Archive for the 'Special Feature' Category

Family Trees for Shakespeare’s Histories

Friday, September 19th, 2014

My monthly Shakespeare reading group is gearing up to do the history plays. For the next eight months, starting this Sunday, we’re going to be working our way through the two tetralogies.

Shakespeare, working in the late sixteenth century, was writing about his own country’s history spanning most of the fifteenth century. He could assume his audience was familiar with the stories and the characters to some degree. Our perspective, over four hundred years later and in another country, does not provide the same level of context.

Imagine we were watching a play about the American Civil War and characters made various passing references to “the president,” “Lincoln,” and “Honest Abe.” We would understand these are all the same person, no explanation needed. But someone unfamiliar with our history might get confused. In Shakespeare’s histories, characters refer to each other by last name, nickname, and title interchangeably, and their iconic status in English memory requires very little exposition. When we do actually get a first name, it’s usually one of the same six or seven names recycled endlessly throughout the generations, relying again on context for specificity.

Thus, in order to facilitate the readings, I have created a family tree for the Plantagenets that spans all eight plays. For each play, I have put together a version of the tree that shows the current state of the family as the action begins. It shows who’s living, who’s dead, who’s related to whom, who is actually in the play, and what names might be used to reference them. What’s more, it all fits on one page, so it makes a convenient handout for a reading.

It was quite a project, but now that I’m finished, it’s my pleasure to share the results with the Shakespeare Teacher community:

Whether these charts end up providing more clarity or only more confusion will remain to be seen. I’ll be field testing them with my group and may find a need to do a rewrite in eight months time. If anyone out there sees anything seriously wrong or just has a helpful suggestion, please leave a note in the comments so I can address it in the next round of revisions.

A few notes may be helpful. A shaded box means that the character is dead before the play begins. A bold-faced box means that the character appears in the current play. Each space represents the same character across all eight plays, but there are two characters (Anne Mortimer and Isabella Neville) that are duplicated on the chart because they married across family lines. These are represented by circled numbers.

For the most part, Shakespeare sticks with history as far as the genealogy and chronology are concerned, but where he breaks with history, I generally went with Shakespeare’s version. I did this because the purpose of the chart was to make the readings easier. So if Shakespeare, for example, refers to a character by a title he technically didn’t have yet, I used that title on my chart.

One major exception to this is the case of Edmund Mortimer. Historically, there were two different men named Edmund Mortimer in this story: Sir Edmund Mortimer, and his nephew Edmund, Earl of March. An Edmund Mortimer appears in Henry IV, Part One and an Edmund Mortimer appears in Henry VI, Part One. It appears that Shakespeare has conflated the two men into a single character, as he ascribes to the character biographical details from both men in both plays. I went with the more historically appropriate choice to put Sir Edmund in 1H4 and the Earl of March in 1H6, but you should know that when using these charts with those plays.

A lot of the information in these charts were taken from the plays themselves. But the charts also include a lot of historical information, and for that, I used other sources. I took advantage of the excellent genealogical tables in The Riverside Shakespeare (G. Blakemore Evans, ed.) as well as the Arden editions of Henry V (T.W. Craik, ed.) and Henry VI, Part Three (John D. Cox and Eric Rasmussen, eds.). I found The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare’s History Plays (Michael Hattaway, ed.) very helpful. I also consulted the official website of the British Monarchy, as well as other online sources as needed.

Enjoy!

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 Anagram: Sonnet CXVI

Saturday, July 28th, 2012

Sonnet CXVI:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

The hero’s vivid verse betokens what
Revision moods for marriage norms befall.
Rethinking home life won’t disturb ours, but
Denying some their rights makes shames for all.
Religious voters revved up, think again.
Deem this opinion, not like proven fact.
We minimise Him at evoking men
To harbor hidden love and not to act.
To honor same-sex lovebirds who invest
In that we vehemently do erect,
To think that love should not be too suppressed;
It tends to kick in where we least suspect.
For while the Bard was wed to Mrs. Anne,
He wrote this sonnet for another man.

Conundrum: The Big Picture II

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

In a normal “Pic Tac Toe” puzzle, there are nine pictures in a 3×3 grid, like Tic-Tac-Toe. In each of the three rows, three columns, and two diagonals, there is a common theme that unites the three pictures. The challenge is to find the eight themes.

In a “3D Pic Tac Toe” puzzle, there are 27 pictures in a 3×3×3 grid, like a Rubik’s Cube. In each of the nine rows, nine columns, nine pillars, eighteen lateral diagonals, and four cross-cube diagonals, there is a common theme that unites the three pictures. The challenge is to find the 49 themes.

A “Big Picture” puzzle is just like a “3D Pic Tac Toe” puzzle, except that each of the 49 themes will be a movie. Each of the three images in that theme will picture at least one actor who was in that movie.

Imagine stacking the three levels below on top of one another. For reference, and notation guidelines, check out my last Big Picture puzzle, including the comments. The rules here are identical to that puzzle.

