Archive for the 'The Tudors' 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!

Theatre: Richard III at the Belasco

Sunday, December 1st, 2013

In a NYC Shakespeare season filled with a Macbeth here and a Midsummer there, with two productions of Romeo and Juliet running and another two Kings Lear on the horizon, it would be hard for a single production to stand out as the fairest of them all. Nevertheless, I was looking forward to seeing Mark Rylance play Richard III in the currently running production at the Belasco Theatre with a higher degree of anticipation than any of the others. Richard III is my favorite play, and I love Rylance as an actor. I first saw him about 20 years ago playing Henry V in New York and then Benedick in London shortly after. He and I may not agree on who wrote these words, but I’m always glad to hear him speak them.

My anticipation had some extra time to build, as the actors do their pre-show preparations in full view of the audience. Some audience members were seated on the stage, which evoked the feeling of the Globe. The actors changed into costumes from Shakespeare’s time (not Richard’s) and the musical entertainment seemed Elizabethan as well. So when the show began, and Richard’s opening monologue was given in a presentational style, it seemed to fit with the concept they were going for.

Once Rylance began his winter-of-our-discontenting, I was hit by a sense of deja vu, before realizing that I had seen Rylance give this speech before. He delivers the same monologue playing Burbage in Anonymous. But this was a very different delivery than the one he gave in the film. Here, Rylance delivers Richard’s speech in broadly comical tones and with full interaction of the audience. When we laughed at his lines, he’d stop and laugh along with us, appreciative that we found the humor. He chummed it up with the audience members in the on-stage rows. And he was having so much fun, that we almost forgot that he was about to set up his brother to be murdered.

Can you play Richard III as a comedy? Sure. Many of Richard’s antics, as written, are way over the top, and his chutzpah in several scenes is absolutely breathtaking. I think you have to laugh at some of the more outrageous moments. And the choice allowed Rylance to truly revel in the most delicious moments of Richard’s glory, which provides some of the fun of the play. Richard becomes a Puck figure, that trickster devil who tempts mortals to their doom for his own increase. The play does work on that level, and elements of it can be found in any production.

The problem is that if you only play it as a broad presentational comedy, then it becomes a different play, potentially a good play, but one vastly inferior to the one that Shakespeare wrote. Rylance plays a very jocular casual-sounding Richard, and it doesn’t work. It’s not like the natural-sounding language of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado, but rather a presentation of the play as a shared joke with the audience. So, Richard isn’t Richard, but an actor playing a role. In the beginning, he knows the plots he’s laid are going to work – it’s in the script – so he barely needs to put any effort into getting there. And so, the inductions are not so dangerous. Later in the play, when he knows he’s going to lose, the presentation of the lines is more serious, but the outcome is just as sure and there still are no stakes. We end up watching a pageant, and not a play. It is merely a shadow puppet production of Richard.

And this matters, because the fact that Shakespeare’s Richard finds his own cutthroat machinations so funny is part of the evil of his character. And when I watch a good production of this play, I have the experience of a charismatic villain seducing me with his charm by making me feel like I’m on the inside of a momentous historical moment. Shakespeare makes me root for the bad guy. Who do I get to root for in this production? An actor playing a role, mugging for the audience, and not really seeming to care about how the plot progresses? I end up rooting for intermission.

So we get a stammering, mumbling Richard, with his back to the audience half the time, throwing his lines away and uttering his best asides under his breath. Actors meander about the stage with no sense of purpose, and Richard himself seems like he’s barely paying attention.

It was an all-male cast, which put the actors playing women in a very tight spot. If they played up the humor too much, it would play as a drag show, but if they played their parts too seriously, they’d be mismatched with the lead. Instead, they all ended up playing a kind of introspective sadness that plays as feminine without being too Monty Python.

It was disappointing that so much effort went into the costumes, music, set, and marketing for the show, and so little attention was paid to the direction. But Tim Carroll’s flat production felt more like an amateur reading group or high school production than Shakespeare on Broadway. Put simply, the play was not well articulated, and that’s the worst thing I can say about a production.

On the positive side, the lines played for comedy were actually funny. Kurt Egyiawan was a standout doubling as the Duchess of York and Richmond. I liked the final fight concept, and the dance at the end. And I always enjoy hearing Shakespeare’s words spoken out loud. But none of these are enough for me to recommend this show to you.

The same company is concurrently performing Twelfth Night, and I actually have much higher hopes for that production. Rylance will be playing Olivia. Stephen Fry, grievously underused in this production as an audience member sitting five rows ahead of me, will be playing Malvolio. Some of the elements that didn’t work for me in this production may be better suited to that play. In fact, I kind of got the sense that it was Twelfth Night where all of the attention was focused, and Richard III was merely slapped together as an afterthought.

May I live in hope? Watch this space.

How Real is Richard?

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

It’s been exciting to see Shakespeare so much in the news lately. The confirmation of the discovery King Richard the Third’s skeleton last week has thrust our beloved Bard back into the international spotlight. But just how relevant is Shakespeare to this discovery? How closely related is Shakespeare’s classic villain to the original owner of the bones found under the Leicester parking lot?

Shakespeare wrote that which we call History plays, but these are plays and not histories. Shakespeare often wrote about “real” people and events, but he always put his unique take on it. He could change any details that he wanted. Did you know that the real Hotspur was 23 years older than Prince Hal, even though the two men were portrayed as contemporaries in Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV? That Rutland, killed as a small child in Shakespeare’s 3 Henry VI, was actually older than his brothers George and Richard? That there were two different men named Edmund Mortimer, conflated into a single character by Shakespeare? And obviously, no matter how historical his characters, we all understand that he certainly was willing to put words in their mouths.

None of this matters, of course. Saying that Shakespeare got it wrong misses the point entirely. Shakespeare’s intent was to create entertaining theatrical plays. And Richard III is one of the most enduring and popular works of art ever to spring from the human imagination. So, yeah, I’d say Shakespeare actually got it right, wouldn’t you? An archeological discovery can tell us about history, and this is a particularly exciting discovery at that, but it sheds no new light on Shakespeare’s work. We already knew that Shakespeare based his work on Tudor historians, and that he shared their bias towards the Tudor view of history.

So when we ask whether characters from Shakespeare are “real” or not, it may not be such a binary question. I would prefer instead to think of it as a spectrum. More specifically, I have created a seven-point scale to compare how real the characters from Shakespeare actually are.

Enjoy!

* * *

Level Seven
Historical Characters Doing Historical Things
Examples: Henry VIII, Henry V

Even at the highest level of Shakespeare’s reality-based characters, there is still a lot of spin-doctoring going on. Shakespeare doesn’t just write about his country’s greatest heroes without a little glorification. But the stories Shakespeare tells about characters at Level Seven are fairly consistent with their historical accounts. Shakespeare himself must have been at least somewhat impressed with his own account of the life of Henry VIII when he originally gave his play the title All is True.

* * *

Level Six
Historical Characters Doing Speculative Historical Things
Examples: Julius Caesar, Cleopatra

I wanted to make a distinction between historical figures that Shakespeare wrote about from relatively recent time periods, and those from antiquity. There are numerous historical accounts of the lives of the ancient Greek and Roman leaders, so Shakespeare was actually writing from sources, but there is only so much faith that we can put in them. The primary difference between Level Six and Level Seven is the amount of time that has passed since the historical figures lived.

* * *

Level Five
Historical Characters Doing Highly-Speculative Politically-Convenient Historical Things
Examples: Richard III, Joan La Pucelle

Here we can put the characters that Shakespeare had a political reason to vilify. We see a version of history, but it’s a version that’s unapologetically slanted in the direction that Shakespeare’s audiences or benefactors would have appreciated most. Shakespeare is still writing mostly from sources, but the sources may themselves be politically biased, or Shakespeare just felt free to add his own spin to events as he wanted to portray them. The character of Richard III can go here.

* * *

Level Four
Historical Characters Doing Non-Historical Things
Examples: John Gower, Macbeth

There really was a historical Macbeth, but it’s doubtful he did many of the things attributed to him by either Shakespeare or history. Sure, Shakespeare was writing from a historical source, and had political reasons to vilify Macbeth, but the story is so far divorced from reality that we really need a new category to describe it. Level Four is for a character who really lived, but isn’t necessarily portrayed doing the things the original historical figure would actually have done.

* * *

Level Three
Legendary Characters Doing Legendary Things
Examples: Agamemnon, King Lear

Did any of these people really exist? And if they did, are the stories about them true? Probably not. But the stories were passed down from generation to generation, either in oral traditions or written texts, as though they were true. We can’t prove that there wasn’t some actual human being in the dark backward and abysm of time that inspired the legend. Level Three quantifies the precise amount of benefit-of-the-doubt I’m willing to give to that possibility.

* * *

Level Two
Characters Doing Fictional Things Who Couldn’t Possibly be Based on Real People (*snicker*)
Examples: Falstaff, Polonius

These are fictional characters, but audiences at the time would have understood the public figures they were based on. Maybe. If Polonius was based on William Cecil, Lord Burghley, then he could be placed one step above a completely fictional character. This is Level Two. Shakespeare expressly denied that Falstaff was meant to be John Oldcastle to satisfy one of Oldcastle’s noble descendants. But what was Shakespeare’s original name for the character Falstaff? It was John Oldcastle.

* * *

Level One
Fictional Characters Doing Fictional Things
Examples: Puck, Shylock

These are purely fictional characters, invented by Shakespeare or his literary sources. They are not real people. They are not based on real people. We will not be finding their bones under any parking lots. We are not worried about pleasing their descendants. If Shakespeare had simply confined himself to his own considerable imagination, we would still have an impressive panoply of Shakespearean characters to entertain us. But the conversations and controversies surrounding his plays would not be nearly as interesting.

Shakespeare Song Parody: I’m Henry VIII, I Am

Friday, January 18th, 2013

This is a bit of a departure from the series format, but I hope you’ll enjoy it.

I’m Henry VIII, I Am
sung to the tune of “I’m Henry the Eighth, I Am”

(With apologies to Herman’s Hermits and anyone who gets this stuck in their heads all day…)

I’m Henry VIII, I am.
Henry VIII I am, I am.
I got married to a princess from Spain,
To give me an heir to extend my reign.
But she couldn’t give a son to Henry (Henry!).
She only put a daughter in the pram (The Pram!).
Not good enough for Henry…
Henry VIII I am!

Second verse, same as the first!

I’m Henry VIII, I am.
Henry VIII I am, I am.
I got married to my first wife’s maid;
We fell in love at the masquerade.
But when she gave a daughter to Henry (Henry!),
I realized that our marriage was a sham (A Sham!).
It’s unwise to disappoint Henry…
Henry VIII I am!

Third verse, same as the first!

I’m Henry VIII, I am.
Henry VIII I am, I am.
I got married to a woman named Jane;
I’d gotten quite used to the ball and chain.
But she didn’t stay long for Henry (Henry!).
Childbirth had left her in a jam (A Jam!).
At least she left a son for Henry…
Henry VIII I am!

Fourth verse, same as the first!

I’m Henry VIII, I am.
Henry VIII I am, I am.
I got married to a Duchess named Anne;
A treaty with our marriage was the master plan.
But she was a shock to Henry (Henry!).
That portrait done by Holbein was a scam (A Scam!).
This is no wife for Henry…
Henry VIII I am!

Fifth verse, same as the first!

I’m Henry VIII, I am.
Henry VIII I am, I am.
I took a blooming rose to be my bride,
She was a bit on the younger side.
But she went back to her boyfriend before Henry (Henry!),
And neither of their lives were worth a damn (A Damn!).
You don’t run around on Henry…
Henry VIII I am!

Sixth verse, same as the first!

I’m Henry VIII, I am.
Henry VIII I am, I am.
I got married to the widow next door;
Together we’d been married seven times before.
But she was a good wife to Henry (Henry!),
Doing all the things a good wife does (Wife Does!).
She even outlived Henry…
Henry VIII I was!

Henry VIII I was, I was;
Henry VIII I was!

