Thursday, June 30, 2022

Representative Quotes from and Allusions to Shakespeare in a Representative P. G. Wodehouse Novel

Wodehouse, P. G. Galahad at Blandings. Woodstock: The Overlook Press, 2009.

When we enter the world of P. G. Wodehouse, we find ourselves filled with marvelous metaphors, intriguing plots (or, arguably, one intriguing plot repeated with dozens of variations), and a host of biblical and literary allusions and quotations.

Because they're so stylistically integrated, Wodehouse fans often take a chance in extracting their favorite Wodehouse moments. But I'm going to risk it with one of Wodehouse's Blandings novels. 

My impression is that most people who know Wodehouse know the Jeeves and Wooster novels and short stories—possibly because of the very popular (at least in its day) Jeeves and Wooster series staring Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster and Stephen Fry as Jeeves, Wooster's brainy valet. If you don't know the Blandings books, you're missing out, but you can start catching up here.

And you can get more specific with a plot summary of Galahad at Blandings here. Take the time to glance through it; that way, the excerpts below will have a bit of context.

All set? Then let's proceed. I just want to present you with some representative uses of Shakespeare (with one other favorite passage) that take us through that plot and show Wodehouse's mastery of his source material.

And that's just one novel's worth! Imagine what other delights await us!

I know it's hard to get the feel of these things from brief excerpts—so try an entire novel. But I suppose I should warn you . . . it can become addictive—especially if you get your hands (or ears?) on audiobook versions of them!

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Bonus Material!

Wodehouse, P. G. Heavy Weather. Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1981.
I find it hard to resist including two of the funniest Wodehouse moments of all time—even though neither has anything to do with Shakespeare. So I'm not going to. Resist, that is. I'm not going to resist.

Here are two of the funniest Wodehouse moments of all time. They both come from another Blandings Castle novel: Heavy Weather. In the first, we look over the shoulder of Lord Tilbury as he reads an article that was printed in the latest issue of Tiny Tots, the children's periodical he publishes (those in America can imagine Highlights magazine). Monty Bodkin, a recent hire, has been put in charge of the "Uncle Woggly to his Chicks" section of the magazine. Here's what he thought appropriate for that audience:

When Monty Bodkin is called in to get the sack, he's worried that Lord Tilbury is worried that the information might be inaccurate . . . not that he's been encouraging toddlers to make bets about whisky!

The other funniest moment (at least to me) is a story Galahad Threepwood tells to Sue Brown, the latest imposter to find herself at Blandings. It's not so much the story as the way in which it's told. Observe:

It's really the "finished it up cold next day" that breaks me up completely.

Thank you, Plum!

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Othello: The Remix

Q Brothers (GQ and JQ). Othello: The Remix. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2018.

I have a category of "Plays and Films that Must be Covered," but I also have a category of "Plays and Films that Could be Taught Depending on the Historical Period or How the Professor Happens to Feel."  

For the past few years, I've incorporated Othello into my Shakespeare and Film class. I keep hoping that the issues raised by that play will become irrelevant, but they just don't. 

And when we cover Othello, I usually bring in Othello: The Remix as an option for students. It's an interesting, humorous, tragic take on the plot. As some of the opening lyrics go, "Good storytellers borrow, but great ones steal, / So believe me the thievery is how we keep it real."

Othello: The Remix was commissioned by the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre for the 2012 Globe to Globe Shakespeare festival. In conjunction with the 2012 London Olympics, all of Shakespeare's plays were performed—each in a different language. The language for Othello: The Remix is hip-hop. I remember that some of the performances were available for live streaming at the time, and I tried this just for fun—but it completely captivated me. It's the story of a child who goes from dirt poor to the biggest hip-hop artist ever, his romance with and marriage to a woman from the upper crust, and the engineering of his downfall by a fellow performer who feels he should get at least second billing. The show has four performers on stage—they take on nearly all the roles, changing their hats or minor parts of their costumes—one deejay who keeps the beats flowing, and the voice of Desdemona (she's never physically represented on stage). It's a high-energy, fast-moving, engaging show.

