. 7 May 1994. DVD. Mill Creek Entertainment, 2012.

I've adored FoxTrot since my earliest days; since then, I've also followed Carmen Sandiego in all her various incarnations—the Brøderbund software, the PBS game show, and the Saturday morning cartoon show.

It's the last of those that's relevant to this post. The show was intentionally structured as an educational adventure; on at least two occasions, the content turned to Shakespeare.

On the first occasion, Carmen leaves a clue with a quote from the opening of Antony and Cleopatra: "Goodly eyes" (I.i.2). The full line, delivered by Philo, is critical of Antony for turning his goodly eyes from their natural, Roman, warlike state to eyes of love for Cleopatra:
Nay, but this dotage of our general's
O'erflows the measure: those his goodly eyes,
That o'er the files and musters of the war
Have glow'd like plated Mars, now bend, now turn,
The office and devotion of their view
Upon a tawny front: his captain's heart,
Which in the scuffles of great fights hath burst
The buckles on his breast, reneges all temper,
And is become the bellows and the fan
To cool a gipsy's lust. (I.i.1-10)
The show gives us a bit of that line—while giving us a brief glance at the works of William Shakespeare!  Enjoy!

video

Links: The Episode at IMDB.


Click below to purchase the complete series from amazon.com
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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Yet Another Shakespearean FoxTrot

Amend, Bill. "Peter's Paper." Jasotron: 2012: A FoxTrot collection. Andrews McMeel: Kansas City, 2012. 83.

Bill Amend's semi-retirement has been hard on all of us.

His weekly comic strips were delightful, providing us with joyful and profound insight into characters that we grew to love.

Fortunately, he continues to create Sunday comics, for which we all thank him. Two books of the Sunday strips have already been released. The Sunday comics don't have the same build-up and continuity that the weekly strips had, but they continue to give us windows into the life of the Fox family.

And just occasionally, they have a Shakespeare connection. When they do, I'm all over them like ink on a cartoonist's fingers. Here's the latest one I noticed (click to enlarge the image):


Links: The Official Site of FoxTrot.


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Monday, February 25, 2013

Women of Will: Winner Announced!

Women of Will. Dir. Eric Tucker. Perf. Tina Packer and Nigel Gore. The Gym at Judson. 3 February to 2 June 2013.

Thanks to all who submitted their favorite female characters from Shakespeare to our recent Women of Will ticket Giveaway (for which, q.v.). And the winner, randomly chosen from all those who submitted, is . . .
  • K
K chose "Margaret from the Henry VI trilogy" as her favorite.

Congratulations to K, and thanks again to the good people of the off-Broadway production Women of Will.

Please e-mail me, K, to claim your prize. You can find my e-mail under the "Contact" section of my complete profile. Enjoy!

If you submitted but didn't win, feel free to shout "A pox o' your throat, you bawling, blasphemous, incharitable dog!" Go on—you'll feel better if you do!

Video Clip of Folger Shakespeare Library First Folio Number 72

Shakespeare, William. Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According To The True Originall Copies. London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard and Ed. Blount, 1623. [Folger Shakespeare Library First Folio Number 72.]

This is the reason I was particularly interested in calling your attention to Folger Copy 72 in my last post: it is the First Folio I was able to examine at the Folger Shakespeare Library when I was there in 2011.

I was drawn to this copy because of a name that is written on the verso of the frontispiece: Rachell Paule. The possibility of an early female reader of Shakespeare making markings in a copy of the First Folio—possibly revealing something of what one woman thought about Shakespeare—was too intriguing not to investigate. Alas, there were very few marks of any sort whatsoever in the volume.

But, of course, it was thrilling merely to be able to hold a First Folio, to glance through it, to search for the traces history had left on it, to contemplate its provenance—and to read portions of it!

To give you, dear readers, a sense of what that was like, I've put together this video of part of my encounter with Folger Shakespeare Library First Folio Number 72:

video

Music Credit: Strauss, Richard. “Also Sprach Zarathrusa.” Perf. Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Cond. Karl Bhohm. 2001: A Space Odyssey: Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack. MCA Records, 1986.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book Note: The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue

Rasmussen, Eric, and Anthony James West, eds. The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue. New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2012.

