Foolery news has been buzzing this month with rumours about of Shakespeare’s (apparent) pot habit, which made headlines for several days (including our own here at TSS once or twice). As most of you know by now, this tale began with the discovery of pipes in Shakespeare’s garden in Stratford. If, like me, you’re imagining an opening to The Hobbit scenario with pipe and smoke-ring blowing, and perhaps we’re not far off. Labs in South Africa analysed residue left in the pipes and suggested that the substance within in 8 cases was Cannabis, but traces of nicotine were also found. The justifications making the rounds aren’t solely scientific: literary analysis of Sonnet 76 has been used to support Shakespeare-the-stoner theories, due to an apparent weed pun line. I’ll leave it up to you to make of the story what you will (sorry).
Then I, Boris Johnson, lean down to read the sign: Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Crikey. I am here on a mission, to try to answer the important question about any famous person. Is he like me?
In Shakespeare’s case, the question is critical, because so little has been written about him. That is why I need at least two weeks to study his essential nature. So what was he like? The case against him is that as well as being the greatest man who ever lived, Shakespeare was a bit of a chump where the fairer sex is concerned.
Shakespeare: dirty boy or firmly a member of the elite classes? This piece entitled ‘Shake it up, Shakespeare!’ on Dartmouth’s site argues that Shakespeare was the perfect member of the elite:
Shakespeare has never been one for the elite—or, wait a minute, has he always been one for the elite? Bold and subtle, crass and delicate, sex jokes alongside Greek mythology: Shakespeare can be anything you want him to be.
The article discusses the morphing status of Shakespeare and his plays, particularly in the digital age–a concern and delight, of course, at the heart of all Shakespeare foolery discussions. Here’s a further snippet, though I wholly recommend reading the article in its entirety:
The internet opens itself up to bricolage in a way that has never been possible before. People can merge references to Rihanna and Shakespeare and nobody bats an eyelid; art is being distorted even more so than through Dadaism or surrealism, ignoring labels of high and low art, forgetting the difference between hip-hop and iambic pentameter, and just letting the people do their thing. Why not give Shakespeare sunglasses and a party hat? Why not rewrite Romeo and Juliet as a pair of garden gnomes living at 2B and
2Brespectively (yes, inter-play puns are now happening)?
Speaking of messing around with Shakespeare, check out this quiz of emoji Shakespeare plays in which you can test your knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays as illustrated in emojis.
This might remind you of the books (which I discussed in a recent column) that translate Shakespeare’s plays into emojis. It seems these books are not alone: this article discusses a lecturer’s approach to teach Shakespeare’s plays in emojis. Yes, really. He recites soliloquies in emojis. I’m actually grateful my Shakespeare lecturer never did this, as my knowledge of emojis is pretty much limited to a happy and sad face–I’d have had no idea what was going on! If you’re intrigued, watch this video of emoji-Shakespeare-soliloquy in action.
And if you can’t get enough of emoji Shakespeare, why not check out this graphic designer’s site, where Shakespeare’s canon has been transformed into emoji symbols. Okay, not the whole play–but the front covers resemble more of an iPhone screen than your Arden copy, and the basic plot is there. It’s Shakespeare for a whole new techy-emoji-y generation.
That’s all for this week, foolery lovers. Until next time, keep foolin’ around, Shakespeare style.