Monday, April 29, 2024

On the Other End of the Continuum, We Have The Comedy of Terrors

The Comedy of Terrors
. Dir. Jacques Tourneur. Perf. Peter Lorre, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Joyce Jameson, Joe E. Brown, and Basil Rathbone. 1963. Blu-Ray. Kl Studio Classics, 2021.

We just saw how Barry uses Shakespeare to great effect, finding parallels between Barry's development and Macbeth's and employing those to provide a deeper understanding of both (for which, q.v.). Barry's use of Macbeth was moving, it was meaningful, and it wasn't just tacked on in a "Well, they're actors, so let's throw some Shakespeare in here" way.

By way of contrast, let's look at the 1963 film The Comedy of Terrors. The title falls into Kenneth Rothwell's "Parasitical" category (here's more on Rothwell's system of classification), making a pun on a Shakespeare play about which is has nothing to do.

But, interestingly enough, it bypasses Comedy of Errors only to steer straight into Macbeth.

In the film, the great Vincent Price plays Trumbull, a drunken, down-on-his-luck funeral home director who is aided Felix Gillie, played by the great Peter Lorre, whom he keeps by his side by blackmailing him. Trumbull is brutally insulting to his wife, Amaryllis, with whom Gillie has fallen in love.

Trumbull owes Mr. Black (played by the great Basil Rathbone) a year's rent, and he can't come up with the cash—even through his usual means of raising money when times are bad: Killing people and then offering their bereaved relatives his services as a funeral director.

This leads us to the center of the plot. If Trumbull and Gillie manage to kill Mr. Black, they'll not only be able to charge Mr. Black's relatives for burying him, they will also no longer have to worry about the loan.

With that plot in mind, here are the relevant Shakespeare scenes. In the first part of the clip below, Gillie breaks into Mr. Black's house only to find him wide awake and reading Macbeth. Gillie narrowly avoids a Poloniusesque end and then learns that Mr. Black has died from the shock of finding Gillie in his room.

But it's not as simple as that. It turns out that Mr. Black suffers from catalepsy, making him seem to be dead when that's far from the case.

In the second part of the clip below, Mr. Black has been safely interred—only to recover and to be released by a gravedigger who could take up the role in Hamlet with no questions asked.

The next clip is the culmination of the film. A Macbeth-spouting Mr. Black seeks vengeance on the men who dared to bury him when he wasn't even dead. And you really have to see it for yourself: 

Barry gave us a very meaningful "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech. The Comedy of Terrors gives us a farcical version. They're at two ends of a very long continuum.

Note: For teachers and others who want only that speech, there's a bonus clip at the end of this post with just that.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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

Bonus!  Just the "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" part of the film:

Friday, April 26, 2024

Shakespeare in FoxTrot's Your Momma Thinks Square Roots Are Vegetables

Amend, Bill. Your Momma Thinks Square Roots Are Vegetables. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2003.

Welcome back for another FoxTrot Friday!

Today's episode features two comics—one you've seen before on Bardfilm (for which, q.v.) and one that's never appeared here before.

Let's start with the second one first.

In this strip, Paige, suffering from writer's block when faced with a Shakespeare assignment, tries a unique method of inspiration: 

Peter, the eldest of the Fox siblings, has been through this before—but he finds that a sixty-watt bulb might be enough for other assignments, but not for Shakespeare.

And then we have a FoxTrot classic: The Eyes of March:

See you next Friday!

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Macbeth? Meet Barry. Barry—Macbeth. . . . How the Dark Comedy Barry uses Shakespeare Successfully

“Chapter Five: Do Your Job.” By Ben Smith. Perf. Bill Hader, Sarah Goldberg, D'Arcy Carden, and Henry Winkler. Dir. Hiro Murai. 
Barry. Season 1, episode 5. HBO. 22 April 2018. DVD. Studio Distribution Services, 2018.

Barry is a dark comedy about a hit man who decides that he'd rather pursue a career in acting. Unfortunately, he's caught up in such a complicated web of alliances and promises that he is unable to break away from his former profession.