Among the great works of Shakespearean scholarship must be counted this work. Eric Rasmussen, who, incidentally, wrote The Shakespeare Thefts (for which, q.v.), Anthony James West, and a team of scholars have minutely examined every copy of the First Folio that they could get their hands on.

This volume meticulously reports their findings, including any known details of provenance, any annotations or marginalia, and any damage to the volume. Its detail is astonishing.

The image below (click on it to enlarge it) will give you an idea of the detail. The entry is for Copy 72 in the Folger Shakespeare Library. It's one of the shorter entries, but it will give you a sense of the detail applied to each copy of the First Folio.


And why am I providing information about Folger Copy 72 in particular? For the answer to that, you'll need to be patient.

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

Thursday, February 21, 2013

As You Like It: Killing Adam

Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According To The True Originall Copies. London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard and Ed. Blount, 1623. 185-207.

I'd love to start a conversation about a decision that is not uncommon in productions of As You Like It—one that was part of the recent production that The Acting Company put on at the Dowling Studio of the Guthrie Theatre.

In As You Like It, Orlando is accompanied in his flight to the Forest of Arden by Old Adam, a loyal servant of his family's house. When Adam says, "Dear master, I can go no further. O, I die for food! Here lie I down, and measure out my grave. Farewell, kind master" (II.vi.1-3), Orlando first finds shelter for him and then goes to seek food for him. He encounters the banished Duke and his followers, and they hospitably invite him to eat with them. Orlando exits to bring Adam to the meal, Jaques delivers his "All the world's a stage" speech, and Orlando and Adam re-enter. Adam's last speech in the play is "I scarce can speak to thank you for myself" (II.vii.170).

Not long after that point in the production staged at the Guthrie—and in other productions I've heard about—Adam dies.

I'll be frank: I don't like the decision. The death of Adam seems to run contrary to the nature of things in the play. The Forest of Arden has an amazing power to dissipate sorrow and anger. It even converts the evil Duke Frederick. To have Adam die during the feast—in the production at the Guthrie, he died while Amiens was singing "Heigh-ho, the holly! / This life is most jolly" (II.vii.182-83)—places a deep emptiness at the heart of the forest.

But I'll also be frank about this: I understand the decision. Adam has no more lines, no more entrance cues, no more words from the other characters. On a practical level, he can make a final exit at this point. On a philosophical level, his death can embody the unmentioned Eighth Age of Man that hovers in the air just after the conclusion of Jaques' speech:
                                Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness, and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing. (II.vii.163-66)
These words already seem a little tasteless when Adam, who might almost be described by these words, enters immediately afterwards. But, since the character of Adam is literally in his last scene of all (as far as we can credit the stage directions, which isn't really all that far), the decision to have him pass beyond that state into death is comprehensible.

However, I prefer a more optimistic use of Adam. In the 1994 animated version of As You Like It, for example, Adam and the others carry on with their feasting and singing regardless of Jaques' melancholy conclusion (for which, q.v.).

I'd love to know your thoughts—please provide them in the comments below! Should Adam die? Should he live? What difference does it make to the play one way or the other?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Women of Will, an Off-Broadway Production: Ticket Giveaway

Women of Will. Dir. Eric Tucker. Perf. Tina Packer and Nigel Gore. The Gym at Judson. 3 February to 2 June 2013.

Update:  The winner has been announced.

The good people of the off-Broadway production Women of Will asked if I would be interested in giving away a set of two tickets to their show. And one of you will reap the benefits of my saying yes!

The show is something of a revue. The company itself describes the production in this way:
If Shakespeare had “bonus content,” this would be it! Women of Will is an engrossing investigation of the Bard’s art and psyche through his female characters (from Beatrice in “Much Ado About Nothing” to Viola in “Twelfth Night” and everyone in between!). Portrayed by two of Shakespeare’s greatest modern interpreters, Tina Packer and Nigel Gore, it is a true tour de force performance which gives a unique and exciting perspective on some of the most well-known classics in the English language.
To make that a bit more tangible, you can see a trailer for the show below:


The show looks interesting, entertaining, and educational. If I lived closer, I would certainly attend a performance. I can't—but you may be able to win a set of two tickets to do so yourself!