Looking at that puzzle will also help identify the actors in Image B5; tragically underused in that puzzle, it now plays a more central role. Although many of the same actors appear in both puzzles, none of the 49 movies in the solution to this puzzle is the same as any of the 49 movies in the previous puzzle’s solution.

In Image B3, you will use the actors who voiced the animated characters shown, but none of the movies in the solution is animated, a documentary, or Robert Altman’s The Player.

You can click on each image to see a larger version:

Top Level – Level A



Middle Level – Level B



Bottom Level – Level C



Please post whatever you come up with in the comments section.

Enjoy!

UPDATE: See comments for correct themes provided by Lee (12) and Neel Mehta (20). The following 17 themes remain unsolved:

Rows

B1-B2-B3

Columns

A1-A4-A7
B1-B4-B7
B3-B6-B9

Pillars

A3-B3-C3
A4-B4-C4
A7-B7-C7

Lateral Diagonals

B3-B5-B7
A1-B2-C3
A3-B2-C1
A6-B5-C4
A7-B8-C9
A9-B8-C7
A1-B4-C7
A2-B5-C8
A8-B5-C2
A3-B6-C9

Conundrum: The Big Picture

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

This is a new 3D Pic Tac Toe puzzle. If you are unfamiliar with the format, you can check out my last 3D Pic Tac Toe for guidelines.

In this particular 3D Pic Tac Toe, each of the forty-nine themes will be a movie. Each of the three images in that theme will picture at least one actor who was in that movie.

In Image B1, you will use the actors who voiced the animated characters shown, but none of the forty-nine movies in the solution is animated, a documentary, or Robert Altman’s The Player. A few of the movies have not yet been released.

You can click on each image to see a larger version:

Top Level – Level A



Middle Level – Level B



Bottom Level – Level C



Please post whatever you come up with in the comments section.

Enjoy!

UPDATE: Correct themes provided by Neel Mehta (36), Evan (10), Ken (1), and Rodney G (2). Alternate theme suggested by Evan. See comments for discussion, or click here to skip right to the answers.

Conundrum: Pic Tac Toe in 3D, Part V

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Has it really been almost a year since we’ve had a 3D Pic Tac Toe?

In a normal “Pic Tac Toe” puzzle, there are nine pictures in a 3×3 grid, like Tic-Tac-Toe. In each of the three rows, three columns, and two diagonals, there is a common theme that unites the three pictures. The challenge is to find the eight themes.

In this “Pic Tac Toe” puzzle, however, there are twenty-seven pictures in a 3×3x3 grid, like a Rubik’s Cube. In each of the nine rows, nine columns, nine pillars, eighteen lateral diagonals, and four cross-cube diagonals, there is a common theme that unites the three pictures. The challenge is to find the forty-nine themes.

Imagine stacking the three levels below on top of one another. For reference, and notation guidelines, check out my last 3D Pic Tac Toe, including the comments. The rules here are identical to that puzzle.

You can click on each image to see a larger version:

Top Level – Level A



Middle Level – Level B



Bottom Level – Level C



Please post whatever you come up with in the comments section.

Enjoy!

UPDATE: Correct themes provided by Neel Mehta (37), ArtVark (4), and Billie (8). Alternate themes suggested by Billie (2), Neel Mehta (3), and Annalisa (1). See comments for all answers.

Who Wants to Be a Shakespeare Teacher?

Monday, February 9th, 2009

You may have noticed that posting has been light lately. Now, I’m going to need to step away from the blog for about a month. I would like to call upon my readers to help keep the ball in the air until I return.

I used to read a magazine called Games, which had a regular feature called “Your Move” that featured puzzles submitted by readers. Building on that idea, I now turn this blog over to you.

Every five days, I will post a challenge or prompt related to one of my regular features. (Actually, I’ve already written them and they are scheduled to appear every five days. Even this post was written days ago.) I’ll post a Shakespeare passage; you make the anagram. I’ll post the answer; you write the riddle. And so on.

I will return on March 11 and will select the best entry for each challenge. As always, winner gets a name check in the post.

I may stop in from time to time to make comments and/or delete spam, but the next live post will likely be on or after March 11.

Today being Monday, I’d like to begin with the Question of the Week. There’s no challenge here, but I’d like to invite you to peruse past questions and revive an interesting discussion that has petered out. You can also keep an eye on the comments, either in the right-hand side bar or the RSS feed, and join in a conversation revived by someone else.

It’s your move. Have a good month!

Shakespeare Anagram: Hamlet

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

Ironically, the title character in what many consider to be Shakespeare’s central dramatic work is most famous for his long speeches. One speech in particular stands out as almost interchangeable with Shakespeare and perhaps even the theatre as a whole. The soliloquy manages to sum up, in just thirteen letters, the fundamental question of existence itself. Once we agree to tackle that question, then the rest of the speeches, well, they may as well just be anagrams of the big one…

From Hamlet:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life…

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

O! that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew;
Or that the Everlasting had not set
His precept ‘gainst self-slaughter! Rebuke! Rebuke!
How weary, foul, puffed, and abominable
Seem to me the questions of this place.
Fie on ‘t! O fie! ’tis a once heeded garden,
That’s left to pot; the rank and weed in nature
Possess it merely. But he should come to this!
Not four months dead: nay, half as much, but two:
As superior a man; so as, to this step,
Hyperion to a satyr; so caring to my mother
Permit he not beteem the beams of stars
Access her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!