It's not a show I can recommend wholeheartedly. It starts dark—darker than Harold and Maude or Better off Dead, but not as dark as Fargo. Perhaps it's on the level of What We Do in the Shadows at first. But as the episodes progress—and even more so as the seasons advance—it gets darker and darker and, for some viewers (yours truly among them), the humor suffers from diminishing returns until it's all but absent.

The language also seems to grow more frequent and coarser as the show develops. Oh, and it also gets more and more bloody and more and more violent.

With all those caveats, I'm sure you're wondering why I'm bringing Barry to Bardfilm at all. But you know the answer already, don't you? It's the Shakespeare.

More specifically, it's the Macbeth. I'd like to trace how Macbeth is used over three episodes of Barry's first season.

In "Chapter Five: Do Your Job," we explore a developing relationship between Barry and an ambitious actor named Sally. They're both part of an acting class taught by Gene Cousineau (played brilliantly by Henry Winkler). Mr. Cousineau is something of a charlatan, but he has some charisma, and he's able to get results from some of his student. Barry (played brilliantly by Bill Hader) and Sally (played brilliantly by Sarah Goldberg) have been put into a group performing a scene from Macbeth—and Sally is immediately disappointed that Natalie (played brilliantly by D'Arcy Carden) has been cast in a bigger role. Oh, and hanging over the entire enterprise is the sudden and unexplained murder of a fellow student. It turns out that the reason Barry became interested in acting in the first place was that he followed a man he was hired to kill to the class, saw what the class was about, and wanted in. He does make the hit he's been hired to make, but the police investigations are becoming worrisome.

In the clip below, I'm taking you into the world of the show in general and then to the students working on Act V, scene i—the sleepwalking scene. As they work, they start to talk about the significance of the scene, and that eventually touches a nerve with Barry. Let's take a look. Note: I've censored the profanity, but use caution: You may still be able to lip read some of the words.

I'm very fond of Natalie's reading of Lady Macbeth. Here's my phonetic spelling of her speech:

Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One—two—why then ’tis time to doot . . . . What, will these hands ne’er be clean? No more of that, [o] lord, no more oh that. (V.i.35–36, 43–44)

I also like just how obviously (and obliviously) ambitious Sally is. Readers who are actors doubtless have someone they know who is just like that (and it may even be themselves).

I also like the discussion afterwords. The students' argument is that the sleepwalking scene demonstrates Lady Macbeth's (and, by extension, Macbeth's) guilt. "Once you start killing, you can never go back," one student says. 

Barry takes the stance that Macbeth was just doing what Lady Macbeth told him to do, and therefore there's a possibility for redemption for Macbeth. Barry, after all, has been killing people because he's been ordered to, and he's trying to quit that job and move forward. The students protest, pushing Barry into the outburst you saw above. Forgive me for not telling you that when Barry says that he's killed people when he was ordered to, he means it on one level—his job as a hit man—but also on another—his military service. I didn't tell you so that you could have the same reactions as many of the students. Mr. Cousineau knows about Barry's military service, but most of the students only learn about it after Barry's outburst.

At the end of the scene, Barry is left considering whether Mr. Cousineau is right that he, like Macbeth, is irredeemable.

This, in my opinion, is the ideal use of Shakespeare in a modern medium. It is not tacked on and ultimately irrelevant. They're not doing a scene from Shakespeare just because they're actors and that's what actors do. They're doing a scene because they're actors and that's what actors do—but the scene is deeply revelatory of other concerns the show is addressing.

It's also deeply funny. Mr. Cousineau's inadequate thanks to Barry for his service (and Natalie's muttered "Thank you, Barry") are disturbingly hilarious.

And it's also ideal because it doesn't stop there. The next episode provides us with a bit more.

“Chapter Six: Listen With Your Ears, React With Your Face.” By Emily Heller. Perf. Bill Hader, Sarah Goldberg, D'Arcy Carden, and Henry Winkler. Dir. Hiro Murai. Barry. Season 1, episode 6. HBO. 29 April 2018. DVD. Studio Distribution Services, 2018.

In "Chapter Six: Listen With Your Ears, React With Your Face," work on Macbeth continues. Barry is desperate to be an actor, but he's distracted by the complicated life he's living. He's also not quite getting it.