Film: Anonymous

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

I went to see Anonymous, the new Roland Emmerich film questioning the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, with cautious anticipation. What I was not expecting was to be thoroughly entertained by a period-piece thriller fantasy, but I was! I loved this movie, and can’t wait to go see it again. Seriously.

Let’s set aside the question of whether or not the film is accurate. The film is wildly inaccurate. The notion that Shakespeare didn’t write the plays is not even the most egregious speculation offered by John Orloff’s cheeky screenplay. If anyone wants to stand outside the theatre and argue that, yes, this is all true, they should be treated about as seriously as someone making that claim about Star Wars or Waiting for Superman. But inside the theatre, we have license to suspend our disbelief. Call it historical fiction, alternate timeline, sci-fi fantasy, or whatever helps the medicine go down, but don’t miss Anonymous for political reasons.

The film is based on the premise that the plays we know as William Shakespeare’s were actually written by Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford. Unable to claim the plays as his own in a treacherous climate, he asks established playwright Ben Jonson to put his name on them. Jonson wants to keep his voice distinct from the nobleman’s, so an illiterate actor, one William Shakespeare, steps forward and claims the glory. Political maneuverings surrounding the question of who will succeed the aging Queen Elizabeth I create tension for Oxford, who finds that he can speak directly to the people through the voice of his celebrated front man. You see? It all makes perfect sense.

The visual depiction of Elizabethan London is stunning and believable. Rhys Ifans and Sebastian Armesto give outstanding performances as Oxford and Jonson. Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson (her daughter) together create a powerful mutli-dimensional Elizabeth. If you can stomach the depiction of our beloved William Shakespeare as an opportunistic buffoon, he is played to comic perfection by Rafe Spall. But if it does bother you, please remember that Shakespeare himself is largely responsible for our present day image of King Richard III as a deformed child-murderer. Payback’s a bitch, Billy-Boy.

But his own depiction aside, I think Shakespeare is honored by this film. A running theme throughout the movie is that these simple words have the power to delight and to inspire, to incite riots and to seduce monarchs. Will some people come away with the idea that Shakespeare was a fraud? Maybe. But for every audience member who gets that impression, there will be another ten who are moved to find out more about these plays and poems. We get to hear quite a bit of the original language spoken by the magnificent Mark Rylance as Richard Burbage, and the see the power it wields. That’s the transcendent truth that rises above all of the fabrications. And that, ultimately, is what we take away from Anonymous.

Just Kidding

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Feedback on my recent post about The Rules has led to a concern that my humor is too subtle and not everyone might get that it is a joke. As this regularly happens to me in real life, I thought it might be a good idea to sprinkle a few drops of water on my dusty-dry sense of humor, and clear up a few items on the blog that were always meant to be taken with a grain of salt.

ONE. The Rules were a satire that applies equally to members of both sides of the political spectrum, including me at times. You should definitely vote.

TWO. To the best of my knowledge, Rick Astley never performed in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. That was a Rickroll setup. Sorry. But there really is a “never give her o’er” speech.

THREE. The rap song “Mary, Mary” by Run DMC is not really about Queen Mary I of England. The song was actually written by Michael Nesmith of The Monkees. No, seriously.

FOUR. King Henry VIII never really used online file-sharing services. Someone really did search for that, though.

FIVE. President Bush did not really let the door hit him on the ass on his way out of the presidency. That’s just an expression.

SIX. Shakespeare did not really use PowerPoint. If he had, he would have probably created the best presentations ever, and today’s scholars would be debating whether or not he had really created them.

SEVEN. I was never really serious about the feud.

EIGHT. I am not really a mixer, a battery, or any of the other riddle answers. I am forty, though.

NINE. Waiting for Superman is not really my favorite of the Superman movies. I like the one with Richard Pryor better.

TEN. I don’t really think my readers need a list of examples of when I was joking. I just thought it would be funny.

Googleplex – 2/14/10

Sunday, February 14th, 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.

was erikson influenced by shakespeare

That’s a great question. I think it’s fair to say the idea that human beings develop in distinct stages was pioneered by Sigmund Freud in the 20th century, when he outlined his psycho-sexual stages of development in childhood. Erik Erikson, a developmental psychologist strongly influenced by Freud, described his own set of psycho-social stages, which carried through to adulthood.

Groundbreaking as these ideas were, they were to some degree anticipated by Shakespeare in his Seven Ages of Man speech from As You Like It. In the speech, Shakespeare describes seven developmental stages that carry through from childhood to adulthood, and the common characteristics that men display at each stage. Freud and Erikson would later codify this scientifically, but the Bard was able to figure it out just by observing the human condition. Point: Humanities!

It’s worth noting that both Freud and Erikson wrote about Shakespeare, and Hamlet in particular, to describe their theories. In a 1962 article entitled “Youth: Fidelity and Diversity,” Erikson actually references Shakespeare’s “ages of man” before spending about four pages examining fidelity and identity in Hamlet. So it would seem that the answer to the question is, yes, Erikson was influenced by Shakespeare to some degree, as was Freud. But influence often tends to be reflective, and the developmental psychologists certainly left their mark on Shakespeare as well.

poetic elements in song mosh by eminem

I touched on this a bit about a month ago. I used to use “Mosh” to teach poetic devices, and I’m having trouble finding a more contemporary replacement. I’ll just give a sampling of each of the poetic devices I mentioned in that post. I tend to use only the middle stanza and the chorus, which I make into a handout. I also distribute the Prologue for Romeo and Juliet as a handout, so we can compare the two.

Repetition: “We gonna fight, we gonna charge, we gonna stomp, we gonna march”; “All you can see is a sea of people”; “If it rains let it rain”; “Rebel with a rebel yell”

Rhyme: Not only is there end rhyme, but there is internal rhyme as well. “They tell us no we say yea, they tell us stop we say go/ Rebel with a rebel yell, raise hell we gonna let em know”; “yea the wetter the better”; “that we need to proceed”

Rhythm: “Mosh” is written in anapestic tetrameter, which I always point out is the same meter as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”… and other popular poems as well. The Prologue for Romeo and Juliet, of course, is in iambic pentameter.

Alliteration: Note that in “we gonna mosh through the marsh” the words “mosh” and “marsh” start and end with the same sounds. Compare with “doth with their death” in the Prologue for Romeo and Juliet.

Antithesis: “They tell us no we say yea, they tell us stop we say go”; “from the front to the back”; “some white and some black”

Allusion: There’s a reference to George W. Bush in the passage.

Emendation: This is where I edited the reference to George W. Bush. I usually change it to “Stomp, push, shove, mush, [mock] Bush” even using the brackets like a Shakespeare editor.

president bush reads shakespeare

In a 2006 interview with Brian Williams, President Bush claimed to have recently read “three Shakespeares” in addition to curling up with some Camus:

WILLIAMS: We always talk about what you’re reading. As you know, there was a report that you just read the works of a French philosopher. (Bush laughs)

BUSH: The Stranger.

WILLIAMS: Tell us the back story of Camus.

BUSH: The back story of the the book?

WILLIAMS: What led you to…

BUSH: I was in Crawford and I said I was looking for a book to read and Laura said you oughtta try Camus, I also read three Shakespeare’s.

WILLIAMS: This is a change…

BUSH: Not really. Wait a minute.

WILLIAMS: A few months ago you were reading the life story of Joe DiMaggio by Richard Ben Cramer.

BUSH: Which was a good book.

WILLIAMS: You’ve been on a Teddy Roosevelt reading kick.

BUSH: Well, I’m reading about the battle of New Orleans right now. I’ve got an eclectic reading list.

Williams didn’t ask him what “Shakespeares” he read, but I have my guess at one of them, as well as a selection I wish he’d read.

somewhere in the number pi is shakespeare

The constant pi is nature’s random digit generator, stretching out infinitely long and with no predictable pattern. This means that any finite string of numbers can be found somewhere out in the vast expanse of digits.

So if we were to express the Complete Works of Shakespeare in, say, ASCII code, it would indeed be represented as a very long, but certainly finite, string of digits. This string of digits is represented somewhere in pi, not once, but an infinite number of times. What’s more, the very first time it appears would be a finite distance in. Which means, there is some number X where you could say that if you start X digits into pi, you can read the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

Before you get too excited by that, you should realize that X is so unfathomably large that it would most likely be beyond human comprehension to even find a way to express it, let alone come anywhere near identifying it. You may think of the monkeys-at-typewriters thought experiment (and for our purposes, we can consider both the digits of pi and monkeys typing to be generating random characters). Even using theoretical monkeys, the number of simian typists needed would be beyond astronomical.

But, yes, the Complete Works of Shakespeare are somewhere in pi with a probability of 1. If the thought of that makes you smile, I’ve done my job.

what was king henry four’s last name

Henry IV was often referred to as Henry Bolingbroke, but actually, his last name was Plantagenet.

In fact, all of the English kings from Henry II to Richard III carried the surname Plantagenet. This means that throughout the entire Wars of the Roses, the Yorks and Lancasters all had the same last name, which is found throughout the history plays. This is because both sides were led by male-line descendants of Edward III. There is a reference to this in Richard III, as Richard hits on the widow of the cousin he killed:

Glo. He that bereft thee, lady, of thy husband,
Did it to help thee to a better husband.
Anne. His better doth not breathe upon the earth.
Glo. He lives that loves thee better than he could.
Anne. Name him.
Glo. Plantagenet.
Anne. Why, that was he.
Glo. The self-same name, but one of better nature.
Anne. Where is he?
Glo. Here.

The long Plantagenet line comes to an end in 1485, when Richard III is defeated by a young man named Henry Tudor.

rick astley allusion to shakespeare

Rick Astley, before he became well known as a singer, did a bit of acting and even performed in some Shakespeare. Most of his Shakespeare work was done on stage and not screen, but there is a video clip of him performing the “never give her o’er” speech from The Two Gentlemen of Verona. The video can be found on YouTube here.

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


what would malcolm say about shakespeare advice in hamlet

what do shakespeare have to do with the gilded age

love letters written by shakespeare

who played in the kings men in macbeth

id, ego, superego of othello

four letter shakespearean rebuke

Googleplex – 2/7/10

Sunday, February 7th, 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.

shakespeare palindrome

I had considered this as a weekly feature after I finished with the lipogram experiment, but how much potential is there here, really?


To blat droll Lord Talbot.

No mites use Timon.

Madam, I’m Adam.

You know, Adam. From As You Like It. If you can think of any good Shakespeare palindromes, feel free to post them here, but I’m done.

But if you’re looking for some Shakespeare-spelled-backwards fun, check out this still-unsolved puzzle from the archives. And feel free to solve it!

cymbeline queen age characters

I think of the Queen as much younger than Cymbeline, and very beautiful, which is why she has so much power over him. But she needs to be old enough to have a grown son, Cloten. The play roughly takes place around the first century AD, when mothers would have been young. I’ll say late-thirties/early-forties for the Queen.

let the games begin shakespeare

The expression “Let the games begin” does not appear in Shakespeare, and actually goes back much further than his time. But I deduce that the expression you’re thinking of is “The game’s afoot,” which comes from Shakespeare’s Henry V. Elementary, my dear searcher.

shakespeare glossary ipod

I have now had a chance to use the “Shakespeare Pro” app that I discussed here, and I’m ready to recommend it. The text is hyperlinked to a glossary, so you can look up specific words in context. There are still some issues to be worked out, but it’s definitely a good app to have. I have one minor quibble: when you click on a word, it gives you every definition of that word in Shakespeare, and not the specific way it is used where you clicked it. The two-volume Schmidt lexicon breaks down where the different words are used for each meaning. But, hey, for three bucks, this is a pretty cool thing to be able to carry around with you.

underused shakespeare monologue women

I really like Queen Margaret’s speech in Henry VI, Part Three. Margaret has captured the Duke of York, who has fought to claim his right to the throne. She tells him that she has had his young son Rutland killed, and gives him a napkin stained with the boy’s blood to dry his tears. She then taunts him by placing a paper crown on his head and ordering his death. Off with his head!

rap songs relating to the tudors

I’m not entirely certain about this, but I’m pretty sure that the Run DMC song “Mary, Mary” is about Queen Mary I of England. The lyric “Mary, Mary, why you buggin’?” means “Your royal highness, why are you executing so many Protestants?” Rather than wait to be burned at the stake, many Protestants chose to leave England, many of them no doubt exclaiming “I worry ’bout Mary, ’cause Mary is scary!”

