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This week in Shakespearean foolery!
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Every so often I’ll take one of those quizzes that promises to determine which Shakespeare character you are most like. Usually you can tell almost instantly which character corresponds to which answer, but it is fun to put yourself in their shoes: What if a fairy gave me a love potion? What if I met three witches? Take the answers with a grain of salt…except for mine, which is Rosalind, because that is absolutely factual.
(More important than the quiz is the reason why it exists: the Shakespeare Uncovered series is premiering on PBS tonight at 9:00pm with a look at Macbeth!)
Pairing Shakespeare and Star Wars might seem like an odd combo to some, but author Ian Doescher is taking a stab at uniting the two genres in William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, to be released in August.
Take a look at the synopsis:
“May the verse be with you! Inspired by one of the greatest creative minds in the English language—and William Shakespeare—here is an officially licensed retelling of George Lucas’s epic Star Wars in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon. The saga of a wise (Jedi) knight and an evil (Sith) lord, of a beautiful princess held captive and a young hero coming of age, Star Wars abounds with all the valor and villainy of Shakespeare’s greatest plays. Reimagined in glorious iambic pentameter, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars will astound and edify learners and masters alike. Zounds! This is the book you’re looking for.”
Intrigued I am.
A recent BBC article dissects the history of puns, highlighting Shakespeare as a master of the art:
“A Freudian reading of the humble pun, then, might suggest it is a response to despair, a subversive device whose tidiness enhances the illusion of self-mastery. Inferiority was at stake in Shakespeare’s puns, too.
The characters in his plays that begin the bawdy jests and elaborate badinage are almost always pages and buffoons, commoners at the mercy of their aristocratic overlords. Puns give them a cloak of deniability – the joke permits ordinary folk to make light of their social betters without violating the norms of respect. Sex and death were these characters’ favoured subjects – Shakespeare seemed to intuit what Freud would argue some 300 years later, that humour helps us cope with the terrifying and taboo.
So in this scene from Hamlet, the tortured prince banters with a gravedigger in the midst of his macabre work, playing on the semantics of the word “lie”:
Hamlet: Whose grave is this, sirrah?
Gravedigger: Mine, sir.
Hamlet: I think it be thine, indeed; for thou liest in’t.
Gravedigger: You lie out on’t, sir, and therefore it is not yours: for my part, I do not lie in’t, and yet it is mine.
Hamlet: Thou dost lie in’t, to be in’t and say it is thine: ’tis for the dead, not for the quick; therefore thou liest.
I was also delighted by the headline of a related article listed below this one: “The offal truth about American haggis.”
If you have a Twitter, you might know about Follow Friday, a chance every week to recommend people, maybe famous, maybe your friends, that post on Twitter. I thought I’d take this opportunity to have a Shakespeare Follow Friday. See below my top picks for Shakespeare-related Twitter accounts:
Jamie Parker, Henry V in last summer’s production at Shakespeare’s Globe (twitter username: @DickLeFenwick) and Tom Hiddleston, king of the BBC Hollow Crown series (@twhiddleston) both actively update their feeds. Particularly funny are Parker’s interactions with former History Boys co-star (and current star of Mark Rylance’s Twelfth Night) Samuel Barnett (@mrSamuelBarnett).
Speaking of that production of Twelfth Night, Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) puts up amusing anecdotes, like seeing famous people in the audience, and interesting links.
Willy Shakes (@IAM_SHAKESPEARE) takes a play and tweets a line every ten minutes. They’re finishing up Measure for Measure right now, and this is the second time they’ve been through the canon. It’s fun to see a line pop up by itself, and if you search @IAM_SHAKESPEARE, you’ll find some very funny responses that people have to each line. For instance, in Measure, the Duke says to Mariana: “To buy you a better husband.” A few people RT’d this line, saying: “oh shakespeare girl, if only it were that easy” and “I’m getting my money up.”
Now let’s get serious…
The Open University has an animated series on YouTube entitled “The History of the English Language…in 10 Minutes.” Obviously, there is a section on Shakespeare. Check it out here.
And nothing is more serious than safety…
(Click on picture to see original Twitter post)
And, lastly, to celebrate the news that David Tennant is playing Richard II for the Royal Shakespeare Company, here’s a clip of him jumping up and down on a couch because of Shakespeare (like Tom Cruise, but more nerdy).
Happy fooling! Here’s to another week of Shakespeare silliness.