Unfortunately, no performance of the show has been commercially released, though you can hear a recording on Spotify or buy an .mp3 of it or get the script. I've been waiting for a performance to come out for a decade now so that I could feel free to share a bit of the show with you and point you to a place where you can buy it for yourself. Alas, I cannot.

But the release of that recording made me want to call your attention to part of the show. Here, then, is one fun song that I wanted to share with you. The video doesn't correspond with the audio—but the video is a montage of / trailer for a performance (it's available as an embedded video at the end of this post). The song starts with an introduction by Othello ("O to the T-H, E double L-O") of the member of his crew who is getting lots of radio play: Cassio. Cassio then takes over and sings his theme song.

I'm thrilled at the cultural references and the clever rhymes ("Classic as a shell toe sneaker on a B-boy, / Take a Trek with this Star—I'm Leonard Nimoy") and the attention to rhythm ("I've practiced enough, now I'm ready for the majors . . . / You're outdated like a pager"). I also like the creation of Cassio's character—he is a big talker (perhaps that's part of building his hip-hop reputation?), but he's essentially harmless. Have a listen / take a look / read the lyrics:

That should give you a bit of a feel for the show, and I wish I could give you more. But I'll only give you Iago's reaction to Cassio's being promoted above him—since it reflects the poppy nature of the song you just heard. He sings,

Cassio's this (What!) and Cassio's that (What!),
But he don't know jack, cuz Cassio can't rap.
He's a poster-child pin-up boy in a land of pop.
I'm half-man, half-Beastie Boy when I drop.
My [stuff] is John Blaze, this kid is just an actor.
I live what I say, he's just a candy rapper . . .
Every time he make noise, I get annoyed, man.
I heard his latest song and he belong in a boy band.

It's a clever way of expressing the anger Iago feels at being the gritty, real hip-hop performer being superseded by the commercial crossover artist.

Now that you've been convinced that this is a good and interesting show, what should you do? I've done the research, and I haven't found very many clips of performances online. The only substantial segment of the Globe Theatre production I've been able to find gives us the first five minutes—which are well worth watching, even though it's a bit rough from time to time and even though the sound quality of the actors isn't great:

Most of what you'll find online are interviews that contain brief clip of performances . . . like this one! 

There is also a mini-documentary about the crew's performance at the Cook County Jail:

I've been hoping since 2012 for a commercial release of a performance to become available, but (alas) nothing more than the audio recording has made its way out to what would no double an eager public.

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

You can also purchase it from the Dramatists Play Service.

You can hear a recording on Spotify. 

You can purchase an .mp3 of a performance of the entire show here.

Bonus!  Trailer / Montage for a Chicago Shakespeare Theatre performance:

Monday, June 27, 2022

The Office Provides a Bit of Shakespearean Vocabulary

"The Chump." By Greg Daniels and Aaron Shure. Perf. Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer, Ed. Helms, and Mindy Kaling. Dir. Randall Einhorn. The Office. Season 6, episode 25. NBC. 13 
May 2010. DVD. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, 2018. 
We've had some talk of cuckolds here at Bardfilm. There was that Pearls Before Swine comic from a long time ago (for which, q.v.). And we've investigated the cuckold-related history of "bunny ears" (for which, q.v.).

Well, now The Office weighs in with the character Andy Bernard providing us with a quick definition of the term:

Bernard's definition may be a bit informal—but ’tis enough—t’will serve.

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2022

A Nightmare on Elm Street Provides some Shakespeare (and, no, it isn't A Midsummer Night's Dream)

A Nightmare on Elm Street
. Dir. Wes Craven. Perf. Heather Langenkamp and Lin Shaye. 1985. DVD. 
Warner Brothers, 2010.
I didn't watch this when it came out, and I'm not going to watch it now. Well, not in its entirety.

But if I learn there's some Shakespeare of interest (note the qualifier there) in a film, I may track it down—even if (as is the case here) I really don't care for the film's genre.

I don't imagine I'll need to give the plot of this film. Those of us who didn't see it may have caught "A Nightmare on My Street" by D. J. Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince and picked up on the plot from there. If you haven't seen that, the embedded video at the end of this post will enable you to get hip to the jive.

