Friday, April 30, 2021

Buster's Ten-Second Summary of Hamlet in Arrested Development

“Righteous Brothers.” By Mitchell Hurwitz . Perf. Tony Hale. Dir. Chuck Martin. Arrested Deveopment. Season 2, episode 10. Fox. 17 April 2005. DVD. 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, 2004-2020.

Here's a brief (very brief) something to start your weekend.

There are all sorts of quick-and-easy summaries of Hamlet out there. A ten-minute one gained some notoriety some years back, for example.

But if you really need the quickest possible refresher on Hamlet's plot, I'd go with Buster's. In just ten seconds, he captures the essence of the greatest tragic drama in all of western literature.

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

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Thursday, April 29, 2021

Unexpected Agincourt in Mystery Men

Mystery Men
. Dir. Kinka Usher. Perf. Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, and William H. Macy. 1999. DVD. 
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, 2010.

Here's a little something fun courtesy of ShakespeareGeek, who mentioned it on his blog on Shakespeare day.

It's a brief clip from a film about, according to IMDB, "A group of inept amateur superheroes [who] must try to save the day when a supervillain threatens to destroy a major superhero and the city."

I haven't seen the film myself (but it sounds a bit like the 2000 film The Specials, so I think I'll enjoy it). But this is clearly the scene where the heroes are up against it and ready to give up. Don't give up on the scene—give it a try:  

Well, there's not much of the St. Crispin's speech there, but I still think it's a successful modernization. I'm eager to give the rest of the film a chance. Perhaps there will even be a victor's speech like the one at the end of Richard III.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Book Note: Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague

O'Farrell, Maggie. Hamnet: A Novel of the Plague. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2020.

This book made quite a splash when it came out, so I'm playing catchup here.

It's a family drama about the death of Hamnet Shakespeare. Here's where I insert the obligatory note that the names Hamlet and Hamnet were interchangeable in the period. I notice the cover designer put the "n" in italics in case anyone thought they were about to get the story of the Prince of Demark.

There's also a lot about Shakespeare's wife Agnes. Here's where I insert the obligatory note that the names Agnes and Anne were interchangeable.

I highly recommend the book. It's an interesting, touching, tragic, and profound work of imaginative historical fiction. And spoiler are right around every corner, so I'm not going to give you any more. Just read it for yourself.

As a way of showing you the world of the book, I'd like to give you the very prescient amount of just how the plague made its way to Stratford-upon-Avon. The subtitle is A Novel of the Plague, and you can imagine something very like this happening in the current era.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Book Note: The Millionaire and the Bard

Mays, Andrea E. The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger's Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare's First Folio. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015

After waiting for some time for my library to buy this book, process it, and make it available for checking out, I was very excited to dig right in.

I was almost immediately disappointed. But I did give this book a second try, and I'm glad I did.

My disappointment was in the many minor but annoying inaccuracies in describing Shakespeare's life and times.  These included the following:
  • The old canard that it's somehow meaningful that his burial record says "Will. Shakspeare, gent. [sic, including spelling and punctuation]" instead of "Will. Shakspeare, poet."
  • The insistence that Shakespeare's first play was Titus Andronicus.  Yes, it may have been, but there's absolutely no certainty about it.
  • The claim (baldly-stated as a fact) that only three of Shakespeare's signatures survive, together with "by me" on his will as the only words besides his signature in his hand. Yes, there's not much out there, but there are six signatures, the words "by me" (none of which is seriously disputed), and the uncertain but possible "Hand D" in the manuscript of Sir Thomas More. No, the last isn't established as unquestionably Shakespeare's writing, but that point in the book would be the time and place to mention it.
I gave up at that point but later decided to skip all the Shakespeare stuff and cut to the Henry Folger material. My advice is to start on page ninety-one—that's where things get really exciting and the material seems solid.

Read the extract from a later chapter included below and see if you don't agree that there's much interest, suspense, and tension in the story. The section is about Folger's attempts to purchase what became Folger Shakespeare Library Folio Number One—which, in 1903, he eventually bought for £10,000. It was then the most expensive book in the world. The folio (like all folios) is unique—but the ways in which Folger One is unique are that it is the tallest; the only known presentation copy; its presenter was William Jaggard, the First Folio's printer; and the presentation is dated 1623, the year of the First Folio's publication.

Folger made many mistakes in his attempts to buy the folio, but here's Mays' account of the final transactions (you can start on the first full paragraph on 137 or at the top of 136):

It's interesting stuff—just start on page ninety-one.

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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Book Note: This Side Idolatry: A Play in Seven Scenes

Jennings, Talbot L. This Side Idolatry: A Play in Seven Scenes.  Unbound typescript, circa 1933, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina Library, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Some considerable time ago, I was able to get ahold of a play about Shakespeare arriving in London.

It sat on my desk for about ten years.

But I finally got down to that layer of stratification and glanced through the play.

It's interesting, but it's not earth-shattering. And I'm afraid I can't give you any of it without attempting to get the approval of the estate, and I just don't have the time. You can see from the image above that they make their "Do Not Copy" policy pretty clear on every page (I think I'm justified in providing the image describing the manuscript—just not any part of the manuscript itself).

The reason I requested the play in the first place was that Leslie Howard acted in it (he played Shakespeare), a fact I learned while doing research to debunk the silly claim that Howard was an Oxfordian (for which, c.v.).

This Side Idolatry is worth mentioning since it provides evidence of the continual interest in imagining Shakespeare's biography. And, not to give away too much, its second scene is set in Deptford on May 30, 1593. 

Links: More about the production with Leslie Howard.
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