In the clip below, we have two scenes. In the first, the ambitious Sally has achieved her goal of taking the role of Lady Macbeth from Natalie. But working with Barry is proving difficult. In the second scene, Sally presents an idea to Mr. Cousineau that will change everything.

In the first scene, I love Sally's "I'm acting my heart out, but my acting partner is a disaster, but what are you going to do?" look. I love Mr. Cousineau's condescending questions that are designed to get Barry to think about his scene. And I love his "Stay out of this" delivered to Sally. And I love Barry's "I—I feel like I am listening ’cause that's why I know when to say my lines." 

In the second scene, I'm very fond of Sally's ambitious plan and Mr. Cousineau's skepticism about it. We also have a wonderful seed planted: Barry will play Seyton, who has one line in the middle of Macbeth's (and Macbeth's) most famous speech.

In terms of doing something with Shakespeare and not just tacking it on, this episode's Shakespeare scenes, though limited, are significant. Sally, an ambitious actor who wants to make her name in Hollywood, has just been dropped by an agent, and she's willing to do nearly anything to achieve her ambitions. Sally has been playing the role of a likewise ambitious woman—but now her ambition leads her into the role of an (arguably) more ambitious man. The use of the material is smart and subtle.

We get even more smart, subtle Shakespeare in the next episode.

“Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going.” By Liz Sarnoff. Perf. Bill Hader, Sarah Goldberg, D'Arcy Carden, and Henry Winkler. Dir. Alec Berg. 
Barry. Season 1, episode 7. HBO. 6 May 2018. DVD. Studio Distribution Services, 2018.

The culmination of all this sophisticated, significant, layered Shakespeare comes in "Chapter Seven: Loud, Fast, and Keep Going." And this clip is the one most in need of a content advisory.

Barry's non-acting life is getting increasingly complicated. Chris, an old buddy of Barry's from his days in the Marines, joined him in a hit (I'm oversimplifying, I know, but most of you will appreciate it, I promise you), but he's feeling a need to turn himself in. Barry is worried that Chris' doing so will implicate him—just as he finally thinks he's free of the murder profession and on his way to becoming an actor.

His other life is also making its way into the theatre. The actor he killed at the beginning of the season is now suspected of being part of the mob, and an actual member of a drug cartel was chased away from the theatre and shot by the officer investigating the actor's murder. But Barry seems even more upset at the other news Sally gives him: That she's now playing Macbeth, and Barry has a new line.

The first half of the clip below shows the difficulty Barry is having with that new line. Let me give you some context for it. It's Act V, scene v. Macbeth is in Dunsinane castle, but he's surrounded. He hears "A cry within of women" (V.v.7.s.d) and asks Seyton, "What is that noise?" (V.v.7). Seyton, having read the stage direction, says, "It is the cry of women, my good lord" (V.v.8) and exits. Macbeth speaks:

I have almost forgot the taste of fears.
The time has been, my senses would have cool'd
To hear a night-shriek, and my fell of hair
Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir
As life were in't. I have supped full with horrors;
Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts,
Cannot once start me. (V.i.9–15) 

At that point, Seyton re-enters, and Macbeth asks, "Wherefore was that cry?" (V.v.15)—note that all the Barry versions of this scene cut that line. Seyton's reply is at the core of Barry's use of Macbeth:

The Queen, my lord, is dead. (V.v.16)

Macbeth delivers this speech at that point:

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (V.17–28)

I told you that (as my Grandmother Jones used to say) to tell you this. All that background information I've provided will prepare you well for the first part of the clip below. In working through those speeches (especially Barry's "The Queen, my lord, is dead), we have a lot of humor mixed with the tension of Barry's non-acting life getting closer and closer to his theatrical life. When Sally delivers Barry's clue, Barry's on the phone with his Marine buddy. When, after Sally loudly repeats his clue, he finally says, "I gotta go" and enters, he muffs his line: "My Queen, the lord . . . my lord, the Queen is dead," explaining "I just got the line" when an exasperated Sally exits. We then get a cautionary tale about how Mr. Cousineau, unfortunately on drugs at the time, was able to bring in a thirty-seven-minute Long Day's Journey into Night.

