Wednesday, December 23, 2020

I’ll Make a King Out of Me (The Richard III Theme Song)

kj. "I’ll Make a King Out of Me (The Richard III Theme Song)." The Potential Musical Version of Richarrd III.

Long-time blog readers will know that I often compose songs for my students as a way of reviewing the material.

But I've always been stymied by Richard III. Well, perhaps "stymied" isn't quite the right word. "Uninspired" might hit the nail on the head.

Until this year. The students suggested some options, and we settled on the rallying song from Mulan.

I've thrown together a rough recording of it (in between grading Shakespeare exams and grading Shakespeare thesis papers)—forgive the roughness, but I thought I'd just take a chance and throw it out there.

The song is in the embedded file—the images are incidental to the song, but they're all from versions of Richard III, and that sometimes leads to some serendipity.

Below the file are the lyrics. Enjoy!

I’ll Make a King Out of Me (The Richard III Theme Song)


Now it is the winter—of our discontent.

We have a King named Edward, who I sure resent.

I can smile and murther while I smile

(That’s from Henry VI, Part Three).

Forsooth, I’ll make a king out of me.


Hacking through a forest and all rent with thorns,

Wondering if my mother wishes I weren’t born,

I’m a twisted, half-formed, wretched man,

But I’ll soon be “Richard Three.”

With luck, I’ll make a king out of me.


I think I’m destined to be a villain

(Lady Anne hopes “He’ll woo me.”)

Oi, so many lives are standing in my way!

When I plot, they think that I am chillin’

But you all know the true me.

I’ll grab that crown from you someday!


(I’ll be king)

I must thank God for my humility,

(I’ll be king)

And quote the Bible to serve my purpose.

(I’ll be king)

I’ll grab me some old Pink Floyd records

And listen to The Dark Side of the Moon.


That’s not strictly relevant, but it fits . . . the line.

Buckingham will back me—almost all the time.

He won’t take the princes down,

So Old Tyrrel will work for me.

And then I’ll be a king—Richard Three.


(I’ll be king)

Let it out that Lady Anne’s sick,

(I’ll be king)

But I would wait ’til the coronation.

(I’ll be king)

I have a hunch Richmond won’t do damage—

As long as I have my horse with me.


(I am king)

I’m going to reign like the storm in King Lear

(I am king)

Richard One and Two can’t outdo me.

(I am king)

I planned all this over four whole plays now

Victorious in the first teratology!

Monday, December 21, 2020

Shakespeare in Wishbone

“Shakespaw.” By Adam Felber. Perf. Larry Brantley, Jordan Wall, and Christie Abbott. Dir. Allison Graham and Joey Stewart.  Wishbone. Season 1, episode 32. ABC. 20 November 1995.  

We have for you a treat that has been years in the making. Students will frequently tell me about their Shakespeare experiences—notably, they talk about their initial encounters with Shakespeare.

It does take a while, but I'm sometimes able to follow their footsteps and track down the things they tell me about.

Here is such a moment!

The show Wishbone (eager to jump on the educational bandwagon) featured a cute dog who explored the literary world by taking on a variety of characters. In this episode, he becomes Ariel (because the local high school is putting on a production of The Tempest). The selection below concentrates mainly on the dog's imagined production, but there are elements of the high school production as well. As is typical in such shows, the bad guys in the show are also the bad guys in real life, and it's only after some wrangling that it all works out. Here you go!

Bonus! Some Shakespeare material from a Romeo and Juliet episode later in the show's run:

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Book Note: Shakespeare: Upstart Crow to Sweet Swan: 1592-1623

Duncan-Jones, Katherine. Shakespeare: Upstart Crow to Sweet Swan: 1592-1623. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2011. 

I'm sorry that this is the second post in a row that reviews a book that I cannot wholeheartedly recommend. But I suppose that's the way it sometimes goes.

This book has been in my Amazon cart for a very long time. It's very expensive, and it seldom drops in price. But I finally got fed up and (instead of actually purchasing it) requested it through Inter-Library Loan.

I'm glad I did. Though I'm fond of Katheine Duncan-Jones as a scholar, this volume isn't all that scholarly. 

The book centers on Shakespeare as a dramatist and actor, which is an admirable approach. But it's so highly speculative that it loses its claim to scholarship.

Here's a quick example. There's a wonderful chapter that concentrates its efforts on three early encounters with Shakespeare. And that's all to the good—and Duncan-Jones has her head on straight in detailing those encounters. But she provides highly-speculative interpretations of those . . . without letting readers know how speculative they are.

As one among many potential examples, here's her reading of the Peachum illustration of a performance of Titus Andronicus.

All of that is extremely interesting, but it's all highly hypothetical. We really cannot conclude, on the basis of one amateur illustration, that actors in female roles during Shakespeare's age did not employ padding, that war heroes were presented on stage with bare legs, or that "haystacks" is a distinctly superior way to express the idea of "hay stalks." 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Book Note: The One King Lear

Vickers, Brian. The One King Lear. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016.
This is one of those points where I am making a a note about what I've been reading lately—without necessarily endorsing the ideas in the material.