The plot of the film is somewhat relevant to the Shakespeare in it. Since we're in a movie populated by high schoolers, we need to have a scene set in a classroom. Fortunately, that scene includes Shakespeare!  Let's take a look. Note: I have excised the scariest images from the clip, but you'll still see a pool of blood at one point. 

There are a few things to note here—other than the fact that falling asleep in class can be hazardous to your health. First, I'd like to know more about where the teacher is going with her lecture. First, she says, "What is seen is not always what is real." And that leads us viewers to think, "Seems, madam? I know not seems." But then she says that Shakespeare thought there was "something operating in nature, perhaps inside human nature itself, that was rotten."  "Ah," we think, "that's some real State of Denmark stuff!"

But then she goes on to talk about the idea of what Shakespeare calls a "canker"—which might equate to total depravity or the evil inherent in the human heart. She may be thinking of Hamlet's Act V justification of his plan to dispose of Claudius:

. . . is't not perfect conscience,
To quit him with this arm? and is't not to be damn'd,
To let this canker of our nature come
In further evil? (V.ii.67-70)

But she then heads to the gravediggers—as examples of people who go beneath the surface. "All right, then," we say. "Let's see how that all connects!"

Instead, we head to Julius Caesar . . . only we don't really head to Julius Caesar; instead, we head to Horatio's lines about Julius Caesar (I.i.113ff). I think the idea of the dead coming back to squeak and gibber is what the filmmakers are going for there, but I'd like to know how the teacher's mind is working. Had they read Julius Caesar in this class already? Is that where the connection lies? Or are these sheeted dead to be counted self-gravediggers, exhuming themselves to get some squeaking and gibbering done?

Naturally, that's where our protagonist falls asleep and sees a bloody vision. When her attention comes back to the class, the student who has been reading continues—but in a different voice and with a different speech. We've been heading toward "were it not that I have bad dreams" all along!

I don't think it's altogether thoughtless—the quote from Hamlet's nutshell speech (II.254ff) could be a good movie poster blub—but I'd like a bit more. But I'm not going to watch the rest of the film to see if there are deeper things at work with the use of Shakespeare in A Nightmare on Elm Street. I'm already having trouble falling asleep!

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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Monday, June 13, 2022

Staging Romeo and Juliet Creatively in The Gilmore Girls

“Run Away, Little Boy.” By Amy Sherman-Palladino and John Stephens. Perf. Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, and Melissa McCarthy. Dir. Danny Leiner. Gilmore Girls. Season 2, episode 9. The WB. 27 November 2001. DVD. Warner Brothers, 2013.

Like many a television series with main characters in high school, Gilmore Girls had its Shakespeare episode. In it, the students are called upon to put on a part of Romeo and Juliet—and to use their creativity to find a setting that will "highlight the themes you see in the scene," according to the professor. Watch the clip below to hear some examples the professor provides.

Rory (the daughter) is in a group with a director who is really only concerned with getting an A. She makes all the decisions—and, for her group, the only sure way to get an A is to do it in Elizabethan dress.

There's not too much actual Shakespeare in the episode (alas and alack), the show being more concerned with inter-personal relationships of various sorts, but we do get a tiny bit of three of the groups' presentations: a caveman balcony scene, a Wall Street street brawl with the injury of Mercutio, and an Elizabeth death scene.

Here are the most relevant sections of the episode:

Just as music producer The Bruce Dickinson cried for "More Cowbell!" so do I call for "More Shakespeare!" But what we get is good. And the assignment calling for creatively—and also purposefully (that's the part that's often missed) re-setting Shakespeare is a good one. I'd just like to hear the justification the students gave for their decisions!

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

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Friday, June 10, 2022

Book Note: By the Picking of my Nose

Chatterton, Martin. By the Picking of my Nose
Illus. Gregory Rogers. Australia: Little Hare Books, 2011.
If you're expecting this Willy Waggledagger book to be a somewhat gross and juvenile retelling of Macbeth, you wouldn't be far wrong. The title line is paired up in this way: "By the picking of my nose, / Something evil this way goes."