The second part of the clip takes the plot in a very dark direction indeed. 

After rehearsal, Barry meets up with his friend from their military days and, once again, tries to persuade him not to turn himself in. But Chris is adamant, though he's also reluctant to put Barry in danger. Barry sees no other way out than to kill him and make it look like a suicide. I'm not including that scene in the clip below (apart from one brief flashback that does not show a gunshot or a corpse), but a content warning is still not out of place. 

We'll see the various actors getting ready for the performance of "Gene Cousineau Presents . . . A Festival of Shakespeare." We'll see the audience gathering, and we'll learn that an important agent is in attendance. We'll find out that Barry hasn't shown up and that Sally is desperately anxious that she won't get a chance to get the agent's attention.

Then we'll see Barry on his way to the theatre after having murdered his friend and staged it as a suicide. When he finally arrives at the theatre, he's completely out of it ("I'm supposed to wear a costume?"), but he almost listens when Sally begs him to "just give me something to work with" when he delivers his one line.

Backstage, waiting for his cue, Barry is muttering his line to himself. As usual, it's incorrect, but it's not as incorrect as it could be: He's saying "My lord, the Queen is dead" instead of "The Queen, my lord, is dead" (V.v.16). But as he's doing that, his brain is full of images of his Marine friend and his Marine friend's happy family and his Marine friend's wife happily answering an ordinary phone call and getting the news that her husband has committed suicide. And his imagination shows him some images of the funeral to come. And then it's back to the phone call. And the wife collapsing in grief. And repeat.

Then Barry enters and delivers his one line.

I wanted to prepare you for most of that (especially the troubling images that run through Barry's mind backstage). But I wanted you to experience some of it for yourself. I didn't mention the "Alapse, Poor Yorick" bit or the "I'm the agent who will demonstrate that he's impressed by looking up from his cell phone" trope. That's also why I didn't mention the dream sequence where Barry imagines one version of his delivering the line. That version is pretty much devoid of subtext. Everything is delivered as straight as possible (including an American Actor Overdoing The British Accent layer). And Barry delivers it, for once, in the right order: "The Queen, my lord, is dead" (V.v.16). After he exits, Barry seems quite pleased with his performance.

That imagined version of the scene serves as a foil to the actual performance. When Barry delivers his line, his mind is full of how someone might react to the sudden news of the death of a dearly-beloved spouse. I've never seen the line delivered with much more than "Here's some bad news so that you can deliver the 'Tomorrow and' speech." But here, there's genuine anguish in the line. And that one line—"It's one line, Barry"—unlocks a deeper, more meaningful delivery of the "Tomorrow" speech. Even delivering it in the incorrect order ("My lord, the Queen is dead") shifts the emphasis in such a way as to stress the unhappiness—the injustice—the desolation revealed by the death.

Then there's that terrific moment of dark humor where Sally says, "Whatever you did tonight to get to that place, that's your new process, okay? All you have to do is do that every time." And we're left with a Barry who is thinking over the process that got him to deliver that line in that way.

Barry uses Macbeth to find extraordinary depth in both its characters and in Shakespeare. Since the show is about actors, it could all have been on the "Alapse, poor Yorick" side. Instead, Shakespeare is brilliantly layered over and under the concerns of the show, expanding what can be done with Shakespeare in surprising and significant ways. 

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

Monday, April 22, 2024

Book Note: Mrs. Caliban

Ingalls, Rachel. Mrs. Caliban. 1983. New York: New Directions, 2017.

I can't recall precisely how this book came to my attention, but it's likely to have been in a list of Shakespeare-related fiction. But the title was irresistible—Mrs. Caliban promises much—and I gave it a try.

In terms of the Shakespearean content, I was disappointed. But the novel itself is intriguing. I teach a course called "Humor Lit." and this would fit right in. Simon Critchley, who wrote a very approachable book entitled On Humor, would have much to say about the disquieting, disorienting humor of Mrs. Caliban.

The novel tells the story of Mrs. Dorothy [No Last Name Given], a woman living a somewhat stereotypical suburban life in the 1960s or 1970s. In her grief over her son's recent death and her own even-more-recent miscarriage, in her bewilderment and pain at an affair she suspects her husband of carrying on, and in her boredom with her routine existance, she starts to go off the rails a bit. She seems to hear voices coming from the radio—voices that are directed at her personally but that no one else can hear.

