Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Book Note: Shakespeare and London

Salkeld, Duncan. Shakespeare and London. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018.

I'd just like to call your attention to this fascinating scholarly work on Shakespeare and London (note: not Shakespeare's London or Shakespeare in London). I just finished reading it, and I learned an enormous amount from it. Shakespeare in London relates biographical details of Shakespeare's life, but it connects those to the biographies of others who doubtless surrounded him in London. It also tries to find as many connections between London events or personages and Shakespeare's plays.

I'm providing a few pages of the introduction to give you a feel for the book.

The book then moves on to chapters entitled "Stratford to London," "Places," "People," "Art / Authority," and "Diversity" before bringing the subject to its conclusion.

I highly recommend the book as an endlessly intriguing examination of Shakespeare in London and London in Shakespeare.

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Bonus! A nifty map of London included in the book:

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Book Note: Imagining Shakespeare's Wife: The Afterlife of Anne Hathaway

Scheil, Katherine West. Imagining Shakespeare's Wife: The Afterlife of Anne Hathaway. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.

If you're looking for a book that will make you want to run out and read a bunch more books, try Katherine West Scheil's Imaging Shakespeare's Wife: The Afterlife of Anne Hathaway.

This scholarly, well-written, engaging book takes its readers on a journey through what we know of Anne Hathaway's history—and then on a fascinating tour of all the ways she has been appropriated, characterized, and fictionalized through the centuries.

Along the way, she mentions dozens of interesting (and, yes, dozens of uninteresting) fictional Annes.

I'd like to give you a sample of the chapter that starts to deal with these imagined Annes:

It's hard to stop, since the story keeps evolving in such an engaging way, but I should refrain from revealing the rest of the fascinating narrative. You should get it and read it for yourself—and then start filling your bookshelf with the interesting works Scheil mentions.

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Friday, October 19, 2018

Book Note: The Bard and the Bible

Hostetler, Bob. The Bard and the Bible: A Shakespeare Devotional. Franklin, Tennessee: Worthy Inspired, 2016.

I was a bit skeptical of this book when I heard of it, but I'm quite impressed.

It's a daily devotion that quotes from Shakespeare, provides a relevant passage from the King James Version of the Bible, and then offers some commentary on either the one or the other or the way the two speak to each other.

I've been using it in my Shakespeare class this semester, and I think it went well. Before I realized how the book is organized, I was providing the reading for the day of the year.  Since the class meets on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, that meant that I was skipping nearly every other day. It worked much better when I figured out that (generally) each play has its own grouped set of days and quotes from each play progress from early to late in the play. I realized that in time to focus on readings from King Lear during our class on King Lear, and I think that was quite effective.

Each reading concludes with an application question and some additional information—sometimes about Shakespeare's vocabulary, sometimes about modern responses to or versions of the plays, sometimes about the world around Shakespeare.

Here's a sample from early October with some words from King Lear:

I think I'll use this with a class again, but I'll ignore the days and stick to the plays (in other words, I'll read the Macbeth devotions even if it's February).

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Bunch of Amateurs (Burt Reynolds as King Lear)

A Bunch of Amateurs. Dir. Andy Cadiff. Perf. Burt Reynolds, Alexandra Weaver, Elesia Marie, Camilla Arfwedson, Michael Wildman, Charles Durning, Pandora Colin, Samantha Bond, Imelda Staunton, Taz, Lorraine Ashbourne, Gemma Lawrence, Peter Gunn, Tony Jayawardena, Alistair Petrie, Derek Jacobi, and Ciaran O'Quigley. 

Burt Reynolds in Hamlet and Hutch (for which, q.v.) was pretty disappointing.

Burt Reynolds in The Twilight Zone (for which, q.v.) was a whole lot better.

And Burt Reynolds in A Bunch of Amateurs (for which . . . well, keep reading) is also quite good.