Here, then, are the details of the competition:
  1. To be eligible for the drawing, you must submit a comment to this post containing your favorite female character from Shakespeare—a character from a play (e.g. Luce from A Comedy of Errors) or a poem (e.g., Venus from Venus and Adonis) or a sonnet (e.g., The Dark Lady). If someone else has already submitted your female character, you may still submit it, though it would be more interesting if you gave us your second-favorite female character.  If you comment anonymously, please sign your comment with some identifying pseudonym or initials. That will make our identifying you as the winner possible even if thirteen of you submit Luce from A Comedy of Errors as your favorite female character.

  2. Comments must be posted before 11:59 p.m. Central Time on Friday, February 22, 2013 in order to be eligible for the competition.

  3. One winner will be chosen randomly from those who submit comments to this post. That winner will receive two tickets to the show.

  4. All the responsibility of getting to the theatre to see the show is on the winner. Bardfilm will not provide airfare, cab fare, bus fare, boat fare, Vanity Fair, or any other funds.  We will pass your information along to the company, and the company will provide a voucher for two tickets.  

  5. One submission per person, please!

  6. If the prize is left unclaimed after three days, it will be distributed to another party; if that party leaves the prize unclaimed after three days, it will be distributed to another party; and so on.

  7. My decision is final.

  8. I reserve the right to add to this list of rules.

  9. The winner will be announced on Monday, February 25, 2013—so check back here to see if you've won!
I'm eager to see who your favorite female characters are!

Links: The Production's Official Web Site.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Book Note: The Fault in our Stars

Green, John. The Fault in our Stars. New York: Dutton, 2012.

I finished reading this book early yesterday morning, and I've been in a state of shocked, perplexed, semi-catatonic sorrow and delight ever since. I started it because of its Shakespearean title—how could I resist?—and I'm recommending it partly because of its Shakespearean connections but mostly because of its tremendous depth and splendor.

The plot centers on two teenagers in various stages of battling with cancer. Our protagonist, Hazel, dearly loves a book called An Imperial Affliction (the title is taken from Emily Dickinson's poem 258—"There's a certain Slant of light, / Winter Afternoons— / That oppresses, like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes—") by an author named Peter Van Houten (both the book and its author are fictional). The book is about a girl dying of cancer, and it artistically ends in mid-sentence, demonstrating the reality of death. Hazel admires the literary decision, but she's frustrated at not knowing what happens to the other characters in the book after that point. She's even written letters to the author, who lives as a recluse in the Netherlands, but the letters have not been answered.

But Augustus, the boy our protagonist becomes interested in, contacts Van Houten's assistant via e-mail, and he starts to get some answers. One of them (on pages 111-12) contains some of the novel's most direct Shakespearean connections:
Dear Mr.Waters,

I am in receipt of your electronic mail dated the 14th of April and duly impressed by the Shakespearean complexity of your tragedy. Everyone in this tale has a rock-solid hamartia: hers, that she is so sick; yours, that you are so well. Were she better or you sicker, then the stars would not be so terribly crossed, but it is the nature of stars to cross, and never was Shakespeare more wrong than when he had Cassius note, "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves." Easy enough to say when you're a Roman nobleman (or Shakespeare!), but there is no shortage of fault to be found amid our stars.

While we're on the topic of old Will's insufficiencies, your writing about young Hazel reminds me of the Bard's Fifty-fifth sonnet, which of course begins, "Not marble, nor the gilded monuments / Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme; / But you shall shine more bright in these contents / Than unswept stone, besmear'd with sluttish time." (Off topic, but: What a slut time is. She screws everybody.) It's a fine poem but a deceitful one: We do indeed remember Shakespeare's powerful rhyme, but what do we remember about the person it commemorates? Nothing. We're pretty sure he was male; everything else is guesswork. Shakespeare told us precious little of the man whom he entombed in his linguistic sarcophagus. (Witness also that when we talk about literature, we do so in the present tense. When we speak of the dead, we are not so kind.) You do not immortalize the lost by writing about them. Language buries, but does not resurrect. (Full disclosure: I am not the first to make this observation. cf, the Macleish poem "Not Marble, Nor the Gilded Monuments," which contains the heroic line "I shall say you will die and none will remember you.")

I digress, but here's the rub: The dead are visible only in the terrible lidless eye of memory. The living, thank heaven, retain the ability to surprise and to disappoint. Your Hazel is alive, Waters, and you mustn't impose your will upon another's decision, particularly a decision arrived at thoughtfully. She wishes to spare you pain, and you should let her. You may not find young Hazel's logic persuasive, but I have trod through this vale of tears longer than you, and from where I'm sitting, she’s not the lunatic.

Yours truly,

Peter Van Houten
In order to get some answers, the two of them travel to Amsterdam to meet with the author. While there, they visit the Anne Frank House; before they exit, they see Anne Frank’s notebook of favorite quotations, which is open to another Shakespeare quote:
. . . and right before we got to the cafĂ© . . . we saw pages of Anne’s diary, and also her unpublished book of quotations. The quote book happened to be turned to a page of Shakespeare quotations. For who so firm that cannot be seduced? she’d written. (204)
The quote is from Julius Caesar, Act I, scene ii, line 312. Cassius is talking again—after having seduced Brutus into believing that "the fault is not in our stars."

Allow me a side note: I've done a bit of preliminary research, and the manuscript—her "Favourite Quotes Notebook," according to the official site of the Anne Frank House—does exits: it is not fictional. I'm intrigued by this, and I'm currently trying to track down a copy of the manuscript—I'll let you know if I discover anything.

The novel itself is powerful, moving, extraordinary, insane, amazing, awe-inspiring. It leaves me speechless.

Note: This book is classified as Young Adult, but I would not recommended it for adults on the younger side of the Young Adult spectrum. In many ways, the book is for adults rather than even all but the Oldest of the Elderly Young Adult audience.


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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Book Note: Ophelia's Revenge

Reisert, Rebecca. Ophelia's Revenge. London: Flame, 2003.

Impressed with Rebecca Reisert's Third Witch (for which, q.v.), I decided to try Ophelia's Revenge, her second novel. I found it a compelling book but not as thrilling as her debut.

Providing a plot summary—or even the beginning of a plot summary—would involve far too many spoilers, and most of the fun of this novel is seeing how Reisert manages to keep the plot of Shakespeare's Hamlet intact while, like Tom Stoppard in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, telling the behind-the-scenes story of another character in the play.

I can tell you that Reisert expands the characters exponentially, giving Polonius multiple marriages, Hamlet an older brother, and Ophelia another brother (after a fashion). She also gives Ophelia the ability to see ghosts—including (and here's a minor spoiler) the ghost of Yorick. It takes her some time to realize that he's a ghost, but he becomes one of her closest confidents.

The book as a whole doesn't work as well as The Third Witch, but it's still quite interesting, filled with unexpected twists and turns and its own fascinating answers to many of the questions Shakespeare's play raises.

Click below to purchase the book from amazon.com
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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sonnet-by-Sonnet Responses to the Sonnets (in Sonnet form)

Doerfel, Joel. Neon Shakespeare: Sonnets for a New Millennium.. N.p.: Long Yes Press, 2013.

Some time ago, the author of these sonnets sent me a preview copy, asking if I would be interested in reading and reviewing the work. Initially, I was, as you would be, worried that each sonnet would be nothing more—or not much more—than a modernized version of the corresponding Shakespeare sonnet.

I was pleasantly surprised—and even (I'll admit it) occasionally shocked—when I read the work.

In this book, Doerfel doesn't try to translate Shakespeare's sonnets into a modern vernacular. Nor does he produce something cheesy like an answering sonnet from the one addressed (the Dark Lady, the Rival Poet, et cetera). Instead, the complexity of the work lies in an exchange between each sonnet and its pair.

Doerfel comments on his method:
Since each of my sonnets is a conceptual response to its Shakespearean counterpart, readers are encouraged to read Shakespeare’s sonnet first, followed by my response. My responses range from parody to commentary to elaboration to dumbfounded silence. Half the fun is unraveling the logic of this call-response.
And it is fun. I found these thoughtful, playful, and clever. And—I should mention it—I occasionally found them to use coarse language.