In The One King Lear, Brian Vickers fights against the critical orthodoxy that has developed in the past forty years or so. The argument is, in essence, that Q1 of King Lear and F of King Lear are two distinct plays and ought to be studied as such.  Vickers disagrees. His argument is that Q1 is different from F because the printer miscalculated how much paper he would need to print the play. Therefore, the cuts in Q1 of the play are not the result of a particular theatrical performance but because of material considerations (literally) in the print house.

Vickers is very good on describing the likely scenario in the print shop. It's clear that the printer was trying to save space in a number of instances, and Vickers details all those.  I follow him through all that.

But I don't agree with his conclusion. The conclusion (roughly outlined at the bottom of page 135 and the top of 136 below) is that critics have divided Lear much as Lear divided his kingdom: without warrant and with disastrous results.

Part of my disagreement has to do with Vickers' somewhat-cranky characterization of the "two Lears" revisionists. He paints them as insisting that the F Lear is better than the Q1 Lear, and I don't think that's at the center of the argument. I think, rather, that the revisionists are finding the differences in the two texts to stem from a speculative (admittedly) performance history—but that they are not making value judgements about the two texts.

I gave the argument a fair hearing, but I'm not buying it at present.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Shakespeare Guest Stars in an Episode of Arthur

"Fern and the Case of the Stolen Story." By Craig Carlisle. Perf. Drew Adkins, Bruce Dinsmore, and Daniel Brochu. Dir. Greg Bailey. Arthur. Season 16, episode 9. PBS. 9 May 2013.

Well, it's not much, but it's something.

Years ago, a student mentioned that Shakespeare made an appearance on the kids show Arthur.

Here's what I eventually tracked down. Fern is participating in a writing competition, but she can't come up with any ideas—which is usually not a problem for her.

In short, she borrows the life stories of a classmate and uses them in fictionalized form to tell stories. I'm not sure why Shakespeare would be pointing fingers at that, but there you have it.

Here are his two guest appearances (with a bit of context for each).  Enjoy!

Links: The Film at the Arthur Wiki.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Book Note: Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth (Surprisingly Dull Fare from Tom Stoppard)

Stoppard, Tom. Plays One: The Real Inspector Hound and Other Entertainments. London: Faber and Faber, 1996.

Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth is an experimental piece. Stoppard explains blah blah principle and says this about the play(s):

The appeal to me consisted in the possibility of writing a play which had to teach the audience the language the play was written in. The present text is a modest attempt to do this: I think one might have gone much further.

I'm very fond of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (for which, c.v.). I also really like Arcadia, even though it doesn't have any Shakespeare (at least that I detected).

But this is very dull.  I'm glad for the experiment, but I don't want to read it or see it performed.

You may feel otherwise! Let me give you the introduction Stoppard wrote and a sample of the beginning of the play(s).

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Shakespeare Allusions in The Office: Two Romeo and Juliets and a Possible Julius Caesar

"Branch Closing." By Michael Schur. Perf. Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Mindy Kaling. Dir. Tucker Gates. 
The Office. Season 3, episode 7. NBC. 9 November 2006. DVD. 
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, 2018.

"PDA." By Robert Padnick. Perf. Jennifer Celotta. Perf. Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Mindy Kaling, and Amy Ryan. Dir. Greg Daniels. The Office. Season 7, episode 15. NBC. 10 February 2011. DVD. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, 2018.

"E-Mail Surveillance." By Jennifer Celotta. Perf. Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, and Mindy Kaling. Dir. Paul Feig. The Office. Season 2, episode 9. NBC. 22 November 2005. DVD. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, 2018.

You may remember the time the American version of The Office had a character play "The Bard Card" (for which, q.v.).

But what about the other small, sporadic, offhand allusions to Shakespeare?

You're in luck.  I've collected three in this video clip.  The first two are places where characters mention Romeo and Juliet—Kelly specifying "the Claire Danes version" in her overly-dramatic threat and Michael somehow thinking that a dragon is in the play's Dramatis Personae

The third one is a bit more obscure—indeed, it may not be a conscious allusion to Julius Caesar, but I would like to assume that it is.  Jim has invited everyone in the office to a party at his house—well, everyone but Michael. Jim told Dwight that it was a surprise party for Michael so that he wouldn't talk about it in front of Michael, but Michael has learned about it nonetheless.  As Dwight leaves for the day—after everyone else has left, each trying to avoid Michael's inquiries about what they're doing that night—Michael says, "You, too, Dwight?"  If that's not The Office's version of "Et tu, Brute?" from Julius Caesar, I'll eat my Shakespeare action figure.

Take a look and tell me what you think! 

Links: The Show at IMDB.
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