A Shakespeare Christmas

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

I hope you all are conviving with your friends, family, and/or loved ones. Now that you all have gift certificates and some cash on hand, it’s a good time to reward yourself with a little Shakespeare! Check out the links I’ve given you and buy a good book or movie. :-p

Through all my searching, I have found that Mr. Shakespeare only uses the word “Christmas” in any of his plays a mere three times. Not too surprising, I suppose, since none of his plays seem to take place around this time of year. It didn’t make for good action. Here are the uses of the word:

At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled mirth;

-Love’s Labours Lost (I.i)

I see the trick on’t: here was a consent,
Knowing aforehand of our merriment,
To dash it like a Christmas comedy:
Some carry-tale, some please-man, some slight zany,

-Love’s Labours Lost (V.ii)

Marry, I will; let them play it. Is not a comonty a Christmas gambold or a tumbling-trick?
-The Taming of the Shrew (Intro, scene ii)

So it wasn’t Shakespeare’s favorite time of year. That’s okay! Maybe he was turned off to it by the immense commercialism of the season. Those last two quotes refer to Christmas theatrical events: pageants put on for townspeople perhaps by churches, and might not have included the best actors and writing which might be why Will didn’t like them so much. Shakespeare doesn’t refer to this Christmas event in a positive tone. The Taming of the Shrew Scene continues as such:

SLY. Marry, I will; let them play it. Is not a comonty a
Christmas gambold or a tumbling-trick?
PAGE. No, my good lord, it is more pleasing stuff.

WOTD: Square

It’s hip to be a square! But not this kind. This isn’t a geometric shape, but maybe a way to get your nose into a different shape.

square (v.) IPA Pronunciation: /skwer/
to quarrel, fight

PUCK
But, they do square, that all their elves for fear
Creep into acorn-cups and hide them there.

- A Midsummer Night’s Dream (II.i)

This is another word that is pronounced and spelled the same way as a word you are familiar with (just like the previous WOTD), but this meaning wouldn’t be immediately known to you just by seeing or hearing it. Hopefully in the play you are watching the actor will be a good storyteller and let you in on what the Puck he’s talking about.

A-Store

In the links section I added something that say “Bard Blog Recommends…” which will take you to a mini store that has a bunch of recommended items related to Shakespeare. I will be slowly adding items to it as I review them, or remember that I haven’t added an item yet. Most are things I own.

So when you’re doing your Shakespeare shopping, you’ll have one convenient place to look with a bunch of good products.

WOTD: Union

This is one of this words that will make sense when used in context. But by itself it’s one of those words that make you think “WTF mate?” It is pronounced just like the word with the same spelling that means “joined together”, which could possibly add to the confusion.

union (n.) IPA Pronunciation:
pearl

CLAUDIUS
And in the cup an union shall he throw,
Richer than that which four successive kings
In Denmark’s crown have worn….

- HAMLET (V.ii)

Again, in context, when you’re seeing a production of Hamlet and Claudius is holding a pearl saying this, the logical conclusion you’ll make is “Ah, union must be a pearl”, OR “I don’t know what the heck he just called that, but it’s a pearl…”

See, read, listen, enjoy!

You can read all the books about Shakespeare you’d like, take tons of classes, but on top of all that the way to be an expert on the Bard is to read more of his works! There’s no better way to learn about how he uses language than to see it in action. Many literary and storytelling devices are found in multiple plays, and when you find it multiple times you start to realize WHY it is effective dramatically, rather than just recognizing that it is.

Now remember that Shakespeare didn’t write his plays so that people could read and study them. They are PLAYS to be PERFORMED! So go out and SEE them! When there’s one playing near you: go see it. If you come across a movie version that’s new to you: rent it. Even finding an audio-book version is better than nothing. These words were meant to be spoken by one and heard by another. Shakespeare wrote for live theatre, not novels.

Now before the academics kill me, I will say that there’s nothing wrong with reading Shakespeare’s works and studying them, dissecting them, discussing them. It is in fact essential to do this so that you understand it while you are involved in the production of a play. But just don’t forget that it is a piece of theatre and you’re missing much of the meaning if you don’t go out and see it. Bite me, Harold Bloom.

WOTD: Ate

No, not the past tense of “eat”. That would be a silly thing to write about. Not that food doesn’t deserve to be written about, but I think you all know what food is and what it’s for.

ate (n.) IPA Pronunciation: ate
an ancient Greek goddess personifying the fatal blindness or recklessness that produces crime and the divine punishment that follows it.

ANTONY
…And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war;

- Julius Caesar (III.i)

I love that line! Talk about violent words and thoughts. Totally bad-ass.

Review: Thinking Shakespeare

by Barry Edelstein

I picked up this book one day at a bookstore while browsing the Shakespeare section, like I do, and took a quick look inside. Knowing nothing about it, I saw that it was over 400 pages long, cost only about $8 and was written by a man who had been directing Shakespeare for over 20 years in some fairly well known places. “The guy must know something!” thought I. A few minutes later I was walking out the door with my new book and receipt in hand.

Let me tell you… this guy knows more than just something. Barry Edelstein takes you on an easy-to-read journey though Shakespeare’s text, illustrating in detail how to make sense of the language and how to speak, use, play, act, and love it. This is a fairly complete guide, and there so much that it has to offer. This is a book I’ll be reading and referencing often.

It might not be the best Acting Shakespeare book ever written (though it is high on my list of good ones), but it’s the best value I’ve found which is why I will give it a 5 out of 5 rating. So much information, GOOD information at that, and you don’t have to pay the $20+ that is common of this type of book – which is ever so important to the average student. It’s not available through Amazon, but the link is there anyway. I’m sure you’ll be able to find it in a bookstore near you. Happy reading!

Thinking Shakespeare: A How-to Guide for Student Actors, Directors, and Anyone Else Who Wants to Feel More Comfortable With the Bard

WOTD: Betide

I was trying for a while to make a clever quip in iambic pentameter using the following word, but it’s rather late (or very early) and nothing betid. Please accept my most humble apologies.

betide (v.) IPA pronunciation: /bI‘taId/
happen, take place, befall

SCROOP
More health and happiness betide my liege
Than can my care-tun’d tongue deliver him.


- Richard II (III.ii)

Betid would most obviously be past tense of betide. Something somewhat clever came out afterall. Who’da thunk?