Friday, August 17, 2012

The Tempest in the Closing Ceremony

Spall, Timothy. "Be not afeard." By William Shakespeare. Closing Ceremony. Olympics, London, 2012. Dir. Kim Gavin. 12 August 2012.

A quotation from The Tempest figured largely in the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics (for which, q.v.). The same quotation made its way into the Closing Ceremony—this time read by Timothy Spall in the character and after the manner of Winston Churchill.

Other Shakespeare quotes were also part of the Ceremony—printed as newspaper headlines and copy as part of the stage set (see the image above and the two images below). There were also quotations from other British authors, which sometimes led to unintentionally humorous connections. In the image above, for example, Samuel Johnson's famous words on the City of London are prominent at the top of the stage:
When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.
That's all well and good—but the most prominent quote at the bottom is from Hamlet—when he is feeling quite tired of life himself:
To be, or not to be: That is the question.
But that's really beside the point.

The Shakespearean centerpiece was, once again, Caliban's "Be not afeard" speech—out of Winston Churchill by way of Timothy Spall (a version from the BBC DVD first, followed by my first effort—a clip shot from a screen):

Leaving aside the argument over whether Kenneth Branagh or Timothy Spall gave a better delivery of the lines, what are your thoughts on this? How does it change Caliban's speech to have it delivered by Winston Churchill? Does it make it more problematic? Does it change the tenor of the dream? Does it bring World War II into it?

[Note: I'm sorry about that last sentence. I remember that I was distinctly told "Don't mention the war," but I forgot.]

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below—and feel free to mention any other Shakespeare quotes you spotted during the Closing Ceremony. I didn't watch too much of it myself. When I learned that Ringo wasn't going to make an appearance, the Ceremony lost some of its interest for me.

"Now is the winter of our discontent." —Richard III

"The Rest is Silence: What a Piece of Work is a Man." —Hamlet

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Shakespeare in Clueless

Clueless. Dir. Amy Heckerling. Perf. Alicia Silverstone, Stacey Dash, Paul Rudd, and Brittany Murphy. 1995. DVD. Paramount , 2005.

Clueless is better known for its connections to Jane Austen than its Shakespeare references; however, one of the means it uses to convey the plot of Emma is Shakespeare.

I detected two Shakespeare allusions in my admittedly-hurried glance through the film, and they're the most telling for the way they contrast. In the first, the Cher Horowitz / Emma Woodhouse character rightly recognizes lines from Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 as "famous"—but doesn't attribute them to Shakespeare. By the time, much later in the film, that the second allusion comes along, Cher / Emma has grown—and the male lead starts to recognize something more in her thereby:

That Mel Gibson provides her with this ability to recognize what the character of Hamlet said or didn't say is immaterial—she has the knowledge, and she's able to employ it. And it's also a good sign that she attributes the quote to "that Polonius guy" instead of "that Ian Holm guy."

Links: The Film at IMDB.
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Monday, August 13, 2012

Friends and Lady Macbeth

"The One with the Tiny T-Shirt." By Adam Chase. Perf. Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, David Schwimmer, and James Michael Tyler. Dir. Terry Hughes. Friends. Season 3, episode 19. NBC. 27 March 1997. DVD. Warner Home Video, 2003.

The omnivorous Shakespeare Geek usually beats me to the punch in relaying information about forthcoming Shakespeare films and cultural references to Shakespeare—which is why you should all follow his blog as well as mine—and this is no exception. In fact, Shakespeare Geek's blog called my attention to this Shakespeare reference in Friends. His post, written in 2008, mentions a brief Shakespeare joke in the show; however, his post doesn't provide the context or a nifty video clip. I felt that it was up to me to do so.

In this clip, Joey is mad at an actress who is treating him as an inferior because of her training in drama. Searching for a way to explain how she thinks she's better than anyone else, Joey ends his sentence with a cliché that doesn't quite jive with the beginning of his sentence:

Chandler is quick to jump on the incongruity and to imagine a speculative actress who is actually named Sliced Bread (the caption on the image above should have capitalized "Bread" to stay with the joke)—one who made herself memorable as great by playing the role of Lady Macbeth. Once again, Shakespeare demonstrates his usefulness as a marker of cultural greatness—as does Shakespeare Geek.

Links: The Episode at IMDB.
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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