Among these are some strange news alerts about the escape of the subject of a scientific study—a huge, amphibious monster called "Aquarius the Monsterman." But these reports seems to be accurate (as far as they go). It's left ambiguous whether we're moving further into our protagnoist's delusions or if the novel is presenting this as reality.

Either way, that's where we find the most direct connection to Shakespeare. Aquarius comes into Dorothy's kitchen while she's preparing a meal for her husband and his guests. We'll pick up there:

Dorothy protects Larry—in fact, they almost immediately start a romantic (in every sense of the word) relationship. I think this is where the title comes into play. Although many on-line sources assume that Dorothy's married name is Mrs. Dorothy Caliban, the word "Caliban" appears nowhere in the novel. She's never referred to as Mrs. [Anything]—just as Dorothy. But her allegiances are clearly wholly with Larry from the beginning of their romantic relationship. 

In The Tempest, Caliban makes a point of one thing he has learned from Prospero since Prospero usurped him (as Caliban thinks) as rule of the island: "You taught me language" (I.ii.363). But he also mentions the use he intends to put to that acquired skill: "And my profit on't / Is, I know how to curse" (I.iii.363–64).

Larry was also taught human speech, but with a pedagogy that is unlikely to receive PTA approval:

There's nothing more particularly Tempest-like in the rest of the novel. Dorothy is unhappy in her marriage to a man whom she suspects of having an affair and who is extremely inattentive, but she falls in love with Larry, a being somewhat like Caliban from Shakespeare's play. But even without more extensive ties to Shakespeare, the novel is well worth reading.

Click here or on the image below to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Friday, April 19, 2024

Shakespeare in FoxTrot's His Code Name Was The Fox

Amend, Bill. His Code Name Was The Fox. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2002.

I've written about one comic from this volume before (for which, q.v.), but that was 2012, and this is 2024. I didn't have specific bibliographic information for the comic at that point, and I also didn't have the other Shakespeare-related comic in the volume.

But now, thanks to FoxTrot Fridays at Bardfilm, we can revisit it with that helpful additional material.

First, the comic I already covered:

Ha, ha!  Great stuff that.

And we also have Paige putting all her previous Shakespeare experience to good work—or at least trying to do so:

Come back on a nearby Friday for Shakespeare-related comic from the next chronological volume of FoxTrot!

Click here to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Book Note: Fahrenheit 451

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018.

I mentioned before that I was reading or re-reading many of the works of Ray Bradbury. I wasn't reading them with a specific eye to Shakespeare, but he seemed almost inevitably to make his way in.

In Fahrenheit 451, I found a fair bit more Shakespeare than I expected. But I suppose there’s quite enough radical or subversive or even offensive material in Shakespeare to make his works catch the eye of any fireman worth his salt.

For this rest of this post, I’m going to assume a basic knowledge of the plot and characters of the novel. If you’re unfamiliar with Fahrenheit 451, I’ll wait while you grab a copy and read it through. Even if you take your time (which you should), it won’t take long.

The first Shakespeare reference comes when Captain Beatty provides a brief history of the firemen as something of a pep talk to Guy Montag when he seems to be suffering from cold feet:

It's terrifying to imagine a world where a one-page Hamlet is all people think you need. But Shakespeare does inspire thought—and independent thought is certainly dangerous.

Beatty's speech constrains Montage for a while, but only for a while. Later, when Montag more or less makes up his mind to find out what uses books might have and realizes that he needs a guide or a teacher if he's to answer that question with any kind of thoroughness, he remembers a man named Faber that he met by chance one day:

Montag decides to give the professor a call to ask about, among other things, Shakespeare: 

Later, as he attempts to make a plan with Professor Faber to return the world to the state it was in before book burning took over, the professor talks about actors unable to play Shakespeare and how they might become part of a proposed underground:

Unfortunately, this vision isn't fuffilled within the covers of Fahrenheit 451.

