Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Shakespeare”

Bard Bits: Hello to the Hollow Crown


As much as I appreciate Shakespeare, I’m not keen on his historical plays. Maybe one has to be British to embrace the life and times of former sovereigns. Then again I’m not favored towards American leaders foregoing productions about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the crew. Lincoln, I would probably watch.

And so, hearing there is a contemporary production of the Richards and the Henrys featuring favorite actors ranging from David Suchet to Jeremy Irons to Tom Huddleston to Ben Whishaw, I am intrigued and ready to binge some Bard.

These Three Kings…Wow

Richard II features Ben Whishaw and he cavorts with the style and aplomb of a rock star. Production notes indicate Michael Jackson was suggested inspiration. Whishaw deservedly earned his accolades for his performance as he drifts between petulance and dedicated sovereignty. The cinematography rivals that of big screen artistry, bringing a dimension to the play that a stage production never could. An absolutely riveting introduction to the series.

Next up is Prince Hal played by Tom Hiddleston, around the time he began his Avengers role as Loki. Hiddleston brings the winsome bad boy pluck that he channels in Loki to the role of heir apparent. He cavorts in taverns with thieves and prostitutes instead of winning fame and glory on the battlefield. Hal gives his dad King Henry IV, played exceedingly well by Jeremy Irons, ulcers of shame.

Part One focuses on how Prince Hal is slumming around with Falstaff, one of Shakespeare’s more endearing anti-heroes played with vamp and veer by Simon Russell Beal. A notoriously likable scoundrel, Falstaff nearly ruins Prince Hal, who fortunately realizes he needs to shed the scalawag before he becomes king.

Part Two witnesses the coming of age of a wayward son into prince realizing his duties to crown and country. Stellar performances from all. Tom Hiddleston’s rejection of Falstaff is especially noteworthy as he coldly belays the sly knight’s claim upon him, breaking the old man’s heart, while stepping up to the role of honor required of him.

Henry V fortunately continues with Tom Hiddleston as king. Viewers see his growth as an impetuous swaggering tavern trawler to a victorious warrior whose Crispin Day speech incites tears as it is lovingly and personally delivered to individual soldiers under his command. This king can shout when he has to but can also project tenderness and caring to a peasant conscripted to fighting a war he does not comprehend. His death as a ruler came much too soon.

Each segment features a different director which brings a freshness and varying perspective to each play. The only hindrance is the lack of continuity of actors from part one to part two since Rory Kinnear is very different from Jeremy Irons in looks and acting style, as king, as are the other characters. It was indeed a bonus to have Hiddleston continue as Henry V.

Once again it is proven that Shakespeare is not of an age but for all time as this production proves the Bard is far from boring.

Shakespeare and Thanksgiving


Shakespeare didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, at least in the modern day sense, but he did know how to give thanks most eloquently:

42 Uplifting Thanksgiving Quotes to Share With the Whole Dinner Table | Thanksgiving  quotes, Instagram captions, Shakespeare quotes
William Shakespeare Archives - Thank You Quotes
Shakespeare Quotes On Thankfulness. QuotesGram
Shakespeare Quotes For Thanksgiving — Good Tickle Brain
Check out Mya’s amazing Shakespeare website!

I express my own thanks. It will be a quiet Thanksgiving, yet there is a joyful noise within my heart that as difficult as this year has been it has been one in which I appreciate how much I can count on the Lord to be my light on those dark days.

May the joy of thanks be a member at your table this year, for there is always something to be thankful for.

Take care–

Bard Bits: Seasonal Sonnet


I tend to inundate my students with Shakespeare’s sonnets as part of our poetry unit. For one, sonnets often show up on the AP exam. For another, Shakespeare knows how to rock the sonnet. He saw what Petrarch has done with the Italian sonnet, smoothed and improved it to the point where he owns it. When someone says “sonnet” Shakespeare is what comes to mind. He tended towards taking what someone else had created and reshaped it so that it was his claim. It wasn’t plagiarism then, only genius.

This month’s Bard Bits recognizes how Shakespeare mastered the metaphor. Many of his sonnets dealt with aging out and Sonnet 73 captures the autumnal drift into winter with thoughtful reflection.

Sonnet 73: That time of year thou mayst in me behold

BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consum’d with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Captured this photo yesterday. Mehap’s I render this to be a new season:
Finter—when the trees have not shed their leaves before the first snow falls

Bard Bits: Hamlet/Hamnet


I have my reserve in for the new Hamnet. I am anticipating and checking my library notifications frequently. If you are unaware—

This is a fictional account of a playwright (who is supposedly not named in the story) and his 11 year old son, his only son, who dies, perhaps of the bubonic plague. Of course it got my attention. If it looks like Shakespeare, talks about Shakespeare, might shed more light about Shakespeare—gotta read it. Being a Bardinator sets one up for mandatory reading at times.

