Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Bit More Shakespeare in Pearls Before Swine

Pastis, Stephen. King of the Comics: A Pearls Before Swine Collection. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2015.

We've occasionally seen Pearls Before Swine dip into Shakespeare for comic effect.

We've seen pun-based takes on Hamlet's soliloquy and threats cobbled out of Julius Caesar.

We've had an encounter with difficult verse lines from Romeo and Juliet.

We've even had Shakespeare translated for modern audiences.

And now, in browsing through a book at the bookstore, we find two more connections between Shakespeare and the Pearls cast.

The first one is part of a series that . . . well, Stephen Pastis has thoughtfully provided a panel of context for it:

The second takes us back to Hamlet's soliloquy . . . with a bit of a twist.

The Shakespeare aficionado might say, like Isabella in Measure for Measure, "O, it is excellent / To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous / To use it like a giant" (107-09). But that might be gilding the lily.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Note: Fakespeare in the Park

Soria, Gabe. Fakespeare in the Park. New York?: Cartoon Network Books, 2016.

I'm pretty much utterly nonplussed about this volume. I have no sense of the context for it. Occasionally, people write me and ask if they can send me something Shakespeare-related, and I generally say, "Sure." That's how this came my way.

It's a work of juvenile fiction published by Cartoon Network Books. And it may have something to do with something called The Regular Show.

I've tried to gain some quick context, and I gather that there's a blue jay and a raccoon. They work for the park service, and they're not very good at their jobs.

As near as I can tell, this is not a novelization of an actual event on the show. If it were, it would provide the context more easily and be more accessible to the causal, mildly-interested bystander.

If you know the show and are a fan, you may find this quite amusing.  After a number of false starts and quirky setbacks, the characters are able to put on a play they call The Most Awsome Exploits of MacDeath, a Veteran Constable, and Juliet, his Squire. Here's a quick sample:

There you have it. If you know the show, you may like it; if you don't, you're likely to be nonplussed.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

Book Note: Shylock is my Name

Jacobson, Howard. Shylock is my Name: William Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice Retold. London: Hogarth Shakespeare, 2016.

On the whole, I have not been terribly impressed with the Hogarth Shakespeare series. The Winter's Tale one (for which, q.v.) starting off very promising, but tried too hard. The Taming of the Shrew one (for which, q.v.) didn't seem to think that deeply about the play.

But Shlock is my Name was profound in its grappling with Shakespeare's play—while making it its own and inviting us to look back at Merchant of Venice.

It takes a while for everything to build, but we essentially have the story of Simon Strulovitch, whose daughter is running wild and who intends to marry a christian. His story is set in contemporary England (contemporary to us, that is, not to Shakespeare).

He meets Shylock in a graveyard. At first, Shylock seems to be contemporary to Strulovitch, but it becomes clearer and clearer that Shylock's story has been completed and the Strulovitch is echoing it. Shylock then stands as a guide to Strulovitch's experiences—and also as a touchstone for how Christians have treated / are treating Jews. Ambiguity over whether he is to be taken as real or as an emblem for Jewishness fills the novel's pages.

The novel's plot is cleverly woven together, and it leads to Strulovitch demanding that the man with whom his daughter has eloped / run away become circumcised (this becomes the modernization of the "pound of flesh"). When he can't be found, Strulovitch demands that D'Anton, the man's older mentor and friend, take his place.

I leave you to discover the rest on your own . . . except that I want to provide this novel's take on the "Quality of Mercy" speech. Here, it's given to Shylock. It's toward the end of the novel, and Shylock is asking Strulovitch to reconsider his demand for circumcision.  [Note: There is some coarse language here. So watch it.] 

The kinds of things this novel does are the things all the Hogarth Shakespeares ought to do.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book Note: Shakespeare was a Computer Programmer

Holmes, Jeffrey. Shakespeare was a Computer Programmer. Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada: Brunswick Press, 1975.

And sometimes we run across items that are "even more bizarre and inexplicable," to quote Douglas Adams.

Shakespeare was a Computer Programmer is an extremely odd little book. I spotted it scroll by on the Folger Library Twitter Feed and thought I'd track down a copy myself to see what it's all about. I thought it was probably a book to help computer programmers understand Shakespeare or to help Shakespeareans understand computer programmers better.

Instead, I got something of a parody of the authorship debates. Our purported author—Professor ----------, according to Jeffrey Holmes—discovered a number of odd bits of old paper. To his astonishment, they lead him to the conclusion that the plays of Shakespeare were really written by "one Harry Ramsbottom, an illegitimate Yorkshireman, using technique not to be dreamed of until the advent, four hundred years later, of computer programming" (7).

As near as I can figure, the rest of the book imagines that specific words and phrases in Shakespeare were given codes that would make them interchangeable. With a list of intriguing and well-written words and phrases, each given a code, a play could be compiled much as computer code would be.

I'll give you pages 13 to 15 as an example:

And it goes on from there, giving examples of lines that could have appeared in one play but actually appeared in another.

There you are. It's odd, but I did read it, and I thought it needed a write-up.

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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