It's not long before Beatty finds out that Montag has been hiding books.  He talks him round, and Montag hands over a book. We get an adapted  Shakespeare quote at that point (and some Donne):

The first quote is a modified version of a quote from As You Like It—it’s what Jacques says on the entrance of Touchstone and Audrey: “Here comes a pair of very strange beasts which in all tongues are called fools” (V.iv.9–10). The second quote is from the end of John Donne’s “The Triple Fool.”

A bit later, a torrent of allusions and quotations comes from Beatty (while Professor Faber listens in through an earpiece Montag is wearing):

It's hard to catch the teaspoons of Shakespeare in the midst of that firehose (sorry!) of literary allusions and quotations. We have, among other things, the Bible, Sir Philip Sidney, Alexander Pope, Samuel Johnson, Ben Jonson, Francis Bacon, and Thomas Dekker. It's almost like one of T. S. Eliot's poems!

For everyone's convenience, here are the Shakespeare quotes, misquotes, and allusions:

"Nay, it is ten times true, for truth is truth / To th' end of reck'ning" is one thing Isabella says about the crimes Angelo has committed in Measure for Measure (V.i.45–46). 

"Truth will come to light; murder cannot be hid long" is from Launcelot Gobbo's exchange with his father in The Merchant of Venice (II.i.79).

"Oh God, he speaks only of his horse!" is a rough paraphrase of a line Portia speaks to Nerissa about one of her suitors: "he doth nothing but talk of his horse" (Merchant of Venice, I.ii.40–41). 

"The devil can cite scripture for his purpose" is what Antonio says to Bassanio about Shylock in The Merchant of Venice (I.iii.98). 

"A kind / Of excellent dumb discourse" is from The Tempest (III.iii.38–39): Alonso is speaking of some magical figures Prospero has conjured up to bring in a meal. Is the "Willie" at the end of Beatty's speech addressed to Shakespeare? Montag's first name is "Guy," not "William" after all. 

"All's well that is well in the end" might be a version of the title of the play All's Well that Ends Well or the titular line that appears twice in the play. Helena says, "All's well that ends well! still the fine's the crown; / What e'er the course, the end is the renown" (IV.iv.35–36); a little later, she says, "All's well that ends well yet, / Though time seem so adverse and means unfit" (V.i.25–26). But it could also be a skewed version of Julian of Norwich's mystical pronouncement "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

I find it interesting that the imagined exchange between Montag and Beatty involves throwing quotes specifically from Merchant of Venice at each other.

More than that, we have an awful lot of famous quotes taken far out of context and put together in a way that is only roughly and somewhat incidentally meaningful. It underlines Montag's instinctual assumption that possession of texts is not enough—comprehension of them is another essential element.

We get one more quotation from Shakespeare in what turns out to be Beatty’s last speech.

The quote is from Julius Caesar—it's Brutus speaking to Cassius in Act IV, scene iii (lines 66 to 69, for those of you keeping score), when their backs are up against the wall and their hackles up against each other. Eventually, Cassius and Brutus reach an uneasy peace, but it's not so with Beatty and Montag. It's at this point that Montag thinks he might be able to burn right by burning one of the chief book burners of them all.

It ought to go without saying, but I'm worried that it doesn't: Bradbury demonstrates astonishing mastery in creating Beatty, who knows a huge number of bits and pieces of what oft was thought but ne'er so well expressed and who uses them to overwhelm a novice—a freshman English major—a second-hand (but not second-rate) literateur.

At the end of Fahrenheit 451, we're left hoping for those actors Professor Faber spoke of to produce, by memorial reconstruction if by no other means, the complete works of Shakespeare, without which our lives would far more dystopian than not.

Click here to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Monday, April 15, 2024

More Macbeth in The Simpsons? Yes, please! And then let's talk about whether it should be “hoist with his own petar” or “hoist with his own petard” for a good long while.

“Funeral for a Fiend.” By Michael Price. Perf. Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria, Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, and Keith Olbermann. Dir. Rob Oliver. The Simpsons. Season 19, episode 8. Fox. 25 November 2007.

Careful readers will recollect that Bardfilm covered this Simpsons episode back in 2009 (for which, q.v.). Even more careful readers will have spotted that the link to the video clip there had expired.

