For Real This Time!

Okay. I’ve settled in to my new job and I’m ready to get cracking on reading through the complete works of Shakespeare. Yeah I know I said I would do this back in August, but the life of an unemployed 23/24 year old turned out to be challenging.

ANYWHOO! I have Henvry VI Part 1 pulled up on my computer right now and I’m ready to dive in. For a refresher on my introductory thoughts on the play click here.

Someone bother me if I slack off again ;). This will be an adventure in productivity as well as Shakespeare!

Joss Whedon is My Spirit Animal

I recently watched Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, and I loved it even more than I thought I would. And I knew I would love it a lot for a few key reasons. One, I love Joss Whedon and all of the actors he uses, so “bam!” great casting, directing, and adapting. Two, I LOVE Much Ado About Nothing. It was one of the very first Shakespeare plays I studied. My English teacher showed us the Kenneth Branagh version (another one of my Shakespeare soul mates) instead of just making us read it. Then, I got to see it performed live at the Stratford Shakespeare festival in Canada, so it’s forever one of my favorites.

Anyway, I went into watching this fully expecting to love it, but even I was surprised by the deep love I had for this adaptation. There was a moment where I literally uttered “Joss Whedon is my spirit animal”, but I guess I should give a few more details…

Let’s start with the casting: each actor brought this awesome and unique take on the characters, but I’ll focus on a couple of my favorites.

Alexis Denisof as Benedick was a great choice. He had this great sort of cockiness that I thoroughly enjoyed. What was best about his performance was how he played off of Amy Acker. I must say though, it was Amy Acker who stuck out more in my mind. I was so used to her as quiet, awkward, mild-mannered Fred that I was pleasantly surprised by her strong Beatrice. Amy Acker has this spectacular talent for delivering the exact tone to her lines that bring out the raw emotion in an extremely powerful way. Her giving the “Were I but a man” speech gave me chills.

Nathan Fillion as Dogberry made my life. I knew he was in the film when I started watching, but I didn’t know what character he played. At first I thought he might be Don John, but then when it turned out to be Sean Maher, I turned to my boyfriend and said “I bet he’s Dogberry” and it made my life. I knew he would be spectacular because he’s Nathan Fillion, but he brought this great realness to the character. Dogberry is a character that is easy to make into a caricature (*cough* Michael Keaton *cough*), but Fillion made me believe it. Don’t get me wrong it was still ridiculous, but it was believable that he was that dumb. He didn’t draw attention to the fact that he said the wrong word; he just said it and that is was made it believable.

Pleasant surprises to see in the movie: Clark Gregg (Coulson) as Leonato (although I think he was too young), Sean Maher (Simon Tam) as Don John, and Riki Lindhome as Conrade.

 

THIS SECTION CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!!!!

Joss Whedon made same really awesome choices for his adaptation.

The very first scene is Benedick and Beatrice sleeping together, and then Benedick walking out in the morning. This short scene solidified the context of their relationship. The audience has always assumed that they dabbled in dating and it went awry, but no details. Adding that detail helped to make the hurt more real. Beatrice is angry at Benedick, but doesn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing she is hurt, so she brushes him off like nothing and takes her digs whenever she can. It’s easier to identify with their characters when you know exactly the hurt they are carrying.

Making Conrade a woman was an interesting choice to that relationship. It gave the villains a cool Bonnie and Clyde feel. By simply changing Conrade’s gender, Whedon took the relationship from a master/lackey relationship to something so much more complex.

The decision to put the film in black and white cannot be ignored, of course. I don’t know for sure if it was the black and white, but the film had this timeless feel to it. I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly what time period it was supped to be set in, and I liked that. It didn’t matter when and where we were supposed to be because this situation could happen in any setting. It put the focus on the complex relationships on the screen rather than the setting, or set design, or costumes, or anything. By playing down other elements, Whedon drew the focus to the words and acting. That is the key to successful Shakespeare, making sure the words being spoken are the focus of audience attention. Understanding Shakespeare can be challenging enough without overcomplicating it in creative design.

 

SPOILERS OVER!

 

I apologize for the review being disjointed. It’s sort of a train of thought review because my mind jumps from point to point when thinking about what I enjoyed. I think you get the idea though, I loved the film and highly recommend it to anyone, whether Shakespeare master or novice.

Fear Not, I have not Forgotten Thee

Good day my fellow Shakespeareans. I realize I have not posted for a few months. My life has been…well…uncertain as of late and I sacrificed blogging to cope.

