Friday, October 31, 2008

"But I Went to High School with that Guy!": Happy Halloween from Bardfilm!

William Shakespeare, 1564 to 1616. To 1956. To 1960. To 1968. To 1974.
I suppose I need to apologize in advance for this post, but it is Halloween. Additionally, due to a computer crash (literally, a crash in which the computer took quite a tumble to the floor and has remained inoperable ever since), I've needed to cheer myself up.

Someone recently mentioned the latest craze (which is now well passé, I'm sure): Yearbook Yourself. If you go to that site, you can upload pictures that the site will then modify into yearbook-style pictures from a number of different years! While waiting for the computer repair FAX to go through, I tried it out (using a different computer) with William Shakespeare himself:

W.S., 1974

W.S., 1968

W.S., 1960

W.S., 1956

Links: Yearbook Yourself.

Shakespeare Makes a Brief Guest Appearance on Monty Python’s Flying Circus

“Beethoven’s Mynah Bird.” “Archaeology Today.” By Monty Python et al. Perf. Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Eric Idle. Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Episode 21. BBC. 17 November 1970. DVD. New Video, 1999.

Shakespeare makes a minor—really, a transitional—appearance in this Monty Python sketch. In general, the sketch is about the family lives of "Great Men." Beethoven's having trouble with his symphony, Shakespeare had been thinking that "David" was a good name for his Danish Prince character, and Michelangelo has come up with a new name for his latest sculpture:

Links: Monty Python's Official Site.

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


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Measure for Measure: A Fragment Embedded in Monty Python

“The First Underwater Production of Measure for Measure.” “How to Recognize Different Parts of the Body.” By Monty Python et al. Perf. Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Jones, Michael Palin, and Eric Idle. Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Episode 22. BBC. 24 November 1970. DVD. New Video, 1999.

Some time ago, an alert reader asked me about film versions of Measure for Measure—which was the best, which did I recommend, which deviates from the text in interesting ways, et cetera. To these questions, I was able to reply with a confident "The BBC Version. It's the only full version out there." I was aware of two Italian versions, one from 1913 and one from 1943, both entitled Dente per Dente (English translation: Tooth for Tooth) and one German version from 1963 entitled Zweierlei Mass (English translation: Two Different Measures or, according to the German scholar who helped me with the title cards for the silent Hamlet, Twice the Amount). I also mentioned a small fragment in the BBC's Waste of Shame (a portion of the Shakespeare Retold series)—a speech of about twenty lines or so.  But, obviously, none of these is a full, English-language version.

But my list wasn't complete.  I neglected to consider this astonishing fragment: the first underwater production of Measure for Measure! As presented by Monty Python! Hurrah!

If you listen quite carefully, you can just make out the words. They're delivering a scene from III.i—the one in which Isabella reveals to Claudio what Angelo has asked of her:
Isabella: Yes, he would give't thee, from this rank offense,
So to offend him still. This night's the time
That I should do what I abhor to name,
Or else thou diest tomorrow.

Claudio: Thou shalt not do't.

Isabella: O, were it but my life
I'd throw it down for your deliverance
As frankly as a pin.

Claudio: Thanks, dear Isabel.

Isabella: Be ready, Claudio, for your death tomorrow.

Claudio: Yes. Has he affections in him
That thus can make him bite the law by th' nose,
When he would force it? Sure it is no sin,
Or of the deadly seven it is the least. (III.i.99-110)
Monty Python, somewhat surprisingly, has done little with the works of Shakespeare—there's not enough to make a "Shakespeare and Monty Python" week, for example.  And what they have done seldom rises to the level of their other work.  But there are some small moments that I'll try to pass along to you in time.

Links: Monty Python's Official Site.

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


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

French Historians Square off for a New Battle of Agincourt

Shakespeare, William. Henry V. Ed. T. W. Craik. London: Arden, 1995.
This is a very quick post—a new set of student essays came in yesterday.  

An alert reader (thanks, Dad!) pointed out a link to this article about historians' views on the Battle of Agincourt. It's been a few days since St. Crispin's Day (October 25) and a few hundred years since the St. Crispin's Day speech . . . and a few more hundred years since the actual battle! Yet we're still debating who behaved badly (everyone behaves badly in war—even in Shakespeare's version of the war) and just how badly they behaved.

It's been said that the victories write the histories . . . but it helps if Shakespeare is on your side!

Links: The Article.

Review of a Review filled with Reviews

Leithart, Peter J. “Bardus Absconditus: Shakespeare is the Rorschach Test of English Literature.” Books & Culture September / October 2008: 37+.

Peter J. Leithart's recent article in Books & Culture covers an enormous amount of Shakespearean ground, concluding . . . where else but "Why, here in Denmark." The article opens with a claim that is not unusual: that Shakespeare can be [almost] all things to [almost] all people. But, while reviewing and surveying several contemporary analyses of Shakespeare, the article goes deeper and deeper into the idea.

Finally, after a long section on the variety of Hamlets and Hamlets, Leithart concludes with these words:
If there is a "message" in Hamlet keyed to the historical moment of its first performances, it seems to me the same message of Shakespeare's other plays: It is a Christian humanist's prescient warning that fanaticism will lead to civil war, the killing of a king, and the triumph of amoral Realpolitik. This is the apocalypse whose outlines Shakespeare could already see at the beginning of a century of revolution, the tragic slather of blood he hoped England might become wise enough to avoid.
Even though it seems anit-climactic, his conclusion is level-headed, pertinent, and prescient itself. We could all do well to read Hamlet in this way.

Links: The Article in Books & Culture.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Shakespearean Connections Lead to Alternate Soundtrack

A Midsummer Night's Dream. Dir. J. Stuart Blackton and Charles Kent. Perf. William V. Ranous, Maurice Costello, Walter Ackerman, Julia Swayne Gordon, Rose Tapley, Gladys Hulette, Charles Chapman, Helene Costello, and Dolores Costello. Vitagraph Company of America. 1909. Silent Shakespeare. DVD. Image Entertainment, 2000.

Fuchs, Dana, et al. “Dear Prudence.” Across the Universe. Interscope Records, 2007.

Yes, this is something of a stop-gap post, but it does have Shakespearean connections.  The primary motive was to get this file off my computer so I have space for other things, but I also was thinking about Across the Universe's director, Julie Taymor.  The film is extremely interesting, particularly in how exceptionally visual it is.  The images and the music are what drive the film—not the plot (which is more interesting to a Beatles devotee than to the general popualce).  In that, it's very much like a silent film!  And Julie Taymore also directed Titus, the film version of Titus Andronicus that starred Anthony Hopkins.  That film, too, is intensely (perhaps too intensely!) visual.

All of that gives the connections that justify re-posting this film clip with the alternate soundtrack.  And it frees up space on my computer, after all.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, this clip is temporarily (or permanently) unavailable.

Thank you for your understanding.

—The Management

Links: The Film at IMDB.
Click below to purchase the film from
(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 2008-2039 (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