Monday, December 26, 2016

Shakespeare in Little Women

Alcott, Louisa May. The Annotated Little Women. Ed. John Matteson. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016.

I've read broadly this semester, largely in helping our senior English majors with their Senior Thesis Projects (also called Capstone Projects).

As always, I've kept my eyes peeled for Shakespeare.

In Little Women, it didn't take long to find. In the first chapter, the little women are planning to put on a dramatic performance, and Jo wants to do it up right, responding pseudo-modestly to an exclamation by Beth:
"I don't see how you can write and act such splendid things, Jo. You're a regular Shakespeare!" exclaimed Beth, who firmly believed that her sisters were gifted with wonderful genius in all things. 
"Not quite," replied Jo modestly. "I do think The Witch's Curse, an Operatic Tragedy is rather a nice thing; but I'd like to try Macbeth, if we only had a trapdoor for Banquo. I always wanted to do the killing part. 'Is that a dagger that I see before me?'" muttered Jo, rolling her eyes and clutching at the air, as she had seen a famous tragedian do.

"No, it's the toasting fork, with Mother's shoe on it instead of the bread. Beth's stage-struck!" cried Meg, and the rehearsal ended in a general burst of laughter.
That's all quite delightful, but I wanted to provide a bit of "value-added" content, so let me point you toward a new release this year by W. W. Norton: The Annotated Little Women. It's quite a delightful work, and it helps contextualize and explain a lot of the book. Here's the run-up to the scene I just quoted:

With the annotations, we're able to learn that Alcott herself saw Edwin Forrest play Macbeth—and that she was not impressed.

Now it's off to the film versions to see how much Shakespeare we can find there!

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

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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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