Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hamlet in Third Rock from the Sun

“Body and Soul and Dick.” By Bonnie Turner and Terry Turner. Perf. John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston, French Stewart, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Jane Curtin. Dir. Robert Berlinger. 3rd Rock from the Sun. Season 1, episode 8. NBC. 27 February 1996. DVD. Mill Creek Entertainment, 2011.

Shamefacedly, I admit that I know next to nothing about this show. However, avid Bardfilm reader and Twitter user @GtThee2ANunnery called my attention to its use of Shakespeare.

To me, the most significant parts of the clip below are (1) the quotation's starting point—instead of the now-cliché opening of Hamlet's best-known soliloquy, the quote starts in the middle, increasing its effectiveness; and (2) the assumed route by which these aliens (did I mention that the characters are aliens who have taken on human form for some reason or another?) learned their Shakespeare. To them, this isn't Hamlet: It's simply something the dreamy Mel Gibson said in one of his movies. The assumption is that these characters are undiscerning—they get their knowledge of the culture from whatever source happens to be handy. And that's exactly how it often happens!

And the "Yorick as Apple" idea is pretty brilliant. "He poured a flagon of cider on my head once!"

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

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


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Prince of the Himalayas at the Rubin Museum of Art

Prince of the Himalayas [Ban dao yin xiang; a.k.a. Ximalaya wangzi]. Dir. Sherwood Hu. Perf. Purba Rgyal, Dobrgyal, Zomskyid, Sonamdolgar, Lobden, and Lopsang. Hus Entertainment, Shanghai Film Studios. 20 October 2006.
Starting on Friday, December 23, and running periodically through mid-January, the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City will be screening the astonishing Tibetan derivative version of Hamlet entitled Prince of the Himalays.

I've written before on this masterful film (for which, q.v.—but watch out for spoilers), and I'm currently developing a critical article on the subject.

If you're anywhere near New York City, go see this film. You will be astonished,
terrified, delighted, and challenged.

The Rubin has put together a trailer composed of images from the film:

Links: Screening Dates at the Rubin.

The Film's Official Web Site.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thomas Middleton's Burial Record

Dyce, Alexander, ed. The Works of Thomas Middleton: Now first collected, with some account of the author and notes by the Reverend Alexander Dyce. By Thomas Middleton. Vol. 1. London: Edward Lumley, 1840. 5 vols.
In an attempt to address the mistaken idea that Shakespeare's burial record is odd in not indicating his poetic abilities (for which, q.v.), I started on a quest to find contemporary burial records of other poets and dramatists. The work, despite the help of several excellent research librarians, has been slow.

But success has arrived in the form of an 1840 edition of Middleton's works that cites Thomas Middleton's burial record. Middleton was one of Shakespeare's best-known and most prolific contemporaries—one with whom he may have collaborated on Macbeth (the silly witches' songs are Middleton's) and other plays. If we expect Shakespeare's burial record to mention his literary ability, we also expect Middleton's to mention his.

It doesn't. Middleton gets the title "Mr."—and that's all.

In Julye 1627
Mr. Thomas Middleton was buried the . . . . 4[th]. (Dyce xxxviii)

That's all. "Mr." Not "Thomas Middleton, prolific composer of plays, masques, and prose works" or "Thomas Middleton, Poet" or "Thomas Middleton, Dramatist" or even "Thomas Middleton, Author." An author who wrote or collaborated on approximately thirty plays is given the bare title "Mr." Shakespeare's "gent." would look effusive in comparison if it wasn't simply an indication of his social standing.

Consider this to be another small addition to the evidence about Shakespeare's contemporaries and their burial records. The particular benefit is its specificity. B. Roland Lewis, in The Shakespeare Documents: Facsimiles, Transliterations, Translations, and Commentary (ed. and trans. B. Roland Lewis, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1940), deals more generally with the subject:
It is to be noted that the entry [for Shakespeare's burial] very definitely accords Shakespeare social rating. "Gent," "Mr," "Knt," were the social ratings ordinarily used in Parish Registers; virtually never was there any reference to such matters as literary or dramatic prowess. (525)
The specificity of Middleton's burial record helps support the general claim that parish registers were not places to record a person's occupation or reputation.

Enormous thanks are due to the research librarians who helped with this project over the past year. Thank you very much!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fire Over England's Tilbury Speech

Fire Over England. Dir. William K. Howard. Perf. Laurence Olivier, Flora Robson, and Vivien Leigh. 1937. Videocassette.

After an earlier post on Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth I, I remembered that the 1937 film Fire Over England also has a version of Elizabeth I's speech at Tilbury. That film's version is much more thrilling and much more moving—possibly because it's closer to the actual thrilling and moving words of Elizabeth:

Of course, she has the "heart and valor of a king" instead of the "heart and stomach of a king" in this version. Perhaps stomachs aren't quite as en vogue now as they were in 1588. Alternately, it's possible that the phrase "stomach of a king" tends to conjure up an image of the later years of Henry VIII, Elizabeth's father.

Here's most of the text of Elizabeth I's actual speech—for purposes of comparison with the speech above:
My loving people . . . I am come amongst you, as you see, at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all, to lay down for my God and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honour, and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a King of England, too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any Prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm. (Somerset 464)

Works Cited

Somerset, Anne. Elizabeth I. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Attempting to Avoid Anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice

The Merchant of Venice. Dir. Trevor Nunn. Perf. Gabrielle Jourdan and Lawrence Werber. 2001. DVD. Lexington Road Entertainment Group, 2001.

The anti-Semitic attitudes portrayed in The Merchant of Venice cannot be eliminated. Although we may loathe them, those attitudes are an integral part of the plot—as are the attitudes sympathetic to Jews that the play presents. Whether Shakespeare himself was anti-Semitic or not, the play grapples with the attitudes some Christians had toward Jews in his day.

It's possible to read Shylock as an anti-Semitic fantasy of how Jews behave; but it's also possible to have a production of the play with a Shylock who is not an anti-Semitic caricature of a Jew.

The 2001 Trevor Nunn production provides a brilliant moment in the middle of the courtroom scene. In it, Tubal exits with a significant look at Shylock:

At that moment, we understand that Shylock is not acting as a Jew. The only other Jew in the courtroom (and the absence of any others may also be a telling point) dissociates himself from Shylock.

It does not remove the anti-Semitism in the play, but it does go a fair way to making it clear that this Shylock is not to be considered an emblem of all Jews. Instead, he is emblematic of any human being's potential evil.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks with Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing. Dir. Kenneth Branagh. Perf. Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Michael Keaton and Keanu Reeves. 1993. DVD. MGM, 2003.

We all occasionally find it difficult to find adequate words to give thanks.

When we do, we turn to Shakespeare.

Perhaps the best expression of thanks in the Shakespeare canon is Don John's terrific monologue in Much Ado About Nothing, here delivered with the inimitable style of Keanu Reeves:

"I thank you. I am not of many words, but I thank you." (I.i.157-58)

May you all have a delightful Thanksgiving.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the film 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 2008-2039 (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