You can compare it to the original speech here (starting at line 133).

Shift around the letters again, and it becomes:

I have of late, – but wherefore do not seek, – lost all my cheer, ashamed that the oddest mood upsets me so seethingly that our lush frame, at the earth, soon seems to me a detested sterile promontory; this aesthetic roof toasted by stoked mythical golden fire truthfully appears to me therefore as such a both foul and pestilent congregation of bath vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! in theme, how impressive and truthful! in action as an angel! and apprehension as a god! the beauty of the world! the crest of beasts! But, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

You can compare it to the original speech here (around line 250).

Shift around the letters again, and it becomes:

O! what a rogue and peasant slave am I:
Is’t not monstrous that this player here,
Could force his soul so to the best esteem
That from her working feebled all his looks,
Have tears in eyes, add a tempest of bombasts,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to top esteem? and all for nothing!
Frets Hecuba to him for he to tear
That he so pretty sobs? What would he do
Had he not the uttermost cue for passion
As by me? He could drown the stage in tears,
Atone the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the temperate, and to quite impress
The seemly faculties of eyes and ears.

You can compare it to the original speech here (starting at line 382).

Shift around the letters again, and it becomes:

How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! What’s a man,
If his chief hope and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a helpless beast, thou.
Sure he that made us with much large esteem,
He looked from before to after, gave unto us not
That potential and smoothest reason
To fust in us effetely. Whe’r it be
Bestial petty sloth, or some softer scruple
To foresee too precisely on a theme,
A knot, which, quarter’d, hath but one part hero,
And also three parts coward, I see not
Why yet I be to say ‘This thing’s to do;’
Sith I have cause and lots of strength and means
To do ‘t.

You can compare it to the original speech here (starting at line 37).

Shift around the letters again, and it becomes:

Alas! poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of endless mirth, of most splendid fancy; he hath paraded me on his shoulders a thousand separate times; and now too detested in the greatest depths of my imagination it is! Here hung those lips that I have oft kissed. When be you at fatuous gibes? at gambols? at accents? at those deftest flashes of espoused merriment, that were wont to burst the tables on a roar? But not one to be sped now, to renounce reverence? quite chapfallen? Foot you to my lady’s chamber, tell her, let her protest, of this favour she must come; see her laugh at that.

You can compare it to the original speech here (starting at line 80).

Conundrum: Pic Tac Toe in 3D, Part IV

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

We haven’t had one of these in a while…

In a normal “Pic Tac Toe” puzzle, there are nine pictures in a 3×3 grid, like Tic-Tac-Toe. In each of the three rows, three columns, and two diagonals, there is a common theme that unites the three pictures. The challenge is to find the eight themes.

In this “Pic Tac Toe” puzzle, however, there are twenty-seven pictures in a 3×3x3 grid, like a Rubik’s Cube. In each of the nine rows, nine columns, nine pillars, eighteen lateral diagonals, and four cross-cube diagonals, there is a common theme that unites the three pictures. The challenge is to find the forty-nine themes.

Imagine stacking the three levels below on top of one another. For reference, and notation guidelines, check out my last 3D Pic Tac Toe, including the comments. The rules here are identical to that puzzle.

You can click on each image to see a larger version:

Top Level – Level A



Middle Level – Level B



Bottom Level – Level C



Please post whatever you come up with in the comments section.

Enjoy!

UPDATE: Correct themes provided by Benjamin Baxter (3), Billie (24), and Neel Mehta (16). Alternate themes suggested by Benjamin Baxter (1), Billie (2), and Neel Mehta (5). See comments for discussion, or click here to skip right to the answers.

Conundrum: Pic Tac Toe in 3D, Part III

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

In a normal “Pic Tac Toe” puzzle, there are nine pictures in a 3×3 grid, like Tic-Tac-Toe. In each of the three rows, three columns, and two diagonals, there is a common theme that unites the three pictures. The challenge is to find the eight themes.

In this “Pic Tac Toe” puzzle, however, there are twenty-seven pictures in a 3×3x3 grid, like a Rubik’s Cube. In each of the nine rows, nine columns, nine pillars, eighteen lateral diagonals, and four cross-cube diagonals, there is a common theme that unites the three pictures. The challenge is to find the forty-nine themes.

Imagine stacking the three levels below on top of one another. For reference, and notation guidelines, check out my last 3D Pic Tac Toe, including the comments. The rules here are identical to that puzzle.

You can click on each image to see a larger version:

Top Level – Level A



Middle Level – Level B



Bottom Level – Level C



Please post whatever you come up with in the comments section.

Enjoy!

UPDATE: Correct themes provided by Neel Mehta (35) and Billie (7). Alternate themes suggested by Neel Mehta (2), Econgator (1), and Billie (2). See comments for discussion, or click here to skip right to the answers.