Archive for the 'Othello' Category

Shakespeare Anagram: Othello

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

From Othello:

I have told thee often, and I re-tell thee again and again, I hate the Moor: my cause is hearted: thine hath no less reason. Let us be conjunctive in our revenge against him.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

The lie: conservatives joining here don’t care about managing the health insurance fee. It’s an inane move to undo the last leader’s signature idea. They loathe him, eh?

Shakespeare Anagram: Othello

Saturday, August 29th, 2015

From Othello:

Farewell the neighing steed, and the shrill trump,
The spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife,
The royal banner, and all quality,
Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war!

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Marble renter Donald single-handedly ruining prim GOP presidential hope with hateful quotes, gruff actions, and racist thralls cheering him.

We truly appreciate it, Mr. Firer.

Shakespeare Clickbait

Wednesday, December 25th, 2013

How far should we go to get people to read Shakespeare? I say we do whatever it takes.

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My teenage daughter and her friends think that posts like this can’t go viral. Please help me teach them an important lesson by sharing this on Facebook and Twitter.

Shakespeare Song Parody: We Love the Plays of Shakespeare

Friday, June 28th, 2013

This is the last in a series of 40 pop-music parodies for Shakespeare fans.

So far, we’ve had one parody for each of Shakespeare’s 38 plays and one for the sonnets. We finish the Shakespeare Top 40 with a tribute to all of the plays, one last time.

Enjoy!

We Love the Plays of Shakespeare
sung to the tune of “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel

(With appreciation to everyone who has followed along on the journey…)

Harry, Suffolk, Somerset,
Richard Plantagenet;
Warwick, Edward, Margaret, Rutland,
Younger Lord Clifford;
Lord John Talbot, Tony Woodeville,
Duke of Bedford, Joan La Pucelle;
Duke of Clarence, Tower Princes,
Richard the Third…

Antipholus, Dromio,
Balthazar, Angelo;
Titus gets Tamora by
Baking her kids in a pie;
Tranio, Petruchio,
Katharina, Widow;
Proteus and Valentine have
Bid Verona goodbye…

We love the plays of Shakespeare,
Jumping off the pages,
Burning up the stages.
We love the plays of Shakespeare.
First, we learned to read them.
Now, we go to see them.

Don Armado, French Princess,
Costard and Holofernes;
Romeo’s Apothecary,
Juliet’s Nurse;
Gaunt John, he passed on,
Henry’s back and Dick’s gone;
Quince, Flute, Snout, Snug,
Bottom’s got a curse…

King John, Pope, France,
Bastard’s got a second chance;
Shylock and Antonio,
Portia and Bassanio;
Bardolph, Boar’s Head,
Prince Hal, Hotspur dead;
Tavern Hostess, Lord Chief Justice,
Henry on his deathbed…

We love the plays of Shakespeare,
Jumping off the pages,
Burning up the stages.
We love the plays of Shakespeare.
First, we learned to read them.
Now, we go to see them.

Benedick, Beatrice,
Dogberry and Verges;
Cambridge, Scroop and Grey,
Fight on St. Crispin’s Day;
Cassius, Cicero,
Julius Caesar, Cato;
Duke Senior, Jacques,
Poems posted on the trees…

O, O, O…

Olivia, Antonio,
Toby Belch, Malvolio;
Ophelia, Claudius,
Hamlet kills Polonius;
Falstaff once adored
Mistress Page and Mistress Ford;
Agamemnon, Pandarus,
Cressida and Troilus…

We love the plays of Shakespeare,
Jumping off the pages,
Burning up the stages.
We love the plays of Shakespeare.
First, we learned to read them.
Now, we go to see them.

Helena for Bertram fell,
All’s Well that Ends Well;
Angelo, Claudio,
“Friar” Duke Vincentio;
Desdemona, Othello,
Duke, Iago, Cassio;
Kent’s stand, Lear’s Fool,
Edmund’s death, Edgar’s rule;
Three Witches, two Macbeths,
Scottish spirits come unsex;
Antony, Cleo P.,
Who else would you want to see?

We love the plays of Shakespeare,
Jumping off the pages,
Burning up the stages.
We love the plays of Shakespeare.
First, we learned to read them.
Now, we go to see them.

Marcius, Cominius,
Volumnia, Aufidius;
Cupid, Lucius,
Timon, Flavius;
Gower, Thaliard, Pericles,
Antiochus, Simonides;
Posthumous is shipped to Rome,
Iachimo’s gone to his home…

Autolycus, Leontes,
Perdita, Polixenes;
Stephano, Trinculo,
Ship, wreck, Prospero;
Henry starts a second life,
Anne Boleyn’s his second wife;
Kinsmen our guy partnered for;
May have helped with Thomas More…

We love the plays of Shakespeare,
Jumping off the pages,
Burning up the stages.
We love the plays of Shakespeare.
And where we have gone,
The play will start anon,
Anon, anon, anon, anon, anon, anon, anon…

We love the plays of Shakespeare,
Jumping off the pages,
Burning up the stages.
We love the plays of Shakespeare.
First, we learned to read them.
Now, we go to see them.

We love the plays of Shakespeare!

Hat tip to Shakespeare Online for the chronology.

You can click to read all 40 song parodies here.

