New York Times Review: Richard III with a teenage twist

I have written before that Shakespeare has a timeless appeal and I have pointed out that some of his anti-hero characters like Malvolio can be seen as insightful looks at teenage bullying. This production uses the play Richard III To examine bullying, cliques, and all the timeless pain of growing up.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwjy7ZXaucDgAhVPPN8KHcLABBAQzPwBegQIARAD&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2018%2F06%2F20%2Ftheater%2Fteenage-dick-review.html&psig=AOvVaw0mF6WryEez0rLmrJ2_a6Up&ust=1550413285097297

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What to Get A Shakespeare Nerd For Christmas

Merry Christmas Eve Eve. If you’re reading this as I post it, there’s a Shakespearean nerd in your life and your wits are about to turn trying to find a gift. I’ve already written about printed editions of Shakespeare and educational apps, so you can consult those if that’s what you are looking for. Now I’m covering the kinds of stuff that die hard Shakespeare fans will kill a king and marry with his brother for, basically nerdy swag that no Shakespearean fanatics should be without!

img_0615-1For anyone: Immortal Longings.com- This company is very special to me. If you’ve seen any of my Play Of the Month posts, you’ve seen the gorgeous artwork for Shakespeare’s plays by the artist Elizabeth Schuch. Not only do I love her work, my wife and I put her prints on the decor for our wedding day, and wrapped some of my presents in wrapping paper with her designs on it. If you go to her website, she sells Shakespearean art printed on and inspired by Shakespeare’s plays on everything from tapestries to clothes to iPhone cases. I highly recommend checking her work out, and patronizing it as much as possible: https://society6.com/immortallongings/s?q=popular+framed-prints 

img_1488-1

I also want to give a shout out to the website Good Tickle Brain, a weekly Shakespearean comic that satirizes the Bard’s work with love. I feel the best way to introduce anyone, young or old to Shakespeare is through a healthy dose of satire and parody. Mya Gosling loves Shakespeare and it comes through in her simple, funny retellings of his plays. If you go to their shop (spelled Shoppe to appeal to nerds like me), you can get some of her comic books, funny T-shirts, and a few educational posters for teachers too: https://goodticklebrain.com/shoppe/

Bard Game

Adults

  1. The Bard game This is the Monopoly for Shakespeare Nerds- each player pretends to be a theater manager putting on plays in real locations where Shakespeare’s company toured during his lifetime. You make money by reciting speeches or improvising one in the Shakespearean style, or by answering Shakespearean trivia questions. A must-have for any Twelfth Night Party! Review of the game: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/12372/shakespeare-bard-game https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/12372/shakespeare-bard-game 
  2. Bards Dispense ProfanityBards against humanityMost people know the raunchy card game where you try to encapsulate a disgusting word or phrase with a description written on your card. Well, there’s a Shakespeare version too! It makes sense that someone made a card game inspired by the king of the Elizabethan put-downs, (and the inventor of one or two modern curse words!)
  3. Wine 🍷 Though I was unable to find actual wine with Shakespeare’s name on it, practically every other part of the wine drinking experience has been branded with Shakespeare- wine bags, glasses, corks and bottle stoppers, and even whole bars! If you spend a few minutes looking online, you can find tons of Shakespearean wine merch. By the way, here’s a convenient list of quotes Shakespeare wrote about alcohol: http://www.shakespeare-online.com/faq/shakespearedrinking.html 
  4. T shirts 👕 https://www.redbubble.com/shop/shakespeare+t-shirts

Stocking stuffers

  1. Pen and ink There’s a lot of good versions of pen and ink with Shakespeare’s name on them. Imagine the fun you can have writing sonnets with your own Shakespearean pen and ink!
  2. Shakespearean Comic Books. I’ve written reviews about some of these books and I’m very impressed by the artwork and the clever adaptations. Click here to read my review of the Romeo and Juliet Comic.