A new view of Shakespeare, perhaps?

Since I have yet to read the novel, I thought this installment of Bard Bits would focus on what others have said of the play, which is supposedly a reference to Hamnet, Shakespeare’s son, whose name is thought to have alternately been spelled Hamlet. There is ongoing academic conversation about that connection.

So-no thoughts yet on Hamnet. However, here are what some think about the titular character of the play:

A rich kid from Denmark.

—Diane Sawyer

A sad, screwed-up type of guy.

—Holden Caulfield

A half a dozen characters rolled into one.

—George Bernard Shaw

An Anglo-Saxon bore who talked too much.

—Henry Miller

What Hamlet is, before he is anything…is an authentic tragic hero who is himself a man of genius.

—Orson WellesHamlet

Hamlet doesn’t care if he bites the dust. He’s dangerous. He’s a human time bomb.

—Mel Gibson

Indeed. Hamlet is a bit of all these impressions. But beyond his perceived personality is the remaining core of who Hamlet is and the engine of the play: he is a son who has lost a father. What is notable, is the play is written by a man who lost a son. The play is about how a father and a son are both lost. Sometimes it’s a fine line between life imitating art and art reflecting life.

All quotes are from the fun and fabulous The Friendly Shakespeare by Norrie Epstein. It is a treasure of a Bardinator resource.

What are your thoughts on Hamnet? No spoilers, please.

Feel free to add your two cents to thoughts on Hamlet. Having watched too many adaptations I have to push aside Mel, David, Jude and cohort before deciding on my own ideas. Above all else, I think Hamlet is a grieving young man who truly missed his father. I think Shakespeare did indeed reflect how grief wears heavy on a person in his play about how a person grapples with significant loss and how loss is absolutely a very personal experience.

Bard Bits: Once Upon a Word


It’s been flung about how Shakespeare created around 1,700 words, some which we still use today, such as luggage, eyeball, and alligator. Unfortunately, many of the words used in Shakespeare’s time have changed meaning over time. And some of his words simply make no sense to our modern ears.

NO SENSE

auger-hole: tiny spot

bension: blessing

bodements: omens

bruited: reported

clept: called

coign: corner

corporal agent: muscle

foison: plenty

hilding: nasty beast or wretch

incarnadine: turn red

Jill: maid, drinking utensil

make boot: take advantage

SOME SENSE

all-thing: wholly

betimes: quickly

broad words: speaking freely

buzzard: worthless person

closet: room

father: old man

firstling: first

half a soul: halfwit

hart: male deer

in a few: briefly

moe: more

mortified: deadened

FAMILIAR ENOUGH

beholding: indebted

cloudy: sullen

complexion: disposition

coz: cousin

estate: social position; condition

free hearts: true feelings

groom: servant

hurlyburly: tumult

in a few: briefly

keep counsel: keep a secret

loose: let go

make to: approach

Bard Bits: April


Honestly, you don’t look a day over 415, Bill!
1564-1616
April 23

Yup, it’s birthday time for William. He had a much bigger party six years ago when he hit the big 450. All over the world people celebrated the genius of the man from Stratford-Upon-Avon.

How does a person offer birthday congrats to someone who has given so much to the world in terms of literature and themed studies of human nature? Royalties, maybe. Wouldn’t that be a welcome stimulus check in the mailbox? Films, books, plays, mugs, t-shirts, buttons, toys, business names, and so much more are derived from Shakespeare. From what I have researched about his personality, I’m sure he would be amused at the adulation. He would probably discount it towards misshapen apparitions of misguided judgement.

I must offer some sort of tribute to Bill on his birthday. Hmm, how about something acknowledging my appreciation for one of his most amazing works: Hamlet. Yes, Hamlet once again. The Muppets had their say last month, now it is time for Veggie Tales to lend their muse to this timeless play of the troubled Prince of Danes or is that Danish?

https://vimeo.com/247649481?ref=em-share

Maybe you have your own ideas for a birthday tribute. I would surely appreciate hearing how you appreciate Shakespeare. Stop in the comments and have a piece of cake.

Image result for shakespeare birthday cake
Yes, you can have cake and eatheth, too.

Bard Bits: March


One month to go until we celebrate William Shakespeare’s birthday or reflect upon his death. Tough call since Shakespeare was born/died on the same day–supposedly April 23. Which way to acknowledge that auspicious day? Rejoice in his birth? Remorse of his death?