Shakespeare Song Parody: Dutiful

Friday, August 10th, 2012

This is the second of what is now a series of Shakespeare Song Parodies.

The idea is to take a popular song and change the words so that it’s about Shakespeare. Enjoy!

Dutiful
sung to the tune of “What Makes You Beautiful”

(With apologies to One Direction and anyone reading this…)

You act demure.
Don’t know what for.
You could defend yourself for marrying a Mo-o-or.
But rumors spread.
Some people said
That you and Cassio have been in be-e-ed.

Everyone else in this town could see it,
Everyone else but me-e.

Baby, you light up my world, yea, I say amen;
So I must put out the light, then do that again;
You must die else you may betray other men.
I don’t know, oh, oh,
I don’t know you’re dutiful.

If you saw what Iago has helped me see,
You’d understand why I’m so filled with jealousy;
I know that you burned your dad, but would you burn me?
I don’t know, oh, oh,
I don’t know you’re dutiful.

My hankerchief:
It was a gift.
And now it’s lost; that’s what started this ri-i-ift.
You dare to lie,
And now you’ll die,
But I pause first to kiss you goodbye-eye-eye.

Everyone else in this town could see it,
Everyone else but me-e.

Baby, you light up my world, yea, I say amen;
So I must put out the light, then do that again;
You must die else you may betray other men.
I don’t know, oh, oh,
I don’t know you’re dutiful.

If you saw what Iago has helped me see,
You’d understand why I’m so filled with jealousy;
I know that you burned your dad, but would you burn me?
I don’t know, oh, oh,
I don’t know you’re dutiful.

You defended me down to your dying yell,
You’re like a liar who’s now gone to burning hell.
So Emelia, what was it you had to tell?
Now I know, oh, oh,
Now I know you’re dutiful.

Shakespeare’s Most Underrated Characters

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Over at Pursued by a Bear, Cassius put together a series of videos lauding Shakespeare’s Most Underrated Characters back while I was on hiatus. They’re definitely worth checking out. Even when you disagree with one of her choices, she makes a compelling case.

Still, she includes such “underrated characters” as Hamlet and Othello. And while I totally get that a character can be highly rated and yet underrated, a list like this is an opportunity to bench the starters and let the minor characters show their stuff. Basically, what I’m saying is, I want to play too. Now that I’m back, here is my list, with a hat tip to Cassius for the idea.

An old theatre maxim says there are no small parts, but below you’ll find some really outstanding exceptions. Some of them don’t even have names. If your reaction to seeing some of these is “Wait… who?” then I’ve done my job. But don’t dismiss them just yet; they’re on this list for a reason. Let’s start the countdown at 50.

50. Costard (Love’s Labour’s Lost) – With so many foolish characters in one play, it’s easy to overlook the actual clown. But Costard spins some impressively deft wordplay that puts more erudite characters to shame.

49. Pinch (The Comedy of Errors) – Just as things get about as silly as you think they could get, enter good Doctor Pinch. While others suspect Antipholus of mere madness, Pinch tries to exorcize Satan from within him.

48. Fluellen (Henry V) – The Welsh captain may speak his bombast with a funny accent, but he’s not a man to be trifled with. He bravely leads his troops into battle, and handles himself ably in private matters as well.

47. The Scottish Doctor (Macbeth) – A doctor is brought in to cure Lady Macbeth’s madness. Sadly, modern psychiatric practice would be far beyond the reach of Shakespeare’s England, let alone Macbeth’s Scotland.

46. Peter Quince (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) – It can’t be easy to construct a troupe of actors from weavers and tailors, but this is one carpenter who is up to the task. Ah, the joys of community theatre.

45. Antipholus of Ephesus (The Comedy of Errors) – The other three twins may have more stage time, but the funniest moments of the play come from the misfortunes that befall the local Antipholus.

44. Corin (As You Like It) – The old forest-dwelling shephard councils the younger love-struck Silvius, matches wits with Touchstone, and reminds us that courtly life isn’t better than the simple life, just different.

43. Antonio (Twelfth Night) – Sebastian’s savior and friend mentions that he happens to be a wanted criminal. But his love and loyalty prove to be powerful forces, as is his rhetoric when he thinks he’s been betrayed.

42. Paulina (The Winter’s Tale) – Hermione may have been the one to fake her death, but it’s Paulina who has to sell it. And sell it she does, without so much as flinching. Note to self: stay on Paulina’s good side.

41. Joan La Pucelle (1 Henry VI) – Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who led troops in winning great battles against the English, was a revered heroine among the French people. Of course, Shakespeare wasn’t French.

40. Oliver and Celia (As You Like It) – They seem like they’re going to be purely functional roles: Orlando’s evil brother and Rosalind’s supportive cousin. And then, boom, they meet and it’s love at first sight.

39. Chorus (Henry V) – The “muse of fire” prologue stands out, but the Chorus stays on the job throughout the play, adding vibrant imagery to expand the theatrical experience beyond the limitations of the stage.

38. Adam (As You Like It) – Rather than embody the bleak vision of Jacques’s last age of man, the spry Adam warns Orlando of the plot against him and faithfully agrees to serve him in exile. Eighty years young!

37. Pompey (Measure for Measure) – Not quite Pompey the Great, his bum is the greatest thing about him. Sent to prison, the former brothel bartender feels right at home among his old customers.

