Friday, December 6, 2013

Shakespeare in The Sound of Music

The Sound of Music. Dir. Robert Wise. Perf. Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Peggy Wood, Anna Lee, Portia Nelson, Marni Nixon, and Evadne Baker. 1965. DVD. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2010.

With all the pleasant chatter about The Sound of Music, I thought it might be time to comment on the two allusions to King Lear cleverly worked in to the lyrics of two songs. Additionally, each allusion is repeated to underscore its intentional use of Shakespeare.

The first allusion is actually a quotation.  The quote comes in the song "How do you Solve a Problem Like Maria?" Of the three words proposed as apt synonyms for or definitions of "Maria," the first is "Flibbertigibbet."  Although it's possible that Rogers and Hammerstein got the word directly from Samuel Harsnett's A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (1603), my own scholarly opinion is that it derives directly from Edgar's speech in Act III of King Lear: "This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet" (III.iv.115). [Note: The third possible definition of "Maria"—"A clown"—may allude to Twelfth Night's Feste, but I won't press the point.]

The second allusion is to a speech Lear gives in Act I. When Cordelia seems reluctant to speak publicly about her love for her father, he says, "Nothing will come of nothing: speak again" (I.i.90). This finds its way into "Something Good" late in the film. It's been transmuted slightly into the line "Nothing comes of nothing," but the allusion is plain.

I've conflated these allusions into the following file. Ponder their significance:

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

King Lear is my favorite play, not that I've read that many, but it is my favorite. I never thought about "Nothing comes from nothing" as alluding to Lear, but I think you are right. As far as the other reference you cited, I will look up and reread. This was very interesting and insightful. Thanks for the post and footage.

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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.
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