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


why teach shakespeare

what was england and denmarks relationship during shakespeares lifetime

song playing when tudors is being advertised

shakespeare and eustachian tube

shakespeare’s language gin

i need to dress like mary tudor for a class play

Googleplex – 1/31/10

Sunday, January 31st, 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.

arrested development shakespeare play

In the episode “Bringing Up Buster,” George-Michael, Maeby, and Steve Holt get involved with a Shakespeare play, which Tobias ends up directing. The cast list is posted below a sign that says Much Ado About Nothing, and the character names are Beatrice and Benedick, so that would seem to be that. But the lines in the play are from As You Like It. And is that kid on stage behind Maeby dressed like a donkey?

does the letter x mean king?

Rex means king in Latin. The letter X following the name of a king, as in King Louis X, is the Roman numeral for 10. So, for example, King Louis X of France is the tenth King of France named Louis. It should be pronounced “the Tenth.”

In the case of Malcolm X, it would be a major faux pas to say “Malcolm the Tenth.” Malcolm Little chose to replace his last name with the letter X to represent the lost names of African families taken to America in slavery.

which theatrical word has 4 consecutive letters in alphabetical order?

Great question! I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader. The four letters are “RSTU” and they appear consecutively in a word that relates to live theatre. Does anyone know what it is?

UPDATE: The answer can be found in the comments for this post.

religeon during shakespeare’s time in scotland

Shakespeare was born in the latter half of the 16th century, a century largely shaped by the Protestant Reformation, which affected each country differently. Scotland broke with the Pope in 1560. (For reference, Shakespeare was born in 1564, and King James in 1566.) The movement was led by John Knox, who studied with John Calvin in Geneva, and then returned to Scotland. The Scottish Reformation led to the foundation of the Presbyterian Church.

James was raised in the Church of Scotland, but came to feel that Presbyterianism was incompatible with monarchy. His reforms took hold during, and beyond the life of Shakespeare. For more information about the Church of Scotland, see this list of resources.

did the tudors speak similar to shakespeare

Yes, at least the later Tudors. Shakespeare lived in Tudor England for the first part of his life, and would have spoken roughly the same version of English as the royal family, setting aside allowances for class. But Shakespeare did not always write the way he spoke. Much of the language in his plays and poems is heightened, not trying to capture the way that people would have sounded, but rather to use language to express internal thoughts and emotions. It’s something he was very good at doing, needless to say.

It’s worth noting that the King James Bible was also published in Shakespeare’s lifetime (1611), which is why the language is so similar: “Thou shalt not…” and so on. The Bible was also translated into heightened language, though, and should not be considered an authentic representation of how people would have spoken at the time.

boal to do in class

I like to do Forum Theatre. Have students devise a scene illustrating a problem that is prevalent among them. There should be a clear protagonist who wants something but is prevented from getting it because of the problem. They perform the scene. Then they perform it again, but any member of the audience may interrupt the scene by yelling out “Stop!” at any time. At this point, the intervening audience member (spect-actor) replaces the protagonist and tries a new strategy. The other actors improvise around the new protagonist. This is a great way to workshop constructive solutions to pressing problems, to begin a process of rehearsing to make change, and to learn a lot about your students!

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


who did shakespeare admire

how shakespeare affected the english language

why francis bacon couldn’t have written shakespeare

king james badmouthed shakespeare

shakespeare games for five year olds ideas

how to make king lear fun

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:


shakespeare reading list

headline tell us that macbeth saves Scotland

theme of religion in shakespeare’s “as you like it”

what inspired shakespeare to write king lear

how people were killed when shakespear was alive

madrid in april 2010 literature teachers