Kids

    1. Pop-Up Shakespeare by the writers of the Reduced Shakespeare Company. I’m a huge fan of The Reduced Shakespeare Company and they have created an amazing new popup book for kids of the entire Shakespearean cannon!
    1. Finger puppetsShakespearean finger puppets A great way to engage kids with Shakespeare is to act out abbreviated versions of the plays, and I think this is a great medium with which to do it! 
    1. William Shakespeare and The Globe book 📖This was one of my favorite books growing up. It tells the story of Shakespeare’s life and work, with special attention to the creation of the Globe Theater in 1599. It’s gorgeously illustrated and a great read for kids!
    1. Barbie and Ken as Romeo and Juliet. Ok, so this is a bit of a stretch, but hey, I’d get it for my daughter. R&J Barbie
    1. MND Board BookBoard books 📖 Yes, even toddlers can get into Shakespeare. I actually read this to my daughter a lot. It’s not the story of the play, but it does introduce some of the characters and famous lines which can help a child to become familiar with Shakespeare.
    1. King Of Shadows
    1. Cover of “King Of Shadows,” an excellent Young adult novel for anyone who loves Shakespeare.
    1. King 👑 Of shadows (Ages 8-12) This is an excellent young adult novel that teaches a lot about Shakespeare’s theater and the time period in which he lived. For a complete review, click here: 

So there are some gift ideas for the Shakespeare nerd in your life. Merry Christmas!

Shakespeare On Soldiers

Happy Veterans Day Everyone,

War and soldiers come up a lot in Shakespearean plays. After all, he wrote six plays about the Wars Of The Roses. Though most of his work is about the decisions about war made by powerful monarchs, occasionally he gives us some insight into the lives of common soldiers.

To begin this topic, I want to analyze a short selection from Henry the Fifth, Act IV, Scene I. In this scene, the king is disguised as a commoner the night before a battle to see what his soldiers really think about him, and the impending fight with the French. An outspoken soldier named Williams tells him that if the fighting is wrong, the king is responsible for his soldiers’ deaths, and has to answer for the atrocities that happen during the war:

KING HENRY V

methinks I could not die any where so
contented as in the king’s company; his cause being
just and his quarrel honourable.

WILLIAMS

That’s more than we know.

BATES

Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know
enough, if we know we are the kings subjects: if
his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes
the crime of it out of us.

WILLIAMS

But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join
together at the latter day and cry all ‘We died at such a place;’ some swearing, some crying for a
surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die
well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it. King Henry V, Act IV Scene I.

Many productions of Henry the Fifth interpret this speech as Shakespeare’s attitude towards war, (a tempting prospect, since the soldiers’ name is William), but in the very next speech King Henry completely changes Williams’ mind! Here’s the full scene from Kenneth Branaugh’s 1989 movie version of the play, which he directed and starred as King Henry:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rv7NsGCDVDs

Next, here’s a fascinating article by psychotherapist Anthony King that attempts to diagnose one of Shakespeare’s most diabolical soldiers, Macbeth: https://warontherocks.com/2015/10/macbeth-as-a-ptsd-victim/

Evidence that Macbeth has PTSD:

Every generation recreates the Shakespeare it needs.” -Anthony King

Macbeth is a veteran dealing with atrocious behavior, his own, and those he’s privy to.

Found on AdAA.org

• Re-experiencing the trauma through intrusive distressing recollections of the event, flashbacks, and nightmares.

◦ Sees daggers 🗡, ghosts, and obsessed over infants 👶

• Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.

◦ Ignores people and isolated himself in the castle 🏰

• Increased arousal such as difficulty sleeping and concentrating, feeling jumpy, and being easily irritated and angered.

◦ “Macbeth shall sleep 😴 no more”

◦ the murder- in Macbett by Sartre, the soldier actually questions whether the man whom he swore to protect is really worth defending.

How to Create A Garden Inspired By Shakespeare

Nearly 30 scenes in Shakespeare’s plays take place in a garden, and his characters mention weeds, trees, flowers and herbs and their properties, both medicinal and just beautiful. Ever since this 1906 book of the plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays, great cities and private garden groups have created gardens that honor the fertile imagination of The Bard Of Avon. There are 33 of these Shakespeare gardens worldwide, in cities like New York, Barcelona, and of course, Shakespeare’s home town of Stratford Upon Avon.

Shakespearean Garden At Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Here is a good guide for how you can create a Shakespeare Garden of your own:

https://www.seattletimes.com/life/lifestyle/6-steps-to-create-a-garden-inspired-by-shakespeare/

Here’s an excellent guide to the plants mentioned in the plays: https://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/2601

Finally, here are two of Shakespeare’s most famous quotes about plants and flowers- a speech from Ophelia in Hamlet and the Gardeners scene from Richard II:

OPHELIA

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray,

love, remember: and there is pansies. that’s for thoughts.

LAERTES

A document in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted.

OPHELIA

There’s fennel for you, and columbines: there’s rue

for you; and here’s some for me: we may call it

herb-grace o’ Sundays: O you must wear your rue with

a difference. There’s a daisy: I would give you

some violets, but they withered all when my father

died: they say he made a good end,–

Sings

For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy.

