WOTD: Runagate

This one’s fun to use. It rolls off the tongue easily in order to use this word to badmouth someone.

runagate (n.) IPA Pronunciation: runagate
fugitive, runaway, vagabond

CLOTEN
I cannot find those runagates; that villain
Hath mock’d me. I am faint.
- Cymbeline (IV.ii)

Feel free to use this word as an insult. You’ll look mean and smart.*

*Use this word at your own risk. The Bard Blog claims no responsibility for any injuries for misuse of this word. Not recommended for use with any amount of alcohol. Please be safe.

A Conversation With Sir Ian McKellen

No, I didn’t get to talk to Sir Ian, that would be a dream come true! But someone else did and got it all on video. It’s not quite an interview, this is sort of like a video lesson on Shakespeare taught by Sir Ian McKellen. It’s wonderful!

The focus is the video is Richard III and his explanation of the opening speech (“Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer…”). But there are other videos as well including some history, comparisons of the speech from three different film versions, Sir Ian talking about Shakespeare in education, storytelling, comparisons of Shakespeare to Lord of the Rings to X-Men, and more!

This is an awesome resource for everyone tackling Shakespeare in some way, shape, or form. Even if you think you have no reason to learn about Richard III, check it out anyway. Most of what he says can be applied universally to Shakespeare. It’s also great to see such a great actor speaking these lines with such ease and understanding every bit of it. Watch everything! There are lots of little videos about so many different things and it’s all good. It’ll take a long time to get through everything but it’s totally worth it.

My favorite part is his comparison between Richard and a biscuit. I’m going to leave you hanging about that so you’ll go and watch it!

A Conversation With Sir Ian McKellen

WOTD: Cogitation

Here’s a word not quite unique to Shakespeare, but you won’t find it in use too often.

cogitation (n.) IPA Pronunciation: cogitation
thought, contemplation

CASSIUS
Then, Brutus, I have much mistook your passion;
By means whereof this breast of mine hath buried
Thoughts of great value, worthy cogitations.
- Julius Caesar (I.ii)

This word takes some cogitation at first, but it does sort of sound like what it is right? The wheels in your head are turning – cogitation. Perfectly logical, right? If nothing else it will make you sound smarter when you use it.

Think Less, Speak More

Were you ever told to “think before you speak”? If so that was probably good advice if you’re prone to say silly things in everyday conversation. But onstage that doesn’t work so well with classical text. Words of the poets from Sophocles to Shakespeare are not natural speech where people are careful about what they say. This poetic language is directly connected to the character’s thoughts, actions, and emotions.

When looking at scansion, looking up words, and making sense of the text, those are times to do a lot of thinking. But if you get onstage and are thinking about all that and more you’re bound to give a very disconnected performance or reading of the text.

Have you ever listened to performances of Shakespeare where the actor tries to give a “natural” delivery of the language full of “ums”, “uhs”, pauses and mumbles? It doesn’t work! It’s not Mamet. Shakespeare’s speech is not and was never meant to be natural. People didn’t even talk like that in the 16th century.

The words are the character’s thoughts. When Hamlet says,

O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit…
(II.ii)

Do you think he’s planned out what he’s going to say? No! he’s telling the audience what’s in his heart at that very second in time. Everything in Shakespeare is “in the moment” and 100% here and now.

In that respect, there is no subtext in Shakespeare! People will say what they mean every time. Wait, some characters lie don’t they? Yes! But when a character is lying, we have been told they are lying or we will find out soon after that they were lying. But the point is that there’s not as much grey area hovering beneath the words.

The language will always be connected to the character objective in that scene and show how they feel. There’s no need to think about how to show what the character feels, the words speak for themselves. Be true to the text, let the words come out. If you’ve done your thinking about it beforehand and you know the words down pat, the rest will happen on its own if you let it.

Coming To A Blog Near You

New to the Bard Blog….

The Shakespeare Blog Carnival

A blog carnival is a central place where blog posts from different blogs are shared. For example, The Carnival of Education.

There are a lot of great Shakespeare blogs out there and I thought that it would be a good idea to create a carnival for Shakespeare. There’s at least one made for everything else already.

Submissions can be made my anybody just by filling out this form. The carnival is hosted here, meaning that I’ll write a post including all the submitted posts that I deem worthy of being shared… which will probably be most, if not all submissions. I’d like to eventually have other blogs take turns hosting it in order to reach the largest audience.