When it came time to fix the error, I discovered that there was quite a lot more Shakespeare in the episode than I initially realized. Since 2009, I've assumed that the entirety of the Shakespeare had to do with wrapping up the "Sideshow Bob Tries to Kill Bart Yet Again" plot. Note: Spoiler Alert. That plot is wrapped up nicely when Lisa is able to thwart Sideshow Bob by pedantically correcting his misquoted line from Shakespeare. 

That's where the clip stopped in 2009 (and, for the sake of historical continuity, that's the end of the clip I restored to the earlier post). But there's more!

First, take a look. We'll talk afterwards.

The kicker to the first segment is that Sideshow Bob misquotes Shakespeare again (and is again corrected by Lisa)—and that's funny enough. But the Shakespeare continues.

At the trial of Sideshow Bob, we're introduced to his mother, the noted Shakespearean actress. And we have a lovely interlude where Lenny wonders whether the Shakespeare play Troilus and Cressida antedates or postdates the Toyota Cressida. Since Shakespeare wrote his play c. 1601–1602 and Toyota marketed its Cressida from 1976 to 1992, the play certainly has the prior claim.

[Side Note: I used to drive a 1972 Toyota Corona Mark II in the delightfully-named "Fire Opal" color; the Toyota Cressida was the renamed version of this model. Some people called the car I drove, for reasons unknown, "The Squidmobile," but in my mind, she was always "The Peaquod."]

With this information in mind, Lisa deduces that misquoting Shakespeare was but a ruse—a first layer to Sideshow Bob's complicated plot. 

[Side Note: Another layer is that Sideshow Bob's father was a doctor with knowledge of a drug that could simulate death (no doubt the constraint of time prevented making this connection to Romeo and Juliet overt instead of implied).]

And that's it, right?

Naturally not!

In the comments section on the ShakespeareGeek post that started all this (for which, q.v.), a user named "bardofile" suggests that Sideshow Bob is not only wrong about the preposition when he says "Hoist on his own petard" but that he should also have said "petar." Lisa, bardofile says, corrects the "on" to "with" but fails to correct the "petard" to "petar." 

First, if Sideshow Bob is still scheming by deliberately misquoting Shakespeare, he's offering Lisa two chance to correct him, but she only detects one. Right?

That depends on which edition of Hamlet Miss Hoover uses in her classroom. First, the line in question is only in the Second Quarto (1604–1605). It's not in the First Quarto (1603); nor is it in the Folio (1623). 

The "Hoist with his owne petar" line in Q2

If she's using the Riverside Complete Shakespeare, she'll find "petar"—but with a footnote that defines "petar" as "petard." If she's using the Norton (based on the Oxford), she'll find "Hoised with his own petard"—the line is indented and set in italic, which indicates that it's from Q2. But there's no note as to why they've used "Hoised" where Q2 clearly has "Hoist." David Bevington's seventh edition gives us "petard." The RSC second edition has "petard" (in a separate section where passages from Q2 that are not in F are supplied). The Bedford Shakespeare (based on the New Cambridge) has "petar" with a footnote that says "or 'petard.'" A glance at my long-cherished copy of the New Cambridge (for which, q.v.) confirms that it has "petar" but reveals that it has no explanatory note about it. 

That's a quick survey of the complete editions of Shakespeare I have handy, and I expect a similar variety would be found in single editions of the play.

But where can we go to get some explanation of how we got to the point where "petar" or "petard" seems to be equally viable? If Q2 says "petar," shouldn't we all just go with that?

As usual, Harold Jenkins (the editor of the Arden Shakespeare Second Series Hamlet) has something valuable to say. Here's his note:

First, we get some insight into why the Norton Shakespeare would say “hoised” instead of “hoist.” I expect we should have known that “hoised” is the simple past tense of “hoise,” the root verb from which both “hoised” and “hoist” come. But we also get the reason why Jenkins’ edition decides on “petard.” Q2 reads “petar,” but Jenkins considers that something of a typographical error. It’s there to guide us in the pronunciation of the word, but the actual noun is “petard,” and, for Jenkins, the change for a modern-spelling edition is as natural as changing “owne” in Q2 to “own.”

