“Do you like Shakespeare or somethin?”

I went to get my car’s oil changed today. The attendant sees me get out of the car with a T-Shirt that says “Better a witty fool than a foolish wit ~Shakespeare” and a copy of Shakespeare Quarterly sticking out of my pocket.

“Do you like Shakespeare or somethin?”
“Uhh…. yeah.”

I wonder what different reactions I’d get if I went around sporting Star Wars merchandise. Would I still get a comment about it?

So who else has some geeky stories? Maybe you’re not so nerdy, but if you have any remotely similar experiences please share!

The Internet Needs a Shakespeare ___ ?

Friends, Readers of this blog, Countrymen, lend me your rears!

I know some of you who read this scour the net for anything Shakespeare. At some point for a variety of reasons everyone needs to find something on Shakespeare online: the texts, summaries, history, scholarship, questions, answers, blogs, whatever.

In the digital age I think it’s important to recognize where we are and what we still need to do. So many old texts are now being digitized and are freely available online. Google Books makes research a breeze! Quarto texts online make editing Shakespearean texts quicker. All the information we want is at our fingertips! Or is it?

Here’s a question for you: what DOESN’T the internet have – Shakespeare related, of course – that you would like to see, or something you’d like to see improved?

Why do I ask? I’m curious.

My Rocket Book

I received an email today which kindly informed me of a really cool educational resource. It’s called myROCKETBOOK.com. What’s a rocketbook? The website says it best:

Rocketbooks are video study guides that provide summaries and detailed analyses of literary works. Our WikiNotes section offers a new user experience allowing fresh viewpoints and expressions from today’s students, educators, and literature enthusiasts to bring these classic works to life.

This site has some great study guides for quite a few of the classics, Shakespeare included… which I suppose is why I’m sharing this with you. The study guide is offered in the format of a webpage (WikiNotes), PDF, mp3, and video. PDF and mp3 downloads are free for a limited time only!

The real treat on the site is the video study guide feature. Not all of the books on the site have a video version yet, but I’m sure they’re in progress. The Shakespeare titles available are Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Othello, and Hamlet. I made my way through Julius Caesar tonight and I liked what I saw. Each scene has a narrated detailed summary, an analysis, and a quiz. We see the narrator, quotes onscreen, as well as drawings of important characters and plot points.

This is a wonderful resource for teachers and students from elementary to high school levels. Not all teachers are a fan of using media in the classroom… and if you’re one of those who just prefer to talk about it: PLEASE consider alternatives to just lecturing the students on what the play is about and what it means. This video series is a little more engaging and isn’t boring to watch. It’s a great addition to the text – and not a substitute. The site’s motto is “Watch. Read. Succeed.” I like it! I give this resource two thumbs up, and 5 Bards for their creative use of various media via the internet to aid learning.


Shakespeare Blog Carnival #1

Come see the monkeys and clowns, ride the rides, and get some cotton candy. April Fools! It’s actually the Shakespeare Blog Carnival making its debut here! Sorry, there are no rides to go on. Now I didn’t get many submissions, but that’s okay. It’s a new thing. In addition to the couple submissions I received I’m also including a few posts that I came across recently that I feel like sharing. For next time: Bloggers – sumbit some posts you wrote! Readers – submit some posts you read! And without further ado about nothing, some links for your edification.

Naomi Stevens submitted COMIC STRIP SHAKESPEARE posted at Diary From England. Makes you think about countless ways we’re trying to expose younger audiences. How much of it is working, I wonder.

Duane “Shakespeare Geek” Morin contributes Why Is Shakespeare So Hard? posted at his blog Shakespeare Geek. I think it’s a great post, and something you should have everyone you know read. Especially people who don’t like Shakespeare “because it’s hard.”

Scott Malia presents Kinder-Bard-en on enotes.com’s very own Shakespeare Blog. Some interesting questions are raised in response to a news article about a youth production of a musical Hamlet. With all the talk of Shakespeare in education, we must take time to ponder [in the words of our current president], “Is our children learning?”

Also at the Shakespeare Blog is a post from Jen, a drama teacher who is doing a bang-up job at getting her kids to enjoy Shakespeare and posts her progress on the blog. I’m featuring her post, Staging Shakespeare: Can pre-teens do Shakespeare? Heck yeah! Strongly recommended for teachers.

And the final post for this edition is from Alan Farrar with his post, Hack adaptor? from his blog Shakespeare Experience. I liked this because he brings up the point that Will Shakespeare may have had inspiration for some of his works from previous plays that he act, in fact, ACTED in. He was an actor after all. I think it’s important to keep that in mind!

