Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Shakespeare in Futurama

“The Thief of Baghead.” By Dan Vebber. Perf. Billy West, Katey Sagal, John diMaggio, Maurice LaMarche, and David Herman. Dir. Edmund Fong. Futurama. Season 7, episode 4. Comedy Central. 4 July 2012. DVD. Twentieth-Century Fox, 2012.

One episode of the television show Futurama attempt to answer an age-old question. "Who is the better actor?: A robot soap opera star named Calculon or a film actor named Langdon Cobb who has never been seen without a bag over his head.

I won't trouble you with the details of how they determine upon a competition (the details of Futurama episodes often cause dizziness), but I will mention that Calculon, in an effort to ensure that his death scene is believable, determines to take actual poison (or the robot equivalent) at the end of his chosen scene—Romeo's death scene.

Here's the speech as Calculon delivers it:
                                        Ah, dear Juliet,
Why art thou yet so fair? . . . . . . . . . . .
 . . . . . . . . . . . . I . . . will stay with thee;
And never from this palace of dim night
Depart again . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . O, here
Will I set up my everlasting rest,
And shake the yoke of inauspicious stars
From this world-wearied flesh. Eyes, look your last!
Arms, take your last embrace! And, lips, O you
The doors of breath, seal with a righteous kiss.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Here's to my love! (V.iii.101-119)
And here's the clip of that scene:

Calculon, who is generally known for hamming it up, actually delivers the lines with a surprising sensitivity. The humor lies not in goofing up Shakespeare but in performing his lines well and in finding his lines to be so deeply moving.

For some reason, the segment reminds me of Orson Wells' delivery of the same speech during his appearance on I Love Lucy (for which, q.v.).

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.
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—The Tempest