But if you're also expecting it to go beyond that genre in some ways, you'd be leaning in the right direction.

In this, the first of three Willy Waggledagger books (the other two are Chew Bee or Not Chew Bee and A Belt Around my Bum), we meet young William Shakespeare growing up in Stratford. He wants nothing more than to attend the current performance at the Stratford Theatre (yes, we do need to suspend our disbelief there), but no children are allowed at the theater and his father wants him to work. Yet Willy disguises himself and sneaks off to the theatre where he disrupts the performance yet earns the laughter of the audience—among whom is Queen Elizabeth (yes, there's a lot more disbelief to suspend).

Eventually, he takes on the pseudonym Willy Waggledagger, joins the company, and hijinks ensue. There are three witch-like cooks who predict the future by reading people's noses (and the stuff that comes out of them), and there's a plot to unset the current lead actor. I imagine those who have read Macbeth will get the drift of the plot.

Here's the opening of the book:

This book in the series isn't earth-shattering (I'll try the others later this summer), but it is an entertaining narrative, and it's nicely illustrated by Gregory Rogers, who did The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, the Bard (for which, q.v.). 

Update: The other two are much the same, employing elements of Midsummer Night's Dream and Hamlet respectively to tell their zany stories.

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Thursday, June 9, 2022

Book Note: Geoffrey Bullough's Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare

Bullough, Geoffrey, ed. Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare. 8 vols. London: Routelege and Kegan Paul, 1957, 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964, 1966, 1973, 1975.

Everybody's talking about The Northman (here's something from the Folger Library about it; here's the IMDB entry for it) , the film released this year that tells the story of Shakespeare's Hamlet—but not using Hamlet as a source. Instead, it uses Shakespeare's source as its source!

Though equally star-spangled, not very many people are talking about Royal Deceit—a.k.a. The Prince of Jutland (here's the IMDB entry for it). That film also takes the source Shakespeare used as its source.

Why (I hear you ask) is Bardfilm not talking about either? Well, I haven't talked about Royal Deceit because I watched it way back before this blog started. In fact, I think I watched it back when Netflix only mailed DVDs to its customers! And it wasn't too interesting to me at the time (I shall be re-watching it this summer to see if I have something to say about it). And I'm not talking about The Northman yet because I ran out of money in this year's budget and will have to wait until the next fiscal year to purchase the DVD.

Why then (I hear you ask) did you run out of money in the budget? Ah. That good question will allow me to tie up all these threads in a single post.

I spend some of my funds this year in buying Geoffrey Bullough's magnificent, nearly-twenty-years-in-the-making, deeply scholarly eight-volume Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare. I found the volumes at different places at at relatively-bargain rates over several months. It's most common to find ex-library editions of the first six volumes, and I think that's because Volume VII and VIII came out seven and nine years later (respectively) than Volume VI. 

And the purchase price was worth it. I used this work when I was in college to explore the way Shakespeare used his source material, and I found it invaluable. Bullough has much to say about the sources—and then he provides the relevant portions of those sources. It's utterly fascinating and at the highest level of scholarship (which doesn't mean some of his opinions haven't been superseded or at least challenged by later scholars).

If you want to make a film based not on Shakespeare but on the sources Shakespeare used, this is one very convenient place to start. Not only does it have the relevant parts of Saxo Grammaticus' Historyiæ Danicæ in a good translation, it has Bullough's notes about it (and about other relevant sources for Hamlet).

But let me show you!  First, here are Bullough's comments on Saxo Grammaticus (I've drawn lines thorough the parts that aren't relevant—not to redact them but to call your attention to the other parts):

There are many more pages of summary and commentary along these lines, and I find it all irresistible. But let's turn from that for a quick sample of the actual source material from Saxo Grammaticus:

This is another delightful resource that I'm so glad to have on my shelf. I'll be dipping into it regularly over the next [however many] years.

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Bonus Image: Cover of Volume VII, in which is included all this marvelous Hamlet stuff—and much, much more!

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