ANYWAY, just in time for the Holiday season I am preparing my comeback. I still plan on reading all of the plays in chronological order. I have already started my reading of Henry VI, so I am ready to go.

Look for the beginning of my epic comeback in the coming days!

Introduction to Henry VI Part 1

Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3 were all written within the same year, 1592, and saw great box office success for the time. It was performed six times in fifteen months.

20130821-131055.jpg

This is the first of what is know as the History Plays to be written. These plays were based on the real-life stories of the English monarchy. However, we should keep in mind that the sources Shakespeare used (such as Holingshed’s Chronicles ) were not always accurate by today’s standards. Shakespeare would also write the plays to greatly favor the Queen and her family, and as such would portray them in the most pleasing light possible.

In Henry VI Part 1 Shakespeare was particularly loose with historical fact. For example, Henry is described as “an effeminate boy” when in reality he was an infant at the time of his father’s death. As such, the country was actually ruled by the Duke of Gloucester until Henry became of age, and this is where the play starts.

The majority of the play is focused on England’s war with France, as France tries to reclaim the territories Henry V seized. The French effort is, in part, led by Joan of Arc, and she is a key character in the play. And of course, in true diplomatic fashion, there is some wooing and then marriage that happens as a tactical advantage.

I am most intrigued to read the story of Joan of Arc, or Joan La Pucelle, as she is called in the play because it is an account from the opposing side. I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic school for most of my school care. I loved the story of Joan of Arc and took her as my confirmation name, so it will be interesting to hear a different account. Of course, I will take the story with a grain of salt because it is from the losing side and written about a century later, but it will still be an interesting read.

What do you think is interesting about this play, or any of the history plays? How should we consider the fact that these plays are based in historical fact as we read them?

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt

KidsShakespeare:

I’m going to have to check out this book! Good thing I was planning a Barnes & Noble Run Tonight

Originally posted on Wake County Libraries "Book a Day" Staff Pick:

The great Jorge Luis Borges once said, “Magnification to the point of nothingness comes about or tends to come about in all cults.” And he goes on to say, “We see it, unequivocally, in the case of Shakespeare.”

Ben Jonson said that he loved William Shakespeare “on this side of Idolatry,” and over time the reverence for the man took on God-like proportions. Victor Hugo compared him to the ocean, the seedbed of all possible forms (!) and some have pointed out that Shakespeare uses more unique words than the King James Version of The Bible. Conclusion: Shakespeare has a better vocabulary than God does.

Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt, famous for being one of the founders of the literary theory known as New Historicism, has spent a great deal of his life studying the Bard, and Will in the World is his ambitious and well researched love letter to Shakespeare…

View original 182 more words

Reading the Folio

Alright, so I decided that since I am often strained for something to write about I would take on a challenge, or project, so over the next several months I will be reading the complete works of Shakespeare in chronological order.

Image

I did a little research and will be reading the plays and poems in the order that Shakespeare wrote them. There is some debate about the exact order, but I will be going with the order I found to be the most widespread. Therefore, I will be starting with Henry VI parts 1,2, and 3. I’m going to start with Part One because I want to read the three parts in numerical order and they seem to have been written around the same time.

Each reading will begin with an Introduction to play from Shakespeare without the Boring Bits, by Peter Ackroyd and then a discussion about what I look forward to about the play. Then, I will look at the history of Shakespeare’s personal life at that time and the historical context (either the climate at the time of writing, or the historical facts presented in the history plays). After that I will read and discuss each Act individually. At the end, I will read about the play in Shakepeare: The Invention of the Human by Harold Bloom, and write a long reflection of the play. Finally, I will discuss how the play may be adapted into my program idea, and the unique themes and challenges the play presents.

If inspiration strikes, I may blog about other things in between these blogs, but this project will give me steady stream of content :)

Well Rounded Education

So, I was working on updating my resume today (yeah…that’s right, job searching!) and I decided I should include some relevant coursework on my resume. Of course, I don’t actually remember every class I’ve ever taken (education *fist pump*), so I had to go searching on my student page. It took a minute because my school has a cracked out new system. BUT, finally after logging in about three times, I found my courses by term and started typing my list.

Anyway, I started to realize that I had a well-rounded education! I took a lot of courses across all sorts of subject matter. I was pretty proud of myself, I’m not gonna lie. I had Media classes, of course, but I also had courses in English, Management, Film, Speech Disorders, History, Child Development, French, Statistics, Philosophy, Theater, Communication and Economics! Talk about a lot knowledge. After thinking about all of this I decided two things:

One, my former school, Ohio University succeeded in giving me the education they set out to give me (go figure)

Two, I have kept all those notebooks and I want to make a series of binders of all my notes. I want to type them up and holed punch those readings and have binders by year. That way, I can easily refer back to the knowledge that’s tucked away somewhere in my mind palace (Sherlock references!). Yeah, I’m gonna be one of those nerds, and it’s going to be epically awesome :D

I think more students should strive for this type of education. I think from first grade we should say “Hey students! I know you don’t like (insert subject here), but by learning all this material you are becoming an epic level human being with all this knowledge!” Now I also think we should avoid teaching the Civil War every year for about 8 years, BUT the principle is there.

This idea, this future outcome, should be used as motivation for students. Not tests, or grades, or any of that, but for the day when you will be a more knowledgable human being and can use those smarts in any and all facets of life. I think it could be successful motivation. After all, these were courses I selected.

What do you think? Was your school successful at giving you a well-rounded education? How do you think we could motivate students to strive to study many subjects?

No More Excuses!

Alright, so I am officially a Master and as such can not use school work as an excuse for not posting. I am still trying to decide if it is better to post something (anything) regularly, or only post when I have something worthwhile to say… maybe I’ll post on that life struggle another day… (ideas! yay!)

Anyway, in celebration of passing my comprehensive exams, I have decided to post some excerpts of my question that dealt with my Shakespeare project. The beginning of the essay response was my favorite because it outlined the primary goals of the project:

What Dreams Are Made Of: Shakespeare for Kids is a program designed to introduce children to one of the greatest writers in history, William Shakespeare. Each episode kids – ages 6 to 8 – will watch a group of theater students perform and explore the themes of a different Shakespeare play. Plays could also be repeated on multiple episodes because there are so many themes and ideas to explore with every play, ensuring the longevity of the program. What Dreams Are Made Of illustrates the belief that no one is too young to learn to enjoy and appreciate Shakespeare.

Each episode and its supplementary material will be designed with a clear set of hierarchal goals in mind: Story, Language, History, and Acting. The first, and most important goal, will be to illustrate the story to the audience. Kids should walk away from the program understanding the basic plotline of the play. Those familiar with Shakespeare know that his plays never had just one story, they often had three to four, but only one or two dominate the play. During adaptation, the team will identify the main and secondary storyline of each play, as well as any additional side plots. The adaptation for the program itself will focus on the primary, and when possible, secondary plot to conform to time constraints. Additional video will be made available online to show any side stories that had to be omitted from the main program.

The second goal of the program will be to introduce the language Shakespeare used. Students should understand what different words mean in Shakespeare. This will happen one of two ways. Either the students themselves will discuss the word or a pop-up on the screen will provide a definition. Many online materials will be available as well to provide a fuller understanding. There will be an online Shakespeare dictionary, and videos explaining the poetic conventions used. Students will only understand the story if they understand what is being said, that is where the language comes in. Kids have to know what the characters are saying, but the program will not change the writing to be in modern English. Each play will be performed as seen in any Shakespeare text.

Shakespeare’s life and the time he lived in will be explored primarily through online supplements. Online video will discuss Shakespeare’s biography and what life was like in Elizabethan England. There will also be games and other activities that give students the opportunity to explore life during Shakespeare’s time. One such game would be an online social game, similar to Pottermore or Neopets, where students can live in and explore Elizabethan England. It would be similar to Pottermore in that every participant would be anonymous (screen name assigned) and there would be limited opportunities for interaction with other characters. In Neopets, kids get to have their pet and play games to earn prizes, they can sell fake merchandise in a personal shop and visit with other players, but that interaction is not required and not open-ended (no chatting).   We would also have the option of producing some special episodes that discuss Shakespeare’s history.

Finally, the program would aim to introduce the conventions of theater and the dramatic arts. In online video and activities, students would learn different stage directions and warm-up activities. They would be encouraged to make costumes and perform their own scenes. Some acting conventions will appear in the show because the story centers on a theater group.”

“The immediate benefit that the program has is the wide array of characters and situations it can adapt for problems kids face today. Shakespeare’s characters may be in unfamiliar settings to kids, but the basic relationships between the characters are just a prevalent today. Hamlet could be used to help kids cope with the death of a parent, or a parent remarrying. The violence and sexuality would be toned down a lot, but the emotions behind his actions will remain. Putting characters into family situations that are familiar to kids can help them learn how to deal with them.”