The most recent Arden edition (the third series version edited by Neil Taylor and Ann Thompson—the Q2 version, that is, not the one that contains the texts of Q1 and F but not of Q2) has just one thing to add:

They recap Jenkins’ reason for his choice—and then go on to point out something that Jenkins might have missed: the last word in the full line (“. . . Hoist with his own petard, an’t shall go hard . . .”) would rhyme with “petard” but not “petar.” I might point out that the editors only point out the internal rhyme without commenting on it themselves—but perhaps we’re ready to draw to a close.

Perhaps Lisa was right to point out the more obvious error rather than enter into a debate with Sideshow Bob over the relative merits of “petar” and “petard.”

Links: The Film at IMDB.

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


Friday, April 12, 2024

Shakespeare in FoxTrot's Encyclopedias Brown and White

Amend, Bill. Encyclopedias Brown and White. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2001.

It's been a while since our last Friday FoxTrot. Fortuitously, Fortune's Fool we refuse to follow.

What can I say? It's the layout the requires a little fun filler here at the forefront.

But that's enough.

In Encyclopedias Brown and White, Bill Amend reunites the fighting foursome of Jason, Marcus, Phoebe, and Eileen.

There's only a bit of Shakespeare there, and it's once again in the form of a character quoting Sherlock Holmes (who was quoting Shakespeare). The line is "The game's afoot" (Henry V, III.i.32).

We're on more solid (too, too solid?) Shakespearean ground with this Macbeth-related comic in which Peter has evidently not done the required reading:

And we wrap things up with a non-specific Shakespeare reference involving Paige and her homework.

I'm having some fun of my own speculating about which play Paige is reading. It's unlikely to be Hamlet—"Who's there?" is its complete first sentence. Perhaps it's Henry V. That starts with two dense lines followed by a comma. But if we really want to give her a doozy of an opening sentence, we can imagine her reading Measure for Measure. If you have alternate suggestions, just add them to the comments!

Click here to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

A Quick Line from Romeo and Juliet in a Friends Episode

“The One with the Screamer.” By Scott Silveri and Shana Goldberg-Meehan. Perf. Matt LeBlanc, Dina Meyer, and Reg Rogers. Dir. Peter Bonerz. Friends. Season 3, episode 22. NBC. 24 April 1997. DVD. Warner Home Video, 2003.

Although our last post asserted that Bardfilm is not obsessed with completeness (tracking down all the Shakespeare in a given situation comedy, for example), that doesn't mean that we'll ignore the Shakespeare that comes our way.

For example, in a Friends episode that features Joey among his fellow actors, we get a brief quote from Romeo and Juliet

Here it is!  Note: Since the quote takes approximately three seconds, I've provided quite a bit of context for it. 

I appreciate how the director is quoting the line with such precision: He clearly is saying "A plague a' both your houses" instead of "A plague on both your houses." Despite the subtitles, that's exactly how the line is printed. It's likely that kind of peevish accuracy that brought him to this point.

Bonus Note: This episode aired the day after William Shakespeare's 433rd birthday!

The Episode at IMDB
Click here to purchase the season from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Monday, April 8, 2024

Shakespeare Puts Joey to Sleep in Friends

“The One with the Donor.” By 
Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen. Perf. David Schwimmer and Matt LeBlanc. Dir. Ben WeissFriends. Season 9, episode 22. NBC. 8 May 2003. DVD. Warner Home Video, 2003.

We at Bardfilm don't obsess about completeness. We don't feel the need to track down every Shakespeare allusion in, say, M*A*S*H or The Simpsons or Star Trek.

Well, we do feel that way about Star Trek, but perhaps Friends is a better example. It's a well-known show, and when a bit of Shakespeare comes to our attention, as sometimes happens when ShakespeareGeek happens to catch something randomly and decides to pass it on.

That's how we got to this late-in-the-run general reference to Shakespeare:

What play could Joey have been trying out for? If he's saying, "I mean, hey, Shakespeare, how about a chase scene once in a while?" it can't have been one of the exciting ones. Perhaps he was reading for the role of James Gurney in King John or something like that.

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

Click here to purchase the season from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).
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