Friday, April 20, 2012

Contrasting Uses of Shakespeare in Advertising

"The Six Ages of Man." Google +. Advertisement.

"Guess What You Have in Common with Shakespeare." The Christopher Group. Advertisement.

The use of Shakespeare in Advertising is an enormous subset of Shakespeare and Film. At Bardfilm, I can do little more than provide some notable examples.

The first is from Google+. It annotates Jaques' "Seven Ages of Man" speech with images of a Google+ user, and it's actually quite moving. We start with an infant—appropriately named "William"—and we mix images of him and his father for each of the ages:

Careful viewers will note that there are only Six Ages of Man in this version of the speech. The Seventh Age, in the text, presents this image:
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything. (II.vii.163-66)
Since "sans everything" can be extended to "sans internet access"—and since that isn't the image Google+ wants to provide at the end of its advertisement—it is excised.

All in all, the ad is very good. It's highly polished, it's moving, it's thoughtful, and it's beautifully narrated.

The following advertisement has the inestimable benefit of being memorable—but not in the same way as the Google+ ad:

Partial Transcript:

Guess what you have in common with Shakespeare. Taxes! Sir William Shakespeare could work his way around a sonnet, but he never got his taxes right. Be lender nor borrower be—just don't be late on your taxes . . . . So if you'd rather catch the plague than do your own taxes, it's time to call the Christopher Group.
It's really quite memorable—but perhaps not for the right reasons. William Shakespeare is given a posthumous knighthood, making him "Sir William," which is not disrespectful. And there's some evidence that Shakespeare moved locations in order to avoid paying taxes, which, from a certain point of view, fits under the category of not getting his taxes right. And Shakespeare did know what he was doing with sonnets.

But I'm nonplussed (please note the accounting-related pun) by the misquotation. The quasi-allusion to money matters has a bizarre, esoteric feel to it. And the image we're given right after that sentence is, I think, meant to represent those who dislike doing their taxes—but it unfortunately has the ambiguity of seeming to represent the Christopher Group itself!

The Christopher Group? Or the Christopher Group's clients?

I thought putting these two ads side by side would be revealing—as revealing as discussing Hotspur as a foil to Hal.

Links: The Christopher Group's Home Page. Google +.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Makibefo: Shakespeare in Madagascar

Makibefo. Dir. Alexander Abela. Perf. Martin Zia, Neoliny Dety, and Gilbert Laumord. 1999. DVD. Philipp Hinz | Scoville Film, 2008.
In the "Shakespeare and Hollyworld" group at the recent Shakespeare Association of American Convention, I learned of the existence of a derivative version of Macbeth filmed in Madagascar with actors from the area. I immediately asked our library to purchase a copy (it's on the expensive side). Today I got an e-mail which transported me into something like a spy novel:
Makibefo is here.
I dashed out immediately and grabbed it. I've only watched the first three minutes, but I'm entranced. Here's the beautiful, magisterial opening:

Transcript (drawn from the subtitles, including their punctuation):

In a land washed by the ocean a tribe of people lived in sight of sands and crashing waves. Their king was a noble king, who gave his people peace and harmony. And amongst his subjects many were good and true. But none more so than Makibefo. Indeed, it was the king who entrusted Makibefo to capture a fugitive and to bring him back to the village.

On the way, Makibefo, in the company of a trusted friend, met a witch doctor, who told him that though the king was merciful he was also weak. He prophesied that a time would come, as surely as the tides, when peace and harmony would no longer sweeten the lives of the people. The witch doctor looked deep into the eyes of Makibefo and saw that the gods had singled him out as a future leader. He inscribed solemnly the ancient symbol of the favoured one on his head band.

The king indeed was merciful and pardoned the fugitive. But his son had no mercy and killed him instantly. The witch doctor proved to be the teller of truths and Makibefo began to believe that he was a man destined for greatness.

His wife too had understood the ancient symbol. Her husband had been blessed by the gods. She exalts him to overthrow the king. Makibefo recognized the truth in his wife's words. But he knew too that once he had committed the ultimate treachery there would be no turning back. The blood that they would wash from their hands would not so easily be washed from their souls.

This is a tale of damnation.
I find it hard to count the number of levels on which the opening to this film is extraordinary. The ending line seems to allude to the opening of Lawrence Olivier's Hamlet. This actor's delivery is stunning. Changing the Three Weird Sisters—marginalized figures in the text—to a single Witch Doctor—possibly a more central, more respected figure—is intriguing. And the connection of the idea of fate to the tides in this ocean-washed setting is magnificent.

The film looks fascinating. Now I just need to find the time to give it the attention it deserves, which is no easy task at this point in the semester.

Note: In 2004, the director made a second film—Souli, a derivative of Othello, also filmed in Madagascar—though it doesn't seem to have been commercially released yet.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click to purchase the film (or to have your library purchase the film)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Another Shakespearean FoxTrot Comic

Amend, Bill. “Why does Shakespeare . . . ?” Say Hello to Cactus Flats. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1993. 105.

People often ask me this question:
How long have you been a fan of Bill Amend's FoxTrot?
"Since the day I was born," I invariably reply.

People usually then ask a number of other questions, the most frequent of which is the following:
"Are you just providing some filler text so that the images in your blog post don't overlap?"
"Yes," I reply. "Oh, yes."