36. First and Second Lords (All’s Well That Ends Well) – This list has a soft spot for characters who aren’t even given names. The Lords are real characters that help advance the plot over multiple scenes. No respect!

35. Duke Senior (As You Like It) – A lesser man might be slightly annoyed by having his entire dukedom usurped. But Duke Senior takes “being a good sport” to a whole new level. And notice he’s not given a name either.

34. Charmian and Iras (Antony and Cleopatra) – When Cleopatra chooses to leave this world, she is flanked by her two most loyal servants – Iras just before and Charmian just after. Good help is hard to find.

33. Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby (Richard III) – Richard is so crazed with paranoia that when he accuses Stanley of betrayal, we completely believe the good earl’s denial. But wait… yeah, he went right to Richmond.

32. Archibald, Earl of Douglas (1 Henry IV) – “That sprightly Scot of Scots… that runs o’ horseback up a hill perpendicular” is outbattled by Hal, outwitted by Falstaff, and ultimately captured and released. Ah well.

31. Son and Father (3 Henry VI) – On the battlefield, Henry observes a son who has killed his father and a father who has killed his son. He thus realizes the heavy cost of the war, and his own responsibility for it.

30. The Thane of Ross (Macbeth) – Whether it’s victory in battle or the slaughter of your family, nobody delivers the news like the Thane of Ross, whatever his actual name may happen to be.

29. Roderigo (Othello) – Often overshadowed by the more dynamic characters in the play, Roderigo is a fantastic comic role. Hopelessly in love with Desdemona, Roderigo is an easy target for Iago’s machinations.

28. Iachimo (Cymbeline) – This “little Iago” deserves better than to be thought of as a diminutive derivative. But unlike his nefarious namesake, he never really meant any harm, and is honestly repentant at the end.

27. Lord (The Taming of the Shrew) – We remember Christopher Sly, but what of the Lord who devised the over-the-top prank in the first place. Actually, either one could make this list; they usually both get cut.

26. The Provost (Measure for Measure) – When the Duke realizes he can no longer implement his plan alone, he recruits the Provost, who proves to be an able accomplice. But why does he not have a name?

25. The Queen (Cymbeline) – She’s the classic fairy tale wicked step-mother, who even has the self-awareness to swear she isn’t. On her deathbed, she admits she never loved Cymbeline. It’s good to be the Queen.

24. The Earl of Suffolk (1 Henry VI) – He woos the young Margaret for the king, but has some grand designs of his own. “Margaret shall now be queen, and rule the king; But I will rule both her, the king, and realm.”

23. Casca (Julius Caesar) – Other characters consider him dull, blunt, and rude, but don’t take their word for it. I find Casca to be witty, wise, and shrewd. Read over his lines and decide for yourself.

22. Countess of Auvergne (1 Henry VI) – Talbot takes a break from invading France to be flattered by the noblewoman’s invitation to her house. It’s a trap, but she ends up having him over for Freedom Fries anyway.

21. Rumor (2 Henry IV) – Best. Prologue. Ever. The living embodiment of Rumor brags about the damage he’s done, while seamlessly bringing us up to speed on what’s happened since Part One. Open your ears.

20. Simpcox and Wife (2 Henry VI) – They are almost the definition of small Shakespearean roles. But their scene is genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. Go check it out!

19. Mariana (Measure for Measure) – She shows up late in the play, and even then she’s no more than a convenient plot device with very few lines of significance. But then the final scene arrives, and … wow.

18. The Bishop of Carlisle (Richard II) – Richard is defeated, and Henry would be King. Carlisle protests vigorously, describing exactly what will result. As Shakespeare and his audience know, he’s absolutely right.

17. Antonio (The Tempest) – I have to admit that some of the nobles from the boat tend to blend together for me, but Antonio, who usurped his brother Prospero, stands out as the most cold-blooded.

16. Moth (Love’s Labour’s Lost) – Compare Don Adriano de Armado and Moth with Zap Brannigan and Kif. Note that Kif’s first Futurama episode was entitled “Love’s Labour’s Lost in Space.”

15. Mistress Overdone (Measure for Measure) – She’s had nine husbands (“overdone by the last”) and this clear-eyed brothel owner still manages to run her business like a professional.

14. Gratiano (The Merchant of Venice) – It’s okay if you don’t remember. He’s the other guy, the one who ends up with Nerissa. But he’s also a really clever comic character who can be a lot of fun to play.

13. John Talbot (1 Henry VI) – He only appears in a couple of scenes, but Lord Talbot’s son can display valor and loyalty in rhymed couplets like nobody else.

12. Thersites (Troilus and Cressida) – Shakespeare describes him as “a deformed and scurrilous Grecian,” and that’s just in the Dramatis Personae.

11. Lord Chief Justice (2 Henry IV) – Henry V’s harsh denial of Falstaff overshadows the new king giving a high place of honor to the constable who chased him down throughout his wayward youth.

10. Doll Tearsheet (2 Henry IV) – Falstaff’s favorite prostitute knows how to handle herself in a bar fight. She gives Pistol a tongue-lashing he really should have had to pay for.

9. Apemantus (Timon of Athens) – Oh yeah, I went there. But you don’t have to read the whole play, just check out the mother joke in the first scene.

