Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Agatha Christie Always has Time for some Shakespeare

Christie, Agatha. The Moving Finger. New York: Harper, 2011.

. . . but do her editors have the same amount of time?

Here's the reason I'm asking that question. I listen to a lot of audiobooks.  Every couple years, I get on an Agatha Christie kick and listen to a number of her novels. And I'm always impressed and satisfied when I find an allusion to or quotation from Shakespeare.

I heard one when listening to The Moving Finger, a Miss Marple mystery.

But when I checked out a physical copy of the novel—in order to inform you, dear readers, of the reference—it wasn't there!

I listened to the beginning of the novel again, and it certainly was there. I checked out a different edition of the novel—and it still wasn't there!

I finally found an edition that has the exchange in question. Megan, one of the younger people in the village, is being interviewed by our narrator about the place. As is natural, the conversation turns to Shakespeare. Here's the full exchange:


That's from the edition cited above. But observe what happens in the edition published by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers in 2007. The entire exchange from "Megan shook her head" (22) to "I've never felt it" (23) is cut:



The small but delightful speculation about how Regan and Goneril "were like that" is lost entirely.

Perhaps Jane Smiley—or someone acting on her behalf—decided to expurgate that part of the conversation to increase sales of A Thousand Acres

Click below to purchase the book from amazon.com
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Monday, August 13, 2018

Vishal Bhardwaj's Haider: A Bollywood Hamlet

Haider. Dir. Vishal Bhardwaj. Perf. Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, and Shraddha Kapoor. 2014. DVD. UTV, 2015.

After directing Maqbool (for which, q.v.) and Omkara (not yet covered by this blog), Vishal Bhardwaj turned his directorial attention to Hamlet with his Haider.

Like his versions of Macbeth and Othello, Haider is a violent reimagining of Shakespeare. It's set in Kashmir, and part of the film contemplates the divided identity of the region.

Haider spends the first part of the film not knowing whether his father is alive and imprisoned or disappeared and dead. When he finally learns that it's the latter, he seems to lose his mind in earnest (though it's still hard to tell whether it's an antic disposition or genuine madness). In the scene below, the Claudius and Gertrude analogues arrive at the scene of a speech Haider is making to a crowd of people—it's something of a mad riff on "to be or not to be."



Not long afterwards, the Gertrude and Claudius analogues marry. After (or as part of?) the festivities, Haider puts on a giant Bollywood number that serves as something of a play-within-the-play. 


Haider is a fascinating, deep retelling of Hamlet that explores issues of rule and succession in a contemporary setting.

Links: The Film at IMDB.


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Monday, August 6, 2018

Book Note: Suite Scarlett

Johnson, Maureen. Suite Scarlett. New York: Point, 2009.

It took me a while to gather up the gumption to read this book, but I'm glad I did. It's a pretty well-written story with a little bit of Shakespeare thrown in.

The plot involves a family that owns an old hotel in New York City. At one point, it was luxurious, but now it's pretty faded. Each child in the family, when they come of age, is given a specific room to care for.

Our protagonist is given a suite that is soon filled by an over-the-top character.

In the meantime, her brother is trying to convince his parents to let him pursue acting as a career. He has a role in an Broadway production of Hamlet (well, the address is on Broadway, but it's in no way part of the legitimate theatre.

That's where the Shakespeare enters in. Here are a few sample pages:



The book isn't my general cup of tea, but I did appreciate the characters and the integration of the Shakespearean elements of the plot.

Click here to purchase the book from amazon.com.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Book Note: Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics

Greenblatt, Stephen. Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics. New York: W. W. Norton, 2018.

I imagine that most people in Shakespeare-related fields feel a little trepidatious when writing about Stephen Greenblatt—especially if they have any criticism to put forth. But I survived writing a negative review of his Will in the World (for which, q.v.), so perhaps I'll weather this.

Tyrant is a fine popular work. It reminds me of Harold Bloom's The Invention of the Human. But it's not a work of scholarship. The 200-page book has just twenty-one footnotes. The book is, in large part, plot summary—astute plot summary, but plot summary nonetheless.

My students are well-versed in my oft-stated advice about their essays: "Plot summary is not analysis." For a popular work on Shakespeare, especially in those chapters dealing with lesser-known plays, some plot summary is expected. But it's disappointing that Tyrant doesn't provide the full depth of analysis of Shakespeare's use of the tyrant.

The most interesting part of the book is the premise that Shakespeare obliquely commented on the politics of his day by telling (or retelling) stories of the tyrants of the past. And Greenblatt is obliquely commenting on the politics of this day by telling stories of Shakespeare's telling stories of the tyrants of the past. But even that theme of the book is too oblique. Shakespeare couldn't be incredibly direct in his commentary; Greenblatt can, but he doesn't give us much.

The book is well-written, and the plots are compellingly related; however, the deep analysis readers are expecting is lacking.

I'll give you a brief sample of Greenblatt's examination of Julius Caesar; it should give you a flavor of the book:



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(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Garfield and Friends Tackle Taming of the Shrew

"Much Ado About Lanolin." By Mark Evanier and Sharman DiVono. Perf. Lorenzo Music, Thom Huge, and Howard Morris. Dir. Jeff Hall. Garfield and Friends. Season 3, episode 7. CBS. 6 October 1990. DVD. 20th Century Fox, 2005.

I have always been very fond of the Garfield and Friends Saturday morning cartoon show. It was cleverly written (often more cleverly written than the comic strip), often quite meta-theatrical, and frequently full of allusions.

In a U. S. Acres segment (they are the "and Friends" part of the show), the barnyard animals determine to put on a Shakespeare play. Orson Pig (making me wonder if his name has any connection to the Welles of Shakespeare fame) decides thy can all use their imaginations to enact a version of Taming of the Shrew, putting an imaginary Lanolin Sheep (an occasionally-overbearing characters) in the role of Lanolina, the Shrew.

There's actually some good insight (as well as a brief introduction to Shakespeare) in the episode. Orson says, "Art imitates life, and then life imitates art." It's not a bad summary of one of the tenets of New Historicism . . . as well as Hamlet's advice to the players about holding a mirror up to nature.

Here's an edited version of the episode:


That's not bad, though I wish Orson had broken into Theseus' speech on imagination from Midsummer Night's Dream:
. . . as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That if it would but apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed a bear! (V.i.14-22)
The interjections from other plays are also rather enjoyable. So enjoy!

Links: The Episode at IMDB.


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



Bonus Images!  Wade Duck in Shakespearean garb:



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 2008-2020 (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