Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Return to Last Action Hero

Last Action Hero. Dir. John McTiernan. Perf. Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Murray Abraham, Art Carney, and Austin O'Brien. 1993. DVD. Sony, 2007.

While looking through a folder of scholarly articles on Shakespeare, I came across Eric S. Mallin's tremendous and seminal work on Shakespeare and Schwarzenegger.
Mallin, Eric S. “‘You Kilt My Foddah’; or Arnold, Prince of Denmark.” Shakespeare Quarterly 50 (1999): 127-51.
I keep meaning to require it as reading for my Shakespeare and Film class—and I'll certainly do so next time. The way the article reads deeply into the film and into Shakespeare is intriguing.

For example, Mallin points out the interest of the choice the teacher (played by Joan Plowright, Lawrence Olivier's widow) makes in showing a scene from Olivier's Hamlet.

The connection-by-marriage is obviously interesting. But, more interesting that that, is the teacher's decision to show the Claudius-at-prayer scene to support her thesis that Hamlet is "one of the first action heroes." Mallin says that "The weight of the wish in Danny's dream of Shakespeare and the appropriateness of Arnold as a bearer of this weight are of course that Hamlet become an agent of immediate, uncompromising revenge and destruction, not of mediation and equity" (130).

To follow Mallin, Hamlet works because its hero is an inaction hero. We know what action heroes might (and will) do, but we wonder constantly what Hamlet will do, how he'll do it, and (to an extent) why he doesn't.

That's an unformed thought, but I have a semester or two to work on it. In the meantime, enjoy the scene below!

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

From Shakespeare's Wife to Shakespeare's Landlady

Nicholl, Charles. The Lodger Shakespeare: His Life on Silver Street. New York: Viking, 2007.

[This post has been in the draft stage for nearly a year now. I suppose it's time to post it. First, of course, I need to write it. Hang on a second.]

Charles Nicholl's books is extraordinarily interesting, even though it deals with a very short period in Shakespeare life. Perhaps it's interesting because it deals with such a short period.

There isn't a ton of documentary evidence about Shakespeare—though there is more than most people suspect.  This book focuses on an intriguing period in Shakespeare's life (as if all periods in his life weren't intriguing) when he was called in to testify about an engagement agreement.

Speaking of engaging, this book is.  Engaging, I mean.  Read it.

Links: Post on Shakespeare's Wife.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What noise? [Doctor] Who calls on Hamlet?

Hamlet.  Dir. Gregory Doran.  Perf. David Tennant and Patrick Stewart.  Royal Shakespeare Company.   Stratford-on-Avon.  The Courtyard Theatre.  24 July-15 November 2008.

An alert reader, having read the previous Doctor Who-related post, sent a link to this article in the London Telegraph.  The article reminds us that David Tennant, the current Doctor, is currently playing Hamlet in Stratford!

I've mentioned the stunning number of connections between Shakespeare and the long-running British science fiction series before.  But this seems to be a most remarkable production:  David Tennant and Patrick Stewart are both delightful actors, whether they're saving the world from alien attacks or saving Denmark from Norwegian interference. 

The production itself sounds well-constructed as well.  Mirrors are held up to nature as well as the audience, it seems.

A final note:  RSC, you could probably make a fortune if you were to release a DVD of this stage production.  So please do so!

Also, thanks to Dad, the alert reader in question.

Alternate titles for the post (out of several hundred possibilities):
  1. Who is't that can inform me?
  2. Who hath relieved you?
  3. Who would fardels bear . . . 
  4. Who's there?  [The first line of the play!]

Links: London Telegraph Aricle.

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Bonus Photos!

1.  David Tennant as Hamlet.  I wonder who plays Yorick's skull.

2.  Hamlet holding up a mirror to nature.  Or a silver tray.  Same difference.

3.  Bonus bonus photo:  Patrick Stewart as the King!  (He also plays the ghost of Hamlet's father).

Brief but Brilliant—Another Shakespeare Reference in Doctor Who

“The Unquiet Dead.” By Mark Gatiss.   Perf. Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, and Simon Callow.  Dir. Euros Lyn. Doctor Who.  Season 1, episode 3 (New Series).   BBC Wales. 9 April 2005.   DVD.  BBC Warner, 2007.

Early in the first season of the new series of Doctor Who, the Doctor and his companion travel to Dickensian London, where they mean the man himself. Charles Dickens, I mean.

The show presents us with a wonderful moment where Dickens, confused and bewildered, asks, "What the Shakespeare is going on?"

It's lovely for many reasons. One of them is that it does what the show itself does. It twists the basic chronology of Earth history. It presumes that confused and bewildered people will always say "What the [best writer prior to that time]?" when faced with difficulty. People in the future might be saying "What the Vonnegut is going on?"

Actually, the phrase "What the dickens?" has been around for a long time. In fact, that's another reason it's lovely. Shakespeare himself uses the phrase in Merry Wives of Windsor:
I cannot tell what the dickens his name is . . . . (III.ii)
Perhaps, in a future Doctor Who, we'll meet Shakespeare again—only to hear him say, "What the Chaucer is happening here?"


  1. I was paying the bills this morning with the show on more-or-less in the background.  I wasn't wasting time.  I can do two things at once.
  2. I chose Vonnegut over your favorite author because of the flow of the phrase rather than belief in his genius.  "What the Woolf" (for Virginia Woolf) or "What the Berry?" (for Wendell Berry) or  just didn't have the right ring.  "What the Russell T. Davies?" sounds nice (and has the woodnotes wild of Whales warbling right with it), but it's a bit too lengthy.

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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