8. Pistol (Henry V) – The loudmouth soldier tends to get overshadowed by Falstaff. But his bombast can shatter the stage when he’s ready to discharge.

7. Domitus Enobarbus (Antony and Cleopatra) – He’s a loyal soldier who abandons Antony only because he can’t support his self-destructive behavior. When Antony returns his treasure, Enobarbus dies of shame.

6. Arthur (King John) – He has few scenes, despite being an important character to the plot. He makes the list for successfully appealing to the heart of a man who has been sent to murder him.

5. Lady Grey (3 Henry VI) – After her side has lost the war, the Widow Grey bravely stands up to the new King. He cannot intimidate her, so he marries her instead. She’ll be Queen Elizabeth in the next play.

4. Sir William Catesby (Richard III) – We remember the evil machinations of Richard and Buckingham, but Catesby is there with them every step of the way, and seems to have no conscience about it.

3. Tranio (The Taming of the Shrew) – It’s easy to forget about Tranio. But while his master is playing servant to win his one true love, Tranio’s the servant who is playing his master – the much harder role!

2. First Gravedigger (Hamlet) – Often dismissed as merely a comic character, the Gravedigger gives Hamlet a chance to reflect on matters of life and death, thus underscoring one of the major themes of the play.

1. Jack Cade (2 Henry VI) – He’s an unlikely claimant to the throne, but his populist rhetoric has the power to start a rebellion at least. This is, I believe, Shakespeare’s most underrated character.

And finally, I invite my friends at Pursued By a Bear to join me in awarding an honorable mention to the most awesome, most minor character in the entire canon…

THE BEAR!

Top Ten Shakespeare Audio Productions

Monday, August 29th, 2011

In Shakespeare’s time, people did not go to “see” a play; they went to “hear” a play. Which Shakespeare play would you like to hear?

A few months ago, I wrote a post about my Shakespeare addiction that referenced the Caedmon audio production of As You Like It. Regular readers of the blog know well the extent of this addiction, but what they may not know is the degree to which that addiction includes audio productions of Shakespeare. Most people organize their mp3 playlists with different genres of music plus one “Spoken Word” category. My iPhone has a “Music” playlist, with various Spoken Word sub-genres, including several playlists of performances of Shakespeare. Given the hours upon hours I have spent listening to these productions, I am now pleased to share with you my ten very favorite selections.

Now, if this is your thing, you really need to get The Complete Arkangel Shakespeare. This is a breathtaking collection of top-quality productions of each of Shakespeare’s plays, directed by Clive Brill and with original music by Dominique Le Gendre. The advantage of buying the set is that you will then have the option to listen to any title you choose. But if you’re not ready to make that kind of investment into the eclectic world of Shakespeare audio, I can give you my own top picks so you can get your feet wet before diving into the deep end of the pool.

Standard disclaimers apply. These are based on my own preferences, which are always subject to change. I based my rankings on writing, acting, directing, production, and music. I limited myself to modern productions only, so you won’t find Paul Robeson or Orson Welles on the list. And I’m sure there are many excellent productions I haven’t listened to. Basically, these are the ten audio productions of Shakespeare I find myself returning to again and again.

And, in keeping with tradition, my top ten list will have twenty entries. Enjoy!

1. King Lear (BBC)

Directed by Glyn Dearman; Starring Sir John Gielgud (Lear), Kenneth Branagh (Edmund), Emma Thompson (Cordelia), Derek Jacobi (France), Bob Hoskins (Oswald), Judi Dench (Goneril), Michael Williams (Fool), and Richard Briers (Gloucester).

This, to me, is the definitive audio Lear. Gielgud takes a larger-than-life character and truly brings out his humanity. An all-star cast delivers solid performances across the ensemble. This is Shakespeare the way it was meant to be performed.

2. As You Like It (Caedmon)

Vanessa Redgrave as Rosalind gives one of the greatest audio performances I’ve ever heard. If you’re a fan of the play, or even if you’re not, you owe it to yourself to hear this amazing production.

3. Richard III (Cambridge)

Starring Kenneth Branagh (Richard III), Celia Imrie (Queen Elizabeth), Bruce Alexander (Edward IV), Michael Maloney (Clarence), John Shrapnel (Hastings), Stella Gonet (Anne), Jamie Glover (Richmond), and Nicholas Farrell (Buckingham).

I wouldn’t really have thought of Branagh for the hunchbacked villain, but he does a great job leading a top-notch cast in performing Shakespeare’s classic history play. I never really knew how much was going on in this play until I heard this production.

4. Julius Caesar (Arkangel)

Starring Michael Feast (Julius Caesar), John Bowe (Brutus), Adrian Lester (Mark Antony), Geoffrey Whitehead (Cassius), Estelle Kohler (Portia), and Jonathan Tayler (Octavius).

I can listen to this one again and again. The exchanges between Bowe’s Brutus and Whitehead’s Cassius are electric, and Marc Antony’s powerful monologues are explosive in Lester’s more-than-capable hands.

5. The Comedy of Errors (Arkangel)

Starring David Tennant (Antipholus of Syracuse), Brendan Coyle (Antipholus of Ephesus), Alan Cox (Dromio of Syracuse), Jason O’Mara (Dromio of Ephesus), Niamh Cusack (Adriana), Sorcha Cusack (Luciana), and Trevor Peacock (Egeon).