That’s all folks! I hope to make this a monthly thing (or more often if the amount of submission increase a lot) in order to Share all the great work that bloggers are doing in the world of Shakespeare. I chose not to include one of my own posts. Not sure why… but since you’re here already you can check out the archives. For more info about the carnival, check out the page with info, or just submit a post for next edition!

“Oh, Shakespeare. What class?”

That’s a common response to the following: “What are you reading?” I show them the cover.

I’m reading Shakespeare, it must mean it’s for school right? That’s the idea in most people’s heads. It isn’t really surprising to me, but I find it funny that the idea that I might be reading some of Shakespeare’s works for anything other than school rarely crosses people’s minds. Hm… I wonder why that is.

Then I reply with something like, “No, just for fun. I like it…. one of the few who do.” Which often elicits a small laugh. The conversation occasionally continues with “I haven’t heard of that one.” “Yeah, it’s not one of the ‘big ones.’” “Oh.”

Just another day in the life of Shakespeare Nerd. Non-stop entertainment!

Sight-Seeing Shakespeare

Around a third of Shakespeare’s plays take place in Italy. Most scholars assumed that his knowledge of Italy was from writings and contact with Italian merchants. Some authorship debates arise from the suspicion that Shakespeare never went to Italy so someone else must have written the plays about Italy. But now, The Times has an article which asks us, “Hath Shakespeare been a tourist in Venice?”

Now FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER (or so it would seem by the article) some scholars are speculating that Mr. William Shakespeare DID in fact take an excursion out of the country to the land of pasta.

I’m wondering why this issue seems so new. Is it so hard to believe that Shakespeare traveled? The articles says, “There is no concrete evidence that Shakespeare ever left England,” but then again there’s almost no concrete information on 99% of Shakespeare’s life… so who are we to say that he didn’t go places?

For a man that we know very little about I’m not a fan about giving answers about what he did or didn’t do in his lifetime. Maybe he went to Italy. Maybe he went to Cambodia. Probably not, but who knows?

How old is Hamlet?

The Shakespeare Geek has put the question out there for all to ponder, as well as a link to a chapter on that very subject.

This is a huge topic of debate among scholars, and a big consideration for a director who is casting the play. There’s a lot of info out there, a lot of it can be found in the link above. I’ll post some of the info I’ve gathered at a later date. Many seem to settle on the idea that Hamlet is 30 years old. The gravedigger in act V in the First Folio gives us a few clues about that…

I always thought that 30 is just too old for Hamlet. It often seems to me that saying he’s that age was justification for older actors to be able to take on the role. I’m not a fan of seeing 45 year-olds playing opposite a mother their same age. It’s common on stage. Richard Burton, I think, was 39 when he played the role in the version that is on video. He just looked so old! Kenneth Branagh was 36 in his movie. Derek Jacobi in the BBC video version was 42! Mel Gibson was 34 but the beard added 10 years.

Hamlet’s in school, that should make him young-ish. I like the age range of 21, maybe a little older, quite possibly younger. If he seemed a little younger I think that’d be fine. I think the drama (and the tragedy) is heightened when an audience sees this KID going through all this. The bright young lad who would be king.

So is Hamlet older than he seems, or is it such a great role that one would rather cast an older, “better” actor. Naturally with age comes maturity, experience, wisdom, and more skill to an actor. Hamlet is such a huge role (in every aspect) perhaps some think the requirements of the role are too great to burden a younger actor.

With the different sources of Shakespeare’s texts telling us different things it’s impossible to know for sure. His age may have been changed somewhere along in the writing and revising process. Something important when the play is being staged… does it work? Will I believe this old man is the son of this woman? A lot of theatre is about suspending disbelief, but even that has limits sometimes. Look through Hamlet again. How old does he seem to you? There doesn’t seem to be a right answer here. I had an acting teacher who said he was about 34. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that he was about 34 and really wanted to play Hamlet. I still think Hamlet’s much younger than that… around twenty. But don’t take my word for it!

Word of the day: Amain

Amain, a plain, a canail… wait a minute. That’s not how it goes.

amain adv. IPA Pronunciation: amain
at full force or speed

His soldiers spying his undaunted spirit
A Talbot! a Talbot! cried out amain
And rush’d into the bowels of the battle.
- Henry VI, Part 1 (I.i)

There’s a certain economy about this word. I can easily hear it in a command, which it is used as most often. You’ll mostly find this in the Henry VI series. 8 out of 13 times it is used by Shakespeare are in one of the Henry VI plays. Wowzers.