And then I provide a Shakespeare-Related FoxTrot comic for the enjoyment of all! In this one, Paige works on her Hamlet essay. Click on the image below to enlarge it.

Links: The Official Web Page for Foxtrot.

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

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Shakespeare Association of America in Boston Presents . . .

H4. Dir. Dwain A. Perry and Paul Quinn. Perf. Harry Lennix, Angus Macfadyen, Amad Jackson, Heavy D, and Jeryl Prescott. Not Perf. Michael Dorn. Triumvirate Pictures, 2012.
Thanks to a generous grant from Northwestern College, I am currently attending the Shakespeare Association of America's Annual Convention in beautiful downtown Boston. And it's wonderful. I was able to meet Shakespeare Geek in person, which was a delight, and our brains are already being filled with magnificent addresses from profoundly-brilliant Shakespeare Scholars.

I've only attended the convention on one other occasion, but they always manage to arrange interesting film screenings. This year, they are threefold: H4, Playing Pericles, and Still Dreaming.

Right now, I'm most interested in mentioning H4, primarily because it stars Michael Dorn (of Star Trek fame) as King Henry IV (N.B.: See update below), and writing about it now gives me the opportunity of being the first person to use the phrase "Henry the Worf, Part One" in print.
Photo Credit: Harry Lennix as Aaron in Julie Taymor's Titus. Photo by Clear Blue Sky Productions, 1999.
Update: We learned last night that, despite the excellence of the pun above, Michael Dorn will not be playing Henry IV in the finished version of the film. Scheduling conflicts prevent him from being available for the reshoots. But Harry Lennix, who played Aaron (and played him brilliantly) in Julie Taymor's Titus, will take over the role.

I'm looking forward to the other films as well. I wrote about Still Dreaming some time ago (for which, q.v.), and I'm glad to see that it appears to be nearing its official release, giving Shakespeare fans of all ages something to think, talk, and write about.
Links: H4 at IMDB.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Johnny Cash Sings the Plot of Macbeth

Cash, Johnny [?]. "Dunsinane Prison Blues." Previously unreleased. 1 April 2012.
While engaged in research at the Huntington Library, I found some circumstantial evidence of Johnny Cash's deep devotion to the works of William Shakespeare.

At the Folger Shakespeare Library, I was able to track down, in a box of Johnny Cash's Shakespeareana, a copy of Macbeth with lyrics scrawled on the back flyleaf. They seemed to be in Cash's handwriting, and they seemed to fit the tune "Folsom Prison Blues," but I could not confirm that. I also found the photograph above—a shot of Johnny Cash surprised in the act of reading Macbeth. He was so startled at the photographer's audacity that he dropped the book just before the photographer snapped the picture.

I was beginning to think that I would need to wait until the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville opens to find hard evidence connecting Johnny Cash with Shakespeare, but, in a box I brought back from the Folger Shakespeare Library, I found an eight millimeter film containing a recording and a primitive music video of the song. I'm convinced that it is the Man in Black himself playing and singing, but I'm putting a question mark next to his name out of deference to scholars who think the evidence is still too circumstantial.

This morning, I finally managed to secure worldwide distribution rights to the video. Here, then, is Johnny Cash (?) singing the plot of Macbeth to the tune of "Folsom Prison Blues":

If you're having difficulty making out the lyrics, you can follow along with the transcription below.
Dunsinane Prison Blues
I see those trees a-comin’.
They’re rollin’ up the hill.
And you might say, “Lay off, Macbeth”—
But I never will.
’Cause I’m stuck right here in Dunsinane,
Feeling so forlorn.
But I needn’t not fear no one
Who was from woman born.

The witches tried to tell me
That I should wish for more:
I shouldn’t just be satisfied
To be Thane of Cawdor.
So I stabbed a King in Scotland
Just to seize his throne.
Then I ordered all my subjects
To see me crowned at Scone.

So I threw myself a banquet:
I was a charming host.
I only have one question:
Who invited Banquo’s ghost?
It wasn’t like Thanksgiving—
I behaved like a dunce.
Stand not upon the order of your going—
Just go at once.

Methought I heard a voice cry,
“Macbeth shall sleep no more.”
When Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking,
She just can’t help but snore,
But when I went to see the witches,
They were far too subtle—
Just kept stirring up that cauldron
And saying “Bubble, bubble.”

If I owned Birnam forest—
If that stand of trees was mine—
I’d take them to the witches
And accuse them all of lyin’.
Far from
Dunsinane castle—
That’s where I want to be.
But those trees just keep on moving,
And that’s what tortures me.

Lay on, Macduff!
From my research, I am fairly certain that there are other Shakespeare-related Johnny Cash songs out there. For example, I found these notes hastily scribbled in the margin of Johnny Cash's copy of Henry V:
I cried "O, for a burning Muse of Fire."
I wrote high, high words, but the muse wrote higher.
And it burns, burns, burns, the Muse of Fire.
The Muse of Fire.
We can only hope that a recording of that number comes to light soon.
Links: One year ago today at Bardfilm. Two years ago today at Bardfilm.
In case the embedded video above fails at some point, here's an alternate connection to the same file:

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