Along his path to directing the canon, Clive Brill has a lot of fun with Shakespeare’s only slapstick comedy. Silly sound effects and comical music underscore fantastic comic performances by a brilliant cast. Remember, dying is easy; Comedy‘s hard.

6. King John (Arkangel)

Starring Michael Feast (King John), Eileen Atkins (Constance), Michael Maloney (Bastard), Geoffrey Whitehead (Phillip), Trevor Peacock (Hubert), Bill Nighy (Pandulph), and Margaret Robertson (Elinor).

Michael Maloney steals this particular show, as the Bastard often does in King John. But strong performances across the cast have the power to churn the blood and tug a few heartstrings as well.

7. Macbeth (Caedmon)

There are a number of audio Macbeths to choose from, but I give Anthony Quayle pride of place. Mood-enhancing sound effects and strong performances across the board make this production the Macbeth of choice.

8. Othello (Cambridge)

Starring Hugh Quarshie (Othello), Anton Lesser (Iago), Emma Fielding (Desdemona).

Lesser’s edgy voice creates a dangerous Iago, who provokes a genuine sense of menace. Quarshie’s passionate Othello makes for a worthy tragic figure. Together, the two performances leave us with an unforgettable audio experience.

9. Henry V (Cambridge)

Directed by David Timson; Starring Samuel West as Henry V.

This is a stirring and creative production of Henry V. Vibrant interpretations of even the minor characters make for a consistently interesting and entertaining presentation of the well-beloved history.

10. As You Like It (Arkangel)

Starring Niamh Cusak (Rosalind), Stephen Mangan (Orlando), Gerard Murphy (Jaques), Clarence Smith (Touchstone), and Victoria Hamilton (Celia).

This is a really great audio production of the play. I rated the other version much higher, but I actually prefer Dominique Le Gendre’s music in this one. And for As You Like It, the music is no insignificant character.

11. Measure for Measure (Arkangel)

Starring Roger Allan (Duke), Simon Russell Beale (Angelo), Stella Gonet (Isabella), Jonathan Firth (Claudio), and Stephen Mangan (Lucio).

Here’s another one I keep revisiting. Beale and Gonet create sparks as Angelo and Isabella, Mangan is brilliant as Lucio, and Allan’s Duke never lets you forget who’s in charge. I think I want to go listen to this one right now.

12. King Lear (Naxos)

Starring Paul Scofield (Lear), Alec McCowen (Gloucester), Kenneth Branagh (Fool), David Burke (Kent), Harriet Walter (Goneril), Emilia Fox (Cordelia), Sara Kestelman (Regan), Richard McCabe (Edgar), and Toby Stephens (Edmund).

Okay, so Paul Scofield as Lear should be enough, right? But he is supported by a great ensemble cast in a well-directed version of one of the greatest plays ever written. Check it out!

13. The Tempest (Naxos)

Starring Ian McKellen (Prospero), Scott Handy (Ariel), Emilia Fox (Miranda), Neville Jason (Antonio), Benedict Cumberbatch (Ferdinand), and Ben Onwukwe (Caliban).

Okay, so Ian McKellen as Prospero should be enough, right? But this is another high-quality Naxos masterpiece – a must-have for Shakespeare audio collectors.

14. Henry IV, Part One (Arkangel)

Starring Jamie Glover (Hal), Julian Glover (Henry IV), Alan Cox (Hotspur), and Richard Griffiths (Falstaff).

I really love this play, and the Arkangel production does it great justice. Griffiths creates a Falstaff with his voice that has the power to rival his stage counterparts. Each scene in this production is like a little gift-wrapped present.

15. Hamlet (Cambridge)

Anton Lesser is the man! This time, he lends his distinctive voice to the Melancholy Dane, striking just the right balance between contemplative and bitter, between witty and mad. There are certainly other audio Hamlets, but Lesser is greater!

16. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Naxos)

Starring Warren Mitchell (Bottom), Michael Maloney (Oberon), Sarah Woodward (Titania), Jack Ellis (Theseus), Benjamin Soames (Lysander), Jamie Glover (Demetrius), Cathy Sara (Hermia), Emily Raymond (Helena), and Ian Hughes (Puck).

Again, I have several versions of the Dream to choose from, but I think I’ll take Naxos for the win. I’ve heard these words so many times, it’s an impressive production that can still make me laugh at them.

17. Richard II (Arkangel)

Starring Rupert Graves (Richard II), Julian Glover (Bolingbroke), and John Wood (John of Gaunt).

Let’s talk of Graves. (See what I did there?) He gives an outstanding performance as Richard, which is important, because – let’s face it – he does tend to go on a little.

18. Henry VI, Part Three (Arkangel)

Starring David Tennant (Henry VI), Kelly Hunter (Margaret), Clive Merrison (York), Stephen Boxer (Edward), John Bowe (Warwick), and David Troughton (Richard).

This is the beauty of the Arkangel series. You can listen to any play, any act, any scene you like. And sometimes, you just really need to hear the “paper crown” scene. When that day comes for you, this is the recording you’ll want to have.

19. Romeo and Juliet (Arkangel)

Starring Joseph Fiennes (Romeo), Maria Miles (Juliet), and Elizabeth Spriggs (Nurse).

Dominique Le Gendre’s love theme for this production becomes the theme song for the entire Arkangel series. Fiennes and Miles are wonderful, as you knew they would be. When you want to hear this play, hear this version.

20. Twelfth Night (Cambridge)

Starring Stella Gonet (Viola), Jonathan Keeble (Orsino), Jane Whittenshaw (Maria), Malcolm Sinclair (Andrew), David Timson (Feste), Lucy Whybrow (Olivia), Christopher Godwin (Malvolio), and Gerard Murphy (Toby).

Well, what can I say, this is my twentieth favorite. But it’s the best of all of the Twelfth Night productions I own, and it’s a great presentation of a fun play, so why not give it a listen?

Googleplex – 1/16/11

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

I subscribe to a service called “SiteMeter” which allows me to see a limited amount of information about my visitors. One thing that I can see is if someone finds my site via a Google search, and what they were searching for.

Every now and then I check in on what searches people have done to find themselves at Shakespeare Teacher, and to respond to those search terms in the name of fun and public service. All of the following searches brought readers to this site in the past week.

Enjoy!

cymbeline appropriate for kids

Well, there is a bit of sexual content in it. Iachimo bets Posthumous that he can seduce Imogen, Posthumous’s wife. To prove he’s won his bet, he describes Imogen’s body in intimate detail.

But why do we flinch at mild sexual content like this for kids, and shrug off graphic violence? Does anyone ask if Macbeth is appropriate for kids?

I just did it myself. When asked if Cymbeline is appropriate for kids, I immediately addressed a verbal description of a female body, and completely ignored the decapitated corpse on stage.

I addressed the same concern when I taught the play to 8th graders. In the end, they did very well with it. You will have to let your own moral compass guide the way.

how long does it take to teach macbeth?

It depends on how deep you want to go. I have taught Macbeth in one lesson; I’ve taught it over an entire year. I’d recommend at least a month, but you’ll have to see what fits in your curriculum.

shakespearean tragedy centered on the theme of “man’s inhumanity to man;

There’s plenty of inhumanity in the canon to go around.

My vote is for King Lear, though I suppose Titus Andronicus would be an appropriate choice as well.

“much ado about nothing” “which war”

Unlike other war-themed plays of Shakespeare, Much Ado about Nothing does not seem to center on any actual historical war. Directors, therefore, have the freedom to set the play in any post-war period that strikes the fancies of their set and costume designers. Of course, directors of Shakespeare hardly need such an invitation.

In the play, Don John has stood up against his brother Don Pedro, so the Civil War is a good choice. But really, the war itself is such a small part of the story that any war will suffice, even the indeterminate war of the text.

rap songs about historical figures; shakespeare

There are some organizations, like Flocabulary and The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company, that use rap music to teach Shakespeare. But my favorite Shakespeare rap is still from the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s three man show The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (abridged):

Full disclosure: Back in my acting days, I performed in this show. I played the role of Daniel (the first guy in the video, wearing red pants), and performed in this rap. The play is rather silly on the page, but turned out to be a great audience pleaser.

UPDATE: The embedded video doesn’t seem to be working right now. Here’s a direct link.

writing an obituary for hamlet

Hamlet, prince of Denmark, died yesterday from complications from a wound by a sword laced with a deadly unction. Some sources reported his age to be 30, while other sources insisted that he could not possibly have been that old. He is survived by nobody. King Fortinbras is requesting that any flowers sent on behalf of the deceased are of a botanical variety that have deep symbolic and/or ironic meaning.

I leave the task of responding to the remaining search terms to my readers:


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Googleplex – 1/24/10

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

It’s time once again to check in on what searches people have done to find themselves at Shakespeare Teacher, and to respond in the name of fun and public service. All of the following searches brought people to this site in the past week.

do the tudors trace their ancestry to antony and cleopatra

Probably not. Antony and Cleopatra did have three children, two boys and a girl. Cleopatra also had a child, Caesarion, from Julius Caesar. (“He plough’d her, and she cropp’d.” See how classy you sound when you quote Shakespeare?) Antony also had children from four of his wives.

After Octavius Caesar conquered Egypt (the events depicted in Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra) he executed Caesarion, and gave the three children of Antony and Cleopatra to his sister Octavia. Remember (from the play) that Octavia was Antony’s last wife, so she’s now raising the children of her husband and his mistress. Little is known of the two boys, and if they had lived to adulthood, they would probably have been mentioned in sources of the time because of their parentage. It is possible they may have secretly been killed to avoid a later challenge to Octavius. But it’s also possible that they lived on and had children of their own. There’s no way to know.

The daughter of Antony and Cleopatra, named Cleopatra Selene, was married to an African king, and they had – at least – great grandchildren. Zenobia, a third century Syrian queen, claimed to be descended from this line. So it’s certainly possible that the descendants of Antony and Cleopatra are among us today. And if so, the opportunities to multiply between the 1st century and the 15th century would be massive. Therefore, we cannot rule out definitively that the Tudors are descended from Antony and Cleopatra. But could they know this for sure, let alone trace it? No. Those 1400 years weren’t exactly known for their record keeping, and there is too much motivation for people to invent a famous lineage along the way.

king henry the eighth sister margaret

Margaret Tudor was Henry VIII’s older sister. She married James IV of Scotland in 1503, and a hundred years later, her great-grandson would become King of England (after Henry VIII’s line died out).

However, if you are asking about the character played by Gabrielle Anwar in The Tudors, you’re really looking for younger sister Mary Tudor. Another Mary would have probably been too confusing, so they conflated the two women into one character. Mary Tudor was the one who married an aging king only to be widowed three months later. Mary was the one who married Charles Brandon. I’ve only seen the first season of the show, so I don’t know what the character would later become, but in the first season, Margaret’s story is that of Mary Tudor.

good shakespearean pranks

Shakespeare had a lot of plots that centered around practical jokes. Often, they would blur the line between harmless prank and vicious revenge, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, am I right? Without any further ado, then, is my Top Ten list of Shakespearean pranks. Drum roll, please!

10. The Merry Wives of Windsor – I’m not a fan of this play, and I’m loathe to include it on the list of Top Ten anything. But a list of Shakespearean pranks would be incomplete without it, so here it is at #10. Suffice it to say, there are a number of pranks in this play. I’d list them, but I can’t be bothered.

9. Henry IV, Part Two – Hal and Poins disguise themselves as drawers and listen in on Falstaff’s bragging. They reveal themselves, but not before Falstaff has a chance to badmouth the Prince behind his back. The fun comes when Falstaff tries to talk his way out of it.

8. Measure for Measure – The “bed trick” and the “head trick” are serious deceptions and can hardly be considered a prank. But what about what I like to call the “fled trick”? The Duke pretends to leave Vienna, but instead stays back disguised as a friar. I guess the joke’s on Angelo. Busted!

7. Twelfth Night – Malvolio, imprisoned in darkness, recieves a visit from Sir Topas the curate. Actually, it’s Feste the jester disguising his voice. Playing both parts, Feste drives the supposed madman one step closer to real madness.

6. Much Ado about Nothing – Beatrice and Benedick’s merry war takes a surprising turn when their friends allow them to overhear conversations to make each believe the other is in love. The prank becomes self-fulfilling. “Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.”

5. Henry IV, Part One – Hal and Poins pretend to go along with Falstaff’s plan to rob some travellers. But they enter in disguise after the fact and rob the robbers! They reveal their prank after Falstaff has been boasting about his encounter with the unknown thieves.

4. The Tempest – Prospero uses his magic to get revenge on those who have wronged him. But the havoc only lasts the afternoon and there’s no real damage done. The whole play is one big prank.

3. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Puck changes Bottom into an ass. And Titania, having been spiked with a love potion by Oberon, falls in love with the creature. Hilarity ensues.

2. Twelfth Night – Maria forges a letter from Olivia to Malvolio, hinting that she is in love with him. Toby, Andrew, and Fabian spy on Malvolio as he reads the letter, which tells him to come to her in an outlandish manner… and he does.

1. Othello – Iago tricks Othello into believing that his wife has been unfaithful, so he kills her. Not really a prank, you say? Check out this video.

famous monologues from king lear

There are a lot of good monologues for men from King Lear. To start with, you can find monologues from Lear here, from Edmund here, and Edgar here. The female characters in the play have some great speeches, but nothing I would particularly pull out as a monologue.

shakespeare animation

You may be looking for Shakespeare: The Animated Tales, a series of half-hour condensed animated versions of Shakespeare plays. But I’ve also done a lot of work with students creating animated versions of Macbeth, As You Like It, and The Tempest. And since this is Shakespeare Teacher, I’ll offer some information about how to do it.

When I did these animation projects, the students did the artwork in HyperStudio, they recorded the sound in SoundEffects, and they aligned the two in iMovie. It was frame-by-frame, which is time consuming, but HyperStudio had a card-and-stack interface that made it go much more quickly. That was quite a few years ago, though, and I do mostly video projects now. I don’t know if HyperStudio is even still around, and people use Audacity for sound recordings today. iMovie is still the best game in town if you want to coordinate frame animation.

I know a lot of people who like to use the website Scratch for student animations. The one problem with Scratch is that you can only view the animations from the Scratch website. You cannot download the movie file and post it to YouTube.

I’ve heard, particularly from Shakespeare teachers, a lot of enthusiasm surrounding Kar2ouche. I looked at it once, a long time ago, and I dismissed it because there are a lot of pre-made templates, and I wanted my students to visually interpret the characters themselves. But time being a factor, I would probably recommend it, and I’ve seen some Shakespeare projects that look really sharp. Every so often, someone asks me if I’ve heard of Kar2ouche.

Of course, if your kids are into Second Life, there has been some animated Shakespeare coming from that quarter as well. There is also stop motion photography, which can be done with a digital camera, iMovie, and a lot of patience.

was queen elizabeth illegitimate child shakespeare

I can interpret this in four ways:

1. Was Queen Elizabeth the illegitimate child of Shakespeare?
2. Was Queen Elizabeth’s illegitimate child Shakespeare?
3. Did Queen Elizabeth’s illegitimate child actually write the plays of Shakespeare?
4. Was Queen Elizabeth an illegitimate child according to Shakespeare?

Elizabeth was older than Shakespeare, so #1 is a clear No. I don’t know of any illegitimate children of Elizabeth. This seems to me to be something easier for a king to pull off than a queen. If she had gone through a pregnancy, I doubt she’d have kept the nickname “the Virgin Queen” for very long. So we can answer a No for #2 and #3 as well.

