Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “David Tennant”

Bard Bits: Rumor Has It

Let’s face it, there are aspects about Shakespeare that make some people uncomfortable. The Victorians were great fans of his plays, yet remain a bit perturbed about certain details about him. Maybe people have reservations about Shakespeare, because people, well, people like to gossip. For instance:

Oh, Susanna
William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway were married and six months later their first born daughter Susanna arrived. That puts the honeymoon before cutting the wedding cake.

In Elizabethan times there was a “troth-plight” contract which meant that once a couple became engaged they were considered practically married, which meant Susanna’s birth date isn’t necessarily as shocking as supposed.

About Those Sonnets…
Sonnet 18. Sigh. Comparing a dear love to a summer’s day–so romantic, so lovely, so not addressed to a woman.

In fact, Sonnets 1 through 18 are addressed to a young nobleman blessed with good looks, good name, and unfortunately had an avoidance of marriage. The speaker, penned by Shakespeare, encourages this young man to marry so he can procreate (to carry on the family name was a big deal in those times). All this word frippery about loveliness is not being applied to a woman’s beauty but to the vanity of this young man. It comes down to Shakespeare trying to convince this young nobleman that his children will be beautiful because he is so amazingly handsome, so he should get married and get busy and create some heirs. Maybe the young man’s mother wanted to become a grandmother sooner than later.

I know, Hallmark didn’t get the memo about the intent of the poem.

An additional footnote is that male friendship was quite different than today’s comfort zone. Men hung out with men because women mostly stayed at home (unless the woman was the ruling monarch). Each gender had their own circle of influence. Men openly showed their appreciation and affection and admiration for one another through linking arms and walking together, and they would even kiss one another (on the lips–get over it, please). This open non-sexual relationship standard of expression superseded our current culture bromance. So those poems extolling the virtues of the young man? No problem. No stigma–at least during Elizabethan times. We simply need to remove our 21st century hats and understand that different times meant different perspectives.

And What About That Dark Lady?
The latter half of Shakespeare’s sonnets are addressed to a woman known as the Dark Lady. Was she his mistress? Someone he admired? A random topic he fancied to dwell upon?

We don’t know.

Yet, people, yes, those Victorians, and probably still today, tend to titter and speculate. We don’t know, so stop the rumors already.

Ghost Writer
I am not even going to address the whole “Shakespeare didn’t write his own plays” conspiracy theory. As David Tennant said: “I don’t care.”

Long Distant Dad/Husband
Some Bard distractors have snippedly mentioned how absent Shakespeare was from his family, that he wasn’t even there when his only son died. Well, commuting back and forth from London, a good two-three day journey each way, didn’t make it possible to be home every weekend. While we don’t have records of Shakespeare at home while he was a playwright in London, there are records that he was investing in property and buying homes, and this shows how he was providing for his family. When he did retire, he did so comfortably, and he remained in Stratford until his death.

Second Best Wife Bed
In Elizabethan times a wife was entitled to one third of her husband’s estate–Anne would get the goods, basically. The fact that Shakespeare states he “gives my wife my second best bed with the furniture” seems unnecessary then, right? There is the belief that the second-best bed was the marriage bed, the one he shared with Anne (when he was home) and the best bed would be the one set aside for guests. Bequeathing the second-best to Anne would be seen as a sentimental gesture, showing that Shakespeare didn’t have to provide a poem to share his feelings about his wife.

There is a fair amount of speculation about what Shakespeare might have been, not have been, yet the important part about Shakespeare is that he knew about people and that his plays (most of them) still speak to the human condition 400 years later.

In all probability Shakespeare was conservative (didn’t go in for boisterous pub frolics like the other players and writers), and was no doubt a bit ordinary (he wasn’t a spy like Marlowe), and he was somewhat of a quiet pundit (preferring to express his opinions through his wit and words in his writings).

What rumors have you heard about Shakespeare?

Word Nerd Confessions: October

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_0576-3.jpg

I might have mentioned it before that my heritage harkens back to the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Since that discovery I have grown more aware of all that is Scottish. This month I favor words that have Scottish roots. I might have to dedicate a post to famous Scots. I do enjoy listening to David Tennant and his broguish wit.

Who has the knack for Scottish wit and bravado? The Doctor, of course.

grumphie: a pig

hooly: gently

sennachie: a storyteller

blellum: an indiscreet talker

atweel: surely

shavie: a trick or a prank

I’ve come across other Scottish words in my readings of authors such as D.E. Stevenson and Allan MacKinnon that leave me puzzled to the point of setting my book down and searching out its meaning.

One of the words that stumped me was “ken.” Sentences like, “I ken your meaning,” really threw me. Context sleuthing pointed me towards understanding, but I finally looked it up and got this from dictionary. com:

verb (used with object),  kenned or kent, ken·ning.

Chiefly Scot.

  1. to know, have knowledge of or about, or be acquainted with (a person or thing).
  2. to understand or perceive (an idea or situation).

Scots Law. to acknowledge as heir; recognize by a judicial act.Archaic. to see; descry; recognize.

To “ken” something means to have a deeper understanding that just a mere acknowledgement. It’s one of those words that doesn’t translate well out of its cultural context–I ken that some words do better in their home language.