LAERTES

Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself,

She turns to favour and to prettiness.

Hamlet Act IV, Scene ii.

Ophelia by W. Waterhouse

https://youtu.be/OapyM4s3Qb

HC Selous Illustration For Richard the Second, circa 1864. Source: https://shakespeareillustration.org/king-richard-ii-3/hcselouskrii11/#main

Gardener. Go, bind thou up yon dangling apricocks,

▪ Which, like unruly children, make their sire

▪ Stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight: 1895

▪ Give some supportance to the bending twigs.

▪ Go thou, and like an executioner,

▪ Cut off the heads of too fast growing sprays,

▪ That look too lofty in our commonwealth:

▪ All must be even in our government. 1900

▪ You thus employ’d, I will go root away

▪ The noisome weeds, which without profit suck

▪ The soil’s fertility from wholesome flowers.

Servant. Why should we in the compass of a pale

▪ Keep law and form and due proportion, 1905

▪ Showing, as in a model, our firm estate,

▪ When our sea-walled garden, the whole land,

▪ Is full of weeds, her fairest flowers choked up,

▪ Her fruit-trees all upturned, her hedges ruin’d,

▪ Her knots disorder’d and her wholesome herbs 1910

▪ Swarming with caterpillars?

Gardener. Hold thy peace:

▪ He that hath suffer’d this disorder’d spring

▪ Hath now himself met with the fall of leaf:

▪ The weeds which his broad-spreading leaves did shelter, 1915

▪ That seem’d in eating him to hold him up,

▪ Are pluck’d up root and all by Bolingbroke,

▪ I mean the Earl of Wiltshire, Bushy, Green.

Servant. What, are they dead?

Gardener. They are; and Bolingbroke 1920

▪ Hath seized the wasteful king. O, what pity is it

▪ That he had not so trimm’d and dress’d his land

▪ As we this garden! We at time of year

▪ Do wound the bark, the skin of our fruit-trees,

▪ Lest, being over-proud in sap and blood, 1925

▪ With too much riches it confound itself:

▪ Had he done so to great and growing men,

▪ They might have lived to bear and he to taste

▪ Their fruits of duty: superfluous branches

▪ We lop away, that bearing boughs may live: 1930

▪ Had he done so, himself had borne the crown,

▪ Which waste of idle hours hath quite thrown down.

Servant. What, think you then the king shall be deposed?

Gardener. Depress’d he is already, and deposed

▪ ‘Tis doubt he will be: letters came last night 1935

▪ To a dear friend of the good Duke of York’s,

▪ That tell black tidings.

Queen. O, I am press’d to death through want of speaking!

▪ [Coming forward]

▪ Thou, old Adam’s likeness, set to dress this garden, 1940

▪ How dares thy harsh rude tongue sound this unpleasing news?

▪ What Eve, what serpent, hath suggested thee

▪ To make a second fall of cursed man?

▪ Why dost thou say King Richard is deposed?

▪ Darest thou, thou little better thing than earth, 1945

▪ Divine his downfall? Say, where, when, and how,

▪ Camest thou by this ill tidings? speak, thou wretch.

Gardener. Pardon me, madam: little joy have I

▪ To breathe this news; yet what I say is true.

▪ King Richard, he is in the mighty hold 1950

▪ Of Bolingbroke: their fortunes both are weigh’d:

▪ In your lord’s scale is nothing but himself,

▪ And some few vanities that make him light;

▪ But in the balance of great Bolingbroke,

▪ Besides himself, are all the English peers, 1955

▪ And with that odds he weighs King Richard down.

▪ Post you to London, and you will find it so;

▪ I speak no more than every one doth know.

Queen. Nimble mischance, that art so light of foot,

▪ Doth not thy embassage belong to me, 1960

▪ And am I last that knows it? O, thou think’st

▪ To serve me last, that I may longest keep

▪ Thy sorrow in my breast. Come, ladies, go,

▪ To meet at London London’s king in woe.

▪ What, was I born to this, that my sad look 1965

▪ Should grace the triumph of great Bolingbroke?

▪ Gardener, for telling me these news of woe,

▪ Pray God the plants thou graft’st may never grow.

[Exeunt QUEEN and Ladies]

Gardener. Poor queen! so that thy state might be no worse, 1970

▪ I would my skill were subject to thy curse.

▪ Here did she fall a tear; here in this place

▪ I’ll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace:

▪ Rue, even for ruth, here shortly shall be seen,

▪ In the remembrance of a weeping queen. 1975

Richard the Second, Act III, Scene iv.