Archive for the 'Shakespeare' Category

Sea Change

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

The cruise is now nearing the half-way mark. Because we spent our first full day at sea, I’ve already given three of my four talks on Shakespeare. I’ll post more details about those in a later thread.

I’m having a lot of fun. Everyone has been so nice to me and very appreciative of the talks. Fellow passengers will come over to me and start conversations about Shakespeare, which has been the best part. There has also been other Shakespeare-related entertainment. The cruise had asked me to select four appropriately-themed movies, and their screenings have been additional opportunities to engage with the Shakespeare fans on the ship. For those interested, I chose the following movies:

    Richard III (1995) with Ian McKellen and Annette Bening
    Much Ado about Nothing (1993) with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson
    Macbeth (2015) with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard
    Shakespeare in Love (1998) with Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow

There is also a group of three talented actors who are performing scenes from Shakespeare throughout the ship. These scenes are popular among the passengers, and they make the theme of the cruise more ubiquitous.

And, oh yeah, in addition to all of the Shakespeare stuff, I’m also on a cruise. The lifestyle keeps you quite busy and very well fed. The staff is almost as big as the passenger manifest, and they are highly professional and courteous. This is my first cruise, so the experience is somewhat of a sea change for me.

I also had a chance to visit Oslo, where we stopped for two days. I went to go see the Nobel Peace Museum, which had a thought-provoking exhibit about the targets that are used in the military of different countries around the world. They also have an exhibit showing the various people who have won Nobel Peace Prizes though the years.

Our next stop is Helsingor, the real-life setting of Hamlet, though Shakespeare referred to it by the Anglicized version of the name: Elsinore. I’ll be escorting a shore excursion to provide some Hamlet perspective on the trip. But I’ve never been there myself, so it should be a great trip for me as well. I’ll keep you posted.

To Unpathed Waters, Undreamed Shores

Saturday, April 23rd, 2016

Another April 23 is now upon us. Each year, on this day, we celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, acknowledging occasionally that he also died on this date. But as this year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, focus has shifted to the more morbid milestone. And since it was Shakespeare who taught us, in many ways, what it means to us as humans to face our mortality, it seems only fitting to celebrate his legacy on the anniversary of his death.

Celebrity Cruises is marking the occasion with a ten-day Shakespeare-themed cruise, and they have invited me to serve as the resident expert on all things Shakespearean. I’ll be giving a series of four talks onboard the ship, moderating a round-table discussion, and escorting a shore excursion to Kronberg Castle, the real-life inspiration for Hamlet’s Elsinore.

Naturally, I’m extremely excited about the opportunity. I’m not generally one to seek out opportunities to travel, but the chance to geek out on Shakespeare for ten days with some like-minded fellow passengers will be a unique experience. And so, I am resurrecting the blog, so I have a place to chronicle my journey.

I’m writing this from London, and the cruise will embark this evening from Southampton. We will be visiting Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, ending up in Amsterdam on May 2. I’ll post updates here when I can. For example, here is a picture of me at the British Museum last night.

I’ll post more updates when time allows. Till then, unto Southampton do we shift our scene.

Shakespeare Anagram: Richard III

Saturday, October 31st, 2015

From Richard III:

Since you will buckle fortune on my back,
To bear her burden, whe’r I will or no,
I must have patience to endure the load

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

We’re unrelieved Ryan buckled and “without ambition” will become Speaker of the House.

But not our concern, Hillary.

Shakespeare Anagram: Measure for Measure

Saturday, September 12th, 2015

From Measure for Measure:

Do you your office, or give up your place,
And you shall well be spar’d.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Davis, you loud bully, offer up a license or go. We pay you.

Preach, Lord!

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 Anagram: Troilus and Cressida

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

In honor of Grant Wiggins.

From Troilus and Cressida:

And this neglection of degree it is
That by a pace goes backward, with a purpose
It hath to climb.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Grant Wiggins: if his white book be prescribed, compose authentically, teach, adapt to the data.

The first edition was white.

Shakespeare Anagram: Love’s Labour’s Lost

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Inspired by recent discoveries

From Love’s Labour’s Lost:

The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men; for thus sings he

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Somerset Y-chromosome not even King Richard Three’s.

Cue the funk.

Bow-chicka-wow-wow…

Plantagenetics

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

In which I defend the honor of the Queen…

The DNA reports are in, and the skeleton they found in that Leicester parking lot is now confirmed to be that of King Richard III. Analysis also shows he had blonde hair and blue eyes.

Somewhat overshadowing the exciting news is a discovery that came from the research team’s comparing the old king’s DNA to that of his present-day relatives. It turns out that there is a break somewhere in the male-line continuity of the Y-chromosome, the collection of genes that are only passed from father to son, suggesting a false paternity event somewhere in the timeline.

The news media, with its trademark restraint, has jumped all over this, trumpeting that the already much-maligned Richard has infidelity in his family tree, with some even suggesting that this means that the Queen may not even be the legitimate heir to the throne anymore.

Okay, let’s all take a breath now. Her Majesty’s reign is in no danger here.

I spent a lot of time this past summer with my nose buried in the Plantagenet family tree, and may be able to add a modicum of perspective.

You can read the science team’s original report here, but a brief summary should suffice. Richard III and his distant cousin Henry Somerset, Duke of Beaufort are both direct male-line descendants of King Edward III. The Duke has five male-line descendants alive today who agreed to participate in the study, and four of them share the same Y-chromosome, presumably inherited from Beaufort. The one who doesn’t suggests a false paternity event (or “cuckolding” in the parlance) at some point along the way, but that’s not the infidelity that made the headlines. Richard III’s Y-chromosome also doesn’t match the Duke’s, which means that at least one of them is not actually a male-line descendant of Edward III.

Okay, so that’s pretty saucy news in itself. But it’s an overreach to drag Queen Elizabeth II into this story for several reasons.

First of all, what is the probability that the break in paternity is even in Elizabeth’s line? Here is the family tree for the relevant players (scroll down to the “Geneology of the Y chromosome lineage” graphic). It shows fifteen paternal links between Edward III and Beaufort, and only four between Edward III and Richard III. Assuming only one false paternity (which is all that’s been established here) and that all paternity events are equally likely to be false, the odds are 15:4 in favor of Beaufort being the non-heir rather than Richard. Also, if Richard III’s own parentage is the false one, it doesn’t affect Elizabeth, as she is descended from Richard’s older brother King Edward IV. So the odds of the break even being in Elizabeth’s lineage is 16:3 against or just under 16%.

Still, a 16% chance the Queen is illegitimate would indeed be headline-worthy, but let’s examine this claim more closely. Here it may be helpful to refer to the family tree I put together for Shakespeare’s King Richard III. In the column all the way to the right, close to the center of the column, you can find Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. This is the future King Henry VII. Five slots down, you can find Elizabeth of York.

Henry and Elizabeth will wed, and their offspring will include King Henry VIII and his sister Margaret Tudor. If you look one column to the left, all the way at the bottom, you will see Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester. This is the future King Richard III. From here on, I will use “Richard Plantagenet” to refer to his father, the Duke of York, who is also on the chart.

Queen Elizabeth II is descended from Margaret Tudor, which means that she is a descendant of Richard III’s brother Edward IV. Edward became king as a result of the Wars of the Roses, which were fought between the houses of York and Lancaster. His claim comes from his father, Richard Plantagenet.

Richard Plantagenet does indeed inherit his surname from his paternal lineage through the York line, being the grandson of Edmund of Langley, the First Duke of York. However, Richard Plantagenet stakes his claim to the throne from his mother’s side, as Anne Mortimer is descended from Edmund of Langley’s older brother, Lionel, Duke of Clarence. What’s more, Richard Plantagenet’s wife, Cecily Neville, who is mother to Edward IV and Richard III, is the granddaughter of John of Gaunt, who is also an older brother to Edmund of Langley (though younger than Lionel, Duke of Clarence). Henry VII is also descended from John of Gaunt.

What all of this means is that even if the Y-chromosomal break is in the 16% that would make Richard Plantagenet illegitimate, it would not affect Edward IV’s claim to the throne. It would therefore not affect Margaret Tudor’s legitimacy, nor would it affect the current monarch.

More to the point, it’s been almost one thousand years since William the Conqueror defeated the Anglo-Saxons in the Battle of Hastings, beginning the dynasty of which Queen Elizabeth II is the current representative. What else don’t we know? It seems very unlikely that, were a complete set of the genetic data magically available to us, Elizabeth would emerge as the clear genealogical winner. Not only do we have a millennium of regal shenanigans to wrangle with, but there is also the human element to consider. A lot of the lineage disputes from the past have been settled by people’s decisions and actions: who had political power, who was a bastard, who won a war, who was the right or wrong religion, etc. The question of whether women could inherit the crown changed the equation at several crucial junctures, so applying a single standard throughout English history would certainly change the outcome.

The bottom line is that we basically don’t know anything about anything, and we certainly don’t know much more today than we did yesterday. Queen Elizabeth shouldn’t start packing her bags based on this new revelation.

UPDATE: In the post, I claim the odds of the false paternity event being in the Queen’s lineage is 16:3 against. However, she is also descended from two other candidates: John of Gaunt and his son John Beaufort, the Earl of Somerset. So the odds of the break being in her ancestry would actually be 14:5 against. But she doesn’t derive her claim to the throne through this line either, so the rest of the argument still stands. See the comments for a clearer explanation.

Shakespeare Anagram: Julius Caesar

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

From Julius Caesar:

And why should Caesar be a tyrant then?
Poor man! I know he would not be a wolf,
But that he sees the Romans are but sheep:
He were no lion, were not Romans hinds.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

Hot-headed Republicans, who re-won the Senate, loathe any intolerable snub from the enemy.

An unrepentant Obama shows the order, risks a shutdown.

Oh, wow.

Shakespeare Anagram: Henry V

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

From Henry V:

I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

So, the GOP usurpers toss a mutiny, regain thin Senate lead.

Okay, fine. Let’s do this thing.