What Scottish words have you come across? Better yet, which of the above is one you are adopting? I’m leaning towards grumphie, as I do enjoy Guinea pigs. Then again, tossing out hooly at the right instance could be satisfying.

Shakespeare Celeb:As You May Like It

As this tribute to Shakespeare winds up, I’m wondering how Shakespeare best fits in your life. Yes, your life. You are either reading this post because you are interested in Shakespeare or because you are a Cricket Muse follower and are tolerating these  incessant Bard posts because they automatically pop up in your feed. Or perhaps it’s what Star Lord said:

Image result for guardians of the galaxy a bit of both

How do you like your Shakespeare?

Plays? These come in the variety of Globe traditional, high school productions, professional troupes, creative adventuresome adaptations:

Image result for globe theatre Image result for high school shakespeare

Image result for royal shakespeare company           Image result for creative shakespeare play adaptations

Film adaptations? These appear in Branagh style with polish and high production value, or campy or modernized or foreign or really, really so bad, or really, really so good.

shakespeare adaptations

No comments on what I consider to be the good, bad, or ugly. Everyone has their own tastes in film.

How about reading the play? Shakespeare didn’t publish his plays to be read. He didn’t even have scripts for his players,* for fear of having his plays stolen and presented elsewhere (no copyright laws then). Today we have the opportunity to study Shakespeare through a vast choice of quick online summaries that make Shakespeare almost painless to understand (though the music of his language is definitely stilled by transposing it to modern comprehensibility). There are scholarly publications, first hand discovery accounts, guided tours for students. Even graphic novels.

No fear Shakespeare is available online and in book form at

Image result for shakespeare bloom critiques Image result for shakespeare saved my life

Image result for shakespeare for students  Graphic Shakespeare

Do you perhaps browse the internet looking for enlightening approaches to Shakespeare?

If you are still thinking Shakespeare is “meh” then maybe David Tennant can convince you otherwise:

*Historical interjection: they were called “players” because they were “playing” the part, usually a young boy playing the part of a girl, which stems from Greek theatre when men played females. This also go with the line from As You Like It when Jacques says in his speech “all the world’s a stage and the men and women are merely players.” It would have been different if he had said “actors” wouldn’t it?

I hope this month of dedicated Shakespeare has enlightened you to his amazingness, that it has at least entertained you, or has swayed you to joining the ranks of becoming a Bardinator. Adieu, adieu, for now until next month…

Getting a Handle on Hamlet

Now that there is a little distance between my journey to DC for Hamlet Academy, I am in a very good place to reflect upon just how I will present the play to my students.

I have discovered exploring scenes through various reading techniques, paired with a cinematic clip, helps with clarity. But which film version to use? There is such a range.

For instance, when we study Hamlet’s quintessential  “To Be” speech, I can show the minimal setting of the stage with either Richard Burton or Kevin Kline. Then again, I might show it as the singular contemporary soliloquy of Ethan Hawke as he internalizes his inaction while walking through the action movie aisles of Blockbuster. There is also Branagh’s stylized mirrored reflection which contrasts with David Tennant’s sedate approach. I primarily feature Mel Gibson’s version because of its Renaissance setting. I am patiently waiting for Jude Law’s Broadway version to come out as a DVD. And then there is Benedict C’s London stage version, which I anticipate to be more than marvelous and hope it makes it onto DVD in the future. Because taking my students to London to see it, well–that would be an involved field trip request. For fun, I show Ahnold delivering the lines with swagger and CGI.

Yet with all these versions to select from, each has its own set of considerations when it comes which one to showcase in its entirety. Sir Larry’s is BW and my students aren’t keen on arcane classic. Tennant is clever, yet the juxtaposition of modern setting and classic Bard doesn’t always find favor. Ethan Hawk’s has a couple of awkward-in-the-classroom scenes. Branagh’s is way too long, and that leaves Mel, the popular choice, but with that problematic mother and son chat in her closet.

Every year I wrestle with the “which one” question. This year there is one more option. I recently discovered an amazing version I had no idea existed. A big thanks to LoMo, super Hamlet Academy mentor teacher, for the heads up on this new-to-me Hamlet.

Campbell Scott, son of George C. Scott, of Patton fame, might not be on everyone’s radar of well-known actors, but he definitely should be. I am looking into his other films, as I was quite impressed with his performance. In his version of Hamlet, which he co-directed, he sets the play in an Edwardian era that could either be east coast upper crust or Reconstruction South. This Hamlet family is one of tradition, power, wealth, and of course, one that has definite family issues.

There are many pluses to this version. For one, Scott’s Hamlet is of the appropriate age, many Hamlets are often pushing the 40 mark, which about 10 years older than the play age. The setting also lends credibility with the historical grandeur complementing the eloquence of the Bard’s language. Scott plays his Hamlet with intelligence without having to be eccentric, although there are moments that oddities pop up, such as wearing his mourning band as head band. His introspective interpretation helps the audience to feel the pain of indecision, as he flirts with madness, as he works out the conundrum of his avenge task: how crazy should crazy go?

Here’s a clip. What are your thoughts on Scott’s version? And while we are at it, which Hamlet version is your favorite?

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: