Is Shakespeare a Substitute for Breaking Bad? | Fit for a Fool

By January 30, 2015 No Comments

Hello, foolery lovers! Welcome to this week’s column where you’ll find news on the RSC (that’s the Reduced Shakespeare Company), what to do with your spare time now that Breaking Bad has finished, and a Shakespeare Twitter Hashtag challenge.

You’ve probably all heard of, and maybe some of lucky people may have had the chance to see, the Reduced Shakespeare Company live. They’re the people behind things like the Othello rap and scenes like this:

But did you know they also release a podcast once a week (on a Monday)? At the moment, the RSC (as they jestingly refer to themselves) are looking at and discussing their show, The History of Comedy. This week’s episode is available here, but it’s also worth delving into their archives to see what they’ve discussed before. From episodes on the Reduced Radio Show (a production of the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s Complete Works, commissioned by the BBC) to Singing Shakespeare’s Fool (you’ll have to listen to see just what goes on in that episode), there’s a wide selection available–and what a great chance to distract yourself with a group of actors and playwrights in discussion when you’re on that tedious run, enduring a stuffy commute, or desperately engaged in spring cleaning! They’ve even had famous guests on, like Simon Helberg of Big Bang Theory and Elizabeth Dennehy of Star Trek: The Next Generation for those times when you need a celebrity fix.

As I scrolled through iTunes, I also came across another great sounding podcast, Chop Bard, which (as its brief description informs us) is: “The show dedicated to revealing the plays of William Shakespeare as tasty entertainment for today’s hungry audience. Be you actor or observer, this show offers a fresh look at some very old goods.”

The latest episodes concern Twelfth Night, with titles like “Isn’t it Bromantic? and Literally Twelfth Night.” The podcasts tackle acts of plays as well as incorporating audience interaction by listeners writing in about contemporary news and Shakespeare links: there’s a discussion of a fern seed, Henry IV (Falstaff and Co.), and a history podcast. At one point, the presenter even utters the lines, “to understand Shakespeare you have to understand life”–that should give you a good idea of the direction this podcast series takes. But once they get into the plays, there’s some interesting analysis mixed in with the explanation of plot. If you want a quick, and sometimes comic, overview of a particular act, scene, or play, Chop Bard may be for you.

Last week, Buzz Feed ran an article entitled “24 Books you Should Read Based on Your Favourite TV Shows,” and–yes, you’ve got it–Shakespeare also featured (not because he has his own TV show of course–he’s a recommendation). Some are obvious: if you like Dr Who why not check out Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So how does Shakespeare come into this? Well according to Buzz Feed, if you liked Breaking Bad, then Shakespeare’s Macbeth just might be for you. The main reason or link that they find between the two works is the sense of inevitability; you know Macbeth is going to fall if he listens to the witches just as you knew the way Breaking Bad was going to turn out, and the descent of man into monster is also present in both. So why not give Macbeth a gander if you are a lover of Breaking Bad? But this isn’t the only time Shakespeare is mentioned. Richard III also pops up as a recommendation for fans of House of Cards (not surprising, given that the original series was influenced by both Macbeth and Richard III).

Candy for the eyes arrived in the form of the Buzz Feed article which featured pictures from the Folger Shakespeare Digital Collection. There are some amazing covers to look at, and it’s well worth a glance on your next coffee break. I think my favourite is the edition of the Sonnets, although Henry VI Parts Two and Three gives it a run for its money. Do feel free to comment below with your favourites!

A couple of trending hashtags that found themselves getting a Shakespearean twist this week. It’s all fun and games over on Twitter. First up was #RuinAWeddingin5Words which, as @Shakespeare proved, threw up some interesting Shakespearean examples. This Hamlet one was my favourite, but there were also examples from Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, among others. Please feel free to comment or tweet (using the hashtag, of course) your own Shakespearean suggestions. You can Tweet them to me @srawaters or the main site @shakesstandard–or both!

Also seeing a Shakespearean twist this week (a variation on the same theme) was #MakeSexAwkwardin5Words. You’ve guessed it: the same “I’m a boy” jokes appeared again. Can you think of further Shakespeare-themed ideas? Feel free to suggest, as before. Here’s Shakespeare Today’s offering, with a quote from the Bard himself.

And, finally, here are a couple of hashtags which have recently been trending and are just waiting for a Shakespeare-related response. Go on, give it a go! #WorstPickUpLine and #HowtoRuinADatein5Words (can either be imagined as coming from a Shakespearean character or directly quoted from a play).

On the Twitter front, have you heard about Poetweet? It’s a website which allows you to put in your Twitter handle and then it creates poems (either a Sonnet, Rondel or Indriso) of your tweets, it even picks the title for you. Well worth a play around with. Here are a few of mine to get you started (apologies in advance for the quality of the verse): Number one: To animals, number two: Teabreak Read and number three: Library Home (I think the titles of the latter two are probably my favourite parts of the poems). Give it a go, and feel free to tweet in with your poetic offerings!

That’s all for now, but, until next time, keep foolin’ around Shakespeare style!

Author Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is a PhD student at Oxford Brookes University, England where she is currently researching female melancholia in the early modern period (as presented in Shakespearean and early modern drama and proto-medical treatises) and contemporary female depression. She is interested in all things Shakespeare related, particularly contemporary Shakespeare adaptation and appropriation.

More posts by Sarah Waters

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