“Shakespeare. When will there come another?”
Thank Antony for the paraphrase

Shakespeare shares this notable event known as the “birthday effect” with other famous folk such as the painter Raphael (April 6), Ingrid Bergman (August 29), Grant Wood (February 13), known for the painting, American Gothic, and Corrie Ten Boom (April 15).

Image result for Shakespeare's Birthplace
Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon
Don’t mess with the Bard’s bones

Born/died in 1616, the year marks of 2020 marks the 404 for William. It is appropriate that April is designated National Poetry Month, since Shakespeare perfected the sonnet, churning out some 154 of the iambic pentameter driven contributions to poetry and reflective muse.

While most Shakespeare aficionados and fans are content with being titled as Bardolators, I have chosen Bardinator since the difference is being a bit more determined to keep returning to understand his work–yeah, it is similar to a certain movie icon who keeps up with that line of “I’ll be back.” I teach Shakespeare, I relish his genius with words, yet I don’t like all his works (especially those with pies). I do want to keep returning to understand his wit and expertise with turning a phrase. After ten plus years of teaching Hamlet to high school students I am still discovering aspects of the play that just absolutely make me jump up and down with excitement. And yes, my students do wonder how I get so involved with Shakespeare. Even the Muppets appreciate Shakespeare.

Stay tuned for more Bard Bits as his birthday approaches…

Bard Bits: All Is True (not really, Ken)


As a bona fide Bardinator I look forward to new or new-to-me versions of Shakespeare’s plays. I also appreciate Shakespeare-ish films, those films, shows, and specials that speculate about the Bard of Avon, because in actuality we really don’t know much about him or his family. Kenneth Branagh, noted Bardolator, attempted to cast some (perceived) truth on Shakespeare’s life after retiring to Stratford.

If you missed All Is True it’s no doubt because it wasn’t playing in a theatre near you. It certainly wasn’t in my secluded part of the world. Fortunately I found a copy in the local grocery DVD corner. The hubs would have preferred a Tom Cruise flick and almost checked out yet another watching of a Mission Impossible. He acquiesced. This is one of the reasons he is such a keeper–plus he owed me for my relenting to watch The Italian Job yet again.

Kenneth Branagh has provided a marvel of a supposition: what happened after Shakespeare retired in 1613 to Stratford? We don’t know, historians don’t know, but Branagh sets forth what he perceives might have, could have happened based on the tiniest scraps of historical information.

Facts:
The Globe Theater burnt to the ground in 1613 and William Shakespeare retired from the theatre to live out his remaining days (three years) in his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon where he had a family: Anne, his wife, Susanna, his eldest daughter (married with a young daughter) and Judith (unmarried and the surviving twin). Shakespeare’s heir, Hamnet, died at age 11 (attributed to plague, but no one really is sure). There was some scandal connected with each of Shakespeare’s daughters. Shakespeare died on his birthday.

Fancy:
From those facts Branagh provides a family drama of a man who has been more absent than present for the past twenty years, and apparently has never recovered from the loss of his only son and heir. Branagh has Shakespeare creating a memorial garden for his son and battling out resentments with his wife and daughters.

Kudos:
The acting is superb. How could it not with Judi Dench as the long-suffering Anne, Ian Mckellen as the larger than life patron come to visit his favorite poet, and Kenneth Branagh, who has brought Shakespeare to the general public in bold and creative ways? The supporting actors hold their own as well, especially Susanna and Judith. The hubs did not even recognized Branagh as Shakespeare, being impressed when he saw his name as the director, but stunned to learn he was playing the Bard. Yes, the make up is that well done. He looks like the portrait we are all so familiar with. The costumes and time period setting is excellent–they even filmed in candlelight.

Image result for kenneth branagh as shakespeare

Concerns:
I am a stickler for historical accuracy and get a bit distracted when adaptations go too far afield in interpretation. I don’t mind Henry IV being set during WWI or gnomes becoming Romeo and Juliet, but hey, taking liberties with actual history and presenting it “all is true” goes beyond artistic license. The hubs finally shuushed me during the movie, indicating he didn’t care for my pointing out of inaccuracies and inserting corrections. He said, “I liked it.” But, but, not all was true.

Takeaway:
This is facfic in extreme. It is a love letter done with excellence. It is worthwhile to hunt up a copy and watch it, not just because for its production quality. Do it because it keeps Shakespeare alive, even though he has been gone for over 400 years.