So if you have some favorite posts, please submit them. Feel free to ask any questions you have and I’ll answer. This is a win-win for everyone and a great way to share information between readers and writers of different blogs.

It’s Boring, Very Boring

A few days ago on one of my posts the following comment was added:

i’m studying shakespeare at school it’s very very boring but then all school is

I hope the comment’s author doesn’t mind me using it. But that sentence got me thinking back to my high school days where the previous statement was all too true. I got to thinking, how one teach or learn about Shakespeare in a setting with very little motivation to do so?

It’s far from a simple answer, but I had an idea. The first solution I thought of is to reply: “Don’t study Shakespeare in school.” Beep, beep, back the truck up. You may think I’m crazy but bear with my oddly structured flow of ideas. I consider myself a scholarly person, and an eternal student (I’m sure I’ll always be going back to school in some form every now and then throughout my life) but a motto I’ve had since high school is “Don’t let school get in the way of your education.”

I know, I’m only sounding crazier as I go. There is some merit to this statement; it’s not an excuse of a motto to justify ditching class and going to the beach. The fact of the matter is that many students don’t find that they are motivated to learn in school and in the classroom setting. They’re not all lazy or bad kids. They just don’t find the environment very inviting and engaging. Aha, I’m starting to make some sense now to you I hope…

Students: School might not be you’re best friend, but I’m sure there’s plenty that you want to learn about. When you get home from a grueling day, do your homework, grab some snacks. Then, get online or find a book in a library about something that interests you and learn! There’s some great info online about everything. So if Shakespeare is boring you in class try to find a different source of information online, in a book, or on video before you give up on it or shun it entirely. There are plenty of things out there that will help you learn if the classroom isn’t you’re cup of tea.

Teachers: Accept that the classroom isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Change up the learning environment to allow for various types of activities and see what students go for. Long lectures on Shakespeare usually aren’t a good starting point. For homework, instead of worksheets how about some research? But something the student chooses (within guidelines you set) and is interested in. You can’t cover everything students should know in a classroom so why try? Instead of telling them what they should know, how about motivating them to learn! Shakespeare (and everything else) isn’t as boring when a student looks it up on their own accord. They’ll remember it better too.

So some say that “school is all boring,” but it doesn’t have to be. Remember not to let “school get in the way of education” and suddenly learning isn’t so bad. School should not be neglected of course, it needs to get done, but it is not the alpha and the omega. There’s a wealth of information to be learned out there and it’s up to you to make the most of it.

‘Anti-Semitic’ Shakespeare Makes Test Scores Fall

In the news today I found an article that began, “A JEWISH school tumbled down national league tables after pupils refused to answer questions on Shakespeare because they believed he was antisemitic.” A lengthier article on the same subject also sheds more light.

Read the articles, form your own opinions first. Were these students right to stand up for what they believe in this case? Or are they making a mountain out of a molehill? Do you think it’s a big deal? Some don’t even believe that Jews are presented negatively in the form of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, but that’s another story. Let’s make the same deduction that the students did for the moment.

I think if you believe something, the best thing you can do is stand up for it and accept whatever comes your way because of it. In this case, they didn’t get good scores on their standarized test.

Then again… what was the point? So Shakespeare may have been Anti-Semitic. I’m sure 90-something percent of England was at the time as well so shouldn’t they avoid all accounts of British history from that era? Shakespeare wasn’t too kind to blacks either, so how do we deal with that in this case?

I respect those students for voicing their opinion (and rebelling against a portion of standardized testing… I’m not a fan of those) but I don’t think avoiding Shakespeare – or any other author, historian, and artist, for that matter – because of their beliefs is really a good idea. Shakespeare may have been a writer “for all time,” but his ideas in many cases were a product of his time, and what he wrote appealed to his audience. I think that if we accept it as a product of its time there’s less chance of finding it offensive and more chance of moving on with our lives.

WOTD: Askance

You can’t look askance from this word. You’ll come across it sooner or later!

askance (adv., v.) IPA Pronunciation: askance
(v.) to turn aside, to divert
(adv.) sideways, surreptitiously OR with disdain, maliciously, scornfully

PETRUCHIO
Thou canst not frown, thou canst not look askance,
Nor bite the lip, as angry wenches will,
- The Taming of the Shrew (II.i)

The word is used in the works only as an adverb as far as I can tell, except for in The Rape of Lucrece, though you probably won’t read that. But you should!