The plot involves an aging actor (Jefferson Steel, played by Burt Reynolds) whose aging agent can't get him the big action-hero parts anymore. To revitalize his career (or just to get him out of the country), the agent books him to play Shakespeare in Stratford . . . without telling him exactly which Stratford:

I'm very fond of the sequence in the plane. Jefferson Steel goes from the Arden edition of King Lear to the Cliffs Notes . . . to something called "Shakespeare in a Page" printed from the internet. 

I also love the dramatic irony of the interview. The journalists know he's there to play with an amateur troupe of actors, but Steel thinks, when they talk of amateurs, that they're just being modest about the quality of British professional actors.

In the next scene, Steel arrives at the theatre and finds out the truth:

"Where's Kenny Branagh?" is a great line—especially when he's just met Derek Jacobi and Peter Gunn (who played Fabian in the 1996 Trevor Nunn Twelfth Night). It also makes me think of Branagh's A Midwinter's Tale (for which, q.v.), which is a similar tale of saving a theatre or rejuvenating a career with a low-budget Shakespeare production.

Jefferson Steel has been acting very Lear-like throughout the production, but he also goes a bit off his head and ends up out in a storm:

And, finally, we have some of King Lear. I'm avoiding spoilers, so I won't tell you or show you what unexpected things happen during the production. I'll just give you a bit of the show . . . followed by the curtain calls:

All in all, this was quite a good film, filled with good production values, good acting, good names, and a good Burt Reynolds. It's hard to find in anything but a Region 2 DVD, but it's worth it.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Bonus Image: Thoughtful Jefferson Steel

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Brooklyn Nine-Nine Brings its Shakespeare Game

“Operation: Broken Feather.” By Dan Goor and Michael Schur. Perf. Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Joe Lo Truglio, Chelsea Peretti, and Andre Braugher. Dir. Julie Anne Robinson. Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Season 1, episode 15. Fox. 2 February 2014. DVD. NBC Universal, 2014.

“Halloween II.” By Prentice Penny. Perf. Andy Samberg, Stephanie Beatriz, Terry Crews, Melissa Fumero, Joe Lo Truglio, Chelsea Peretti, and Andre Braugher. Dir. Eric Appel. Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Season 2, episode 4. Fox. 19 October 2014. DVD. NBC Universal, 2014.

Until Fox cancelled it, I had never heard of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. When the furor over its cancellation spread all over Twitter, I noticed (as did NBC, who picked up the show for a sixth season). My first question was "Does it have any Shakespeare?"

Since then, I've been investigating, and I've found a few instances of Shakespeare in the quirky sit-com about a police precinct in Brooklyn. Here are a couple of instances.

First, in "Operation: Broken Feather," the character Jake Peralta makes fun of the character Amy Santiago, emphasizing the way the last three syllables of her name form the name of a particularly-evil well-known villain. Note: The language in the clip below is not entirely family-friendly.

Second, in the episode entitled "Halloween II," the character Charles Boyle tries out a number of Halloween costumes on his colleagues. Note: The language in the clip below is not entirely family-friendly.

I'll be keeping my eye our for more Shakespeare. But I think there will probably be a lot more in Season Six. The main reason Fox had for cancelling it in the first place was that there wasn't enough Shakespeare.

Links: The Show at IMDB.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Hamlet and Hutch

Hamlet and Hutch. Dir. Jared Young and Matthew Young. Perf. Burt Reynolds, Elizabeth Leiner, and Emma Rayne Lyle. 2017.  DVD.  Criterion, 2000.

Hamlet and Hutch is a pretty forgetful, barely cohesive film about a great-grandfather and his great-granddaughter, a greyhound named Hamlet who almost gets sold to an Alabama racetrack, a theatre that's about to go out of business, and any number of other Saturday-morning feel-good film tropes.

Here's a brief take of the plot. Note: Spoilers will follow, but I bet you could guess the ending of this film. Hutchinson Byrne ("Papa Hutch"), the famous Broadway actor, moves to Georgia to be with his semi-estranged granddaughter because he can no longer take care of himself in New York City. His great-granddaughter is fond of acting and films—notably Audrey Hepburn—and soon arranges for Hutch to put on a play in the theatre that her mom is about to sell because she can't afford to hold on to it and run her flower shop. So they get a greyhound named Hamlet for some reason, and then Hutch starts exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer's. He wanders off, loses the dog, can't perform without the dog, but eventually puts on the show when the dog turns up again.

Here are two scenes from the film. In the first, Hutch and Liv trades lines from Shakespeare and Roman Holiday.

The next scene gives the grand conclusion. Note: It misleadingly presents the dog as having had a more crucial role in the story of the film, but Launce's dog Crab has almost more to do with the plot of Two Gentlemen of Verona than Hamlet the greyhound has to do with this film

There you have it! There are a few other bits of Shakespeare scattered through the film, but nothing earth-shattering. For example, Liv and Hutch read a bit of Midsummer Night's Dream—until Hutch forgets his lines. All in all, it's not a great film, which is both unfortunate and disappointing. If you want a better engagement between Bert Reynolds and Shakespeare, try the Twilight Zone episode entitled "The Bard" (for which, q.v.).

I'll be taking a look at another Bert Reynolds film called A Bunch of Amateurs. I'm hoping from more and better Shakespeare from it.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

A Little Shakespeare Every Now and Then in Pearls Before Swine

Pastis, Stephen. BLTs Taste so Darn Good.  Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2003.

———. The Crass MenagerieKansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2008.

———.  Pearls Falls FastKansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2014.

———. Pearls Sells OutKansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2009.

———. Sgt. Piggy's Lonely Hearts Club ComicKansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2004. 

———. Pearls Gets SacrificedKansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015. 

We've seen some good use of Shakespeare in the comic strip Pearls Before Swine before (for which, q.v. and q.v. and q.v. and q.v.).

Well, there's even more! I've gathered a few examples from the books listed above. Enjoy!

from BLTs Taste so Darn Good.

from The Crass Menagerie. Please note, Mr. Pastis, that you will find some good crocodile material in Antony and Cleopatra. And Hamlet also mentions one!

from Pearls Sells Out. The Shakespeare is really in the annotation rather than specifically in the comic itself.

from . . . well, I've lost track of where this one is from, I'm afraid. I'll try to track it down. In the meantime, I'll just agree with Mr. Pastis on this one (though I've pretty much always felt that way about the play).

from Sgt. Piggy's Lonely Hearts Club Comic. It's not exclusively Shakespearean, but he has his share of cuckold jokes. Thanks, Mr. Pastis, for continuing the venerable (?) tradition.

from Pearls Gets Sacrificed. The humor comes in the unexpected cultured quality of Larry the Croc's parents.

Bonus Image: The Strip at the Beginning of this Post in Full Color:

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Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Book Note: Jo Nesbø's Macbeth

Nesbø, Jo. Macbeth. London: Hogarth Shakespeare, 2018.

We've been dealing with some heavy, darker material here at Bardfilm lately, and I have one more in that vein before we turn to some lighter stuff.

The most recent novel in the Hogarth Shakespeare series is Macbeth, a retelling of . . . Macbeth.

I haven't read any other works by Jo Nesbø, and I don't think I'm in the target audience for his kind of thriller. We have here a dark, gritty, drug-and motorcycle gang-filled story about a town, its corrupt police force, and the formerly-drug-addicted Macbeth, who (at the start) wants to clean up the town and the force.

Let me give you a flavor of the book to see if it's what you'd like to be reading. Here's the chapter where Macbeth and Banquo encounter the Weïrd Sisters:

And here's a scene you may recognize from your previous reading(s) of Macbeth:

It's a dark and sordid setting where the stakes are high and could be used for great good—or become corrupt and cause great harm. In other words, it's Macbeth.

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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