As for whether Elizabeth herself was illegitimate, that’s a fair question. It all depends on how legitimate you consider the annulment of Henry VIII and his first wife. But Shakespeare certainly wouldn’t have painted her as illegitimate. When she was alive, he wrote plays that glorified her ancestors, and long after she died, his play Henry VIII treated her birth as a moment of great hope for the future of England.

So I’m not sure what you’re asking, but the answer is probably No.

I leave the task of responding to the remaining search terms to my readers:


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what inspired shakespeare to write king lear

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Double Googleplex

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

I subscribe to a service called “SiteMeter” which allows me to see a limited amount of information about my visitors. One thing that I can see is if someone finds my site via a Google search, and what they were searching for.

It’s been a while, but every now and then I check in on what searches people have done to find themselves at Shakespeare Teacher, and to respond to those search terms in the name of fun and public service.

In celebration of the fact that I’m moving the Googleplex to Sundays, I’m going to double my usual 6-for-me/6-for-you format and give you 12 of each. Full disclosure: I actually started this post some time ago. All of the following 24 searches did bring people to this site in the same week; it just wasn’t this past week.

Enjoy!

william shakespeare’s teachers

I kept getting hits for this search, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out what people were looking for. Then, I realized that they were searching for this TED lecture on how schools kill creativity, given by Sir Ken Robinson in 2006. It’s almost 20 minutes long, but well worth watching. I should have posted this a long time ago.




freud and arrested development

I think they were looking for the actual psychological phenomenon, and not my analysis of a sitcom. But this post now ranks fourth in this particular Google search. The Internet is a funny place.

if shakespeare were alive today, who in history would he write tragedy about?

Shakespeare’s take on George III would have been well worth the staging. He probably would have also had a go at William III and the Glorious Revolution. We’d probably still be staging the famous Battle of the Boyne scene and debating whether or not Shakespeare was a secret Jacobite.

two monarchs reigned during shakespare lifetime. the bu

The two monarchs were Elizabeth I and James I. I’m not really sure what the rest of your question was going to be.

what do shakespeare’s play show about religion of the time

Shakespeare lived between two periods of severe religious strife. The mid-16th century was marked by radical shifts in English religious life described in greater detail here. After Shakespeare’s death, growing religious tension between Catholics and Protestants would lead to civil war and the execution of King Charles I. Compared to these two periods of violence, Shakespeare’s England was relatively stable religiously, though obviously there was still some unrest.

People have looked to Shakespeare’s plays for clues of where he fell on the question, but there’s no concrete evidence either way. Most of his plays are set either before the Protestant Reformation or in Northern Italy (which was solidly Catholic at the time) so Shakespeare – seemingly by design – didn’t have to deal with the religious issue much. One notable exception is Measure for Measure, which takes place in Vienna. If you would like to read Shakespeare’s scenes depicting a Protestant official debating the death penalty with a Catholic novice, you will find them here and here.

the religion in king lear

King Lear takes place in pre-Christian Britain. The characters make various references to Roman gods such as Jupiter and Apollo.

what inspired shakespeare to write macbeth?

Queen Elizabeth died in 1603, and Shakespeare had spent much of his career writing popular plays about her famous ancestors. When James I ascended the throne, Shakespeare wrote a play about his ancestors to honor the new king.

Note that the bloodthirsty Macbeth is not one of these ancestors. Rather, the noble Duncan, Malcolm, Siward, Banquo, and Fleance are the ancestors of James depicted in the play. Oh yeah, and the first seven of the show of eight kings. See below.

how does the vision of the eight kings make macbeth feel

Not good. Concerned about a prophecy that says that Banquo’s decendants will be kings, Macbeth demands to know whether all that he has done has been for the benefit of another’s line. The witches show him eight kings, and Banquo’s ghost who points to them as his. These eight kings correspond with the eight actual Stuart kings of Scotland. The eighth king is James himself.

shakespeare plays for junior high students

Well, I suppose the conventional answers are Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But I’ve had some success with Othello and Cymbeline which aren’t exactly the first plays that come to mind when I think of the term “age appropriate.” If you can find a way to help students make it their own, the experience will encourage them to appreciate Shakespeare, no matter which play you choose. Go with a selection that you’re passionate about, and maybe your enthusiasm will be infectious. Or, if you’re really daring, describe a few of the plays to the students, and let them choose which one they want to work with.

jack cade henry 6th monologue

Ah, Jack Cade – one of Shakespeare’s most under-recognized comic characters. Propped up as a claimant to the throne, the rough-hewn Cade promises to kill all the lawyers and ban literacy. The famous scene is here and you can find Cade monologues here and here.

does everyone play the queen from cymbeline as purely evil?

She’s pretty clearly evil, and I’ve never seen her played any other way, but that’s as far as I can go. I’m sure someone has played her otherwise. Does anyone have another experience, or an idea of an alternate interpretation?

“nymph fly” tempest

This makes me very curious. Were they looking for my Tempest lipogram? Or did they have another reason to search for this? It seems pretty specific to me. Hmmm.

I leave the task of responding to the remaining search terms to my readers:


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anagrams for morning coffee