In an attempt to recreate the layout of the book—where Shakespeare's sonnet on the left faces Doerfel's sonnet on the right of each page spread—I'm putting three of my favorite call-and-response sets below, with Shakespeare's flush with the left margin and Doerfel's indented. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

XCI.

Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
Some in their wealth, some in their bodies' force,
Some in their garments, though new-fangled ill,
Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse;
And every humour hath his adjunct pleasure,
Wherein it finds a joy above the rest:
But these particulars are not my measure;
All these I better in one general best.
Thy love is better than high birth to me,
Richer than wealth, prouder than garments' cost,
Of more delight than hawks or horses be;
And having thee, of all men's pride I boast:
  Wretched in this alone, that thou mayst take
  All this away and me most wretched make.
91.
she drinks her wine. he drinks his gatorade.
she hasn’t had her cup of coffee yet.
he just quit smoking & she just got laid.
she’s on the rag. he’s started working out.
such liturgies pervade their daily lives.
their holiest communions are mundane.
eating & drinking, sex & exercise—
these habit-casuistries decide their days.
he hones his body, but she disregards hers,
busy with her soul & church & kids.
he makes his life into a work of art.
she follows jesus. he’s an agnostic . . .
. . . he lives embodied & refines his tastes.
she pines for her eternal resting-place.
CVIII.

What's in the brain that ink may character
Which hath not figured to thee my true spirit?
What's new to speak, what new to register,
That may express my love or thy dear merit?
Nothing, sweet boy; but yet, like prayers divine,
I must, each day say o'er the very same,
Counting no old thing old, thou mine, I thine,
Even as when first I hallow'd thy fair name.
So that eternal love in love's fresh case
Weighs not the dust and injury of age,
Nor gives to necessary wrinkles place,
But makes antiquity for aye his page,
  Finding the first conceit of love there bred
  Where time and outward form would show it dead.
108.
when "pro," i'm -scribed by all my -creations.
when "circum," -vented by my -locutors.
when "contra," i am -vened by my -dictions.
when "meta," all my -physics become -phors.
when "con," my -cepts & -clusions all seem -trived.
when "be," my -havior always -lies my -liefs.
when "a," -gnostics are -mused that i'm still -live.
when "sub," my -jective world's a -poena (-tly)
when "in," my -terpretations all seem -ane—
since social -structions of -sidious -tent
-ure, -vade, & -veigle my -genuous brain,
my -stincts, -tuitions, -klings, & -telligence.
when "i," my -dols & -cons laugh -ronically
as -, -gnorant, become my -ambs & -deals.
CXXXVIII.

When my love swears that she is made of truth
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor'd youth,
Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.
Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although she knows my days are past the best,
Simply I credit her false speaking tongue:
On both sides thus is simple truth suppress'd.
But wherefore says she not she is unjust?
And wherefore say not I that I am old?
O, love's best habit is in seeming trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told:
  Therefore I lie with her and she with me,
  And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.
138.
i will not thank you for your flattery,
or genuflect to merit your embrace,
transform myself to your commodity,
or think myself in your objective case.
you’re worse than narcissus. you’re self-absorbed,
but need to feel yourself objectified...
so doting eyes & minds become your mirrors.
you wear their stares. their smiles are where you hide.
their language is the fun-house of your being,
the circus where you host your self-esteem,
retreat into the safety of a thing—
a coin, an accolade, a ghost, a dream.
your prowess and your praise fail to impress.
go elsewhere with your frail false-consciousness.

Click below to purchase the book from amazon.com
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Friday, February 1, 2013

Book Note: The Shakespeare Thefts

Rasmussen, Eric. The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

I found this book diverting. One of the shining lights of Shakespeare scholarship has written what amounts to a set of memoirs surrounding the First Folio. Though some chapters seem to break off before developing their ideas fully, they all tell interesting stories.

Many of the tales are about Folios that have gone missing. Rasmussen tells the story of the man who claimed to have found a First Folio in Cuba—but who had somehow obtained a copy stolen from Durham University.

Though the book is episodic and, therefore, a bit scattered, I appreciated it—being episodic and a bit scattered myself. It would make a good gift for the Shakespeare aficionado in your life.

Click below to purchase the book 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