Parking the Bard


Among the summer events I look forward to, the street fairs, arts and craft shows, farmers markets and church picnics, are the concerts, the wee bit of culture our small town enjoys. And more than the concerts on my fave list is the annual Shakespeare in the Park.

As a proclaimed Bardinator, being able to watch a Shakespeare play is a treat. The bonus with this production is that it is outdoors, professionally performed, creatively produced, and free. All I need to provide is my camp chair.

This year’s production was Henry IV. I’m not too keen on the historical monarchy plays for the reason the names are difficult to keep track of, plus someone is always trying to bump off someone to get to the throne.

But it’s Shakespeare. I will muddle through and bring up my handy on-line Folger script to keep track. Shmoop helps a bit with its character and summary notes.

We arrived an hour early to peg out our spots and were intrigued to catch the last part of the belly dancer routine. Were there belly dancers during the Renaissance?

Didn’t matter, it was fairly entertaining. Hopes of getting some dinner at a food booth were dashed–no refreshments available. None. I noticed people had brought those rolling ice chests and picnic baskets. They’ve done this before.

The venue used to be across the street from our house, which made popping home for a quick snack quite handy.

The production has grown so much in popularity it has shifted to the town football stadium. Someone could have made some decent bucks opening up the concession stand. A play that starts at 6 pm should have some kind of food choices available. Just saying.

This year’s production was set during WWI and it was a dandy. Falstaff and Hal played off each well, and the comedy bits had enough slapstick to get even the kids laughing.

And that’s the best part of outdoor theatre–the cross section of audience. Everyone attends: Singles, couples, large families with wiggly toddlers, AARPers in wheelchairs, empty nesters, even a few teens.

We all laugh in the right places, cheer accordingly, and listen attentively during the serious bits.

This year I had to plead with the hubs to accompany me. He’s not much of a Henry fan either, but he knows I do enjoy Shakespeare and he does like hanging out with me. Win-win–mostly.

We lasted right up to where Hal, as mock king, tells Falstaff that he will disown him when the time comes. After that it got serious. Battles are dreary bits to watch, even Shakespeare battle. I would have stayed but the hubs handed me my casted-off sandals. I took the hint and we snuck off field.

Dinner seemed to be on the agenda.

Shakespeare Celeb:The Wit of Sonnet 130


Image result for sonnet 130

I admit most of this month’s tribute to Shakespeare has been focused on his plays, or at least I have admittedly grievously ignored his sonnets. This post shall attempt to make amends.

It’s impressive he wrote 154 sonnets, compared to writing 37 plays. It’s thought he wrote sonnets when the Puritans or the Health Department shut down the theatres, either for indecency complaints or plague control. There must have been some serious down time.

From fact finding, I discovered Shakespeare considered himself more poet than playwright, having first got his fame thing going with the publication of a couple of poems: “Venus and Adonis” (1593) and “The Rape of Lucrece” (1594). These got the attention of the Earl of Southampton who became Shakespeare’s patron. Scholars say other things about the Earl, but we shall not pursue the matter here.

Today I focus on one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. If you are interested in his full sonnet selection, go here:

Yes, I do have a favorite. Actually more than one. Sonnet 130, to me, captures the absolute wit of Shakespeare, especially this version. I’ll tell you why after you watch it.

At first, it seems as if the speaker is downgrading his lover. Instead of promoting her virtues he speaks of her unruly hair, less-than-fashionable hue of skin, and the fact that she treads instead of glides. Reeks means breathes, not stinks–a denotation clarification. In fact, what Shakespeare does is set it down that the speaker’s mistress is a human, not a goddess, which is something many of the sonnet writers espoused, that the women of their poetry were so perfect, so amazing, and as Shakespeare points out, so unreal. The woman of Sonnet 130 is not perfect, and doesn’t have to be to attain the speaker’s devotion.

The first half of the sonnet grinds away at her apparent imperfections, and the reader must think the speaker cruel and heartless. When the turn arrives, the shift in attitude (technically called the volta), clear down in the couplet, we discover the speaker said all that to say this:

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
     As any she belied with false compare.

This is Shakespeare’s point: the sonnet had become this competition of writing with a practiced extemporaneous style, as if the subject were so inspiring, words just flowed from pen to paper. Basically, it came off as phoney baloney. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 speaker lays it down truthfully: “hey, my girl may not fit the Elizabethan Renaissance standards of beauty, but she’s my girl–talking about my girl.” She’s real. She’s not perfect. She makes me happy. Thank you, Bill. The purple prose of yesteryear , the false compare, does not speaketh the truth. Women, and men, are not perfect. There is beauty in imperfection, and Shakespeare tells us so.

 

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